Passengers urged not to smoke beside the gas bus

All aboard a camilty bus
All aboard a camilty bus

Time moves on and improvements are made to the way tourists and people going about their day-to-day life can travel, writes Winnie Stevenson.

Gradually, horse-drawn vehicles were replaced by motorised models, many resembling the original carriages. This beautiful example parked outside Rosslyn Chapel was identified by the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu as a 1913 Siddeley-Deasy 24 hp landaulet, with three rows of seats. The rear seats were under cover, as in a carriage, but the chauffeur in front was in the open with perhaps a roof but no side screens.

Petrol shortage during World War I compelled the improvisation of “gas-bag” buses. This one, operated by Scottish Motor Traction Company, is the bus to Roslin and Penicuik seen on Waverley Bridge. The coal gas or town gas was stored in a bag made of silk or other similar fabric soaked in rubber and strapped on in place of the seats on the upper deck. Bags were cheaper and easier to make than metal tanks and they could be repaired in a similar way to bicycle tyres. It was easy to see when they were running low on fuel – the bags deflated with every mile travelled. It is also easy to imagine that they were not without danger, one obvious risk being fire which could cause a gas explosion. As a result, people waiting at bus stops were urged not to smoke! Other risks were bridges and other overhead obstacles like tree branches, and they had to avoid strong winds and excessive speed to make sure the bag would not blow off. A hundred years later, we have vehicles powered by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

Charabancs, motor buses in the 1920s, usually open-topped but with a canvas “hood” which could be pulled over by some of the male travellers if rain threatened, were often used for works outings or day trips organised by bus companies. SB 2268 is seen carrying workers from Roslin Gunpowder Mills on a special trip to the country. Another group in SV 5532 is arriving at Mrs Young’s “Craigathrie” Tea Rooms on Main Street, Roslin where picnics could be catered for and there was a large room for parties. A three-course lunch or high tea was available and if it was cool, a fire would be lit in the room.

These vehicles didn’t have the luxury of electric starters but a handle had to be cranked. Older readers will remember the painful “kick back” of this action if they were not careful. Many a wrist or forearm was badly bruised or even broken in the process and, for goodness sake, remember to keep your thumb on the same side as your fingers and not wrap it round the handle – or you may lose that as well. Another thing – remember to check the car is not in gear or you may run yourself over when it starts.

When the Camilty Gunpowder Mills in West Lothian closed in 1930, the workers were given the opportunity to work at the Roslin Gunpowder Mills. Some did not want to move for family reasons, so ICI laid on this Albion bus to take them there. The journey must have taken more than an hour as the top speed was 30mph, a slow, cold journey in winter with no heating. They left Roslin at 4.30 every afternoon.

During the 1920s, the stables at the Original Hotel became the premises of Samuel Neil, later Neil & Co, contractors with several Motor Engineers over the years. By the 1940s, the Original Garage had two petrol pumps and it served the village until the 1970s. It was also where villagers went to get the batteries for their wireless sets charged. Old wireless sets used valves which required a lot of power for the heaters. This was provided by lead acid accumulators (like small car batteries). A spare one was used while the other was being charged, typically every week, even if use of the wireless was limited. Usually it was the children who had the job of taking them. I think Health and Safety might have something to say about that today!