How Buses Have Affected Railway Services
A LNWR motor bus exhibited at the London Motor Exhibition in 1905
THERE has always been a tendency to think of the bus as a main rival of the railway but this is not wholly true. It has often been used by the railways themselves to supplement facilities, to test new territories or, in recent years, to replace lines that do not pay. It is often suggested also that the railways in their development ruined the stage-
In fact the siting of many stations at some distance from the centres of the towns they were intended to serve led to the development during the nineteenth century of many local horse-
As it happened the need had tended to diminish so far as local transport was concerned because of the development of street tramways. Although using horse or steam traction initially, electricity was more and more widely employed as the twentieth century progressed, both for the conversion of existing systems and for newly constructed ones. Railway companies in Britain mostly eschewed tramway operation on their own account, although there were the Burton & Ashby electric service of the Midland Railway, the Cruden Bay line -
Roundly a score of railways had introduced motor buses in the British Isles by 1910, although, in truth, several had been so discouraged by the results that they had again abandoned their bus services before that date. But a few had really taken up bus operation seriously. Most notably they were the Great Western Railway, the London & North Western Railway, the London & South Western Railway, the Great North of Scotland Railway and, in one respect uniquely, the Great Eastern Railway. The distinction of the last-
After starting a service in Cornwall between Helston and The Lizard on August 17, 1903, with two second-
at Blackmoor the previous June, but had found local prejudice and police antipathy insuperable and therefore sold the vehicles. The GWR service was intended to sample the traffic possibilities of a light railway, for which there was strong local demand, and there is some significance in the fact that the railway never materialised. A similar reason lay behind several of the other services which were started and traffic was sometimes so sparse in the upshot that even bus operation, let alone a railway, could not be justified. A second service, from Penzance to Newlyn and Marazion was begun on October 31, 1903, and soon afterwards it was decided to develop the service and an order for 30 Milnes-
A Great Eastern Railway motor bus operating in central London
Some of the routes begun in the early days remain today in original or extended form as testimonials to the perspicacity of their railway initiators. That from Wolverhampton to Bridgnorth was started in November 1904, and transferred to Wolverhampton Corporation on July 1, 1923. It passed in turn, with the rest of that undertaking’s operations, to the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive. The Penzance-
In common with the other three mainline railway companies, the Great Western Railway obtained comprehensive road transport powers under its Act of 1928, which brought about a considerable change in its policy so far as passenger transport was concerned. It should, however, be stressed that it had previously taken a number of chances to reach agreement with major bus operators in various parts of its territory. In little over three years almost all the former GWR services had passed to operators in which the railway had a financial interest, although one of the last, that from Slough to Beaconsfield, was handed over to London General Country Services Ltd. Last of all to go was the Weymouth to Wyke Regis service, worked by the railway on its own behalf and that of the Southern Railway, which passed to the Southern National bus company on January 1, 1934.
It has already been mentioned that the London & North Western Railway was among the more-
What might be termed the true Watford workings had, in fact, begun to disappear before the 1914-
As already indicated these were by no means the only North Western services. Those in North Wales, which employed 16 vehicles in 1914, started in July 1905 with the Connahs Quay-
The London Midland & Scottish Railway, as heir to the LNWR and to some degree the Midland Railway, was relatively passive in its earlier years but indulged in quite a flurry of bus-
Predecessors of the LNER were among the earliest railway operators of motor buses, with the North Eastern Railway starting a service between Beverley and Beeford as early as September 1903, the Great North of Scotland a 17-
The London & South Western Railway operated a motor bus service between Farnham and Haslemere
As was indicated earlier the unusual feature of Great Eastern Railway bus operation was that it employed 12 vehicles of its own make. The routes were somewhat scattered save for a group around Chelmsford begun on September 9, 1905, and transferred to the National Steam Car Co Ltd, as it then was, in July 1913. Earlier that year the original Lowestoft-
The London & South Western Railway, which has already been mentioned, began a long service from Exeter to Chagford (19 miles) on June 1, 1904; it was suspended for the winter, but resumed the following summer, thereafter to be maintained more or less uninterruptedly until it was sold in Southern Railway days in 1924. The railway’s other main service from Farnham to Haslemere was worked for it for a year by a contractor, John I Thornycroft & Co Ltd, which built the bus. The results encouraged the railway to buy the vehicle and work the route itself from 1906. Seven years later it was handed over to the Aldershot & District Traction Co Ltd.
Reference should also be made to the Metropolitan Railway which, after being a sizeable horse-
Railway bus operation in Ireland has, in general, been far more enduring than in Great Britain and attention has often been called to the fact that one of the few profit-
A Fiat charabanc operated by the North Eastern Railway
The Belfast & County Down had 14 buses which were taken over at the same time and its operations had originated with a service from Kilkeel to Newcastle (County Down) introduced on August 1, 1916. Crewing of the bus and its actual operation was by contract at the outset. The Great Northern Railway (Ireland) was in a different situation as it was working both sides of the border from the time its services started in 1929. All but certain cross-
Outside the British Isles the degree to which railways have taken part in bus operation, both horse and motor, has varied a good deal. In North America, particularly the United States, there have generally been legal obstacles to such participation and in Europe there are many variations in practice. In the Netherlands operation in recent years has been through a series of subsidiary companies with which there is a great deal of co-
has used contractors and the SNCV (Vicinaux), which once had many and still has a few light railways, has a substantial bus fleet of its own which covers former tram routes as well as many others. It can be said that the railways are the largest bus operators in Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg (apart from the city undertaking), Norway and Sweden, and the German Federal Railway also has a very substantial fleet. French practice favours the use of contractors although there are various groups around the country which are based historically on light railway systems that operated in various departments.
The part played by railways in developing many overseas countries is well known and as the reliability of the motorbus improved it came more and more to share in that work. This has been the case particularly in New Zealand and South Africa where, although the railways do not have a monopoly, they are providers of very extensive road services and of tours. Smaller-
Bus operation by railways themselves might have passed its zenith, but it has certainly had a substantial effect on services as they are today.