Early GWR Motorbuses

Since getting acquainted with Maud I’ve developed an interest in very early motorbuses. Maud of course is Exeter Corporation No 5, a 1929 motorbus which I had the honour of driving back to Exeter a couple of years ago.


Today I came across some photographs of an early Great Western Railway motorbus with very local connections, having been photographed in my home town of Paignton. They are in fact postcards and the images were posted in a Facebook group called ‘Paignton in Pictures’. I have permission from the group’s administrator to reproduce the images here.

The postcard shown above, dated 1906, was originally a black and white photograph which has been hand coloured by an artist, a common practice in the early days of photography which was intended to produce a more life-like product. It also made the image more saleable of course! The image shows passengers alighting from a GWR motorbus which has parked outside the Gerston Hotel, Paignton. The photographer would have been standing right outside the GWR’s Paignton railway station and the passengers were likely to be boarding a train there.


It’s a bit unfortunate that a local horse-drawn hansom cab is obscuring part of the bus but happily there is another postcard that features a photograph that seems to have been taken on the same occasion but from a different angle. This one clearly shows that the bus was No T-390 and I contacted my friend Robert Crawley to see if he could tell me more about it. Robert is Chairman of the Westcountry Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust (WHOTT), which has an extensive archive of information and images relating to all aspects of transport in this area.

Robert told me: “It is definitely a Milnes Daimler, fleet number 32 (T390) which was new on 21st November 1904.  The GWR’s early bus fleet was based largely on this chassis, though Wolseley, Dennis, Maudslay and Durkopp were also to be found.  The bus is labelled to run between Paignton and Torquay.  This service commenced on 11th July 1904 and continued until 2nd August 1911. The GWR also ran for a short while to Brixham during the summer of 1906 but their longest continuous operation was on the Totnes road, which commenced on 20th April 1905 and ran right through to when GWR bus services passed to the bus companies, in this case Western National”.

A more detailed history of these GWR motorbuses was published in the quarterly newsletter, ‘WHOTT’s News!’ and excerpts can be seen on the WHOTT website. If this whets your appetite, I would encourage you to join WHOTT, then you can read the full story and of course much else.

A rare surviving GWR motorbus, albeit from a slightly later period, is kept – and occasionally run – by the Thames Valley & Great Western Omnibus Trust. No 1268 (1929 Guy FBB YF714) remains on my ‘to do’ list, as I have an ambition to drive it one day!

In other news, the 2017 season of bus driving is about to get underway. On Saturday I’m due to take a wedding party to a venue in Bath so check back later to see how I got on with a fully loaded heritage bus, climbing for 2 miles in 2nd gear!

2 comments on “Early GWR Motorbuses

  1. Michael Wadman says:

    The definitive work on Railway-operated bus services is John Cummings’ two-volume epic “Railway Motor Buses and Bus Services in the British Isles 1902-1933”, published by OPC in 1979/80.

    It confirms that T390 is Mines-Daimler 20hp no 32, and the route details that Robert Crawley gave you. The bus in front of the Gerston Hotel is almost certainly another Milnes-Daimler, partly because of its appearance and partly because several of these vehicles were allocated to Paignton.

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