Central SMT

Page 2 : Central Seddons

Contributed by George Page, February 2004.

Look back over any period in the history of Central SMT between the 1960s and the 1980s and chances are that several types of bus were bought, both new and second-hand. There were Bedfords bought new for the coach fleet, the ubiquitous Leyland Leopard was bought in large numbers and the even the Ailsa started to appear in the fleet from 1978.

One type I personally thought would never enter the Central fleet was the Seddon Pennine. Over five hundred of these Gardner mid-engined chassis were delivered new to Eastern Scottish and Western SMT between 1973 and 1982. The Eastern examples had a variety of bodywork, while the Western examples all had Alexander bodywork, both to bus and coach specification. Seddons were never bought new to any of the five other subsidiaries which made up the SBG in the 1970s. The breed began to spread its wings in 1985 when the Scottish Bus Group restructured and companies such as Central began to acquire the Oldham-built chassis with the depots which had previously operated them under Eastern Scottish ownership.

Central's first encounter with Seddons was in 1984 when one, with fleet number SP1, arrived from Western SMT. The vehicle was acquired and was soon converted for the carriage of mobility-impaired passengers. A wheelchair lift was installed together with a wide doorway, and the seating capacity was decreased from C49F to C24DL plus eight wheelchairs. This bus was part of the MSJ-P batch of Seddons with Alexander T-type coach bodies new in mid-1976. The vehicle was initially allocated to Traction House, a location also known as Airbles. This Seddon was to soldier on alone for about a year. The SBG reorganisation in 1985, however, brought another thirty-three Seddons into the fleet with the operations of Airdrie (Clarkston) depot, which came from Eastern. There was quite a bit of variety among this mixed bag of vehicles. Some had four-speed synchromesh gearboxes, others had Plaxton bodywork and some had both. When they were repainted in Central colours, some were given non-standard versions of Central livery.

The T-types generally wore zig-zag coach livery, as did all but one of the Plaxtons. The odd-man-out was SP3, which not only was the only 45-seater, but which throughout its stay with Central, wore cream window surrounds. SP5 was the only Seddon/Y-type to wear the zig-zag livery, as applied to a batch of new Leyland Tiger/TS buses which were entering service at around the same time. Two later Y-types were repainted in another version of Central livery. A year or so prior to being acquired by Central they had been repainted in a modified Eastern livery, with cream window surrounds extended round to the front and rear windscreens. These two buses simply had their green areas repainted red and the effect was a bit strange to say the least.

There were differences in the mechanical specifications, too. Many of the earlier Seddons had four-speed synchromesh gearboxes, while the later ones had five-speed semi-automatic gearboxes. SP4-8 had panoramic windows, a la Western, but the later ones had more standard multi-bay windows. The later Y-types, from SP19 up, had four-leaf doors and an unbelievably high entrance. SP20 had this modified when extra hand rails were fitted, as was an extra step between the original two steps.

At the time of the Central takeover of Airdrie, Seddon SP26 wore a broadside advertising livery for Airdrie Savings Bank. The advert was retained after repaint into Central red. This bus eventually wore an allover advert for the above bank.

The Seddons enjoyed a relatively short life with Central. At around the time of the Central/Kelvin merger the Seddons, together with the Mk1 Nationals, were considered non-standard and were withdrawn en masse. Most of the Nationals found homes with other operators, but few of the Seddons did. Many were scrapped, but two managed to evade the breaker's torch. SSX 599V (SP25) passed to an operator in the Manchester area and JFS 977X (SP33) served with Stevenson's of Uttoxeter.