THE BUS SCHOOL
THE ALBION VENTURER
THE LEYLAND TIGER ‘WORLDMASTERS’ SINGLE DECKERS
TWO EXHILARATING EXPERIENCES
THREE VEHICLES WITH SUPER-CHARGED ENGINES
DRIVING MIRRORS AND THE STOP/GO BELL
DRIVING AND DREAMING!
THE PHANTOM INSPECTOR
COPING WITH THE WEATHER
TRYING TO KEEP WARM
THE SPEED TRAP
THE STICKING RACKBAR & THE ENGINE STOP CONTROL
THE CLARKSTON DISASTER
LEYLAND LOWLANDER 747 EUS
THE LEYLAND ATLANTEANS
EVENTS ON THE ROAD
‘IT’S A SHORT LIFE!’
WORKING CONDITIONS - SHIFTS IN THE EARLY 1960s
SERVICE & ROUTE NUMBERS
1994 KNIGHTSWOOD GARAGE OPEN DAY
Newlands Garage 1960's.The examples of bundy cards have been in my possession since 1974. They were called time cards and were used by transport department officials to check that their vehicle was being run by the crew of driver and conductor according to the time-table. Bundy clocks and their stamping mechanism were one of two methods of doing this. They were in use until around 1970 when the changeover from crewed buses to one man operation was being introduced. This long-term operation began in 1965 and wasn’t completed in 1975, a year after I left the Transport Department.
Bundy clocks were designed and produced by the Bundy Company in New York around 1900. The mechanism, originally mechanical, may have been converted to electric latterly. They were installed at well-scattered locations around the city suburbs. Even today places where they once stood are still referred to by older people as 'at the bundy'. Three places in the south west of the city I remember having to wait at while my conductor stamped the card were in Barrhead Road at Damshot Road, Kilmarnock Road at Newlandsfield Road, and Clarkston Road and Muirend Road. Another one encountered on the services operated from Newlands garage was at the Vogue cinema at Riddrie. The first one I saw was during the 1930s. It stood in Langlands Road at Langlands Drive (now Skipness Drive) at the eastern corner of the small triangular park there partly surrounded with bushes.
The clocks were housed in distinctively shaped steel boxes. They had a round face protected by glass in the shallow (front to rear) top section standing at about shoulder height, which measured about twelve inches square by six inches deep. Below the clock, the front of the box descended outwards at an angle of 45 degrees towards the users, deepening it front to back to about a foot, and giving the upper part a shape reminiscent of an old style mechanical cash register. In the centre of the angled section there was a square hole with a hinged at the top lockable lid, and every conductor was issued with a key which opened all the boxes and given strict orders to ensure it was secured by dropping it so that it slammed shut after each time of use. The lid took up about half the area of this section, and when it was raised it revealed inside a platform of wood that stood a couple of inches below the lower edge of the aperture. In the centre of the platform there was a metal lined gape-mouthed six inches long slot standing proud across the centre with a lever alongside.
The box itself was about three feet high and two feet wide, and stood chest high on heavy angle-iron brackets embedded in a concrete plinth. The card on which the time was recorded was issued to conductors at the start of each shift. It was dropped into the slot, and when the lever was pulled it stamped the time on the back. At the same time a section of about a quarter of an inch of the left side at the bottom was cut off, so that when next used the card dropped down by that amount to receive the next time stamp. The stamping was supposed to be done each time a bundy was passed by the tram driver or bus conductor as an additional check that the service was being operated according to the timetable.
The main checks on time keeping were done by inspectors called time keepers, who manned other busy permanent daytime stations wherever corporation transport ran, e.g. (on the south side of the river) Eglinton Toll, Shawlands Cross, Paisley Road Toll, Govan Cross, Cathcart Road at Aitkenhead Road etc. Other locations in the suburbs had a time keeper only at peak periods; one such was at the roundabout at Peat Road. The cards were handed in at the end of each shift, but in my experience were not checked regularly. It only happened if a complaint about irregular running was received from a member of the public, or from a department official who was sometimes a timekeeper at another location. The time stamp could then be used as evidence in the event of allegations of irregularities. An example of this occurred on the return leg of my very first journey on the first day of service in early May 1960. I was on the number 40 peak-hour service running between Hillington Estate and Cathcart, and was approaching the Damshot Road clock. Initially newfangled and tense while trying to do everything right, but running late and with my conductor standing near me in a sort of supervisory manner, I was at last beginning to feel more confident after having driven for an hour or so.
All Bundy’s were located at bus stops, and as we neared the Damshot Road stop I applied the brake to draw up. I then saw that there was no one wanting to board, and although aware of a man standing in the shelter he gave no indication that he wished me to stop for him. A quick glance behind showed there was no one waiting to get off, so I released the brake and carried on past. Immediately the conductor turned and held up the bundy card. The vehicle was a single deck Leyland 'Royal Tiger', the fleet numbers of which were prefixed LS, with a front entry which allowed him to stand beside me. At that time these fairly new buses had a centre exit door. At the same instant I became aware of a movement in the shelter. The conductor had been expecting me to stop so that he could stamp the card, so I immediately braked again but succeeded only in drawing up well past the stop. When he saw he would have to walk back a couple of bus lengths, he waved to me to carry on. But aware of the 'movement' at the stop, I got down on to the pavement and waved to the man, but he ignored me, so assuming the conductor knew what he was doing I drove on.
A few days later I was approached by the inspector known as the 'complaints man'. He showed me a letter from someone who claimed he had been waiting for a bus at Damshot around the time we would have been due to pass there, and as he was expecting the bus to stop for the bundy he gave no signal. He was writing to complain that the bus drove passed without stopping. The inspector then produced the card and pointed out that relevant time stamp was missing. In situations like this I invariably find that honesty is best. If people in authority think you are at least making an effort at telling the truth, they are usually prepared to let you away with more than they otherwise would. And so it proved in this case. When I explained what had happened it was accepted, with only a minor rebuke awarded.
As I was to find out, in normal circumstances it would merit more significant disciplinary action, but more of that side of the job later. This section was written originally as explanatory notes for bundy cards in my possession, which are marked for buses. Those used on the trams were similar but were marked Tramways Department. In the early days the cards had to be stamped when travelling in each direction, which meant that conductors had to cross the road. As time passed the rise in the volume of traffic saw an increase in the number of accidents to conductors, so the rule was changed to one-way stamping only.
THE BUS SCHOOLComposing a timetable and arranging the duties for crews requires a high degree of planning, making the system set up to do so difficult for anyone with no experience of its workings to understand. That system will still operate except that now there are fewer buses and (with single-manning) operating staff and this must make it much more difficult for the time-table compilers to make up a shift rota, known as the duty roster, to make the best use of staff time.
When I started work at Newlands, tramcars were still operating from there supplying vehicles for a single service, the last one on the south side. This was the number 3, Mosspark to University service which was withdrawn at the end of August that year, and both forms of transport shared the depot. (See my book OLD POLLOKSHAWS p42 for a personal nostalgic view of the depot in 1960.) The tram sheds were known as depots and this term continued in use until the change was completed, then the designation became garage. But tram drivers who qualified as bus drivers never became reconciled to calling it a garage; for them it continued to be 'the depot'.
My decision to apply for a job with the transport department was a case almost of having to do something I had wanted to try, but there were one or two drawbacks, which made me rather wary. In other circumstances shift work would have been undesirable, but it happened to coincide with the ending of my employment as a wholesale tea salesman, and an urgent need to find employment with occasional free time during the day in which I could continue to supply my customers with tea. From hearing my father-in-law Tommy Berney, a tram driver in Newlands who retired in 1967, talking about his work, I was aware that the job involved a significant element of discipline but did not know how severe it was and how well I would cope with it. Another aspect was that although traffic density was much less then, because of the withdrawal of the trams the actual number of buses on the road was about double what there are today. At peak periods all the main roads around the city, not just the main thoroughfares in the centre, were thronged with them almost nose to tail. This situation had been worsening since the war ended and reached a peak in the early 1960s. On one occasion on an early shift I was driving east along Barrhead Road at the peak of the morning rush hour, when I was brought to a stand at Pollok golf course. It was at the tail end of a traffic hold up which stretched all the way from the town centre! On another occasion the end of the queue was encountered at Eastwood on Thornliebank Road. These examples were certainly worst cases, but the most remarkable fact about the congestion was that buses were a significant proportion of the vehicles involved. But bear in mind that while car ownership was increasing it was at a far lower level than today, and it was before the motorways were built in Glasgow.
I knew also from my father-in-law that with the low level of unemployment at the time, the Transport Department were very short staffed and that high wages could be made by crews, known collectively as 'the green staff' from the colour of the uniform, working overtime. The real shortage of drivers was caused by the number of additional buses coming on the road to replace the trams that were being withdrawn. The number of tram drivers available for retraining for the buses was coming to an end, and the general recruitment was below what was required. Fleeting thoughts had passed through my mind about trying for it, but no more than that until it became obvious that I was about to loose the tea salesman job, so I put in an application. After an interview at the Transport Department head office which was then at the corner of Renfield Street and Bath Street, at the age of 29 I was accepted provisionally as a learner driver, to train to qualify for a Public Service Vehicle (PSV) licence at the department's driving school at Butterbiggins Road, Larkfield at Eglinton Toll.
Aware of my defective colour vision, acquaintances asked how I got through the application test. At that time it consisted of the interviewer producing a miniature set of traffic lights, then going through the sequences and asking what the colours were. Apart from that, many of the red lenses of older traffic lights still in use then had STOP printed across them in black letters. My answer to them was that you would have to be illiterate as well as colour blind not to know when the red light was showing. Another question at the interview was one that totally baffled me was, 'Have you any convictions?' After hesitating briefly I answered no, but I could not for the life of me understand what convictions, religious, political, racial or whatever had to do with driving buses, and all I can say now was that it showed up just how naive I was then. It was only later when talking to another, I have to say typical, applicant I happened to mention that question. I was about to sound off about its seeming irrelevancy, when he said 'Oh aye, I had to tell them about mine - two for assault and one for breach of the peace!' It was obvious that I was entering a very different world from the one I was used to.
Before being accepted for the driving school, which was based at the rear of Larkfield Garage, applicants had to be tested for competence on the road. All the instructors were inspectors, and the man in charge, Mr. Dunlop, was a member of a well-known Pollokshaws family of three brothers, all of whom worked for the transport department. He took half-a-dozen applicants out to test our ability on an pre-war AEC bus with a crash gearbox, fleet number AR278, with the remarkable vehicle registration number BUS 177. These letters (of the original Govan allocation US) indicated that it was one of a number of vehicles that had of necessity been reconditioned instead of being scrapped during the period of shortage of new buses between 1950 and '54. The ‘A’ in the fleet number indicated that it was an AEC built vehicle and the ‘R’ was for reconditioned. There are two photographs of it that were taken at this time in books, and in both it is displaying an ‘L’ plate. The first, in black and white, will be found on page 69 of Stewart Little’s book GLASGOW BUSES, published in 1990. On page 75 of Alan Miller’s book, STREETS OF GLASGOW, published in 2004, it is in colour and the vehicle has been repainted in the then new colour scheme introduced in the early 1960s. There are copies of both books in my collection. Jimmy Dunlop drove up Aitkenhead Road to the Kings Park district where each of us had to drive around for a few minutes.
The gearbox seemed to take some getting used to and, never having previously driven any vehicle with a crash box it was the only aspect which gave me concern. One or two of the others had problems mainly with the gear change, but there were other difficulties that caused Jimmy to shout rather roughly at some of them. However, I had undergone an eight-month period driving a half-ton Ford van in my job at that time as a tea salesman, much of the time around the town centre, and I felt confident and was well prepared to cope with heavy traffic. During that period much valuable experience was gained with the traffic conditions and learning road-craft, of which road positioning was a vital component that stood me in good stead. The only aspects I was concerned about were, would I be able to cope with the steering and the gear change?
Before the advent of buses with rear engines, older models had driving cabs totally separate from the passenger compartment, a type known as a half-cab where the space on the near side next to the cab above the engine hood is open. The enclosed but not cramped driving position was high up above the front offside wheel, and was entered through a single forward-hinged door by climbing up the wheel using a wheel nut as a step. At that time the newly introduced models had sliding doors. The cab door of the Albion 'Venturer' B92 in Glasgow Transport Museum, introduced new in 1949, which I drove on service the following month is of the hinged type. With their uncovered radiator grills mounted well out in front, usually with the manufacturers name on it, they were easily identified, more so than today’s buses which tend to be anonymous unless you know where to look. Back then the more common types owned by the transport department were Albions, Leylands, and AECs. Daimler was the odd one out in that they were recognised by a having a distinctive shiny chrome wavy radiator top, like the Daimler cars of the period. On that exciting occasion I could hardly wait to get to actually drive a bus, and when my turn came I went round and climbed into the cab eagerly.
After moving off in bottom gear at first I just could get not get into second. Eventually, after much grinding I managed it, and that was as far as I could get. However, I was allowed to crawl around the streets for a few minutes during which I paid particular attention to the road conditions and turning corners. Pop Berney had warned me about this, so I took care to watch my position carefully, to keep off pavements and give other vehicles a wide berth and most of all, be seen to be using the rear view mirrors on each side. After a while Jimmy said 'Right, out you get', and after everyone had had a turn he drove back to Larkfield. We were left in an outer room then called into his office individually to be told if we had been accepted. I was last, and as about half of the others had emerged with long faces, having been advised to take up conducting for a few months then re-apply for the driving school, I didn't think I stood a chance. Conducting didn't appeal to me and I had made up my mind not to take it, so the problem would to be, what other employment was available with shift work?
Then it was my turn, and when I went in he said in a bluff friendly manner he hadn't used previously, 'Yes, I think we'll have you for you did better than the others in watching the road. Don't worry about the gears, you'll soon get the hang of them'. Having been mentioned previously, he was aware that I was hoping to be posted to Newlands and wouldn't need to learn how to cope with a crash box as there was none of that type there. While I was excited at being accepted for the driving school, there was still the possibility of experiencing a mechanical breakdown when out on the road on service and getting landed with a change-over vehicle with a crash gearbox. Most of the buses I would be driving in Newlands were relatively modern, with pre-select and semi-automatic gearboxes. On the pre-selects, the pedal in the clutch position was used to actually physically change gear. The very latest models had the semi-automatic boxes with electro-manumatic two pedal controls, brake and accelerator, but there were still a few of the older manual types, Albions, in service. I knew from hearing Tommy talk about them, he said that in the event of a breakdown a Newlands driver could still find himself landed with one, and if it happened to him he said he would have to send it back!
Fleet numbers of the Albions with crash gearboxes still in service then were in the region of B72 to 112, with registration numbers in the BGE series dating from 1949. A section on fleet numbers in general might be of interest later. The were still a few with BUS registration letters in use on service, all of which were based in Parkhead Garage, where no doubt the drivers there were used to them. But there was still the possibility that a driver from Newlands could get one if his bus needed to be replaced on the 38 route in the north-east of the city. It sometimes happened that the Larkfield emergency service was busy, and in that event the nearest garage to the casualty was called on to supply a replacement.
Acutely conscious of this possibility, I mentioned it to one of the bus school instructors. What would happen if I found myself with an old bus with manual gear change and, knowing the trouble encountered on the previous occasion, had to admit I couldn't handle it? Having heard that this had happened to others I had visions of having to tell a busload of irate people I couldn't drive their bus. He said ‘Leave that with me!’ The PSV driving test was on the tenth day of the course, and for those who passed there was a delay of about a week before the licences came through from the issuing authority in Edinburgh. The rest of this time was taken up driving around learning routes and gaining experience. With up to half-a-dozen learner buses in use at this time, they were seen frequently every weekday. All the vehicles used were 8ft wide Daimlers with pre-select gear boxes introduced in 1955 which displayed L-plates. My PSV licence number was (is?) MM30059.
As well as the Albions still used in service, the department had a few other even older vehicles that were fitted up as snowplough units. Some were AECs (with fleet numbers prefixed A; this was why the prefix used for the Albions was B), one of which was kept in each garage. Some of my fellow learners who had also passed the test had expressed an interested in the problem I had brought up about coping with the crash gear-change. On the first day after the test the instructor, Chris Watson of Shawlands (deceased), told the first driver on his turn to head for Ibrox Garage, and took us out on another of the BUS reg., which wasn’t an Albion vehicle. I remember being disappointed because it wasn't as old as the original vehicle I had had the trouble with when being appraised by Jimmy Dunlop. It was almost as if that old vehicle, which looked as if it had been built with the ark, was something that had to be overcome. Despite it having the same gear change this newer model seemed to be a lesser challenge.
Chris took us out from the garage into Helen Street, along Shieldhall Road and into Hardgate Road where he told me to get into the cab. But I had the same problem as before, and after trying a number of times with the same result I felt it was going to defeat me. Each time a gear change was attempted while on the move, there was a grinding crunch along with a powerful kick through the gear lever into my wrist. He assured me that he knew what I was doing wrong, and suggested that instead of depressing the clutch fully and then trying to engage the gear, to ease the lever in as the clutch pedal was going down. That did it! I tried it and it worked; with a little pressure on the stick as the pedal went down it seemed to fall in with a little help.