A Brief History of Bus Making in LeedsAll | Blackburn Aeroplane and Motor Co | Charles H Roe | Clough, Smith & Company Limited | Greenwood & Batley | Mann's Patent Steam Cart & Wagon Co | Optare | Railless Electric Traction Company | Switch Mobility | Wilks and Meade | Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Co | Rebuilt In Leeds
Having made its mark in the construction of railway engines and road traction engines, it was perhaps logical that Leeds should progress to the construction of buses. The bus manufacturing industry has always been more spread out geographically than that relating to railways, the result being that only a handful of firms would exist in any one area, but it is perhaps telling that of the handful of British bus manufacturers that remain, one is still based in the Leeds area.
A few of the manufacturers that appear elsewhere on this site dabbled in bus production and other firms around the city produced buses on a small scale. Leeds was at the forefront of the development of the trolleybus with Railless Electric Traction Co operating at premises in the Balm Road area of Hunslet, close to many of the city's renown engine makers. R.E.T employee Charles Henry Roe went on to form his own firm on Balm Road but his business quickly outgrew the site.
The most successful, well known and long lived of the Leeds bus manufacturers was undoubtedly Charles H Roe Limited. The Roe works in Crossgates bodied Leyland buses until its demise in 1984 as a result of problems within British Leyland. Revived as Optare the following year the company went on to produce buses at the works until a move to nearby Sherburn In Elmet in 2011. After a number of changes of ownership the firm became part of Indian company and Leyland's former partners on the subcontinent; Ashok-Leyland. The company continues to innovate bus designs and develop electrical propulsion as those early firms had done a century before.
Clough, Smith & Company Limited
Clough, Smith were a firm of electrical engineers which was founded in London in 1910 by Messrs Norman Clough and Sidney G. Smith with the intention of promoting, designing and installing trolleybus systems. The company designed and installed all the Cedes-Stoll systems in the UK, such as in Keighley. The Cedes-Stoll system utilised a trolley which ran above the overhead wires and was permanently attached to them, the trolleybuses connecting to the trolley by means of flexible cables. When two trolleybuses travelling in opposite directions met they had to exchange trolleys by removing the flexible cables from one trolley and attaching to the other. Slow, cumbersome and unreliable, it soon fell out of favour.
Shortly after the First World War the company purchased six Brush trolleybuses which had been mothballed since 1915 and immediately resold them to the Teesside Railless Traction Board. Based on these vehicles, the Teesside manager designed a "new" trolleybus which Clough-Smith agreed to arrange manufacture of. The chassis were obtained from Straker-Squire, London; the electrical equipment from British Thomson Houston (BTH), Rugby and the bodywork from both Roe (Leeds) and Brush (Loughborough). The vehicles were marketed under the name "Straker-Clough" and provided as part of a package which included design and installation of the overhead wiring and equipment. 63 vehicles were supplied between 1921 and 1926, however in 1925 Straker- Squire went into liquidation forcing Clough- Smith to find a new partner, at least when chassis supplies were exhausted.
The new partner was Karrier Motors of Huddersfield, who supplied a modified version of one of their existing chassis. Between 1926 and 1932, 44 Karrier-Clough trolleybuses were supplied to 5 operators; following which Clough, Smith appears to have exited the trolleybus market. Apparently, the above company had premises in Leeds where some manufacturing of electrical equipment was carried out and where component parts of vehicles were assembled, similar to the system used by Railless. Unfortunately, research in the Trade Directories of the time has failed to find any mention of the firm, including when the premises opened/closed or where they were located. For completeness however, the history of this concern is included here and further research into its Leeds links is continuing.
Internal Website Links
List of buses and trolleybuses bodied by Leeds City Transport
List of Wilks & Meade bodied buses
External Website Links
Leeds Transport Historical Society
Dewsbury Bus Museum
Crich Tramway Village
Bus Lists on the Web
Wikipedia article on R.E.T. (in German)
North East Check
Archive images on Leodis.net Search Results for 'Roe'
Keith A. Jenkinson, The History of Optare, Amberley Publishing 2020 ISBN 978-1-4456-9694-2. Soper, J Dipl. Arch, Dipl. T. P.; Leeds Transport Volumes 1- 5. Leeds Transport Historical Society 1985, 1996, 2003, 2007 and 2011 respectively.
Postlethwaite, Harry; Super Prestige 16; Rossendale Transport. Venture publications 2007.
Allen, David. W; Super Prestige 6; West Riding 1. Venture publications 2004.
Brown, Stewart. J; Buses Yearbook 1992 and Buses Yearbook 1997. Ian Allan 1991 and 1996 respectively.
King, J. S; Bradford Corporation Trolleybuses. Venture publications 1994.
Klapper, Charles; The Golden Age of Tramways. Routledge and Kegan Paul 1961.
Reading, S. J; The Derwent Valley Light Railway, Locomotion papers number 37, editions 1 and 3. Oakwood Press 1967 and 1978 respectively.
Hartley, Kenneth. E & Frost, Howard. M; The Spurn Head Railway. Industrial Railway Society 1988.
Unknown; Industrial Locomotives 1982. Industrial Railway Society 1982.
Buses magazine, various.
Bus Fayre magazine, various.
Old Ordnance Survey Maps, The Godfrey Edition. Hunslet 1905.
PSV Circle fleet history PB22, Kingston Upon Hull City Transport. PSV Circle/Omnibus Society 1987.
Trade Directories held in Leeds City Libraries reference library, with thanks to the staff.
Pease, John. The History of Mann's Patent Steam Cart & Wagon Company, Landmark Collector's Library 2005.
Berry, Michael; Leeds Trams and Buses. Amberley Publishing 2013.
Buckley, Richard; Trams & Trolleybuses in Doncaster. Wharncliffe Books 2003.
Kennedy, Mark; Streets of Belfast. Ian Allan 2003.
Miller, Patrick; Provincial- The Gosport & Fareham Story. The Transport Publishing Company 1981.
Otter, Patrick; Yorkshire Airfields in the Second World War. Countryside books 1998.
Twidale, Graham H. E.; Leeds in the Age of the Tram, 1950- 59. Silver Link Publishing 1991 and 2003.
Wells, Malcolm; Kingston Upon Hull Trolleybuses. Trolleybooks 1996.
Roger Davies and Stephen Barber; Glory Days - Wallace Arnold. Amberley Publishing 2019, ISBN 978-1-4456-9463-4
Malcolm Wells and Paul Morfitt, Hull Corporation Buses, Amberley Publishing 2017, ISBN 978-1-4456-6754-6.
This article was produced by Martin Latus
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