Central SMT

Special Features Focus on : Six Little Leopards

Contributed by Douglas G MacDonald, 2002

The Pack of Six Leopards in a Class of their Own

The records show that over the course of the company’s history, double-deck buses were the more prominent force of the Central fleet, but single-deck vehicles also featured strongly at certain  times. It’s said that a hunger precedes a burst and that was certainly the case with CSMT. After the last batch delivered in 1949 (T162), the company didn’t take any further Leylands on single-deck chassis till the early 60s, followed, of course, by more than 350 Y-type Leopards over the course of a decade and a half.

However, before the onset of the Y-types, a small batch of 6 vehicles delivered in 1961 is of more than a little interest. T1–6  (CGM411–6) were supplied with contemporary Alexander C41F bodywork, a marque which the famous Falkirk coachbuilder turned out in large numbers for 5 years from 1957 (until the advent of the Y-type).

Central’s easy coding system shows that ‘T’ denoted Leyland TS or PS single-deck classes, but these half-dozen specimens were no Tiger Cubs (as I initially had concluded) like those PSUC1s operated by other SBG companies. Closer scrutiny shows these vehicles as being  Leopard L2 specification. Further checks through the other SBG fleetlists prove these particular Leopards as being a unique breed, with no other nationalised Scottish operator using this combination of body and chassis.

As if to emphasise their rarity, Central found themselves having to re-classify this particular pack of young Leopards when barely 4 years old. The first batch of PSU3/1R and PSU3/3R Leylands with the new Y-type Alexander bodies arrived in 1964, numbered T7–T25 (AGM 607–625 B). The following year, T1–6 were renumbered TS1–6. The ‘S’ signified their shorter body length and smaller capacity. Parity was shown when Central introduced OMO, as all were duly converted like their next generation.

The Singles Six spent most of their working lives at Carluke, Wishaw and Hamilton depots, being deployed on a variety of services, including  Central’s renowned Limited Stop from Biggar/Peebles into Glasgow. Occasionally, because of their coach seating, they filled private hires, as I can recall personally being the case on at least two different outings!

All six gave long service to the company – 14/15 years each.

Since I don’t have records tracing their disposal and eventual demise, I’d be interested to hear if anyone can shed light on their post-Central existence – or did these Big Cat buses retire to the old Leopards’ lair at Larkhall or Salsburgh (i.e. Dunsmore’s or Tiger Coaches)?

Pictured after re-numbering, TS1 arrives at St. Andrew Square Bus Station in Edinburgh, having worked Service 190 from Lanark. The radiator grille is a replacement for the original, more stylish fitment, a fate which befell all 6 vehicles.

Before: T2 in original condition arriving at Killermont St. in Glasgow, blinds already set for departure on the 51 to Lesmahagow (Woodpark). This was a Limited Stop service, albeit less well-known than the 242/3/4.

After: Now TS2, but still with original curved grille. Destination Carluke Cross 38 indicates the Leopard is at Biggar.

Nice behind! - T6 ready for delivery from Alexander’s Camelon coachworks. Although with coach seating, this body was effectively a dual-purpose shell, based on Alexander’s 1953 coach style. Central’s order for 6 was towards the end of the design, which saw 320 such bodies turned out.

After a facelift! TS6, with the smaller grille, parked up at Lanark stance, having made the cross-country journey from Edinburgh.