The Black Prince Leyland Atlantean Story
Black Prince operated a huge number of Leyland Atlantean buses between 1974-2000.
Several variations of the type appeared in the fleet, displaying the many different body styles applied to this famous chassis type, thus giving a great snapshot of how the chassis itself and the body styles of the different body manufacturers changed and (generally) improved in style over the years!.
The Atlantean gave Black Prince a very good start in the newly privatised bus industry, with some superb second hand examples joining the Morley fleet from large municipal fleets which were looking to dispose of assets to make some quick cash, Manchester being a good source of Atlantean buses for Brian.
On this page, the aim is to illustrate the contribution made to the development of Black Prince by this classic vehicle type, over several years in the fleet.
The Leyland Atlantean story began in the August of 1974, with the purchase of 196JVK, a Leyland Atlantean PDR1/1A model, which had been new to the City of Newcastle, in January 1961.
196 had been sold on from Newcastle to a small operator, Williamson of Gauldry, then moving again to Rennie of Dunfermline, before arriving at Black Prince.
The Alexander body gave 196 a stylish look and an idea of how the Atlantean body style was to slowly develop going forward from the very boxy original design of very early models.
196 carried Newcastle Corporation yellow livery when new, but when Brian acquired the atlantean, it was adorned with the blue and white of Rennie. The bus carried two stylish variations of the then current green Black Prince fleet livery, with a white roof and a green roof.
This bus brought a new style of decker to the fleet and was the first rear engined bus to join. 196JVK was sold in the April of 1975, to Cunning of Upholland.
The Shoppers Hero
Fast forward from 1975 to 1983, which is when the next Atlantean to come to Morley, OVK152M, would join the fleet at Black Prince.
OVK152M was new to Tyne & Wear PTE, delivered in September 1973. The bus carried the attractive yellow livery of the region, having been a likely replacement in Newcastle for 196JVK when it was delivered.
OVK brought with it the stylish design revisions of the 1970s, with wrap around windows up front, long panoramic windows for the passengers and greater seating capacity amongst the benefits.
On arrival at Black Prince, the bus lost the Newcastle yellow in favour of the smart dark green Black Prince coaches livery of the time, being used on contract hire and school contract type of work.
During the West Riding bus strike of the early 1980's, OVK was pressed in to front line bus service in the green livery.
The bus strike was crippling the local economy, and after discussion between the Morley Advertiser newspaper, Morley Chamber of Commerce and Brian Crowther, it was decided to offer a free bus service for shoppers in the immediate area surrounding Morley.
The 424 Morley "Shophopper" Circular route was born, taking in the Morley, Tingley, Ardsley, Thorpe and Gildersome communities and proving a great success.
Upon the deregulation of bus services in 1986, Black Prince leapt at the chance to operate the route commercially.
The 424 service was a popular and profitable route for the business right up until the last day of operation in 2005.
This action would enable business to continue, enable people to shop and use the facilities of Morley town centre.
In 1986, OVK would become one of the first buses to carry those famous red and yellow colours, when Brian launched his service bus operation, taking advantage of the newly liberalised bus market.
The bus also carried the strapline "Best Bus for You" which was a feature of Black Prince buses throughout the 1980's.
OVK152M was withdrawn and disposed of in 1988 after a rather unfortunate low bridge incident in which the centre of the roof was crushed in.
The bus ended its days with the Barnsley scrap merchant, Trevor Wigley.
XJA504L, XJA509L, WBN986L & HNB39N
The Manchester Look
In October 1986, the UK bus scene would change forever, with D-Day (De-Regulation) fragmenting the industry and allowing private operators to run bus services.
Brian could see the opportunity for the Black Prince operation and in preparation for the big day, he purchased some "battle buses" in the form of these ex-Manchester Atlanteans.
The buses were good second hand purchases, and were ideal for the task in hand. A new livery was required to make the buses stand out, the red and yellow we know and love was born, painted on the buses in a style closely resembling that of the outgoing "METRO" WYPTE "Candystripe" layout.
These buses linked up with OVK152M to launch the early Black Prince route network, proudly displaying the "Best Bus for You" lettering.
XJA, XJA and WBN were Park Royal bodies, new in 1973 to a H43/32F layout. HNB was built more locally to Manchester by Northern Counties, to the "Standard" style for the city. the layout was again H43/32F. HNB was new in 1975.
After service with Black Prince, XJA504L went to "Toxteth Community Transport" in Liverpool, in March 1988. XJA509L ended up in Scarborough, with a seafront tour business and WBN986L was sent to Wigley, Carlton for scrapping.
The Manchester look would return briefly to the Black Prince stable many years down the line, with the purchase of MNC519W, the last Atlantean to operate for the business.
GNS668N was the second "Panoramic" Atlantean to arrive at Black Prince, being purchased from Don's of Dunmow in July 1988.
The Alexander H45/31F bodied bus was new in 1972, to the Greater Glasgow PTE as fleetnumber LA876.
The bus carried its original GGPTE livery whilst resident at Don's, with the addition of new Don's fleetnames and a yellow band for advertising.
On arrival in Morley, the bus was treated to a rather nice version of Black Prince livery, lined out in yellow with yellow bold fleetnames in block letters.
GNS was sent for scrap in January 1990.
London Country in the North
JPL141K, JPL154K & JPL174K
In August 1988, JPL174K was purchased from London Country North East, at Harlow depot, where it had been delivered brand new in 1972 as fleetnumber AN74.
This Atlantean was of the PDR1A/1 "Special" variety, with such enhancements as power steering!. The Park Royal H43/29D body was a very handsome design and the dual door layout was something new in the Black Prince fleet.
The bus arrived in the green livery of London Country, being operated for some time in the de-branded green, with a between decks advert part over-painted before the red and yellow livery was applied.
The livery chosen for this bus was a very eye catching style, looking really smart and bold with the block lettering between decks and yellow lining out, maybe this livery choice was what prompted Britbus models to miniaturise
JPL174K, when it was replicated in small scale as a 1:76 scale die-cast model.
By January 1991, AN74 had been sent away to Barnsley, for scrap at the yard of Trevor Wigley.
January 1990 saw two former stablemates of AN74 come to Black Prince, JPL141K and JPL154K or AN41 and AN54. The pair of PDR1A/1 "Specials" were also new to London Country but in the North West division, in the same batch of buses as AN74.
AN41 had a huge claim to fame during London service, having been painted silver in 1977 for the Queens Silver Jubilee!.
The pair of green machines were fairly short lived, sadly neither gained the red and yellow Black Prince livery. AN41 was disposed of in August 1990, to Geoff Ripley, Carlton with AN54 leaving in September 1990 for pastures new.
MDS710P was new in 1976, to Greater Glasgow PTE, fleetnumber 1047.
The Alexander body was built to a H45/31F specification and boasted panoramic windows
and wrap around front glazing, in a very similar fashion to that of fellow GGPTE and Black Prince Atlantean, GNS668N.
MDS was acquired from good friends of Black Prince, Irvine of Law in Scotland, in the January of 1989 and was passed on the Arena, Speke in May 1990.
It would be reasonable to assume MDs had been cut up by now (2018) but a search of flickr returns photographs of the bus in other roles, possible a hospitality suite with a motorbike operation and also with a company called Top Flight Club, I assume as a glider tug but further information would be appreciated!.
RCN100N & RCN107N
North to South & back again!
RCN100N & RCN107N were a pair of Park Royal bodied Leyland Atlanteans which had been built in 1974 and delivered to the National Bus Company at NBC Northern, Gateshead.
The H43/34F bodies were painted in the bright yellow livery of this area and looked rather smart, moving on latterly to the Tyne & Wear PTE livery of yellow with white relief.
Around the time of bus de-regulation, the Northern pair were sold on to East Kent, so the Southern company could engage in competition with newly created small operators like Black Prince. Several Atlanteans went to East Kent from various sources, with many of the RCN-N batch seeing service in the smart maroon and cream livery.
Brian bought the pair in the summer of 1989, they were quickly put to use in service initially with no fleetname. The rough and ready appearance of these Park Royal machines was rather a shame, as they would have looked great in a variation of red and yellow, but such a sight would never be seen, as the North/South travellers were withdrawn in February and May 1990, being sent to Trevor Wigley, Carlton for scrap.
Probably the most famous Black Prince Atlantean, 514 was purchased from the competition of the time,
Yorkshire Rider, via an auction in May 1990.
JUG514L was a one time Leeds bus, having been new to Leeds City Transport in February 1973, passing to METRO ownership in 1974 when the larger transport organisation was formed. When the bus industry was broken up in 1986, 514 passed over to the newly formed Yorkshire Rider.
At the same time as Yorkshire Rider was formed, Brian was about to launch Black Prince buses, so it was a real coup for him, 4 years down the line in 1990, to be able to acquire a vehicle which had been used directly against him in competition!.
On arrival at Black Prince, 514 was given its intricate and very pleasing lined out version of fleet livery, incorporating maroon as well as red and yellow.
Sadly, 514 did not prove to be the most reliable vehicle, and was scrapped in June 1992.
Please click on the large image below to make the image full page size.
MPT301P & MPT302P
MPT301/2P were fairly rare machines, being bodied by ECW in a style very similar to the Bristol VR body of the same manufacturer.
The pair of AN68 Atlanteans were delivered to NBC Northern General at Gateshead in November and December 1975 as fleetnumbers 3301/3302.
When the NBC Northern General operation was privatised, the Go-Ahead group was born (Go-Ahead Northern) as the result of a management buyout. All the buses were transferred into the new operation.
Black Prince acquired the pair from Go-Ahead Northern via an auction in Manchester in November 1990, neither lasting long enough in the fleet to gain a variation of red and yellow colours, which is rather a shame as this style of body was an attractive, if not dated looking style on the Atlantean chassis.
301/2 did not see service for long with Black Prince as a result of the bodies being rotten and they did not prove economical to repair.
The two Northern machines met their fate in 1991, passing to Trevor Wigley, Barnsley for scrap.
MUA870P, Gordon's Atlantean
MUA870P was delivered to the Yorkshire Woollen District of the National Bus Company in the January of 1976. The body was of the stylish Park Royal type, with a H43/30F specification.
The Atlantean carried several identities over the years, listed below
Yorkshire Woollen NBC 773
Yorkshire Buses (Caldaire) 759
Sheffield & District 759
BTS (London) AN15
Gordon Goldthorpe (On Hire To Black Prince) 773
During its time at Black Prince, MUA was owned by preservationist Gordon Goldthorpe, who loaned it to Brian.
MUA was used mainly on school contract work but did stray on to the service work as required, when the operational fleet was suffering shortages.
The history of MUA on departure from Black Prince and the ownership of Mr Goldthorpe is fairly sketchy, the bus having appeared on eBay and we believe it ended its days as a cafe or hospitality suite on the south coast.
If anyone can provide more detailed information about the current wherabouts of MUA, please contact us using the contact form at the foot of the page.
The long way from Mirfield to Morley
Long wheelbase Atlantean, VCX340X was delivered new to Longstaff of Mirfield in April 1982. The AN68 was bodied by Northern Counties to H47/36F specification so was a real people mover at such a size!.
VCX arrived at Black Prince during March 1992 in full Longstaff livery and was pressed in to service right away operating on the Leeds corridor, providing a large capacity vehicle on the X51 route.
When the time came to repaint VCX, the chosen livery was quite superb, with David's design skills producing the nicely lined out version of fleet livery, complete with gold fleetnames between the decks ensuring the bus really looked the part on the streets of Leeds!.
VCX moved on in June 1993 seeing service with Andrews Sheffield Omnibus and Lincolnshire Roadcar, ending its days with the Yorkshire Traction group, as the towing vehicle at Rawmarsh depot. The bus had its top deck removed for this purpose. VCX survived until around 2006.
AN68, MNC519W was new to Greater Manchester PTE in the October of 1980 as fleetnumber 8319.
The stylish Northern Counties H43/32F body was built to the Manchester "Standard" design which became a familiar sight built on many varied bus chassis of all descriptions!.
MNC came to Black Prince in 1995, the result of a vehicle swap with good friend of the company, John Cherry, of Aintree Coachlines, Liverpool.
The Atlantean was primarily used on schools, although when the service fleet needed a helping hand, the decker was there to step in.
As a result of MNC being used primarily on school contracts, the bus never gained red and yellow fleet livery, being operated in the distinctive Manchester colours for the duration of its time in Morley.
MNC519W signalled the end of the Leyland Atlantean era at Black Prince buses, the company having moved on to more advanced vehicle types including Volvo and Scania.
No more Leyland Atlantean buses entered the fleet after the departure of MNC in 1996, drawing to a close the story of the type with Black Prince.
The Hyndburn Hire Pool
Spot-Hire From Lancashire
After the de-regulation of local bus services in 1986, East Lancashire operator Hyndburn built a huge fleet of vehicles, purchased second hand from various sources across the UK.
These second hand acquisitions were placed in to a hire pool alongside end of life buses from the service fleet and made available as spot-hire vehicles for other operators.
This pooling of buses proved to be a very shrewd move at a time of huge upheaval in the bus industry, where many smaller operators needed buses for short terms at short notice.
Brian and David were in touch with management at Hyndburn buses and consequently the hire pool gave great benefit to the Black Prince operation, with several Atlantean buses being sent across the Pennines "On Hire" to Black Prince.
Buses were generally kept in Morley for two weeks at a time, then swapped over as they were required at home in Hyndburn country.
The Black Prince Atlantean fleet was a rich and varied tapestry, with body styles from most body manufacturers represented between the years 1974-2000.
Buses bodied by Alexander, Park Royal, Charles H Roe, ECW, Northern Counties and East Lancashire all made an appearance, adding to fascinating history of Black Prince!.
We're pretty confident that this page is a definitive history of Atlantean operation at the company, but we are happy to stand corrected, particularly with reference to the Hyndburn fleet, as we have no record of which examples operated from Morley other than the handful of photographs we have as evidence.
To continue your journey through the fleet history of Black prince buses, you can explore other sections of the fleet using the buttons below, leading to such delights as the Daimler Fleetline and the Leyland Leopard!.
Competition for the Atlantean?.. The Daimler Fleetline..
"Morley Wildcats" The Leopards, Lynxes and Tigers of the Black Prince fleet.