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Melbourne Tramways Leyland OPS4 Tigers


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Former Melbourne Tramways Leyland OPS4/1 Tigers

Last updated 1 January 2017

A number of correspondents have sent me pictures and information about the Leyland OPS4/1 Tigers that were used in Melbourne, Australia, so I have put together this tribute to an interesting batch of Classic Buses. Particular thanks go to Colin Davison, who was previously editor of "The Rattler" - newsletter of the Bus Preservation Society of Western Australia, and who supplied a large amount of the historical information.

MTT 277

MTT 277. Photo by Colin Davison, who says "My photo of MTT 277 was taken at Fremantle Depot on a rather gloomy, wet weekend in mid 1976, not long before this bus was withdrawn (November 1976)."

CONTENTS


HISTORY

Thirty Leyland OPS4/1 41-seat, two door, Commonwealth Engineering bodied buses were delivered to the M&MTB (Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board), Victoria, in 1950. They were numbered 316 to 345, registered ET316 - ET345, and saw regular use until April 1956 when the whole batch was put into store due to the introduction of electric trams on the Bourke Street services they had operated (during conversion from cable cars, work on which started in 1954). All 30 again saw fairly intensive use during the 1956 Olympic Games held in Melbourne that October, but after this brief spell of activity, they were declared surplus to M&MTB requirements and offered for sale.

Seven were bought in 1957 by a private operator in Melbourne, Eastern Suburbs Omnibus Service (ESOS), which became a subsidiary of Sinclair's Bus Service of Murrumbeena in the early 1970s, then two went for further service with Dubbo Bus Service, NSW, shortly after. Dubbo Bus Service was affiliated (through family ties) with Love's Bus Service of Bunbury and Albany, WA. (Geoff Foster kindly emailed in 2009 to say that "the Love family had sold their Dubbo operation to the Buslines group by 1985. It is still owned by that group and is known as Dubbo Buslines". Thanks for the update Geoff.)

The other 23 languished until 1959, when they were all bought by the Metropolitan (Perth) Passenger Transport Trust - trading as, and more commonly referred to as the MTT. This organisation had been established by the WA Government in 1958 to take over various financially ailing private bus companies and had absorbed several fleets containing buses that were either "life expired" or in such poor condition they were beyond economic repair. MTT thus had a pressing need to obtain second-hand buses in good condition as replacements, in addition to whatever new vehicles might be available.

After the 23 "immigrants" arrived in Perth, the front door location was shifted forward one and a half bays to the front bulkhead, to facilitate one person operation. At a later stage (in the early 1960s, I think), the front dome was also rebuilt on each bus to incorporate the standard three aperture MTT destination layout, and a route number box was built into the rear dome. They were allocated MTT fleet numbers 265 to 287 inclusive, registered WAG 8265 to WAG 8287 (the WAG series was reserved for WA Government owned vehicles) and became commonly referred to as "the Melbournes" by operating staff. Around 1968, they were reregistered UQB265 to UQB287 (again, this was one of several UQx series plates reserved for Government vehicles, with the Q supposedly denoting "Queen").

By the early 1970s, the fleet had been largely replaced by new underfloor-engined machines (mostly Leyland Worldmasters, but with sizeable amounts of Leopards and AEC Regal VI's), and large batches of rear-engined models were in course of delivery (Leyland Panthers and Hino RC520P). Consequently, the Melbournes saw mainly peak hour service and some withdrawals began, although four were shortened and converted to towing wagons around 1973 / 74. By 1976, when I moved to Perth and joined the MTT, there were only a dozen or so still around, with about half of these allocated to the Causeway Depot and used for driver training and occasional staff transport. Within a year, the total was whittled down to five, all but one of which were withdrawn in November 1978 to make way for new Mercedes Benz O305s then being delivered. The last survivor, 287, was reregistered UQB006, to free its 'correct' plate for a new bus, but it continued to wear its old fleet number until it was finally pensioned off in May 1981.

Sadly, no example of the 23 MTT "Melbournes" has been preserved in its original configuration. The closest to MTT condition externally was the last to go, former 287 (M&MTB 317) which, although converted to a mobile home, had been repainted in its MTT colours and looked quite authentic. Until about 1992, it was owned by a BMWA member, Lance Pitter, living in the Waroona area, approximately 110km southeast of Perth. However, I believe contact has since been lost (membership lapsed) and this bus may perhaps have moved elsewhere.

All four of the towing wagon conversions survive with preservation groups, although one has been stripped for parts. Tow Wagon 2 is with PETS (Perth Electric Tramway Society) at Whiteman Park, 3 went to The Sydney Bus Museum while 4 and 5 are with BPSWA (Bus Preservation Society of Western Australia), also at Whiteman Park. 5 is non-operational, having been cannibalised for spares. It had been retained by MTT right into the late 1980s (after the start of the Transperth era), for driving instruction use and had suffered some punishment of the gearbox and drive train.

An interesting and useful book called Australian Half Cab Buses by Bruce Tilley contains b&w photos of several members of the batch at various stages in their respective careers. It's worth scouring the secondhand bookshops for a copy.

Colin Davison, 3 February 2000


SUMMARY OF FLEET HISTORY

M&MTB

Fleet No.

Chassis No.

Registration

   New Then to Fleet No.

Regn.No.

  Withdrawn Then to
    316  483894

 ET 316

14.07.50  MTT

 1959

     274

WAG8274

5/73. Tow Wagon

'5' as UQO 163

BPSWA, Whiteman Park

(stripped for spares)

    317  490895

 ET 317

14.07.50  MTT

 1959

     287

WAG8287

5/81 as UQB 287

then UQB 006.

Lance Pitter, Gosnells, 1981 as

mobile home.(Waroona, WA?)

    318  490740

 ET 318

19.05.50  ESOS

 1957

     52

 GRV 859

 June 1972

 (B35D)

 R J Welch, Burnley? 06/72.

 To caravan 1973.

    319  490738        

 ET 319     

 ??.??.50  ESOS

 1957

     ??

 GRV ???

 1970 ?  Fate not known
    320  490739

 ET 320

09.05.50  MTT

 1959

     283

WAG8283

 Nov 1977

(as UQB 283)

Dravo (contractors?) Mt.Tom

Price, as XRI 217. See below.

    321  490741

 ET 321

09.05.50  MTT

 1959

     271

WAG8271

?/72. Tow Wagon

'2' 1973, UQS 779

PETS, Whiteman Park

(operational)

    322  490754

 ET 322

20.04.50  ESOS

 1957

     54

 GRV 860

 Jan 1973

 (B35D)

Dubbo Bus Service, 1/73

c/o Victorian Bus.Pres.Assoc.

    323  490755

 ET 323

09.06.50  MTT

 1959

     286

WAG8286

 1977 ?

(as UQB 286)

Love's Bus Service, Bunbury

as XOR 528, 5/77

    324  490756

 ET 324

15.06.50  MTT

 1959

     285

WAG8285

 May 1977

(as UQB 285)

Fate not known
    325  490757

 ET 325

12.05.50  MTT

 1959

     267

WAG8267

 Nov 1978

(as UQB 267)

Fate not known
    326  490753

 ET 326

08.08.50  MTT

 1959

     265

WAG8265

11/78 as UQB265

later UQB 003.

Metropolitan Water Board C93

as XQG563, 1/79 (staff bus)

    327  490751

 ET 327

28.07.50  MTT

 1959

     266

WAG8266

 Nov 1978

(as UQB 266)

Fate not known
    328  490752

 ET 328

14.07.50  MTT

 1959

     279

WAG8279

 May 1976 To private owner, Southern

Cross, WA.

    329  490750

 ET 329

14.07.50  MTT

 1959

     269

WAG8269

5/73. Tow Wagon

'4', as UQN 416.

BPSWA, Whiteman Park

as XIM 049 (operational)

    330  490746

 ET 330

30.06.50  ESOS

 1957

     50

 GRV 864

 March 1973

 (B35D)

 Black & White, Sandgate

 Qld., 3/73 as OEC 600.

    331  490747

 ET 331

31.08.50  MTT

 1959

     277

WAG8277

 November 1976

(as UQB 277)

Riverton RSL, XNU 818.

Converted to mobile home.

    332  490748

 ET 332

04.09.50  MTT

 1959

     270

WAG8270

1971?  To Coopers

Bus Service, Benger

Love's Bus Service, Albany

as No.2 (H 1302), Sept 1975

    333  490749

 ET 333

18.08.50  MTT

 1959

     280

WAG8280

 Feb 1973

(as UQB 280)

EGTB, Kalgoorlie to 1974. **

Then ?school, Goldfields area?

    334  490890

 ET 334

??.??.50  ESOS

 1957

     ??

 GRV ???

 1970 ? Fate not known
    335  490889

 ET 335

26.09.50  MTT

 1959

     276

WAG8276

 Feb 1973

(as UQB 276)

 EGTB No.14, Kalgoorlie **

Stripped for parts by BPSWA

    336  490888

 ET 336

24.10.50  MTT

 1959

     268

WAG8268

7/73. Tow Wagon

'3', as UQM 168.

 Sydney Bus Museum (Picture)

    337  490891

 ET 337 

06.10.50  MTT

 1959

     273

WAG8273

 Feb 1973

(as UQB 273)

 School bus as XBW 618

Became motorhome, still active.

    338  490743

 ET 338 

03.10.50  MTT

 1959

     282

WAG8282

 July 1977

(as UQB 282)

Believed scrapped by MTT,

Perth 1978.

    339  490742

 ET 339

19.10.50  MTT

 1959

     284

WAG8284

 Dec 1976

(as UQB 284)

Fate not known
    340  490745

 ET 340

30.10.50  MTT

 1959

     281

WAG8281

 Aug 1977

(as UQB 281)

Dravo (contractors?) Mt.

Tom Price, as XPO 583.

    341  490744

 ET 341

??.??.50  ESOS

 1957

     ??

 GRV ???

 1970 ? Fate not known
    342  490893

 ET 342

16.12.50  MTT

 1959

     278

WAG8278

 Dec 1976

(as UQB 278)

Love's Bus Service, Albany

XOR 527, 5/77, then Bunbury

    343  490894

 ET 343

14.11.50  ESOS

 1957

     49

 GRV 861

 Mar 1973

 (B35D)

 Black & White, Sandgate

 Qld., 3/73 as ODA 684.

    344  490895

 ET 344

01.11.50  MTT

 1959

     272

WAG8272

 1974 ?

(as UQB 272)

 School bus, Victoria Park 

 as XHX 367.

    345  490892

 ET 345

03.03.51  MTT

 1959

     275

WAG8275

 Dec 1976

(as UQB 275)

Fate not known

** Loaned or leased to Eastern Goldfields Transport Board, Kalgoorlie, WA, for approximately 2 years after MTT withdrawal, becoming their No.14. Date of final withdrawal from passenger service uncertain.


Survivors

316 (MTT 274) - Spares source at the Bus Preservation Society of Western Australia (Towing wagon).

317 (MTT 287) - Possible mobile home, location not known. Last heard of in the Waroona area, mid 1990s.

320 (MTT 283) - Mobile home, Andy Renn, Safety Bay.

321 (MTT 271) - Perth Electric Tramway Society, Whiteman Park (Towing wagon).

322 (ESOS 54) - Under restoration, Melbourne, c/o Victorian Bus Preservation Association and the Kefford Corporation.

323 (MTT 286) - Spotted by Andy Renn in Feb 2000 in a scrap yard at Mandurah, about 50 kms south of Perth, minus engine, gearbox, dash gauges, seats and head lights. The body is quite rusty in places and in poor condition, some of the windows are smashed but the destination boxes are intact. The owner of the yard says that a bus company is interested in buying it and restoring it for use a promotional vehicle.

329 (MTT 269) - Bus Preservation Society of Western Australia (Towing wagon).

331 (MTT 277) - Mobile home, Stephen Mueller, Lesmurdie, Perth; to John Handley, Stoneville WA, for restoration 2005.

335 (MTT 276) - Donated in 2001 by Mark Tattersall as a spares source at the Bus Preservation Society of Western Australia. Engine transferred to OPS4 MTT 361. Remains broken up in 2013.

336 (MTT 268) - Sydney Bus Museum (Tow wagon 3).

337 (MTT 273) - Mobile home, bought by Donald Cann in Preston Beach WA late 1990s. Still active. In Glenreagh, NSW 2006.


"Unsolved Crimes"

Some additional information acquired by Col Davison from other sources, which do not quite tie up with the list above;

ESOS /Sinclair 51 [GRV863] (490744) new 15.08.50; B35D; to F Love, Dubbo, NSW (Dubbo Bus Service) 12/72 (I suspect that this is M&MTB 334).

ESOS /Sinclair 54 (490754) new 19.05.50; B35D; to F Love, Dubbo, NSW (Dubbo Bus Service) 1/73. (I suspect that the chassis number is wrong here, and that it is actually M&MTB 319. Or the chassis number is correct, but the one shown for 322 above is wrong. Something like that ... perhaps ?)


The Photo Gallery

MTT 265

MTT 265 in 1975, near the end of its career (photo by Nicholas Pusenjak).

MTT 268

MTT 268 as Tow Wagon 3 at the Sydney Bus Museum, New South Wales in 2014 (Photo: Garth Wyver).

MTT 269

MTT 269 as a tow wagon with BMWA (Photo: Colin Davison). "This pic shows BMWA's ex MTT Tow Wagon 4 in action in February 1998 at Whiteman Park (where BMWA is based) towing a 1938 Leyland trolleybus ex WA Government Tramways 38 which was making its public debut after a 2 year cosmetic restoration of its 1943 built bodywork."

MTT 273 is now a motorhome belonging to Donald Cann. He has been touring Australia in it since the late 1990s, and the bus is seen here at a caravan park in Bowen, Queensland. (Photo: thanks to Donald Cann).

MTT Tiger

MTT 277, Aug 1999 (Photo: Graeme, WA) "Just a short note on another half cab in Perth for sale. A Leyland, probably mid fifties but I am only guessing. Front and back doors. Looks like a manual gearbox. In untidy but fair condition. Gutted for camper by the looks. Inside bare. Cream roof over very dark blue/green. On Welshpool Rd at the time I saw it. Cheers, Graeme." This must be 277 before Stephen Mueller bought it.

MTT Tiger

MTT 277, Aug 1999 (Photo: Graeme, WA) "Hi Dick,a short note on the photos I sent the other night. lt was for sale at a hire yard. I don't know the price, but it had been gutted inside, probably for a camper. I am pretty sure it was a Perth, West Australia M.T.T. bus. I do recall buses like it when I was at school. I didn't think much about them then." (Graeme owns a 1952 Regal converted to a mobile home, in WA)

mtt 277

MTT 277 as bought by Stephen Mueller. (Photo: Stephen Mueller) "I have just purchased this ex-MTT bus in Perth. I am hoping to restore it to its original external condition, however I'll use the inside for a caravan. The bus will be living in Lesmurdie, Perth - Western Australia.". It wears the blue/white livery applied by the Returned Services League (RSL), Riverton Branch (Riverton being a Perth suburb).

Update March 2000; "By the way, I will no longer be using my bus for a caravan. I am planning on making the outside presentable and then using it to take weekenders in - sans caravan outfitting. I am also hoping to do vineyard tours with friends around the Swan Valley and the south west (Margaret River, etc.)."

Update Dec 2005; "Just to advise you that on Saturday, 10 December 2005 I purchased an OPS4/1 Leyland Tiger number 331, ex Western Australian MTT fleet number 277 from Stephen Mueller and will be restoring it back to its former glory as MTT 277. Regards, John Handley, Stoneville, Western Australia."

MTT 283

MTT 283 in original green MTT livery at Claremont Depot around 1972 (photo via Nicholas Pusenjak). Nicholas is from Perth, WA and is a founder member of the Bus Museum of Western Australia there.

MTT 283

MTT 283 in the later yellow/white livery used on the Health Dept. buses (Photo: Colin Davison). "Following the loss of a plate in the early 1970s, ('73 or '74?) 283 was reregistered UQB 268 (the real 268 was converted to a towing vehicle about then - see above). Also around this time, the green lower panels were repainted yellow and 283, in company with similarly painted sister buses 281 and 282, was loaned to the WA Health Department for use on transport of staff and day patients to and from the Swanbourne Mental Hospital in what is now Mt Claremont. At the time, it was officially allocated to MTT's Claremont Depot, which carried out routine maintenance, with fuelling, cleaning, etc, done by the Hospital."

"283 was withdrawn in November 1977 and subsequently sold to Dravo (contractors?), Mt Tom Price, where it was registered XRI 217 and retained its off-white over yellow colour scheme. My photo shows 283 in its last months with MTT, with UQB 268 rego and yellow lower panels, parked in the service vehicle depot at Swanbourne Mental Hospital in 1977."

MTT 283

MTT 283 with current owner Andy Renn and his wife (Photo: Andy Renn) "Hi, I have just seen your page on British Classic Buses in Australia. My reason for looking was to try and find some information about my Leyland bus which is an OPS4/1. Imagine my surprise to find a picture of my bus in its Perth MTT livery, number 283 !"

"I purchased 283 in April 1999 from a young fellow in a country town about 200 miles east of Perth called Yealering. 283 had been converted to a camper home and was parked in a caravan park for approximately 10 years. I bought the bus on the understanding that it would be licensed for the road as I wanted it for a holiday trip around Australia. When I went to pick up the bus it was licensed and running and fuelled up ready for the trip back to my home in Safety Bay 30 miles south of Perth."

"283 has now been modified a little in the living area and has had a good service. All mechanicals appear to be working well and the bus is almost ready for the marathon 12,000 mile trip round Australia, at the moment she is having a fresh coat of paint. Kind regards, Andy Renn."

MTT 287 (Photo: Colin Davison). "This shows MTT 287 posed in Victoria Avenue, Perth on an enthusiast tour around 1979 or 80. By this time, it was only used for driver training and had actually been officially renumbered 6 on paper, but did have the matching UQB006 registration, although this is not apparent in this offside view."

ESOS 54

ESOS 54 in ESOS livery (Photo: Colin Davison). "No 54 was photographed in Belgrave Road, East Caulfield, posed on an enthusiast tour on 24 June 1972. This shows the original position of the front door and gives a good idea of the original destination header, both features which the MTT changed on its examples."

Gary Davey, Secretary of the Victorian Bus Preservation Association, Melbourne, mailed to say;

"I just read your article on Melbourne OPS4s. Well you may be interested to learn that we also have one. It is ex ESOS no 54, M&MTB 322 which went to Loves of Dubbo. It is back in Melbourne under restoration by the Victorian Bus Preservation Association and the Kefford Corporation (Bus operator). It is partially restored but has come to a halt recently as we cannot get any rubber grommets for the radiator tubes. You wouldn't be able to give us some possible leads on getting some? I hope this is of interest."


TECHNICAL STUFF

CHASSIS

The Leyland "OPS" series was the export version of the post-war Leyland Tiger "PS" (Passenger, Single-deck) chassis which, in turn, was a development of the pre-war Tiger family dating back to 1927. They were made (appropriately enough !) in Leyland, Lancashire, England and shipped out to customers all over the world, sometimes as complete buses and sometimes just in chassis form, ready to receive locally-made bodywork on arrival.

Examples of the various OPS chassis models are listed below (Left-hand drive, or 'LOPS' models were available for all versions);

So the OPS4/1 had the six cylinder 9.8 litre Leyland "O.600" engine (the 'O' stood for Oil, to differentiate between Oil/diesel and petrol engines), was 8 feet wide (many British bus chassis were still being made at the old 7' 6" width), and at 21' 6" was the longest version available. They had a 4-speed synchromesh gearbox providing a top speed of 32 mph.

BODYWORK

The bodies were built by Commonwealth Engineering in the Granville area of Sydney, and fitted on to the imported chassis. They were originally configured for 41 seats, with dual entrances.

As described above, on arrival with MTT in Perth, the front door location on their 23 vehicles was shifted forward one and a half bays to the front bulkhead, to facilitate one person operation. At a later stage the front dome was also rebuilt on each bus to incorporate the standard three aperture MTT destination layout, and a route number box was built into the rear dome. ESOS reconfigured their seven buses to a 35-seat layout.


For other Australian buses see the Australian Buses Page 1, Australian Buses Page 2, and Australian Buses Page 3.

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