The Keighley Bus Museum launched its first depot open day with a celebration of the first rear engine Leyland double deck chassis the Atlantean. It was the first of four special open days/events to be held by the museum in 2016.
The initial Atlantean arrived for display at the 1956 Commercial Motor Show held at Earl's Court, London. Leyland in partnership with Metro-Cammell produced the integral 281ATC, which drew interest from the trade and industry press. Most were considering the position of the engine, which in this model was transversely set across the extreme rear of the chassis, with a roof mounted exhaust which remained unique to this Atlantean. 281ATC was used extensively by operators and Leyland to gain experience of the Atlantean in service, which in the end concluded that the integral construction was to weak. With this Leyland reverted to the tried and tested separate chassis and bodywork formula, which was the best way forward.
In 1953 Leyland built one Low Floor Double Decker (LFDD) with conventional Saunders-Roe trolleybus style bodywork, with a rear mounted 0.350 turbo charged engine, STF90. This bus was directly followed in 1954 by another LFDD with Metro-Cammell bodywork, XTC684, again with the same 0.350 engine. Both these vehicles were sold after extensive research by Leyland had finished, to a Scottish based company Lowland Motors during 1957. However when Lowland was acquired by the Scottish Bus Group, both the LFDD's were purchased by Buckmaster of Leighton Buzzard in 1958, STF90 passed to Strowger of Manchester, but was scrapped in 1963. The fate of XTC684 was one which led to preservation, today this unique vehicle resides at the North West Road Transport Museum in St. Helens undergoing major restoration.
Into production PDR1/1 1958-1971
Towards the end of 1958 four prototype Atlanteans were built and ready for service three with Metro-Cammell-Weymann bodies for J. James of Ammanford and Maidstone and District, these two with low height 73 seat bodies. Wallasey number 1 was a normal height 78 seat bodied vehicle, finally Glasgow number 1 which had an Alexander of Falkirk 78 seat body. Both these vehicles are preserved and are in running order at the time of writing. Initial orders for the Atlantean arrived from several British Electric Traction (BET) companies around the UK, with some municipal and independent operators also purchasing the Atlantean. By 1962 there were around some 800 Atlanteans in service in the UK, but Leyland was now faced with a direct rival from Daimler, the Fleetline chassis with a drop centre rear axle and the trusted Gardner 6LXB engine. It was this formula which would see the Daimler out sell the Leyland during the 1960's.
Most of the early style of Atlantean bodies were similar to the Ribble example illustrated above, but this would change during the 1960's, with fibre-glass mouldings and lighter aluminium frames being produced. Northern Counties of Wigan introduced engine fairings, giving a smoother rear end profile, while Alexander brought out rounded roof domes with wrap round windscreens, both these methods were copied by other manufactures.
Liverpool Corporation worked with MCW to produce a more attractive peaked dome bodywork, which was also purchased by Bury and Bolton Corporations, Liverpool then favoured the peak Alexander style of bodywork for future Atlantean deliveries. Ralph Bennett, who was manager of Bolton Corporation, assisted East Lancashire to build a more stylish body to suit the livery of the fleet. East Lancashire would later standardize its bodywork, but include more bespoke ideas according to operator requirements. Alexander were constructing the rounded roof dome bodies for both Edinburgh and Glasgow corporations, also built the same style for Newcastle Corporation aswell. Park Royal introduced peaked domes upon its very pleasantly appointed Atlantean bodies, for Sheffield and Portsmouth Corporations. While it used the rather plainer style of body for the London Transport order of 50 Atlanteans during the 1960's. Park Royal also worked with Ralph Bennett, who had moved to Manchester Corporation, to produce the 'Mancunian' style. Charles. H. Roe built variations of most themes for the Atlanteans across the years, with buses for Leeds Corporation. However Roe worked with manager Thomas Lord to produce the very stylish 'vee-shaped' windscreen bodies on the 33" Atlanteans with dual doors. However it was Nottingham Corporation which had the most unique style of Atlantean bodies for its fleets, with examples constructed by East Lancashire and Northern Counties.
The first production Atlanteans were PDR1/1 with the original style of bodywork, which was different form the conventional style front engine half cab vehicles. it took operators time to adjust to the Atlantean. The next real change to the Atlantean happened during the 1960's with a small increase of length to the chassis, at the request of Liverpool Corporation. This allowed the introduction of the now familiar back to back seats over the rear wheel arches, this saw the Atlantean code change to PDR1A/1 which saw improvements to the gearbox and engine, with some operators using the 0.680 option as well as the standard 0.600 engine. From 1968-1971 the chassis length was increased to ten metres/33 foot to allow for 'One Man Operation' (OMO) or as it is now know One Person Operation (OPO). This was seen as an effort by operators to simply reduce operating costs and to improve the salaries of the drivers. The final batch of PDR Atlanteans were PDR1A/1sp, these were delivered to London County and Maidstone & District. These were in essence the improved Atlantean chassis with new AN68 engine cowls, the 0.680 engine as standard and improvements to the chassis and gearbox options.
The Atlantean AN68/1R 1972-1984
The 'Proven One' (Leyland quote) which became the Atlantean AN68 chassis arrived in the nick of time for Leyland, as the Daimler Fleetline was almost ahead in sales. But this improved Atlantean chassis with the more powerful 0.680 engine fitted as standard, was to become the most popular chassis in most UK fleets. This is because of two major factors which changed the landscape of the UK bus fleets. The creation of the Passenger Transport Executives (PTEs) from the 1968 'Transport Act' formulated by the late Barbara Castle, who was Labour's Minister of Transport. Whom saw larger areas combined to form better transport links for the public, which in turn would see investment in newer vehicles. four of the new PTEs arrived in 1969, with a fifth making an appearance in 1970 and two more new PTEs created in 1974, because of local government re-organisation forming larger Metropolitan County Councils. The second was the introduction of the government's 'Bus Grant' scheme which initially saw vehicle with a 25% price reduction, providing the vehicle had power assisted doors, grab rails and driver only ticket machine to speed up boarding times. It was around this time that the National Bus Company (NBC) was formed, taking more traditional Leyland Atlantean customers. But Leyland had fears of losing valuable customers, however the creation of the larger PTEs and NBC was to benefit the Atlantean and Leyland.
The AN68/1R was a basic entry level bus with standard 0.680 engine and 4 or 5 speed Pneumocyclic (air shift) gearbox, however it became clear that Leyland would allow operator preferred gearboxes to be installed. The AN68 would also be given several prefixes, denoting variations in how the gears could be obtained with AN68A-D/1R and also AN68A-D/2R using either semi or fully automatic transmission. This version of the Atlantean had various bodies constructed, but all with 'Bus Grant' scheme features.
The Atlantean in the 1980's
From around the early 1970's Charles. H. Roe, Northern Counties, Park Royal and MCW produced a standard five and a half bay upper deck window style for the Atlantean, as illustrated by persevered former WYPTE 6294. Barrow, Blackpool, Lancaster and Preston Corporations were late in getting in on the Atlantean act. The PTEs were solid Atlantean users until the early 1980's, with West Yorkshire turning to the Leyland Olympian and MCW Metrobus. South Yorkshire PTE turned to the Dennis Dominator and the MCW Metrobus, for its post Atlantean requirements. Manchester and Merseyside stayed with the Atlantean to the end of production in 1984, but Manchester were buying the Leyland Olympian and MCW Metrobus in large batches. Flyde Borough Transport, working in Lancashire on the Flyde coast did register its final Atlantean in October 1984, number 45 B75URN, making this the last UK Atlantean, beating Merseyside PTE 1070 B926KWM which was register in September 1984.
The Atlantean would feature beyond its days as a vital tool of the industry, with the introduction of the '1985 transport Act' or deregulation. This particular endeavor was masterminded by the late Nicolas Ridley, who was the Conservative Minister of Transport at the time of his '1984 White Paper', which indicated that bus operators would run bus services on a commercial basis. By the late 1990's many Atlanteans were withdrawn from fleets, as time expired or beyond economical repair, some companies like Blackpool, First, Ipswich and Preston ran Atlanteans into the early part of the 21 century. By which time the Atlantean had become a preservationist must have.
Atlantean 60th Celebrations April 24th 2016
During 2015 the Keighley Bus Museum Trust (KBMT) events team began exploring the possible avenues for events to be held during 2016, building upon the successful 2015 season. The first open/running day shaped into a celebration of the 60th anniversary of 281ATC, the prototype Atlantean being show at the 1956 commercial Motor Show. Invitations for stall holders and vehicle owners were sent out, with a positive return of interested parties, who were very happy to join the KBMT for the first event. As it turned out 12 stalls were situated within the museum, with Dewsbury Bus Museum providing a stall and two feeder services to the event. KBMT members and the Board all joined in during the weeks and days before the event started. The KBMT provided a Catering van which was prepared and cleaned before the big day, with KBMT members assisting with duties during the, this proved to be a very popular part of the day.
Dewsbury brought over their Roe bodied Leyland Tiger 733 and the ECW bodied Bristol RE 261, no doubt the most popular rear engine saloon. The North West Vehicle Restoration Trust (NWVRT) brought over two Alexander bodied Atlanteans in the shape MPTE liveried 1032 and MTL/Merseybus liveried 1055, both were parked in the Modern Equipment yard. The NWVRT will have their annual open day on June 5th 2016, its well worth a visit if you are going across, you can read up on the 2015 NWVRT event elsewhere in this section. There is also a feature on John Cherry's preserved former West Yorkshire PTE Foden NC, which your author saw for the first time at last years NWVRT, again lower down in this section of the blog. Mark Amis brought across his recently acquired former Oldham 163 Roe bodied PDR Atlantean, which looks very smart in the Oldham livery. Simon Flower brought across his GMPTE Standard with Northern Counties bodywork looking every bit the part in the post deregulation livery with Wigan flashes. The Ribble group brought across their superbly preserved ECW bodied Atlantean 1481, which was used in service during the day of the Atlantean event. The Merseyside Transport Trust (MTT) brought their East Lancashire bodied Leyland Atlantean 1836, again providing a couple of runs during the day. The preserved Trent 571 a Willowbrook bodied Atlantean, which was also present at the KBMT Twilight running, which happens on October 30th 2016. Finally a true blast from the past was preserved former Hull PDR1/1 255 with original styled Roe bodywork, which looked very smart in the Corporation blue and white streamlined livery.
The bus services were dispatched on time by one of the KBMT Board trustees, with KBMT vehicles kicking the services off with preserved Leeds Leyland Titan 212, Leeds Fleetline 131 and WYPTE 6020 and WYRCC 1853, now preserved as Yorkshire Coastliner 421. The Merseyside and Manchester Atlanteans were also used in service, along with a Trent Bristol RE and the Wrights bodied Scania, formerly of First group, which saved some blushes. This bus was used on the mystery tour, it proved so popular that another mystery tour was also dispatched.! Later in the day the former First Leeds Royale and the Scania saloon were seen in tandem working the final service of the day, book looked nice in the late afternoon sun. The stall holders were having a very good day, according to the feed back from them, which was very welcome. The catering van was doing very well and by the end of the day had sold out of all bacon, burgers and only a few sausages were left. The tea and coffee was flowing very nicely indeed, during the day. The positive feed back continue from the visiting groups, with Dewsbury, MTT and NWVRT all full of praise for the way the event was held and how clean and tidy Riverside looked. The visiting public were equally full of praise for the museum and whole general 'buzz' around the whole day was positive all day. In all the KBMT's first rally of the year was a very successful event, it has proved that the KBMT has certainly continued for the highly successful rallies of the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Form more information on the KBMT events, news and how to become a member please visit the new look website at www.kbmt.org.uk, also on Facebook and twitter too. Just follow the links on the KBMT website.