This towering bus represents not just public transport in Sydney and Newcastle but also the romance, inconvenience and danger of travel and working life on the old double deckers. For many passengers, the views from the upper deck and the more relaxed ambience there made the awkward climb up the stairs worthwhile. For the conductor, negotiating the stairs many times a day on a lurching bus to collect fares was not easy. There was some danger involved in passengers running after a moving bus and jumping onto the open back platform. These isues were to be addressed in the later Leyland Atlantean buses, which dispensed with the open platform in favour of doors at the front and allowed for one-person operation, with passengers paying the driver at the time of entry.
It seems that roof seats appeared on top of single deck horse buses as a means of increasing capacity as early as 1845. The crowds attracted by the 1851 Great Exhibition in London stimulated the practice and the double deck bus was established. The idea spread to the Australian colonies and double deck trams and buses were introduced on some services in various cities. While single deck vehicles did predominate, buses with two decks remained popular in New South Wales until the 1960s and, with their distinctive half cab design, they became an icon of Sydney as the tramway system was replaced.
Leyland Atlantean double deckers were ordered in the late 1960s to supplement the Sydney government bus fleet, and these vehicles were placed in service between 1970 and 1972. However, several developments shortened their service history including the increasing pressure for one man bus operation, the emergence of single decker articulated buses and a relaxation of the maximum length of single deckers to 14.5 metres. The last Atlantean buses were phased out in May 1986, ending the era of double decker bus operation in Sydney.
Leyland Motors had its origins in 1896, when the Lancashire Steam Motor Company was formed in Leyland, Lancashire, England. The first Leyland bus, an 18 seater with a top speed of 8 miles per hour (13 km/h), is believed to have been built in 1900. In the years up to 1925, around 40 different models were introduced by Leyland Motors.
This particular omnibus, No. 2769, is a type OPD2/1 with chassis number 511956. This indicates that it was the 1956th chassis manufactured by Leyland in England in 1951. The bus was placed into service on 4th February 1954; it operated in Sydney from Burwood, Willoughby, Randwick and Kingsgrove Depots until 1969 and in Newcastle from 1969 to 1975.
No.2769 was the last double decker bus used by the Public Transport Commission in Newcastle and made a special farewell trip through that city's main streets on 24th May 1975. At the conclusion of this journey it was driven to Sydney, carrying a busload of transport enthusiasts. On its return to Sydney it was placed into service at Burwood Depot, until finally withdrawn from service in March 1976.
Around 2,000 mechanically powered double deck buses have operated in Australia since 1905, most with British chassis and body designs following British practice. No. 2769 was the last of the old style built in Australia and represents the double deck bus in its basic form, with front mounted engine, and rear platform and staircase, usually requiring a two-person crew. The Leyland double deck bus holds a significant place in transport history and is a valued object in the Museum's transport collection.
Information supplied by Greg Travers
Lancashire Manufacturers, http://www.lanctransport.co.uk/builders/leyland.htm
Travers, Greg, 'From City to Suburb...a fifty year journey', The Sydney Tranway Museum, 1982