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Website launched in August 1996, and this page was last updated on 10 September 2015.

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Museum volunteers are appealing for help in finding a unique piece of Greater Manchester's transport heritage, stolen after thieves broke into a locked cabinet and made off with a distinctive silver 'knight's head'. The 4-inch high silver emblem, a miniature bust of a knight's head, was once fitted to an Atkinson bus that trundled the streets of Greater Manchester until it arrived at its last terminus in 1970. The bus was saved and is on display at the Museum of Transport Greater Manchester in Boyle Street, Cheetham but the knight's head disappeared until earlier this year and was donated to the volunteers who run the Museum.

The head was too precious to put back on the bus so it was displayed in a locked cabinet. But now heartless thieves have broken open the cabinet and stolen it, robbing the Museum and its visitors of a little piece of transport history. "Only one of these knight's heads was ever made, making it a complete one-off," said Museum spokesman Paul Williams. "It means nothing to the thieves but it's actually a piece of history. The thief may have taken it to sell to an unscrupulous collector, or because it's shiny they may have thought it was silver - but actually it's just chrome plating. It's worthless to the thief but it means a lot to the volunteers who give their time to charity to keep the museum open, and our fear is that if it was a thief looking for precious metal they've found out that it isn't - and they've just thrown it away."

The theft happened over the weekend of 9/10 August, and the Museum is now asking for help in returning the knight's head. "It may be on sale on eBay, it might be on a junk stall, it could even be lying in a corner thrown away", said Paul. "We want everyone who cares about Greater Manchester's history to be our eyes and ears to look out for our little knight in shining armour and help it come home."

If anyone hears anything about the theft or the whereabouts of the stolen Atkinson knight's head emblem, please call contact Collyhurst Police Station, Greater Manchester Police on 101 quoting crime number 141-827-M15; or Crimestoppers, 0800-555-111.


This fine picture taken by Ken Jones at the "Southdown 100" event in Southsea, shows Southdown breakdown tender 0184 (EUF 184), converted from a 1938 Leyland TD5 bus and now owned by the Southdown Omnibus Trust. It makes a relevant link to a recent addition to this website, Clifford Jones's memories of Southdown, his ownership of one of these tenders, and many other tales. Thanks Ken.

Incidentally Clifford (who knows a thing or two about these breakdown vehicles) has noted that the number plate is in the wrong place. When converted to a recovery vehicle the number plate was relocated under the windscreen where the brackets were for the trade plates. But those brackets now hold a "TOWING" sign which should be up on the cant rail where the holes for those brackets are still visible. The brackets themselves seem to have disappeared.

Having said that, all the Southdown TD5 breakdown trucks did have 'blank' plates below the radiator which bore no number. Presumably the brackets below the windscreen enabled various trade plates to be attached or changed as required. Perhaps, now that the vehicle has reverted to its permanent number EUF 184, the owner has decided to use the fixed plate instead. It's all so complicated...

Clifford has added further information to straighten out my trade plates comments above; "Each depot had a trade plate for their breakdown tender, e.g. my 0181 always carried trade plate 184 CD. The Eastbourne tender had trade plate 067 HC on it as a TD1, and 150 HC as a TD5. This was probably due to Eastbourne requiring more trade plate(s) and they got swapped, but HC is Eastbourne whereas CD on mine was Brighton."

"When 0184 was based at Chichester it would have had 339 PX on it, which was transferred to the AEC Matador when it came to Chichester, as the Chevy was retired at Horsham which had 097 BP on it. The slotted brackets were just in case they were temporarily needed elsewhere or went to another depot. Trade plates were never permanently fixed to a vehicle, as in some cases in the trade they were in rubber mounts to be hung on a vehicle."

"Just to complete the picture, trade plates were originally 'general' or 'restricted'. 184 CD on mine is always photographed with general trade plates, which had a red background and white letters, so they could be used on any vehicle, and it was permitted to carry a load. This was to facilitate the breakdown tenders going to Portslade to pick up engine/gearboxes etc. which was the intention of the gantry system. When general plates were withdrawn, restricted plates - red letters on a white background - could only be used and no load could be carried. Finally the privilege of using them on breakdown tenders was withdrawn and the original number plate had to be put back."

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John Wakefield sent this picture and asks if anyone can identify who made the body. The vehicle is a 1947 Bedford KZ which was imported to the UK from Zimbabwe in 1992. It has a petrol engine and an alloy body, chassis number 49016, appeared briefly in the Warners Bros film "The Power of One", and now wears date-related British registration HSK 566.

The owner was advised that it had been imported new into Kenya by BOAC to ferry crews and passengers around, then came to Zimbabwe via Tanzania, but it doesn't appear in BOAC fleet lists, so that may not be correct. BOAC did have some very similar vehicles (Bedfords and Commers) with dual-entrance bodies by Spurling but with slightly different windscreens. Another suggestion for the body-builder is Allweather.

So does anyone recognise this style of body? Who made it, for whom, and was it bodied in UK before export, or bodied locally in Kenya? As always, email me here if you can offer some answers.


The reason why's Brian the Robot was sharing the conveyor belt to hell with a post-war number plate wearing the number (LN 4743) of a very pre-war B-Type bus was never established. and the Imperial War Museum (owner of the bus) both independently said it was probably 'coincidence'. I don't believe that and suspect that it was something created by the film props company for some reason, but I can't prove it, so the case remains unsolved in my book.

Welcome to the home of classic buses and coaches on the net. I'm Dick Gilbert. This site is all about nostalgia for British passenger transport vehicles from the 1920s to the 1960s, with an unashamed bias towards 'halfcabs'.

Each page has a different colour scheme which is supposed to be reminiscent of some bus or coach company from the era, and this one is meant to represent Western / Southern National. As a result of this arrangement, some of the pages are hard to read, and some will scramble your brain. I'm sure you'll manage.

My interest in British buses began in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the buses and coaches that were around then are all 'classics' now. It was an interesting period, when there were still pre-war and wartime 'utility' machines about (although mostly on the point of retirement), and a large number of halfcab vehicles that had been built immediately after the war. At the same time, new products like the Leyland Atlantean, AEC Regent V, and a host of 'modern' coach designs (Plaxton Panorama, Harrington Cavalier, Weymann Fanfare etc.) were appearing. It was a transitional period when vehicles from the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s could all be seen in use at the same time.

Having been born in south London, London Transport was the first operator that I lived with, then we moved to Sussex and I grew up with Southdown, Maidstone & District, East Kent, and the municipal fleets of Eastbourne and Brighton, as well as the large number of excursion coaches that used to visit the south coast every summer.

In the early 1960s I used to make trips to London to visit Victoria Coach Station, or see the last of the London Transport trolleybuses, or the last halfcab single deckers (TDs). Unfortunately, although I saw what I went to see, most of the photographs I took are not particularly brilliant, or have been lost. However I do have some black & white pictures taken at Victoria Coach Station, London, and in Sussex between 1960 and 1962 which are barely reasonable, and some of them appear around this site. Here's one;

Lincolnshire Leyland Cub

This was taken at 'The Crumbles', Eastbourne, in the summer of 1962, where Claude Lane was running the narrow gauge Eastbourne Tramway (now moved to Seaton, Devon). He had used this ex Lincolnshire Road Car Leyland KPZ01 Cub as a lorry in the past, and it was left to rot outside his depot. New in May 1937 it was FW 8855, originally fleet number LC502, one of thirty delivered that year with Brush B20F bodies. I guess someone might rescue it these days.

I attend a few rallies around the country, and like to see the old machines that people have restored. Reviews and/or pictures of some of the shows I attend appear on the pages here, although it can take a while before I get round to it. The whole idea of the site is to entertain the sad souls (like me !) who have a soft spot for old PSVs, and also be a sorting office for information on the subject.

It's all for fun, so relax and have a wistful rummage through the scrapbook. If you weren't around in the 1960s (and they say that, if you were, you won't remember it) then these pages might provide an insight into the variety of glamorous machines that could be seen on British streets at the time.

Incidentally, this site has no connection whatsoever with Classic Bus magazine, but I thoroughly, absolutely, unreservedly and totally recommend it to anyone with an interest in the subject. It is published 6 times a year, and regular readers all wish it was 12 times a year. Folk in the UK should be able to order it through their newsagents. Those offshore should contact Classic Bus Publishing Ltd., 18 Brunstane Road, Edinburgh, EH15 2QJ, Scotland. When it falls on your doorstep it's like when the delivery guy has brought you a really good pizza.

Please keep in touch, as changes are taking place here all the time, and let me know if you spot a mistake somewhere - I do try to keep things pretty accurate. I know that there are some real boffins out there, and I need you to tell me when something is inaccurate. So welcome to the site, browse around and make yourself at home.



You can Email me here.

SOME QUICK LINKS WITHIN THIS SITE;  Email me   Events Diary   CLASSIC BUSES WEBSITE SHOP   Halfcab survivors   Links   Small ads   Classic Irish Buses


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