The Oldest Surviving Plymouth Atlantean
Leyland Atlantean 137 was delivered on 23rd June 1960 and entered service one day later on the 24th June. It was part of the very first batch of Leyland Atlanteans to be delivered to Plymouth Corporation, being given fleet numbers 121-138 (TCO521-538 respectively). It was fitted with the trend setting mark 4 metal construction body from M.C.W. giving a seating capacity of 77 seats. This was a major increase in seating from previous orders of Leyland Titan PD2 traditional half-cab buses, which only gave 56 seats.
These new style of buses were very revolutionary at the time but they would be met with a mixed reception from both bus crews and public alike. It seems remarkable now that there were passengers still going to the back of the new Atlantean at bus stops because they were so used to jumping on and off the rear open platforms of the Leyland Titans that were the mainstay of the Plymouth fleet until 1960. There were also issues between bus crews as to whose job it was to open the door on the new Atlanteans! Even passengers moaning that there wasn't enough fresh air while having the door shut all the time!
However, both the local undertaking and the council recognised that these vehicles would be the way forward and would become major buyers of these enduring buses for years to come. Also, one man operation would not be too far off the horizon either.
137 was placed into service on popular main road routes 12 and 13 just after delivery in June 1960 and remained on these routes until January 1966. It would be displaced by the newer batch of Atlanteans just delivered, those being 201-205 (DDR201/2C and DDR203-5D).
137 was converted to departmental use as a driver trainer during April 1976 and was repainted into a special livery of white, yellow and red. It was then subsequently received a repaint of white, yellow and maroon during May 1979 and was also given the special departmental use fleet number of 7545 at this time.
It was repainted one final time in October 1983, into the standard red and cream Plymouth Citybus livery. It finished its long service with the undertaking by being used as an enquiry office and drivers/inspectors control vehicle on Royal Parade and also at Bretonside Bus Station. It also had bottled gas heaters fitted in the lower saloon in March 1985 with a cage being fitted to house the gas bottles.
During April 1987, 7545 was renumbered yet again, this time being given fleet number 903 and not long after it was also re-registered WSV 980 in April 1988.
It was finally taken out of service in March 1989 and sold to Jameson (dealer), Exeter in April 1989 and was subsequently sold for preservation to Alan Shepherd in July 1989. It was just days away from being broken up when Alan saved the bus for preservation. It had been modified for its latter use and fitted with some tables and had some of its surviving seats changed back to front. As luck would have it a former Park Royal bodied Plymouth Atlantean PDR2/1, fleet no. 6 (NDR 506J), would be returned to Milehouse and would eventually be scrapped, and it was this bus that would donate most of its remaining seats to aid the restoration of 137.
The group's Chairman, Ralph Delbridge, decided to purchase the bus and return 137 to its rightful place back in the City of Plymouth. After a long journey from Darlington, 137 finally arrived back at Milehouse exactly 20 years after it left on Sunday 5th April 2009.