Curator’s Choice – Leyland Bus
Single Decker Bus

Posted: 14th May 2020

Humber Museums Partnership - Curator’s Choice – Leyland Bus

As the Collections Curator for the museums service, working cross-service, dealing with collections care and documentation for thousands of historic (and often pre-historic) objects, I work with a vast range of wonderful interesting items every day. I also look after two large storage warehouses full of objects from every museum in Hull, including transport, archaeology, social history, art and maritime history, so choosing a few highlights from the stores has not been easy.

This Leyland Panther single-decker bus with the blue and white livery of Kingston-Upon-Hull City Transport has an unusual history. It was built in 1964 by Roe’s of Leeds specifically for the Earle’s Court Commercial Motor Show of that year, as this was the first 36-foot-long bus built by the company, and only the second Leyland Panther bus ever to be manufactured, costing £6,152 to purchase as new when it became part of the fleet operating in Hull.
When the bus came into the Hull Museums collections in 1982, it had done 293,514 miles in and around Hull. Leyland Panthers were only made between 1964 and 1972 and were generally found to be unreliable, but this vehicle obvious worked hard in the city, ferrying thousands of people to work, school, park, shopping, to the ferry terminal and back, in fact it is more than likely that some of the people reading this blog now may have travelled on the bus at some point in their lives.

Sometimes when I am visiting the museum store, I hop on the bus to have a look around, to make sure there are no pests eating the textile interior, or any other signs of deterioration. This is a lovely object with real character because all the seats are original, covered with a lovely red plush hard wearing textile called moquette, with an abstract design, typically of the sort used on public transport. There are shiny steel luggage racks above which you can imagine would have been full of bags and cases, and lighting all the way down the ceiling, with a side folding door at the centre of the vehicle. With room for 45 passengers and another 18 standing, it is quite strange to be inside the bus alone and silent, no chattering of voices, the ringing of the bell as people jumped on and off, or the sound of the bus conductor issuing tickets, as they walked up and down the aisle with their ticket machines.

Occasionally there has been a need to move the bus between museum sites, and this can be quite a challenge when the engine no longer runs. We always use specialists who are experts in moving large vehicles, along with our knowledgeable team of museum technicians, who have helped move everything from a double-decker bus down to a three wheeler car. In fact, smaller vehicles can sometimes be harder to move than the larger ones. The last time we moved the Leyland Panther it was jacked up onto the back wheels and towed with a breakdown truck, with the nervous curator’s eyes closed firmly shut as it set off down the road to its next destination!

Written by Collections Manager Caroline Rhodes.

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