Classic Buses Profiles


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Last updated 19 May 2018

Another look at some delightful vehicles from the past. This time we look at the varied fleet of double deckers that served Eastbourne, the famous and sunny holiday town in Sussex, on the south coast of England.

Eastbourne No.55

This fine picture of AEC Regent V No.55 heading away from the sea down Terminus Road towards the railway station and beyond, was taken by Bob Wilcox on 26 August 1964. Actually Route 1 didn't run by the sea, but it did pass by my old home in Old Town, so I used it a lot. That "6" in the registration number DHC 655 tells us that this batch (Eastbourne's first Regent V buses) was delivered in 1956 - the first time that this numbering system was adopted. Sadly none of them survive today. My thanks to Bob Wilcox for his kind permission to use this photo.

Eastbourne in Sussex holds a very special place in the history of bus transport, because its Corporation were the first municipality in the world to receive consent for a motor bus service. Their first vehicle, a 14-seat Milnes Daimler, commenced operations in April 1903, which was even before the days of registration number plates.

The town's bus service, later known as Eastbourne Buses, exceeded 100 years of continuous operation before its takeover by Stagecoach in 2009, and certainly operated a wide variety of interesting vehicles around the delightful and attractive resort, ranging from Clarkson steam buses and open-top De Dion Boutons to 'gearless' Leyland Titans, but it is just the halfcab double-deckers that are the subject of this page. The selection here is from 1930 to 1970 - which might be considered the halfcab era. Accordingly, we start our overview from the arrival of the first stately Leyland Titan TD1s in 1930.

Then followed a steady stream of (mostly) Leyland products through the 1930s, building a fleet which was sadly to suffer so heavily from the ravages of enemy action, as the town took a heavy toll in the 'hit and run' raids that the German air force inflicted on south coast towns during World War II. After a look at the surprising delivery of post-war Crossleys, and the totally classic and perfectly-formed Bruce-bodied AEC Regents, our journey ends with the sadly far less attractive tin-front PD2s of the late 1960s, and the strange story of the PD2 that was swapped for a PD3.

Eastbourne's connection with Bruce Coach Works, and their previous incarnation as Air Dispatch (Coachbuilders) Ltd., was significant. Air Dispatch and Bruce mostly assembled products designed by East Lancs of Blackburn. The Corporation bought the last four bodies to be built under the Air Dispatch name (Nos. 25-27 and 40 in 1948), the first four bodies to be produced under the Bruce name (Nos.28-31, also in 1948), and the very last, and finest, eight Bruce bodies to be made (Nos.41-48 in 1951). When the Bruce factory closed in December 1951, Eastbourne stayed loyal to East Lancs designs and continued to buy their products for many years.

I spent very frequent holidays with relatives in Eastbourne during the 1950s, and moved there in 1959 to spend my teenage years in the town, so I remember the fleet well during that period. My older brother (who spent a fair bit of wartime in Eastbourne as a boy) remembers the sight and sounds of the 'gearless' Leyland Titans, but my personal memories really start with the TD4 and TD5 Titans that survived into the 1950s, and the fun of riding on the old open-toppers.

The conversion of many older buses to open-top configuration in the Corporation workshops during the 1950s and '60s gave them a new lease of life, and resulted in some quite ancient machines lasting well past their sell-by date. This (and the sturdiness and popularity of the Regent Vs and PD2s) has led to a surprisingly high proportion of survivors from the fleet, including some pre-war specimens. Details of all these are shown below.

Eastbourne No.42

Taking my prize for the best looking Eastbourne deckers were the 1951 batch of eight AEC Regent IIIs with East Lancs bodywork sub-contracted to Bruce Coachworks in Wales. Happily one survives today, and here it is, No.42 (AHC 442) seen at the Southdown Gathering, Portsmouth on 28 May 2000. For more details of these wonderful machines, see below. Photo: Dick Gilbert.

A brief explanation of the Eastbourne Corporation numbering system would not go amiss. Basically, they simply numbered vehicles from 1 upwards, but no numbers over 100 were permitted. Therefore, when the sequence looked like approaching 100, they started again. The series therefore went round five times, but eventually continued beyond 100.

This means that a list in numerical order would be confusing, so it is instead arranged in date order. Some numbers were changed occasionally to allow new batches to fit into the system, and very old vehicles that were still in service when the sequence was going round again sometimes resulted in gaps or changes, but this will be explained as we go along. HC and JK were the two vehicle registration identities for the town.

Various liveries were used throughout this period. The initial and most well-known was the blue / primrose scheme, with open top seafront buses painted white. This was progressively replaced from around 1968 by cream with light blue lining, but was again superceded by a deeper cream (known as "vellum") and a darker blue from 1974 onwards, apparently due to the difficulty in obtaining specific shades in relatively small quantities.

The Southdown Enthusiasts Club has kindly given me permission to use some information from their publication "Eastbourne Borough Motor Buses - The First 80 Years" published in 1983. My thanks to them for this, which has been of great assistance in preparing this page. I must also acknowledge the invaluable help provided by various PSV Circle publications.

Inevitably mistakes are bound to creep in, and some relevant information may be missing so, in order to make it as accurate a reference as possible, I would of course welcome any additions or corrections.

For more Eastbourne buses see the Single Deckers and Seafront Buses pages, and also the Southdown Guy Open-toppers.



LEYLAND TITAN TD1 - 60-65 (2nd series) Total: 6

Eastbourne No.64

Leyland TD1 No.64 (JK 1239) after conversion to open-top as "The White Knight", waiting in Gildredge Road to depart on seafront Route No.6 in the 1950s. Photo credit: not known, but kindly supplied by Dave Bran.

Delivered July 1930

Chassis: Leyland Titan TD1 petrol

Body: Leyland H24/24R 'piano front'.

LEYLAND TITAN TD1 - 66-75 (2nd series) Total: 11

Leyland TD1 No.72 (JK 1811) probably immediately post-war, on route 3 to Old Town. Pete Carter helped me establish that the photo was taken outside the Kildare
Hotel (now demolished) in Trinity Place, just short of the seafront. Photo W.J.Haynes by kind permission of the Southdown Enthusiasts Club.

Delivered August 1931

Chassis: Leyland Titan TD1 petrol

Body: Leyland H24/24R 'piano-front'

LEYLAND TITAN TD2 - 76-80 (2nd series) Total: 5

Eastbourne Leyland Titan No.80

No.80 (JK 2338) on seafront duties in original condition at Princes Park Gates, probably in the late 1940s. (Photo unknown)

Eastbourne No.80

No.80 as rebuilt to open-top around 1950, possibly in Channel View Road. (Photo: Roy Marshall Collection, via East Pennine Transport Group, Huddersfield)

Delivered June 1932

Chassis: Leyland Titan TD2 petrol

Body: Leyland H24/24R 'piano front'.

LEYLAND TITAN TD3c - 81-86 (2nd series) Total: 6

Leyland TD3 No.83 (JK 3722) wearing a wartime subdued grey/blue livery (although curiously with a white roof), probably in Churchdale Road.
Photo W.J.Haynes by kind permission of the Southdown Enthusiasts Club.

Leyland TD3 No.85 (JK 3724) probably in the late 1940s and probably at the bottom of Churchdale Road.
Photo W.J.Haynes by kind permission of the Southdown Enthusiasts Club.

Delivered August 1934

Chassis: Leyland Titan TD3c "Gearless" buses with torque converters (which were later removed) and petrol engines.

Body: Leyland H24/24R

Notes: Some loaned to Southdown and Lancashire United during World War II, certainly including No.83 which went to LUT as their No. E83, but not No.86 which remained in Eastbourne throughout the hostilities.

LEYLAND TITAN TD4c - 87-90 (2nd series) Total: 4

Eastbourne No.88

No.88 opposite Eastbourne railway station, probably in the late 1940s, about to depart for Kings Drive and Upper Willingdon. Behind it is No.85, one of the "Gearless" TD3s, coming to
the end of its life. It wears a strange fleet number on the front which looks like "165". (Photo: possibly Roy Marshall Collection, or maybe Dave Spencer collection)

Delivered October 1935

Chassis: Leyland Titan TD4c with petrol engines and torque converters.

Body: Leyland H24/24R

Notes: Peter Burton wrote in May 2013 "I remember seeing a Leyland TD4 with the Leyland metal-framed body in a builder's yard in Hastings when seeking out old buses. I lived in Bexhill on Sea from 1971 to 1974 so can state that Eastbourne 90 (JK 5064) was still in existence in the early 70s, and even had Eastbourne transfers just showing. It was a long time ago now and memory has faded, other than it was on high ground in East Hastings."

AEC REGENT - 91-93 (2nd series) Total: 3

Delivered June 1936

Chassis: AEC Regent 661

Body: Strachans H24/24R

Notes: Eastbourne's first AEC purchases.

LEYLAND TITAN TD4c - 94-96 (2nd series) Total: 3

Eastbourne No.95

Leyland Titan No.95 (JK 5605) was already 25 years old when photographed at the Pier in 1961. It had been converted to open-top and named
"White Ensign" nine years earlier and was coming to the end of its considerable service life. Photo: Dick Gilbert.

Delivered July 1936

Chassis: Leyland Titan TD4c with petrol engines and torque converters (which were removed in 1954); fitted with 8.6 litre oil engines in 1953. Eastbourne Corporation bought 12 vehicles from Southdown in the early 1950s (including Leyland TS7 Tigers, numbers 1407, 1408, 1419 and 1115 from 1935, Leyland TD4 Titans, numbers 100, 101, 107 and 150 from 1935-36, Leyland TS8 Tigers, numbers 1432 and 1469 from 1938-39) in order to use their Leyland 8.6 litre diesel engines.

Body: Leyland H24/24R

LEYLAND TITAN TD5c - 1-5 (3rd series) Total: 5

Eastbourne No.2

All-Leyland Titan TD5 No.2, probably in Seaside in the early 1950s. (Photo: Roy Marshall Collection, via East Pennine Transport Group, Huddersfield)

To see a picture of this bus after conversion to open-top, click here.

Delivered July 1937

Chassis: Leyland Titan TD5c with torque converters (removed in 1954); engines later replaced (see Notes below).

Body: Leyland H24/24R (circa 1951 reconfigured to H26/24R or H30/26R).

Notes: Eastbourne Corporation bought 12 vehicles from Southdown in the early 1950s (including Leyland TS7 Tigers, numbers 1407, 1408, 1419 and 1115 from 1935, Leyland TD4 Titans, numbers 100, 101, 107 and 150 from 1935-36, Leyland TS8 Tigers, numbers 1432 and 1469 from 1938-39), in order to use their Leyland 8.6 litre diesel engines. These were then fitted to numbers 1, 2 and 3, but No.4 was given an AEC 9.6 litre engine, and No.5 received a 7.4 litre engine as fitted to the Titan PD1.

AEC REGENT II - 6-10 (3rd series) Total: 5

Eastbourne No.10

No.10 (JK 7431) in its open-top guise as "The White Knight" at Churchdale Road garage in 1960, shortly before its withdrawal and sale. It had only been converted from petrol to diesel four years previously. It was to survive for at least another 27 years, but seems to have been finally defeated by the Great Storm of October 1987. Photo: Dick Gilbert.

Delivered January 1938

Chassis: AEC Regent II 661. Nos. 7 to 10 had 8.6 litre oil engines fitted in 1954 (see Notes below).

Body: Northern Counties H24/24R

Notes: These are believed to be the last AEC Regent buses delivered with petrol engines.

Eastbourne Corporation bought 12 vehicles from Southdown in the early 1950s (probably TS7 Tigers), in order to use their Leyland 8.6 litre diesel engines, Nos. 7 to 10 received these engines in 1954, while No.6 was given a 9.6 litre AEC engine.

LEYLAND TITAN PD1 - 13-18 (3rd series) Total: 6

Eastbourne No.18

Titan PD1 No.18 sits in the Churchdale Road garage alongside Crossley No.34, probably around 1960. The two styles of East Lancs bodies can be compared, with the Crossley being two years newer.
The Leyland was to be converted to open-top during the winter of 1962-63 for seafront services, lasting in this form until 1968. Photo: unknown.

Eastbourne No.15

This unusual photo taken by Peter Esposito and kindly supplied by Chris Stanley, showing No.15 (JK 9113) in Penge on 13 October 1968, a few months after its retirement from
Eastbourne service and sale to Margo's Coaches. This was the only one of the batch not to be converted to open-top.

Delivered October 1946 (except No.17 delivered in May 1947)

Chassis: Leyland Titan PD1

Body: East Lancs H28/24R. Five later converted to open-top, with upper deck front windscreens.

Notes: Eastbourne's first diesel buses.

AEC REGENT II - 19 (3rd series) Total: 1

Eastbourne AEC Regent No.19

Immediately post-war, Eastbourne Corporation would gratefully accept whatever new buses were available from manufacturers, which accounts for the arrival of this one-off diesel-engined AEC Regent in 1946, although other similar buses were to follow later (Photographer unknown, but taken on 3 August 1962)

Delivered October 1946

Chassis: AEC Regent II O661, number O6617645, with 7.7 litre diesel engine.

Body: Weymann H30/26R, No.M2884.

Notes: Eastbourne's first diesel-engined AEC, and its first Weymann body.

AEC REGENT III - 20-24 (3rd series) Total: 5

Eastbourne No.20

Stopping at the railway station and bound for the Archery terminus of Route 4 around 1960 is Regent III No.20 with a four-bay Weymann body very similar to the East Lancs products that Eastbourne was also buying during the immediate post-war period. Clearly the station frontage is having a repaint, while the conductor takes a break, leaning against the front mudguard in the traditional Eastbourne sunshine. Photo: unknown.

Delivered May 1947

Chassis: AEC Regent III O961

Body: Weymann H28/22R

Notes: Had their lower deck seats replaced by ex London Transport trolleybus seats in 1960, and became H30/26R at that time.

LEYLAND TITAN PD2/1 - 25-27 (3rd series) Total: 3

Eastbourne No.26, JK 9983

No.26 (JK 9983) outside Eastbourne railway station. Photo: Unknown.

Delivered February 1948

Chassis: Leyland Titan PD2/1

Body: East Lancs H28/24R, assembled by Air Dispatch (Coachbuilders) Ltd. at Cardiff, which were to be renamed Bruce Coach Works in September 1948.

AEC REGENT III - 28-31 (3rd series) Total: 4

Eastbourne Regent No.28

Bruce-bodied AEC Regent No.28 at Eastbourne Railway Station in 1961. This was the first bus to be delivered from the Cardiff factory of Bruce Coach Works, as they
had previously been known as Air Dispatch (Coachbuilders) Ltd. prior to Sept 1948. Photo: Dick Gilbert.

Delivered April 1948

Chassis: AEC Regent III O961

Body: East Lancs / Bruce H28/24R (the first buses to be delivered with bodies made by Bruce Coach Works, Cardiff, and the first built to a four-bay design).

CROSSLEY DD42/5 - 32-39 (3rd series) Total: 8

Crossley JK 9995

Crossley No.38 nearing the end of its life, on Route 2 in Green Street, Old Town in 1961. Photo: Dick Gilbert.

Delivered May-June 1948

Chassis: Crossley DD42/5

Body: East Lancs H28/22R

LEYLAND TITAN PD2/1 - 40 (3rd series) Total: 1

Eastbourne Titan PD2 No.40

On a typical Eastbourne sunny day in the 1950s, No.40 turns out of Seaside Rd. into Terminus Rd. heading for the railway station and Old Town on Route 1. Hand-painted beer adverts
commonly adorned Eastbourne buses, yet curiously never for the town's own Star Brewery. (Photo: Roy Marshall collection, via East Pennine Transport Group)

Delivered March 1948

Chassis: Leyland Titan PD2/1

Body: East Lancs H28/24R, assembled by Air Dispatch (Coachbuilders) Ltd. at Cardiff, which were to be renamed Bruce Coach Works in September 1948.

Notes: All body beading and mudguards at one time painted dark blue, but the picture above shows it in more conventional livery (although the radiator surround may be light blue). Which came first?

The story of its out-of-sequence registration is interesting. Buses Illustrated for November 1967 records it thus;

"This bus formed part of a programme of 16 new double deckers (4 AEC, 8 Crossley and 4 Leyland) which were allocated registrations JK 9982-9997. A well-known local lady owned a large Humber car registered HC 9997 in pre 1939-45 war days and, when buying a new car in 1948 asked to have JK 9997, which had been earmarked for No.40. It was arranged for the lady to have JK 9997, and HC 8216 was allocated to the bus. Why this number ? Well, HC was started in 1910 from 1 for cars and lorries etc., and 2 for motorcycles, and this odd/even split was maintained until HC 9999 was reached for cars (about 1929). Even numbered HC marks lagged behind and eventually reached 80xx range. JK was finished in 1948 and it was then decided to complete the issue of the even numbers of HC. Hence No.40 became HC 8216."

AEC REGENT III - 41-48 (3rd series) Total: 8

Eastbourne No.48

Another picture at Eastbourne railway station on 18 March 1961 shows No.48 (AHC 448) one of the beautiful 1951 AEC Regent IIIs with Bruce bodies. Personally I see these buses as the pinnacle of post-war provincial double-decker bus design.

Bruce Coach Works of Cardiff built only 142 bodies, all between 1948 and 1952, and assembled under licence from East Lancs Coachbuilders of Blackburn. This batch of Eastbourne Regents were the last bodies to be built by Bruce, and this one (No.48) was the last but one. No.47 was the very final bus to leave the factory, in December 1951.

My thanks to Peter J.Relf who took and supplied the photo (No.01879).

Delivered Oct-Nov 1950

Chassis: AEC Regent III, 9613A, crash gearboxes.

Body: East Lancs / Bruce Coachworks five-bay H30/26R.

Notes: No.42 was fitted with an illuminated advertisement panel on the lower deck front bulkhead in 1965.

AEC REGENT V - 49-55 (3rd series) Total: 7

Eastbourne No.49

Eastbourne's first AEC Regent V, No.49 (DHC 649) when new in May 1956. The shop D.Hollands and Sons (selling "bicycles, prams and mangles" !),
dated back to the 1930s but did not last another 5 years after this picture was taken. The demand for mangles had obviously declined. Photo: G.Mead

Delivered Mar-May 1956. Nos.49-51 entered service on Good Friday 1956.

Chassis: AEC Regent V, D3RV

Body: East Lancs H30/26R, 8 feet wide.

Notes: Eastbourne's first 8 feet wide buses.

AEC REGENT V - 56-60 (3rd series) Total: 5

HJK 160

No.60 at the Pier in 1962. The translucent roof can be seen. (Photo: Dick Gilbert)

Delivered May-June 1961

Chassis: AEC Regent V, 2D3RV, 27 feet long, 8 feet wide, 9.6 litre engines.

Body: East Lancs H32/28R. The upper deck had translucent roof panels and full-drop opening windows. Platform doors were fitted to three of this batch in 1968 for use on town tours.

Notes: Delivered in cream / light blue livery. Each chassis cost £2,768.

AEC REGENT V - 61-65 (3rd series) Total: 5

Eastbourne 1962 AEC Regents

When the 1962 (third) batch of Regent Vs (Nos.61-65) were delivered new in the July, they were immediately driven round to the Central Coach Station by the railway in Ashford Road, to be lined up for a photocall for the local press. This was quite unusual, as Corporation buses were seldom seen in the coach station. Your intrepid reporter was, of course, there to record the event! Photo: Dick Gilbert.

The only known survivor of this batch is No.65 (JJK 265) is seen here in February 2015 at Wycombe Road, Wembley, where it has stood since at least 2003. Photo by kind permission of John Rogers, via Ian Pleace.

Delivered July 1962

Chassis: AEC Regent V, 2D3RV

Body: East Lancs H32/28R

Notes: Delivered in blue / primrose livery, but with paler blue than used previously. However they were repainted in the normal blue during 1965-66. They were then repainted into the new livery of cream with light blue lining during 1968-69.

AEC REGENT V - 66-70 (3rd series) Total: 5

Eastbourne No.69

No.69 in Terminus Road, wearing the original livery. Photo: unknown.

Eastbourne No.70

No.70 at the Pier, in the later revised livery. Photo: unknown.

Delivered May 1963

Chassis: AEC Regent V, 2D3RV

Body: East Lancs H32/28R

LEYLAND TITAN PD2A - 71-80 (3rd series) Total: 10

Eastbourne No.73

No.73 in Terminus Road. Photo: Unknown.

Eastbourne 56 and 80

An interesting photo, presumably taken in the yard of Ongar Coaches, High Laver, Essex around September 1982 when Leyland PD2A No.80 on the right had just been acquired by them. Still looking shiny and fresh, it was scrapped two years later. On the left is AEC Regent No.56 which was five years older and had been with Ongar Coaches for a year (surprisingly still wearing an EBC logo and fleet number). It was about to be sold to Busby Coaches in Harlow. Photo by kind permission of Leon Coast.

Delivered Mar-Apr 1966, all in service by early May.

Chassis: Leyland Titan PD2A/30

Body: East Lancs H32/28R with St.Helens-style tin-front grille.

Notes: Delivered in blue / primrose livery, but later repainted cream / blue around 1970. The first Eastbourne buses to be delivered with separate route number blinds.

Buses magazine for Dec 1971 noted "because delay in the delivery of the 1972 Leyland Atlanteans is expected, it has been decided to convert one Leyland PD2 to front entrance for omo (with Autofare equipment) and, if successful, the other 14 PD2s will be dealt with similarly". In the November 1972 edition of the same magazine it said "The plan to convert a Leyland PD2A/30 to front entrance has been shelved because of its cost".

LEYLAND TITAN PD2A - 81-85 (3rd series) Total: 5

No.84 on the seafront after having its roof removed in 1973. This bus was later transferred to Blackpool in exchange for a closed-top PD3 which became No.81. Photo from Adrian Clarke.

Delivered June 1967

Chassis: Leyland Titan PD2A/30

Body: East Lancs H32/28R with St.Helens-style tin-front grille.

Notes: Eastbourne's last new rear-entrance buses, and the last delivered in the blue / primrose livery.

LEYLAND TITAN PD3A - 81 (4th series) Total: 1

Eastbourne No.81

No.81 (LFR 532F) seen at Eastbourne in the 1990s. Photo by kind permission of Jim Gorman.

Delivered to Blackpool July 1968, transferred to Eastbourne in February 1989.

Chassis: Leyland Titan PD3A/1

Body: Metro-Cammell Weymann H41/30R with St.Helens-style tin-front grille.

Notes: New to Blackpool Corporation in July 1968 as their No.532 (a very late Titan PD3), withdrawn in January 1983 and became a driver trainer. Last used as such around February 1987, and had a protracted overhaul back to passenger standards and returned to service January 1988. Withdrawn November 1988 (at the end of regular PD3 operation). Transferred in February 1989 to Eastbourne Buses in exchange for open top Titan PD2A No.84 (DHC 784E), which also became No.532 in the Blackpool fleet. Repainted in full Eastbourne livery. To Lister, Bolton (dealer) March 1993 and sold to Stevenson's, Uttoxeter. Withdrawn and sold July 1994 to J.Roberts (Photobus Ltd), Rimbey, Alberta, Canada (although Ebay notes suggested 1993). Used briefly as a tour bus, but out of use from 1997. In Calgary 2002, for sale on eBay for US$16,500 with photos showing it in Eastbourne livery with Stevensons legal lettering. For sale again on eBay in March 2006 for US$ 10,000, and in Colorado by 2015.

TOTAL 123 ( with 19 Survivors, 95, 16, 17, 42 , 57, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 81(2nd), 82, 84 )


For more Eastbourne buses see the Single Deckers and Seafront Buses pages, and also the Southdown Guy Open-toppers.

For many other buses, have a look at all the other profiles on the Classic Buses menu page.

SOME QUICK LINKS WITHIN THIS WEBSITE;  Home   Email   Links   THE COMPLETE WEBSITE MENU   Events Diary   Halfcab list   Small-Ads   Classic Irish Buses