Leyland Atlantean History

Ubiquitous Leyland Atlantean Bus, designed and made by Leyland Motors, Leyland near Preston, Lancashire. This bus design was radical and innovative and transformed the shape of buses in the UK and all over the world. With its rear engine and front doors next to the driver it enabled single crew operation on a double decker. The drivers and conductors weren’t happy originally. In some places it was operated by a full driver and conductor crew for several years. Can’t say I’d like to drive such a big vehicle and work out the price of a ticket and the change for a queue of passengers. This bus held 78 passengers which was large for the time.

At the time the use of buses was reducing as people moved to cars. To the general public it may not have been apparent at the end of the 1950’s but by the end of the 60’s it was obvious to all.

The chassis / engine was built at Leyland and the bodies were built mainly by Metro-Cammell, Weymann, Saunders-Roe, Walter Alexander. Every now and then you would see a bare chassis being run around the local area for testing with a driver sat up front wearing goggles.

Many people didn’t like the boxy shape, the way the engine stuck out at the back, the odd sideways seating downstairs and raised upper rear deck seats, the uneven location of the windows. Well I’ve got to say that I liked all those things. The Atlantean looked so modern.

There are versions with flat backs and tapered in upper decks; waste of time.

The front wheels are set back like a coach and enabled it to sweep round corners. It also sometimes looked like it was a bucking bronco with pronounced pitch movement, don’t know why but some had air suspension so maybe it needed pumping up or possibly due to the front wheels being set back.

The basic shape of the Atlantean is still in todays buses. Below the 36 business class bus service Leeds – Harrogate – Ripon. I recently went to Harrogate and these buses seem to run very frequently, every 20 minutes it seems. Quite nice I think, also the illuminated destination boards are attractive and very readable.