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1955 British
Bus Industry Advertising
Part 1

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1955 British Bus
Industry Advertising
Part 2

1955 British Bus
Industry Advertising
Part 3

1955 British Road
Transport Industry Advertising
Part 1

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This is the first part of a three part feature on British bus industry advertising in the 1950s. Part 2 will follow later this year.

There is probably nothing which is more tied to fashion or fixed in time than advertising. Many years after the last advertisement for a product has appeared, the product itself may still be a familiar everyday object. It can be an object that you use daily, but look back at the advertisements which launched it onto the market, and you will be carried back in time. If you are old enough to remember the advertisements, they can bring back memories of that period of your life. If you are too young to remember them, then you can get an insight into, or even a feel for that time.

Below is a sample of British bus industry advertising from 1955. In this case most of the products have now disappeared from daily use but may still be remembered by some.

Click on a picture to view a full-size version.

Leyland Titan. Is that an even older Leyland bus in the background? For those of you not familiar with English m.p.g. (Miles per gallon), 10.53 m.p.g. is roughly the same as 3 litres per 10 km, I think. Click for a full-size picture
Click for a full-size picture Dennis Pelican. Could Dennis have imagined the position they would hold in the British bus industry today?
Metropolitan - Cammell - Weymann Limited, to use their full title. This MCW Apollo body is mounted on a Leyland Royal Tiger chassis and is bound for Jamaica. I don't remember having seen this body in the UK. Bumpers on British buses are a rarity. The first and only bus I drove with bumpers was a Leyland National. Click for a full-size picture
Click for a full-size picture Willowbrook. Compare these bodies. Touring coach versus Express coach. Style versus functionality. I believe functionality wins. The more style which is built into a design, the sooner it becomes outdated. I have always liked the basic functional design of express coach bodies. Other examples, which in my opinion have a timeless beauty, are the express bodies Eastern Coach Works built for the Bristol LS, MW and RE chassis.
Another bodybuilder, this time Strachans. This is typical of the artwork of that time. Many advertisers had a preference for artwork rather than photographic images. Maybe it was because they had full control over the message they were trying to send. Look at those passengers. They all look very middle class, don't they? Click for a full-size picture
Click for a full-size picture The Gibson ticket machine. As used on London's buses for, I'm not sure, but I remember them from the mid 50's and they were still in use in the early 80's. They were noisey machines, a clunk-clunk as the conductor selected the required fare, then a zipping sound as the ticket was wound off.
Experienced conductors could reel off a ticket using just a quick flick with a finger and thumb on the left hand. The 'official' way to wear this machine was with a set of straps which resembled a parachute harness. This positioned the machine right in the middle of the chest, which could be a bit unwieldy on a well developed female conductor. The 'unofficial', usually male method, was to wear it slung low round the waist hipster style using a modified version of the straps.
Bell Punch ticket machines. Did they go 'DING' everytime the conductor punched a ticket? I seem to remember when I was very young, being on a bus somewhere, possibly in the Portsmouth area, where the conductor had a ticket machine which went 'DING'. Whether it was one of these, I don't know. Click for a full-size picture
Click for a full-size picture British Thomson-Houston Company. Manufacturers of electric traction equipment. The trolleybus is very popular with both operator and public says the advertisement which depicts a London trolleybus depot. Nevertheless, when this advertisement was published, London Transport had already planned the scrapping of its trolleybus fleet. In fact the first AEC Routemaster prototype (the intended replacement for the trolleybuses) had already officially joined the LT fleet by September 1954.
The 'Ashanco' exhaust brake. This type of secondary braking system had a tendency to blow head gaskets. The picture in the lower part of the advertisement depicts a storage area at the MCW factory. Many of the vehicles pictured appear to be of the 'Apollo' type and bound for export (being left hand drive). Also in evidence are some London Transport RF types. To see an enlarged version of the whole advertisement click the picture on the right, to see an enlarged version of the MCW yard click here. Click for a full-size picture
Click for a full-size picture B.M.A.C. Limited. Manufacturers of modern light fittings for modern passenger transport. I 'm sure there's many a bus restorer who would like to lay his hands on some of these! I remember those 'arrow' direction indicators on London's RTs. In the case of the RT it was an arrow with a head at each end placed on the rear offside of the vehicle. A vehicle following behind the bus saw a light blinking on the offside of the bus whether the busdriver intended to turn left or right. It was not until you came up close behind the bus that you could see that it was a double-headed arrow. Later, in order to make the signals clearer, a second arrow was fitted to the rear-nearside of the bus and part of the original double-headed arrow was masked.
Vulcanised Fibre Ltd. That's a name which flows off the tip of the tongue. These miniature 'suitcases' are what bus conductors stored their ticket machines in. It's possible that they are still in use. It's a nice picture as well. But that slogan "Highways, Byways - and Castle Fibre". What is the connection? They could have said "Fish and Chips - and Castle Fibre", it would have meant the same to me. Click for a full-size picture
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This page was last updated on: 23 November 2003