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Sussex operator Steve Dine has spent the lockdown period writing two classic transport books, which have just been published. “I had spent years researching the books,” said Steve, who runs Essex-based Empress Coaches.

Books are available via 
The Cooks Coaches book (148 pages & 95 photos) is priced at £15.00 + £3.50 p&p and the Welbeck Motors book (252 pages & 126 photos and illustrations) is £22 + £3.50 p&p.

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“While our business was ‘on hold’ like so many across the country this year, I have had the chance to write both books, so at least I managed to use the time usefully.”

The first book, ‘Cooks Coaches – The story of a Sussex Village Operator’ tells the seven-decade story of the Westfield-based independent operator set up by Jack Cook in 1946.

In 1956 Jack sold the business to his daughter Jane and her husband Wilf. Jane regularly drove the coaches, a role virtually unheard of for a lady in the 1950s. Cooks was also unusual for specifying petrol-engined Bedfords into the 1980s.

Steve’s second book is rather in contrast but concerns an enterprise that caused major concern for bus operators and taxi firms in the London of 60 years ago. ‘Minicab! The True Story of Michael Gotla and the Welbeck Motors Renault Dauphine Minicabs’ tells the story of an enterprise introduced 1960 that put 275 cars on the capital’s streets. There was massive opposition from traditional black cab operators, which is said to have inspired the film Carry on Cabby.

Back to 2020, and Empress Coaches, which has a 12-strong fleet including three Plaxton bodied Bedford J2s, is very much up and running again. “The schools are back and we are getting some private hires too,” said Steve, who has previously written another book, marking the operator’s 90th anniversary last year.