Today we have a guest post from Pen and Sword author and transport photographer Jim Blake. Jim has written numerous titles for Pen and Sword which can be viewed here.
As the words of the well-known Bob Dylan 1960s song “The Times They Are A’Changing” so aptly say, the 1960s were a decade of profound change in many aspects of life. In Britain, from the perspective of public transport, the notorious Beeching cuts mutilated much of our railway system, and also hastened the end of steam traction on British Railways, which came in the summer of 1968. On the buses, rationalisations in operation hastened by Harold Wilson’s Labour Government (acclaimed to have ended “thirteen years of Tory misrule” when first elected in 1964) put an end to many traditional bus companies and their often ornate liveries, merging them into large nationalised or municipal fleets. Likewise, many of the distinctive types of vehicle, both from the chassis and body-makers’ perspective, which in many cases dated back to the early post-war years, were withdrawn from service as the decade drew to a close, also with some of the manufacturers themselves ceasing activity or succumbing to mergers. All of this was hastened by the rush to implement one-man-operation in the interests of “economy”. Transport photographer Jim Blake, who himself became a teenager in the first year of the decade, was out and about with his camera in most of England and Wales recording much of this phenomenal change during the mid- and late-1960s. He has already dealt with the nationalised Tilling Group fleets, the semi-nationalised B.E.T. fleets, the municipal fleets and some aspects of his local London Transport fleet in a series of books published by Pen & Sword featuring his photographs taken during the 1960s. This latest volume in the series features independent operators, which had a very diverse field of operation – ranging from major inter-urban and rural bus and coach fleets such as Lancashire United, West Riding and Barton of Chilwell, to major coach operators specialising in coastal express services, tours and private hires – epitomised by Grey Green of Stamford Hill in Jim’s part of North London – to very small operators with just one or two coaches, or more often than not major operators’ cast-off buses. These latter often acted as workmens’ buses taking them to and from factories, building sites or farms, whilst their coaches catered for private hires and tours. If anything, independent fleets had an even greater variety of vehicles than the major fleets, some even retaining pre-war or wartime vehicles well into the 1960s. Much of this variety is included in Jim’s photographs in this new book, the majority of which have never been published before. Not only do the pictures show the buses and coaches themselves, of course, but also other vehicles on our streets at the time, as well as fashions and buildings now long consigned to memory – after all, the pictures were taken between fifty and sixty years ago when, in many ways, Britain was a different world to that of today!
British Independent Bus and Coach Operators is available to preorder now from Pen and Sword Books.