Leyland Atlantean bus, 1970, 1969

Text courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum

This Leyland Atlantean double-deck bus was used in Sydney between 1970 and 1980. It differed radically in design from all previous double-deckers used here because it had its engine placed in the rear of the vehicle and a door at the front enabling the driver to collect the fares instead of a conductor. This bus is the first in the fleet of 224 Leyland Atlanteans placed in service in Sydney by the Public Transport Commission, later the Urban Transit Authority, between 1970 and 1972.The Atlantean design was pioneered in England in 1958 by Leyland Motors in response to the fall in passenger numbers being carried after the Second World War. This was because of the rise in use and ownership of cars. Not employing a conductor saved transport providers much in costs.New South Wales Government bus services commenced in Sydney in 1932, on a route from Manly to Cremorne Junction. Early double-deck buses were of the short wheel-base, front-engine half-cab design with access via a rear platform. The Atlanteans were introduced in Sydney in 1970 and were at the centre of a long running union dispute which led to the demise of the popular Government double-deck buses in NSW. There was considerable union unrest during the 1970s with a 6-week stop work in 1972 over the removal of conductors from Atlanteans. The State Government decided it no longer required conductors, which saw them re-employed as street ticket sellers, drivers and clerks. By 1980 almost all the double deckers had been withdrawn from service, the large-scale conversion to one-man operation making them redundant. The last of the Leyland Atlanteans left Sydney’s roads in 1986. Difficulty in obtaining spare parts for the Leylands saw the government change to the Mercedes-Benz MKII models instead.

Production notes

The chassis and mechanical components of this bus were made in England at the British Leyland Motor Corporation’s factory. The firm was established in 1896 as the Lancashire Steam Motor Company in the town of Leyland in North West England. It became Leyland Motors in 1907 and they built another factory at nearby Chorley. The firm produced the Trojan Utility Car in Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, an example of which is in the Museum’s collection (object number B1470).

After World War II Leyland Motors acquired a number of other vehicle and transport companies. In 1968 they merged with British Motor Holdings to form the British Leyland Motor Corporation.

Leylands were important manufacturers of buses and their most significant was the rear-engined Atlantean produced between 1956 and 1986. They were used both in the United Kingdom and around the world and were popular with British municipal operators including Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and Sunderland.

History notes

The first of the 224 Atlanteans were stationed at Mona Vale and Brookvale depots and later deliveries saw them sent to Randwick, Pagewood, Willoughby and Waverley depots. The largest number was at Randwick and Waverley for the busy Eastern Suburbs services. Later, they were transferred to Ryde and Leichhardt for use in the inner city and Victoria Road routes. The Atlanteans were all sold or withdrawn between 1977 and 1986, with the last government-operated service on route 189 to Taylors Point. Half the Atlanteans were purchased by private operators and most used as school buses in rural areas of New South Wales.

This bus entered service with the Public Transport Commission (PTC) on 21 April 1970. It was the first of the Atlanteans used by the NSW Government and has the registration and fleet number 1001. (The fleet numbers finished at 1224). It operated from the Mona Vale and Brookvale depots servicing the Warringah area and was later transferred to the Willoughby Depot. The bus was withdrawn from service in August 1980 after completing 191,900 km. After restoration at the Chullora Bus Workshops the bus was donated to the Museum in 1981.