I just took a walk into the glorious sunshine to try and get some inspiration for a blog post when I was hit with one, not literally of course, that would've been terrible.
Some of you may know that today, Tuesday, is MiggyMag Day, one of the required elements of which is Autocar Magazine. So you can imagine the grin that appears on my face when I see an Autocar bus drive past, and that is exactly what I bumped into this afternoon, again not literally, that would've been tragic.
Anyway, onto the interesting portion of this post.
The very first bus service to run in the UK was Shillibeer's Omnibus in London in 1829 and the first to run in Tunbridge Wells was in 1842. It ran to Tonbridge to pick up the train service to London as our own station had yet to be built, that wasn't completed until 1846. The 40 mile trip to London by road before 1842 was a rather tiring affair as the roads were in very bad shape (ring any bells in 2013?), so the service to the train station to pick up the train was very popular.
The growth of the railways, and especially the completion of our own station, put pay to omnibus services to London and also to Tonbridge to a small degree. The rail was just far quicker and far more comfortable than the road so the horse-drawn buses just couldn't compete. The omnibus companies continued to run services to other nearby towns but it was the introduction of the motorised omnibus service in around 1900 that really gave the business the shot in the arm it needed. Now the buses could travel further distances with more passengers and much quicker than they used to.
One of the oldest of these companies is still sort of running today but only in name, and that is the Autocar. They first appeared in town in around 1913 and ran services to Southborough, Pembury, Rusthall, Langton, Speldhurst, Matfield, and High Brooms. It wasn't to last long though as the company was acquired by the Maidstone and District bus company in July 1933, it continued under the Autocar name until 1935 before being fully merged and disappearing from our streets. That was until 2001 when a new bus company was formed and decided to use the same name. Now they give me a smile every time I see them.