Bus nostalgia

Because they’re essentially peripatetic, preserved buses present differently both to enthusiasts and to the general public.

While railed vehicles – trains and trams and, paradoxically, trackless trolleybuses – congregate where there is track on which they can run, buses can go wherever there’s tarmac, and so are most often seen at rallies, running heritage services, or on private hire for weddings and birthdays.

There are bus museums, such as the admirable London Bus Museum at Brooklands, but they’re few and far between, though South Yorkshire has two within a mile of each other.

The Nottingham Area Bus Society maintains an evocative collection based at the Great Central Railway (Nottingham) centre at Ruddington, south of the city of Nottingham:  http://www.nottinghamareabussociety.co.uk.

Here they restore and maintain a rich variety of vehicles that ran in the East Midlands in the post-war period – Nottingham Corporation, Midland General, South Notts, Felix and, perhaps best-loved of all, Barton.

Thomas Henry Barton bought his first charabanc in 1908, and built an extensive network of stage-carriage services and a thriving private-hire business, first based in Beeston, and from 1934 at Chilwell.

In the early years the company was largely staffed by some of Barton’s five sons and five daughters.

By the late 1930s they were advertising ‘Road Cruises’ to Belgium, Germany and France.

T H Barton was an engineer, and his vehicles were distinctive.  He favoured Leyland chassis and Duple bodies, and had an eye for a second-hand bargain bus.  He never ever referred to “diesel” – only “oil” – engines.

He was also a great character.  At his funeral in 1946 his peaked bus-driver’s hat rested on his coffin, and he was carried to his grave on a brand-new bus chassis.

In the decades after Tom Barton’s death his company’s buses remained both modern and distinctive, in an elaborate red, cream and maroon livery with generous amounts of trim.

The Nottingham Area Bus Society looks after five of Barton’s fleet, dating between 1947 and 1976, keeping alive the moving street furniture that made the locality distinctive.

And the Barton name lives on through trentbarton, the local bus operator that took over the Barton fleet in 1989.

The 60-page, A4 handbook for the 2018 ‘Waterways and Railways of the East Midlands’ tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list features the Great Central Railway (Nottingham) and is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing.  To order a copy, please click here or, if you prefer, send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.

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