Southend Corporation Bus Fleet
AEC Regal with single deck English Electric 30 seat bodies with dual entrance, new in 1931.
The uncertainty hanging over the future of the tramway in the late 1920s and the vast improvement in reliability of motor buses since the Corporation's unfortunate experience of 1914 led the Council to consider reintroducing bus services to supplement the trackless operations. The initial plan in the mid 1920s was for a fleet of 14 seat buses working to a frequent headway but those plans did not meet with the approval of the full Council. It was not until late in 1930 that an order was finally placed, for seven AEC Regals with 30 seat, dual door, bodies by English Electric. They were delivered in March 1931 with fleet numbers 150-6 although they did not enter service until July 1932.
The May 1934 timetable book reported that 'The Department's fleet of silent running, comfortably upholstered Single Deck Saloon Motor 'Buses serve a remarkable number of Sports and Entertainment Centres'.
In 1937/8 it was decided to renumber the motor buses from 200 up, so they became 200-6. Around this time the front doors were removed (increasing the seating to 32) and Gardner 5LW diesel engines replaced the AEC petrol units. All but 203 and 204 were withdrawn in 1939 and some were used as ARP ambulances; they passed to the War Department later and were transported to the continent and used to carry concentration camp victims.
203 and 204 were to have a new lease of life after the war. Their bodies were completely reconstructed by the Corporation in 1955 and 1956 respectively; the entrance was moved back to the front, with a sliding door, and they were reseated with second-hand seats removed from ex London Transport buses, increasing their capacity to 35. The destination equipment was altered to the post co-ordination style. In 1959, 203 was modified for OMO by angling the front bulkhead across the engine and fitting jack-knife doors. 204 was sold in 1960 but 203 was turned over to training duties in 1962.
203 was finally withdrawn in 1965 and transferred to the Highways and Works department but they did not use it and was finally sold for scrap in January 1968. In its 37 year life it had covered 536,000 miles - a relatively low figure for such a long career.
Many thanks to Richard Delahoy for his kind permission to include extracts from his book in this page and also to Brian Pask, Mike Penn, David Beilby and Ian Banks for supplying some of the pictures.