THE Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester is holding a special centenary celebration event next weekend (Saturday and Sunday 22/23 April) to remember a bus company that disappeared nearly half a century ago – but is still remembered fondly across North West England and the north Midlands.
The North Western Road Car Company was based in Stockport but its red and cream buses were a familiar sight over much of Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Derbyshire and north Staffordshire. It was famous as a friendly bus company and its coaches on express services – the forerunner to today’s National Express and Megabus – thundered far and wide on Britain’s brand new motorways.
North Western disappeared in the 1970s as a result of changes in the bus industry. But people still remember the red bus to market, or work, or the cinema, especially when car ownership wasn’t as common as today and a bus to town meant a lifeline.
The Museum is gathering together all the surviving North Western buses it can for the weekend – museum pieces now, but most of them will be giving free rides during the event, running every 20 minutes between the Museum and Shudehill Interchange; and every half hour between the Museum and Heaton Park (Grand Lodge).
Museum spokesman Paul Williams said that the event will be a great trip down memory lane: “We’re amazed at how much affection there is for an old bus company.
Part of that is because they were simply everywhere – in Manchester, in Saddleworth, Stockport, Trafford, Macclesfield, Buxton, Northwich, Matlock, Congleton – and they were known for being friendly buses. We’ve heard stories that the conductor would turn a blind eye to putting a live chicken or two in the boot on the way to market, and in rough winters the red North Western bus would be the first thing to get through to a cut-off village.”
The Museum will put on display a treasure trove of old North Western bus stops, timetables, photos and ticket machines: but Paul says the stars of the show will be the buses. “The preserved buses are like moving museums.
There’s the one with the really strange upstairs seats to make it a few inches lower to get under low bridges; the one that’s a single decker with everything similar to a modern bus but the entrance door is at the back, not the front; and the one with the decimal currency poster for passengers. Most of these will be giving free rides at some point over the weekend and we hope people will literally be able to take a ride back in time.”
Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester
Boyle Street, Manchester M8 8UW
10 am to 4.30 pm on Saturday and Sunday 22/23 April 2023
Admission £6 adult, £5 student/jobseeker, disabled and kids under 16 go free