Stay safe, stay home, save lives – Epping Forest District Council


Well, another week passes and we are still in lockdown. It sometimes does seem there is no end in sight! However I am minded to get yet another Weekly Briefing out to interest and occupy my readers.

It is now six weeks since my first issue under the virus and, at least, I am supposed to isolate for 12 weeks according to a letter from my Doctor! I remember when I joined the RAF back in 1958. I signed on for three years and those first weeks in square bashing on occasion made one wish not to have joined up, especially the rifle drill, TABT injection and bed packs. It seemed that time ahead was interminable with, in the beginning, over 1000 days to do. I even had a chuff chart of days to do when I was at 800 on my first permanent station. Things got better when with two years to serve I was posted to Germany. Life there, without square bashing and being chased around day and night, seemed so much better. Well here we are with another 45 days or so to go, fingers crossed.


Contributions have improved this week and we have some rather interesting items and pictures. So many thanks to contributors without whom this page could not happen.

Appropriately this page is being worked on today, April 30th which is Captain Tom Moore's 100 birthday with that wonderful fly-past by a Hurricane and Spitfire this morning.


Equally and from Gary Seamarks; 11279 is named Captain Tom Moore as the Captain lives near Bedford and about 2 miles from where I live, the only think is Captain Moore will at present not be able to see his bus as Stagecoach no longer work to through his village.

This is an excellent gesture by Stagecoach East - well done! Also more than well done to Tom Moore whose efforts are nearing £30 million. What a guy he must be.

Stay safe and here's to the next time! Click on this and let the music play


Shearings on the brink, unless a buyer steps forward, which may be unlikely

Administration fears as Wigan coach holiday firm seeks buyer.

A Wigan firm providing coach holidays is reported to be seeking a buyer in a bid to prevent it falling into administration.

Sky News reported that Specialist Leisure Group (SLG), which owns Shearings, is in advanced talks with several potential buyers.

If the firm becomes insolvent, 2,600 jobs could be at risk.

The report said SLG was working with accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers on efforts to secure a future for the business.

A pre-pack administration may be another option, enabling parts of the business to emerge under another owner, they added.

It has also been looking into using any of the emergency loan schemes established by the government during the coronavirus pandemic.
Most of SLG's workforce has already been furloughed.

A statement from SLG said:: “The travel industry has been severely affected by the impact of Covid-19 and the inability to operate any holidays on government instruction.

“Specialist Leisure Group is actively in dialogue with its stakeholders, advisers and the Government regarding its options, which include the sourcing of the necessary financial support to enable the company to weather the storm of Covid-19.”

Shearings Holidays was founded over a century ago and is the UK's largest escorted tour operator. It was a separate company running out of Salford until it was merged with Jacksons of Altrincham and Pleasureways of Oldham. Much later it became only Shearings as we know it today.

Based on Waterside Drive in Wigan, it employs more than 2,600 people and offers more than 170 travel destinations.


Also your erstwhile Editor once worked for Shearings and took a week coach holiday to Great Yarmouth in the mid '60s plus an enthusiasts tour to Devon in 1967 !!

From Malcolm Crowe

Your Editor took Shearings ULG24E to Devon, in March 1967, with an enthusiasts group visiting Colin Shears collection at Winkleigh.
The coach was brand new (March 67)  - a Bedford VAM14 with Plaxton C45F bodywork - seen with the ex Jersey Leyland Lioness.
You can see Colin and Malcolm on the Lioness next to the VAM on Sunday, March 19th 1967 at Winkleigh. (over 53 years ago)
I did drive the Lioness with centre accelerator, right hand foot brake and the most enormous steering wheel!
Picture by Peter Roberts.

Victims of the Lock Down are all of the Oxford tube fleet currently SORN at Oxford - seen above on April 25th by Jim Wright.

Times of Old

At this point of reduced contributions this part of the web page is rather important and I am pleased to provide quite a lot of interest from Times of Old.

From Richard Sharman

Richard has provided an extremely interesting article on an event in Oxfordshire nearly eight years ago in 2012. The photos will prove fascinating to current readers, those who remember RH and those who only go back to Stagecoach and 2012.  

Stagecoach working former RH Buses routes

Solo 406 is seen in Swindon Bus Station on August 22nd 2012 by Bob Morley of The Newbury Transport Group.

Following the demise of RH Buses on October 5th 2012, its Oxfordshire County Council routes were awarded to various bus companies after a short period of operating on emergency contracts.

Stagecoach in Oxfordshire picked up the core of routes revolving around its Witney Depot. 

Services 18/19/64 and X15 were operated from Witney depot, with services X8/9 operating from Chipping Norton outstation, although both rotas were later merged and all vehicles were based at Downs Road Industrial Estate outstation in Witney.

Services operated to/ from:

18- Bampton to Oxford


19- Witney to Carterton via Bampton

64- Carterton to Swindon (With one AM/PM trip extended to/ from Witney)


X8- Chipping Norton-The Wychwoods via Kingham Station


X9- Chipping Norton-Witney via Charlbury


X15 Witney to Abingdon


Once the rotas were merged the duties provided a good variety of work, for example in one day you could do an 18 to Oxford, a 19 to Witney then a couple of round trips to Swindon or vice versa.

Vehicles used were generally a mix of 55/56 plate Solo's new to Banbury and Oxford, which were joined by Solo's from Stagecoach East and Stagecoach West. Additionally, larger vehicles were required for the X9/15, so ALX200-bodied Darts where obtained from Stagecoach in Peterborough in the form of 33462-4 plus others loaned from Stagecoach Midlands/ West.

The images show vehicles that I have driven whilst working the various ex RH Buses routes, as can be seen, the weather conditions in Chipping Norton were often poor. The night image shows the late X9 Witney to Chipping Norton services that only operated on Friday and Saturday nights. Occasionally, a Gold E400 would work an X15 service if a Dart was in for a service.  

With very many thanks to Richard Sharman who contributed many photos to OCBP at the time when he was employed by that company. Gold 15616 has of course now gone north!!

From Jack Cooper

The selection of pictures are from early 2018  

Thames Travel Citaro 867 seen laying over in Magdalen Street after working a 25A service (now OBC City250) from Bicester.

January 20th 2018. 

BROOKESbus MMC 608 seen crossing Osney Bridge towards Harcourt Hill whilst working a U1 service.

January 20th 2018. 

Stagecoach Scania E400 15836 seen in George Street, I think it was working a 7 service to Woodstock on February 3rd 2018.

Oxford Bus Co P&R StreetDeck 681 seen entering the Train Station after working a service from Woodstock.

City Sightseeing ALX400 seen entering the Train Station with a University & City Tour on April 10th 2018.
Not the best day to be on the open part of the top deck!

Arriva the Shires Sapphire 280 E400 5465 seen entering the Train Station, on April 10th 2018.

Stagecoach Gold MMC 10783 seen in Frideswide Square with an S3 to Oxford Rail Station, on April 10th 2018.
I wonder how much time these buses have left in the gold livery before being repainted into the new livery.

Many thanks to Jack for his weekly contribution.  

A new Thames Valley book from Paul Lacey


Celebrating the centenary since the formation of the Thames Valley Traction Co. Ltd. on 10th July 1920 in a selection of photos from the foremost collection on that operator and its subsidiaries Newbury & District and South Midland and its many competitors.

The pages take the reader over the wide area of operations by the ‘Valley during the years 1920 to 1971, and also the variety of vehicles employed from the solid-tyred Thornycroft J-types through to the
final intakes of Bristol chassis, including the various second-hand purchases during the 1959-1971 period, all of which added greater variety and interest.

Within its 144 A4 perfect bound pages are 330 monochrome photos and 100 in colour, previously un-published, each with a fully-detailed caption.

Send your cheque for £23 for this post-free offer to:
Paul Lacey, 17 Sparrow Close, Woosehill, Wokingham, Berkshire, RG41 3HT
If you prefer to collect your copy please call me on 0118 979 4097 to set up a mutually-convenient time.

Also still available:

Thames Valley, 1920-1930 (cover price £15) £13
Thames Valley, 1931-1945 (£25) £13
Thames Valley, 1946-1960 (£25) £13

Please mention The Oxford Chiltern Bus Page when  ordering.

Old London buses remembered by Ian Williamson

Following my comments on Harpers RTs and RTLs Ian has written a most interesting article for this issue.

With the second war over, one of the priorities for London Transport was managing the introduction of their planned fleet of new standard double decker buses. There were a number of reasons this was high on their agenda:

Replacement of the pre-war classes (ST, STL and LT) some of which had been inherited from the original owners when LT was formed in 1933 and included vehicles with petrol engines and open staircases.

Replacement of the wartime Utility buses which did not meet the "fitness for purpose" that was part of LT's ethos. LT has been allocated 756 vehicles which probably provided some relief to passengers in those dark days, but with 4 chassis suppliers – Bristol, Daimler, Guy and Leyland – and 7 body builders – Brush, Duple, Massey, Northern Coachbuilders, Northern Counties, Park Royal and Weymann – they were never going to fit into the planned regular overhaul schedule being introduced at Aldenham.

Tramway abandonment – LT had inherited various company and municipal tram networks and had decided to replace the routes with something more modern and flexible. Pre-war most routes north of the Thames had been replaced by trolleybus services but now buses would be used south of the river. With hindsight the decision to replace electric traction with diesel may be regarded as not one of their best! Greta Thunberg may be interested to know that as long ago as July 1953, a correspondent to the South London Press wrote to complain about "pollution of the air by the fumes of diesel engined buses".

Eventually LT would order nearly 7000 of their standard double decker, just over 4800 AEC Regent III (RT), 1631 Leyland PD2 Titan (RTL) and 500 of the 8' wide Titan (RTW). These needed to be matched to bodies being built by 6 suppliers and by 1948 the excess of bodies led to some of the newer STLs receiving RT bodies and being reclassified as SRTs. These turned out to be under-powered, under-braked and the drivers being distinctly underwhelmed. Only 160 of the STLs were rebuilt and they lasted just 5 years before donating their bodies to new RT chassis as had been originally intended.

During the 1950s private car ownership in LT's area trebled and consequently bus passenger numbers declined by a third. Perhaps the one bright spot in this gloomy scene was that 6 of London's 8 New Towns were in the LT country area – Hemel Hempstead, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage, Harlow and Crawley. As these towns expanded there were regular introductions of new routes and extra services. Indeed LT created 2 new route number series (800-809 and 850-854) which with only one exception were used by services in the New Towns. So in 1958 it was decided to repaint some RTLs into Country green livery in the expectation of making better use of these vehicles.

Negotiations with the unions over using the Leyland's were protracted and the vehicles went into storage. It should be remembered that General had established AEC as their vehicle building subsidiary in 1910 and the Country area had well over 30 years experience when the majority of the fleet had been sourced from AEC. Eventually agreement was reached to operate the RTLs from Hatfield garage – perhaps the fact that LT had spent over £100,000 (about £2.5m at today's values) to build a new garage there made the staff more amenable to the idea.

The original garage on the south side of the A414 St Albans Road had been opened by National Omnibus & Transport Co Ltd "for and on account of General" in 1922. It had been built right up to the pavement and had limited staff facilities – crews could often be seen taking their breaks in Simmons cafe opposite. Opened on February 18th 1959, the new garage on the opposite side of the road about 100m further east, was directly adjacent to the East Coast main line where the St Albans branch diverged and had the "shed" set back about 70m from the road with a separate building for administration and staff facilities alongside the railway. Similar designs would later be used for new garages at Stevenage and Harlow. Strangely, despite the vast amount of space between the 2 buildings, the bus stops remained in situ outside the old garage, leading to some congestion on this busy road when buses were parked on both sides awaiting new crews.

The 18 green RTLS (about 2/3rds of the total garage allocation) began operating services in July 1960 on trunk routes 303/A (Hitchin – New Barnet) 340/B (Welwyn Garden City – New Barnet) and 341/A (St Albans – Hatfield - Hertford) as well as local services in Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City. Unfortunately they were not popular with staff and lasted less than a year in service before being returned to the Central area where they were used for some years as driver training vehicles.

Today this section of St Albans Road where once you might have seen a bus every 3 or 4 minutes sees just 2 journeys an hour on Arriva's 302 (Stevenage – St Albans). The garages are long gone replaced by houses on one side of the road and offices on the other. The current garage used by Uno and Arriva opened in 2003 and is located close to the site where John Cunningham CBE, DSO, DFC made the maiden flight of the world's first jet airliner, the de Havilland Comet on July 27th 1949 – but that's another story.

RTL1256 remains as the sole survivor of this brief and unsuccessful attempt to utilise the Leyland fleet in the Country area. 60 years on this vehicle retains the green livery it carried for just 12 months use in passenger service so may be considered a unique example of the Leyland Titan.

Many thanks to Ian and Gavin for providing a most interesting history. 

North of the Border with Gordon Scott

Tommy McReynolds via Gordon Scott

My friend from Glasgow, Tommy McReynolds, sent this shot to me four weeks ago taken just before lock down. I wonder if you were interested in using it with things quiet just now and looking for extra pictures to use?

Avondale Glasgow YX08MHM Alexander Dennis Enviro 200  B26F.
Chassis no, SFD - 151AR28GY10663. Body No, AD 7238/9.
Ex Go Ahead London United SDE 9. - Taken at Partick, Glasgow.

and one from Gavin Francis of this bus in service in Kingston on May 29th 2012.

Fleet news and developments

From Paul Swann

The following are being transferred into MK temporarily this weekend, 4503,4505,4507,4512 E400MMC’s from Wigston being re-taxed to replace.

4422  YX64VPC 
4423 YX64VPD 
4424 YX64VPE
4425 YX64VPF 

Many thanks to Paul for keeping us updated. Any pictures of 4503,5,7 & 12 in MK would be appreciated.

From Nick Ross

Scania 3603 on the F77 with a deserted Leighton Buzzard  station car park in the foreground on April 21st 2020.

Not much to report this week as there are only a few service, no school and other reductions. Either 407, 408 or 409 are the normal fodder for the 40 on weekdays.

I had to attend hospital this morning and so took the opportunity to get a couple of pictures at the depot. Of interest is coach 75, currently SORN as well as ex Go East Anglia 885 which has yet to enter service with Carousel.

Carousel yard - April 30th by Malcolm Crowe.

From Ciaran Bird

From April 26th.

StreetDecks 686 and 687 on 2 road, taken in Kidlington.

Coach Travel Temporarily Suspended

Services resuming from June 1st 2020 are subject to change depending on Government advice

Red Kite

From Nick Ross

Olympian M223SVN parked up in Leighton Buzzard High St. prior to returning to Dagnall on the 162 on July 27th 2018.
Sadly August 31st 2018 saw the final Red Kite non school operations, the end of era locally.

From Ciaran Bird

From April 26th pictures as below.

10671 on 2 road, 10671 in both directions.

 MMC 37402 on S4 - I wonder what happened to the Gold buses?

 Gold 10785 on 7

The above were all taken in Kidlington.

As well as this I have a couple other photos from previous days.

10678 made a feature on the S3 on April 17th seen by Wootton Turn

10683 on the 29th February in Charlbury.

From Graham Welford

Only one bus in Gloucester Green on April 25th

10786 on the 13.55 S3 to Chipping Norton via Charlbury, driven by Jim Wright.

From Jim Wright

Withdrawn in Excel 34466, 34468, 18469, 20933, 20934 and 52424. The first two pictures from April 25th and the third from April 30th.
The withdrawn Training bus 52424 was noted at Horspath depot on tow from Excel, presume for stripping out the interior?

MMCs 10673, 10439 and 10682 at Horspath depot on April 25th by Jim Wright.

From Gary Seamarks & David Beddall

Attached are six of the seven loans from Cambridge to Bedford, all on X5 all at Bedford except if noted in subject box, plus 11279 now named, all these images are passed across with permission from David Beddall, who is a driver at Bedford and as such was working and that's why he was out !

19574, 19581, 19584, 19589, 19591 and 19596 taken on the X5 at Milton Keynes, Bedford, St Neots and Cambridge by David Beddall.

Many thanks to these two contributors which are much appreciated. 

Advice has been received from Stagecoach Group via SKM that the order for 34 new coaches has been deferred from the 2020-2021 order. Personally I am not surprised that this eventuality has occurred. The suspension of the tube service has not seemingly caused too many problems - most regulars who are not working from home have moved to the train or car - and only when the University comes up again will traffic return in any form at all. In one way it is with regret that I report this, since the current fleet is entering its 7th year in service and the work required on this route is much heavier than many other express routes.

Ironically this week we have pictures of the current fleet off the road at Excel, Oxford.

From Jim Wright

Some pictures of the currently SORN'd tube fleet at Excel. A sight that few would ever have thought possible. They were taken on April 25th 2020, note the very clean wheels (at last !!)

A general view of a number of SORN'd tubes being r-l 50261, 50250, 50266, 50284, 50235, 50275, 50247 and 50245.

50271 alongside her sisters at Excel.

50269, 50262 and 50279 at Excel.

Currently there is no indication as to when the tube will recommence service. Many thanks to Jim Wright for these great pictures.

    When I had occasion to need some photographs recently I was delighted to find just what I needed on The Transport Library Web Site. The collection is significant and if you do use the site please mention the Oxford Chiltern Bus Page.

    Robin who runs the site wrote to me:

    "I was recently put in touch with a local transport photographic image company called Kezlan Images. They run two sites – the Transport Library and The Transport Treasury. Together they provide over 200,000 images to purchase with both Road and Rail transport from the UK and overseas. I was drawn mainly to the Transport Library as this site has a larger volume of Bus images. In particular they offer the images from J S Cockshott, Geoffrey Morant and also several photographers who left their collection to the Omnibus Society. Started in 2012 the Transport Library started as a way of marketing Russell Fell’s large collection of London Country and London Transport Images. This collection alone numbers around 25,000 and contains a great many shots from the local area. From there though they have picked up other collections plus run a service for individuals and societies to market images on their behalf in exchange for royalty payments. The site is well worth a look as there are images from a wide variety of operators from across the country, so there should be something for everyone. Kezlan Images also buy transport photographic collections, and have started to move into publishing through the Transport Treasury brand. Currently the books they have produced are based on rail subjects, but they hope to move into road matters in the near future." 

    I would note that prices are most reasonable for the photographs, especially if one take the Digital images.

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