Vintage British buses, to most North Americans, seem rather odd-looking. They bear no resemblance whatsoever to the urban and intercity buses that we Canadians and Americans grew up on. Personally I love those old Brit buses even though I've never been a passenger in one, except vicariously by way of television. (Note: These comments do not include the iconic double deckers, on which I've traveled many a London mile.)
I'm fortunate to live in an area served both by BC's Knowledge Network and by the US public service television station in Seattle. Both are commercial-free networks that feature the best of British television. The current offerings include Heartbeat, a cop show based in a 60s small town; Ballykissangel, a delightful Irish program also built around small-town characters; Monarch of the Glen from Scotland; a revamped Midsomer Murders, and of course our old favorite, Poirot. The period shows include period transport but even the contemporary programs feature buses that must seem strange to North American eyes.
What I love most about period British buses is the romanticism that affects every line. No functional boxes, these. They swoop and curve in a nod to streamlining with a modicum of art deco added. Two-tone, even three-tone paint jobs are the norm, all framed by lavish amounts of chrome trim not unlike American cars of the 50s and early 60s. And these buses have grilles that make a statement, suggesting the massive power that lies behind. An exaggeration, of course, for they were not built for speed but for the agility needed to cope with narrow country roads.
Look closely at the bus above. The engine is up front but the driver is seated alongside in a separate compartment. Normally he'd be behind the engine (prior to bus engines being in the rear) but this is clearly a space-saving arrangement. The fluidic shape is dominated by curves, including the passenger windows, and though I hesitate to use the phrase "art deco," that 30s trend must surely have influenced the designer. A critical design analysis would insist that mixing machine-like lines surrounding the engine with the romantic curves of the passenger compartment doesn't work but who cares? This bus is so joyful in appearance that I'd be happy to climb aboard with no destination in mind.
Thanks to steveclifford.com for bringing this to my attention. Steve's site is about collecting ephemera and photographs, family history and walking.
[Photo credit: jake-a-loo]