PC rather than KP

News stories are free to read. Click here for full access to all the features, articles and archive from only £8.99.
The most recent vehicle to be finished, Sheffield Corporation Leyland Atlantean SWB287L has been re-roofed after a second life as an open-topper

The South Yorkshire Transport Trust plays a large part in preserving the region’s transport history. Following on from his recent visit to the nearby South Yorkshire Transport Museum (CBW1401), Jim McWilliam called in on its near neighbour to find out more

Based in an unassuming warehouse which was formerly part of the KP Nuts factory (I resisted the urge to entitle this piece ‘Bus Nuts!’), the South Yorkshire Transport Trust (SYTT) quietly goes about its work mostly hidden from the public eye, apart from occasional open days. Founded in 2007, it has its origins in a group of members of the former Sheffield Bus Museum.

I had arranged to meet one of the trust’s Directors, Gareth Atherton, who took up the story. “I was a member of the Sheffield Bus Museum from 1995, and around that time there were lots of former SYPTE vehicles going off service,” he said. “There was nowhere to put them. In the early days we had buses stored at the premises of Barnsley & District so we set up in a small shed behind the bus museum to bring them all together. We then had a short lease on premises in Kimberworth, but suffered from a lot of vandalism and theft so we moved the collection to part of the then vacant Tinsley Tram Sheds. We stayed at Tinsley until 2016. Then as KP had moved their factory to Hellaby we were able to take a 20 year lease on this building.”

Are you enjoying this feature? Why not subscribe to continue reading?

Subscribe for 4 issues/weeks from only £2.99
Or login if you are already a subscriber

By subscribing you will benefit from:

  • Operator & Supplier Profiles
  • Face-to-Face Interviews
  • Lastest News
  • Test Drives and Reviews
  • Legal Updates
  • Route Focus
  • Industry Insider Opinions
  • Passenger Perspective
  • Vehicle Launches
  • and much more!
[/wlm_nonmember] [wlm_ismember]

Eye to the future

As we enter the shed, ex-Sheffield Transport Leyland Atlantean fleet number 287 is just inside. Like many of the vehicles in the trust’s care, this one has an interesting history. It is the most recently finished restoration project, and has had extensive work carried out to fit a new roof after a second career as an open-top tour bus. Ironically, later on as we walk around, Gareth pointed out the bus that donated its roof. It was going to be scrapped, but it has now been decided to restore this one too, with an open top! Parked alongside is AEC Regent V 874, also a Sheffield bus. Bought from service in 1976: “It’s been preserved almost as long as I’ve been alive,” said Gareth.

Owned by the AEC Alexander Group, 874 has been well looked after. “We re-engined it for them in 2010,” explained Gareth. “It now has a 12-litre AEC 760 rather than a 590. It looks the same, sounds the same, has the same top speed, but has more power which really helps in modern traffic. We also fitted a new alternator.”

The trust recognises that although it is important to preserve the heritage of the vehicles, sometimes they also have to be made more user-friendly simply to make them more practical to drive in changing traffic conditions. As roads become busier, a little more torque can help at busy junctions, and long hills no longer leave you with a queue of impatient cars behind. As we looked around Gareth pointed out a Roe-bodied Leyland Royal Tiger Cub also undergoing similar work. Currently stripped to bare metal, the bus will receive a Leyland 680 engine in place of a 600 unit and have its crash gearbox replaced with a ZF when reassembled. The extra power will no doubt be useful, but in this case I suspect it is the gearbox that will bring a sigh of relief to future drivers.

It highlights an issue that many museums and preservation groups face. There are dwindling numbers of people with the skill to drive such vehicles well, and a balance has to be struck. On one hand, there is a need to maintain that skill, teach new drivers and pass on experience. On the other, making a vehicle more user-friendly is likely to encourage new drivers to come forward and want to learn, as well as enabling it to continue to be driven by older people who may find heavy gear changes increasingly difficult.

The trust is currently home to some 63 buses, many of which are significant as ‘firsts’ or ‘lasts.’ Most are of local origin, although sitting high in the air on jacks is a Teesside Daimler Fleetline that is visiting for remedial work to a rotten chassis on behalf of its owners – a common fault on such vehicles. ‘Fleetlineitis’ is something that the trust has dealt with before, and has a range of skills on hand to undertake such work. “We have some superb craftsmen here, and can call on each other for help,” said Gareth as he showed me the work being undertaken on a Scammell Constructor. “Everyone shares their skills. The wooden cab frame is almost completely rebuilt. James Whittaker has done all the joinery with assistance from Robert. It’s as good as new.”

There are a number of more modern buses to be seen too. Once a familiar sight around the area, and indeed the country, there are two Alexander PS Volvo B10Ms on site. Mainline 601 was the first of the type built in 1990. It is no surprise that many of the newer buses belong to younger members and the trust is keen to encourage their involvement. Likewise, a low-floor Wrightbus-bodied Volvo is also to be seen, along with an unusual Säffle-bodied Volvo B10L, owned by SYTT’s youngest member, Lindsey Robinson.

“If you don’t look at the bigger picture, you lose stuff,” said Gareth rightly, and to that end the trust will step in and provide a home for vehicles even if there is not an immediate prospect of restoration. A number of stored vehicles of varying ages are currently available for someone to take on, so long as they have the required deep pockets!

Artic restoration

One of the most iconic buses in the collection, fleet number 2013 is believed to be the only remaining example of the 1985 batch of Leyland-DAB articulated buses used in South Yorkshire. JIM McWILLIAM

Another reasonably modern vehicle, and one which is a signature of the South Yorkshire transport scene, is ex-South Yorkshire Transport, Mainline-liveried 2013, which is now believed to be the only surviving example of Sheffield’s second batch of Leyland-DAB artics. Still requiring some mechanical and cosmetic work to finish its overhaul, the bright yellow bus is certainly eye-catching, even in the heavy rain, and will no doubt be a very popular exhibit when it returns to the road.

As expected, such a vehicle is not an easy project, and the group working on it have found it frustrating and expensive. Replacement windscreens, for example, having to come from Denmark. Nonetheless, it is a ‘must have,’ both for its novelty and rarity.

Of a similar age are the numerous Dennis Dominators present – another type that is synonymous with the region in that era. Unwanted on the open market when withdrawn from service, they were a popular choice for enthusiasts. “You could pick one up for £50 for the bus, plus £500 for the tyres,” laughed Gareth. “At one time we had too many. Everyone bought one, but now they have settled down.”

Again there are a number of ‘firsts’ and ‘lasts’ among them such as 2361, the last with East Lancs E Type bodywork, and 2120 which was the last Dominator in service and the last to return to the depot. It still wears the commemorative lettering from that day. This bus’ history with SYTT started even before it was withdrawn. In need of a replacement engine, the trust donated one on the condition that they could have the bus when it was retired.

Walking around, I have to say I’m impressed at Gareth’s almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the vehicles – and even more so that he seems to know every one of the registration numbers by heart, even for those vehicles with no number plates on display.

When viewing ongoing restoration, or looking at a preserved vehicle of any kind, it is easy to overlook the human side of the story. Not just the dedication of the volunteers, the time and effort that goes into the work, but the emotional side too. I imagine that to a greater or lesser degree, almost everyone involved in bus preservation has an emotional connection, whether that is to a vehicle type, operator, or specific vehicle. Many examples of this can be found in the care of the SYTT.

Remembering past names

Former Black Prince Volvo Ailsa LWB377P was a popular returnee to its home turf in Morley this April, for what would have been the operator’s 50th anniversary. RICHARD CLEGGS

Most enthusiasts, as well as many industry professionals, will recognise the name of Leeds independent Black Prince. Its buses attracted a significant following and Gareth took pride in showing me Volvo Ailsa LWB377P, which is now in his care. Repainted in a special livery to mark the operator’s silver jubilee in 1994, after withdrawal it was purchased for preservation, but circumstances meant it remained stored for over two decades.

Tragically, the bus’s previous owner Trevor Heaton was diagnosed with Leukaemia, and knowing that, Gareth set about returning the bus to the road as a surprise. Despite his best efforts, he could not get it in working order before Trevor’s death, but September 2018 saw the bus return to the road at nearby Olive Grove depot’s open day. Never intended to remain in the anniversary livery, the bus brought back many memories and was well received – even more so when it returned to its old stomping grounds in Morley this April to celebrate what would have been Black Prince’s golden jubilee.

At the time of my visit, a more modern vehicle in the shape of former ABC Travel DAF SB220 N600ABC was parked by the doors of the shed, ready to go to an event the following Saturday. This would see it return to its original home territory around Skipton and Clitheroe as part of the farewell celebration for Skipton to Preston route 280. New in 1996, N600ABC has seen service with ABC, CMT, GTL and Stagecoach in its original area, before moving to Isle Coaches until it was seen off by the arrival of the DDA accessibility regulations.

For owners, it must often be difficult to muster enthusiasm for a project when a new problem is discovered, an extra patch of rust needs repair, or looking at a half-finished shell in a cold building in winter, as another large parts bill rolls in, but stories such as these remind us of why people do it – why they chose to get involved and give up time and money to take on such projects. Such is the commitment of owners that some will travel from miles away. Indeed, at least one member of the trust travels from as far away as Rugby on a weekly basis.

There are more unusual vehicles on site too. These include a village bus from Cyprus, and a repatriated double-decker that went to Australia and still carries adverts for its former role carrying tourists around New South Wales’ Blue Mountains. Looking inside the former, I was surprised to see that the legroom for passengers on the seat behind the driver was approximately six inches! The latter bus, I’m told, is another case of one that looked reasonable until you started to scratch the surface, with much work still to be done to bring it up to standard.

Further unusual vehicles are owned by trustee Darren Sentance, who has four converted tow wagons, plus an AEC Matador. One of these, South Yorkshire fleet number M18, is the oldest vehicle to have received First’s ‘Olympia’ livery, which it still carries in preservation.

Unfortunately due to the nature of the site, the trust is unable to stage regular open days, which are limited to one per year. 2019s is scheduled for Sunday 21 July. There is very limited space on site, and as well as requiring a lot of effort to move vehicles into position, the trust relies on being able to use a neighbouring company’s yard for outdoor displays – a further limiting factor.

A programme of free shuttle buses will be run to the site from Sheffield, Rotherham and Chapeltown stations to provide easy transport links. Full details of upcoming events and bus services can be found on the trust’s website.

With the limitations of the site in mind, the trust aims to build on this by organising more running days rather than open days, so that as many people as possible can see and experience the varied historic fleet doing what it was designed for, and I for one am sure that when Leyland-DAB 2013 returns to the road, it will be very popular. Darren, I think, summed it up nicely: “I wonder where the last 20 years have gone,” he said. “I can say to myself we’ve really achieved something here.”

I would like to thank Gareth Atherton, Darren Sentance, James Whittaker and Lindsay Robinson for their assistance. Contact: www.sytt.org.uk