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.
Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Co
Next door to Mann on Pepper Road, Hunslet, Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Co advertised a bus version of their steam lorries in their catalogues. One example was built in 1918 for Provincial Tramways in Grimsby. It saw less than a year in use as a bus before being converted to a tramway service wagon.
Leeds City Tramways built several trolleybus bodies at its Kirkstall Road works to mount on David Brown chassis, but the latter were delayed. As a result, a body which had been started in 1915 became a spare time project which was finally completed late in 1917. By this time, its intended chassis had still not arrived and as a result it was sold on 31st January 1918 to the Provincial Tramways Company, Grimsby. On arrival it was mounted on a "steam wagon chassis" and used as a bus. The chassis in question was Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Co chassis number 947. This was ordered by Provincial Tramways and was a variant of the standard 3 ton steam wagon chassis designed to take the Leeds City Tramways body. The completed steam bus entered traffic in June 1918, however a collision with a tram in May 1919 saw its use as a steam bus short lived. The vehicle was rebuilt as a tramway service wagon, pretty much identical to standard Yorkshire steam lorries. The bus body was re used on a petrol bus chassis.
Above - Yorkshire PSWCo 947 in its short lived steam bus days in Grimbsby (Photo - Stewart Brett)
Compare the above image with the earlier picture of the vehicle when it was first completed on the Yorkshire PSWCo article It was fitted with opening windows in the passenger saloon in September 1918, presumably it got hot in the passenger saloon during summer. It also aquired a makeshift enclosed cab, or is it a means of extending the coke bunker?
Another Yorkshire steam bus was created in preservation when Y1443, a 6 Ton tipper supplied to Northern Transport Service, Tasmania, was fitted with a bus body.
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
Page last modified: 19 June 2021
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