Wesley's "Bluebell" Coaches

Model T Ford at Olney Midland Road Station.

Bob Wesley and Freda Wesley

How the pattern of transport in Northamptonshire and North Bucks has changed since the early years of the century, when horse-drawn vehicles were the order of the day!

In those years, one of the early types of passenger transport service on the roads was operated by a certain Mr. Wesley. Now his two sons are still carrying out the service which has become something of a Wesley tradition — getting people to their destinations in comfort, safety and speed.

But let us harp back to the days when roads were little better than cart tracks, and when any form of road transport was, to say the least, hazardous.

Had you not been wealthy enough to own your own landaulette or sedanca-de-ville (chauffeur dressed in grey, not navy, if you please) you might have been fortunate in living on a route served by one of Wesley's Model 'T' Ford buses.

These charming little vehicles, the forerunners of the giant luxury coaches of today, plied their erstwhile way between Newport Pagnell and Northampton, and among other places they served was Olney railway station, where the photograph above was taken, and is now in Mr. W. T. Wesley's possession.

Quite a family business, and more so when you consider that the bodies of these Ford 'T's were built by Wesley's of Newport Pagnell — an uncle of the family. The vehicles had a sliding door on the side — an innovation for the period — and as the accompanying photograph shows, were full of character.

Among the other services being run in those days were day excursions to places as far away as Skegness. Other vehicles included a 1910 Daimler, powered by a six cylinder engine with sleeve valves, and sporting a 14-seat body. Another important fleet vehicle of the day was the 20-seater Crossley, an improvement over the similar vehicles used in the 191418 war.

It is interesting to note that some of the timings operated, at the period are still used today.

As time moved on, buses became more reliable, and it must have been quite a proud Wesley's Coach Services that took delivery in the 1930's of a De Dion Bouton 24-seater. This was one of the most advanced touring coaches of the day, with a long bonnet, and fitted out with a radio and a heater. The De Dion, which was built on low lines, was believed to be the first in the area to include these fittings.

Further vehicles included a B.A.T. 20-seater, and a series of Guildfords, some of which rejoiced in a separate cockpit on the front for the driver.

But then some sort of standardisation began to appear, and towards the end of the 1940's Wesley's started using Crossley coaches with a variety of bodies. One of these was a 30 feet by eight feet example built by Yates of Loughborough, which achieved a transport milestone by being the first coach with no partition between the driver and his passengers — regular practice these days, of course.

Services of that period extended far and wide, and it was at this time that tours were stdrted on the Continent and to Devon and Cornwall.

Between 1955 and 1963, Wesley's purchased Commer vehicles, which formed the mainstay of the fleet for many years. They have performed well in all types of duty, including touring in Scotland, the west country, Spain, the French Riviera, Venice, Switzerland, Germany, Holland and Belgium, and about 18 of these vehicles are still in service today.

To keep up with the pacemaking sixties, new coaches are continually being purchased, and the latest are Fords with Plaxton coachwork.

Public services are run by one survivor of a fleet of double deckers, all of which were purchased second hand, and the coaches. In recent years, Wesley's have purchased two coach firms, one at Newport and one at North Crawley, bringing their public service route mileage to well over 1000 miles each week. One of these services runs through Milton Keynes, site of the new North Bucks city.

This year, Wesley's have been granted a licence to run tours to Ireland, and Mr. Wesley and his partner and brother, Mr. R. G. Wesley, are sure that these will prove popular because there are no currency or passport difficulties.

Many daily contracts are being undertaken by the firm, including a daily service to Luton and schoolchildren's services, bringing the annual mileage to well over half-a-million, and the annual number of passengers also over half-a-million.

Expansion and improvement are achieved where ever possible, including the transfer of the firm's Northampton office to St. Giles' Street, which is more central for the town. The head office has also been moved from Stoke Goldington, where the vehicles are stabled, to Newport Pagnell.

The future looks bright for Wesley's particularly withthe new city about to spring up on their doorstep.