The Leyland National (and LNC27 in particular)

Fogg's Perfect Bus - Designed like an aircraft - Built like a car

Quick History of LNC27

  • Design
  • Green Line
  • East Kent
  • Alpine Travel
  • Rescue
  • Restoration
  • In the mid sixties - in the white heat of technology - was born the Leyland bus to end all buses. One-man-operated, high capacity single-deckers were the thing, and Dr. Albert Fogg was in charge of Forward Project Bus 7. The highly-tooled, integral body would host a new 8.2 litre, headless, turbo-charged engine light enough to mount under the rear floor (the O510 if you care for such details). The prototype embodied many new features such as a one-piece ribbed roof for strength, low-profile radial tyres to keep the floor low, galvanised steel body parts for corrosion resistance, self-levelling air-suspension and ergonomically designed cabs. A new factory built around flowline production principles was built near Workington to escape the union stranglehold on the other factories. Production would soon rise to 2000 units per year. Need I continue?

    In reality, the market for the bus was overestimated, and the merger with the BMC private car industry was like a millstone around Leyland's neck. Foreign markets did not materialise as hoped. Nonetheless, the 50% bus grant propelled the Leyland National into almost every fleet in Britain - particularly as the National Bus Company was a partner in the venture. Maybe an unwilling partner? It was, after all, an urban bus with strong LT design principles, and the NBC wasn't in that market. The first vehicles entered service in 1972, and the last in 1985 leading to a total of nearly 8000 vehicles, in a number of varieties. Consider that there were nearly 7000 RT vehicles built for the London streets in earlier times................

    London Country built up the largest fleet of Leyland Nationals (534) in the UK, to replace the largely worn-out and unsuitable rolling stock it inherited from London Transport (who took 500 in the end as their own special vehicles proved disastrous in service). The first four were put into use alongside Metro-Scania and AEC Swift vehicles on the Stevenage SuperBus high-frequency, flat fare routes. The next batches started work from Dunton Green in January 1973 (LN19-21/3) and Hatfield in February. Simultaneously, single-door vehicles designated LNC started service as Green Line coaches. The first batch of ten went to work from Romford (RE) garage on the short, intensive 721 route to London's Aldgate from Brentwood on 17th February, followed by five more on 3rd March. Later examples went to Tring, High Wycombe and Reigate for the 706 and 711 routes. Coaches they were not! They were definitely buses, and introduced cold, slippery PVC seats to Green Line bottoms for the first time. As deliveries of later, coach seated SNC vehicles proceeded, the LNCs were reclassified LNB and sent to work on bus routes.The first 70 Nationals were 11.3 metres in length (LNxx), but all subsequent vehicles were to the shorter 10.3 metre specification (SNxx).

    The story will now focus upon one particular vehicle, LNC27, chassis number 00321, NPD 127L. LNC27 ran from Romford until 10/76, when the reduction in service on 721 made her redundant. The service lasted only until July 1977, when it was abandoned and Romford garage closed. What a change from the 1930's, when an establishment of 90 vehicles was maintained there. The huge garage became a store for redundant vehicles. LNC27 was moved to Tring (TG) and reclassifed LNB27. Closure of that garage in 4/77 brought about relocation to Hemel Hempstead (HH), then Hatfield (HF). Here she was out of service from 10/77 to 3/78 and repainted in all-over Leaf Green in 8/78. De-licensed in 1/80 and moved to Crawley, she was out of service until re-certification in 8/80, when she went back to Hemel Hempstead until 4/82. Reallocation to Hatfield lasted until 10/83, when she was finally moved to Grays (GY) and stored out of use.

    Unlike previous generations of London Transport vehicles, these were standard 'provincial' buses and were thus accepted into fleets of similar vehicles. A new career in service with East Kent started in 5/84 at the Dover depot - this time in all-over Poppy Red livery and running as number 1127. Deregulation struck in 1986, and a new livery of burgundy/cream was applied in 10/87, but only lasted until the following February when she was sold to a dealer on the Welsh island of Anglesey.

    The story of LNC27 continues with the Alpine Travel Company, an established operator of coaches from North Wales, who set about testing the local monopoly of Crosville Cymru. Successful competitive services in the busy corridor between Conwy, Llandudno, Colwyn Bay and Rhyl were run until July 1995. Alpine were then bought off these routes by Crosville, although part of the deal was that their name would continue to be used. Other, more recent London Country Nationals came to the Alpine routes - SNB 386/7/443 - but a new career as a school bus was given to 'NPD'. In late 1996 the axe fell, a failed turbocharger and general wear and tear were too much - and she became a donor of spares to the other Nationals in the fleet (which also included ex-Alder Valley TPE 160S).

    In October 1997 The Cobham Bus Museum Magazine asked the question "Where are they now" in an article on the 25th anniversary of the Leyland National. After a bit of delay, and a telephone call to Alpine, the the answer for LNC27 was a damp yard in Llanrwst (pronounced hlan-roost), and she was available for preservation. Naturally this caused something of a hiatus in the author's household, because he had always wanted a bus, but the realisation sank in that the narrowboat / family / house (choose one or more) would have to go to make room for it. A cry for help went out to Nigel Adams (BBPG) and Mike Nash (Cobham Bus Museum). As luck would have it, Mike and Nigel got together at the King Alfred New Year 1998 running day, and a rescue bid was launched.

    LNC27 was put back on her wheels and prepared for recovery. She left Llanrwst at 09:45 on 21st January 1998. Incredibly, this is almost exactly the 25th anniversary of her arrival at Bell Street, Reigate. Photographs of her arrival at her new home near Weybridge, Surrey (chez Nash) at 06:00 on Friday 23rd January are not available due to seasonal darkness. Now, the hard work begins. It is still by no means certain that the ravages of time may be halted or reversed. A large number of spare parts have been obtained, including a complete engine and various interior trim panels, but progress is slow. There is still a need for a radiator, exhaust and a set of door gear, so if you have any of these please get in touch. Follow the story here...................

    The LNC27 Project (MN,NA,JW) wish to express their grateful thanks to the following for their assistance in recovering NPD 127L and helping unravel her career:

  • Alpine Travel (Hughes Brothers (Llanrwst and Trefriw) Ltd.),
  • The M&D and East Kent Bus Club,
  • John G.S. Smith (Photographer extraordinaire),
  • Andrew Davies, Mike Lloyd and Brian Wright.

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