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Midland Red Early Days

Thylacine

master brummie
WELCOME TO THE MIDLAND RED EARLY DAYS (MRED) THREAD!

View attachment 53366
Frontispiece (click to enlarge): Lloyd's "outrageous" 2010 colouring (which turns out to be remarkably historically accurate!) of a Josiah Allen engraving of Dr William Church's 1833 steam carriage. The primaeval Midland Red double-decker, seen on the Coventry Road.

If you are looking for specific information, go to the MRED Index. Otherwise, enjoy your browsing!

I am starting this thread as a vehicle (excuse the pun!) for the discussion of the early days of the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Co Ltd (BMMO = Midland "Red"). Let's say from the formation of the companies that came together as BMMO, up to the end of World War 1.

Perhaps I'll start with a question: does anyone know of a surviving Tilling-Stevens TTA1 or TTA2 (or TS3 for that matter) in working order?
 
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Lloyd

master brummie
TS3's, a few. Amberley Museum, Sussex, has one from a forerunner of the Southdown company, and another charabanc version under restoration; an enthusiast from London has a genuine Tilling one; and I remember there used to be one bodied as a lorry attend rallies some years ago.
 

Lloyd

master brummie
The 'petrol-electric' system was an early attempt at automatic transmission: the engine drove a generator, and an electric motor drove the rear axle. Electrical switching gave a reverse ability and 'low ratio' equivalent for hill climbing. Here's the Amberley chassis showing the components. Dynamo is red, motor grey.
 

jennyann

master brummie
Staff member
Hi Lloyd:My edit seems to have disappeared but I did mean Midland Red not Midland Reach. It's that Manhattan I'm having
that's done it.
 

Thylacine

master brummie
Many thanks Lloyd. Great pictures and video. I'm happy to know there are a few survivors in running order. Some were even exported to Australia: I've seen a picture of a Tilling-Stevens double-decker running in Launceston, Tasmania (my present home town) in the early 1900s.

I'm working on some questions relating to the very early days of BMMO. Those Midland Red volumes are keeping me busy!
 

Thylacine

master brummie
Employment of conductresses in World War 1.

Thomas Tilling employed the first conductress (or "conductorette") in London (Mrs G Duncan) on 1 November 1915. We start to see Midland Red conductresses in the contemporary photographs from about 1915. Two questions arise:

1. When did Midland Red employ the first conductress? 2. When did Midland Red let the last conductress go after the war?

As a matter of interest here (https://www.20thcenturylondon.org.uk/server.php?show=conInformationRecord.49) is the story of London General conductress Florence Cordell (1885-1992).

And here (https://www.ltmcollection.org/photo...heme=Wartime&_IXFIRST_=87&IXenlarge=i0000701#) is an analysis of the previous occupations of conductresses employed by London General in 1916.

Any information about the Midland Red situation as regards conductresses in World War 1 (28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918) would be welcome, including pictures, names, reminiscences etc.
 

Peter Walker

gone but not forgotten
I think it's fascinating to see anything on record about the early days of Midland Red. The firm did some amazing things, and had an amazing structure with two strong guiding lights, who it is hard to imagine would always be in harmony. The two Good Books about the company mentioned in previous posts (you might call them the Old and New Testaments) tell us a lot, but there is so much more history that might one day be put on record. The introduction to Volume 1 refers to the dynamic duo, and adds that Mr Howley, Chairman of the Board of Directors from 1916 to 1946, must have been an exceptional man too.
On the technical side, Mr Shire's activities seem particularly interesting. I often wonder about the the circumstances in which he took six motor buses down to Deal and ran them there from 1907 until about 1910, before returning to Brum to replace the horse fleet.
That would have been in the days when the Midland Red Company was a member of the Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee, its other partners being the Birmingham and Midland Tramways Co Ltd (Brum to Dudley via Smethwick and Oldbury), City of Birmingham Tramways Co Ltd (routes within Greater Birmingham, taken over by Corporation 1911), Dudley, Stourbridge & District Electric Traction Co Ltd, South Staffordshire Tramways (Lessee) Co. Ltd (Bham to Dudley and Darlaston, connections to Walsall, Willenhall, Tipton), Wolverhampton District Electric Tramways Co Ltd. The demise of the City of Birmingham Tramways Co in 1911, saw a major re-structuring of the area management, and Midland Red shook off much of the connection with the tram companies, although it was often called in to compete with pirate buses filching business from the trams in the 1920s, and of course Midland Red was the preferred successor to the tram companies when they failed. Some Councils preferred to operate their own tramways or (in the case of West Brom) preferred to have Birmingham Corporation do it for them.
You can be sure Wyndham Shire was involved in the fruitless discussions with the Daimler Company in 1911, and was responsible for the decision to use Tilling-Stevens petrol-electric transmission. The speed with which the two men replaced the horse-bus fleet and expended their empire by 1914 is quite amazing, especially as the Corporation had bought out the routes within the city.
Perhaps O C Power scored more Brownie points on the expansion of routes during World War 1, but Wyndham Shire did well to procure 40 new chassis and a variety of bodies to operate them in wartime.
A fascinating story indeed.
Peter
 
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Thylacine

master brummie
Thanks Peter W for that valuable contribution. You raise some interesting points.

When the new BMMO began operations on 1 August 1905 the traffic manager was our friend Orlando Cecil Power (1879 to Oct 1943) but the engineer was one George Pollard. Three months later Pollard left for London to become second engineer to the London Motor Omnibus Co Ltd (soon to be well-known for the Vanguard fleetname). He may even have driven the Thornycroft double-decker (O1279) which was returned to London about this time - it had been hired by Birmingham Motor Express (BME) in March 1905. Replacing Pollard as BMMO engineer was H H Gregory who apparently was not too cluey about motor buses. From October 1906 BMMO took delivery of nine Brush "B" double-deck buses (O1283-1291) with 40 hp engines (by Peter Brotherhood according to Midland Red Volume 2 page 222 - not Mutel). It is six of these buses (O1283-1286, O1288 and O1291) which made the 200 mile journey to Deal early in 1908 (after BMMO gave up on motor buses on 5 October 1907). It is at Deal that we first hear of Loftus George Wyndham Shire as the engineer in charge of the Brush buses (see picture on page 19 of Midland Red Volume 1 - top right).

How did these buses come to travel such a great distance? In March 1905 BET had registered a subsidiary called British Automobile Development Co Ltd (BAD) to "manufacture, sell, hire or operate motor omnibuses" in various parts of Great Britain. BAD seems to have been run by Sidney Emile Garcke (6 Jan 1885 - 3 Oct 1948) son of BET managing director Emile Oscar Garcke (1856 to 14 Nov 1930). BAD (renamed to British Automobile Traction Co Ltd (BAT) about April 1910) took responsibility for the Deal buses. I have even read that Sidney Garcke himself drove one of them from Birmingham to Deal! These six Brush buses form the nucleus of the Deal and District Motor Services fleet which later formed part of the East Kent Road Car Co Ltd.

It seems that young Sidney Garcke had more faith in the motor bus than his father who was much more an "electric tramway man".

What I would like to know is how Wyndham Shire became involved. Where did he come from and how did he develop his engineering talents?

Also any information on these early BMMO people would be good: engineer George Pollard (former general manager and engineer of BME); secretary J A Lycett; chairman W R Taylor (former general manager then chairman of BME); H H Gregory ("engineer"). Places and dates of birth and death, career details, pictures (?!?!).

And who was R W Cramp who is given as BMMO general manager on a very early company notice (see Midland Red Volume 1 rear endpapers: "BANK HOLIDAY" notice). I've never heard of him before!

We know that O C Power began his public transport career on 27 Sep 1899 as secretary of the Birmingham General Omnibus Co Ltd (BGO) when it became a BET subsidiary. The manager of BGO was one R Fairbairn. Am I right in assuming that this is the same person as Richard Robert "Dicky" Fairbairn (27 May 1867 to 17 October 1941) who was manager of Worcester Tramways Co Ltd from 1894. If so there's quite a bit of information available about him (eg mayor of Worcester in 1940).

Sorry for such a long post but I want to get the chronology and dramatis personae right!
 

motorman-mike

Brum visitor who stayed.
Regarding conductoress' on the Red I don't know when they were first employed but I do know that the the company employed women right through to the 1970's at some garages until 100% one person operation throughout the company was achieved. Many went on to become drivers whilst some transfered to the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive with Midland Red work in 1973. When I first worked at Digbeth in the early 1960's there was even a uniformed Women's Welfare Officer who spent a day at the garage every a week to look after 'the girls' most of whom were Irish by that time.
 
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Thylacine

master brummie
Thanks for that Mike. Obviously not such an issue since WW2 but quite an historical event during WW1. Here in Launceston (Tasmania) at least 60% of the bus drivers are women (all one person operation of course). Seriously showing my age here, but I confess I can hardly tell the different makes of bus apart these days!!??!! And I travel on the buses quite a lot - I gave up my car a few months ago. I can tell an air-conditioned one when I get on (especially in our recent sweltering summer). Our buses very kindly ease down to let you on: I suppose that's common everywhere. On those early buses you had quite a climb to get in even a single-decker. Do you know when Midland Red employed the first woman driver?
 

Lloyd

master brummie
Hi
Sorry to be absent from this discussion, the early history of BMMO and its early 'personalities' is of great interest to me, and I and several others from BaMMOT (Wythall Museum) are currently researching this theme. Sadly my computer fried itself last night (I am temporarily using my son's laptop for this) and so my ability to 'call up' the relevant information is temporarily (I hope) severely limited, except to recall that having researched Loftus George Wyndham Shire's ancestry, he disappears from view for the important years between 1911 when he was lodging at
Somerby House, Stanley Road, Deal, Kent, his occupation being 'Manager, Bus Co' - obviously Deal and District, and 1916 on his discharge from the TA (he had enlisted in the London Divisional Electrical Engineers in 1908 from an address in Terrapin Rd, Upper Tooting, London) when his given address is 233 Hagley Rd Birmingham.
Being an electrical engineer, and in the bus industry, he must have heard of W.A. Stevens' company in Maidstone and their association with Thomas Tilling (bus operators in London and Brighton) and the development of the Tilling-Stevens petrol-electric bus design but exactly how he came to be the man who came with them to Birmingham is not clear - Deal and District was owned by BMMO at the time Garcke jnr took the Brush buses there and Shire became manager, but we can find no evidence that he came to Birmingham before that, and speculate that he was recruited locally in Kent.
It is possible that he was trained by Tilling-Stevens at the Maidstone factory at the request of BMMO or BET to accompany the vehicles ordered - they were possibly the first 'sale' of Tilling-Stevens vehicles outside the Tilling organisation.

Re 'Dicky' Fairburn, his son (another Richard) spent most of his retirement as caretaker on site at the then young Tramway Museum at Crich, Derbyshire in the mid 1960s, and I knew him as I was an early volunteer worker there during school holidays and at weekends.
 

Thylacine

master brummie
Thanks for the update Lloyd. So sorry to hear about your computer playing up and hope you can recover the data (which can often be done from "fried" hard drives).

So Wyndham Shire didn't come to Birmingham until the Tilling-Stevens TTA1s were delivered?

What about this man R W Cramp? Ever hear of him?
 

Lloyd

master brummie
Thanks for the update Lloyd. So sorry to hear about your computer playing up and hope you can recover the data (which can often be done from "fried" hard drives).
I hope so, I think it is the motherboard that fried. I have some stuff backed up outside the computer, but not all.

So Wyndham Shire didn't come to Birmingham until the Tilling-Stevens TTA1s were delivered?
We don't think so, there are no references to him here before then.

What about this man R W Cramp? Ever hear of him?
Other than the same you have seen, no.
 

Lloyd

master brummie
Just done a 1911 search for J.A. Lycett and found:

At Castle Hill, Wolverley, Kidderminster:
James Albert LYCETT age 46 born Lye (Stourbridge) Worcs - Managing Director, Electric traction power + lighting (company)
Mary Ann LYCETT (wife) age 47 born Cleobury Mortimer, Salop
Percival James LYCETT (son) age 19 born Wollaston, Worcs - Science student, Birmingham university
Dorothy LYCETT (daughter) age 17 born Wollaston, Worcs - Musical student
William Bernard LYCETT (son) age 16 born Wollaston - Student chartered accountant
Irene Annie LYCETT (daughter) age 14 born Wollaston, Worcs - Scholar
Ella Norah LYCETT (daughter) age 12 born Wollaston, Worcs - Scholar
John Francis Wheeler LYCETT (son) age 11 born Tipton
Sydney Geoffrey LYCETT (son) age 7 born Wolverley
Winston Albert LYCETT (son) age 5 born Wolverley
Annie LYCETT (sister) age 53 - Housekeeper
Mary Horton age 27 born Kentish Town, London - domestic servant.

I knew he was overall manager of the Birmingham and Midland Joint Tramways, his name is seen on pictures of some of the 'company' trams of the time.
 

motorman-mike

Brum visitor who stayed.
Regarding the start of women driver's, the fact that the Red took this official photo of 'lady drivers' posing with suitably fleet numbered 1944 (CHA 3) in 1944 suggests that could be the year in question. Note the masked headlamps on Charlie 3 as this bus was known.
 

Thylacine

master brummie
Thanks Mike. Great picture isn't it? That seems to be the year they started. The caption to a similar picture of Charlie 3 (Midland Red Volume 2 page 27 - sorry, I don't have a scanner) states "the maximum number of lady drivers at one time was 21 - during the war - and the last of the lady driver recruits retired from Oldbury in 1964" (does anyone know her name?). Presumably at some time after World War 2 Midland Red again recruited women drivers.
 

Thylacine

master brummie
Lloyd (just so you don't have to do all the hard work!) I've scanned the London Gazette (https://www.gazettes-online.co.uk/home.aspx) for mentions of James Albert Lycett:

29 Aug 1892: JAL (of Wollaston near Stourbridge) appointed receiver of the Lye Co-operative Society Ltd.
25 Nov 1898: JAL (same place) mentioned as repository for BET plans connected with the Kinver Light Railway Order 1897.
28 Dec 1906: JAL (of Castle Hill, Wolverley) appointed Land Tax Commissioner.
01 Mar 1907: JAL (Birmingham) partnership with George Conaty (Birmingham) and George Fairclough (Manchester) dissolved (relating to a patent for "Conaty's Quick-Acting Brake").
25 Mar 1925: JAL partnership with John Francis Wheeler Lycett (as Lycett & Son, farmers of Castle Hill, Wolverley) dissolved by mutual consent.
 
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