Coventry Corporation took over Coventry Electric Tramway Company on January 1st, 1912 and so Coventry Corporation Transport came into being. Coventry Corporation handed over its Transport Department to WMPTE in 1974. 2012 marked the centenary of the formation of Coventry Corporation Transport Department and what follows is a description of the Centenary Event on 12th May, 2012.
Picture courtesy of John McSparron
The Scene at Sandy Lane soon after the event opened
Well, what a wonderful day we all had at Sandy Lane! After all the rain of the last few weeks and the unseasonally cold weather of the preceding days, the Sun came out at last and shone equally on both the buses on display and the visitors. All the hard work and planning by the Coventry Transport Museum in conjunction with the Coventry Corporation Transport Society came to fruition and they had obviously had words with the weather men to ensure such a memorable day. A special word of thanks is in order for Roger Burdett of the Society and Christian van Schaadenburgh and Steve Bagley of the Museum for organising the displays and arranging the venue.
There were bus queues outside the Transport Museum
Picture courtesy of Ken Jones
The venue itself was the Coventry Transport Museum's off-site storage area, housed in the old Coventry Corporation Transport's Sandy Lane Garage. The garage was purpose built for Coventry Corporation Transport (CCT) and opened in September 1954 as a new covered garage with a capacity of half of the fleet of almost 300 buses. Thereafter, odd numbered vehicles were assigned to Sandy Lane and even numbers to Harnall Lane. Sandy Lane Garage was eventually opened after several years of searching for a new site and was badly needed to replace the temporary post-war facilities at the old tram depots of Foleshill and Priestley's Bridge and to relieve the overcrowding at Harnall Lane. A new major bus overhaul facility was opened next to the garage in 1966, replacing the workshops at Watery Lane, Keresley.
Upwards of 1,000 visitors attended the event, with stall holders expressing satisfaction with their sales. There was on-site parking for blue badge holders, but everyone else had to park off site, with the majority choosing to use the shuttle bus. In the yard there were bus movements in and out every few minutes and an almost constant frenzy of photographic activity. The on-site catering van experienced a brisk trade and the fish and chip shop opposite the gates was also well patronised.
Boarding for the North Coventry Tour
Picture courtesy of Ken Jones
Access to the site was by shuttle bus from the Transport Museum. There were two buses scheduled every half hour for the shuttle, but there were bus queues at the museum reminiscent of the 1950s and extra buses were requested to clear the backlog. It was rather like the days when the inspectors phoned Sandy Lane to request Service Extras. Later, there were similar queues outside Sandy Lane for buses back to the museum and for the North Coventry tour. There were also two buses every half hour from 12.30 pm for the North Coventry Tour, which followed the old Service 2 Route to the Radford Terminus, then cut across to the Keresley terminus and returned via the old Service 16 Route and part of the Inner Circle route. About two dozen preserved buses were involved with the shuttle and North Coventry tour operations and more than 30 buses were on show altogether.
There was great interest in the CCT Society display boards. There were several posters on display. Topics included, "The Trams", "The Early Buses", "Buses in the Blitz", "The era of Bus Queues", "The Era of Ronald Fearnley", "Coventry Corporation Transport Personalities", "The Half-cab Daimlers", "The Single Deckers", "Topless Models" and "Goodbye to Service No 1". The last was particularly poignant because Service No 1 had persisted from 1919 until earlier this year. About half of the route in the days of Coventry Corporation Transport was based on the first bus service of 1914. That service, from Stoke to the Central Fire STatiuon via the Council Offices, was abandoned later the same year when the War Department commandeered the buses at the outbreak of war.
At 3.30 pm a cavalcade of all the running buses left the site and paraded through the city centre, returning via the Ring Road. There was a temporary traffic hold-up outside the gates as the cavalcade departed. Many people along the route must have been greatly surprised to see such a collection of old buses.