1956 Changes

The Chatham & District Traction Company was formally absorbed by the Maidstone & District Motor Services on 30th September 1955  (It had been a subsidiary of Maidstone & District since 1930 when its new fleet of Leyland Titans replaced the Medway Towns’ tram network).   There was little outward change initially, although the more observant would have noticed that all buses now carried the Maidstone & District scroll fleetname.  The new fleetnames were applied overnight at Luton depot.  They had been specially printed on paper with an apple green background to blend with the old Chatham colours. The routes and timetables continued as before with only minor alterations to timetables and the addition of a “T” (for Town Service) prefix to the service numbers.

GKR 748 lays over between workings in Globe Lane.  It had worked the last Chatham Traction service into Luton depot on 30th September 1955 and the first M&D service out the following morning.  The M&D fleet name is visible, and the route prefix “T” is already set in the front display.

GKR 748 lays over between workings in Globe Lane.  It had worked the last Chatham Traction service into Luton depot on 30th September 1955 and the first M&D service out the following morning.  The M&D fleet name is visible, and the route prefix “T” is already set in the front display.

Maidstone & District had for some time planned to integrate the Chatham operation with their own network and a complete reorganisation of Medway Towns bus services took place from 16th September 1956.   This included the abolition of the old Chatham Traction service numbers, some new routes and a reallocation of work between Gillingham and Luton depots.  The former Chatham & District services were revised as follows:

  • Service 1  DOCKYARD – BURMA WAY
    Dockyard section replaced by new service 143 (from Rainham); Burma Way section to new services 140/141 (to Temple Farm and Warren Wood).
  • Service 2  WEEDS WOOD - RAINHAM
    Renumbered 142.

  • Service 3  FRINDSBURY – GILLINGHAM GREEN
    Replaced by M&D services 19 and 65 operating from Hoo and Grain and extended to Gillingham Green.
  • Service 3A  STROOD (Brompton Farm Road) – GILLINGHAM GREEN
    Brompton Farm Road section replaced by service 66 to Davis Estate and new service 147 to Wagon-at-Hale.
  • Service 4  STROOD (Salters Cross) – LUTON (Wagon-at-Hale or Burma Way)
    Replaced by new service 144 between Salters Cross and Chatham Town Hall; Wagon-at-Hale and Burma Way sections transferred to new services 147 and 140/141 respectively.
  • Service 5  BORSTAL – GILLINGHAM STRAND
    Renumbered 145.
  • Service 5A  COOKHAM WOOD – GILLINGHAM STRAND
    Renumbered 146.

Frequencies varied between 10 minutely to hourly and were not significantly higher than daytime services today but, unlike today, Sunday and evening services were generally at the same frequency as weekdays.  

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The Medway Towns have expanded significantly during the five decades since the disappearance of Chatham & District.   The bus services of Maidstone & District, and subsequently Arriva, have changed to reflect this but it is still possible to trace the old Chatham Traction route network within the present day route pattern.

Fleet Twilight

From 1st October 1955 Maidstone & District absorbed fifty-four ‘Traction’ buses and these were renumbered from the "3-digit Chatham series" into M&D’s DH (double-deck highbridge) class.   The vehicles may be summarised as follows – the photographs show relevant vehicles in their final guise:

At Pembroke Gate.

At Pembroke Gate.

One Bristol K5G of 1938

FKL 615 (48 seats) – numbered 355 and renumbered DH 292.   This carried a 1936 body and was withdrawn in 1957.

GKE 93 (DH 311) rests in Globe Lane.

GKE 93 (DH 311) rests in Globe Lane.

25 Bristol K5Gs of 1939

Numbered between GKE 64 and GKE100 (870 to 906), and renumbered DH 293 to 317.   This batch retained their original bodies and were already in the course of withdrawal.  Many were never repainted whilst a few never even operated with M&D.   The last was withdrawn in 1957.  

GKR 748 (DH 440) lays over in Barrier Road having come off a 144 service from Salter’s Cross.  It carries its M&D depot allocation plate - “C” for Chatham (Luton).

GKR 748 (DH 440) lays over in Barrier Road having come off a 144 service from Salter’s Cross.  It carries its M&D depot allocation plate - “C” for Chatham (Luton).

12 Bristol K5Gs of 1942

GKR/GKT registrations (56 seats) – numbered 907 to 912/915 to 920 and renumbered DH 440 to 451.   These were wartime utility buses and had received new bodies in 1950/51.   All were repainted into M&D colours and the last was not withdrawn until 1963.

 

TKM 354 (DH 460)  turns from Military Road towards the Brook and heads for Walderslade on a 32, one of the re-allocated routes following the 1956 changes.

TKM 354 (DH 460)  turns from Military Road towards the Brook and heads for Walderslade on a 32, one of the re-allocated routes following the 1956 changes.

All 16 Guy Arab Mk IVs of 1953/54

RKK 992-999 and TKM 354-361 (58 seats) – numbered 921 to 936 and renumbered DH 452-467.   All were repainted and the last was withdrawn in 1969.

Guy Arab Mk IV of 1955

VKO 992-999 (60 seats) – these eight vehicles were ordered for Chatham & District but not delivered until after the take-over and therefore were new in M&D livery and numbered DH 468-475.   The last was withdrawn in 1970.

Survivors

The only known Chatham Traction survivors are GKE 65 (converted to a lorry before the take-over) and GKE 68 itself – the main object behind the formation of The Friends of Chatham Traction.  

Additionally, Maidstone & District FKO 223 is in preservation; this is a 1939 Leyland Titan TD5 which operated for Chatham & District (as no. 293) from new until 1942, when it returned to M&D.

1939 Bristol GKE 65 as a Lorry with M&D in the early 1960s.

1939 Bristol GKE 65 as a Lorry with M&D in the early 1960s.