On the Buses

On The Buses is a journey through some of the history of Warrington’s council-owned local bus company, now known as Warrington Borough Transport, and operating as Warrington’s Own Buses

1902 to 2022: 120 years of public transport in Warrington

WARRINGTON INTERCHANGE – ARTIST IMPRESSION
My thanks to Barry at Warrington Borough Council for permission to feature this image

Warrington’s new bus interchange was opened on 21 August 2006. From 1979, bus users travelled from a facility on Golborne Street, but it was very unpopular due to its very dreary appearance. With the proposed redevelopment of Golden Square shopping centre, there was an opportunity to upgrade the old bus station into a modern state-of-the-art interchange.

Read the story of how the old was transformed into the new later, but first let’s take a trip down memory lane with a short history of public transport in Warrington.

Warrington Corporation Tramways

Some information from Wikipedia

The first application for a public road transport system in Warrington was made in 1870 when the council was approached by a private company about the possibility of laying a horse tramway within the town. This was rejected, as the Corporation did not wish outsiders to profit from the local community. So by 1890 the only service of its kind was provided by private horse-drawn buses.

In 1900 a power station was constructed at Howley, and the Corporation was encouraged to apply to Parliament for powers to lay down and operate an electric tramway system along the five main arterial roads within the town boundary.

This was granted as the Tramways Orders Confirmation (No. 4) Act 1900 (63 & 64 Vic. cap. cci). Construction began in 1901, with responsibility for the operation assumed by the Corporation’s Electricity and Tramways Committee under the name of “Warrington Corporation Tramways”.

This image is used for illustration purposes and shows how people travelled before the dawn of electric trams. The photo is of a horse-drawn tram at Długi Targ (Long Market) in Gdansk, Poland. From Polish Wikipedia, PD.  Image is in the public domain. Link to the file in Wikipedia here.

The official Board of Trade inspection of the Latchford and Sankey Bridges branches was made by Lt. Col. P.G. von Donop R.E. on 17 April, 1902. Despite a minor hiccup involving a broken trolley pole, permission was given for operations on the two lines to begin. The track gauge for the line was 4 ft 8½ in (1,435 mm). The first tram left Rylands Street for Latchford at 7.40 a.m. on 21 April.

Operation of the Sankey Bridges route did not start for another two days until enough trams were available for the service, thus a through service between the two lines commenced on 23 April. Eight open-top double-deck trams built by G.F. Milnes of Birkenhead were purchased for the opening, with a further 13 arriving later in the year to operate the other three lines. The total length of the combined tramways was 6.84 miles. The five routes operated were as follows:

DestinationOpenedClosed
Latchford21 April, 190228 August, 1935
Sankey Bridges23 April, 190227 March, 1935
Wilderspool4 October, 1902 (Extended to Stockton Heath from 7 July, 1905)17 September, 1931
Cemetery22 November, 190227 March, 1935
Longford29 November, 190231 December, 1931

D Garner has sent me this photo of a relic from the tramway era. It is the cover to the manhole (or inspection chamber as the PC brigade would have us call it), which gave access to the power supply for the tram route, which ran from Bridge Street to Stockton Heath between 1902 and 1935. It is located on the Stockton Heath side of the swing bridge (known officially as Northwich Road Bridge).

Have you ever wondered how they maintained power to each side of the bridge, especially when the bridge was open? Well, they used a tunnel under the canal with the electricity cable running through it.

The lower image is a view of the bridge from Stockton Heath with Greenall Whitley offices in the distance. The manhole cover is at the bottom left of this view.

If you want to read more about the tram route, Ron Phillips has written a fabulous book called Stockton Heath By Tram. It is available for loan from Warrington Library in Museum Street.

The line south along Wilderspool Causeway initially operated to a terminus at Stafford Road, just north of the Manchester Ship Canal. This was the boundary between Lancashire and Cheshire – before the Ship Canal was built, the River Mersey was the boundary.

The tramway was later extended to Stockton Heath village, and the name of the company was changed to “Warrington Corporation Tramways & Stockton Heath Light Railways”. There was an ambitious plan to extend the line to Northwich, but nothing came of it.

As the line crossed the canal on a swing bridge, special precautions had to be made to ensure that trams did not end up in the canal whilst the bridge was out. Catch points were provided on the southern side of the canal, whilst the current in the vicinity was cut as soon as the bridge swung out of its closed position, leaving a neutral section in the overhead wires until the bridge swung back into position.

North towards the South Lancashire system

The Longford route was constructed with the intention that there would be an onward line built by the private company, South Lancashire Tramways (SLT), to Newton-le-Willows and beyond. SLT held powers to build such a route as part of the South Lancashire Tramways Act 1901 (1 Edw. VII cap. cclvii), the Act also authorising SLT to enter into agreements concerning running powers with the Corporation. In the meantime, the line was not expected to be viable by itself, due to the sparsely populated nature of the outer end.

SLT got into serious financial difficulties in 1904, which led to its restructuring in 1906. As a result of concentrating on building new tramways to connect with lines in other areas, the powers to build the connection to the Longford line lapsed.

The Longford route thus became rather a liability to the Corporation, and efforts were made to reduce the losses caused by the line. In 1910, Tram No. 18 was converted to a single-deck one-man-operated vehicle. The route still made substantial losses so was later put back into its original open-top condition, along with No. 19 and No. 21, due to restricted headroom caused by two railway bridges along the route.

Lancashire United Tramways (LUT), the parent company of SLT, started running buses from Golborne to the Longford tram terminus via Newton-le-Willows in 1920. It approached the Corporation in April 1921 about extending the service through to Central Station over the tram route. The Corporation agreed, but stipulated that LUT must pay them an amount equal to the tram fare for every passenger carried over this section of the route. Similar agreements were later made with Crosville and North Western over other tramway routes.

The tram shown is part of the Birkenhead Tramway and Wirral Transport Museum, photographed in 2008, with the layout of a the cab shown in the lower image.

Improvements to the network

Although Warrington’s trams entered service with open-tops, the majority were rebuilt with canopies and new staircases. Six new trams from Brush Electrical Engineering Company were purchased in 1919, allowing frequencies and operating hours to be increased to meet demand. The Corporation also started operating its own bus services, complementing the existing tram network.

Routes to Bewsey and Orford using motor buses started in 1913, with a further route to Padgate in 1928 operating over part of an unbuilt tramway extension along Padgate Lane to Padgate Bridge. A purpose-built bus garage was constructed on Lower Bank Street, close to the existing tram depot, in 1930.

A tram in Fleetwood, Lancashire in 2005, and still very popular in Blackpool along the coast.

Track on both the Cemetery and Sankey Bridges routes was relaid in 1922 and 1923, with a substantial amount of doubling taking place on the formerly single-track line to the Cemetery.

Meanwhile, powers had been obtained to lay a new line in the town centre running via Scotland Road, Buttermarket Street, Market Gate and Bridge Street to meet the terminating spur for the Stockton Heath route. This was part of a scheme to enable a through-service between the Cemetery and Stockton Heath lines, and was tried out for a short period after construction was completed in 1922.

It became apparent very soon that the poor reliability of the Stockton Heath line was causing knock-on effects on the Cemetery line. The two routes thus reverted back to separate operations again, although both terminating near Market Gate at the heart of the town centre. The line along Scotland Road was not used for normal service after this, serving merely as a connecting line from the depot to the terminus of the Longford route at Central Station.

Closure and replacement

In 1929, a proposal was put together to replace trams on the Stockton Heath line with bus services, as the track had been in use for 25 years and was due for renewal. The route was duly closed on 17 September, 1931, and was replaced by a Corporation bus service from Central Station. Nine Leyland TD1s with Brush bodywork were purchased, and it was not long before the service was extended to the suburbs of Walton and Grappenhall, illustrating the flexibility of the motor bus over the fixed infrastructure required for trams.

The Longford route operated for the last time at the end of the year, with LUT paying the Corporation £25 per annum as a condition of being allowed to operate the replacement bus service. Although there were still several years of life in the tracks before renewal was required, the Sankey Bridges and Cemetery routes were replaced by a through bus service on 28 March, 1935, extended at the Cemetery end as far as the junction with the new Kingsway road, near Bruche Bridge.

With the end of the tramway now in sight, the company name was changed to “Warrington Corporation Transport Department” in April 1935.

The Latchford route continued in use until 28 August, 1935, the last day of tram operation, with a replacement bus service operating from the following day. The last journey of the day was operated by Tram No. 1, which left Rylands Street carrying 136 passengers as opposed to its nominal capacity of 55. This tram is estimated to have carried a total of 9,652,000 passengers and operated 777,600 miles during its 33 years of service. The total mileage operated by all trams was about 15,000,000, carrying a total of 225,000,000 passengers with only one fatality.

Unlike many other tramway systems, a profit had been made in every financial year bar one; all loan charges had been paid off, and additionally over £35,000 of relief in rates was handed over.

Legacy

Very few physical remains of the tramway infrastructure are left today, with the last remnants of the old depot on Lower Bank Street being demolished in 1981, the location today being the former site of a JJB Sports superstore and fitness club.

However, one of the original Milnes trams (Tram No. 2) managed to survive as a bowling green shelter in Cuddington until 1977, when it was saved for preservation by Alan Pritchard. After almost thirty years of storage, restoration by the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society began in 2004, located at the Wirral Transport Museum.

Warrington Borough Transport

Some information From Wikipedia

Services expanded rapidly after the Second World War as new housing estates grew in areas such as Orford and Great Sankey. The conversion of bus routes with conductors into one-man-operated services began in 1965, as changes in society, such as home entertainment and the increasing availability of cars, forced cost savings on all bus operators in the country.

Warrington was designated as a new town in 1968, which led to new housing estates planned in the Birchwood and Westbrook areas of town. As such, Warrington Borough Council Transport Department (as the transport department was then called) began operating new services to these new developments as they started to grow in the 1970s and beyond. The department also began operating new services jointly with Crosville upon the split of the old Stockport-based North Western Road Car Company in 1972.

A Dennis Dart 9M leaves Golborne Street on Route 25 to Gorse Covert on 23 May 2003,
closely followed by the Halton Transport Service 62 to Widnes via Moore and Runcorn

The Bus Wars

Information in this section provided by George Hurst, manager of Warrington Borough Transport in 1996, as supplied to Northwest Business Insider magazine, May 1996, and Transit magazine in June 1996, with my report based on Mr Hurst’s observations.

As you may well remember, 1985 was a big change for the bus industry when deregulation of services across the country led to new ways of thinking.

Warrington was no exception and Liverpool-based North western (part of British Bus) started to operate services on the same routes as Warrington Borough Transport (WBT) in 1995.

Part of North Western’s tactics included, for a limited period of time, free rides to the the elderly and disabled. It resulted in the rival bus companies following each other nose-to-tail as they both fought to get passengers onto their buses.

One of the things in WBT’s favour was that they provided routes for almost 20 hours a day across the town, which many people felt deserved their support over the North Western services, which operated between 8am and 6pm on Mondays to Saturdays.

In fact, Mr Hurst condemned the North Western tactics, which included not only the limited offer of free rides but a £1 all-day travel ticket. He said the latter was of ‘limited value’ because it it only applied between 8 am and 6pm, whereas WBT’s buses ran from 4am until midnight.

As a result of this, WBT began operating services outside Warrington in places like Runcorn, Widnes, Wigan, St Helens and Liverpool to make up for lost income. Mr Hurst said his company made a substantial loss in the 12 months up to 1986 and estimated the cost to North Western was £3 million.

His opposite number, Bob Hind, said at the time that the figure was just black propaganda. Hind said “It’s nonsense, cloud cuckoo land. It took us six months to break even – since then we have been well into profit”.

As time went on, the same pattern seen in other towns happened in Warrington. North Western ran its services three minutes ahead of WBT on around 20 routes. For some people it didn’t make any difference which bus they caught, but as mentioned earlier, North Western stopped its services at 6pm, so anybody working a 2-10 shift couldn’t use North Western tickets to get home.

The National Federation of bus Users regarded what was happening in Warrington to be “pretty destructive” and “totally wasteful” of resources. Mr Hurst said that most people in the town stayed loyal to WBT with 95% using its services.

Northwestern called its services Warrington Goldlines, a name that some people thought was an extension of WBT’s services called Mini Lines, Midi Lines and Coachlines, a wholly-owned company of WBT. Eventually a compromise was reached with a gradual withdrawal of services between July and September 1996, resulting in an end to the Bus Wars.

Warrington Borough Transport continues to this day as Warrington’s Own Buses. As for North Western, or more precisely North Western Road Car Company, that became part of the Arriva company in 1998, operating as Arriva North West.

Office and Depot

The main depot and offices for WBT are located on Wilderspool Causeway (A49) at the junction with Chester Road (A5060), on the southern periphery of the town centre close to the crossing of the Mersey at Bridge Foot. The two main sheds to the rear of the site were originally built in 1943 for Fairey Aviation, and used to assemble wings for their Fulmer Bomber, before being bought by Warrington Corporation in 1947 as a place to park buses. The site eventually became the main operational centre for the buses. In 1964 an extension was built onto the garages, consisting of a reception area and vehicle inspection bays at ground level, with offices above.

The original tram system was operated from an eight-track depot at the junction of Mersey Street and Lower Bank Street. A purpose-built bus garage was constructed on Lower Bank Street in 1930, although buses were also housed in the old tram sheds following the withdrawal of trams.

Despite the move to the new Wilderspool garage, the old staff canteen on Lower Bank Street remained in use until the opening of the new bus station in 1979. The building was demolished in 1981, and is today the site of a JJB Sports superstore and fitness club.

The current depot’s location next to the old Wilderspool Stadium, and close to the town centre, led to interest from developers in redeveloping the site during 2006.

Construction of a new depot for the company began in February 2022 on a site along Dallam Lane near the Warrington Wolves rugby ground.

Fleet history

The original tramway system opened in 1902 with 21 double-deck trams. Six further trams entered service in 1920 to help increase frequencies. The first Corporation bus service started in 1913, but the reliability of early buses was not great, and the trams were still very much the “Senior Service”. Tilling Stevens, Leyland SG7 and Leviathans were amongst the first motor vehicles operated. The demise of the tramway saw the first buses subject to the Road Traffic Act 1930 brought into the fleet.

Large numbers of front-engine double-deck buses were purchased prior to the Second World War, mainly consisting of Crossley Mancunians and Leyland Titans, with a variety of bodywork, including bodies from the chassis makers themselves, but also from MCCW, English Electric, Brush and Charles Roberts, amongst others.

Post-war, more Titans with bodywork by Leyland, Alexander and Bruce Coachworks were ordered, along with Bristol K6Gs. The latter was an unusual vehicle to be operated by a municipal fleet, due to the newly-nationalised Bristol only supplying vehicles to the nationalised Tilling Group, but the Corporation had a prior order placed.

Vehicle No 148 (BED 729C) is a Leyland ‘Titan PD2/40 Special’, the company’s preserved heritage bus. It was purchased in 1965, and built to a narrow width to cope with Sankey Street in the days before pedestrianization.

T201 AFM decorated for the 2002 Warrington Borough Transport Centenary on 12 July 2002

V216 JLG seen here commemorating Queen Elizabeth Golden Jubilee on 18 July 2002

V211 JLG promotes 150 years of the Warrington Guardian newspaper, which began on 9 April 1853 (Photo 15 May 2003)

And here is the centenary bus T201 AFM in ‘network warrington’ livery at Warrington Interchange on 27 June 2006

Another unusual vehicle type in use post-war was the Foden PVD6, as there were only 61 examples built. Warrington was the largest customer with a total of 15. Delays in bodywork production also led to several new chassis receiving the bodywork from withdrawn pre-war vehicles, in contrast to other operators who were putting new bodywork on old chassis.

Rear-engine vehicles suitable for one person operation started entering the fleet in 1963, with Daimler Fleetlines becoming the standard double-decker bus. Most new vehicles in this era were bodied by East Lancs; from 1954 to 1987, almost all new service buses featured bodywork from East Lancs, the only exceptions being a batch of Bristol REs delivered in 1970.

With the new Chapelford urban village now open on land once occupied by the former Burtonwood Air Base, WBT introduced the Chapelford Connector Service 17 in 2008. Seen here at the depot on Wilderspool Causeway is a Volvo DAF SB120, YJ57 BRZ, with a special Chapelford livery

These featured bodywork by Pennine due to production delays caused by a fire at the East Lancs factory. Single-deck vehicles consisted of Leyland Panther Cubs and Bristol REs, with Bristol now allowed to sell to the open market again. These appeared on less patronised routes, especially those in rural Cheshire.

The last Bristol RE was withdrawn in 1999 after 23 years of service in Warrington. New vehicles due to be delivered in the mid-1970s were subject to production delays, so many buses from other operators were used on loan until the first of a large batch of Leyland Atlanteans arrived in 1977. Dennis Dominators and Leyland Olympians entered the fleet from 1983 onwards. Second-hand vehicles were not common until the 1980s when expansion required an influx of additional vehicles.

Prior to that, six ex-London Transport DMS vehicles with MCW bodywork formed the largest batch of buses that started their lives elsewhere. Post deregulation in 1987, further second-hand vehicles were acquired from a variety of different sources: Fleetlines from Greater Manchester Transport; Atlanteans from Eastbourne, Preston and Blackburn; Dominators from Leicester; and Olympians from Derby and Arriva.

In the spring and summer of 2009, twelve new buses were purchased. They have Volvo B7RLE (Euro 5) YV3R6M32 chassis and Volvo D7E290 six-speed automatic engines with Wright Eclipse Urban 2 B45F bodies and seating. They have been given the fleet numbers 83 to 94 with video screens to assist in reversing and the usual low floor with ramp access for wheelchair users.

Dennis Dominator F97 STB on the Dallam 16A route at the bus station on 23 June 2003

One of the Volvo buses, seen outside The Lord Rodney pub at Towns End on 7 August 2009

Network Warrington

To coincide with the 2006 opening of the new bus interchange in Warrington town centre, the front-line fleet has been rebranded in a new red livery with cream and orange circular detailing, designed by Samantha Beeley. The fleet name “network warrington” is used, with “warrington borough transport” appearing underneath in small letters.

The original design contained the strapline “connecting warrington” but this was soon replaced by “making warrington move”. The borough coat of arms was deliberately left off the sample vehicle, but was added after 92% of respondents to feedback questionnaires felt it should be included.

The company gained Investors in People accreditation in 2004, and attained the Charter Mark award for customer service in 2005. WBT were awarded overall winner at The Mayor’s Sustainable Business Awards in 2007, thanks to increasing bus usage by 13.2% in twelve months, with an extra million journeys being made.

This large rise in patronage and 98% customer satisfaction ratings also helped the company be shortlisted for Shire Operator of the Year at the 2007 UK Bus Awards, whilst the drivers were shortlisted for the Industry People of the Year.

The company were runners-up in the Shire Operator of the Year category, behind the highly-regarded Stagecoach Cambridge. The overall winner was Lothian Buses. The company has also won several awards at the Warrington Business Awards, winning the Social Responsibility Award in 2001 and 2007, and the Business Survivor Award in 2003.

Centenary Event

In 2002 Warrington Borough Transport celebrated 100 years of service by hosting an open day at the bus depot on Wilderspool Causeway. the following images are from that day. Click an image for a manual slide show.

110 Year Anniversary

In 2012, Warrington Borough Transport decorated two of their buses to celebrate both 110 years of the bus company and the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. They were both used to transport the VIPs to the official opening of the Orford Park community hub on Jubilee Way.

DK07 EZR is seen in Winwick Street on 16 April 2012 in preparation for its journey to Gorse Covert on
route 25C, with DK55 OPM parked up at Jubilee Way after the VIPs had alighted for the Queen’s visit.

Bus Stations

The first bus station in the town was Arpley bus station, close to Arpley railway station and next to the former Ritz/ABC cinema, known as Mr Smith’s night club in later years (also as Synergy and Halo too).

Next came Golborne Street bus station in 1979, alongside Golden Square shopping centre. Enjoy a bit of nostalgia with my 72 image auto slideshow.

And now the new bus station, to be known as Warrington Interchange.

It all began with a survey of the land in March 2004.

Now view my auto slideshow of the construction of Warrington Interchange.

Shortly after the bus interchange opened, I was approached by Warrington Borough Council Transport department, who wished to show a series of photos depicting the town’s three bus stations. Thirty-six images were selected and displayed in the Interchange by the new information centre. The image, below, is a combined photo of that display, which also promoted the mywarrington website. The display brought back memories from townsfolk who have used the town’s bus stations, Arpley, Golborne Street and now the Interchange. Some of those images are now displayed here in On The Buses. Incidentally, the name On The Buses is taken from a 1970s ITV sitcom in which the late Reg Varney starred as mischievous bus driver Stan Butler. He, along with his conductor Jack (the late Bob Grant), gave Inspector Blake a hard time. I ‘ate you, Butler! The show and three feature films are repeated regularly on ITV3.

Where are they now?

Longford Bus No 79

Let’s have a look at some Warrington buses in preservation, starting with Foden PVD/6 (MED 168). Service 79 operated up to at least the 75th anniversary of Warrington Corporation Transport in 1977 and travelled from Longford to Woolston via Central Station. Such was the popularity of this bus route that it often featured in local bingo caller’s lingo: “Longford bus, 79” I have heard said.

The vehicle featured is a Foden PVD/6 with registration number MED 168. The bus was new in November 1954 and was fitted with a Crossley body with chassis number 33858. It had 30 seats upstairs and 28 downstairs with rear access and operated as fleet number 102 for Warrington Corporation Transport. It was withdrawn from service in 1970 and was one of three such vehicles in the town’s fleet. The other two were MED 169 and MED 170, new in November 1954 and March 1955 respectively, and both of those were also withdrawn from service in 1970. The photos here were kindly supplied by Mike Devereux, who remembers travelling on these as a kid. Many thanks.

Following on from that, I was sent a reader’s story in November 2014. The reader wishes to remain anonymous.

Halloween Tale

I was on holiday in Shrewsbury for a week during Halloween. On the way back from a day out in Ludlow, it was early evening. Just as I got to an unmanned (automatic) train crossing and was first in the queue, going at 60 miles an hour, the flashing lights came on, the barriers were about to down and I put my brakes on rather than risk being annihilated by a fast-speeding train.

Waiting for the train to pass, I looked absent-mindedly to my left. I saw a double-decker bus in somebody’s garden/yard. (It was dusk.) The bus was red. Then I thought I could make out the destination: Longford.

“That’s strange”, I said to my wife, who was sitting in the passenger seat, “I used to work on a bus back home in Warrington, and one of them went to Longford. But there are loads of Longfords in the UK. Can you make out the number?”

“It’s a 79” said my wife, who’s from The Midlands.

“Wow!” I said, “That a REAL Longford bus. How did it end up outside Shrewsbury?” And how weird that it’s Halloween, when the ghosties are about; and I’ve just seen a ghost from the past; and as I helped out as a conductor on Warringbottle’s buses for a few years every summer while at Uni/Art College, I MUST HAVE BEEN ABOARD THAT BUS LOADS OF TIMES!

Why was I there in the right place at the right time, why was I first in the queue, with a good view of the bus, and why had the barrier come down just as I got to it? Otherwise, I would never have noticed the red bus from my past.

Spooky, eh?

NORTHWEST MUSEUM OF ROAD TRANSPORT, ST HELENS

Some of the old buses used by Warrington Corporation have been saved for preservation. And you don’t have to travel far to see some of them. The Northwest Museum of Road Transport is on Hall Street in St Helens, two minutes walk from the bus station. I visited the museum on 20 April 2013 and the volunteers gave me permission to photograph the vehicles and to present them here on mywarrington. I will also showcase some of their other vehicles – not all of them – you’ll have to visit the museum to see the rest! But first, Warrington’s story. I will begin with two examples from the 1960s.

The buses here are Leyland PD2/40 Specials. They were built with a 7 feet 6 inches wide body to cope with the narrow section of Sankey Street near Market Gate, and they were 28 feet 5 inches long. Their bodies have East Lancs bodies with front entrances and had seating for 64 passengers, 34 upstairs and 30 downstairs.

Warrington No 50 (BED 731C) was taken out of service in 1981 and was purchased for preservation in the same year. After many years of storage at the museum in St Helens it was restored to its present condition by a group of enthusiasts in 1997. It passed its first MOT for 17 years with flying colours and went to the Llandudno show in May 1998 and the trip was completed trouble-free. It is a museum-owned vehicle.

The second bus, Warrington No. 51 (BED 732C), entered service at Warrington Corporation in May 1965 and was again designed for the narrow Sankey Street section that passed the Co-op, Marks & Spencer and Woolworths, and the plan was for two buses to pass side by side. However, the street was made into a one-way street and later pedestrianized, and has remained that way ever since. BED 732C was sold to Weardale Motor Services Ltd of Stanhope, County Durham, in 1981 and its narrow width was suitable for operating the various stage and school services in the narrow country roads throughout the Dale. It was thought to be the last 7 feet 6 inch-wide double-deck bus in regular passenger service when it was withdrawn in 1995 and was immediately purchased by the present owner for preservation.

It was restored in Weardale livery as it operated as long in County Durham as it did in Warrington. It received many modifications during its lifetime in Weardale, including moquette seating. The vehicle is privately-owned.

The next vehicle was built in 1984 as a demonstration vehicle for Dennis Motors Ltd. It is a Duple Caribbean-bodied Dennis Dorchester with 53 seats and a toilet.

Warrington Borough Transport bought it in 1985 and painted it in the red and white colour scheme it now carries. It was later painted in blue and yellow CoachLines livery, and re-registered CIW 708. It was sold in 1992 and then had a succession of owners until it was sold to a Barnsley dealer in 2009 with some body damage at the rear.

It was rescued from scrapping  at the 11th hour, just as the engine was about to be cut out, by an enthusiast who by chance was visiting the yard. He realised it was a particularly rare coach, one of only five of this combination. He stored it until 2010 when it was bought by the present owner and sent away for bodywork restoration.

This was done by Blackpool Coach Services, next door to the site of the Duple works where it was first built. The work included replacing the rear light panels, boot framing and floor, replacing the side locker doors and a full repaint.

The address (right) shows that it was owned by Warrington Borough Council, who still own the bus company to this day and operates as Warrington Borough Transport/Network Warrington.

And now a look at a Bristol RE bus

LED 73P, with an East Lancs body, entered service in December 1975, and was the last of 25 such Bristols bought by Warrington Corporation Transport. It was one of a batch of four (Nos. 70-73) with Gardner engines – all the others had Leyland engines. The Leyland versions were sold in the early 1980s, but the four with Gardner engines were kept in service. They were used on local services in Warrington and on rural routes to Altrincham and Northwich.

Originally these buses had two doors and 41 seats, with the centre doors being removed in 1984 and the seating capacity increased to 44. In 1999 Nos. 70-73 were believed to be the last Bristol RE’s still running in service on the UK mainland with their original operator. To mark this occasion Warrington Borough Transport held a running day on 23 May 1999 using these buses. They were removed from service a few months later and sold for preservation.

The bus route shown on the front was one of two running to Leigh – it went via Newton-le-Willows and Pennington Flash Country Park. This route is no longer operational, but there are still two services to Leigh: the 19 via Winwick, Croft, Culcheth and Glazebury and the 28/28A via Manchester Road, Padgate, Birchwood, Risley, Culcheth and Glazebury.

DED 797 is a Leyland Titan PD1

It was purchased new by Warrington Corporation Transport in November 1946. Its chassis number is 461006 and it has an Alexander body.

It is described as a highbridge double-deck bus, i.e. one with centre gangways on each deck, irrespective of overall height, with 30 seats in the upper deck and 26 downstairs and the entrance at the rear.

It was one of 11 buses purchased at the time – three of them featured half-drop opening windows, whilst the remainder, including this one, had sliding windows and in service it ran as fleet numbers 16 and 18.

It was withdrawn from service in 1962 and was purchased by John P Robinson and four other enthusiasts in August 1987 with a plan to restore it to former glory with red and white livery. It is seen here at the Northwest Museum of Road Transport in St Helens on 20 April 2013 awaiting restoration.

My thanks to the museum for a great day out, and also for permission to photograph the vehicles and to reproduce them here on mywarrington.