Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester
The First Bus
Did you know that the first bus service in Britain, and probably the world, was started in Manchester? It was started in 1824 by John Greenwood and ran from Pendleton to Manchester.
Boyle Street, where the Museum is situated, gets it name from Councillor Daniel Boyle, who was Tramways Committee Chairman of Manchester Corporation from 1901 to 1906.
The Museum holds...
largest horse bus in existence
ever wondered why a bus conductor gives two rings to the
driver to set off? Well, there's a national code for bus
In most of the UK, the person who collected fares was (or is) called the conductor - but in the North West of England, the term was the guard. This was a hangover from the days of the stagecoach, when the person who collected the fares and assisted the passengers was also responsible for the passengers' safety against highwaymen and footpads.
Until the outbreak of the Second World War, buses and trams around Greater Manchester might carry a small post box on the platform. Each evening, after the normal postbox collections had finished, one bus or tram on the busier routes would collect post on the way, with people flagging down the bus or tram to post their letter. The practice was very useful and popular but it stopped with the imposition of the blackout and fuel-saving transport restrictions.
The Last and First Tram
The last tram in Manchester ran in January 1949, on the Manchester to Hazel Grove route. It was replaced by a batch of new Crossley buses, one of which is now in the Museum of Transport. The last tram's fleet number was 1007. When in 1992 Metrolink brought 'trams' back to the streets of Manchester, the first test run through the City's streets was made by...vehicle number 1007.
The largest 'document' in the Museum collection is a coloured canvas map of the South Lancashire Tramways system, made by the company for some long-forgotten purpose. It measures 18 feet (5.5 Metres) wide and 12 feet (3.7 metres) high.
A Narrow Escape
Another bus in the Museum with a chequered past is Manchester 25, a 1953 single decker which finished its active life at Manchester Airport. The airport authorities planned to convert the bus into a tow wagon and even got as far as removing the rear part of the bodywork before finding that the crane meant to be mounted on the chassis wouldn't fit; so next it was meant to be set on fire as an exercise for the airport fire brigade. £25, which provided a replacement hulk for the fire brigade to play with, bought a last-minute rescue for 25 which is now fully restored and on display in the museum.
Next bus to Jericho
If you travelled by bus in Greater Manchester you could find some bizarre places to go to. Bury buses could go to JERICHO, WATER or WHAM BAR; Oldham blinds featured FOG ON ROUTE as did Manchester ones; a North Western route went to 61 MU (an RAF establishment) while Leigh buses often went to DANGEROUS CORNER. Instead of the ubiquitous PRIVATE, Ramsbottom buses used the rather more delicate ENGAGED. Perhaps the most revealing destination was one that didn't exist - Salford buses never carried the word SALFORD on their blinds and when a bus featured on Salford's timetables, a draughtsman would be given the job of painting the City's name on to a photograph.
The Missing Bus
For some years, Manchester had a policy of starting the fleet number of a new batch of buses with a round number or ending in 1, so occasionally leaving odd little gaps like 26 to 30. But the most celebrated case was when the next lot of buses after 2108 was delivered arrived, the first was numbered 2110 - leaving no 2109. This became a local bus-spotter's in joke but someone who was not wise to the policy wrote to the Manchester Evening News asking if anyone had seen 2109 because he couldn't find it!
Cheap, but Effective
Do you know why red was and is such a common colour for buses? The reason goes back to the early twentieth century and the start of widespread tramway operation. At that time, paints were made from different pigments some of which were imported and some not, some expensive to make and some not. When it comes down to it red paint was cheap as the pigment was plentiful, plus red covers well so hopefully using less paint. The habit stuck, and there are still a few bus companies around whose buses are red because red paint was cheap a hundred years ago!
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