The Little Bus Company The Little Bus LITTLE BUS COMPANY

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Halifax, HX1 2NN.
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East Lancashire Coachbuilders of Blackburn was a relatively late entrant to the field of bodying rear entrance double deck chassis. Two styles emerged, a squarish design with lipped domes and a shallow roof for Bolton in 1963, which evolved into East Lancs’s standard design of the late 60s through the 1970s, and a style the same year for Warrington, based on that used for the Leicester full-height Renowns, with deep roof and rounded front and rear domes. The latter style was built in small numbers on Daimler Fleetlines for Warrington, Bury and Coventry and on Leyland Atlanteans for Sheffield. The majority of the Coventry and Sheffield buses were bodied by Cravens at its Neepsend Coachworks factory in Sheffield. 

Neepsend Coachworks – the Cravens Connection
In 1964 Cravens Ltd of Sheffield acquired the share capital of East Lancashire Coachbuilders. In order to increase production capacity, Cravens set up a subsidiary company, Neepsend Coachworks, in Sheffield, which built bus bodies to East Lancashire design between 1964 and 1968, when the Neepsend factory closed. (I am grateful to Harry Postlethwaite for this information in his book, “East Lancashire Coachbuilders” – Venture Publications, 2000).   

Coventry Corporation Transport
This model represents the rounded style body, built by East Lancs and Neepsend, and is based on the twenty two Daimler Fleetline CRG6LX (H45/31F) delivered to Coventry Corporation Transport in 1966. These started a new number series for Coventry, fleet numbers 1-22 (CKV 1-22D), of which nine, Nos 6-8, 12, 14-15, 19-21, were built by East Lancs at Blackburn and the remainder at Neepsend to East Lancs design.

Variations later in life included modifications to the side lights, flashers and destination screens, which appear to have coincided with repaint into the 1973 Marshall Red livery without the central red band. At least one (18) had the staircase window removed. All passed to the West Midlands PTE on 1 April 1974 and were repainted into the PTE’s ivory and dark blue livery. 

A useful reference is “Coventry Transport 1940-1974” by Denton and Groves (Birmingham Transport Historical Group 1987). Good colour photograph references can be found in “The Heyday of the Classic Bus” by Gavin Booth (Ian Allan 1994) and on the back cover of “Daimler” by Alan Townsin (Ian Allan 2000).

Warrington Corporation Transport
Warrington’s CRG6LX Fleetlines are well documented in “Warrington Trams and Buses” by John Robinson (Cheshire Libraries and Museums, 1987). The first fourteen to the “rounded” (H45/32F) style arrived in three batches between 1963 and 1967, after which the subsequent 1970 (32-37 SED***H) and 1973 (100-105 NED***M) batches had “standard” East Lancs bodies.

18-26 (5827-5835 ED) were delivered in 1963 and had a flat front dash and flat vertical windscreens. They had shrouds at the rear sides, concealing the gap above the engine bustle.

27 & 28 (BED 734/735C) were delivered in 1965 and were generally similar to the Coventry buses, with different headlight and destination screen layouts and other detail differences. The wide fluted Daimler batch was located high on the front dash, above the headlights.

29-31 (HED 856-858E) were delivered in 1967 and had a lower dash and Alexander style windscreens.

Bury Corporation Transport
Bury’s six H43/31F Fleetline CRG6LX (132-137, AEN 832–837 C)) were delivered in 1965. These were almost identical to the Warrington BED***C batch.

Sheffield Transport Department
Sheffield Transport received twenty Leyland PDR1/2 Atlanteans 341-360 (CWB 341 - 347B and EWB 348-360C) in 1964/65 and a further twenty, 162-181 (KWJ 162-181D) in 1966. These used the PDR1/2 chassis with drop centre rear axle and the bodies were to H44/33F configuration, most being built or completed at Neepsend. The extra two lower deck seats, compared with the Coventry Daimlers, were longitudinal over the nearside front wheel arch. These were generally similar to the Coventry buses, with differences in the head, fog and sidelight layout on the front dash, in the destination screens and in the style of the wheel-arch trim. The Sheffield buses also had a divided rear lower deck window.

Photographs of Samples are shown below:

Modelling Notes
The Atlantean and Fleetline engine bustles supplied with the WIL3 series of kits are generic ones, based on the Coventry Willowbrook bodied buses. They appear to be correct for the East Lancs/Neepsend bodied versions covered by this kit. 

The interior partitions have strengthening strips added to avoid warping during the casting process. These should be trimmed back if they are visible through the windows. 

The kit may include two rear bulkhead panels. The Neepsend model requires the shallower 10mm version, which should be fitted flush with the body sides and resting against the ceiling cove panels of the upper deck floor. This should be fitted after the upper deck floor is in place and the bevelled edge goes at the bottom. 

The seat backs have grab rails. To obtain a “see-through” effect, the inside, which was 5 thou’ styrene on the master, can be trimmed away. Use a 1mm drill to clear the corners and then run a very sharp knife blade along the grab rail and then the top of the seat. Doing the grab rail first reduces the risk of breakage. 

The Coventry Fleetlines have “rotovents” in the first, third and fifth windows upstairs and top sliders in the second, third and fourth windows downstairs.

On all bus types covered by this model, the driver’s cab window is of the four pane type, with the horizontal bar towards the bottom of the window. The windscreen wipers are mounted at the top of the driver’s screen and at the foot of the near side screen. 

The Sheffield Atlanteans have top sliders in the first and third upstairs windows and “rotovents” in the fifth. Downstairs top sliders are provided in the second and fourth windows. 

Bury Fleetlines have top sliders in all the large oblong side windows. 

Warrington Fleetlines 27 & 28 have top sliders in the second and third offside and first and third nearside windows upstairs and windows with vertically hinged push-out vents at the rear, in the fifth windows of both sides of the top deck. Downstairs top sliders are provided in the second and fourth windows. 

Coventry Livery
1964 livery
The Willowbrook Atlanteans and Fleetlines introduced a new, predominantly ivory, livery to Coventry Transport. Arabian Red (similar to BR coaching stock Maroon) covered the roof, extending round the rear dome. An Arabian Red band, approximately 6’ deep, was applied below the upper deck windows and a further red band was applied amidships above the lower deck windows, covering the rain strip above the door and the narrow beading above the engine bustle, but excluding the door and windscreen area.  A further red band was applied at the bottom of the body, level with and including the beading on the lower deck sides, extending round the bottom of the dash, the passenger door and the engine bustle.

A similar style was applied to the Neepsend/East Lancs Fleetlines except that the Arabian Red covered the whole of the front dome (leaving a small ivory area for the side window surrounds) and the midships band “swooped up” to cover the destination screens.

In both these styles no “company” lettering was provided, ownership being indicated by the City coat of arms on the lower deck panels below the middle window. 

1970 Livery
A new livery was introduced in 1970, which replaced the Arabian Red by a brighter shade, referred to as Marshall Red, for which Cherry Paints BET Crimson appears to be appropriate. The roof and rear dome continued to be red but this extended down the front window pillars, outside the beading, leaving ivory surrounds to the front windows. The beading below the upper deck windows was also Marshall Red. The amidships red band was slightly lower, below the rain strip on the Willowbrook bodies, and not extending round the back. On the Neepsend bodies this included the between decks beading but did not swoop up over the route indicators. The entire lower body sides, below the windows, were red, as was the entire engine bustle and the passenger doors, including the vertical edges to the door opening. The windscreen surrounds continued to be ivory.

1973 Livery
The final livery style reduced the amount of Marshall Red, which now covered the roof, but not extending down the front and rear domes. The narrow red strip below the upper deck windows was discontinued as was the ‘tween decks band, leaving the lower deck sides, engine bustle and passenger doors in red.

In both the 1970 and 1973 livery styles, ownership was indicated by Coventry transport lettering in gold on the lower deck body side and the City coat of arms on the front of the upper deck, above the route indicator.

Buses also carried a small letter H or S in black above the driver’s windscreen, indicating allocation to Harnall Lane or Sandy Lane Depots.

Happy Modelling. ©  Tony Swift, Kirribilli NSW, Australia, 2009.

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