As you might imagine, the ‘Queen Marys’ were large machines for their day. Seating sixty-nine people in thirty feet of bus, they were substantially larger than anything Brighton (or most of Sussex) had seen on their roads before. In particular, they contrasted with the much smaller red and cream rear-entrance double-deckers run in the Brighton area by Brighton Corporation Transport, and the Brighton Hove and District Omnibus Company. While nowadays all three operators have been absorbed into the Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company, then they operated as separate entities – largely co-ordinated rather than competing!
Green and cream monsters
Fifty years ago this year (2008) the first of what eventually turned out to be around 300 very different buses took to the road. They were green and cream “monsters” – but unlike the buses entering service in some other towns, they kept their engines at the front rather than the back. Entering service at around the same time as London Transport’s famous Routemasters, they set a higher standard of comfort. With full fronts instead of half cabs, forward entrances and heating, combined with the usual comfortable Southdown seats, they were worthy successors to Southdown’s existing double-deckers.
Common by the 1970s
Although only seen on a few Brighton-based services in the late 50s and early 60s, by the early 1970s they gradually superseded the Brighton Hove and District Bristol buses on many town routes, and became well-known to most passengers. Brighton still had conductors at the time, as although experiments had been carried out on one vehicle (428, one of the convertible open-toppers), operation by one man was not agreed and not really feasible.
Lasting appeal for enthusiasts
The last ‘Queen Marys’ entered service in 1967, with each batch differing in a greater or lesser way from the previous; some were convertible to open top, some had twin headlights, some had panoramic windows and some had forced ventilation. Most were sold on for further service, some spent time in Hong Kong! And a substantial number have been rescued and restored by enthusiasts, who seem to hold the Queen Marys in high esteem. Every summer it is still possible for one day to ride these vehicles on a special running day based on Worthing.