|The march of
the Leyland Titan
Back when buses were favoured over trams, Leyland promoted their Titan bus range with the slogan When you bury a tram, mark the spot with a Titan. It worked; 220 of them replaced 330 Dublin trams from 1938-40.
In 1958 R1 became the first officially preserved commercial vehicle in the State
|The Leyland Titan, a low-loading model especially designed for passenger use by J.G. Rackham, was introduced in 1927, complementing his new Tiger single-decker. Its refined specification included a six-cylinder petrol engine, and the Leyland bodywork could accommodate up to fifty-one passengers in considerable comfort. There was a choice of the normal-height body with the familiar centre aisle on the upper deck or a lowbridge version with a side gangway upstairs. This was on the offside and dropped by one foot into the lower saloon, enabling the overall height of the bus to be reduced correspondingly. The lowbridge version at 13'6" (4.1m) was somewhat awkward for upper-deck passengers, but allowed double-deckers to operate on routes hitherto closed to them.
In 1931, the Irish Omnibus Company was the first operator of Titans in the Irish Free State when six lowbridge TD1s with timber-framed bodies were part of the fleet that replaced the Cork trams. Indeed the Titan was widely used for tramway replacement, Leyland's aggressive slogan being "When you bury a tram mark the spot with a Titan". The IOC and their successors the Great Southern Railways eventually built up a fleet of thirty-three, of several successive marks, the Titan being constantly improved over the years. All except the first six carried bodywork built in Ireland.
By 1937, when the Dublin United Tramways Company bought their first double-deckers, the mark number had reached TD4, and by the standards of the day, the DUTC's first Titans, numbered R1 and R2, were very advanced. These buses had Leyland metal-framed normal height bodywork to a design regarded as a classic. They were the pattern for a total of eight hundred and thirty-three Titans built at the famed Spa Road Works in Inchicore up to 1961, first for the DUTC and later, CIE. The mechanical specification of these first Dublin Titans included an 8.6-litre diesel engine delivering 100bhp at 1,800 rpm, four-speed crash gearbox and servo-assisted hydraulic brakes. They seated fifty-six passengers, the capacity later being increased to 58 by the addition of two seats on the upper deck. A total of two hundred pre-war Titans was built at Spa Road for the DUTC, plus ten for the GSR. Two hundred and twenty of the Dublin vehicles replaced a roughly equal number of the city's 330 trams in the period 1938-1940. All of these buses had long working lives, the last ones not being withdrawn until 1960.
The Titan pictured above, R1, registered ZC 714, entered service on the College Street-Crumlin (50) route on 20th December 1937, operating from Summerhill Garage. It later moved to Clontarf, and when it was withdrawn there in 1956, it avoided a trip to the scrapyard because CIE's Garage Superintendents - sadly, none of whom is any longer with us - realised its historical importance and kept moving it round until its preservation became acceptable. In 1958, it was the first commercial vehicle to be officially preserved in this State and is now a prime exhibit in the Transport Museum. For comparison purposes, readers might like to note that R1 cost £2,160 16s 1d (£2,160.80p) - and today's Olympians come out at more than £160,000 each.
Restored to DUTC livery in 1960, and repainted again in 1975, R1 attended the Bangor Bus Rally in that year, its performance on the 252-mile round trip being a surprise to younger bus people who would not have remembered these vehicles in service.
To mark its Golden Anniversary in 1987, Bowmaker Bank sponsored R1's rebuild in a FÁS (then AnCo) scheme. In 1997, the bus had its electrical and braking systems overhauled by Transport Museum members and the Society was honoured by the National Heritage Council with a grant to re-upholster the bus; using correct pattern moquette, this work was completed late in 1998.
The Transport Museum is lucky to have so important and historic a vehicle as R1 in its care and it is, of course, the oldest of several other Titans in the collection. This wonderful bus is eagerly sought out by visiting bus professionals and enthusiasts.
The Irish Omnibus Company was the first operator of Titans in the, then, Irish Free State