50th Anniversary of motorway express coaches
On 2 November 1959 Midland Red introduced its first non-stop motorway express coach from Birmingham to London - on the same day that the M1 opened.
50 years later, original members of the Midland Red team who engineered the coach, the Transport Museum in Wythall and coach restorer Roger Burdett came together on Saturday 31 October to hold a commemorative journey from Birmingham to London Victoria.
Transport and local history enthusiasts travelled the 240-mile round trip from the National Express coach station in Birmingham on two restored coaches, the C5 and CM6T. These distinctive red and black coaches became a national icon, receiving the ultimate accolade when Corgi Toys introduced miniature versions for sale around the World.
Malcolm Keeley, Collections Manager and Trustee of the Transport Museum in Wythall said, “We’re delighted to mark this occasion with a commemorative trip down memory lane to London. Midland Red designed and built its own buses and coaches in Birmingham from 1923 and the motorway express coaches built in 1959 were a fantastic achievement for the company and the region. I’d like to thank everybody involved in creating this event to ensure that these achievements are remembered.”
A brand new National Express coach will also travel with the vintage models of coach.
Mike Lambden, Head of Public Affairs for National Express coach said, “This coach service laid the foundations of what is today’s National Express coach network. We are pleased to support this event marking a true milestone in transport history.”
The restored coaches include a C5, number 4780, which is owned privately by Roger Burdett, one of Britain’s top bus and coach restorers. 4780 has enjoyed a complete restoration, being finished just in time for this anniversary. In 1959, for its new motorway role, the C5 was modified in many ways, the most significant being turbocharged engines and five-speed gearboxes. The previous coaches presumed a comfort stop at coach stations or cafeterias en route but each CM5T had a toilet to allow non-stop journeys between London and Birmingham. Tyre design was very important because these would be the first British coaches to travel for long periods at high speeds. They were designed to cruise at 80 mph – today the maximum permitted speed is 62 mph.
The second coach, number 5656, is a lucky survivor of the CM6T class. It is owned by the Transport Museum, Wythall, which has the largest collection of preserved Midland Red vehicles. This too has been returned to the roads for the commemoration after many years. Its principal driver is Lloyd Penfold, also a long-term stalwart of vehicle preservation. His transport career has included many years at the helm of National Express coaches.
Notes to editors:
For more information please call Malcolm Keeley, Collections Manager and Trustee on 0121 733 7432 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Joy Williams, National Express on 0121 460 8419 email@example.com
The Transport Museum, Wythall
The Transport Museum in Chapel Lane, Wythall, is entirely run by volunteers who restore and preserve around 100 classic buses, coaches, milk floats and bread vans, including a 1949 Wolverhampton trolleybus – powered by electricity through overhead wires. The 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!
Wythall’s delightful collection was recently awarded full status under the museum accreditation scheme and will remain open at weekends from 11.00 to 4.30 until the end of November.
For more details, log on to www.wythall.org.uk