On a recent family holiday in West Sussex recently I happened to visit the excellent Amberley Museum & Heritage Centre.
The whole site was interesting, more of which later. Of particular interest was a re-constructed Southdown Motor Bus Garage. Not only is it packed with all sorts of memorabilia, signs, equipment and spare parts (including 2 very old Leyland engines) but it also houses a fantastic collection of genuine Southdown Motor Buses from the 1920s.
Sadly none of them were active on the day of our visit but two steam vehicles were operating. A Marshall 8 ton steam roller was hauling a wagon fitted with bench seats around the site, giving free rides to visitors. Also present was a Sentinel S4 steam waggon. This is privately owned and is based at the Amberley Museum during the summer between visits to various rallies in the area.
The most fascinating displays were those which were presented by skilled, volunteer craftsmen. The printing works, engineering workshop – complete with working line shafting – and the woodworking ‘bodgers’ area were among my favourites. We spent a long time chatting to these amiable, knowledgable chaps and learned a lot about their respective crafts. I can highly recommend a visit!
I’ve dipped into my Wilts & Dorset photo collection again and have pulled out one or two unusual vehicles.
Like many other operators at the time, Wilts & Dorset acquired ex-military recovery vehicles to rescue broken down or accident-damaged members of the fleet. This one is an AEC Matador recovering what could be a Bristol LS saloon from Romsey town centre. Like most of the ex-military recovery vehicles in bus fleets, this one has been re-bodied, probably in the company’s own workshops, to re-fit it for it’s new task.
Before the standardisation of the nationalised Wilts & Dorset fleet, a wide variety of vehicles were operated. Some, like this AEC Regent II, were absorbed from Venture. Before that, it ran in the Cheltenham & District fleet and before that, Newbury & District.
A few months ago I inherited a photograph collection devoted to the buses and coaches of Wilts & Dorset Motor Services Ltd, whose head office and centre of operations was in Salisbury. The photographs have been collected by my father, who grew up in Salisbury and followed the development of the company and its vehicles until the early 1960s.
Here is one of the early photographs, showing a 1929 Leyland TS single decker wearing the pre-1948 livery and fleetname. The collection is spread over three volumes and contains several hundred photographs. I haven’t counted them all yet! Most are postcard-sized black and white prints, published for collectors and enthusiasts by distributors such as Haynes, Simpson and Pennels. A few of my father’s own shots are included too.
Prior to the standardisation of the state-owned Wilts & Dorset, when ECW body on Bristol chassis became the norm, W&D ran buses and coaches from all the major manufacturers such as Leyland, AEC and Daimler. Shown above is a 1931 Leyland TD1 passing the Style & Gerrish department store in Salisbury. Fleet number 97 has a Leyland body and wears the pre-war livery of red and grey.
One of the last photographs in the collection is of this 1967 Leyland Leopard PSUR1/1R, acquired in 1971/2 from Maidstone & District.
I photographed the fleetname on this bus after it had been withdrawn in 1973 and was languishing in the dump at the back of the bus station in Castle Street, Salisbury.
This reflected my interest, not only in the buses of Wilts & Dorset but also in letterforms because I began training for a career in graphic design in the same year.
These are just a few examples of the many photographs in this wonderful collection. Maybe I’ll share a few more of them later!