Central SMT

Page 3 : Northern Exiles

Contributed by George Page, February 2005.

Much has been written on this website about the transfer of Central SMT vehicles to  Highland Omnibuses and other subsidiaries of the Scottish Bus Group. What happened less frequently, though, was the cascade of vehicles between Central SMT and the Aberdeen-based subsidiary, W Alexander & Sons (Northern) Ltd.

The first vehicles I can remember heading north-east were several of Central's sole batch of Daimler Fleetlines, D1-35. On arrival in the Granite City, the vehicles were painted in the then-current livery of golden yellow and cream with blue 'Northern' fleetnames. To begin with the vehicles which came from Central were allocated to Aberdeen depot, but some were transferred to depots in the Tayside region and, as has been highlighted on this website, passed to Strathtay Scottish on the formation of that company in 1985.

The next vehicles I remember going to Northern were T10/1 (AGM 610/1B), a pair of 1964 Leyland Leopards with Alexander Y-type bodywork. As happened with Northern, and Alexander's before that, the fact that these two vehicles were 53-seater buses did not stop them being painted in yellow and white coach livery. They remained thus probably until withdrawal around 1980.

Vehicle cascades were not always a one-way street. In 1980, Central SMT was the benefactor of six Leyland Leopard Y-type 53-seaters that were new to Alexander (Northern) and came via Western SMT. T410-5 (KRG 510-5F) had been new to Northern in late 1967 and lasted but two years with Central, operating from Wishaw depot. Some of these buses returned to the former Alexander empire after withdrawal from Central to work as either driver trainers or recovery vehicles, when they passed to Alexander (Midland).

Quite a few years passed before any more vehicles made the journey between Motherwell and Aberdeen. The next time this happened was around 1989 when Kelvin and Central merged and the new Kelvin Central company withdrew from Scottish Citylink work. Northern became the benefactors of one-time C10/1 (C110/111 JCS), a pair of three-year-old Leyland Tigers with Duple 320 bodywork. These had cramped interiors featuring 49 reclining seats and a toilet, all in their 11 metre bodywork. They also featured Leyland hydracyclic fully-automatic gearboxes. It is worth mentioning here that C14 (C114 JCS) passed to Strathtay Scottish at the same time and ran for two or three years in Strathtay's coach livery with white rear.

When Stagecoach bought Northern Scottish (now Bluebird Buses) in 1991, it withdrew from Scottish Citylink work. The two ex-Central Tigers gained the ubiquitous white and stripes livery and spent time working from Inverness, Elgin and MacDuff depots. C11 at least returned to Lanarkshire some years later to work with McKindless of Wishaw. Its toilet had been removed by Bluebird and it had been converted to C53F layout.

Sadly, Central SMT and Alexander (Northern) are no longer with us. Like much else in the Scottish bus industry, they have succumbed to changes far too many to mention. One thing is for sure, though. No longer will Central SMT buses travel up the A90 to Aberdeen. Whether First in Aberdeen will send buses to the Motherwell depot of First in Glasgow remains to be seen.