THE NOSTALGIC ‘rhubarb and custard’ coloured buses were a familiar sight on the streets of Leeds, across the country and internationally for decades.
The homegrown bus ‘empire’ started with an old bus bought for £30, growing to a fleet of over 50 at its peak, with a turnover in excess of £3 million.
And although Black Prince Buses no longer operates a regular public service, transport enthusiasts are planning revival events to mark 50 years since the firm was established in 1969.
Since it ceased being a public bus operator in 2005, a team of fans, including former staff and family members of founder Brian Crowther, with train driver Bradley McMullan, who owns one of the buses, are keeping the Black Prince spirit alive.
Bradley, 35, from Morley, who owns a Black Prince 50 seater bus, said: “To mark the golden anniversary, there will be a ride through the countryside and displays as well as events throughout 2019.”
Plans include a nostalgia trip on a former route ‘The Wetherby Wanderers’ on the Leeds to Wetherby route, plus they will be part of the St George’s Festival weekend in Morley on April 27-28 with free rides and a cavalcade of buses in the parade.
The buses remain a popular and well loved institution with the striking livery style.
They used to go on national and international trips as well as popular much loved express trips to the east coast and Blackpool.
The red and yellow became the trademark of Black Prince buses nationwide and uniquely no two buses in the fleet were painted the same, a quirk which kept bus enthusiasts entertained as each fresh repaint came in a variation of the corporate style.
The early buses in the 70s and early 80s had a green and cream livery.
It was in Morley in 1969 when the firm was founded by then assistant station master at Leeds Railway Station Brian Crowther and partner Sheila and British Railways colleague Bert Colley with his wife Stella, who have all since died.
Brian and Bert both contributed a vehicle to the operation and they started out with bingo contracts, private hires and school contracts, progressing into tours, both national and international, with a memorable trip travelling to Dusseldorf in 1975 with a school party from Crofton, Wakefield.
Eventually, the break in to standard bus services happened in 1986 when bus services were de-regulated and opened up to private operators.
Dave Crowther, son of Brian, added: “Black Prince grew to become the second operator in Leeds with a huge and interesting fleet of buses, a fantastic achievement having grown from a solitary bus in 1968, bought for £30, to a fleet of over 50 buses at the peak of operation with a turnover in excess of £3million.”
Black Prince Buses ran its free service on Christmas Day and New Years Day, from Morley to Leeds Hospitals, with 200 people using it, when no other transport was running.
Bradley said: "It was a huge success. We didn't expect to see so many people using the service. We have offered it for the last few years as there is no public transport available at all."
More details about plans for the celebrations at www.blackprincebuses.co.uk
Black Prince facts
The name of the company was inspired by the namesake statue in City Square.
Several early Black Prince buses including that first flagship Mercedes-Benz, 577, have been restored.
Some of the buses were named after family members of the founders.
Former staff members, including commercial manager Jack Berry and conductor Stephen Whiteley, now volunteer to help keep the Black Prince name alive.