Saltburn Motor Services Ltd. 1928-1974

In 1928 Keith Watson, a garage proprietor of Saltburn-on-Sea, was already operating an hourly service to Loftus from Saltburn via Saltburn Bank, Brotton and Carlin How, when it came to the attention of Mr. J. C. Pickering.

Mr. Pickering had been a partner in the failed Cleveland Motor Services that had also been operating out of Loftus.

On the 19th November 1928 he acquired the service, which subsequently remained largely unchanged, except for minor changes in frequency, throughout the life of the Company, together with three vehicles, a 20-seat De Dion Bouton, a 16-seat Reo Sprinter and a 14-seat Reo Speedwagon.

Although the Reo Speedwagon was in poor condition and never operated by Pickering (who commenced trading as Saltburn Motor Services), the body was sound enough to be used the following year on a newly purchased Chevrolet chassis.

The chosen livery for the fleet was red with a cream relief, although in later years some of the vehicles had this reversed.

With the advent of the 1930 Road Traffic Act, Saltburn Motor Services was obliged to apply for a licence to maintain the service. The initial application was for 14- to 20-seat vehicles, for which a licence was granted, with permission to run duplicates where needed between 1800 and 2300 hours.

When Mr. Pickering had taken over in 1928 he had immediately started to build up the private hire, contract and excursion work and various additional vehicles had been acquired to cater for these extra duties.

They included a Guy charabanc, which came from Watson (the garage proprietor from whom the business had been purchased), another Reo, and two Gilfords, all with coach bodies.

The first new vehicle was delivered in 1930, a 20-seat Thornycroft A2, followed the next year by a similar vehicle.

Early excursions were to Staithes or Runswick Bay for 2s 6d (17½p) per head, but by 1938 the Company ran tours to over 70 destinations.

Some of the tours were operated by two new vehicles, APY808, a Dennis Lancet with Duple C32F bodywork and APY810 a Leyland ‘Lion’ LT7 with Waveney C32F coachwork, under the fleetname of ‘Parlour Coaches’.

Sadly, however, both vehicles were commandeered by the War Department in 1940 and never returned.

During the war years, Saltburn Motor Services operated on several military contracts in the region (Mr. Pickering was liaison officer for the Ministry of Transport in the area), including York, the Royal Ordnance factory at Aycliffe and at Hutton army camp in Guisborough.

As a consequence, they were able to acquire two examples of the utility Bedford OWB in 1943 and 1944, the same year that Saltburn Motor Services became a limited company, with Mr. Pickering as General Manager.

Following the cessation of hostilities, I.C.I. began construction of a large chemical plant at Wilton and Saltburn Motor Services secured a number of contracts for the transportation of construction workers from Saltburn and the surrounding areas to the new site.

In addition up to 17 vehicles were used daily to transport the workers to the resort of Whitby, some 25 miles away.

This contract work was responsible for increasing the fleet to its maximum operating strength of 44 vehicles and between 1945 and 1950 no fewer than 10 Bedford OB and OWB were purchased.

Even when the complex had been finished contract services were still run for the I.C.I. workforce. Other contract work was undertaken at the same time, including employee services to the Dorman Long steelworks at Lackenby and many school services, and this continued to be built up.

This resulted in the need for higher capacity vehicles and double-deckers made their appearance into the erstwhile single-deck only fleet in 1956 in the shape of two ex-Hants & Dorset Bristol K5G’s, although single-deck vehicles continued to predominate.

From the mid-1950’s onward, Company policy moved towards the purchase of good second-hand vehicles and a variety of makes appeared in the fleet.

In 1954 Saltburn Motor Services took over the service of Green Line of Guisborough, which ran from Saltburn to Thirsk via Guisborough and Stokesley, along with three single-deck vehicles. Eventually the Stokesley to Thirsk section of the route was abandoned due to the sparse volume of traffic.

A short service between Saltburn and Hollybush Estate at Skelton was introduced in 1956 and the original Loftus route was extended to Liverton and Moorsholm around the same time.

In 1957 a second Guisborough operator, Jackson’s Cleveland Coaches was taken over. No stage services were operated but the sale included two contract services and four vehicles.

In addition Jackson’s Northgate garage was acquired but was only suitable for single-deck vehicles. Later, land adjacent to the garage was purchased so that double-deck vehicles could be parked there, and part of the land was used for the construction of a garage colony for rent to the public.

In addition to the Company’s stage services an express service to Blackpool was operated every summer Saturday from Loftus via Saltburn, with a journey time of around six hours.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s there was little change in the Company’s routes and Saltburn Motor Services vehicles continued to operate alongside its giant neighbour, United Automobile Services, on routes through Brotton, Carlin How, Loftus, Guisborough and Stokesley.

Throughout the history of Saltburn Motor Services a fleetname was not generally used, except for the Company’s name and address on the rear of some single-deck vehicles.

Occasionally this was reduced to just the letters SMS, although at least one vehicle (NNW356) carried this inscription (enclosed in a diamond) on the side panels. Fleet numbers were allocated to most vehicles but not all bore them.

Unusually for a bus operator, Saltburn Motor Services also operated a railway. This was the 15-inch, miniature gauge, sightseeing railway that ran along the sea front at Saltburn to the Italian Gardens, about a half-mile away.

The passenger rolling stock (consisting of four 16-seat open toastrack coaches) was built in the Company’s own workshops at Saltburn.

It was open for just a few weeks during the summer season and was driven by one of Saltburn Motor Services’ full-time bus drivers, who reverted to his normal job when the summer season ended.

On the 1st August 1974 the 22-vehicle fleet and all stage services were purchased by Cleveland Transit (the trading name of the recently created Langbaurgh, Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees Joint Transport Committee), and the sight of Saltburn Motor Services vehicles negotiating the famously steep Saltburn Bank with its hairpin bends became just a distant memory.

In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
Saltburn Motor Services by John M. Banks (Buses Illustrated No. 133, April 1966); PSV Circle Fleet History PA9 (1980).

Bus Fleet List 1928-1974 |