No. 127 in an informal history of buses in South Africa

By Rollo Dickson

A prolific stream of books about British buses appeared at around this time. Many of these came from the Transport Publishing Company at Glossop in Derbyshire.
One chronicling the story of the well-known Park Royal coachworks reached South Africa early in 1980. There wasn’t a great deal in it to do with this country, but there were four interesting photos.
The first was of a single-decker for Durban Corporation, supplied in 1935. Unusually, the chassis was a ‘normal control’, full-bonnetted Leyland Lioness – probably an LTB1. Pretoria municipality had a handful of these in the early thirties, too, though they were bodied in South Africa.
A number of vehicles bodied in the United Kingdom by Park Royal found their way to Durban in the thirties, though rather more came from Weymanns.
The year 1936 had seen Park Royal supply a double-decker to Bloemfontein. This was a 54-seater on a Leyland TD4c diesel chassis, the ‘c’ indicating the presence of Leyland’s unique – and not very successful – torque converter, confidently marketed as the ‘gearless bus’. Two Leyland TD5c double-deckers supplied to Bloemfontein in 1937 may have come from Park Royal, too; available records are not specific.
In the same year, 11 half-cab, 39-seat, forward entrance Daimler COG5 single-deckers with Gardner engines were supplied by Park Royal to the Pietermaritzburg Corporation. These were numbered 10 to 20. Four more followed in 1938.
The fourth South African inclusion in the book was a 1937 Leyland Tiger TS8c half-cab single-decker with mechanically operated sliding door – very swish for a pre-war city bus. Fourteen of these went to Bloemfontein in 1937-38.
A second volume on Park Royal was published in 1980, but it contained nothing to do with South Africa. After the war, local production of buses put an end to most imports.

Durban in 1980
Halfway through 1980, Durban Corporation stopped running buses on Sundays and religious holidays, except for a service from the Berea to the beach. In a letter to the Natal Mercury, a teenager wrote “My dad’s not going to like this. He’s going to have to take me most of the way.”
In Pretoria, a 1972 model Busaf-bodied, 52-seat Mercedes made news when it vanished from Church Square, under the noses of at least five traffic inspectors on motor-cycles. Driver Japie de Lange explained that he parked no 645 outside the main post office at 19:45 while he made a quick phone call to his wife.
But by the time he returned, the bus was gone. The police spent several hours searching, but returned to base empty-handed. They could find no trace of the vehicle, said to be worth R42 000.
Press reports asked members of the public to be on the lookout for no 645, described as ‘yellow with metre-high lettering’.
It was found next day abandoned but luckily undamaged, where nobody had thought of looking – about 15 km from Villiers in the Free State.

Apartheid-era anomalies
Anomalies from the apartheid era gave rise to many strange stories. According to the Cape Herald, children under 12 paid 15 cents, any distance, on the Cape Flats. Between Mowbray and Manenberg, however – and no doubt many other places – adults paid 11 cents. This was due to a subsidy that did not apply to children. The paper said small children had a hard time convincing bus drivers they were over 12.
City Tramways at Cape Town meanwhile received an explicit letter from the town clerk of Milnerton, which was still a separate municipality in those days. It was in answer to one written on 20 October 1980.
The reply said: “My council took note of the contents of your letter, regarding the fact that you do not see your way clear to bear the costs involved to erect and maintain temporary toilet facilities at the bus terminus at the Killarney hotel.
“However, in view of the unsanitary conditions which exist at the bus terminus due to a lack of toilet facilities for the commuters making use of the said bus terminus, my Council resolved from a health point of view, without binding Council in any way or committing itself in any respect for expansion or improvement of any facility so created, to erect a temporary trench-type urinal, unroofed and shielded only between the knee and the shoulder, for males and to negotiate with a toilet hire company for the hire of a chemical toilet for females, pending the final relocation of the above bus terminus, which is, according to my Councils’ view, incorrectly placed without Council’s authority. Trusting this will alleviate the unsanitary conditions, yours faithfully.”
From the October 1980 issue of a British monthly called Transportation, it was learned that “J du D Ortuzar, using our paper as a focus, made a very good case for applying the evolving nested logit (NL) model to the submodal choice problem. The multinomial logit (NNL) and binary sequential method for choice modelling that were in common practice at the time these models were calibrated have recognised shortcomings. It is encouraging that model builders now have more options available, including the state-of-the-art multinomial probit model to address the complex scenarios of travel choice behaviour”.

One-way tickets only
The London area news section in the March 1980 Journal of the Transport Ticket Society had the following observant comment from Andrew Johnson (widely known in South Africa for his detailed fleet lists of local bus operators, published by the PSV Circle): “St Pancras and Islington Cemetery, East Finchley. I have always thought it ominous that this operator only issues single tickets.”

History of AEC
Another 1980 work from the Transport Publishing Company at Glossop was a history of AEC – the Associated Equipment Company.
It featured a fine photo of a ‘Ranger’, one of eight delivered to Johannesburg municipality in 1931, and bodied locally by Millhouse. Pretoria had a number of similar Rangers in the thirties, East London too.
Other photos included two of a front-engined, 1980s ‘Kudu’ at Benoni. One of these was an interior shot, showing the passenger entrance beside the engine.
There were very few exports of the unique AEC ‘Q’ type vehicle, which had the engine mounted immediately behind the front axle, on the offside. One that was illustrated ran in Johnston’s Bus Service at Germiston.
There was brief mention of trolleybuses for Durban immediately after World War II and the 35 Regent III double-deckers for Pretoria.

A pilot’s story
Another British publication, Commercial Motor, was good for the occasional story. During March 1980 it reported on a 55-year-old retired airline pilot who signed on for a job as bus driver with the Alder Valley company in Reading. He resigned after three days, complaining it was all take-offs and landings – and that the auto pilot was no help at all.
The tailpiece to Fiona Chisholm’s column in the Cape Times was always good for a laugh. On 14 February 1980 it told of Irish stuntman Paddy Kuvell who tried to jump over 20 motor cycles in a double-decker bus. He was doing all right until somebody rang the bell.

127-1. PE tram

Flashback: Port Elizabeth horse tram circa 1885

127-2.  Durban LTB1

Leyland ‘Lioness’ LTB1, 1935

127-3. Bloemfontein TD4c

Bloemfontein TD4c, 1936

127-4. Pmb Daimler.jpg

Pietermaritzburg Daimler COG5, 1937

127-5. Bloemfontein  TS8c.

Bloemfontein Leyland TS8c, 1937

127-6. JMT Ranger

Johannesburg AEC Ranger, 1931

127-7. Blenoni Kudu

Benoni: AEC Kudu

127-8. Blenoni Kudu

Interior: Benoni Kudu, showing passenger entrance beside engine bonnet

127-9. Johnstons Q type

Very few unique AEC ‘Q’ type vehicles were exported. These had the engine mounted immediately behind the front axle, on the offside. This example went to Johnston’s Bus Service in Germiston