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  2. All of the moderators are working very hard to tidy up the Forum posts, as you can imagine 15 years tidying takes a lot of time. Quite a bit of this is taken up with off topic posts It would be helpful in future if members could keep their posts relevant to the thread Title,those that are not will be deleted. Thanks.

The Story of Midland Red

Discussion in 'The Buses' started by Peter Walker, May 31, 2010.

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  1. Peter Walker

    Peter Walker gone but not forgotten

    Most of the following text was written six years ago, and some appeared on the Forum. I later updated it and added illustrations, but the result never appeared here. Despite the rather constrained format I am posting this today, in the knowledge that the real experts know better than I, and will realise that most of the work is only copied from other people's research.
    Although I can't claim total authorship for the text or and of the photos, I hope I have put a story together which will interest some people who don't have access to some of the more specialised sources, and otherwise would not realise what an amazing company Midland Red was.
    Since first posting I have been able to improve somewhat on the visual presentation by introducing colour, but still can't always indent captions as I would want.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  2. Peter Walker

    Peter Walker gone but not forgotten

    Part 1: The origins
    1731 – 1870: Early stage coach and horse bus services
    The first commercial stage carriage service to Birmingham was advertised as early as 1731 from London via Warwick, Banbury and Aylesbury. The coming of the canals in 1769 was made it much easier to move heavy goods to and from Birmingham, and it enabled the Industrial Revolution to take place, but the canals were too slow for passenger traffic. So it was not until after the first railways came to Birmingham in 1838 that stage coaches lost their major importance to the life of the town.
    Fig 1 — London and Birmingham Stage carriage in the early 1800s.
    During the 18th century, Birmingham was still small enough not to need any form of public transport, although a taxicab business started in the 1790s. It was not until 15 May 1834 that Birmingham’s first horse bus route started operation, between the ‘Swan’ in Snow Hill and the Bristol Road turnpike gate at Priory Road. Two other firms started a few weeks later, running from Steelhouse Lane to the ‘Plough and Harrow’, Edgbaston and the ‘Beehive’, Handsworth and, by the end of that year, horse buses were running from Birmingham to Dudley and Wolverhampton. By 1837 horse buses ran to Wolverhampton, Dudley, West Bromwich, Stourbridge, Brierley Hill, Wednesbury, Bilston and Sutton. Out-of-town proprietors offered less frequent services to Aldridge, Atherstone, Bewdley, Bromsgrove, Coleshill, Dudley, Leamington, Solihull, Stourbridge, Studley and Tamworth, mainly for market traffic.
    As the town continued to grow, Birmingham received its Charter of Incorporation as a Municipal Borough in 1838, and more services were opened to new suburbs of the town. By 1846 a number of small proprietors were working local horse bus services to Moseley (6 daily, 4 Sundays), Spon Lane, Smethwick (3 daily), Harborne (5 daily, 4 Sundays), Edgbaston (6 daily), Bristol Road (6 daily, 2 Sundays), ‘New Inns’, Handsworth via Hunters Road (7 daily). The number of horse-drawn coaches continued to grow until the railways reached Birmingham in the 1840s, but the road carriage soon lost its importance for journeys over about 20 miles.
    Map 1 — This map shows public transport in 1853, a year after the Great Western Railway had opened its line from London to Snow Hill station, and just as the Stour Valley railway line opened to Wolver.hampton, terminating at a partly-finished New Street station. The Great Western was extended to Wolverhampton Low Level, and the London, Bristol and Derby lines reached New Street in the following year.
    Fig 2 — A Bristol Road horse bus in about 1860.
    By 1869 Birmingham’s population had risen to nearly 300 000 within the town boundaries, or 400 000 including the neighbouring parishes, and there were 20 horse buses in service on 15 routes, operated by different proprietors. In May 1869, William and Daniel Busby, who had set up a large horse bus company on Merseyside, proposed “an immediate attempt to introduce into Birmingham, the Liverpool system of quick and frequent journeys at low fares”. The following month their new company, the Birmingham Omnibus Company, opened five new routes to Moseley, Bristol Road (Pebble Mill Lane), Hagley Road (Norfolk Road), Villa Cross and Aston Park, running at 30-minute intervals using ten horse buses of a new design based on French practice. Competition between rival operators was fierce, but demand was so great that there was room for all.
    1872 - Competition from the trams
    On 20 May 1872, the Birmingham and District Tramways Co. Ltd opened the first horse-drawn tramway in the district, from the Birmingham boundary at Hockley Brook through Handsworth and West Bromwich to Great Bridge and Hill Top. Trams were better suited to carry heavy passenger loads, especially over shorter distances, but harder on the horses. For this reason, horse traction was soon replaced by steam, cable and ultimately in the 1890s, electricity. From the mid-1880s, horse buses were used mainly to open up new areas before traffic was heavy enough to support a tram service. But they continued to be used on routes between towns.
    Over the next 25 years the various tramway companies merged, frequently taking over horse bus companies to eliminate competition, ending up with the City of Birmingham Tramways Company, formed in 1896, which also operated 45 horse buses. The omnibus department was put in the charge of Mr O C Power who was already responsible for the omnibuses operated by the Birmingham General Omnibus Company. Mr Power later became Traffic Manager of the Midland Red until 1943 — and one of the company’s three legendary personalities who built the company up to become a world leader.
    Fig 3 — A horse bus in Acocks Green at the turn of the century.
    Meanwhile many of the larger Midland towns used their powers to build and operate tramways themselves, starting with Nottingham in 1897, Wolverhampton in 1900, Leicester and Walsall in 1901, Wolverhampton, Derby and Birmingham in 1904, Coventry in 1912, and Worcester as late as 1926. Birmingham was to follow, starting in 1900 but not opening operation until 1904.
    Map 2 — By 1900, horse bus routes [shown in red] were secondary to the trams [routes shown in black] except on the Hagley Road through the Calthorpe Estate, which resisted their construction.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  3. Peter Walker

    Peter Walker gone but not forgotten

    Part 2: The origin of Midland Red
    1903: The first motor bus service
    The first motor buses came to Birmingham in 1903, when an independent company, the Birmingham Motor Express Company was formed privately (described at the time by Commercial Motor as “the first attempt at a regular public service of motor vehicles worthy of the name”, and pre-dating any companies in London or elsewhere in the UK). The Company started with six 36-seat open-top Milnes-Daimler buses, but operation was not very profitable. It was soon taken over by the British Electric Traction Company (BET), which was buying up horse bus and tram companies with a view to building up an empire of electric tramways. The BET registered the company on 26 November 1904 as the Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Company Ltd, and transferred 100 of its own horse buses and 1000 horses, and four motor buses to the subsidiary from other local BET-owned tramway companies, under the control of the legendary Mr. O C Power.
    The early motor buses were by no means reliable, and maintenance proved uneconomic, even after new vehicles were obtained in 1906. They were all withdrawn and replaced by horse buses by 5 October 1907. Some of the buses were driven to Deal in Kent, to operate the buses there as the Deal and District Motor Services, a BMMO subsidiary.
    Fig 4 — A scene in High St, Harborne in 1904 - 6, showing a horse bus heading for the ‘Duke of York’, while one of the original petrol buses approaches on the return journey.
    1912: Return of the motor bus - and arrival of Wyndham Shire
    After a gap of five years, motor buses returned to Birmingham on 25 May 1912, when BMMO re-introduced local services to Hagley Road and Harborne using 13 new Tilling-Stevens TTA1 petrol-electric double deckers, now under under the technical supervision of Mr Loftus Wyndham Shire, who was the second legendary figure in early BMMO history. In April 1913 the City Council licensed half-hourly motor bus services.
    Fig 5 — One of the new Tilling Stevens TTA1 type buses, which were delivered in 1912, outside the ‘Duke of York’ at Harborne. At this early stage the BET ‘magnet and wheel’ symbol was used to identify the proprietor, soon to be replaced by the word ‘Midland’.
    Fig 6 — The next batch of Tilling Stevens petrol electrics was of the TTA2 type, with a larger radiator and more protection for the driver). O 9918 is seen here with a full load, outside the ‘Stag Inn’ at Quinton, on the Birmingham – Blackheath route.
    1914 - Birmingham bus routes municipalised
    Already a major tramway operator, Birmingham Corporation obtained powers to operate buses within the city, and opened its first motor bus route as a temporary feeder to the tramway on 19 July 1913, between Selly Oak and Rednal. The Corporation began negotiations with the BMMO on a takeover of their local routes, leaving the company free to operate services which extended beyond the city boundary, as long as they did not compete with the Corporation services. Facing eviction from the centre of Birmingham, BMMO moved its headquarters to Bearwood and concentrated on opening up longer-distance motor bus services, starting with Birmingham - Walsall on 24 December 1913, and extending to Coventry, Evesham, Great Malvern, Kidderminster, Redditch, Stourbridge and Sutton Coldfield during 1914. It acquired 37 more buses of the later TTA2 model during 1913, and a further 30 of the next type, the TS3 during 1914. Several of these were single deckers, intended for the new and longer out-of-town routes.
    Fig 7 — An early view of a well-filled TTA2 type bus crossing the River Tame on the route to Walsall in its very early days.
    Fig 8 — Still a newcomer to thye district, a Midland Red bus waits in the quiet rural village of Henley in Arden, in 1913, the first year of operation.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  4. Peter Walker

    Peter Walker gone but not forgotten

    Part 3 — World War 1 and its aftermath
    The war had already started when the Corporation formally took over the BMMO routes within Birmingham on 4 October 1914, together with 30 Tilling-Stevens buses and the garage at Tennant Street. The Company would have been left with 20 vehicles, but a further 30, all on Tilling-Stevens chassis, were obtained during 1914. Routes were allocated numbers starting at 15 to avoid duplication with Corporation route numbers. The Midland Red had the good fortune of having a fleet of petrol-electric buses which were not commandeered for military service, as were other makes of bus. Immediately it used some of its spare vehicles to run the BET-owned Worcestershire Motor Transport Co Ltd, whose own fleet based in Kidderminster and Worcester had been taken for military duty. A similar fate befell the Leamington & Warwick Tramways Company, whose small bus fleet was commandeered. Midland Red operated bus services from the tram depot, starting December 1914 and until they opened their own depot in Old Warwick Road in 1920. Moreover the BMMO was able to secure 23 new buses in 1915, and 19 more in 1916, all on Tilling-Stevens TS3 chassis. In 1916 the BMMO took over the Allen Omnibus Company of Shrewsbury, and later W and B Woodyatt of Malvern and C L Wells of Kingswinford. On 1 February 1918 the BMMO took over control of another BET subsidiary, the North Warwickshire Motor Omnibus and Traction Company, which ran services in Tamworth, Atherstone and Nuneaton, but continued under the old name until 1947, at first using eight Tilling-Stevens buses, most of which were soon rebodied by BMMO and assimilated into the Midland Red fleet.
    There is no doubt that World War 1 brought good fortune to Midland Red, as the company expanded its operating area, and increased its fleet of vehicles from 90 to 133. Thanks to astute commercial management and technical efficiency, the company had expanded its influence over most of the Midlands, living up to its name. But the BMMO never sat on its laurels, and was constantly looking for expansion and technical improvement. Among its technical developments was the front-entrance design patented by the Company in 1918, in which the nearside entrance is alongside the driver, behind a full-width windscreen with opening windows.
    Fig 9 — TTA2 bus O 9938, dating from 1913 was given a new single deck front entrance body designed and patented by Wyndham Shire in 1918. It is seen here running on the Sutton route in 1919.
    Thirty-three more buses were obtained during 1919, all Tilling Stevens TS3 single deckers, one of which was the first motor char-a-banc, with bench seating extending the width of the bus, and doors on the near side only, with double running boards. This layout was to become popular for 15 years or so, provided the weather was good.
    Fig 10 — The TS3 was the next Tilling Stevens development, which remained in production from 1914 until 1923. In that time Midland Red operated well over 200 of these vehicles, this example, OE 1126, dating from 1919. A 12-mph speed restriction is painted on the chassis.
    Map 3 — This map shows how Midland Red had established itself by 1919 in Birmingham as the provider of transport to the hinterland of the city.
    By the end of 1919, the BMMO had been in business for thirteen years. Even if it did not achieve much in the first half of that period, but there is no doubt it made up for it during and after World War 1, in the face of wartime hardships, and the loss of its local business and fleet in Birmingham. It was already a dynamic company, setting the scene for its plans to bear fruit during the 1920s,
    It was Company policy to open as many routes as it could, to get in before its rivals, and to resist any retreat, even if some routes were not very profitable. Competition between private companies required sticking power and cunning, but it was not so easy to deal with the Corporation-run bus departments, as BMMO knew from its experience in Birmingham. Some councils, notably Walsall, Wolverhampton and West Bromwich, had set up their own bus undertakings, and (unlike Birmingham) saw no reason why they should not run buses outside their own area, while others, like Dudley and Stourbridge, were quite happy to let the buses and trams be in private hands. Agreements were made with local authorities on demarcation of routes in Walsall (1919), Coventry (1920), and Wolverhampton (1920).
    A new garage was opened in Banbury in 1919, and the BMMO opened a new bus route that year in the Black Country to complement, rather than compete with the BET-owned Black Country tramways, three buses being based at Sedgley tram depot from December 1919 until a new depot in Wolverhampton was opened in May 1920. A site in Carlyle Road, Edgbaston was purchased in 1920 from the Daimler Company, on which central workshops for construction and maintenance of the growing fleet were installed. Further new garages were opened in Bromsgrove (1920), Hereford (1920), Coventry (1921), Leamington (1921), Stafford (1921) and Leicester (1922), Coalville (1925), Rugby (1925), Wellington Salop (1926, Malvern (1929) and Birmingham Digbeth (1929).
    It was during the 1920s that the natural boundaries of the Midland Red empire slowly emerged, as they reached the territory of other powerful bus operators like Bristol Tramways, Red and White and Crosville Motor Services, United Counties. Between 1925 and 1929, Midland Red withdrew from Ellesmere, Wem and Whitchurch, Bishops Castle, Ludlow, Monmouth, Abergavenny, Gloucester, Moreton in Marsh and Oxford, Other neighbouring bus companies such as Trent and Potteries Motor Traction were owned by the BET, where more amicable agreements were made, and the BMMO often supplying vehicles.
    Map 4 — An official Midland Red map of 1923 shows the extent of bus services in that year, when it was possible to get from Oswestry to Bicester and Symonds Yat to Burton on Trent.
    Long-distance coach services to Weston-super-Mare and Llandudno were started in 1921, and were given route numbers from 200. A route to Aberystwyth was operating by 1925.
    Fig 11 — A Tilling Stevens TS3 outside the Highgate Hotel Whitchurch, taking a comfort stop on the Birmingham – Llandudno bus route introduced in 1921.
    In the early years, Midland Red bus routes were given numbers which were painted in the centre of the route boards carried on the bus sides, until a renumbering scheme was introduced in 1925, with numbers allocated to the following areas.
    101+ Birmingham
    211+ Kidderminster
    234+ Bromsgrove
    259+ Worcester
    286+ Evesham
    301+ Hereford
    350+ Banbury
    380+ Leamington
    434+ Coventry
    430+ Rugby
    450+ Leicester
    525+ Nuneaton
    558+ Tamworth,
    580+ Stafford
    600+ Wolverhampton
    622+ Wellington

    640+ Shrewsbury

    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  5. Peter Walker

    Peter Walker gone but not forgotten

    Part 4 — Developments in bus design in the early ‘twenties
    At the start of the decade, Midland Red already had over 200 buses and coaches, but the policy of expansion demanded more and better vehicles, a challenge to which Wyndham Shire, Chief Engineer, rose with ingenuity and diligence. During 1920, a total of 81 buses was delivered, on the usual Tilling Stevens TS3 chassis with single deck 32-seat bodies to the BMMO design, while 39 lorries with similar chassis were acquired second-hand from the War Department. Some of these were given new bus type bodies, while others received bodies from older cannibalised buses. For a time, at least one ran for a time with a crude roof, bench seats and a rear step entrance, while others were sold off, used as lorries or dismantled. 11 of them survived with new bodies until 1930.
    The period up to 1924 saw intensive experiment and development. Midland Red were looking for a lighter and livelier vehicle than the Tilling-Stevens petrol-electric to compete with a number of small independent firms operating in the same territory. The USA had made faster progress after 1918 in developing lively ‘jitney’ buses to compete with rail services and indeed each other. Two small lightweight buses on Ford T chassis with pneumatic tyres were obtained in 1921, and given 11-seat char-a-banc bodies. In 1922 came a total of 13 American Garford 20-hp chassis in 1922, five of which were given 18 seat Davidson-built char-a-banc bodies, while the others were given bus bodies built in the Carlyle Road works, in three lengths giving seats for 15, 20 and 24. While the two Fords were withdrawn by 1924, and the Garfords by 1925, much experience was gained, which was used in later designs
    Fig 12 — As Chief Engineer, Mr Wyndham Shire devoted much thought and time to finding a successor to the Tilling Stevens chassis. OE 7307 was one of two Ford Model T 11-seaters with char-a-banc seating and pneumatic tyres, which were a novelty.
    By 1923 the company’s fleet of double-deckers, many dating back to World War 1 if not before, was in urgent need of replacement. Wyndham Shire developed an adaptation of his patented single deck layout in which the front entrance was retained, but the driver was pushed forward into a half-cab offside of the engine, while a narrow stair led steeply to the upper deck in the drivers old position. This involved modification of the chassis and some modification of the engine, all to Shire’s design. A total of 56 open-top buses was built in 1924-5, but they were not entirely successful in operation, and were all withdrawn in 1928 and converted to single-deckers, like the rest of the fleet for the next few years.
    Fig 13 — A double decker variant of the TS 3 type was developed by Midland Red, with forward control. 56 buses of this type were built in 1922-24 to handle busy town routes. They were not entirely successful, and were all converted to single deckers around 1928.
    Meanwhile the Company was preparing series production of its own design of chassis. The first to be produced by BMMO was the 'Standard' SOS 32-seat single-decker of 1923 - 26, resembling the Tilling-Stevens design, but using Shire’s modified engine, a more reliable gearbox and plate clutch, rather than petrol-electric transmission — and, of course, pneumatic tyres. There has been much speculation whether or not SOS stood for 'Shire's Own Specification'. Some 171 Standards were built for the BMMO. Although unwieldy by later standards, they were tough vehicles, and two which were sold to Northern General Transport in 1927 and, after rebodying, remained in service until 1947 — an incredible life of 22 years.
    Fig 14 —One of the first ‘Standard’ buses incorporating many Tilling-Stevens features. The body built by Brush seated 31, and the maximum permitted speed was 20 mph.
    The next design was a forward-control 34-seat version of the Standard, the SOS FS, of which 84 were built in 1926. They were followed by 22 buses of the more compact 37-seat SOS Q design with cranked axles, giving a lower floor and overall height.
    Fig 15 — The FS (forward steering) type was a logical development from the ‘standard’, which gave room for 34 passengers.
    Fig 16 — The charabanc version of the FS design, with driver Harry Trigg in full coach uniform.
    In 1927 the design was modified to take an extra three passengers, at the expense of the size of the driver’s cab and with a protrusion of the back of the engine into the body of the bus. Known as the Q type, 120 of these buses were built, plus 14 of a new design with front entrance central gangway and 30 seats rather than char-a-banc benches. 1928 saw the introduction of a lower version of the Q, with smaller wheels and several refinements, known as the QL, of which 178 were built during 1918, together with 28 coaches. Ten of these buses survived in Midland Red service until 1950.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  6. Peter Walker

    Peter Walker gone but not forgotten

    Part 5 — The later twenties and early thirties
    1925 - 1930: Replacing smaller tramway systems
    Although the Birmingham and Midland Tramways Joint Committee had made a brave attempt to modernise its aging fleet by introducing over 40 progressive ’Tividale’ single deck trams in 1917- 20, by 1924 it was apparent that the future of the undertaking was not rosy. Aided and abetted by the other Black Country local authorities, Birmingham, Walsall and Wolverhampton Corporations took over the trunk tram routes between 1924 and 1928, converting several routes to trolleybus operation. With the growth of independent rival bus companies in competition with the BET-owned tramways, the BMMO was invited to join the fray. The routes from Dudley to Stourbridge, Cradley Heath and Blackheath were particularly vulnerable to competition from smaller bus companies, and the BMMO stepped up its activities, taking over Hartshill tram depot at Brierley Hill in 1925. The Kingswinford trams were replaced by BMMO buses in early 1926, followed by Blackheath, the Lye in 1927, Willenhall - Darlaston in September 1929, Dudley - Cradley Heath in December 1929, Kinver in February 1929, and the finally Wednesbury - Dudley - Stourbridge on 1 March 1930. To handle the additional traffic, the BMMO opened new garages in Stourbridge in 1926 and Dudley in 1930.
    Further afield, BMMO buses replaced trams of the Burton and Ashby Light Railway in February 1926 and, in that year Worcester Corporation decided to acquire the BET-owned tramways within the city boundary and at the same time sought powers to operate motorbuses. The BMMO had been operating in the Worcester area since the First World War and, after protracted negotiations with the city council, secured a 21-year agreement to operate all bus services within the city after closure of the tramways on 31 May 1928, on behalf of the Corporation, who received the net receipts from the BMMO mileage within the city boundary. This arrangement was adopted in negotiations with other towns later. The Kidderminster and Stourport Tramway, opened in 1898, was closed on 2 April 1929, and replaced by Midland Red buses. The Leamington and Warwick Tramway Company replaced its trams by buses in 1930, and continued to operate until it was taken over by the BMMO in 1935.
    Map 5 — The route map of 1925 shows a denser web of routes, extending in some places over a wider area.
    By 1928 the route numbering system adopted in 1925 had become outgrown, and the pattern was again reorganised in a form that never needed major changing again.
    101+ Birmingham & Black Country
    288+ Kidderminster
    318+ Bromsgrove & Redditch
    352+ Worcester, Malvern & Evesham
    422+ Hereford
    479+ Banbury
    513+ Leamington & Stratford-upon-Avon
    576+ Rugby & Coventry
    601+ Leicester, Coalville & Ashby
    725+ Nuneaton
    776+ Atherton & Tamworth
    821+ Rugeley, Cannock & Stafford
    879+ Wolverhampton
    898+ Oakengates & Wellington
    925+ Shrewsbury

    After the Worcester trams were replaced in 1928, the prefix W was used for local services in that city, and in later years the following letters were also used: A - Austin works services; B - Banbury, Birmingham, Bridgnorth, Brierley Hill, Bromsgrove; C - Tamworth colliery services, Coalville; D - Dudley, Droitwich; E - Evesham; H - Hereford, Hinckley; K - Kidderminster, Kenilworth; L - Leamington & Warwick, Leicester; M - Malvern; N - Nuneaton; O Ordnance factory services (during WW2); R - Redditch, Rugby; S - Shrewsbury, Solihull, Stafford, Stourbridge, Sutton Coldfield; W -Wellington, Worcester.
    The growth of the motor bus in the 1920s took a good deal of local traffic away from the main-line railways, who after some attempts to run their own rival bus services, decided to acquire a financial interest in the bigger omnibus companies, rather than take part in costly competition. On 24 April 1930 the Great Western Railway and the London, Midland and Scottish Railway companies purchased from a 50% holding of the issued share capital of Midland Red. The few bus services already operated in the Black Country by the Great Western Railway passed to the BMMO services in 1930. In April that year the BMMO purchased Black and White Motorways of Cheltenham, which had established a number of long-distance routes. As a result, the 'Associated Motorways' was formed on 1st July 1934 to combine the long-distance routes of a number of operators in a 'pool' arrangement, the services being operated as a joint network.
    Before the Road Traffic Acts of 1930-1934, local authorities could obtain powers to license bus services in their area. The new Acts set up area Traffic Commissioners to control the operation of motor buses and introduced regulations on vehicle design, construction and use - including such matters as emergency exits. From this time the BMMO take-over of smaller independent companies increased, and during the 1930s more than 150 small businesses were acquired. Generally the BMMO preferred to use its own buses on the new routes, and few ’foreign’ buses were acquired, the exceptions being six Albion single deckers from the Leicester and District Bus Company, which were given the MIDLAND fleet name and lasted for almost a year. Two subsidiary companies, the Leamington and Warwick Transport Company Ltd and Stratford Blue Motors Ltd. were acquired in 1935, and Midland red buses took over in Leamington in 1937, but Stratford Blue services were to remain independent for another 36 years.
    Co-ordination of services between undertakings now made business sense and a joint service with West Bromwich Corporation, between West Bromwich and Bearwood, opened on 6 April 1935. Within the city of Birmingham, the BMMO was authorised to operate local services ‘on behalf of the Corporation’. The only route wholly within the city was the Beeches Estate route, but the Walsall Road and most of College Road were served only by Midland Red. Fare-levels were fixed by the Corporation, which received the net income from these services. The tickets issued were very similar to the standard Corporation designs.
    Various joint bus services were operated by the Black County municipalities, and the BMMO missed an opportunity to take part in the joint Birmingham - Wednesbury and Birmingham - Dudley services operated by Birmingham and West Bromwich after abandonment of the tramways in April 1939. However it was able to operate jointly with Birmingham when the Birmingham - Oldbury - Dudley tram route was converted in October 1939.
    The constantly growing fleet made more garage space necessary, and several garages were enlarged in the 1930s, while new premises were opened at Evesham, Redditch and Swadlincote in 1931, Sutton Coldfield in 1934, Hinckley in 1935, Sandacre Street, Leicester in 1937 and Cradley Heath in 1939.
    1930s – Developments in bus design
    The new RR2LB engine was designed in 1930 and was fitted to 50 new chassis, known as the SOS RR, which were given the redundant bodies from the unsuccessful XL coaches, followed by 21 of the BRR type for dual bus or coach operation. Over 120 new single deckers of about 10 different types, were built by Midland Red during 1930 alone! 1931 saw production of single deckers fall to 53, but work was progressing on the development of a new double decker. Since 1928 the bus fleet had been entirely single-deck, after the withdrawal of the archaic Tilling-Stevens solid-tyred open toppers. By 1930, double-deckers in almost universal use elsewhere in the country for busy town routes, and it was clearly time for BMMO to return to this field of operation. An adaptation of the powerful RR bus chassis was built in 1931, fitted with a RR2LB engine and a 48-seat double-deck body by Short Brothers. This was followed in 1932 - 33 by a production series of 50 buses with 52-seat bodies. In 1933 a prototype front-entrance 52-seat double-decker was built, soon followed by a first production batch with 56-seat bodies. A further 135 buses of this design were supplied in 1935 - 36. In 1938, another 50 double-deckers were delivered, but with a K-type diesel engine, and a final batch of 50 were delivered in 1939.
    Fig 17 — The decision in 1928 to discontinue with double-decker operation was soon reversed, as other operators introduced successful models. REDD class HA 8041 was one of a batch of 50 supplied in 1932
    Fig 18 — Following the success of the rear-entrance double decker, a front-entrance version was soon developed with extra seating. With minor developments, this type was to continue in production until 1939, a total of 335 being built.
    On the single deck front, again 50 new buses were built during 1932, but fewer in 1933, including a prototype variation of the RR type, the low-slung LRR 36-seat coach, of which 31 were built in 1933 - 35.
    During 1934 some major changes were made while 50 more buses were being built to older designs. In that year regulations were relaxed to permit a maximum length of 27ft 6in, and a completely new design of new single-deck bus - the ON type - was developed. The first 36 buses with 32-seat bodies were supplied to associated companies, but more were built for the BMMO, later ones having AEC diesel engines, redesignated DON. Some were given a new BMMO diesel engine and redesignated CON. A solitary Dennis Lancet chassis was obtained in 1937, but the chassis was sold later that year, and the 38-seat body kept for re-use.
    Fig 19 — Midland Red built over 300 of these stylish single deckers in the SON series between 1936 and 1939.
    For the long-distance extended touring business, 25 OLR normal-control 29-seat coaches with folding roofs were supplied in 1935 to replace some of the QLCs of 1929. In the early days of World War 2 these buses were rebuilt with forward control and a rigid roof. In 1937 50 new SOS SLR coaches with forward control and 30 seats were supplied. In 1939, 25 ONC coaches were built, with elaborate 30-seat bodies, on a chassis similar to the SON bus, also with a K-type diesel engine.
    While Wyndham Shire’s Carlyle Works had become one of the country’s leading bus producers, its head had been looking to the future, in particularly with rear-engined buses. In 1935 the first of his four prototype rear-engined 40-seat single deckers appeared (BHA 1, CHA 1-3), with the entrance forward of the front wheels, an arrangement now internationally accepted as standard. This was the first in the country, and BHA covered 25 000 miles over six months in regular passenger service. CHA 1 had a 32-seat coach body with centre entrance. During their relatively short life, these buses were subjected to constant experiments, but the main problems of overheating and of dirt entering the air intake were never resolved.
    In 1936 the first SON single-decker, a development of the ON, but with the BMMO K diesel engine and a 39-seat body. 65 of these buses were supplied that year, followed by 100 in 1937 with 38-seat bodies, 50 in 1938, 38 in 1939 and 50 in 1940.
    Fig 20 — At the same time a good deal of development work was done on the construction of rear-engined single decker buses. This picture taken in 1936 shows the Chief Engineer, Wyndham Shire in front of his latest creation, the experimental BHA 1, which, with its partners CHA 1-3, was to serve as a guinea pig for many experiments over the next few years, even in wartime.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  7. Peter Walker

    Peter Walker gone but not forgotten

    Part 6 — World War 2
    By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 the BMMO was the largest private bus company in the country, with a fleet of 1309 vehicles, all built by the company, operating from 30 depots. As a result of hostilities, long-distance services were suspended immediately. The BMMO works at Carlyle Road were soon diverted to the war effort, as were parts of the company's depots at Bromsgrove, Hinckley and Shrewsbury. Bus routes were closed or curtailed as a result of fuel rationing, and at least 43 of the oldest buses were impressed by the War Department, while no fewer than 57 others were sold to BET subsidiary Potteries Motor Traction. In 1941 - 42, out of 44 elderly SOS-built vehicles commandeered from Trent Motor Services were returned to the BMMO by the War Department a year or so later, of which the BMMO reconditioned 25 Another seven ex Northern General or Tynemouth SOS buses were transferred to the BMMO in 1943, who immediately passed them on to Northern General.
    In 1940 Mr Wyndham Shire retired as Chief Engineer, and was replaced by Mr Donald M Sinclair, formerly Assistant Chief Engineer of the Northern General Transport Co Ltd. In 1943, Mr O C Power, the Operating Manager died, and Mr Sinclair took over as General Manager, bringing the company’s management under unified control for the first time in 50 years.
    In the country as a whole, bus production virtually ceased in 1940, as manufacturers were given more urgent war work by what became the Ministry of Supply, but many firms had a reserve of components and materials which was ’frozen’. There were also 25 complete buses and 68 trolleybuses built for South Africa which the Ministry of War Transport allocated to the operators in greatest need. As the national demand for new buses grew, the next step to use up all the reserve material which was available. In 1942, the BMMO was in serious need of more buses, and 15 double-deck buses were released, with pre-war Leyland and AEC chassis - nine had bodies which had been partly completed close to pre-war standard for specific customers, and six had new ‘utility’ bodies built to the wartime specification.
    Fig 21 — In 1942, six Leyland TD7 bus chassis were delivered, using components left over from before the war, with Duple bodies to the Ministry of Transport ‘utility’ specification. This photo shows the original livery with two cream bands (discontinued in 1944) and with white anti-black-out markings.
    Later in 1942 – 43, more utility buses were delivered: 14 on Daimler chassis and 18 on Guy chassis, but two of the latter had bodies originally intended for Manchester. A further 40 Guy and 14 Daimler buses with ‘utility’ bodies were obtained in 1944 - 45.
    Fig 22 — An early postwar view of Duple-bodied Daimler GHA 968 after repainting without cream bands, seen here at Stratford Road, Sparkhill
    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 Company responded in good faith and equipped 30 of its older buses, and ran them on a number of routes. Staff were needed at termini to rake out the furnace of each trailer and refuel it, and with luck the bus would complete its 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 formally sanctioned the abandonment of the practice, which had in effect ceased a few months earlier.
    Fig 23 — FEDD bus HA 9407 as running with producer gas trailer somewhere between Birmingham and Coventry, on route 159 in 1943.
    Meanwhile, however, Mr Sinclair applied his creative talent to developing an underfloor-engined bus design, based on his earlier work with Northern General and the TF class of bus built for London Transport. The guinea-pigs for this work were the four experimental rear-engined single deckers built by Mr Wyndham Shire in 1935. These were dismantled and rebuilt between 1942 and 1945 as resources permitted, becoming designs S1 - S4. As a result, the BMMO was able to build up a large fleet of advanced single-decker buses after the war very quickly. The final prototype for mass production was built in 1946 - the S5 bus, which had integrated construction obviating the need for a chassis and reducing overall weight. A double-decker was also designed and a prototype built in 1945, which set new standards and was to prove highly successful.
    Fig 24 — A view of CHA 3, posed behind a group of lady bus drivers after rebuilding at Carlyle Road Works in 1944 or 45 — the white anti-black-out trim confirms the wartime origin of the photo, while the fleet number 1944 was probably not quite accidental.
    Fig 25 — On the double decker scene, the prototype HHA 1 first appeared in late 1945, with a 56-seat all-metal body built by Weymann Brothers on a chassis produced by the BMMO itself in the dark days at the very end of the war. Platform doors were added in 1949.
    It was also in the last months of World War 2 that the reconstruction of Carlyle Road Works was planned under Mr Sinclair’s direction.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  8. Peter Walker

    Peter Walker gone but not forgotten

    Part 7: Post-war recovery
    The early post-war years were very much a period of austerity, with demand exceeding supply in almost every respect. The fifty per cent holding in the BMMO purchased in 1930 by the Great Western and the London, Midland and Scottish Railways, which were nationalised in 1948, passed to the British Transport Commission, later vested in the wholly publicly-owned Transport Holding Company Ltd.
    Bus ridership soon passed pre-war levels, and Carlyle Road Works were rebuilt to enable the mass-production and maintenance of the BMMO bus fleet. Garages at Sutton Coldfield, Banbury, Wellington, Bearwood, Evesham, Shrewsbury, Hereford, Bromsgrove, Tamworth, Stourbridge, Dudley, Kidderminster, Stafford, Hartshill and Rugby were extended, and new ones were built at Ludlow, Birmingham (Sheepcote Street), Malvern, Lichfield, Leamington, Wigston, Nuneaton and Wolverhampton. Midland Red had had a growing staff recruitment problem since World War 2. The Company purchased premises in Leamington, Sutton Coldfield and Dudley for use as staff hostels.
    The BMMO acquired the a substantial property in Vernon Road, Edgbaston, adjoining the Carlyle Road Works, originally the Magdalen Home, but more recently used as government offices. In 1953 it was converted and became the company’s head office, known as Midland House.
    In 1955 Midland Red bought out one of its long-standing rivals in Leicester, Kemp & Shaw Ltd, but it continued to operate separately until 1959 when it was fully absorbed, and some of the vehicles were operated by BMMO for a few years. Another rival Leicester company, H Boyer & Son was also acquired in 1959, and some of their vehicles were taken into the BMMO fleet for a few years. By the mid-1950s the Midland Red reached its peak performance, as all pre-war and wartime vehicles were replaced, and annual passenger figures approached 500 million. However labour and fuel costs rose out of proportion to passenger revenue and, for the first time the BMMO had to raise its fares in 1951. Changes in lifestyle brought a gradual decline in bus travel, as people stayed at home to watch television or travelled by car.
    In 1958 Birmingham Corporation used its powers to take over operation of routes 119 and 188, both entirely within the City of Birmingham, and parts of routes 107 and 113. Thereafter a penalty fare was charged for passengers travelling on internal journeys within the City on routes 107, 113, and 118.
    1946 - 1959: The bus fleet
    Although Midland Red had suffered lightly from air raids, compared with the municipal undertakings, the Company still had a great deal of deferred maintenance to carry out in the first post-war months. But time was still found to plan for the future, and a batch of single deckers was soon ordered, but experiments were already underway in a further development — the S5 single decker which had integral construction to eliminate much of the weight of a conventional separate chassis. This was a revolutionary design, and was considered too complex to specify for a bulk order without further development work.
    Fig 26 — The first truly post-war experimental bus appeared in 1946, a serve very much as a model for later production.
    The first 100 post-war single deckers (type S6) were built in 1946 - 47, with a conventional chassis to simplify and ease manufacture. They had 40 passenger seats, within an overall length of 27ft 6in. By 1948 the maximum permissible width had been increased to 8ft 0in, and subsequent buses were built to this width. 100 S8 single-deck buses were built in 1948, and a further 100 S9 buses appeared in 1949. 200 more buses were delivered in 1949 - 51, of types S10, S11 and S12 - the last 44 were 30ft 0in long and had 44 seats. All other buses were soon lengthened to raise seating capacity. One of the S9 class was given an American-style front end with power operated doors, among the first in the country.
    On the double-deck front the BMMO felt it necessary to go to outside manufacturers for its first deliveries because its works were fully committed on production. 100 buses of type AD2, with an AEC chassis and engine, were delivered in 1948 - 50, with a 26ft long body seating 56, almost identical with the 1945 prototype. Soon afterwards another batch of 100 buses, designated D5 was produced, this time with a BMMO chassis and engine, and an 8ft wide body built by Brush in 1949 - 50, followed by a further 100, which had platform doors, and were designated type D5B. There was still an urgent need for more double-deckers in 1949, and a batch of 20 Guy Arab buses was obtained “off the shelf”, and designated type GD6.
    Fig 27 — The first of a production batch of 100 double deckers based on the D1 design, but with an AEC chassis and bodies by Brush and Metro Cammell. These were the last to be built to the old maximum permitted width of 7ft 6in.
    There was also a renewed demand for long-distance coaches, and the first batch of 45 type C1 was delivered in 1948 - 49, based on the S6 single-deck service bus chassis, with 7ft 6in wide bodies seating 30 passengers. A batch of 12 similar vehicles, but with more spacious seating for 26 was delivered in 1950. The next development in coaching stock was in 1953 - 54, when two new designs of coach were introduced, both to the increased maximum dimensions of 30ft long x 8ft wide. 63 of the 37-seater C3 and 11 of the 32-seater C4 type were produced.
    Fig 28 — A fleet of 45 new touring coaches designed classes C1 and C2 was also designed and built in 1948 – 50. KHA 549 is seen here at Matlock in the later fifties.
    The next type of single-decker bus was the S13 with power doors and a 44-seat body. 99 buses of this type were built between 1951 and 1953. An interesting experiment was the LA chassis-less design, built at the Carlyle Works in 1951, which incorporated a new lightweight engine design. While this was a very advanced concept, the bus spent much of its early years in the works,
    In 1952 - 53, a batch of 100 Leyland PD2 double-deckers with 56-seat Leyland bodies was delivered, followed by the BMMO D7, which had lightweight bodies built by Metro-Cammell-Weymann, based on their ’Orion’ bus body then in widespread production. 350 of these buses were produced between 1953 and 1957, the later deliveries having an extra row of rather cramped seating.
    The S14, first built in 1954, was a further chassis-less design, with several innovations. No fewer than 269 vehicles were produced but with over 30 variations and many subsequent adaptations. 1957 saw delivery of 50 of the S15 design, intended for longer routes, and a further batch of 48 buses was added in 1962. The S14 and S15 buses were extremely advanced in design, and remained in continuous production for eight years.
    Fig 29 — Over many years the wartime for an ideal single – deck bus was steadily developed to take account of new techniques and changing regulations. There is a clear family resemblance in this 1954 design, with the S5 of 1945, the S23 type of 1970, the last to be built by Midland Red.
    In 1958 a prototype 72-seat double-decker of very advanced design, with an integral chassis-less body, and to the newly increased maximum permitted length of 30ft 0in for double-deckers. Full production did not begin until 1960, but continued until 1966, by which time 345 of these remarkable buses were built.
    Fig 30 — 773 FHA, built in 1958, was the prototype of the very successful 72-seat D9 design, of which 345 were built over the next eight years.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  9. Peter Walker

    Peter Walker gone but not forgotten

    Part 8: Conclusion
    1959 - Britain’s first motorway coaches
    In 1958 the first C5 coach appeared. It was similar to the C3 and C4, but based on the lighter S15 bus design. A total of 64 of these coaches (including some variants) was built, mainly as a 37-seater, but the CM5T was a 34-seater with rear toilet compartment, for use on the M1 motorway between London and Birmingham, which was opened on 2 November 1959.
    Fig 31 — Midland Red was among the first operators to run a regular motorway service, starting in 1959 with the London - Birmingham route. A service to Coventry opened on 1 September 1960, and coach 808 HHA is seen here at Pool Meadow bus station, Coventry in 1964.
    1960s – Commercial developments
    The 1960s saw the completion of the Birmingham Inner Ring Road and redevelopment of the Bull Ring area, which included a low-level bus station for all Midland Red bus routes. In theory it was an advantage to have one central location, but in practice it was inaccessible for pedestrians, dingy and noisy. It opened on 1 November 1963, and survived, unloved and unwanted for nearly 40 years
    The company continued to buy out its smaller rivals soon as good terms could be agreed. In Leicestershire, Brown’s Blue Coaches was acquired in 1963, their vehicles were sold off but the garage at Markfield was taken over and used until 1969, when it was also disposed of.
    By the mid-1960's staff shortage had become acute. There was also a shortage of engineering staff to maintain and overhaul BMMO vehicles, and more work was contracted out. At the end of a distinguished career, Mr D M Sinclair retired at the end of 1966, and it was not long before the last bus was to come off the BMMO production line in 1970.
    1960s — Developments in the bus fleet
    No sooner was the D9 in series production than development started on the underfloor-engined D10, at a time when rear-engined double-deckers were becoming fashionable. The first prototype D10, which appeared in 1960, had doors in front of the front axle, and seating for no fewer than 78. A second prototype was built in 1961 with a second staircase at the rear and single exit door and a reduced seating capacity of only 65, but this arrangement was not considered satisfactory, and the rear stair and exit were removed in 1962 and seating capacity was increased to 77, retaining the rear central emergency door on the lower deck. No more of these outstanding buses were built.
    Fig 32 — Midland Red’s last venture into double deck bus construction in 1960–61 was the even more sophisticated 78 - seat D10 design, of which only two were built. The underfloor engine was concealed behind the access flap between the nearside wheels. These remarkable buses perhaps mark the peak of double-deck bus design, but simpler rear-engined buses were being built in bulk and it became far cheaper to buy ‘off the shelf’.
    As the demand for new vehicles outstripped the capacity of Carlyle Road Works, 100 Leyland Leopard single-deckers were delivered in 1962 - 63, the first 80 of which had 53 seats. The last 20 were intended for longer-distance work and had only 48 seats. Meanwhile the BMMO developed its own S16 single-decker, which took advantage of the new maximum permitted length of 36ft 0in and seated 52. The first 50 were delivered in 1962, but were found to be underpowered for their weight. The S17 was designed with a more powerful engine, and nearly 200 of this type were built in 1963 - 66, in addition to one variant of the S16 with a modified suspension which was designated S19 and three dual-purpose buses seating 48 and designated S21A.
    Thirty 36ft-long CM6T coaches were built by BMMO between 1963 and 1966, with 46 seats and a toilet compartment for motorway use. A total of 100 coaches based on Leyland Leopard chassis were acquired between 1965 and 1969.
    No more double-deckers were produced by the BMMO after 1961, but 50 Daimler rear-engined Fleetline buses seating 77 and designated type DD11 were delivered in 1963, and 49 similar vehicles designated DD12 followed by 1968. In 1969 - 71, a further 70 buses of a similar design but with centre exits and seating for only 75 seats, designated type DD13 were supplied for one-man operation, followed.
    Fig 33 — ‘Off the shelf’ DD12-type bus 5259 HA is followed by the prototype D9 bus, designed and still in production by the Company into the early 1960s. They are seen turning from High Street into Ringway.
    The final series of buses built by BMMO itself was delivered in 1967 - 70. The first 30 were of the S21 ‘semi-coach’ type, seating 49, designed for long-distance work at weekends and light mid-week bus work. The 45-seat S22 type followed, intended for long-distance bus routes and private hire, 37 of which were built. The very last delivery was of 76 service buses expressly designed for one-man operation, seating 51 and known as type S23. The fleet number of the last bus was 5991. Subsequent additions to the fleet were numbered in a new series beginning at 101.
    Fig 34 — S21-type bus JHA 853E built in 1966 was among the last to be built by Midland Red.
    1967 - The break-up of Midland Red
    In 1967, the Transport Holding Company (which, since railway nationalisation in 1948, had held the 50% share of the BMMO, which was originally purchased by the railway companies in 1930, on the Government's behalf) made an offer for the bus interests of the BET, which was subsequently accepted, and on 14 March 1968 the BMMO came under the control of the Transport Holding Company. The arrangement was short lived, however, since the National Bus Company was created and the BMMO automatically became a subsidiary on 1 January 1969. Run on the current business principles, with a view to cutting losses to maintain profits, and strongly centralised, all the old bus companies soon lost their identity, running down any services which did not make enough profit to support the increased overhead expenses, and losing the benefit of local initiatives and contacts.
    Also in 1969 the formation of the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive brought another element of uncertainty into the running of services within the PTE's operating area. The new body was set up to co-ordinate all bus and rail services within the newly created West Midlands county boundaries. In the first months, the municipal bus services in Birmingham, Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton were gradually merged into one undertaking, to which Coventry was later added. So far as local services operated by BMMO were concerned, it was decided - after protracted negotiations on the possible integration of services - that the only solution was for the PTE to purchase all of the BMMO's services operating entirely within the new county. The result was that 413 vehicles, 6 depots and 1240 staff were transferred to the PTE on 3 December 1973. This left the company in a similar predicament to that in 1914, when Birmingham Corporation took over its local services within the city, and so its name was officially changed to the Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) in March 1974 to concentrate on its remaining country services.
    Fig 35 — Repainted in West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive colours, a D9 bus is seen here in about 1974 in New Street Birmingham.
    As a subsidiary of the National Bus Company, Midland Red consolidated its monopoly of bus services in its area. On 1 January 1971, Stratford Blue Motors Ltd, owned by the BMMO since 1935, was swallowed entirely, and in 1973 - 74 the company took over the operations of Cooper of Oakengates, the Green Bus of Rugeley, T Hoggins of Wrockwardine Wood and Harper Brothers (Heath Hayes) Ltd. Their vehicles were integrated into the Midland Red fleet for a time, and the Harper Brothers garage was used for a number of years.
    Later in the mid-1970s, confronted with the ever-increasing rate of inflation, the Company introduced its Viable Network Project, later renamed the Market Analysis Project. Each of the Company's operating areas was closely examined to determine travel patterns and requirements, and a revised network of services, covering the majority of passengers' travelling requirements, whilst using fewer vehicles, was designed. The guiding principle was that each garage should be financially self-supporting, which predictably led to far-reaching changes and reductions to services, with rural areas seeing the worst of the cut-backs and a number of smaller depots, such as Malvern in 1976, were closed.
    The MAP schemes also saw the introduction of local area identity branding which was usually displayed on the vehicles. In 1976 services were reorganised in the new town of Redditch and marketed under the brand name ‘Reddibus‘. Redditch had been designated a new town in 1964 as an overspill for Birmingham. The new town was ostensibly designed around public transport, and probably had more bus lanes and car restrictions than any comparably-sized town. The initial network was expanded in March 1977 and the ‘Redditicket’ was launched. In May 1977 the ‘Avonbus’ name was given to services from Stratford-upon-Avon garage, in May 1980 the brand name ‘Chaserider’ was given to services from Cannock and Stafford garages and ‘Hotspur’ to services from Shrewsbury and Ludlow garages in November 1981.

    1981 – The end of Midland Red
    On 6 September 1981 the Midland Red Omnibus Company (MROC) was split up into five separate operating companies:
    Midland Red North, (Cannock, Stafford), which was privatised and sold to the Drawlane Group on 27 January 1988, and became part of the Arriva group
    Midland Red East, (Leicester), which was privatised and sold in January.1984 to Midland Red Fox.
    Midland Red South, (Stratford-upon-Avon, Rugby), which was privatised and sold to Stagecoach Midland Red
    Midland Red West, (Worcester, Kidderminster), which was privatised and sold in a management buy-out on 19 December 1986, sold to the First Group 1998, and became First Midland Red West
    Midland Red Express, which was privatised in a management buy-out and later absorbed into the National Express Group

    1. Anonymous: ABC of Midland Red Buses and Coaches (Third Edition) - Ian Allan Ltd, 1953
    2. Webb, J S: Black Country Tramways - Volume 1, 1872 - 1912, J S Webb, 1974.
    3. Webb, J S: Black Country Tramways - Volume 2, including Kidderminster & Stourport Tramways, J S Webb, 1976.
    4. 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 only)
    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. Anderson, R C: A History of the Midland Red, David & Charles, 1984.
    9. Public Service Vehicle Circle: Fleet Histories 2PD2, PD2B, PSV Circle, 1972, 1964.
    10. Greenwood, Mike: Midland Red - Glory Days, Ian Allan, 1998.

    The illustrations
    Most of the photographs in this essay are official photos taken for the company at the time, and were reproduced in reference books 5 and 6 listed above.

    Some links to relevant web sites
    http://jquarter.members.beeb.net/morepublictransport.htm - More about early Public transport
    http://midlandred.net/cgi-bin/reframe.pl?frame=/history/ - Midland Red history
    http://www.bcmtg.co.uk/ - Black Country Museum Transport group
    http://www.bammot.org.uk/transhis.asp - bmmo mus - history of preserved vehicles
    http://www.petergould.co.uk/local_transport_history/fleetlists/bmmo.htm - BMMO history 1905 - 1981
    http://www.petergould.co.uk/local_transport_history/fleetlists/tramways/kinver1.htm - Kinver Light Railway 1901 - 1930
    http://www.petergould.co.uk/local_transport_history/fleetlists/tramways/southstaffs1.htm - South Staffs tram history and fleet list
    http://www.petergould.co.uk/local_transport_history/fleetlists/tramways/dudley1.htm - Dudley-Stourbridge tram history and fleet list
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  10. Thylacine

    Thylacine master brummie

    Thanks Peter.

    Peter, many thanks for posting this well-researched and beautifully illustrated Midland Red history. I am studying it with great interest. Your maps, as usual, are superb. :)
  11. Lloyd

    Lloyd master brummie

    Hear, hear!
  12. Aidan

    Aidan master brummie

    Peter - That is a great summary and wonderful pics - in the spirit of plagiarism I have downloaded it for a box-out on my family research. Thank you for sharing it
  13. motorman-mike

    motorman-mike Brum visitor who stayed.

    Peter, just a footnote to the break up of the Midland Red into geographical companies leaving Midland Red Express isolated as a coach only operation. It was relaunched as Midland Red Coaches but as such was not considered a viable unit to stand alone for privatisation or a in a management buyout, to the disappointment of both it's management and employees. As a result it was "merged" with Midland Red West who then later dissolved it. The title Midland Red Coaches subsequently ended up with a former Midland Red employee operating a 'heritage' bus and coach company called "Wheels" in Nuneaton who have adopted the former Midland Red coaching livery of red and black. (www.wheels.co.uk). Lloyd can no doubt shed more light on the fate of Midland Red Coaches whilst under Midland Red West control.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2010
  14. Lloyd

    Lloyd master brummie

    A sad tale, I'm afraid. Midland Red West under the leadership of the late Ken Mills agreed to include Midland Red Coaches in its privatisation buy-out plan, believing that the Digbeth premises would come with it (quite a valuable aquisition!). Unfortunately the disappearing National Bus Company thought otherwise, and handed Digbeth to National Express who still occupy the site. MRW was a very good bus company, but sadly the management did not fully understand the concept of such a large coaching operation and although they ran some very well liked coach cruise holidays and day excursions, as well as some quality private hire operations, gradually it became obvious that the coaching side was not part of the company's overall business plan. A large proportion of the operation was contract long distance services for National Express, and their changing requirements to vehicle types leased from them and not to be used on other work was not acceptable and an uneccesarily expensive outlay, and I was part of the management / union negotiating committee who could see no future in continuing that line of operation. The holidays and day trips continued for a while, but when fleet replacement was becoming a necessity the operation ceased altogether and the name 'Midland Red Coaches' was sold, initially to a Torquay hotel group who used the name as advertising their holidays which included transport from and back to the midlands.
    As Mike says, the name is now used by Ashley Wakelin's 'Wheels' company as a trading name, and in a small way the tradition survives - there are a couple of old (heritage) Midland Red buses in the fleet, and an imitation of a 20's charabanc on a considerably newer chassis using the old name and colours.
  15. Thylacine

    Thylacine master brummie

    Just noting this excellent Midland Red history by Peter W (so it doesn't get buried!). ;)
  16. Bill Parker

    Bill Parker master brummie

    Well Done PeterW, that must have taken some time.
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