Experimental SELNEC and GMT Buses Since 1969: The Not So Perfect Ten

Non-standard vehicle types of the SELNEC and Greater Manchester Transport eras

When SELNEC came to being on the 01 November 1969, it inherited a mix of different vehicles from its precursors. Its biggest constituent brought us the Mancunian style Leyland Atlanteans and Daimler Fleetlines, whereas its smallest one would order the last front engine double decker bus.

Hence the birth of the SELNEC and Greater Manchester Transport standard double deckers, which alleviated such maintenance headaches. Whilst deft work from Ken Mortimer, Harry Taylor et al meant an improved version of the Leyland Atlantean, and an enduring standard bus, there was a number of experimental types. Some of which were prefaced with EX on the fleet number. This was in addition to the number of outstanding orders from their predecessors, such as the Leyland Atlantean order from Ashton-under-Lyne Corporation, re-bodied as the prototype SELNEC/GMT standard double decker (EX1).

For the purpose of this Not So Perfect Ten, I shall be covering the experimental vehicles ordered by SELNEC and Greater Manchester Transport. Excluded from this list are demonstrators and inherited types (so no reference to the last Bolton Transport Atlanteans like 6809 which were modified to better suit SELNEC). Controversially, I will exclude the Hush Bus and the Chloride Silent Rider, the latter I shall leave for a future East of the M60 entry on hybrid vehicles.

  1. Metro-Scania BR111MH single Decker bus;
  2. Mercedes-Benz O.305 single decker;
  3. Metro-Scania Metropolitan BR111DH double decker;
  4. Foden-NC double decker;
  5. Leyland Titan B15 integral double decker;
  6. Dennis Dominator DD110 double decker;
  7. Volvo Ailsa B55-10 double decker;
  8. Scania BR112DH double decker;
  9. Dennis Falcon V double decker;
  10. Leyland Lynx single decker.

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1. Metro-Scania BR111MH: SELNEC ordered eleven of these single decker dual door buses which arrived in 1972, establishing Greater Manchester’s 36 year relationship with Scania buses (ending with Stagecoach Manchester’s takeover of Mayne’s bus operations). They entered service from Birchfields Road and Bolton garages and served the Greater Manchester area for 12 years. They ended their lives at Leigh depot with some of the eleven buses even seeing the 1981 GMT livery. Some, though non-SELNEC examples, would be seen on Citibus Tours’ services. From my past experience on a 419 journey in 1988, they didn’t half move.

In Tameside, they were seen on the 353 service, along with the…

2. Mercedes-Benz O.305: two Mercedes-Benz 0305s were delivered in May 1973 and bodied by Northern Counties. They had 43 seats and dual doors. Their domain was the Oldham and Saddleworth areas, where they would appear on local services like the 422 to Moston and the 416 to Top Mossley (part of today’s 343 service). They were evaluated against the Metro-Scania BR111MH and the Leyland National. The latter won, becoming SELNEC’s and GMT’s single decker bus of choice.

3. Metro-Scania Metropolitan BR111DH: in 1974, ten Metro-Scania double deckers were evaluated by Greater Manchester Transport. They also wore a non-standard version of the GMT livery with a deeper orange skirt and had a heating pod on the top deck at the back. The Metropolitan excelled in the acceleration department, but their fuel efficiency was poor. In later years, they suffered corrosion problems and Greater Manchester’s ten Metro-Scania double deckers were withdrawn prior to their Certificate of Fitness test date. Its acceleration qualities and powerful engine proved a useful ally in the operation of the 400 Trans-Lancs Express.

In their twilight years, the Metro-Scania double deckers saw continued service in Tameside, primarily on the 331 and 389 services. Some were repainted in GMT’s 1981 livery. However, they were briefly popular with Greater Glasgow PTE and all English PTEs, Leicester City Transport, London Transport and Newport Corporation. Some of its design features would be seen in the MCW Metrobus from 1979 onwards.

4. Foden-NC: two of Foden’s more recent forays into bus building came about in 1976 as GMT and Northern Counties joined forces with the Sandbach truck builders. As with the above three and the next six entries, GMT realised that the Atlantean and Fleetline wouldn’t be around forever, hence the collaboration. It had promise, but only seven vehicles were completed (two of which for GMT). Its main weaknesses lay in the transmission and the weediness of the Allison gearbox, which led to the premature withdrawal of all seven Foden-NCs.

None of Greater Manchester Transport’s twosome (1435 and 1436) survived long enough to be preserved. West Yorkshire PTE’s one and only Foden-NC, TUB 250R, has been preserved in the 1974 – 1978 version of the Metro West Yorkshire livery.

5. Leyland Titan B15: 40 years ago, Leyland’s project B15 was inaugurated as a double decker to replace their Atlantean, Daimler Fleetline and Bristol VRT models. Their new Titan was heavily influenced by Leyland Bus’ plans to see London as a major market.

The Leyland Titan, though not strictly an experimental bus for Greater Manchester Transport, would have been GMT’s successor to the Atlanteans had it not been for production issues. Park Royal would have built the first hundred with production transferring to AEC’s Southall plant; industrial relations issues – 200 craftspeople jumping ship. Cue semi-skilled workers – more turmoil – almost two years to build 250 state of the art double deckers. For operations outside of London, the Leyland Titan B15 wasn’t that good a fit. Plus there was issues with the electrics and complex engineering which have made them an unpopular choice among bus preservationists.

Instead of 190 Titans, Greater Manchester Transport ended up with 15. Therefore, Leyland’s loss was Washwood Heath’s gain – hence the arrival of 190 MCW Metrobuses. They were painted in a new version of the 1974 livery with the lower deck in Metropolitan Orange (which would also be seen in the 1980 batch of MCW Metrobuses). Some of GMT’s Titan B15s are lovingly preserved, but the last Leyland Titan B15s to see regular service in Greater Manchester were Mayne of Manchester’s short lived purchases in 1992. In Liverpool, the Leyland Titan B15s saw continued service till 2005, through Glenvale Transport.

6. Dennis Dominator DD110: the Dennis Dominator came out in 1977 as a possible replacement for the Daimler Fleetline. From 1980 to 1982 came Greater Manchester Transport’s first examples, allotted fleet numbers 1437 to 1440. GMT’s quartet were mainly seen in Oldham on the limited stop 180, 183 and 184 services from Greenfield and Uppermill. Following these initial steps came GMT’s first initial production Dominators numbered within the 2001 series. Some saw continued service till the noughties with Stagecoach Manchester using them on their Wythenshawe services.

The Dennis Dominator was launched as a powerful bus able to cope with the steepest of terrain. This aspect appealed to South Yorkshire PTE who not only ordered the first Dominators but also made subsequent sizeable orders till the mid 1980s. We also owe a debt to Geoffrey Hilditch, late of SELNEC PTE, who was behind its development after being accustomed to hilly terrain at previous positions in Sheffield, Leeds and Todmorden.

7. Volvo Ailsa: though around since 1976, the Volvo Ailsa front-engined double decker came rather late to Greater Manchester. Three were delivered to Greater Manchester Transport in 1980 to 1982. Owing to its design, they never received the GMT standard three-part indicator layout. Instead, they arrived with a simple two-part indicator without a third for its intermediate destinations. They were numbered 1446/7/8 and seen mainly in Stockport and Altrincham. They would later receive a new three-part indicator layout similar to the ones seen on Leyland Olympians with the numbers on the right, final destination on the bottom left, and intermediate destinations above.

8. Scania BR112DH: GMT’s involvement with Scania continued in 1983 with the arrival of 1461 and 1462. Whereas the Ailsa and Dominator had front radiators, the Scania BR112DHs had side radiators. They continued in service till the split of GM Buses with 1461 being in the Stagecoach Manchester fleet till 2004. It is now preserved by the SELNEC Preservation Society.

9. Dennis Falcon V: the likely beefier successor to the Dominator was the Dennis Falcon V double decker. On arrival in 1984, they were Greater Manchester Transport’s heaviest and most capacious double deckers. Only six of the double decker variants were built with three going to GMT, allocated 1471/2/3 fleet numbers. In spite of the extra capacity, they were never a success with long wheelbases making for a most uncomfortable ride. Most famously, shortly after the split of GM Buses, they were used to compete against Stagecoach Ribble on the X43 service to Colne.

10. Leyland Lynx: after the last Leyland Nationals were built, their successor was the more angular Leyland Lynx. Ordered by Greater Manchester Transport, they would enter revenue earning service from the 17 December 1986, after an initial testing period. Four Lynxes reached GM Buses and were allocated the 501/2/3/4 fleet numbers. 501 was significant in being the 21st Leyland Lynx to have come off the production line.

All four would continue to see service till the noughties with 501 seeing further action with Pennine. Unlike the other three, this was donated to the SELNEC Preservation Society by FirstGroup.

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Over To You

As ever, feel free to comment on the ten vehicles. Any perspective from a passenger’s as well as a driver’s angle is much appreciated.

S.V., 12 November 2013.

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5 thoughts on “Experimental SELNEC and GMT Buses Since 1969: The Not So Perfect Ten

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  1. my favs where the short Leyland nationals with exit window on the left side they had some at Glossop depot plus Oldham for the old 355 route that followed part of the now 353 service

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  2. Start,a few corrections and additions to your piece:
    1. Metro-Scania BR111MH: 8 of this type ( 11metre) arrived in 1972 (EX42-49), entering service from Birchfields Road.. A further 4 type BR110MH (10metre)arrived in1973 (EX50-53), making 12 in all. The last 4 entering service at Oldham ,although some records state Stalybridge.. The Hush Bus was EX60. All the Scanias transferred to Leigh in 1976.

    2. Mercedes-Benz O.305: They were evaluated against the Metro-Scania BR110MH and the short Leyland Nationals (EX38-41)
    .
    3. Metro-Scania Metropolitan BR111DH: It was not just in their twilight years these vehicles appeared on other Tameside ( initially Ashton Mossley Road) depot services. Besides the circular 331 and 333 services they were regular performers on the 153 limited stop service, from delivery. Reading also had a large fleet.

    5. Leyland Titan B15: Greater Manchester had two different type of Titans, some had Gardner engines (4001/2, 4004-11) and others Leyland TL11turbo charged engines(4003,4012-15), the first turbos in the fleet. They were effectively operated as two separate fleets, with garage allocations being of one specific engine type.

    6. Dennis Dominator DD110: the Dennis Dominator were delivered in 1980 and 1981.

    7. Volvo Ailsa: One was delivered in 1980 and the other two in 1982.

    You do not mention the Leyland National 11metre vehicles (EX30-37), delivered in 1972 and the 10 metre versions (EX38-41) delivered in 1973. Whilst on single deck vehicles, the original Seddon Pennine IV 236 midi’s were EX56-59, delivered in 1972
    Also, in respect of double deckers, the Bristol VRT’s 1400-1424 delivered in 1973, being an order placed by North Western you do not mention, or the first Leyland Olympian, 1451, delivered in 1980, which initially had a modified standard body with large front bumper and narrow front destination display.
    In 1986 came 1481-83, three Volvo Citybus with modified NC standard.bodies.

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    1. Hi Buspilot,

      An excellent set of corrections and additions. With regards to the Bristol VRTs, Leyland Nationals and the Leyland Olympians, I shall deal with them as a separate series of pieces.

      Furthermore, I shall do the same with the Seddon Pennine IVs and experiments with electric buses. The Bristol VRT’s successor turned out to be the Leyland Olympian, so I shall find some way of segueing these two marques into a separate article spun off from this countdown.

      Plus I shall find room for a future article on the GM Buses era experimental marques (hence reference to the Volvo Citybus in your comments). I am also looking at creating more detailed articles on the types you have corrected and added to, possibly building up to the 01 April 2014 when we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Greater Manchester Transport’s launch, or the 01 November 2014 (45 years since SELNEC’s birth).

      Warmly,

      Stuart.

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      1. 1. I’m not sure if EX50-53 were delivered to Oldham – as L reg just predated my interest in buses – but they certainly worked from Stalybridge for a good couple of years, as I regularly saw them on 353 and even the 220 passing Audenshaw Grammar, when it was a full daytime timetable.

        3. Yes, these wonderful (to ride on – unless prone to sea sickness) were not confined to the Trans-Lancs. My first taste of the type (1427) was on the 127 (now 347), where they regularly appeared. Don’t forget the original 400 was a proper express timetabled to run from Stockport to Bolton in just 106 minutes – albeit this caused major peak hour punctuality problems. Consequently, only 4 buses were required for the hourly service. Peak extras between Bolton and Rochdale were run by BN depot, and the fifth bus required to cover the Summer Saturday Airport extension was run by Stockport depot – usually with Atlantean 7608 in 1976 & 1977, at least.
        How I miss these buses – and all cushion seated buses for that matter – especially since being diagnosed with Myeloma which attacks the spine.

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  3. The point about the first (11metre)) long Nationals is that no more were purchased after that initial batch. The “standard” National for GM/Lancashire United was the 10 metre,shorter version.
    The Olympian I mention is a one off, pre-production vehicle and is why it is not numbered in the main Olympian series. It was unique.
    Another set of vehicles that did not last long in service,only three years from 1970 to 1973, were the 8 Seddon Pennine IV (Perkins engined) Plaxton bodied coaches allocated to Ashton fot the Trans Lancs Express (217-224)

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