Central SMT

Limetree Memories

Contributed by Jack Harrison, October 2002. Jack shares his recollections of a classic Central destination.

I had been visiting my favourite Web site when I selected Blind Date, an article written by Alex Strachan. For a moment I was mesmerized as, in front of me, I saw unfold the most evocative list of destinations, a roll-call of place names long since forgotten. One name in particular caught my eye : LIMETREE. Alex even mentioned it in his notes when he reminded the reader that Limetree Cottage actually exists. It was then that I took leave of the present and revisited the past. You see, my home was only a hundred yards or so from Limetree Cottage!

Before the acquisition of the Chieftain empire in 1961, all of Central's 60-69 routes passed Limetree. With most of these routes having a frequency of four an hour there was  an abundance of buses. In addition, there was the No 96 which ran from Blantyre (Livingston Memorial) to Hamilton. When I first became aware of this service it was being operated by Leyland Tiger PS1s, with Alexander half-cab, rear-entrance bodywork. These single-deckers were magnificent vehicles, quiet and comfortable, but capable of some fine performance. The coach-type seating was, for me, the icing on the cake. Unfortunately, this seating resulted in a very narrow aisle, causing congestion at busy times. It wasn't unusual for the conductress to "adopt" one of the single seats opposite the doorway and to collect fares as passengers passed by. Could it be that the No 96 was the forerunner of  the pay-as-you-enter bus?

The PS1s were eventually replaced by the equally endearing Guy Arab IIIs, a fine example of which, K24, has been beautifully restored by Jasper Pettie and can be seen at the Scottish Vintage Bus Museum.

Incidentally, in the late 1950s, British Railways operated a railbus service between Blantyre and Coalburn via Hamilton. I mention this on a web site for buses because of the Lodekka connection; the four wheel railbus used by BR was one of two built by Bristol/ECW and the family resemblance with the Lodekka was quite striking, I thought.

Although Limetree appeared on some destination blinds, its use was not very common. Blantyre (Victoria Street) was more usual on duplicate services from Hamilton at that time. One occasion I do recall was when I was returning from Hamilton late one Saturday afternoon. The bus stop was opposite the old Gaumont cinema and the regular buses were managing only a handful of passengers from an ever increasing queue. Eventually, an empty double-decker appeared, displaying LIMETREE as the destination. Actually, I have a feeling that the earlier destination blinds stated Limetree Cottage, but in any case, this felt like our own special bus! The double-decker was one of the Leyland TD series, still earning its keep on duplicate services.

However, there was one service which started from Limetree and I remember it very well. The year was 1959 and I had just started to work. An early morning special serving the High Blantyre industrial estate then arrived at Limetree where, after a brief rest, it took the No 63 route to Glasgow (Waterloo Street). But what was really special about this service was that it was it was in the hands of K54, a Guy Arab UF with Alexander rear entrance, Coronation-style bodywork. Being the  first passenger to board I naturally took my seat alongside the driver, enjoying the panoramic view and mentally changing gear in time with the driver. My journey took me as far as Farme Cross in Rutherglen and, perhaps it is worth noting, K54 was still sharing the streets with the Glasgow tram for most of its remaining journey to Waterloo Street!

There are many other memories of course : the regular service buses, some of which became my favourites, and I would keep a constant look-out for them wherever I was on their routes; or the day I nearly fell off my bicycle, straining to look at a Guy Wulfrunian, in strange livery, bobbing its way along Glasgow Road on its air suspension!

But, overall I can still recall the excitement I felt each and every day on my K54. What a way to go to work!