THE Midland Red bus bought by Foster Brothers, the clothing manufacturers, to carry its staff between central Birmingham and Shirley sparked a lot of interest among our readers.
Registered SHA 431 when new in 1953 and nowadays owned by the 1685 Group, its restoration is nearing completion at The Transport Museum in Chapel Lane, Wythall.
‘We’ve had to do an enormous amount of work to return the bus to original condition’ said Malcolm Keeley of the 1685 Group and a trustee of the museum. ‘It should be back on the road soon after nearly 40 years, possibly this autumn if we’re really lucky’.
The Foster Brothers bus is among many friends as the Transport Museum has one of the largest collections of buses, coaches, milk floats and bread vans in the UK.
The museum is entirely volunteer run and will be open from 11am throughout the Easter weekend from Friday to Monday. Not only will you see the fabulous collection of classic buses through the generations but, on Sunday and Monday, you can ride them around the lanes and through villages like Earlswood, Alvechurch, Henley-in-Arden and Hockley Heath. On Easter Monday you can even get to Wythall on the Museum’s own buses from central Birmingham, with a fare of only £1.50 each way. Special bus service 750 leaves Hill Street, near to Navigation Street, at 10.30am and 11.30am, returning at 4.00pm.
“Double-deckers are becoming rare outside the towns so the view from the top deck is a treat for every generation, particularly at this time of the year when everything is blossoming” said Malcolm. “Another delight on Easter Sunday and Monday will be the miniature steam trains carrying kids from nought to ninety around the grounds.”
The museum’s exhibition hall, largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, takes you through the decades. There are games, a film, and other interactive exhibits, like the bus cab that makes all the right noises when you press the start button!
The buses from Midland Red and Birmingham City Transport particularly bring back memories for local people. Midland Red used to run the buses throughout Solihull until handing them over to the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive in 1973. Midland Red was the largest bus company in England, outside London, and big enough to design and build its own buses at Edgbaston in Birmingham.
Few Midland Red buses had a second owner because of their high mileages and the difficulty in getting spares. When the need for new buses was greater than Midland Red could build, the company bought vehicles from the big manufacturers.
Find more about the museum on www.wythall.org.uk