Photos 1 & 2
Abbey Park Road depot . . "running in", an evening shot at the end of
the evening peak. The majority of the fleet 'ran in' to depot, to wash,
refuel, and park up for the night. The remainder would provide the
evening service until late hours, working the last buses from the city
centre at 11pm, and most would then 'run in' directly from their
respective termini. The term, 'running in' was yet another hangover
from the days of the trams, when trams 'ran in to shed'. Drivers queued
to be re-fuelled by garage staff, and then taking the bus through the
buswash and parking up were done by the drivers themselves as their
last duty of their shift, just as their conductors cashed up in the
Photo 2 shows a line of 4 Leyland PD3s awaiting their turn on the fuel pumps, with one of the Scania Vabis saloons that worked the two Outer Circle routes starting a second queue. I've known many times when I've joined the back of the queue after the evening peak, 6.30-7pm, out in Abbey Park Road itself, waiting to do a right turn into the depot yard. Three Bristol RELL saloons can be seen parked in the yard blotting out the view of the cash office, but with the upper windows of the training school just visible above.
Photo 1 shows the old gatehouse, just visible here between the two sets of depot gates. A double decker disappears behind on it's way to the pumps. The gatehouse was in effect a small office, where all crews signed on for early shifts, from about 5.00am onwards. We'd all dive off the staff bus as it stopped in the gateway, and queue to get inside out of the cold. We would file right through the long office and out the other end, saying our name and duty number as we passed the signing on window, to be ticked off on the day sheet by the duty inspector. Just like being in the army really - but without the bull!!
I've no idea why the Head Office were flying the Union Flag - it must have been a red-letter day of some sort. I don't recall it being flown all that often in those days. I can only think it must have been April 21st, the Queen's birthday.
The legend below was to be seen on the bottom of the nearside panels of all LCT buses, part of the legal lettering required by PSV law. And so the name L H Smith would have been a familiar sight to city bus passengers of those days, as familiar as the name of the Governor of the Bank of England who appears on our banknotes. Mr Smith would not have been known personally by most of the inhabitants of Leicester, but thousands knew his name and title. They certainly knew who to write to when they wanted to complain, and his postbag must have leapt up by quite a jump when I joined the 'Department' in October of 1968 as a rookie 18yr-old. I was for ever filling in 'white reports' as a result of getting a 'black disc' on my key (for definition of 'key', see below). My own conductor's number was 12, and each member of staff had a numbered hook on a huge notice board in the front office, on which would be hung coloured plastic discs to denote various messages, the most dreaded colour being black. A blue disc meant there was a letter for you, perhaps confirmation of leave, or notice of training or change of duties. Later, I would become driver 473. Conductors were evens, and drivers odd. Some of us were very odd!
ABBEY PARK ROAD LEICESTER
L H SMITH GENERAL MANAGER
Back in the days of the trams, a brass key with your number on used to hang on these hooks, and would be placed into the depot time clock to sign crews on and off, the key leaving its imprint on the timecard, and hence why the hook was still called a key. The time clock and brass keys were still in place and in use in the Humberstone Gate office when I started in 1968, and only became redundant when that office closed and went to Rutland St. A black plastic disc on your 'key' was the original black mark. Usually a sign of having to go and see Alfie Moore, the DCI .. Deputy Chief Inspector, and explain oneself for some perceived misdemeanor. I wasn't that bad a lad, the reports were just as often wrong, or the wrong member of staff identified. Frequently, one would be hauled before the DCI, and when he read out the charge or complaint, you'd have no idea whatsoever what on earth he was on about. Often, I'd not even been on duty on the day complained about. To be accused of leaving the terminus early or cheeking some elderly grandma on your day off was beyond the pale. Even worse was to be booked by an inspector for smoking, either in the cab or on the platform, and would result in a loss of bonus for that week, usually 2/6d, or half a crown. So keeping my own record of which vehicles I'd worked on, in my duty diary by the entry of each shift, more than often saved my skin. Just seeing the legal lettering from the side of a bus printed here may be enough to prompt such memories of those days for some of you. The memory of the DCI prompts the jitters in me!
Photo 3 The view straight
through the fuel pumps and bus wash, into the darkness of the main
garage. The offices on the immediate left were the ground-floor cash
office, where conductors and one-man-drivers paid in, and above that
was the Training School for both drivers and conductors, wherin was
obtained the finest PSV training in the land, under the guidance of the
fabled Ken Brown. We see a row of five PD3s at the back, a couple of
Atlanteans, two Scania saloons, and the PD2 Training Bus, just hiding
in the foreground round the corner of the folding garaged doors. The
date on the large stone plaque over the main garage entrance said 1933.
There was a similar door and impressive matching pediment just off
camera to the right, dated 1931, I believe, the other half of the main
depot and the tram bays being built first. All gone now, of course,
recently demolished to make way for a development of flats. The site is
totally flattened and derelict, and at the time of writing, not a new
stone has been laid.
Photo 4 An altogether unforgettable experience was to be towed back to the depot by this monster - the AEC Matador recovery truck. This is the fine machine that they sent out to us whenever we broke down and needed a tow. Which was reasonably often enough to be less of a novelty and more of a damned inconvenience. This tow-truck was, in effect, a very well equipped mobile workshop; you can just see the side panel window and yellow towing rig in the enlargement. In the back was a workbench, fitted out with several sizes of vice, and all manner of tools and spares, fanbelts, etc, hanging up neatly around the walls. I recall that, when they painted it up in the new fleet livery, the driver and his mate also had white overalls - for a day or two, anyway. It was more like being recovered by an elite squad straight out of a military HQ somewhere. Numbered no1, perhaps there were plans for a fleet of these - there were times when we needed a few more, and indeed, another even heavier beast is just evident on the left, but I don't recall it being used. That looks like it once recovered tanks, and it possibly often did.
Photo 5 The 'new' Operating
Centre in Rutland Street, opened a few months after I joined, early in
1969, replacing the ancient tramsheds and offices in Humberstone Gate.
All the main offices were here. Enquiries, Lost Property, Duty Office,
Camera Control Centre were on the ground floor, with Cash Paying-In for
crews and other administritive offices on the first, staff canteen on
the second, and the top floor housed the most wonderful Transport Club
anyone could wish for! Two bars, a dance hall with sliding screens, a
fully equipped stage, all fitted with disco lights, sound system, the
full works. All gone, sacrificed to market forces when the bus industry
was effectively sold off and all but given away to the highest bidders
in 1986. Nearly 100 years of expertise, innovation and dedication,
thrown to the wind on the altar of so-called private enterprise. I
wonder what the people of Leicester think to their bus service now.
About the same as the good burghers of Hull, where I live now. Which is
not a lot. Can anyone show me a city anywhere now in the kingdom where
the citizens are actually proud of their bus service. I don't think so.
Photo 6 is the Camera Control Room, situated in the heart of the Rutland Street Centre on the ground floor, just behind the main Duty Inspector's desk. This desk was still called 'The Front Office', in deference to Humberstone Gate days when it fronted the street opposite Lewis'. By the time I left in 1973, there were eight cameras situated around the city centre, giving coverage of all the main streets that had loading barriers, as well as views for several hundred yards up the main arterial roads that radiated from the Clock Tower. Thus views up Belgrave Gate, Humberstone Road, along Granby Street, and right up High Street to St Nicholas Circle, as well as right along Charles Street from one end to the other. Rutland Street, Belvoir Street, and right down Welford Road and The Newarke also had full coverage. Now I come to think of it, the only departure barriers I can recall that DIDN'T have coverage were St Margaret's bus station (79), York Road (87), and Bowling Green Street (47 & 88). Even more cameras came into operation after I left, up to about twenty, I understand. Not generally visible from street level, but familiar to first-floor office workers, flat dwellers, etc, were the huge fleet numbers painted onto the roofs of the buses, specifically so that they could be seen by the cameras from up to a mile away. The duty inspector could see if a bus was stuck in a long traffic queue, some way off, and from that number could tell what route it was on, the time of its next departure and who were crewing it. He could also tell that it would easily be ten minutes late by the time it arrived in the city centre, and so he could then radio a fully crewed spare bus, standing by in Rutland St, to set the right number and destination in the blinds and get swiftly onto the barrier to load up for that route. I frequently worked a 'spare radio bus', along with my conductor. We were often away, with a full load, long before the late-running bus arrived, at which point that would be turned round to go back on time for its next run. It was a marvellous, efficient and world-leading system, which helped to negate much of the worst of Leicester's traffic problems at that time. Of course, the traffic system in Leicester is so perfect and bus time-keeping is so marvellous now that nothing like this is needed anymore.
Photo 7 The view from the cab
of a PD3A. A wet day in Charles Street, not long after the overhead
walkway was completed into the then newly-built Haymarket Centre. The
bus in front, No75, is another PD3A, on the 88 Eyres Monsell barrier.
Across the road outside C&As are a couple of unidentified PD3As.
The one in front is on a 57, and likely to be an 85-95 type, and behind
that what looks to be a 256-type. PD3s were king!!
Photo 8 One of the two training buses, 301, was an elderly PD2 of 1950 vintage and the first in the LCT fleet to be 8-feet wide. Originally numbered 160, this bus was exhibited at the Commercial Motor Show at Earl's Court in 1950. I spent a good deal of my driver training on this bus, and in her sister, 300, which was even older but only 7'6" wide, thrashing up and down Anstey Lane, along Gynsill Lane, and all over the Blackbird Road - Groby Road area. It was nothing like so busy then as it is now. 301 was also the bus I finally passed my test in.
Photo 9 No.168, a tin-fronted
PD3/1, "dogging" me down Uppingham Road on its way back from East Park
Road, and in the pouring rain, at about 40mph! (No, it didn't mean the
same thing then!) I was balanced, leaning against the pole, legs bent
like springs, desperately trying not to fall off as I steadied the
camera for this. We had to get a move on - we were only allowed 24
minutes for the whole run around The Park, a service 33 via London
Road, Evington Road, East Park Road and St Barnabas Road, then straight
back to Humberstone Gate down Uppingham Road. A total of 24 bus stops,
and 12 sets of traffic lights, all in 24 mins, but it could be done -
first thing in a morning when there was no one about. These older PD3s
were throaty beasts, and were usually quite pleasant to drive, if you
got a lightly-steered one with a reasonable clutch. This one wasn't
bad, but I recall 161 would break a strong man's heart, and 166 would
do well over 50 mph - it used to go like a rocket, and leave a smoke
trail behind to match!
Photo 10 Another tin-fronted PD3/1, we see the platform of 164 bus, taken here on the 33 barrier waiting to do an early-evening run around The Park. 164 is now in private preservation at Snibston. I didn't care for these buses as a conductor, despite everyone's fondness for them now. But, I accept, to older conductors that remember PD1s, these may have been heaven. The conductor's lock-up, just seen here with the flap down in the open position, wasn't big enough to take our ticket boxes with the lid up, let alone a heavy winter coat. The bells were single push buttons, there were no heaters except the one in the driver's cab. There was not even enough room under the stairs to store a pram lengthways. Which is probably why I lost one on Belgrave Road - Burley's Way roundabout one day. Left by a passenger facing outwards, it just slid out and off the platform and went for a dance with the traffic. The passenger had parked it under there with the brake off. It lost a wheel when it hit the kerb, but the baby was OK !!
Photo 11 No.174, yet another
PD3/1 with a tin-front, dating from 1962, and still only 10 years
old when I first drove her. These were very smart buses in their day,
and one of the first on LCT to have illuminated advert panels. But the
older they got, the heavier the steering and clutch became. Edinburgh
Corporation also had a good fleet of this type, amongst others like
Sheffield, Blackpool and Bournemouth, and I always liked the
description of the Scottish passenger who described them as,
'nine-and-a-half tons of shivering tin.' Spot on! My memory exactly,
that's about right. Everything sounded as if it were coming loose. Even
the pedals in the cab used to wobble on tickover, particularly the
throttle pedal, which flopped about all over the place and it took some
doing to keep a steady, even pressure with the right foot. The throttle
pedal was also the engine stop. One reached down and pulled the pedal
right back to cut the engine. Or if you were clever, you could lift it
back with the toe of your boot. That ruined your boots, though.
I love the iconic illuminated advert panel, and for real ale fans, Truman's Ales have just been ressurected in 2010. I hadn't realised the claim to fame of this Poplar, London brewery; the invention and production of the original 'porter', a blend of ales that was the first to be mass-produced and led to the emergence of the modern brewing industry. See more details by clicking the link.
Photo 12 All the early PD3s still had conventional, individual light bulbs inside the saloons. Which was very hard on the eyes of a conductor. A full week on late turn in winter would ALL be done in the dark. And those single bell pushes didn't help to improve speed on the bell, especially from upstairs! Though I suspect in retrospect that this photo is a PD3A of the 245 type with the St Helens fibreglas bonnet - the giveaway being that this one has a strip bell. But the older PD3/1s, the tin-fronted Bullnoses as we called them, still had no saloon heaters, though the driver had a dirty great one he could grill his toes on! There's room for 33 seated in this lower saloon, with 8 standing, and 41 upstairs on these 74 seat leviathans. They all seemed incredibly long after the fifty-six seater PD2s of the 1950s, and of course, a bit wider. There was now room for a conductor to squeeze past his 8 standing passengers without getting to know them too intimately. All PD3s and PD3As, up to the semi-automatics of 1968 were still fitted with manual steering and a semi-synchromesh gearbox (crash, 1st & 2nd), and lethally heavy clutch. You knew about it when you had upwards of 80 adults on one of these to drag round St Matthew's Estate on a route 41. For steering, only the AEC's were worse - Bridgemasters were particular nightmares! At least the later AEC Renowns had lighter clutches, though older drivers used to regale me with horrific tales of shattered kneecaps issued free to unwary drivers on earlier pre-selector AEC Regents, just before my time, examples of which can be seen on later pages. I still have a left leg thicker than my right, and arms that reach my ankles.
Photo 13 LCT's first overall
advert bus - No.115, and also amongst the first dozen or so such paint
schemes around the country. Painted up for the Leicester Permanent
Building Society, we called it the "Flower Power Bus" - it was that
era, and I wouldn't like to guess how much free love took place on this
vehicle. It was most embarrasing to drive or conduct; heads turned,
fellahs whistled, intending passengers failed to signal us to stop and
gawped as they let the bus pass out of sheer astonishment. Others
stopped us anyway, just for a better look! It could be quite funny, but
mostly, this paint job made us run late. This was still the age when a
real man wouldn't be seen dead in a pink, or any other similar coloured
shirt. And so they gave us THIS to drive! I suppose the advertising
worked for this well-known Leicester organisation at the time, but
you'd be hard pressed to get anything to grow this well now, let alone
money. 115 was the newest, and the last, Leyland Atlantean on the
fleet, and is here manned by Driver Alan Driver, (yes, that was his
name) past London Road Station, showing 55 General Hospital, presumably
inbound from a 27 (South Knighton) or 28 (Clarendon Park), not all that
long after both those services went over to OMO - or One-Man-Operation.
Click this black & white picture if you dare, to get full, glorious
colour! Beware of the pollen.
Ultimately, there was some debate on the question of number blinds, and how to display what. The Bristol saloons were the first to have three-figure number blinds, and drivers used to display OMO on the rear blinds. Then it became OMB. In perhaps one of the first signs of the political correctness to come, management deemed this to be displayed as OPO - One Person Operated. And nothing to do with 'equal opportunities' at that time, though eventually, I suppose we could have had OWO. On the Scania photo below, note the black display panel near the doors, just behind the indicator light. They all said 'One Man Operation - please tender exact fare.' And did so for the rest of the life of those vehicles, including the Bristol RELL saloons.
Photo 14 The old and the new -
from a postcard produced by Leicester City Transport c.1971 to
celebrate the coming of continental travel. And also the restoration of
Leicester's last tram, No76, living at Crich. We were now to have
double-glazed buses to combat our freezing winters, and this
dropped-screen design was soon to become a familiar site in many parts
of the country, even more so on the later double-deck version, the
Metro-Scania. Leicester eventually went on to have quite a sizeable
fleet of those, and the similar MCW that followed, but they all came to
Leicester just after my time. The last Atlantean, above, and these
Scania saloons, marked the high peak of my time at LCT. The Metros came
the following year, then MCW's, and the Dennis Dominators some four
years later. I got to drive all three types in later years, at Hull
For my money, if it came to a vote, the Metro in the form of the MCW (Metro-Cammell-Weymann) won hands down, by far the best bus design I ever encountered - for the driver. Warm, comfortable, fast, everything in the cab to hand, a high driving position for good all-round visibility, and so very, very easy to handle. You could drive a Metro in your sleep. I often did. Joking apart, you did have to keep your wits about you, though, for the occasional 'power surge'. For what I'm about to relate now is certainly not funny.
Management always denied power-surges happened, even when people were hurt, and even I began to doubt it - until I had one myself. It caught me completely unawares as it took off like a missile from a stop one quiet Sunday afternoon on a council estate. I'd just set down a little girl, closed the doors, and had barely touched the throttle, and - Whoooosh - I was almost at the end of the street!! It made more smoke than I've ever seen from something that was not actually on fire, other than perhaps a Centurian tank starting up. The force actually pressed me into the back of my seat, an incredible experience, and one that I was very loathe to talk to anyone else about, given the wide scepticism around. It frightened me, and I was very much on my guard should it happen again, but it never did. I was very lucky, for there was nothing but a clear road in front of me, when normally there were some parked cars. I dare not even change the bus when I got back to town, for what could I tell them, except to attract a heap of ridicule upon myself. I've even questioned whether I should relate it here, but I think it's time, whatever my old collegues may think. And no, it was not my imagination. My little 2.0 Peugeot can't take off like that. To my shame, I did not stop my bus and radio in there and then and demand a bus change, as I ought to have done. I had some credibility, and some respect, from my mates, and it would have gone in a flash. At anytime, on my way back to town, it could have happened again, with disastrous results. I should have stopped and had that bus towed back.
But, after a day or so, I eventually told our Union Secretary, and he was not a man to suffer fools gladly. He screwed his eyes, looked at me intently, and then said quietly, "Yes. I've had one as well." He hadn't wanted to talk about it either, and only admitted a similar experience to me because he knew he could trust me. We were both elected Safety Reps, and yet our management would not accept what we were saying. Duty to safety meant that I did eventually submit a full report. Which was, as expected, met with silence. Around the country, there had been fatalities because of power-surges on MCWs, and to admit to having had one, when managements vehemently declared that it was mechanically impossible, was to destroy one's credibility with one's peers in the canteen. A few believed, but most didn't. I was about 40 then, and still a bit naive when it came to dealing with management. We had no internet, and contacting affected men on other bus operators was not easy.
But something must have been done, and at a very high level, because in time, reports of these surges just ceased. After several, perhaps a good half dozen or more alone on KHCT, they stopped. A shame the truth was never told, because in each case of damage or injury, the driver took the blame. And one I know of had years of experience and was the steadiest man I knew, close to retirement, and the blame destroyed him. When I had mine, had there been a parked car in front of me, I would have been in the same boat - end of career. As it was, there was a double-bend right ahead, and the damned bus slowed down just enough, even with braking, for me to take the bend, albeit rather faster than I would normally. And as I got the bus straight again, I immediately broke out into a sweat, shaking, feverishly trying to understand what the hell had just happened. The huge cloud of black smoke I left behind in my mirror was, quite frankly, astonishing. Somehow, unspent fuel gathered, somewhere, to be released all at once on the slightest touch of the throttle.
I've always put it down to a faulty design in some replacement fuel pumps, and more than a few people somewhere know the truth. After over 20 years, perhaps it should be told, so that those affected drivers, some of whom are now no longer with us, can have their names cleared. To that end alone, if it were necessary, even now that I'm retired, I would be prepared to put my hand on the 'Good Book' and tell the full story in a court of law.
For those of you with an interest in model diecast buses,
this is a useful link
.. . click the animation.
|The Internet's biggest model bus and tram community features discussion board, weekly e-mail newsletter, Links Page, Features Pages, free classified adverts, polls, book reviews and model reviews.|
YOU IN NEED
of photos being restored?
BRING YOUR OLD DAMAGED PHOTOS TO LIFE AGAIN!
Do you have any old photos which are crinkled, scratched or damaged in any way?
Perhaps after flood or other accidental damage.
Don't throw them away - they can be restored.
Maybe I can help ... see my full page on our
Just click the link or menu button to go to a new page
displaying many before-and-after examples of my work.
military - naval - transport genre photos a speciality
Also slides, glass or film, card or plastic mounts, and negatives either loose or in strips.