Not so long ago there were many independent operators, using a wide variety of vehicles all over the UK. Today there are very few, this is a trip down Memory Lane so we can see what we have lost.
Where else can we start, but Bishop Auckland Market Place and the legend that was and still is OK Motor Services and what better bus to use for this operator but the legendary YUP487? A fine bus that had given over twenty years service when an accident put paid to its career. Both the bus and the company are sadly missed.
Hansons of Huddersfield were another independent still held in near reverence. They had a fleet of AECs and got their rebuilding of them to a fine art. This splendid Roe bodied AEC Regal is seen shortly before the services passed to Huddersfield Corporation in 1969.
A company still very much with us today and in the hands of the same family is The Delaine of Bourne, who have run a fleet of immaculately presented bus for many years. They include this superb Leyland Titan with one of only two double deck bodies produced by Yeates. Long may they continue.
What can one say about Bartons?, one of the most individual companies ever and another that gave us some truly memorable vehicles. Another that had rebuilding to a fine art, compared to some of its creations, this NCME bodied AEC Regent V is quite plain, but still magnificent.
There were only a few, notable independents in the South of England. One of the best known was King Alfred Motor Services, which was unique in that it was the closet thing to a municipal independent. They always purchased new heavyweight buses as seen by this 1954 Leyland. They would pass to Hants & Dorset in 1973.
Another much respected operator was Tailby & George of Willington, trading as Blue Bus. They ran an immaculate fleet of Daimlers, including four of the unusual CD650 chassis. Blue Bus sold out to Derby Corporation in 1973 and the majority of the fleet were lost in a depot fire in 1976.
There can be few who have not heard of Samuel Ledgard. Indeed this much missed company is still spoken of in hushed tones. Ledgards bought few new buses, but this splendid AEC Regent V was one of six purchased new. It was a sad day in 1967 when Ledgard sold out to West Yorkshire.
A long established and highly regarded independent was Pennine of Gargrave. Its striking livery and beautifully presented buses were a part of the scenery for decades and it managed to survive until 2015, when, sadly they became a casualty of the times.
South Notts of Gotham was another independent with a small fleet but a loyal following. They had a need for low bridge buses and eventually standardised on the Albion Lowlander. Before these, they had a pair of rare forward entrance low bridge Leyland Titans and one of these handsome buses is shown here.
Samuel Morgan of Armthorpe, traded as Blue Line and was one of the Doncaster area independents that once proliferated in the area. They ran a smart fleet of Guy Arabs, such as this fine example. They sold out to South Yorkshire in 1979.
Burwell & District based in Burwell ran a small fleet of vehicles in the Cambridge area. The livery was an unusual cream and brown. It operated mainly double deckers, but the fleet included this rare Daimler Freeline, which gave long service They were another 1979 casualty.
Another of the Doncaster area independents was Felix of Hatfield who ran a fleet of buses in this dignified red livery. They had standardised on AEC Regents such as this before changing to Daimler Fleetlines.
South Yorkshire was another of those legendary companies and its buses were always beautifully turned out. They had quite a fleet of Albions before changing to Leylands. These included a pair of very handsome Bond bodied Leyland PD2s, one of which is seen here.
There were also many independents North of the border and one of the best known was Grahams of Paisley, that operated a fleet of vehicles in the area with a bright yellow & white livery. They included this Guy Arab with a Strachans body and a Johannesberg front.
Another recent casualty has been the long standing Fishwicks of Leyland, whose green buses were a part of the North West for decades. They purchased their first Atlanteans in 1963 and one is seen here. One of the few PSVs to receive an A suffix registration number.
Back to the North East and to the fleet of Venture of Consett, another fleet held in great esteem. They built up a large fleet of Daimler single deckers, before a dalliance with Atkinson. They became part of Northern.
Another of the famous Doncaster area independents was Leon of Finningly, whose pale blue buses were a familiar sight for many years. By 1979 they were using vehicles such as this former Maidstone Corporation Leyland Atlantean with rather square rigged Massey body. When new it had been one of the initial batch of trolleybus replacement vehicles.
Laurie of Hamilton traded as Chieftan and were a highly regarded independent. They were one of many operators to avail themselves of London Transport RT & RTL family buses when LT began withdrawing them as seen here with an RTL. Laurie sold out to SMT in October 1961.
Hulleys of Baslow, in the lovely Derbyshire countryside are still with us today and are a very long established concern. They have operated some unusual vehicles over the years, including this rather grumpy looking former Midland Red S9. It was unusual for Midland Red buses to see further service, but Hulleys got good use from these vehicles.
Gillet Brothers of Quarrington Hill were one of the North Easts premier independents. Their buses were always immaculate and had great loyalty among their passengers. This Plaxton bodied AEC Reliance is typical of their fleet & seated 55 passengers.
W Gash & Sons of Newark were another traditional independent that ran a fleet of well presented buses & coaches. They were best known for their small fleet of elderly Daimler double deckers such as this Duple bodied beauty. Things began to decline around deregulation time & sadly Gash are no longer with us. Thankfully one of the splendid Daimlers is currently undergoing restoration.
Our final trip North of the border shows a vehicle from the legend that was MacBraynes, whose red, green and cream buses graced the Highlands for many years. They passed to Highland Omnibuses, but here in happier times is a Maudslay Marathon proudly showing off its new Duple body.
Probably the best remembered independent on the South Coast was Gosport & Fareham, trading as Provincial. They built up a fleet of unusual Guy Deutz rebuilds & had many interesting vehicles including this 1946 AEC Regent, which was rebuilt in 1964 with this fully fronted Reading body. Provincial became part of the NBC in 1970.
Well, I had to include one somehow, Sorry Alan. A final visit to the North East finds us in the yard of Weardale Motor Services of Frosterly to see one of their long lived former Southdown Queen Mary Leyland Titans. These splendid buses formed a major part of the fleet for many years and thankfully Weardale are still with us.
No look at independent operators could ignore Lancashire United and no excuse is needed to include one of their vehicles. Despite being best known for their large fleet of Guy Arabs, they also purchased equally handsome Daimler Fleetlines such as this example, which in my humble opinion is the best looking rear engine double decker ever built.
We conclude our trip with a visit to West Riding. It is well known that they went overboard for the ill fated Guy Wulfrunian. They even went so far as buying others including a pair from County Motors of Lepton, one of which is seen here. West Riding became part of the NBC and the Wulfrunians soon vanished from the roads.
Sorry if I missed out you favourites. I'm sure there will be a part deux.