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Midland Red Early Days


Brum visitor who stayed.
I don't ever recall seeing postwar adverts to recruit women drivers specifically and in my time there we didn't have a woman driver at Digbeth until when in the 1980's National Bus Company era we had a girl coach driver start on Midland Red (Express) Ltd who had passed her PSV with Whittles Coaches. Several women went driving at other garages as one manning took it's toll of their conducting jobs but the conductress's at Digbeth left, retired or transferred to the West Midlands PTE in 1973 rather than have to drive.


master brummie
Thanks again Mike. Your personal knowledge of Midland Red is much appreciated. It sounds as if the list of Midland Red women drivers is a very short one!

A sad note re James Albert Lycett. His second son William Bernard Lycett was killed in action (aged just 22) on the Somme on 24 July 1916 (Second Lieutenant Northamptonshire Regiment attached to the 1/5th Glosters).


master brummie
The Daimler Motor Co Ltd (Coventry) and the "KPL" bus. (Peter W referred to this briefly in his earlier post).

In 1911 Daimler of Coventry (which was by this time quite independent of the German firm Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft) began negotiations with BMMO proposing to supply motor omnibuses. Birmingham Corporation was also involved in the discussions but lacked the powers to operate omnibuses at that time. See Midland Red Volume 1 page 5.

The vehicle proposed by Daimler was the "very advanced" KPL type of which a prototype (with Coventry registration DU1251, green livery and "Daimler" fleetname) was tried out by Midland Red on the Hagley Rd service for "about a month" (Peter Hardy says "for several months") in 1911. On page 19 of Midland Red Volume 1 there is a fine picture of this unusual double-decker amidst a crowd of onlookers and with O C Power himself on the upper deck.

What did "KPL" stand for? "K" was for American inventor Charles Yale Knight (1868-1940) who invented the sleeve valve in 1903 and secured a British patent for a sleeve-valve engine on 6 June 1908 (and a US patent in 1910). "P" was for Belgian gunmaker (another gunmaker Lloyd!) Henri Pieper (30 Oct 1840 to 23 Aug 1898) who invented the "Auto-Mixte" hybrid petrol-electric system. And "L" was for English polymath Dr Frederick William Lanchester (23 Oct 1868 to 8 Mar 1946) who from 1909 was technical consultant to Daimler and designed the KPL bus. Interestingly Lanchester had a workshop in the 1890s at Five Ways (Ladywood Rd, Birmingham) where he designed and built advanced petrol engines and automobiles.

The Daimler KPL project came to nothing, largely due to a threatened (or real) patent infringement action by Thomas Tilling Ltd who had an interest in the rival W A Stevens petrol-electric system. So the Tilling-Stevens became the motor bus of choice when BMMO once again ventured into the field from 1912.


master brummie
Another advanced feature of the Daimler KPL bus was that its bodywork was of all-metal construction, an idea that took until the 1930s to become the industry's norm. Fred Lanchester was also responsible for the worm drive to the rear wheels, not a differential as we understand final drives as the bus had two engine and transmission units, one each side. This idea of hanging the engine on the side of the bus was not reused in the UK until George Rackham designed AEC's 'Q' type of the 1930s. The KPL really was the "rocket science" of the day, and had it not infringed Percy Frost-Smith's (of Tilling-Stevens) petrol-electric transmission patent, the development of the British motor bus could have been very different.

W.A. Stevens had previously supplied electric transmissions to Dennis, of Guildford (Walsall Corporation ran some Dennis-Stevens buses), but the arrangement with Tilling was for 'sole use' so the production of Dennis-Stevens chassis ended.

Percy Frost-Smith later left Tilling Stevens and for a while ran his own bus company in London, the F-S Petrol-Electric Omnibus Company, using vehicles of his own make (Frost-Smiths) but the venture failed and PFS was left penniless. Details of the winding up can be found in the London Gazette.

The Frost-Smith family, incidentally, owned an advertising business which at one time almost monopolised the advertising on London buses and trams, R Frost-Smith & Co Ltd, which wound up in about 1925.


master brummie
Very interesting Lloyd. Frost-Smith sounds like quite a character. The motor bus scene was quite turbulent in those days wasn't it. Especially in London. Plenty of good ideas but perhaps a shortage of good business sense?

Daimler of Coventry set up the Gearless Motor Omnibus Co Ltd on 23 May 1905 in order to promote and operate vehicles like the later KPL. Yet when Gearless put its first buses into service in London (5 April 1913) they were gearbox-equipped (Daimlers of course).

Lloyd, I presume you're familiar with Charles Klapper's Golden Age of Buses which has a wealth of detail on this period. Sadly I'm restricted to the Google Books version which goes blank just when you're getting interested!?!? And Klapper is not always right: he says that the K in KPL stands for J H Knight. John Henry Knight of Farnham was a motor vehicle pioneer but had nothing to do with the sleeve valve and the "Silent Knight" engine.

Your mention of Walsall reminds me that successful as Midland Red was at this period, they didn't always get their own way! More to come.


master brummie
The Midland Red Walsall Saga 1913-1919.

Perhaps in anticipation of the "Birmingham Agreement" BMMO began a service on 24 Dec 1913 from Birmingham (Kew St) to Walsall (Leicester St). The service was licensed by Birmingham Corporation and Perry Barr Urban District Council and had the consent of Walsall Corporation.

Walsall Corporation however had its own plans regarding omnibuses and launched its first service (Walsall - Cannock - Hednesford) on 23 May 1915.

On 30 June 1917 Walsall Corporation withdrew consent for the BMMO service to enter the city of Walsall. Midland Red attempted to circumvent this by terminating the service on private property at Darwall Garage yard (Darwall St) where passengers were set down and picked up. Walsall chief constable Alexander Thomson took BMMO to court, resulting in a conviction and a fine of one pound in three cases.

Midland Red appealed the conviction on 18 April 1918, contending that their omnibuses were not "standing or plying for hire in any street". The court (judges Atkin, Avory and Darling) dismissed the appeal (judge Darling dissenting). So BMMO had to terminate the service. The court case is interesting in that Tilling-Stevens TS3 registration OA4567 is specifically mentioned as one of the offending vehicles.

In 1919 all was resolved when BMMO and Walsall Corporation reached an agreement defining respective areas of operation.

There used to be a transcript of the court case on the internet but I can't find it now. Fortunately I downloaded a copy if anyone wants more details (it's a fairly dry legal argument).

Peter Walker

gone but not forgotten
I have been doing some ferretting and have discovered the following.
Emile Oscar Garcke (born Saxony, 1856 – died London? 1930)
He joined the Anglo-Brush Electric Light Corporation, an American subsidiary, as Secretary in 1883, rising to become Manager in 1887 and Managing Director of its successor company, Brush Electrical Engineering Co. In 1895 he formed (with fellow directors and city financial backing) the British Electric Traction (Pioneer) Co. Ltd, and a year later the British Electric Traction Co. Ltd. was registered on 26 October 1896, with Charles Rivers Wilson as Chairman, Emile Garcke as Managing Director, Stephen Sellon and John S Raworth as Engineers.
Garcke had already given evidence on light railways on behalf of the London Chamber of Commerce to a Board of Trade Committee, as a result of which the Light Railways Act was passed. This gave a fillip to the promotion of what were virtually street tramways by an easier means than the procedure laid down by the Tramways Act, which also had some penal clauses by which the tramway had to be given back to the local authorities after 21 years. This inhibited the process of investing in electrification of them and Garcke’s campaigns for fairer treatment of investors in tramways caused him many disputes with local government. The British Electric Traction Co. Ltd. set up tramway undertakings in many areas and electricity generating concerns in rather fewer, although before the grid system had been thought of any small traction concern had to have its individual power supply. In 1901 the BET bought out the Brush Company, becoming a manufacturer as well as an operator of electric tramways, by that year, J S Raworth MIEE, was on the Board, and Wilson had become Sir Charles Rivers Wilson. Also by that year, the company had laid 124 miles of electric tramway around Britain.
Garcke was a keen publisher of electrical books and pamphlets throughout his life, which is how the “Manuals” came to be published and even continued long after his death. He was also Chairman of Metropolitan Electric Tramways by 1929 and died in 1930 aged 74. He had been a prominent member of the then Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) for 41 years. His obituary, printed in the Journal of the IEE that same year, paid tribute to the ferocious energy he put towards his work, but also honoured his more personal side; despite his concentration on electrical finance and administration, Garcke was a keen family man with a wife and a son. He also found time to pursue other interests, such as helping to found the British Institute of Philosophical Studies. The author sums up the obituary with these words: ‘To come into personal touch with him was to gain the impression of an intensely alive, alert, sincere and active mind; those who were still more intimately associated with him knew the generosity, kindliness and unwavering integrity of his nature.’ In 1882 Garcke married Alice, daughter of John Withers, a brush manufacturer; and the couple had at least one son Sydney Emile Garcke.

James Albert Lycett, born 1864
He was educated at Oldswinford Hospital, and entered the office of a firm of solicitors, where he became managing clerk. In 1891 he became Assistant Clerk to the Stourbridge Board of Guardians, Clerk to Kingswinford Rural District Council in 1894, and was also engaged as Assessor for Mines to the Stourbridge Union Assessment Committee. Before joining BET in March 1896, he had advocated a light railway from Dudley to Kidderminster via Kingswinford and Kinver. He gave up his other duties on joining BET. Lycett’s appointment was as Birmingham District Superintendent of the BET, covering the counties of Warwick, Worcester, Oxford, South Stafford, Montgomery, Shropshire, Radnor and Cardigan. His name was partnered with that of George J Conaty, (b. Hazelwood Yorks, July 1860), for the patented design of braking system and also a basic truck frame. Conaty had worked for Thos. Green & Son of Leeds, but for a time was Engineer, Secretary and Manager of the Dublin and Lucan Steam Tramway Company. He was engaged as Engineer to Birmingham and Midlands Tramways Ltd in 1893, but became responsible for other companies including the City of Birmingham Tramways Co, Ltd until it was taken over by the Corporation.
On that occasion, Lycett was given £1000 for loss of office as Managing Director of the CoBTC, despite his other company directorships.
He must have foreseen the limited future for the Black Country Trams once Midland Red got their buses on the road, and with the loss of their son in 1916 may well have decided to get out of the transport business.

R W Cramp, born 1863
Robert Walter Cramp was appointed as Secretary and General Manager of Birmingham and Midland Tramways Ltd in July 1893. He had become the Manager of the Accrington Corporation Steam Tramways concern in 1886, and moved to Blackburn in a similar position in 1888, becoming Secretary and manager two years later.
He kept his BMT post after the BET took over the Board in January 1900, and many of the old BMT members resigned later that year, and by February 1901 the Board had been reconstituted mainly with BET people. Cramp remained as Secretary but not Manager. In May 1901, Cramp was again appointed Manager of the B&MT, but also of the Dudley Stourbridge & District Company from July 1901 for an extra £25 per annum. After only 16 years with the company, Cramp retired in June 1911, and was replaced by W G A Bond (born 1863; Sandhurst-trained and commissioned in 1883: took course in submarine telegraphy 1886; joined editorial staff of “Electrical Engineering’ in 1888, becoming Editor in 1895 and resigning in 1897; joined BET in 1899 and became Secretary of Committee for Associated Undertakings and Superannuation Fund, as well as producing early issues of BET “Monthly Gazette’. As the fortunes of the Black Country tramways fizzled out, Bond remained as Secretary and Manager of the rump body, apparently until the end in 1930. The last Dudley - Stourbridge and Dudley - Tipton - Wednesbury trams rolled on 1 March, 1930.

A little-known snippet.
In 1930, Patrick Treanor was appointed District Superintendent of Midland Red at Dudley Garage, but he was also responsible for all negotiations with Birmingham Corporation concerning operation of the 87 tram route, while the current owner of the track (the Birmingham & District Investment Trust) was responsible for maintenance from West Smethwick Depot.

I also enclose a copy of the interesting genealogy of Birmingham bus companies done by Alec Jenson in 1951 and included in his excellent article which appeared in the Omnibus Society paper in the 1960s I think.
Peter W
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master brummie
Thank you for the extra details, Peter. I can advise that Emile Garcke died in Maidenhead (4th quarter 1930 Maidenhead vol 2c page 483), probably at his home 'Ditton House', Pinkneys Green, Maidenhead.
Here he is,the 'Father of British Tramways', Emile Oscar Garcke.


master brummie
Thanks Peter for all those lovely facts! Robert Walter Cramp is no longer a mystery man.

Lloyd, that's a fine picture of Emile Oscar Garcke. I'm going to display it on my desktop for a while to inspire me!


master brummie
Robert Walter Cramp (2nd quarter 1863 to 19 May 1952) was the younger brother of Charles Courtney Cramp (1850-1932), a London-based tramway contractor and engineer. C C Cramp and Richard Lawrence Cosh were in business as Cosh & Cramp (what a wonderful name!) and were involved in the construction of tramways in Accrington and Blackburn. Cosh & Cramp established the firm Blackburn Corporation Tramways Co Ltd (with C C Cramp as chairman) in 1886 to operate the Corporation-owned tramway. Evidently young Robert Walter Cramp is following in his big brother's footsteps until he breaks away and joins BMT in 1893.

Thanks to Duncan Holden's excellent website Blackburn Transport Net (https://homepage.ntlworld.com/duncan.holden46/) which strangely seems not to mention R W Cramp.


master brummie
Peter W's attachment of Alec Jenson's "BMMO Family Tree" (which Peter Hardy more or less reproduced in his BMMO Fleet History Volume 1 of 1961) reminds me of this badge or nameplate (diameter about 7.5 cm - sorry that's about 3 inches in the "old money") of Allsops Birmingham General Omnibus Co Ltd (horse buses of course) which thrived in the period 1878-1885. This was found by a metal-detectorist near Norton Canes, Cannock. It romantically depicts Mercury and Pegasus.


master brummie
Petrol Rationing in World War 1 (28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918) and the Use of Town Gas for Motor Fuel.

The Board of Trade Petrol Control Committee (BoTPCC) was established on 20 April 1916 "to control the supply and distribution of petrol and to consider what measures are necessary in the national interest". The chairman of the BoTPCC was Oliver Robert Hawke Bury (3 November 1861 to 21 March 1946). He was a great-nephew of the first manager of the Great Northern Railway (GNR) and was himself general manager of GNR (1 July 1902 to 1912) and a director of GNR and LNER (1912 to December 1945).

The BoTPCC announced a census of users or keepers of "motor spirit" (petrol) in the London Gazette of 13 June 1916 with returns due by 20 June 1916. That was pretty short notice!

As far as I have been able to discover, petrol was not officially rationed in WW1 but it was of course imported, expensive and in short supply. Does anyone know if legal rationing was actually imposed (as it was in WW2)?

In about June 1916 Thomas Henry Barton (1866 to 26 July 1946; a trained mechanical engineer and proprietor of the Nottinghamshire independent bus company Barton Transport Ltd) invented and patented the roof-top "gas bag" and associated equipment allowing buses to run on town gas. He was soon manufacturing and selling 100 gas bags a week for the home and export markets. Does anyone know more details about this operation? Barton must have licensed others to do some of the work.

We know that Midland Red used these gas bags on buses based at Kidderminster, Tamworth (from February 1918) and Worcester. Does anyone know the details of dates and places?

Also did Birmingham Corporation use gas bags in WW1?

Any information on this topic is welcome, especially as regards the Midlands. :)


master brummie
I would be grateful for any information on the following coachbuilders who made bodies for early Midland Red buses and charabancs:

Hora of London (1913 B27F bodies for Tilling-Stevens TTA2).
Tillotson (1915 Ch32 body for T-S TS3).
Taylor (1915 Ch32 body for T-S TS3).
Morecambe (1916 Ch32 body for T-s TS3).
Kilver and Brookes (1916 Ch32 body for T-S TS3).
Motor Hiring (1916 Ch32 body for T-S TS3).
Collett and McDonald (1916 Ch32 body for T-S TS3).
Marston (1919 Ch32 body for T-S TS3).
Mayrow (1920 experimental all-steel B29F body).
T Pass (1921 Ch11 bodies for Ford T).
Thomas Startin of Birmingham (1922 Ch32 bodies for T-S TS3).
Davidson (1922 Ch18 bodies for Garford and 1923 Ch32 bodies for Standard SOS and later models).

Full company names, addresses and any company history will be most welcome.

Also, am I right in assuming that "Ransomes" is Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies Ltd of Ipswich? :rolleyes:


master brummie
Sorry, no time for a full answer at the moment, but some of those are now believed to be companies that the vehicles (or bodies) were acquired from, rather than the builders.
Hora were old-established carriage builders, mayrow's all-metal body can be found in the patent library.
More later.


master brummie
Robert Walter Cramp (1863-1952)
as stated above, brother of Charles Courteney Cramp (1850-1932), both, with their six siblings, being the children of Thomas Cramp (1816-1867) and Eleanor Elizabeth Cramp nee Jecks (1828-1898).
Robert was born in London (2nd quarter 1863 Kensington vol 1a page 144) and married Jane Collinge in April 1888 in Haslingden, Lancs. They had six children, and Jane died the same year the last was born, 1900.
Robert married again in about 1905, to Helen Eccles in Clitheroe, Lancashire, and in the 1911 census they are living with Helen's widowed mother Elizabeth Eccles at Causeway Bank Bottom, Clitheroe. Robert is a 'Tramway Manager.
They both died in Whitley Bay, Northumberland, Helen on November 11th 1951 and Robert on 19th May 1952.

(Gradually rebuilding my online life, rescuing most of the data from the failed computer drives. The new [2nd hand] one is very slow, though.)


master brummie
Thanks Lloyd. Good to hear from you again. I sympathise with you about your computer problems: hope all goes well.


master brummie
Thanks, I think it might resurrect with a new motherboard. How are you enjoying the Midland Red books? It is amazing to think there is nothing left of the old company in Birmingham now, most of the garages have gone, the site of Carlyle works is now an upmarket housing estate, Bearwood garage was replaced by a supermarket (as was Malvern, but that has itself gone now), head office Midland House is luxury apartments. The 144 to Worcester and 146 to Redditch still run into the city, but under the Firstgroup banner now. Those great names who made the company what it was must be spinning in their graves. As I survey the bus industry today I am convinced the lunatics are running the asylum, and pocketing what profits they can from it.


master brummie
Lloyd, I'm positively LUXURIATING in Midland Red Volumes 1 and 2. I just got the credit card bill and gulped a bit. But they're worth every cent (or penny!). Your remarks about the sate of the bus industry are very astute. That's why I prefer to immerse myself in the past.

I used to catch the 144 from Droitwich (where we lived) to Fernhill Heath (my first school) more years ago than I care to remember (it must have been 1954). I can still remember being afraid of losing my return ticket!!! It's good to hear that at least the number still exists.

I'm off now to catch one of those new-fangled anonymous rectangular boxes that pass for buses these days. I can't even tell the manufacturer! Showing my age.