Wednesday, 6 February 2013

CCK346 & CCK368 - a review

A strange quirk of fate has resulted in two privately owned sister vehicles from a Scottish bus company being stored in the same building at our base in West Sussex. Although not part of the Southcoast Motor Services fleet, they are known to all on site as the “Red Wrecker” and the “Yellow Wrecker”. The vehicles were originally Leyland PD2/3 double deckers, fitted with bodywork of Leyland's own manufacture, and started life with the well-known Lancastrian operator Ribble Motor Services in 1948.

At some time in the 1960s, their use in passenger service ceased and they passed to the Midland division of one of Scotland's largest bus companies, Alexander Motor Services of Kilsyth. Alexander had a large central workshop which produced complete bus bodies to their own design and for Leyland under licence. Both vehicles were taken to these premises where the upper decks were removed and the lower saloons were heavily modified to produce versatile and stylish recovery vehicles. CCK368 (the “Red Wrecker”) was numbered ML 240 in the Alexander fleet, whilst CCK346 (the “Yellow Wrecker”) became ML 242. At some later stage CCK346 was re-registered as ML242, thus retrospectively harmonising its fleet and registration numbers – a most unusual occurrence.

As converted, these vehicles were classed as tow-buses as they were not equipped with cranes for lifting. ML242 eventually did acquire a crane and might therefore legitimately be termed a wrecker. After service with Alexander (Midland), ML242 went on to a third career as a recovery vehicle for Bevan Funnell Ltd of Newhaven, a company of furniture manufacturers who operated a large fleet of both rigid and articulated lorries. It was declared surplus to requirements in 2001 and was eventually purchased by one of our group for use as a source of spare parts. Recovery of useful components is now almost complete and the remains of this vehicle will soon be taken away for scrap.

ML240 had a more chequered career after leaving Alexander, having been part of the ill-fated “Transperience” museum project in Bradford, then at Sandtoft Trolleybus Museum and latterly with Black Prince Buses of Morley, Leeds. It was acquired from Black Prince in 2004 and is currently used to move large items between the various sheds at our depot.

One further vehicle of this type survives in preservation, ML 245, which was formerly a 1953 PD2/10 operated by another Scottish bus company – Central SMT. This vehicle is a little nearer to home, being based in New Ferry, Merseyside.