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Last updated: 06 August 2022

 
     
  Archive/Photograph of the Month  
     
 

August is always a highlight for the Provincial Society as we host our annual bus rally at Stokes Bay.  Arguably the most popular attraction at the rally in recent years has been the Society’s preserved Guy Arab No.57 (EHO 869) which has been the subject of a major restoration project for many years.  To celebrate the virtual completion of this major undertaking, Society members Bob Jackson, Tim Jepson and myself have compiled a commemorative booklet which details the history of this special vehicle and the highlights and challenges of its restoration.  This well-illustrated booklet will be on sale at the Society’s stall at this year’s rally on Sunday 7th August for a specially-reduced price of £7.50, and will be available thereafter through the Society’s website at the normal price of £8.50 plus postage & packing.

No.57 had a rich and varied history so we are lucky to hold a number of related papers and photographs in our archives.  As a consequence, I have selected as the subject of this month’s feature a newspaper cutting (ref PS00861) that dates from the vehicle’s early days in preservation.  No.57 was new to the Gosport & Fareham Omnibus Company during the darkest days of the Second World War and was fitted with a relatively austere utility body.  After the war, the original Park Royal bodywork had deteriorated to the point that it was no longer fit for purpose.  Instead of scrapping the whole bus, Provincial’s famously-innovative manager and engineer H Orme White selected No.57’s chassis as the subject of a new project to create a coach-bus body.

White worked in conjunction with local coachbuilder Readings of Portsmouth to develop his design.  Externally, the new bodywork largely resembled standard stage-carriage buses of the time, apart from the use of manually-operated platform doors to improve comfort for passengers.  Comfort remained the theme in the lower saloon where high-backed coach seats were installed, along with luggage racks and attractive cylindrical lamps between the windows.  The seats, coving panels and front bulkhead were all lined with a plush and striking moquette, resulting in a very luxurious interior.  The upper saloon was also fitted with high-backed seats, but this time utilising a leatherette material that was better-suited to being open to the elements.  The reason for this was that the body was designed to have a removable roof to enable open-top operation.  This really was a multi-purpose vehicle!

No.57 made its debut in coach-bus form in 1953 and was used for excursions and private hire work, interspersed with conventional stage carriage duties.  As the years wore on and more modern vehicles entered service, No.57 was gradually demoted to a conventional bus, losing its platform doors and high-backed seats.  Provincial’s records show that the bus was sold for the sum of £120 in November 1970, but there was no mention of the buyer.  Fortunately, our newspaper cutting reproduced here records that the buyers were Vernon Stratford and Malcolm Grant-Smart – young men from the Medway area of Kent.  No.57 is shown in photographs taken in the Medway area, and it is clear that the bus had fortunately retained its Provincial branding, fleet number and blinds.  As the anonymous donor of the cutting records, the destination (HMS Sultan) did not match the route number displayed (the 7A ran from Gosport Ferry to Woodcot).  The remainder of No.57’s story is recounted in the Society’s new booklet!

If any members or non-members have similar cuttings or other material that they would like to donate to the Society or allow to be photographed or scanned, I should be grateful if you would contact me – Chris Richardsen – using e-mail address archivist@provincialsociety.org.

 
 
 
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Volvo B9TL 36100 (LX60 DXB) has been transferred to First Solent for a new open-top service 50 between Portsmouth Hard and Southsea.  It is seen here on 23rd July on its first day on the new service.

 Photo by Chris Richardsen

 
 

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