Richard Newman on board the 1968 Bedford. Picture by Jennifer Burton.
A FAMILIAR Ryde landmark, which might otherwise have been destroyed for redevelopment, has been saved by an Island museum.
The IW Bus and Coach Museum, located since being established in 1997 in leased premises on Newport Quay, looks set to move into the iconic Southern Vectis bus depot in Park Road, Ryde.
The pre-war building will be adapted to house the collection of buses, coaches and associated memorabilia ready for an intended opening at the start of the 2015 season.
Museum chairman Steve Cook said: "The acquisition marks the culmination of 18 years’ hard work on the part of past and present committee members.
"The museum was lucky to lease the Newport building from the council 18 years ago, although it had always hoped to secure a building of its own. Finding a covered location with headroom for double-deckers had been no easy task.
"At one time the way ahead seemed to be a greenfield site adjacent to the IW Steam Railway at Havenstreet Station.
"Plans were formulated for a road transport museum that would have brought rail and road preservation schemes together but the issue became beset with problems, including ancient woodland and protected wildlife.
"It would have been very difficult to secure planning approval.
"A further extant building near Arreton was also considered with a view to acquisition as a museum but it was sold to another buyer.
"The Brickfields site was also considered when it came onto the commercial property market.
"After these schemes fell through, in 2012 the Park Road depot reappeared on the market just at the right time."
The building has been closed operationally for more than three-and-a-half years, when buses and staff were transferred to Newport, with the body repair and paint shops following a few months later.
The depot has two vehicle inspection pits, a main area to display 20 vehicles and various annexe rooms, which will be used for displays and educational use.
The depot was built on railway land acquired by the joint London and South Western and London, Brighton and South Coast Railway companies for the extension to Ryde Pier Head from Ryde St John’s Road in 1880 to replace the tramway across the town.
Park Road led to the town’s gas works but, when the road was extended up the hill to St John’s Park (West Hill Road), a bridge was constructed to carry the road across the double-track railway where a foot crossing had previously been sited.
The site was for many years leased as an orchard but, when Southern Vectis, required a garage in Ryde to replace the cramped facility inherited from Creeth’s at Nettlestone, a parcel of land adjacent to the railway was chosen in May 1937.
At that time, the bus fleet consisted of mostly small capacity single-deckers seating between 20 and 35.
The Southern Railway, which had acquired the Island’s independent railways in 1923, had by government legislation been able to purchase a shareholding in Southern Vectis and other similar bus companies within its area of operation.
The new building was designed by H. J Starkey, architect of the Tilling group, which was the company’s majority shareholder.
It was similar in style to others built in that decade — of which most have now been demolished — although it was of unusual shape due to the curvature of the railway.
It featured a roof girder span across the whole building, eliminating the need for upright pillars, and was opened without ceremony in March 1938.
The premises escaped major damage during the war although a bomb blew a crater in the railway track nearby.
The depot roof was treated with camouflage paint, which remained visible for many years.
A workshop extension was built by Westridge Construction in 1951, with additional outside parking provided after the acquisition of a further area of orchard in 1953.
Despite improvements in the 70s, the depot was first proposed for closure in 1984 under the National Bus Co’s regime of economies. But because no suitable extra parking could be found in Newport, the depot remained operational.
Southern Vectis was privatised in 1986 and managed to buy the freehold of the property when auctioned by the British Rail Property Board in 1990.
After Go-Ahead purchased the Southern Vectis group in 2005, service bus operation from Ryde Depot ceased in September 2010, leaving only the outstation coach and school bus working.
The Newport Quay building, a former timber and grain store, will continue to house the collection of vintage buses while Ryde depot is adapted for its new role.
Southern Vectis 301 KDL885F
THIS luxury coach performed the company’s 'extended tours’ from 1968 when it was new.
In the early 1970s, nine days to Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms could be booked at an inclusive fare, including accommodation at the best hotels, of £85, while six days in Devon and Cornwall cost a mere £54.
The vehicle, a Bristol RESH, was one of only 11 built and is now the last survivor.
It was bodied at Blackpool by Duple (Northern) to their 'Commander’ style. The first engine fitted was seriously underpowered and passengers on its first Scottish tour had to be requested to alight and walk up a steep hill, rejoining the coach at the top.
When 301 also broke down on a Yorkshire Dales tour, it returned to the Island and was then equipped with a more powerful Gardner engine.
Later it was repainted from the classic cream and green to the all-over National white livery and worked National Express services all over the country.
In 1984, by which time it would normally have been life-expired, it was repainted in its original colours for special coaching work.
Finally retired by SVOC in 1997, No 301 was placed on loan to the bus museum and purchased outright in 2001.
A plaque in memory of the late Les Baldwin, former coaching manager who ensured the longevity of the coach, is now carried on the front bulkhead.
In its earlier years it was maintained at Shanklin depot but subsequently was allocated to Ryde.