The bus was the first production model of the type SE6, designed and built at Northern's Bensham Works in Gateshead. It was designed by G W Hayter (NGT Chief Engineer) & W G Allen. It was registered in Gateshead with the number CN 6100.
SE6 indicated Side Engine 6 wheel, the design of the vehicle was very advanced, compared to the normal front engined half-cab buses that were available at the time and in fact, the first "modern" British single-decker with engine under the floor, 44 seats all facing forward and driver control of the entrance. The American Hercules petrol engine was fitted under the floor on the offside. The body was built to a Northern design by Short Brothers of Rochester. It was built to the then maximum C & U Regulations dimensions of 30 feet long x 7 ft 6 ins wide for three axle buses.
It was converted to a four wheeler and given the code LSE4 (Long Side Engine 4 wheel) in 1941 after a Statutory Order from Government was obtained to allow the bus to operate as a two axle 30 footer. Its successful operation led to the 1950 change in the law allowing longer two axle buses.
In 1954 when the bus was withdrawn from service and due for disposal, former Trustee the late John Birks, then a Northern employee, advised management to present the bus to the British Transport Commission's Museum in Clapham, London, because of the vehicle's historical importance. A presentation was made by Col. G W Hayter, the designer, in 1954 and the bus was driven to London in 1955. It was returned to the North East in 1967, prior to the closure of the BTC museum, into the ownership of Beamish Museum and stored by Northern at Gateshead depot. When under tow to Bensham works for restoration to service condition, the tow bar broke and severe damage to the front end was sustained.
604 was acquired by the Trust in 1999 and work began in 2002 repairing the body structure. The complete restoration of the vehicle will take several years to complete.
Chassis built at Bensham Works in 1934.
The SE6s were originally built for the limited stop Newcastle to South Shields, service 6, from Bensham depot and later worked the Newcastle to Blaydon, service 9.
Similar vehicle 667 as a six wheeler - Photo R H G Simpson
Converted to 2 axle in 1941, and the original Hercules petrol engine replaced by an AEC A172 oil engine in 1944.
604 after conversion to a 4 wheeler by Northern - Photo courtesy of Go North East
Withdrawn from service 1954, presented to the British Transport Commission Museum at Clapham, London and driven there in 1955.
Towed back to the North East 1967, for inclusion in the new Beamish North of England Open Air Museum.
Serious front end damage 1968 whilst on tow inhibited re-commissioning.
Vehicle moved to Beamish Museum in 1970 and stored.