Monday, 11 April 2011

Bartona Multiflora Exotica

Is it a bird?  Is it a mammal?  Is it an insect?
Is it a potentially life-threatening tropical disease?

It's a bus.

Back in the heady days of the sixties when the younger set were enjoying their recently gained "freedom" by supping dinky shallow cups of frothy coffee and tucking into a Brunch Bender Egg Burger at Wimpy's, a youthful fbb was enjoying an occasional trip to Nottingham.  Then there were no trams to delight the lad but there was an alternative to Northampton's ultra-conservative Daimlers with Roe bodywork ...
 OK this one was much later than the 60s - but you get the idea!

...and the never ending Bristols of United Counties.  And that alternative was Barton.   The company ran its first bus from Chilwell to Nottingham Goose Fair in 1908 and later built a replica.
The enterprise was founded by Thomas Henry Barton (always known as "The Guv'nor") who ran the business until his death in 1946.   But what fascinated fbb was the magnificent and eclectic collection of vehicles operated by them over the years.  Early post-war vehicles were always adorned by lots of aluminium flashings ...
... hence the name coined by fbb and used as this blog's title, Bartona Multiflora Exotica!

Later, the company always used coaches (high backed seats, step entrance, usually WITH conductors) as single deck vehicles.   This beauty photographed by fbb in the mid 60s (?) showing another Barton innovation - front exit and (behind the roadsigns) centre exit, for use when one man operated.
The pinnacle of its innovative enterprise, however, was bus 861.   This was a Dennis Loline chassis, chosen by operators who needed to negotiate low bridges etc., but with a lowbridge body glued onto it.   A lowbridge body was another way in which operators used standard chassis vehicles to enable them to use roads which passed under, guess what, low bridges.
So the bus was twice low height, if you can grasp the concept - and not much taller than a modern touring coach, SINGLE deck, of course.   Why did they do such things?  fbb reckons they liked having FUN.

fbb well remembers a speedy ride from Nottingham to Derby (express via A52) sitting very uncomfortably top deck front.   Here the drivers cab below intruded well into the upper deck.  The floor at this point was only an inch or so below the bottom of the seat cushion, so knees were (almost) inserted into fbb's nostrils.  Ouch!
The livery mellowed in the 70s but the scent of experiment pervaded the company.  The vehicle above, for example, was rebuilt from a single decker and was fitted with an engine usually used in tanks!   A throaty roar indeed.
Sadly, in 1989, Barton sold out to neighbouring Trent and was slowly absorbed into the Wellglade parent.

fbb salutes the memory of "The Guv'nor", T H Barton OBE... the present age of corporate identity, elf'n'safety, tick-box accountancy and remote office-bound management (fbb is "filling up") we shall never see his like again.   Even Stagecoach's big cheese, Brian Souter, "went corporate" despite his initial "tesco bag and trainers" management style.

P.S. Brunch Bender Egg Burger?   Yes, that was real.   It was a burger plus frankfurter sausage, cut and curved, (see below, "bender" is top right under the sliced tomatoes!) with an egg.   Of course, served with "fries" which, as we all know, were far superior to "chips".   Scrummy!

next blog : due on Wednesday April 13th  


  1. For a brief period during the days of "British Coachways" you could even go from Nottingham to London on regular-service Barton's coach for a ridiculously cheap sum [about £6 return IIRC].

    Towards the end of Barton's days, I lived on the Nottingham-Loughborough via Kegworth route. Unfortunately, it wasn't so much a buy-out but more a rescue operation from Trent, as I seem to remember they had a number of coaches off the road with mechanical problems.
    A rather ignoble end to what had been a magnificent bus and coaching empire.

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