Scout Motor Services Ltd. 1919-1968

In 1919, James Watkinson, a farm produce merchant of Preston, commenced his own transport business, purchased two lorries from the Army and fitted them with interchangeable lorry-charabanc bodies.

This enabled him to earn additional income by running coach trips at the weekends, when the lorries would not normally have been in use, and during the annual Wakes Week holidays.

However, he was unable to provide sufficient coaches to cater for the volume of custom and he had to turn to F. & C. Smith, of Blackpool, who hired him additional coaches.

This relationship continued and he was a regular customer, even purchasing redundant coaches from Smiths when the company was re-organised in 1923.

By 1928 Watkinson was trading as Scout Motors and operating coaches from Foxhall garage in Blackpool, which he had previously leased in connection with a removal business he also ran.

This enabled him to run coaches to cater for the Blackpool Tradesman’s Holiday and throughout the summer season there.

From Preston and surrounding areas, Scout ran extended tours to Scotland, the Lake District and the Vale of Avon, although this seems to have been only a partial success and these were discontinued.

In 1928 Scout inaugurated an express service to London from Preston, but this too was poorly supported and was also discontinued early in 1929. The acquisition of two new Leyland Tigers later in 1929 prompted Watkinson to reinstitute a modified express service to London and with the arrival of additional coaches the expansion of Scout Motors began.

By 1930 Scout Motors had moved its headquarters to the larger and more spacious Starchhouse Square garage, the former premises of Majestic Motors, who had succumbed to a Ribble Motor Services onslaught earlier in the year.

In August 1930 Scout commenced a half-hourly service between Preston, Kirkham, Wrea Green and Blackpool on a route also registered by Smiths, but such was their relationship that Smiths handed over operation of the route to Scout, including several vehicles they had purchased for the purpose.

The arrival of five new Leyland Lions and three Leyland Titan double-deckers in 1931 enabled the frequency to be increased to every 20 minutes, much to the annoyance of Ribble Motor Services who had provided a service since 1922.

After much argument before the North West Traffic Commissioners the services were eventually integrated and Ribble and Scout ran a joint service, although the frequency of Scout buses was reduced back to the original half-hourly service.

In 1932 James Watkinson’s Scout Motors became a limited company, with himself and his sons, Ernest and James, as shareholders. The new company was named Scout Motor Services Limited.

In 1933 Ribble Motor Services applied to lower the fares on its Blackpool-Preston service. Scout viewed this move with alarm and objected and eventually both firms came to an amicable, if somewhat uneasy, agreement.

In 1936 Ribble again attacked Scout’s services, with Scout claiming duplication of its services and depletion of income. Once again an uneasy peace was established between the two which remained until the outbreak of World War II.

The onset of the War meant that the circumstances surrounding bus operations had to be reviewed, with fuel reduction being given priority. Competing services were co-ordinated to reduce waste and increase efficiency.

In the light of this, Ribble and Scout created a formal working arrangement on the Blackpool-Preston route, sharing receipts and mileage in the proportion 60%:40%, with Ribble taking the larger portion.

Both operators issued Ribble tickets, drew equipment and paid cash into Ribble’s offices. Scout services were extended to Ribble’s Tithebarn Street bus station, whilst Ribble buses diverted to Starchhouse Square.

The existence of large military camps along the route and the associated increase in passenger traffic saw Scout being allocated three new double-deck buses, an unfrozen Leyland TD7, Daimler CWA6 and a Guy Arab.

The success of the pooling arrangement saw Scout reluctant to resume competitive running in the years after cessation of hostilities and so the practice continued to the mutual benefit of both companies, with Scout prospering in the post war years.

Substantial vehicle replacements were made and considerable expansion of the stage and express routes took place.

Jointly licensed services to the newly built Atomic Energy plant at Springfields were commenced in 1949 bringing an increase in passenger traffic and through interworkings with Ribble, Scout buses began to appear on many previously Ribble only routes, whilst Ribble took advantage of some of Scout’s licences to run services which came into the pool area.

Coaching operations were developed in the post-war period and in 1952 the excursion licence of Whittaker Brothers of Blackpool was purchased, giving Scout a centrally located site in Blackpool.

In 1954 the licence of Preston Embee Motors Ltd., was also acquired, but in neither case was there any transfer of vehicles.

Ribble policy in the post war period was to form long through routes by joining up smaller sections of route, especially on routes into Blackpool from other parts of Lancashire.

Ribble departures from Blackpool ran to Burnley and Bolton, and inevitably, because of the close co-operation of the two companies, Scout departures from Blackpool were also extended, serving Wigan and Rochdale by 1955. Scout vehicles were also to be seen on the Lytham service.

As the 1950’s progressed traffic requirements changed and the rise of the motor car saw a decline in the use of public transport, which culminated in the decision to sell Scout Motor Services to Ribble in 1961.

Following the acquisition, Scout’s vehicles were re-numbered and an ‘S’ prefix added.

Scout operated as a Ribble subsidiary, although sporting Ribble livery, until October 1968, when the integration of Ribble into the National Bus Company, led to it being formally wound up and its licences and vehicles transferred to Ribble and Standerwick, which at that date was still operating as a Ribble subsidiary.

In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
Standerwick and Scout – Peter and Judith A. Deegan (Venture Publications, 1994); PSV Circle Fleet History P90 (1971).

Bus Fleet List 1919-1968 |