The Strathtay Scottish tribute Leyland National bus WBW735X was unique in many ways:
- it has officially had four operators from new (although it's really only three)
- it had never been with a "major" bus operating company
- restricted operating duties most of its life (staff transport / park and ride / school and private hire)
- in service for and amazing 32 years, fours months and nine days
- retained many original features often lost over the years (black handrails, switch and control labels, seating layout)
Here's the details of WBW735X when new.
Tuesday 16 February 1982
LN (Leyland), NL (National), 116 (11.6 metre long), AL11 (Leyland AL11 engine), 1 (1 door), R (right hand drive)
Mark 2, 11.6 metres long, single door at front, no roof pod
B52F (to carry 75 passengers, 52 seated and 23 standing)
B52F. B (single deck bus), 52 (seating capacity of bus), F (door position - front)
AL11 (aspirated L11 engine)
UK Atomic Energy Authority Harwell
Livery when new
Blue and silver
So here's who has owned her and what may have been changed along the way as far as we can tell.
The Atomic Energy Authority in Harwell owned four virtually identical Leyland National 2 buses for staff transport. JTF971W and JTF972W were bought new in April 1981 and in February 1982 WBW735X and WBW736X were added to the fleet.
They operated WBW735X until 1991 when, apparently, it suffered from engine failure. Note the heated windscreen and the four vents down the nearside of the bus. On the destination the numbers are in use but the rest is covered over with a "Harwell" vinyl. Inside we think the seats were a matching blue vinyl as that's what the remaining section next to the rear emergency exit was covered in.
WBW735X was registered by Tom Tappin Limited (Tappins Coaches Limited from 2007) of Didcot on 18 June 1991 for use on a shuttle service from Reading to the Thames Valley (Industrial) Park.
At this time the registration number of the bus was changed to the cherished plate 653GBU and the original Leyland AL11 engine changed to a Leyland turbo B-series TL11 245bhp ‘Tiger’ engine. The livery became a very striking orange and black with a white stripe. The seats were reupholstered into a soft moquette and advertising boards fitted to the bus sides (some of the rivets can still be seen on the bus today). A number of the exterior panels, along with the front bumper, were changed to fibreglass equivalents and it was at this time the two rearmost vents on the nearside most likely disappeared. The rear view of the bus above shows that it has lost the original numberplate light, however it still retains the emergency exit windows at the rear and on the offside.
Routemaster Buses Limited bought WBW735X on 1 November 2010 (there's no record of where the bus was between 1 September 2010 and 1 November 2010) and it was painted into their two-tone “London Country” livery in July 2011. The bus was mainly used for school and other contract work, including rail replacement duties over a wide area.
By this time it had lost the heated windscreen, the rearmost pair of vents on the nearside and the advertising boards (some of the rivets can still be seen on the sides of the bus) and both the emergency exit windows which were replaced by standard windows. For the first time both the route number and destination blinds were revealed but using London-style blinds. WBW735X was finally withdrawn from service on Tuesday 24 June 2014.
WBW735X was officially purchased for preservation on 1 August 2014. During its 32 years, fours months and nine days of service work the bus has only had three owners and has never been linked with a major operator making it quite a rare survivor. It attended a few rallies at the end of 2014 in "as acquired" condition although some small tasks were tackled between events.
To mark the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of Strathtay Scottish Omnibuses Limited WBW735X was brush painted into the second version of their livery (with white stripe) and returned to the road on 17 May 2015 at the Scottish Vintage Bus Museum Lathalmond. At this event the bus won the Roland Williams "Best Bus" award. To enable the bus to pay tribute to the eleven Leyland Nationals operated by Strathtay a number of external changes had to be made to the bus. The 'Leyland' scroll on the front grille was replaced by white capital lettering; a 'National 2' badge was added to the front along with the fleet number of SN12 (as if it were the next in sequence from Strathtay's SN1-11); the full destination display was uncovered with a return to the white NBC-style numbers; older style "Leyland' and 'National 2' badges were fitted to the rear with the original badges being moved inside the bus to keep them with the vehicle; the number plate light was moved to its original position and a more appropriate unit fitted; the perspex number plates were changed to the more suitable pressed metal type; and the lower rear offside corner and lower section of the emergency exit door replaced. Strathtay's buses had flaps over the access panels on the side and rear of the bus and for the door controls. However these have not been changed on the bus so it can continue to show some of its original features.
In 2016 a plaque was added to the bus to acknowledge the immense amount of work done to it by retired coachbuilder Jim Elder who sadly passed away on 19 May.