Preserved Classic Buses - How Did We Get Here ?

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Last updated 8 December 2016

Apart from the foresighted policy by some bus operators (particularly London) of putting aside examples of their early vehicles for posterity, it is normally accepted that the first private individual or group to save a bus successfully in Britain was the legendary Prince Marshall (along with Ken Blacker, Michael Dryhurst and others) in 1956, making their glorious 1929 AEC Regal T31 therefore 'the grandfather of all preserved buses'. Thankfully it is still with us today. Since that time, the number of vehicles in preservation (most of them privately-owned) has blossomed enormously, and even Prince Marshall would look in disbelief at the scale and variety of the modern bus preservation movement.

Five years after the rescue of T31, in the October 1961 issue of the Ian Allan magazine Buses Illustrated, editor Alan Townsin published a list of public service vehicles known to be in preservation at that time. The list was supposedly accurate to July 1961, and was itself based on another list published on 12 August 1961 in the magazine Modern Transport. That original list was compiled largely by John Parke, deputy editor of Modern Transport, with the assistance of (among others) the Hon.Secretary of the Vintage Passenger Vehicle Society, and the Curator (Historical Relics) of the British Transport Commission. My thanks and acknowledgements to all the parties mentioned above for the use of the list.

Fifty years on, that list makes interesting reading. I have reproduced the basic contents of it below (although excluding trolleybuses, of which there were 5). It was laid out in chronological order of manufacture date, and listed the date, the registration, type, body, current owner, and original operator.

I have added a link from each registration number to notes below, with brief comments about subsequent status, corrections to errors and other additional information. On the second list, click on the registration again to return to the original entry.

The total number listed is 76 (in comparison with perhaps 5000+ today), and no post-war vehicles were shown, yet this constituted probably the first attempt to assess the state of the bus preservation movement. The editor noted that "there may well be others, and there are, of course, many interesting old vehicles still in public service" - indeed there were, and thankfully a large number of those were saved too. Anyway, here is the list (virtually verbatim, all mistakes and omissions faithfully reproduced !), and the only significant change I have made is to colour-code the entries.

Green = Survivor today, Red = No longer survives, Black = status not known


Key to Abbreviations

WHERE ARE THEY NOW (and other notes) ?

(Click on the registration number to return to the original list entry)

So there you have it. Out of 76 saved motor buses in 1961, only 7 (or possibly 8) were lost along the way (unless you know better?), which is a 90% success rate over a 50 year period. I think we should be pretty pleased with that, especially in the light of the host of other treasures that have turned up in barns subsequently. So, next time we spot one of these gems at a rally perhaps we should thank those early pioneers.

Do give me a call if you have any comments or corrections. Thanks again to Ian Allan and Alan Townsin, and also to Dave Hurley for keeping me updated on the current status of many of these vehicles.

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