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Birmingham Corporation bus history

Peter Walker

gone but not forgotten
It's now a few years since I posted some notes on BCT bus history, which are still on the main site, but in need of updating and illustrations. So I have been working on it and will be putting a new version in serial version here. Perhaps Keith can replace it for the old stuff on the main site some time.

Peter Walker

gone but not forgotten
Birmingham Corporation Buses
By Peter Walker
Part 1: The first ten years

1834 - 1912: Historical introduction - horse buses and trams
Birmingham's first horse bus ran on 15 May 1834, and by 1869 there were 20 horse buses in service on 15 routes. The first horse tram in Birmingham ran on 6 September 1873. Steam trams followed in 1882, and other routes were quickly opened, leaving horse buses to serve the more lightly populated areas and outlying townships. Birmingham City Council set up a Tramways Committee in 1900 to take over, electrify and operate the existing steam tram routes within the City, and the first Corporation electric tram route opened in 1904.
In that year there was still one horse tram route and about 100 horse buses. A new company was formed in 1903 to operate petrol buses, pre-dating any London motorbus company. This soon became the Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Company Ltd. (BMMO or Midland Red), which also took over 100 or so horse buses from the tramway company. But the early motorbuses were not reliable, maintenance proved uneconomic, and new vehicles were obtained in 1906. These were also found unsatisfactory, and all were withdrawn and replaced by BMMO horse buses on 5 October 1907, although some were operated by a subsidiary of the BMMO in Deal, Kent for a time.
The Corporation Tramways Department examined and licensed company-owned trams individually before they were allowed to run on tracks in the city, and the Council's Watch Committee granted operating licences to the company to operate bus, tram and taxi services in the city. One policy it soon adopted was that buses and trams should not be allowed to compete on the same route. This relieved possible congestion on the main roads where the trams ran, and it spread buses on to the less important roads.
After a surprisingly long gap of five years, motorbuses returned to Birmingham on 25 May 1912, when the BMMO Company re-introduced a service to Hagley Road and Harborne using three Tilling-Stevens petrol-electric double deck buses based at its garage in Tennant Street. In April 1913 the City Council licensed new half-hourly motor bus services between the 'Ivy Bush', Hagley Road and Handsworth, Moseley and Quinton, and six months later a new service between the General Hospital and Five Ways, which was soon joined to the existing Moseley route. 13 buses were acquired in 1912, but 36 single-deck buses and one more double decker was added in 1913, partly to replace older horse buses.

1913 - Birmingham Corporation's first buses
The first Corporation bus route opened on 19 July 1913 between Selly Oak and Rednal, using ten Daimler B-type motor buses (1 - 10) on a temporary feeder service to the tramway.
Click below for Fig 1 - Birmingham Corporation's first motor buses in 1913 were used to build up traffic on the Bristol Road beyond the Selly Oak tram terminus. The trams were extended nearly ten years later, replacing the buses.
1914 - Birmingham Corporation takes over Midland Red city routes
In February 1914 it was agreed with Midland Red that the Corporation would seek to obtain powers to operate buses and take over the company's routes within the city, leaving the company free to operate services extending beyond the boundary, provided they did not compete with the Corporation services. Two months into World War I, on 4 October 1914, the deal was done, and the Corporation acquired 30 Tilling-Stevens buses from Midland Red together with the garage in Tennant Street. As the Daimler chassis of the original Bristol Road buses had been commandeered for military use in 1914, ex-BMMO buses were numbered 1 - 30, and ten new Tilling-Stevens chassis were acquired by 1915 for the old bodies, which were given the numbers 31 - 40.
At first, the following routes (with route numbers assigned in 1915) were operated:

Click below for Table 1
- The first Corporation bus routes
Having been evicted from the centre of Birmingham, the Midland Red Company moved its headquarters to Bearwood and concentrated on opening up longer-distance motor bus services, which it did brilliantly, considering the wartime conditions.
Click below for Fig 2: Tilling-Stevens bus No. 28 was one of thirty taken over from the Midland Red in 1914. Apologies for the quality of this photo, but there are few which show a Midland Red bus repainted in Birmingham Corporation livery. Note the World War 1 conductress in the middle of the picture.
1914 - 1919: Events during and after World War 1
From 25 January 1915, tram and bus routes were given numbers for easier recognition. Twelve new double-deck buses with Daimler Y chassis (41 - 52) and six Tilling-Stevens petrol electrics (53 - 58) were obtained in 1916. During 1916 a further 18 Daimler Y buses were ordered, but the chassis were again commandeered - six more Tilling Stevens chassis were obtained to replace them. Owing to an acute petrol shortage, three bus routes were suspended from 1 May until 1 August 1917.
It was during and immediately after the war that thought was given to the planned expansion of the City, and the Council set up a new Housing and Town Planning Committee in 1917. Proposals were also made for new dual-carriageway roads, in which - like council housing estates - Birmingham perhaps led the country for the next 20 years.
Click below for Map 1 - This map shows the first Corporation bus routes on the Bristol Road in 1913, plus those taken over from Midland Red in 1914, and the post-war route to Quinton, opened in 1919 and competing with the Corporation tram route, which was only six years old. The map also shows the Nechells trolleybuses, which replaced the trams in 1922, for the first time in Britain Ð see part 2 of this history. Details of Midland Red bus routes are taken from a 1923 BMMO route map.
1919 - 1922: Recovering from World War 1
The recovery and expansion of the transport system was to match the growth of the city. Between 1919 and 1939, no fewer than 50 268 council houses were built and 54 536 privately-owned houses. The same period saw at first a modernisation and expansion of the tramway system, soon followed after 1923 by the growth of the bus network and gradual replacement of the tramways.
Click below for Fig 3: Two of the buses acquired in 1922 to replace the original fleet. Nos 62 and 63 are seen here before leaving the Brush bodybuilder's works at Loughborough.
The new bus route 9 to Quinton, running parallel with the Hagley Road trams for most of the route, was opened on 31 March 1919, after which little changed for two or three years on the buses, while the Corporation concentrated on getting its tramways in order.

Peter Walker

gone but not forgotten
Birmingham Corporation Buses
By Peter Walker

Part 2: Expansion of the system, 1922 - 1929

1922 - 1942: The Nechells trolleybuses
A significant event was the abandonment in 1922 of the Nechells tram route, which had never paid its way and the track was in need of renewal. As traffic was considered too light to justify the cost, it was decided to replace the trams with trolleybuses, which took place on 27 November 1922, and was the first complete tram / trolleybus replacement in the country, which made Birmingham something of a pioneer. The 12 vehicles were crude solid-tyred double-deck trolleybuses, which were housed at Washwood Heath tram depot, necessitating a 2-mile access journey to and from the depot, with power taken from the single overhead wire and returned by a trailing snake' in the groove in the tram track.
Click below for Fig 4
: Trolleybus No 1, built in 1922 for the Nechells route, the first in the country to have top covers, and steering was by means of a tiller, while acceleration and service braking was regulated by a tram-type controller, more than fully occupying both hands of the driver.
Click below for Fig 5
: A photo taken in the yard of Washwood Heath depot showing the skate which trailed behind the trolleybus when running over tram track to and from the depot.
1923 - 1929: Development of bus routes
The rapid growth of new motor bus routes after 1923 is summarised in the following table.

Click below for Table 2
- New bus routes added 1923 - 1929

During the 1920s, there was a significant change of policy over new bus routes. At first the main objective was to supplement the existing tramway route by opening feeder services, but from 1926 more bus routes were introduced directly into the city centre, in many cases crossing the city centre to give through services across the city, and no hesitation was shown in putting new bus routes directly in competition with existing tram services - this was most blatant on the Hagley Road. The new routes to Perry Common in 1926 and Perry Barr, 'Boar's Head' in 1929 could be seen as possible candidates for later tram extensions, as on the Bristol Road previously, but one suspects that the decision had been taken by the time the AEC Regents arrived.
It was not only the Corporation buses which opened up routes in the outer suburbs. Although bound by its Birmingham agreement, the Midland Red was perfectly free to operate routes in the newer parts of Perry Barr before the City absorbed it in 1928. Here the Walsall Road had been served by the Walsall bus route since 1913, while the Midland Red route map of 1925 shows routes along Aldridge Road and College Road to Sutton via New Oscott and Streetly via what became Kingstanding Road. Even after this area was built up, the Corporation did not attempt to take over Midland Red services along Walsall Road and College Road until the 1950s. It did however regulate the fares charged, and imposed a levy on the fares receipts.
Click below for Map 2:
Map of Birmingham Corporation bus routes, 1923 - 1929, showing the expansion of the city's bus system, often duplicating existing tram services.


Peter Walker

gone but not forgotten
Birmingham Corporation Buses
By Peter Walker

Part 3: Growth of the Corporation bus fleet, 1922 - 1929
By 1922 the original buses were becoming life-expired, and replacement vehicles were needed in additional to more to open up new routes. 15 AEC 503 open-top double-deckers (59 - 71 and 89 - 90) were acquired in 1922 - 23, together with eight Leyland A1 and 16 Daimler CK2 21-seat single-deckers (72 - 88), which were intended to open up new routes in the outer suburbs.
Click below for Fig 6
: A fleet of small 20-seat buses was acquired in the 1920s to open up new routes in the growing outer suburbs. No 85 seen here on Route 11 between Perry Barr and Acocks Green, which later became the Outer Circle. Fares were collected by the driver.
Click below for Fig 7
: A view of Stockland Green tram terminus taken in the later 1920s, showing a No. 11 bus outside the Stockland Green Hotel.
In July 1924 the first British top-covered double decker bus (101), designed by Arthur Chantrey Baker, then Chief Engineer of the undertaking, on an AEC 504 chassis, was brought into service. 106 more followed over the next two years (102 - 207), the later deliveries having pneumatic tyres - a great improvement for passengers and for the Corporation's road maintenance programme. Two experimental high-capacity six-wheel double-deckers were obtained in 1926, from Guy and Karrier (208 and 209 respectively). In 1927-29, 128 new double-deckers with bodies by five different firms on AEC 507 chassis (210-219) and ADC 507 chassis (220 - 337). There followed a batch of ten 25-seat Guy single-deckers (51 - 60 [II]) and a Leyland TD1 bus on demonstration was also purchased (99), after which followed another 20 Guy Conquests (61 - 80 [II] ). By the end of 1929 the first of a batch of 30 AEC Regent 50-seat double-deck buses (338 - 67) with enclosed rear staircases had been delivered. These were highly successful, and a further 147 buses of this basic type were to follow in the next two years.
Click below for Fig 8
: Britain's first top covered double-decker bus was Birmingham Corporation No 101, seen here new in 1924, again at the Brush works in Loughborough, Leics.
Click below for Fig 9
: Following the success of No 101, a further 135 top-covered outside-staircase buses were acquired between 1925 and 1929. This view shows No 152 posed at California when new, shortly before it was retro-fitted with pneumatic tyres, which had just become commercially available.
Click below for Fig 10
: Birmingham's first fully-enclosed double deckers were AEC 'Regents'. Their arrival was to seal the fate of the city's tramway system, as all later housing areas were served by buses


Peter Walker

gone but not forgotten
Birmingham Corporation Buses
By Peter Walker

Part 4: growth of the bus network, 1930 - 1940
Expansion of the bus network was hardly less spectacular in the 1930s than in the previous decade, as large new housing estates were built, both public and private, and people lived further away from their work, family, friends and places of entertainment. Technical development on the buses were made easier by manufacturers, who were willing to loan and modify new prototypes without charge to the Council. After trials of vehicles supplied by many of the major bus manufacturers between 1927 and 1933, the Corporation chose the Daimler chassis as the basis of its fleet for the next few years and, as a result, over 600 Daimlers were purchased between 1934 and 1940. By 1935 buses had become the principal mode of public transport in the city, and it was official policy that all remaining tram routes would be replaced by motor buses.
The following new routes were subsequently added from 1930 to the outbreak of World War 2.

Click below for Table 3
: New routes added 1930 - 1939

1934 - 1951: The Coventry Road trolleybuses
Already by 1931 the original Nechells trolleybuses had been replaced by more modern vehicles with similar bodywork to the AEC Regent motor buses, with dummy radiators and bonnets. By 1934 the Coventry Road tram routes were the least profitable, and the track was in need of replacement. By then the trolleybuses had been developed to out-perform motor buses in many respects, and nearby Wolverhampton was working proof of their suitability on busy trunk routes, where the electric supply infrastructure formerly used by the trams could be modified quite cheaply. The route to Yardley, with an extension to the city boundary at Elmdon, was converted to trolleybus operation on 7 January 1934, with a fleet of 50 new six-wheel vehicles (17-66) based at Coventry Road depot.

Click below for Fig 11

: 50 six-wheel trolleybuses were acquired in 1933 to replace trams on the Coventry Road. This post-war view shows Nos 42 and 63 in Deritend, having had a wartime reprieve. They were finally replaced by diesel buses in 1851.
1937 - 1939: The Stratford Road and Soho Road tram replacements
When the time came to consider abandoning the Stratford Road tram routes, the Daimler buses had proved themselves a cheaper and more convenient replacement than the trolley bus, and the routes to Hall Green, Acocks Green and Stoney Lane were replaced by buses on 5 January 1937. Similarly the Handsworth routes were replaced by buses on 2 April 1939, after a delay in the delivery of new vehicles. In this case however, the routes extended beyond the city through West Bromwich to Wednesbury and Dudley, and these routes were operated jointly with West Bromwich Corporation Transport Department.
During this period, local services were operated by Midland Red (on behalf of the Corporation) on Walsall Road (119) and College Road (109) to strengthen the Walsall (118) Sutton (107) and Streetly (113) interurban routes, and a new route was opened to serve the Beeches Estate (188). Midland Red also operated routes from suburban centres to points outside the city, such as Erdington - Boldmere, Acocks Green - Wythall, and Handsworth - Oldbury.
Already by 1930, West Bromwich was operating bus services to Hamstead Village via Great Barr, Scott Arms (which ran for over half a mile within the city on Walsall road and Old Walsall Road) and to Queslett and Barr Beacon, which ran along the city boundary between Scott Arms and the Horns at Queslett. Later in the 1930s, West Bromwich Corporation opened a bus service to Sutton via Scott Arms, Queslett, Kingstanding and New Oscott. This ran for nearly two miles within the city, providing a useful cross-suburban link. Standard BCT bus stop signs were used within the city, rather than the hinged pendant pattern usually found on West Bromwich Corporation routes.

Click below for Map 3

- Birmingham Corporation bus routes, 1929 - 1939 at the outbreak of World War 2, days before the abandoning of the Dudley Road trams. Most of the new bus routes were extensions in the new outer suburbs, but during this period, buses replaced trams on the Hagley Road, Stratford Road and Soho Road routes, not to mention the Coventry Road trolleybus replacement
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Peter Walker

gone but not forgotten
Birmingham Corporation Buses
By Peter Walker

Part 5: Growth of the bus fleet, 1930 - 1940

As already mentioned, the first deliveries during this period were of 177 AEC Regent double deckers (209 [II], 338 - 503, with Ôpiano-frontÕ bodies, the last of which arrived in 1932. All but the very first had straight stairs, which became a standard feature on all BCT buses, and the last 60 (444 - 503) had rear emergency exit windows on the upper deck, to conform to the requirements of the Road Traffic Act 1930. In 1931, a prototype six-wheel AEC Renown double decker (92) was tested and purchased a year later but, being non-standard, it was converted for use as a breakdown tender in 1937. A prototype Tilling-Stevens four-wheel double decker (95) with a body similar to the later Regents, was operated on loan, but never purchased, and a prototype Dennis Lance double decker (93) was also on loan at about the same time. Also in 1931, a batch of ten Morris Dictator 34-seater single deckers (81 [II] - 90 [II] ) was acquired.
Click below for Fig 12
: Birmingham's first delivery after the 'piano fronted' Regents was a batch of 47 Morris Commercial double-deckers, the bodywork of which set the pattern for later pre-war bus bodies.
In 1933 an experimental side-engined AEC Q double-decker (93 [II] ) was put on trial for a year, modified with a diesel engine and purchased in 1935, but withdrawn in 1940. Four more Morris Dictator single deckers (47 [II] - 50 [II], renumbered 77 [II] - 80 [II] in 1935) were delivered in 1933, together with a batch of 47 Morris Imperial 50-seat double-deckers (507 - 53), while a further three with bodies by different firms (504 - 06) followed in 1934. Ten Daimler CP6 double-deckers (554 - 63) were acquired in 1933 - 34.
By 1934 Birmingham had the largest municipal bus fleet in the world. 1934 also saw the first of the highly successful Daimler COG5 double-deckers (564 - 793), with bodies by different builders, which were to become the mainstay of the fleet. No fewer than 230 buses of this type were added within two years. The single-deck fleet was also strengthened with 45 single-deckers (32 [II] - 76 [II], with the same chassis.
Click below for Fig 13: Birmingham Corporation acquired 546 Daimler COG5 double deckers of this type over the years 1934 - 1940.
In 1936 another front-entrance demonstrator (94 [II]) Daimler COG5 was put on trial and subsequently purchased, no fewer than 316 more 'standard' COG5 rear-entrance buses (794 - 963, 969 - 1033, 1039 - 1149) were delivered in 1936 - 37. The exceptions were five all-Leyland T4Dc double-deckers (964 - 68) and five AEC Regents (1034 - 38).
Between 1938 and 1940 a further 229 'standard' Daimler COG5 double-deckers (102 [II] - 200 [II], 1140 - 1269) were added, together with 85 Leyland TD6c buses (211 [II] - 295 [II] ) with ÔstandardÕ bodies for the Handsworth tram replacements) and 50 all-Leyland TD6c vehicles (1270 - 1319) for the Dudley Road tram replacements.
New garages were opened in Perry Barr (Wellhead Lane) in February 1932, with a capacity of 120 buses. Coventry Road tram depot was adapted in 1934 to house trolleybuses, but it was not until the Stechford trams were abandoned in 1948 that motor buses were based there. Liverpool Street garage was opened in September 1936, and Yardley Wood in November 1938. Former tram depots were converted at Highgate Road in 1937, Hockley and Rosebery Street in 1939. A garage was also planned for Quinton, but a start on its construction was delayed until after World War 2.
Click below for Fig 14: One of the later Daimler double deckers, No 1023, delivered in 1937, seen here on route 15A in Hill Street, crossing Navigation Street. In the background an LMS railway poster offers day trips to London for 12 shillings (60 pence) or to Whipsnade Zoo for 10 shillings (50p)


Peter Walker

gone but not forgotten
Birmingham Corporation Buses
By Peter Walker

Part 6: World War 2

1939 - 40: The first fruits of war
At the outbreak of war in September 1939, Birmingham had as fine a fleet of modern buses as any town in the kingdom, and a final programme for the replacement of all its trams had been decided on earlier that year. Although well maintained and efficiently run, the trams were distinctly dated and no match for the brand-new buses, especially when later bomb damage obstructed the track.
Immediately on the declaration of war, 1170 employees were called up for military service. The lightly used route 2B was cut back from Hamstead to 'Ivy Bush', and the 15A/16A extended from Brownes Green in its place. Also in September 1939, the 17/35 route between Erdington and Maypole was cut back to run only between City and Maypole, numbered route 35 in both directions.
As previously planned, the Dudley Road trams were replaced by buses on 1 October 1939, but the Ladywood and Lodge Road routes were retained. The new routes were operated jointly with the Midland Red, and numbers were prefixed with the letter B in the company's series of local routes.
By November 1939, some services were cut in response to fuel rationing and increased fuel tax. In January 1940 the Lighting (Restrictions) Order, 1940 came into force, and hoods were fixed over the interior and exterior lighting, at the same time as street lighting was reduced to a minimum. In order to improve visibility, the base of traffic signs, lamp posts and tram posts was painted in black and white stripes, and a white line was painted round the bottom of all buses. At about the same time, the roofs of buses, formerly primrose yellow, were painted in camouflage, which extended round the upstairs rear window.
On 19 May 1940, a new bus service was opened between City and Quinton Road West. Many special works buses were run to support the war effort. These usually bore a number code on a board in front of the radiator grille, and sometimes carried ordinary passengers as well. On 30 September 1940, Nechells trolleybus route 7 was replaced by a new bus route 43, because the trolleybuses caused serious arcing when running to and from Washwood Heath depot with current return by the 'snake' trailing in the tram track. As the Battle of Britain raged in London, 30 AEC Regent double-deckers were loaned to London Transport in October and November 1940. Also in November, working hours were altered to enable workers to travel home by daylight, increasing the peak traffic volumes, and stops in the city centre were rearranged.

1940 - 41: Air raid damage
Major air raids in November 1940 hit Highgate Road depot, where 10 buses were damaged, and only a few nights later Hockley depot was more seriously hit, totally destroying six buses and requiring new or patched up bodywork on another 14 vehicles.
Click below for Fig 15: Hockley depot after the air raid of 22-23 November 1940. 19 buses were totally burnt out, 4 partly burnt out and 88 damaged, but all but six ran again.
In September 1941, Birmingham took the opportunity to buy a batch of 20 out of 43 brand new English Electric bus bodies built for Manchester Corporation, which were intended for chassis which the Daimler Works found itself unable to supply following severe air raid damage to its factory at Coventry. 12 of these bodies were fitted on chassis from buses damaged at Hockley depot, and four on Highgate Road casualties, leaving a reserve of four bodies. Birmingham's worst air raids occurred in April 1941, which dislocated tram services throughout the city, and required buses to operate emergency services until the damage was cleared. An indirect result of the amount of repair work carried out at this time was that the supply of blue and cream painted was exhausted and vehicles had to be turned out in grey livery.
Click below for Fig 16: When the body of Leyland 231 was destroyed by bombs in Hockley garage, a brand new body intended for Manchester Corporation was fitted on the surviving chassis. The bus gave another 13 years of service in this form until it was finally scrapped in 1954
April 1941 saw a bus route extension from Kingstanding to the Pheasey Estate, which had been built by Birmingham Corporation on land just outside the city boundary. The Corporation was able to secure approval to widen parts of Kings Road, from Kingstanding Circle to the "Trees" on the Queslett Road before the new service started. From then, bus route 29A ran through to the new terminus on the city boundary itself, buses at first carrying a board over the radiator front reading "Pheasey Estate". The Annual Report of the Transport Committee in July 1941 recorded that there were 2065 employees of the Transport Department currently in the armed forces, and that there were by then 2104 conductresses, 351 cleaners and 69 engineers working in their place. Another exceptional example of the Corporation running outside the city boundary was the trolleybus extension to the aircraft factory, later the Rover factory at Lode Lane, Solihull, opened to service on 29 October 1941. At that time the road was not properly made up and street lighting was almost non-existent. Special powers to build the line were granted through the Ministry of War Transport, while the Ministry of Works subsidised operation of the route, which was at peak hours and shift times only. Children's fares were not available.

1941 - 46: 'Utility' buses
Although the Corporation managed to keep its vehicles roadworthy, there was a desperate shortage of buses, and new additions were becoming essential. Several manufacturers had already switched over to military equipment or lorry production, but a few firms were still building buses to pre-war standards in 1940, some for overseas systems. By 1941 it had become impracticable to ship buses to remote places like South Africa and Hongkong, and so a total of` 13 Daimler buses and 68 trolleybuses intended for South Africa were passed under government control to needy British undertakings. Birmingham received just four 8ft-wide Daimler buses (1320-1323), intended for Johannesburg. As they were wider than the normally permitted 7ft-6in, special dispensation was granted for them to operate, but it was decided to restrict them to the leafy suburb of Northfield, where they ran until they were withdrawn in 1954.
Over the country, a total of about 352 double decker and 62 single-deck buses were built in 1941-42, mainly from 'unfrozen' reserve stocks held by various manufacturers, and conforming to pre-war standards. Meanwhile in 1941, the Ministry of War Transport and the Ministry of Supply had set up a body with representatives from bus builders and bus operators to develop a standard design and specification for new buses, of which the first double-deck body was completed in September 1941, and delivered to London Transport with an 'unfrozen' Leyland chassis.
Click below for Fig 17: One of the first new buses to wartime 'utility' specifications was Daimler CWG5 No 1339, with bodywork by Duple, delivered in grey livery in 1943.
The next additions to the Birmingham fleet were eight partly 'unfrozen' buses in 1942, all with Leyland TD7 engines. Six (1324-26 and 1329-31)) had Leyland bodywork originally destined for Scottish undertakings, while one (1327) had Park Royal 'utility' bodywork, and the other (1328) had a similar body by Northern Coachbuilders. All were delivered in plain grey livery. Six Guy Arabs followed with Weymann bodywork 'utility' bodies and wooden seats (1332-37) in late 1942. By the Daimler had set up a 'shadow' factory in Wolverhampton requisitioned from Courtauld's to produce new bodywork 'utility' bus chassis, and Birmingham received three Daimler CAG5 buses with Duple bodies in early 1943 (1338-40). Later that year production had been stepped up, and the first of a batch of 18 Guy Arabs (1341-58) was delivered with Weymann bodywork. By 1944 the project was well under way, and buses were again being delivered in the operators' liveries, and with a few refinements such as upper-deck rear windows. During 1944, a total of 48 Guy Arabs were built, of which 22 (1366-78, 1380-84 and 1403-06) had Weymann bodies and 26 (1379, 1393-1400, 1407-12, 1432-50 and 1454-55) had Park Royal bodies. During 1944, Daimler supplied only 14 buses, of which seven had Duple bodies (1359-65) and seven had Park Royal bodies (1385-92). At the same time, new bodies were built by Brush for the best of 50 AEC Regents dating from 1929, using the original seating, staircase and other components. During 1945, Daimler delivered 39 new buses, 26 with Park Royal bodywork (1385-92, 1413-25 and 1456-70), nine by Duple (1426-31, 1451-53), and four by Brush (1471-74). In that year the two outstanding Guy Arabs (1401-01) with Strachans bodywork were delivered. Birmingham received its last six buses to the 'utility' specification during 1946, but with more opening windows and upholstered seating, with Daimler chassis and Park Royal bodywork (1475-80).
To reduce the risk of air-raid damage, buses were parked out overnight in strategic places, but by then the worst of the bombing was over. Fuel rationing meant cuts to bus services, some of which were never restored, and fares were increased. There was also a shortage of tyres. The Annual Report for 1942 recorded that the Department employed 2576 conductresses, 376 women cleaners and 173 women as engineers. Part-time duties were being given to 359 conductors, 141 drivers and 150 women cleaners and 2150 auxiliary conductors were working as volunteers. The 1943 Annual Report recorded 2028 employees on active service, 2380 conductresses, 340 female cleaners and 200 women in engineering work; 397 part-time drivers, 172 drivers and 259 cleaners, with a further 1500 volunteer 'auxiliary' conductors.
Click below for Fig 18: The most numerous wartime supplier of buses to Birmingham Corporation was Guy Motors of Wolverhampton, who supplied a total of 105 vehicles to the Ministry of transport utility specification.
The gas producer trailer fiasco
In 1943 the Ministry of War Transport gave instructions that 10% of all bus fleets of over 100 vehicles were to be equipped to operate with producer gas, using a special trailer with a coke stove, gas washers and condensers. The Corporation's response was to equip 16 of its oldest buses, the AEC Regents, (in effect 1.4% of the total fleet), and put them on the hilly Kingstanding 33 route. Staff were provided at the Finchley Road terminus to rake out the furnace of each trailer and refuel it, and with luck it would complete a return journey without further attention. But the flow of combustible gas was too sparse and too irregular for consistent performance, and hills were a nightmare for drivers and passengers - running to a timetable was quite impossible. Moreover the exhaust gases emitted from the long flue pipe were lethal as well as being offensive - the odour of hydrogen sulphide was like rotten eggs. By early 1944 the association of bus operators demanded that they be required to use gas producers on only 5% of their fleet and finally in September 1944, the Ministry announced that "sufficient experience in the operation of producer gas-powered vehicles had been obtained" officially condoning the abandonment of the practice. (It is the writer's recollection that they had all but disappeared several months earlier, and that this was merely a rubber-stamp job by a Sir Humphrey to bury the story).
Click below for Fig 19: A gas producer trailer fitted in 1943 - 44 to AEC Regent No 484, repainted in wartime grey livery after stocks of blue and primrose paint had been exhausted.


Peter Walker

gone but not forgotten
Birmingham Corporation Buses
By Peter Walker

Part 7: Recovering from World War 2

Review of wartime changes to bus route network
Few changes were made in the first two years of the war, but the effects of bomb damage, and later vehicle and fuel shortage made a number of minor cuts (especially at off-peak times), and in particular, routes operated by Midland Red and West Bromwich Corporation (excluding the Soho ‘main road’ services) were drastically curtailed. The table below shows the main alterations to bus routes during World War 2.
Click below for Table 4​
— Changes in bus routes 1939 - 1942
1945 - 53: The post-war years
The end of the war in Europe was marked by the appearance of an illuminated bus - in fact the chassis of bus No 1116 with a temporary body containing a host of electric lights as well as many flags and drapes. It ran after dark on four evenings in early May 1945, generally following bus routes.
When peace was declared in 1945 Birmingham Corporation was faced with many problems - for one thing, not all the former personnel came back to work on the buses, leading to a severe staff shortage. Although over half its bus fleet of 1202 buses was under ten years old, the oldest were life-expired, and replacements were impossible until restrictions on ordering new buses were lifted in January 1946. Despite this, however, Birmingham Corporation continued modestly to expand its services, with all-night buses introduced in April 1946.
A prototype bus body was built to a post-war specification by Brush, and mounted on the chassis of 1235. During 1947 the first of two batches of 75 new vehicles was delivered (1481 - 1630), with bodies by Metro-Cammell and Daimler chassis. By then, a new style of livery had been adopted with no lining and sans-serif numerals replacing the shaded egyptian pattern dating back to early tramway days. The need for new buses was still urgent, and orders were placed with various manufacturers who could supply quickly. A solitary Leyland PD2 bus with Leyland bodywork (296) was obtained almost of the shelf, followed by 15 AEC buses with Park Royal bodywork resembling the current London RT model (1631 - 1645), and ten Crossley buses with Crossley bodywork (1646 - 1655). An 18-month contract was placed with Samlesbury Engineering Ltd to recondition 115 of the pre-war buses, pending delivery of further new vehicles. By March 1948 there were 1262 buses, 440 trams and 74 trolleybuses in the Birmingham fleet. During 1948 most of a batch of 100 Leyland buses with Brush bodywork (1656 - 1755) and a batch of 175 Metro-Cammell bodied Daimlers were delivered.
Click below for Fig 20: Birmingham's first post-war buses had Daimler chassis and bodywork by Metropolitan Cammell. In this view bus 1507 passes the Hall of Memory en route for the city centre
1947 - 1953: Replacing the trams and trolleybuses
On 22 July 1950, Mr A C Baker, General Manager since 1928 died at the age of 62. He was replaced five months later by Mr Wilfred Harry Smith, who from 1912 had worked his way up through the Department to become Traffic Superintendent on 1 February 1942. He later became President of the Omnibus society, and his name is still very much respected. However he once admitted publicly that Herbert Manzoni, City Engineer, used his influence to ensure that the number of buses in the town centre was reduced — Smith’s token gesture was to divert buses on route 1A to turn left out of Edmund Street, load and unload in Congreve Street, and then return to Moseley via Great Charles St and easy Row, avoiding the city centre loop.
After a reprieve of nearly eight years, the first tramway abandonment took place on 30 March 1947, when the Lodge Road route was replaced by buses, followed on 30 August by conversion of the Ladywood route, after which Rosebery Street depot was occupied only by buses. The Stechford tram routes were abandoned on 2 October 1948. The Balsall Heath and Kings Heath trams were replaced by buses on 1 October 1949, Moseley Road depot being converted for buses, and the last trams to Witton and Perry Barr ran on 31 December 1949. The last trams to Alum Rock and Washwood Heath and on the Lozells - Gravelly Hill route ran on 30 September 1950. Washwood Heath tram depot was enlarged and adapted for buses, and new through bus services ran to Castle Bromwich and Shard End.
1949 saw the completion of the first post-war bus garage at Ridgacre Road, Quinton in October and the delivery of most of a further batch of 100 Metro-Cammell-bodied Daimlers (1931 - 2030), and also 100 Leyland PD2s, 50 with Leyland bodies (2131 - 3180) and 50 with Park Royal bodies (2181 - 2230), and the first of 195 Crossley buses with Crossley bodies (2231 - 2425) were also delivered.
Click below for Fig 21: Birmingham's first ‘new look’ design, with enclosed radiator, was delivered in 1950. Bus No 2516 appeared in a distracting background at a Festival of Britain exhibition at the British Industries Fair site at Castle Bromwich in 1951.
During 1950 the delivery of new buses reached its peak, the total reaching 410 new double deckers and five single deckers. In February 1950 the first of 100 new Crossley buses (2426 - 2525) entered service with an enclosed radiator developed jointly by Corporation engineers and Guy Motors, and separate route number indicators. 100 similar buses with chassis by Guy Motors and Metro-Cammell bodies (2526 - 2625) were obtained the same year. Over 600 more of this design of buses were supplied by Daimler (2626 - 2900, 3002, 3103 - 3227) and Guy (2901 - 3001, 3003 - 3102) over the next four years. Buses 3001 and 3002 had experimental lightweight bodies. In May 1951, an illuminated bus circulated the city as a contribution to the Festival of Britain. The Coventry Road trolleybuses were replaced by buses on 30 June 1951, and a new through bus route was opened to Cranes Park Estate. Coventry Road garage was adapted to accommodate motor buses only. On 5 July 1952 the Bristol Road routes were abandoned, new through services opening from the City to Allens Cross, Frankley and West Heath. The depots at Selly Oak and Cotteridge were converted for buses. The Erdington, Pype Hayes and Short Heath tram routes were replaced by buses on 4 July 1953, and Miller Street depot became a bus garage, bringing 80 years of the Birmingham trams to an end. One complete tramcar, No 395, was kept for later display at the Birmingham Museum of Science and Industry in Newhall Street, and it is now to be seen in the Thinktank exhibition.
Table 5 summarises route changes over the period 1945 – 1953.​
Click below for​
Table 5 — Bus route changes,1945 – 1953​

Peter Walker

gone but not forgotten
Birmingham Corporation Buses
By Peter Walker

Part 8: The last years of Corporation buses, 1953 - 1969
The mid 1950s perhaps saw the Corporation bus system at its peak, with a large fleet of first-class modern buses, which all but monopolised the city's public transport, and the undertaking was highly efficient. Once the trams were replaced, the route pattern remained unchanged for four years, when the first of several route extensions was added to cater for new outer-suburban housing. Politics played a large part in the City Council's actions, and Midland Red bus routes to Beeches Estate (new route number 52), 'Scott Arms' (51) and New Oscott (42) were taken over by the Corporation in September 1957, May 1958 and September 1958 respectively. A total of 41 pre-war buses were taken out of store to handle the additional traffic, and no new buses were needed.
As private car ownership increased, passenger demand declined, and traffic congestion increased greatly, with a serious effect on operating costs. In the 1960s route patterns were changed by redevelopment of the inner city suburbs and also by the growing network of major roads, for which the city had a reputation. It has to be said that the Inner Ring Road, which circled the city centre, did nothing except complicate bus movements, with diversions giving precedence to other motor vehicles. When the ring road was planned, little thought had been given to the working of Corporation bus routes, and indeed design staff were not allowed to speak directly with transport department staff, although they were allowed to discuss bus stop location with Midland Red officials.
Over the years Birmingham Corporation had normally taken care not to run its buses and trams outside the city boundary, except for the special agreements with neighbouring authorities on the joint routes to Dudley, Wednesbury, Soho and Bearwood. In return it did not welcome neighbouring authorities operating buses over its roads. There were exceptions such as West Bromwich services to Hamstead, Sutton Coldfield and Streetly, which ran across a part the city beyond Scott Arms before terminating outside it, and some Midland Red services from suburbs to places outside the city. In 1946 Walsall Corporation started a bus route from Kingstanding Circle to Aldridge and Bloxwich, later operated jointly with Harper brothers. With the massive growth of housing in Streetly and Aldridge in the 1960s, these routes were extended by agreement into the city centre from 21 June 1965. As takeover of the municipal bus undertakings by the new Passenger Transport Executive approached, Birmingham opened its doors to further extensions, such as the trunk route 118, which in the last months of 1969 was run jointly by Walsall Corporation and Midland Red.
Table 6 summarises new routes introduced between 1953 and 1

Click below for Table
6 - Changes to bus routes, 1953 - 1969
Last additions to the bus fleet
By this time it was also time to consider replacing the first post-war buses and, after a number of trials on loan, orders were placed in 1960/61 for ten Leyland Atlantean and ten Daimler Fleetline buses with front entrances and rear engine, for further evaluation. As a result a further 300 buses were ordered for delivery over the next three years, and a further 300 had been received by 1969.
Click below for Fig 22: Bus No 3230 was a Leyland Atlantean demonstrator, purchased in 1961 after more than a yearÕs experimental service in Birmingham. Another ten similar vehicles, Nos 3231 Ð 3240 were acquired that year, but subsequent orders for a further 600 buses were all for Daimler Fleetline CRG6 buses, with bodywork by Metro-Cammell and Park Royal.
An experimental express bus service had been introduced in 1959 to Tile Cross estate, but it proved unsuccessful and was soon abandoned. When a new route was opened to Pool Farm housing estate in 1963, it was decided to operate it as a short shuttle connecting with trunk routes to the city, using older single-deckers adapted for one-person operation.
Click below for Fig 23: A brand-new bus on a brand new road system: a view taken in 1964 of Fleetline bus 3270 weaving past the massive roundabout that decimated the old Bull Ring area and isolated the remains of the old Market Hall, which were demolished shortly afterwards.
Replacements for the single-decker fleet were also needed for some outer suburban routes and, after trials of Bedford, AEC, Bristol, Leyland and Daimler, and 18 AEC Swift buses were finally delivered in 1967, again for one-person operation. A new route 46 was opened on 12 January 1967 to Queslett via Aldridge Road, the first one-person operated bus service to enter the city centre.
Twelve Ford single deckers were ordered for an experimental express route from the city to Rubery, which began on 3 April 1967. It proved a moderate success and led the way for later express services on trunk routes. In June 1967 Ministry of Transport regulations were changed to allow one-person operation of double-deck buses, and the Corporation reacted quickly. The Fleetline buses were equipped with periscopes to enable the driver to see the upper deck, and some more lightly trafficked Sunday services were operated by drivers only from 11 June 1967. The following month conductors were dispensed with on route 96 to Lodge Road, a flat fare being introduced.
Under the Local Government Act of 1958, five major conurbations - one of which was Birmingham and the Black Country were designated as 'Special Review Areas', which led in 1966 to the setting up of seven new county boroughs covering the whole of that area west of Meriden, which absorbed twelve smaller boroughs and urban districts. The West Midlands Constabulary was set up, and the 1968 Transport Act established the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority, initially to merge the municipal transport undertakings of Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Walsall and West Bromwich, but also to take over internal services operated by Midland Red. The operation and property of Birmingham Corporation Transport Department were transferred to the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive, together with the other municipal undertakings on 1 October 1969. The local services operated by Midland Red were finally taken over, with the garages at Dudley, Hartshill, Sheepcote St, Stourbridge and Sutton Coldfield, on 3 December 1973. Under a further reform, which took effect in 1974, the West Midlands County Council was established, which also included the City of Coventry, and consequently the PTE took over the Coventry Corporation Transport Department on 1 April 1974.
It took some months after the demise of Birmingham City Transport for outward signs of the change, apart from the plastic stickers were put over the legal ownership notice to conceal the name Birmingham City Transport', and the last of the Fleetline buses being delivered did not bear the city's coat of arms. A few months later the first buses to be repainted bore a modified livery with a lighter shade of blue. Former Corporation buses were distributed to most garages outside Birmingham, and the last was not withdrawn until after 26 years of operation.
Click below for Fig 24: With Dudley castle in the background, ex-Birmingham Corporation bus 3227 in West Midlands PTE livery, seen at Dudley bus station in May 1974, operating on route D9 to Cradley Heath

Sources and references
1. Briggs, Asa: History of Birmingham - Volume II - Borough and City, 1865 - 1938,
Oxford University Press, 1952.
2. York, F W: Trolleybuses of Birmingham, British Trolleybus Society, 1971.
3. Jenson, A G: A History of the Public Road Transport in the Birmingham Area - Volume 1, Birmingham Transport Historical Group, 1978. (covers up to 1888)
4. Keeley, M, Russell, M and Gray. P: Birmingham City Transport - a History of its Buses and Trolleybuses, Transport Publishing Company, 1978
5. Gray. P, Keeley, M and Seale, J: Midland Red - A History of the Company and its Vehicles up to 1940, Transport Publishing Company, 1978.
6. Gray. P, Keeley, M and Seale, J: Midland Red - A History of the Company and its Vehicles from 1940 to 1970, Transport Publishing Company, 1979.
7. Coxon, R T: Roads and Rails of Birmingham, Ian Allan Ltd, 1979.
8. Collins, Paul: Birmingham Corporation Transport 1904 - 1939, Ian Allan, 1999.
9. Collins, Paul: Birmingham Corporation Transport 1939 - 1969, Ian Allan, 1999.
10. Townsin, Alan A: The Best of British Buses No 8 - the Utilities, Ian Allan, 1983


David Harvey

master brummie
Anyone know the exact date of the closure of Quinton garage? I think it was 1995 but is there a more precise date please.


Is it me or have the images all disappeared?
All historic images were lost when the site was 'Hacked' a while back. Many images have been replaced since that occurrence but sadly many of the posters are no longer with us.


Super Moderator
Staff member
I have this down as Fig 8 in this thread.



Super Moderator
Staff member

A big ask but I wonder if you have a copy of the other original attachments to Peter's series of posts on this subject. And if so, would it be possible to reattach them?

Whilst Peter's contribution on this subject remains a wonderful contribution to the Forum (as in so many other areas too), it seems such a shame that it is not now as complete as he originally intended it to be.



Super Moderator
Staff member
Sure Chris
I think the first is an accidental addition to the file made later, but will put it in also in case it is relevent. there then follos figs 1.2.3 & 4