THE SELNEC PRESERVATION SOCIETY
All content is copyright The SELNEC Preservation Society.
STANDARDISATION OF BUS DESIGN
Consequently, in the summer of a 1969, a detailed analysis was made of the specifications used by all the various 11 companies, to find out in which areas rationalisation could be carried out, and it was quite obvious that one of the benefits to be derived by a major organisation such as the SELNEC PTE, with over 2,500 vehicles, would be the introduction of standardisation. In order to achieve this standardisation and resolve the difficulty of interchangeability of parts and to facilitate vehicles being able to operate throughout the length and breadth of the PTE area, the engineers at SELNEC, together with those at local Wigan body builder Northern Counties, devised a prototype Standard which was to become EX1.
One of the areas that the engineers at SELNEC sought to improve within their quest for standardisation, was the chassis and also the body electrical systems/saloon heating, both of which were thought to be rather poor on the conventional Atlantean and Fleetline chassis.
It was decided that the main requirement for the new Standard body was that it should be designed as aesthetically pleasing, but be a functional vehicle which would be easy to maintain and reasonably easy to repair following accident damage.
During the design stage, it was considered that the bus which showed the most pleasing proportions with practical considerations, was the Park Royal body, which had a 5' 4" bay length, but using this design meant that positions of the main body pillars no longer corresponded with the chassis outriggers, which was a fact that was to become a source of trouble to Northern Counties bodies in later years.
For the Standard vehicle, SELNEC decided to use the shorter wheel base PDR1 rather than the longer PDR2, which had previously been used by Manchester City Transport on its Mancunians, as it was felt it was lighter and move manoeuvrable. It was also decided that the prototype Standard would have a single entrance/exit door at the front, because the two door layout on the Mancunians had not produced appreciable saving on boarding or alighting times at bus stops.
Obviously, the SELNEC PTE wished to establish these design requirements in practice, and wanted to test its idea with operating staff, and of course, with passengers. By chance, upon the formation of the SELNEC PTE, there were three small contracts outstanding from inherited undertakings - six Atlantean chassis for Ashton, 10 Fleetline chassis for Rochdale and a further five Fleetline chassis for Bury. Consequently, these 21 chassis orders were to be used for the experimental bodies that were to be built.
A very close liaison took place between Northern Counties and SELNEC during the summer of 1970, to build the first prototype vehicle to SELNEC specifications, incorporating as many design requirements as possible. The first vehicle, EX1, used one of the six Atlantean PDR1A/I chassis destined for Ashton (7003009), which was delivered to Northern Counties on 25th June 1970, so that building could commence.
This first prototype body (Northern Counties body number 7063) was built and EX1 was given Registration Number PNF 941J, and was exhibited at the Commercial Vehicle Motor Show at Earls Court in September 1970, carrying the registration number SELNEC 70 and displaying an Orange SELNEC Flash instead of a Divisional Fleet Name, such as Central, Northern or Southern.
The vehicle had been built only 10 months after the formation of the SELNEC PTE, indicating the priority which was being given to standardisation. It also reflected the attention and interest paid by Northern Counties in completely changing its body designs within such a short period of time.
EX1 was registered on 20th October 1970, and sent for evaluation purposes around all the principal SELNEC Depots.
EX1 is 30' 9" long with a normal height body and a two-step tramcar type step. It has a capacity for 95 passengers with 75 seats, being 43 on the upper deck and 32 on the lower deck, with 20 standing. The aim was to provide increased comfort rather than to obtain maximum seating capacity, and seat pitches, particularly on the upper deck, are very reasonable.
A noticeable feature was the forward ascending staircase which was incorporated in EX1, for which at that time in the summer of 1970, special dispensation had to be obtained from the Department of the Environment. SELNEC PTE was concerned about the accident rate with rearward ascending staircases normally found on single, front-entrance double-deck buses.
Circuit breakers were used for protection and the intention was that all electrical units would be mounted on panels with plug and socket connections, so that they could be easily replaced and could be repaired in the works, rather than on the bus. Windscreens were deep, flat glasses in a 'V' formation and electrically operated windscreen washers were also fitted.
In March 1971, EX1 entered service at Queens Road Depot in the Central Division, and five further prototype Standards were ordered, being EX2 - EX6 on the remaining five Ashton ordered Atlantean PDR1A/1 chassis. On delivery, the six prototype Standards were based as follows: EX1 and EX2 at Queens Road, EX3 and EX4 in the Southern Division, with EX5 and EX6 being in the Northern Division.
A further 15 prototypes were commissioned in 1971, using the outstanding 15 Fleetline chassis, and were numbered EX7 - EX21.
EX7 - EX11 were five of the 10 Fleetlines ordered for Rochdale Corporation, and were single door. EX12 - EX16 were the five Fleetlines ordered for Bury, again with a single door configuration.
EX17 - EX21 were the remaining five Fleetline chassis for Rochdale Corporation, but had a dual-door body configuration, with a capacity of 92 with 72 seats, being 45 in the upper deck and 27 in the lower deck.
Upon delivery, these 15 Daimler Fleetline Prototype Standards were distributed throughout the whole of the SELNEC area: EX7 and EX8 going to Rochdale; EX9 and EX10 to Bolton; EX11 to Bury; EX12 and EX13 to Ashton; EX14 to Oldham; EX15 and EX16 to Stockport; EX17 - EX21 (the dual doored Standards) to Hyde Road.
EX1 - EX6 Northern Counties single door body/Leyland Atlantean chassis
EX7 - EX16 Northern Counties single door body/Daimler Fleetline chassis
EX17 - EX21 Northern Counties dual door body/Daimler Fleetline chassis
In general, and particularly for buses with a completely new design, they were very well received once in operation.
The interior colour scheme of the new vehicles was determined with the aid of Design Consultants to make a pleasant, warm interior, which could be easily cleaned to maintain appearances. There was white Melamine from the ceiling to below window levels, and black melamine to the floor. The seat backs were woodgrain brown melamine. The lower deck moquette was an orange design with orange hide trim, and the upper deck was all orange hide.
The vehicles were fitted with far superior heating systems, particularly in relation to water circulation, together with powerful windscreen demisters. Care and attention was paid to the driver's cab, firstly that the driver should have a clean environment and that the driving controls were conveniently placed to the right-hand side of the steering wheel, with most of the space on the left-hand side left available for various fare controlling equipment, which had not been standardised at this stage.
To overcome earlier problems of maintaining electrical equipment in the cab area, all the control equipment was conveniently situated for bus maintenance. The gearchange lever was also moved on to the right-hand side from the more conventional location on the left-hand side on Fleetline and Atlantean deliveries. The body was designed so that panels through which access was required for maintenance or which were regularly changed due to damage, could be quickly removed or replaced.
All 21 prototypes ran with the orange SELNEC fleet names until after the experiment had been concluded, when they were re-numbered in the appropriate Ashton, Bury and Rochdale sequences.
EX1 - EX6 went to Ashton as 5466 - 5471, (with Southern Green Flashes);
EX7 - EX11 became 6245 - 6249 in the Rochdale Fleet (with Northern Red Flashes);
EX12 - EX16 became 6395 - 6399 in the Bury series (with Northern Red Flashes);
EX17 - EX21 became 6250 - 6254 in the Rochdale Fleet (with Northern Red Flashes)
Some ran briefly with the SELNEC name and divisional Flash colours.
On internal computer records, EX1 - EX21 had originally been listed as 9001 - 9021 because the computer was programmed only to accept figures and not letters, as fleet numbers.
Having Northern Counties built EX1 and then another five PDR1A/1 Atlanteans, EX2 - EX6, they were all thoroughly tested by SELNEC. A number of aspects of their construction SELNEC were very pleased with and wished to replicate when they placed large orders for over two thousand production vehicles over the years. However, there were aspects of the initial design with which they were not too happy. Some changes were made in the Fleetline prototype batch EX7 - EX21, but most changes were made in respect of the production vehicles, starting with 7001, being a Park Royal bodied Leyland Atlantean, and 7206, being a Northern Counties bodied Daimler Fleetline.
The main changes from EX1 to the production vehicles were as follows:
# Roof vents removed.
Raised areas on lower fibreglass front added.
Double windscreen wipers fixed at bottom instead of single wipers fixed at top.
Route number on nearside instead of offside.
# Upper deck split rear window replaced with fixed glass.
# Wing mirrors altered.
# Power steering added.
Different orange PVC seat covers installed on the upper deck.
# Different orange moquette seat covers installed on the lower deck.
# Two heating vents moved from nearside to rear and offside.
PDRIA/1 replaced by AN68 Atlantean chassis.
Rear fleet number position moved.
Rear licence plate altered from glass to metal and black/white to yellow/black
Black seat frames replaced by grey colour and backs made wider and squarer.
# Smaller driver's window.
# Periscope position reversed.
# Side indicator position moved 90°
Front licence plate changed to white/black from black/white.
# Position of bolts on lower fibreglass front moved.
# Cab electrics, fuses and switches further developed.
# Direct air gear selection changed to electro-pneumatic.
# These were initially changed in the batch EX7 - EX21