The North West Vehicle Restoration Trust celebrated all things built at Leyland’s Workington factory on Sunday 10th August 2014, with no less than 10 vehicles taking part in the days “running day” style event. The weather, despite cold and raining didn’t stop visitors flocking to the event to celebrate their combined passion for vehicles built by Leyland in a now gone by age. The 201 Bus Group proudly presented two of their Leyland’s for display at the depot, namely MCW bodied Leyland Atlantean PDR1/1 FHF 451 (Wallasey 1) and Massey bodied Leyland Titan PD2/40 FBG 910 (Birkenhead 10).
A line up of Leyland buses taking part in the cavalcade to mark the end of the day celebrating vehicles built at Workington.
Leyland’s purpose built plant at Workington opened in 1971 where production of the then revolutionary Leyland National, in partnership with the National Bus Company, commenced. The plant still survives to this day, now split between Stagecoach in Cumbria as one of their depots in the area, and the other half belonging to the haulage firm Eddie Stobarts. During its 22 years as an operational manufacturing facility, many different types were produced en masse for both UK and international markets, right up until its closure in 1993, following takeover by Volvo.
During the following years, the factory went from strength to strength as Leyland seen marked success in the industry, with operators buying the National, and it’s successor, the National 2, in their thousands. Their double deck Leyland Titan vehicle also had production transferred to Workington after the first examples were bodied at Park Royal’s. Production of the Titan ceased in 1984/5, with the National swiftly following suit, the last examples being delivered new to London Transport and Halton Transport respectively. The last National C49 OCM was in use on the day. Workington was also home to the production of another one of Leyland’s new concept, the railbus. The idea soon developed into the Pacer, and later the Sprinter, types of train, which saw large success amongst operators in the UK.
A new era then begun at Workington as de-regulation was nearing, following an extended period of success from the 70’s and continuing into the 80’s, they consolidated their empire. With production of all Leyland Olympians transferring from the Bristol plant that had once produced Lodekka’s and VR’s up to Workington. They were produced alongside the replacement for the National, the Lynx. Leyland also expanded their product range, manufacturing a luxury version of their successful bus and coach chassis, the Tiger. Named the Tiger Doyen, it introduced a new element of comfort to coach travel at the time, moving on from the previous wood effect formica covering all of the interior that was commonplace, and replacing it is all with soft trim, as well as a spacious comfortable interior, while still offering plenty of luggage space for the travelling commuter. Sadly, it was a design that was short lived, and didn’t see the success that it perhaps deserved.
Following deregulation, Leyland’s success continued, though not to the extent that it was in earlier days. Sales of the Olympian still made it the most successful decker of the time, while sales of the Lynx, and later the Lynx 2, continued at a steady rate, although nowhere near matching the National. Come the early 90’s, Leyland began to struggle in an ever-advancing and competitive market, with sales falling, the inevitable eventually happened, and Leyland sold out to Volvo in 1993. The Olympian continued to be the most successful selling double decker for a number of years following, before production finally ceased in 1999; it was widely considered the Olympian was the main reason for Volvo’s buyout of an otherwise failing manufacturer. The Lynx, despite Leylands once high hopes for a bus that could have been so much more than it turned out to be, wasn’t so fortunate, and following the last examples manufactured and being delivered to Halton Transport, production ceased, being replaced by the Volvo B10B.
Leyland left behind a long and interesting legacy, much of it as a result of it’s years spent producing quality products at Workington. Come along to this day to see all that was good about those years, and sample the products of one of the most famous manufacturers of the 20th Century.
Check out the North West Vehicle Restoration Trust’s website at nwvrt.co.uk.