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Glasgow Corporation Buses

A History of Glasgow Corporation Buses


The  operation  of  buses,  both  motor  buses  and  trackless  trolleys',  was  first considered  by  the  Corporation  in  1921.   An  extensive  network  of  services  reaching  far beyond  the  city boundary  was  proposed.     In  the  event,   the  first  venture  into  bus  operation was  a  more  modest  service  between  Monteith  Row  (near  Glasgow  Green) and Maryhill, which commenced  on  8th December,   1924,  and  was  the  basis  of  service  number  1. The  initial  fleet  comprised  fourteen  single-deck buses,   two  each  of  seven different  chassis  types  with  bodywork  by  five different  coachbuilders. James  Dalrymple  resigned at the  end  of  1926  in  acrimonious  circumstances  arising  to an  extent  out  of  the  General  Strike  earlier  that  year. As was the  custom  throughout  the Department's  history, the succession passed to  he deputy, in this case Lachlan MacKinnon, who took  office  in  January,   1927. He embarked on  a  programme  of  modernisation  of  the Standard  cars,  whose  lack  of  comfort  for  passengers  and  crew  was  becoming  more  evident  as other  forms  of  transport  evolved. He  also  added  fifty-one  new double-bogie  totally enclosed  cars, the Kilmarnock  Bogies, to the fleet, all  but  one  being  built by outside firms. Excellent car though  they were,   they  soon  exhibited  a  dislike  of  junction  curves and  they  were  restricted to the heavily  used  Argyle  Street / Dumbarton  Road  routes.

In  November,   1929,  the Department was renamed Glasgow Corporation Transport Department, serious bus operation having  commenced  the  previous  year  with  the  purchase  of a  batch  of  Leyland  Titans. More followed in the years to 1931, together with  the  first A.E.C.  Regents and twenty-five Vulcan Emperors,  a  rare  type  which  proved  less  than successful compared  with  the  A.E.Cs.  and  Leylands. By 1932, when a solitary  three-axle A.E.C. Renown was added,  there were  in excess of three hundred  buses  operating  cross-city services  linking  the  new  housing  schemes  springing  up  on  the  periphery  of  the  old  city. 1st  May,   1932,  saw  the  first major tramway abandonment when Corporation  buses  began operating  in  place  of  trams  between  between  Kilbarchan,  Johnstone  and  Paisley.

The  Glasgow  Corporation  Act  of  1930 gave the Corporation a monopoly of bus operation within  the  city boundary and  this  remained  in  force  to  the  end  of  the  Corporation's  reign, and  then  for a  further nine years into the  P.T.E.  period.    However,   it  was  not  extended to  take  account  of  the  1938  boundary  revision, so  that  other operators were  able  to  serve post-war  housing  in  areas  such  as  Drumchapel  and  Easterhouse.  
Further  additions  made  to  the  bus  fleet  in  1935  brought  the  first  twenty Albion double-deckers,  as  well  as  further  Leyland  Titans.    The  Albions  were  the  first  oil-engined  vehicles  in  the  fleet  and  all  subsequent  deliveries  were  so  powered.    Many  older vehicles  had  their  petrol  engines  replaced  with  oil  engines  so  that  by  the  outbreak  of the  Second  World  War  there  were  no  petrol  vehicles  in  use. MacKinnon retired at the end of 1935, the Manager's mantle passing to John Wilson, who himself retired in 1937 being succeeded by Robert P. Smith. All three served under John  Young,  the first General Manager.

The  Glasgow  Corporation  Provisional  Order,  1933,  sought  to  provide  powers  to  operate trolleybuses  over  any  tramway route,  and  to  build  bus  and  trolleybus  bodies,  but, following  a  public  enquiry,   the  trolleybus  operating  powers  were  restricted  somewhat  and authority  to  build  bus  and  trolleybus  bodies  was  denied.     This  latter  exclusion  meant that  to  protect  the  workforce  at  Coplawhill  a  programme  of  modernisation  of  the  tram fleet  was  instituted.    The  imminence  of  the  Empire  Exhibition  to  be  held  in  Bellahouston Park  in  1938  was  the  spur  for  the  development  and  production  of  a  new  tramcar.    The prototypes  appeared  in  Coronation  year,  1937,  and  inevitably  the  type  became  known  as  the Coronation  cars.    152  of  these  magnificent  vehicles  were  built  between  1937  and  1941.    But for  the  war  there  would  have  been  six  hundred. The  bus  fleet  was  not neglected:   between  1937  and  1940,  over  three  hundred  and  fifty new buses  on A.E.C.  Regent,  Albion  Venturer,  Daimler  C0G6  and  Leyland  Titan  chassis  were delivered,  with  bodywork  by Cowieson,  English  Electric,  Weymann  and  Pickering.    Seven single-deck Albion  Valkyrie  arrived  in  1939,   the  first  single-deckers  since  1928,  and  were followed  by  thirty A.E.C.  Regals  in  1940,   though  several  of  these  were  requisitioned  for government  service  without  seeing  use  in  Glasgow.

The  only bus  operator  taken  over  by  the  Corporation  was  Stephen  Young, of Carmunnock, a  small  village  to  the  south  of  the  city.    His  service,  between  Carlton  Place  and Carmunnock,    became  Glasgow  C.T.  number  31   in  December,   1941,  and  continued,  virtually unaltered,  including  protective  restrictions,  until  the  mid-'fifties,  when  it  was integrated  with  other  routes  serving  the  new housing  scheme  at  Castlemilk.    None  of Young's  vehicles  was  taken  into  the  operational  fleet.

As  the  Second  World  War  progressed,   fuel  became  scarce  and  many  operators  turned  to producer  gas  as  an  alternative  fuel.    Whilst  this  could  be  used  with  relative  ease  in  a petrol  engine,   the  Department  had  to  carry  out  some  pioneering  and  innovative  work  to allow  its  use  in  an  oil  engine.     One  vehicle,  No.  559,  had  a  producer  gas  plant  built  on to  the  rear  platform  for  a  time,  but  the  more  usual  method  of  towing  a  trailer-mounted plant  was  adopted  on  this  and  a  number  of  other  vehicles.

Notwithstanding  the  lack  of  powers  to  build  bus  bodies,  eight  double-deck  bodies  to Metro-Cammell  design  were  built  on  Albion  chassis  in  Larkfield  Bus  Works  in  1942.     Two 'unfrozen'  Leyland  TD7s  were  obtained  in  the  same  year  together  with  the  first  of  the inevitable  utility Guys.     Further  Guys  were  to  follow,   together  with  Daimler  CWs.     In 1944,   ten  1930  A.E.C.  Regents  were  rebodied  by Alexander,  a  bodybuilder  then  new  to  the Corporation.    Five  lightweight  four-wheel tramscars were built to  a  style  influenced  by the  Coronation  design,   one  being  a  replacement  for  a  car  demolished  by a German bomb. Wartime  also  brought  a  further  change  of  General  Manager,  but  this  was  to  be  the  las for  a  long  time.    E.R.L.  Fitzpayne,  son  of  a  former  General  Manager  of  Edinburgh Corporation  Transport,  had  served  in  Edinburgh  and  South  Shields  before  becoming  Assistant Manager  in  Glasgow,    He  was  in  his  early  thirties  when  he  became  General  Manager  in  1943 and  he  remained  in  the  post  until  retiral  in  1969.  He  was  a  man  of  vision  and  radical ideas,  not  all  of  which  were  acceptable  to  his  political  masters.

In 1946, Parliamentary approval to build bus and trolleybus bodies was obtained in the face of some stiff opposition. Whilst no trolleybus body was ever built, the motor bus  powers were well used. The  prospect  of  trolleybus  operation  arose  again  immediately  after  the  war  and,   in January,  1946,   the  Corporation  approved  the  purchase  of  the  necessary  vehicles  and equipment  for  the  first  services.     These  were  to  be  from  Riddrie  and  Royston  Road  to Oatlands  (Shawfield  in  trolleybus  terminology)  or  Polmadie.     To  avoid  conflict,  actual  02 imagined,  between  tram  and  trolleybus  running  parallel,   tram  service   2  (Riddrie  -Polmadie)  was  replaced  by  a  temporary motor  bus  service,  numbered  102  in  the  trolleybus series,  in  February,   1949.    With  the  overhead complete  and  some  driver  training accomplished,   the  first  passenger-carrying  trolleybus,  No.TB2,   took  to  the  streets  on 3rd April,  1949. It  was  some  weeks  later  though,  before  route  102  was  operated  solely by trolleybuses. Thereafter,   the  system  developed  gradually,  a  purpose-built  depot  in Hampden  opening  in  December,  1950,  to  replace  shared  quarters  at  Larkfield. Whilst  the  new  trolleybuses  had  replaced  trams,   it  was  considered  that  their  eventual role  would  be  to  serve  new  territory  and  that  the  tramway  would  be  improved  at  the  same time.    Thus  the  modernisation  programme  begun  in  1937  was  revitalised,  but  on  a  more cautious  scale.    An  experimental  double-deck  single-ended  tram  was  built  in  1947  and  was followed  between  I948 and 1952 by one  hundred  cars  of  more  conventional  layout, the Mark II Coronations,  or  Cunarders, as  they were better known.

There were new motorbuses also,  on A.E.C, Albion and Daimler chassis,  but Leyland was not favoured at this time.    Between 1948 and 1952,  a batch of 43 Daimler single-deck chassis was bodied by the Corporation at Larkfield to a style which borrowed features from the Cunarder trams being built concurrently at nearby Coplawhill,    One of the primary duties of these vehicles was to serve Hillington Industrial Estate,  which was beset on one side by a restrictive low bridge under the main railway to Paisley.    The new arrivals were supplemented by a programme of rebodying pre-war A.E.C., Albion and Leyland chassis and thirty of the wartime Daimlers.By 1957, all vehicles had post-war bodywork.

The   'fifties saw an expansion of the bus network to serve new housing in Pollok, Nitshill, Drumchapel, Easterhouse and Castlemilk.    Although neither tram nor trolleybus shared in these new routes,  there were further and final additions to  the  tram fleet between 1953 and 1955 in the unlikely shape of forty-six Green Goddess cars from Liverpool,   together with six new trams more or less  to the original Coronation design, on ex-Liverpool bogies. But there was contraction also and the first signs of the  impending demise of the tram. Bus  services operating entirely outside  the city were  transferred to  the Scottish Omnibuses Group in 1955, notably on 20th February,   the Paisley area services,  which passed to Western S.M.T. Company Limited, and the Clydebank services,  which were  there­after operated by Central S.M.T. Company Limited. The Airdrie and Coatbridge  trams ceased in November,  1956,  as did the service  to Milngavie,  whilst the Paisley trams, reprieved because  of fuel rationing at the time of the Suez crisis,   followed on 11th May, 1957.   The death sentence on the tramway was finally pronounced in February,  1958, when the Corporation resolved to replace  the whole system with buses as soon as practicable.

Pinkston Power Station was sold to  the South of Scotland Electricity Board on 30th October, 1958, an event which had repercussions also for the as-yet incomplete  trolleybus network.  In fact, the final tram to trolleybus conversion took place on 16th November, 1958,  when cross-suburb tram route12 was replaced by trolleybus route  108, This was no ordinary conversion as the trolleybuses were 54 feet 6 inches long single-deckers at a time when the legal maximum was  thirty feet.  Special dispensation had been received  in 1956 to purchase  the vehicles  for this route and the success of their operation paved  the way for the  introduction in 1961 of a general limit of thirty-six feet. Unfortunately, the vehicles  themselves suffered from having only a single narrow entrance/exit and an exceedingly austere interior finish.
Subsequent tram route conversions were with motor buses,  generally Daimler CVG6s or Leyland PD2s, Leylands having returned to the  fleet in 1955.  

In 1960,   the  first thirty feet long forward-entrance vehicles on A.E.C. Regent and Leyland PD3 chassis appeared. Twenty-five of the latter as well as seventy-five earlier PD2s were bodied at Coplawhill Car Works using parts supplied by Alexander.These were  the last vehicles  to receive Corporation bodies,    Coplawhill closed thereafter and part was converted into  the Museum of Transport. A solitary Leyland Atlantean had been obtained in 1958 for evaluation,  and the first of the production vehicles arrived in 1962,   introducing a completely new body by Alexander, which was  to influence bus styling throughout  the country for the next twenty years.    As the first Atlanteans arrived,  so the last trams departed,   the official final day being 4th September,   1962.    A quarter of a million Glaswegians lined the city streets in pouring rain in a unique display of public sentiment,  paying their final tribute  to  the cars  they loved.

With the  trams out of the way,   traffic management became  the name of the game.  The main city streets became one-way in November 1963,  with consequent disruption of old-established routes. Despite  the departure of the  trams,  costs continued to soar and reductions in staff costs were now being sought. The  first one-man bus,  Leyland panther No. LS31, made  its debut on 4th May 1965.
The trolleybus system was also under threat. It had never realised its potential. Had,  for example,  the routes  to  the south penetrated the massive Castlemilk scheme,   the outcome might have been different. Two routes had already gone,   in 1959 and 1962,  but the first closure  involving major abandonment of overhead came in April I966, when  the Royston Road and Rutherglen routes were   'motorised'. On 27th May 1967, the last trolleybus ran between Clarkston and Queens Cross. There were few mourners and certainly nothing like  the public expression of loss  of September,   1962.

Further Panthers had been purchased for one-man operation, but with union agreement to double-deck one-man operation and the removal of the offending low bridge at Hillington,  the need for single-deckers almost vanished.    LA362 introduced double-deck one-man operation early in 1968 and thereafter there was a steady conversion of routes  to one-man operation    - or,  by now,  one-person operated,  as lady drivers were being recruited from the ranks of redundant conductresses. So it was, Atlanteans all  the way. Unfortunately,   the PDR1  Atlantean was not proving too successful  in Glasgow. Indeed,   it could be said that all  that prevented the Atlantean becoming a music hall  joke was  that there were no music halls left! Some progress was made  in the   'seventies  to  improve the situation,  and the AN68 model received from 1972 was a much more satisfactory vehicle.
One unusual feature of the Department's operations which ended' in 1969 was  the responsibility for snow clearance on bus routes.  A number of withdrawn buses equipped with snow-ploughs were utilised on these  occasional duties.
E.R.L, Fitzpayne retired in 1969, to be succeeded by William Murray, who had spent all his working life  in the Department,  most of it under Fitzpayne.

In 1970, there were  experiments with passenger-operated ticket machines mounted  in the buses,  some of which now had separate entrance and exit doors. Neither machines nor doors found favour with passengers or crews. In an attempt  to improve  the lot of citizens in outlying areas,  an experimental limited-stop peak hour service  to Easterhouse was launched.    But uncertainty over the future  of the Department had dulled the  incentive for innovation.
The Corporation,   in association with the Scottish Development Department, the Clyde Valley Planning Authorities, British Railways and the Scottish Bus Group,  commissioned in I964 the Greater Glasgow Transportation Study to determine  the  future  transport needs of the area.     In the meantime,   in I966,  concern over the cost of maintaining municipal transport pushed the Corporation to the brink of a deal with the Scottish Bus Group, which would have granted the Group a lease  to operate  the city undertaking.    However,   it was decided to await the outcome  of the Greater Glasgow Transportation Study.By the time that the final report of the G.G.T.S.  was published in I968,  passenger transport authorities were being established in England, and it became clear that governments of either political hue considered that a P.T.A. was  the answer for the Glasgow conurbation.

In December, 1971, it was announced that a passenger transport authority was  to be established during 1972, with a view to the resulting passenger transport executive taking over operation of the Corporation Transport Department in June 1973. What seemed at the outset a fairly optimistic  timetable was,   in fact,  achieved, the Greater Glasgow Passenger Transport Executive  taking control  on 1st June 1973.

The  transfer of authority was noticed by even fewer people  than had witnessed  the departure of the  trolleybuses. Municipal  transport operation in Glasgow had ceased after seventy-nine years  of service to the public.