North East Bus Preservation Trust Limited
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A S.O.S. Returns to Gateshead
Sunday 10th January 2010

Our Northern General S.O.S. bus 540 is now installed at our workshops.

The vehicle has come full circle having operated from Bensham (Gateshead) depot when in service.

A brief summary of the history of the vehicle follows

Delivered to Northern in 1931.
Withdrawn from service 1950.
Converted to a caravan and parked at Ellington site, Northumberland, probably immediately after withdrawal.
Moved to the North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish in May 1972, and placed in storage out of doors under a tarpaulin.
Ownership transferred to NEBPS (as was) in 1998 and moved to under-cover accommodation near Tow Law.
Transported to our workshops for restoration, November 2009.

That’s just a short summary of 540’s life, all 78 years of it, and the final note makes light of the work required to restore this vehicle.  When it was converted to a caravan, all seats were removed and scrapped, so we need a set of seats. But much more worryingly is the need to secure the bodywork before we do anything further. Ted Heslop placed long planks of wood along each side and tied these down with ratchet straps extremely tightly. We feared that the body may start to collapse during transit, but Ted did a good job and nothing fell off on the way!

540 is a very rare vehicle, and nowadays there are very few people who can remember these vehicles operating in service. Their withdrawal from the fleet was shortly followed by the arrival of new under-floor engined buses, and the old SOS vehicles almost disappeared into obscurity. We are fortunate that 540 did survive and we must do our best to restore it, BUT it will be a hugely expensive exercise and we will have a long hard think about how and where to start on the restoration.

It would be marvellous if we could have the work done professionally with the help of a grant from the likes of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and we will certainly try for this, but we know money is tight with most funding tied into the Olympics up to 2012. There are other funding sources, but we are probably looking at £100,000 to restore 540, and no-one that we know can offer that kind of money.

Do you have any ideas about fund raising for this vehicle? 

We are open to suggestions, let’s be hearing from you!