In 1889, the only Blantyre public conveyance was by wagonette and horses, which ran between Hamilton and Blantyre.
By 1894 a service of omnibuses was running, leaving Blantyre at 10am every 2 hours until 8pm each evening. (9.45pm on Saturdays).
Buses travelled via Glasgow Road, by Greenfield to Hamilton and back. This continued even after the tram network was established on the same route in 1903.
After WW1, there was a proliferation of private bus operators running between Hamilton and Glasgow via Blantyre. These included Johnson of Blantyre, Edward Hughes of Cambuslang, “The Caledon” of Halfway, Joseph Barr of Halfway, Cochrane R Cairney of Carmyle, White of Tarbrax, Crawfords Bus Service of Rutherglen, OK Bus Association, and Miller’s Motor Services.
Many of them were members of A1 Association of Lanarkshire Bus Owners, formed in 1926. (at peak, a bus left Hamilton every minute). Locally in Blantyre, William Baxter ran Baxters a local bus service in the 1920’s. Baxter started business as a general carrier and had a garage in Church Street.
In 1924 bus services started running from High Blantyre to Glasgow and on 2nd October 1925, a service commenced from High Blantyre to Hamilton.
In Blantyre during 1925, there were 8 Leyland Lion buses and these were often known as “Baxter’s Bluebirds” due to their colour. In the late 1920’s, the firm was bought over by J.W&R Torrance Ltd of Burnbank Road, Hamilton. Torrance was founded in 1925 and in 1927 had more than 30 Albion buses with maroon livery.
Accidents in the 1920’s were common, not just involving bus crashes into people, but also into trams and other vehicles. With so many different buses on and early traffic regulations still evolving, unfortunately many people were injured, several killed on Blantyre’s busy roads.
The Glasgow General Omnibus and Motor Services Ltd (GOC) first services ran on 11th December 1926 with red and cream, single deck Leyland buses between Cambuslang, Blantyre and Hamilton.
On 15th January 1929 they extended service with a route between High Blantyre and Low Blantyre via Stonefield Road, a route that has existed since then.
In October 1930, between 8am and 9am, an incredible 36 buses passed along Glasgow Road, giving a service of a bus on the busy road every 1.75 minutes! Perhaps a reflection of how busy Glasgow Road used to be.
Being bought over soon swallowed up the smaller operators. J.W&R Torrance and the G.O.C were taken over by the Central S.M.T Co Ltd in June 1932, with the Lanarkshire Traction Company following shortly after. They maintained legal separation until 28th November 1949.
It is worth mentioning J.Laurie & Co of Burnbank, Hamilton who started out in business in the late 1920’s with their bright green “Chieftain” buses operating a service through High Blantyre via Stoneymeadow Road up to East Kilbride. The service originally first ran from Leighstonehall to Blantyre Industrial Estate.
Central S.M.T took over the Chieftain service in 1961.
Residents will also remember private bus companies in the area like Beatons, Lethams and latterly, Parks.
Central S.M.T operated services from 1958 in the Blantyre area. Their livery, colours of dark red and numbering system are well remembered in Blantyre. The 61 Glasgow-Newmains, 62 Glasgow- Hamilton, 63 Glasgow –Eddlewood, 64/66 Glasgow –Eddlewood, 67 Glasgow- Newmains, 68/69 Glasgow –Newmains, 96 Hamilton- Blantyre (via David Livingstone Memorial), 21 Hamilton-Blantyre via High Blantyre, 22 Hamilton- Auchentibber (on a Friday and Saturday only).
Routes were standardised and made more efficient by Central Scottish from 1983 by introducing 60 Glasgow-Newmains, 62 Glasgow – Little Earnock, 63 Glasgow-Eddlewood, 64/66 Glasgow-Newmains, 205/6 Hamilton-Eaglesham via High Blantyre and 207 Hamilton – High Blantyre. Some of these routes and numbers still exist today and should be familiar.
Under Bus Deregulation by the Transport Act 1985, Strathclyde’s buses with their familiar dark orange livery entered the area on 31st August 1986. First buses now also operate in the area, buses with white and purple livery, with their large depot at Springwells, on the site of the former Greenfield Foundry.
From “Blantyre Explained” by Paul Veverka (c) 2016
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