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Historical Buses of NYC: The Leyland Atlantean AN68

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 8:09 pm    Post subject: Historical Buses of NYC: The Leyland Atlantean AN68 Reply with quote

NYC bus operators constantly have explored new types of equipment to improve service levels while also managing ever-increasing costs. In the 1940’s and 1950’s numerous experimental programs sought to determine which buses would be robust enough to survive grueling NYC service requirements. By the early 1960’s, several important “transit tenets” had been established: 40-foot long, 102” wide buses were preferred over 35-foot long, 96”-wide buses; 2-stroke Detroit Diesels and Allison hydraulic transmissions outperformed their competitors; air-ride suspensions replaced steel leaf springs; air-conditioning was very much preferred over open windows in the summertime. Additional experiments involved evaluations of significantly different vehicle configurations: single-unit buses vs. articulated coaches (initially studied with a Twin Coach artic demo in 1947); gas or diesel powered transit buses vs. trackless trolleys (originally studied by the BMT in 1930, then revisited in Brooklyn from 1946-1960); double deck vs. single deck buses. Worldwide, double deck buses were almost as venerable as their single-deck sisters. London’s first motorized double decker was the 1909 LGOC Type X; it was so well received that double deckers were used in regular service in London for the next 96 years. Bus operators in large American cities took notice of their British counterparts and began investigating the potential merits of these new buses. New York City was no exception. In 1912, Fifth Avenue Coach Company (FACCO) began evaluating gas powered open-top double deck buses built on chassis imported from Europe. The visionary bus line liked the higher passenger capacity and compact “street footprint” of these buses. Passengers similarly enjoyed the sights and breezes while seated on the upper deck. During the ensuing 26 years FACCO acquired nearly 500 open and closed top double deckers from Yellow Coach. As Manhattan traffic congestion grew during the post-World War II era, the slowly-loading, slowly-maneuvering double deckers increasingly were regarded as anachronisms. Beginning in 1946, FACCO began purchasing large numbers of single-deck GM Old Look diesels, which eventually led to the retirement of all double deckers by 1953. Single deck diesel transits plied FACCO routes for more than 20 years before the double decker once more made a brief comeback. The USDOT (through its subsidiary UMTA) was interested in exploring new ways of alleviating traffic congestion and improving bus service in large American cities. Much as FACCO had reasoned more than 60 years earlier, UMTA believed that the compact street footprint and greater passenger capacity of double deckers might be worth re-evaluating. In July 1974, a pilot program called the Double Deck Bus Demonstration Project was initiated as a joint DOT/MTA endeavor; a similar program also was conducted in L.A. As with Transbus when it first was announced, no U.S. bus manufacturer was in a position to build the double deck buses needed for this project. Suitable bus designs were available in the UK; these could be adapted relatively easily to meet basic U.S. transit requirements. In 1975, an order was placed with Leyland for 8 Atlantean AN68 rear-engine double deckers. These buses were built to what Leyland termed “New York Specification”. Equipped with specially constructed bodies built by Park Royal Vehicles, they had such non-British features as left-hand steering, front and rear air-operated 4-leaf “jackknife” entrance and exit doors, and air-conditioning driven by a small independent engine. Windows on the upper deck had small horizontal transom windows that could be opened for supplemental ventilation. Exact specifications are difficult to obtain, but it is likely that these buses had seating for up to 82 passengers. They were 33’ long, 14’5” tall, 95” wide, and rode atop a 222” wheelbase. They likely were powered by a rear transverse mounted Leyland 680 diesel engine (6 cylinders, 11.1 L displacement, 165 BHP, equipped with EPA-certified emission controls) driving a Leyland G2 automatic transmission. Steel leaf springs were used, with front shock absorbers and rear torsion bars. Cast steel disc wheels were used, as well as air-operated drum brakes. Unusual 3-part curtain-type front destination signs were fitted: these had a large white on blue route number sign mounted over the B/O’s windshield (opposite where route numbers normally would be installed), a large white on blue route sign over the RH windshield, and a narrow white on red destination sign installed beneath the other 2 curtains. Numbered DD1-DD8, the imports were painted in a special livery (2-tone MTA blue with large horizontal white bands, complete with circular silver M logos and DOT decals). In service, several were repainted in a red, white and blue color scheme, undoubtedly in honor of the U.S. Bicentennial celebrations of 1976. (It is ironic that British double deck buses would be wearing red, white and blue paint while celebrating the 200th anniversary of American independence.) DD1-DD8 were assigned to MaBSTOA’s 132nd Street Depot for service principally on the M1 and M5. The units were unlike any other buses in the TA/OA fleet, and they soon found themselves to be “strangers in a strange land”. When the units first arrived in NYC, it was discovered that some overhead-mounted traffic signals on 5th Avenue (installed well after the old FACCO double deckers had made their final runs in 1953) were too low to clear the big Leylands. After numerous traffic lights were re-positioned, the new double deckers were restricted to specific routes, so as to avoid future close encounters with low obstacles. In later years, some of the Atlaneans were assigned to the sightseeing-oriented M41 Culture Bus. (The Gotham news media, always interested in pursuing a good story or two, even claimed that the purchase of British buses was instigated in part by then-Mayor Abraham Beame, who had been born in England). These buses definitely were “transit curiosities”, and as such they apparently were popular with many Manhattan bus riders, some of whom likely had personal recollections of riding the old FACCO double deckers. MaBSTOA personnel could be forgiven if they were less enthusiastic about the small fleet of Atlanteans. Lost in a world dominated by huge fleets of GM and Flxible New Looks uniformly equipped with familiar Detroit Diesels and Allison transmissions, the exotic Leylands simply did not the fit the patterns of working life in a busy Manhattan bus depot. Moreover, double deck buses inherently do not board and debark passengers very quickly: riders going to and from the upper deck must transit a steep, narrow stairway, which sometimes is not an easy task (especially on a moving vehicle during a rush hour). After the DOT demonstration project officially ended in June 1977, the buses clearly were living on borrowed time, at least as far as the MTA was concerned. They were removed from MaBSTOA service sometime during or after 1979, and sold to Gray Line (who refurbished them and assigned them to their sightseeing operation in San Francisco). The DOB did not preserve any of these modern double deckers, but they restored 3 FACCO double deckers as part of their Vintage Bus Fleet: “Queen Anne” (FACCO 303, 1917 FACCO Model A), “Betsy” (FACCO 1263, 1932 Yellow Coach Z-BH-602), and “Queen Mary” (FACCO 2124, 1938 Yellow Coach Model 735). The 3 venerable ladies reside at, respectively, East New York Depot, Zerega CMF, and Yukon Depot when not on display.
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Joined: 26 Oct 2007
Posts: 60
Location: New York State

PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2008 1:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting that double decker buses are being discussed. The MTA apparently in going to study double deckers again. When one thinks of double deckers, one always thinks of London. You know Berlin, Germany has been using double deckers for almost the same time as London. Has anyone ever examined their experiences with those buses? From the photos I've seen, the buses they use are Mercedes (probably would be Orions here) and MAN. They drive on the same side of the road as we do, so their equipment would be much more readily adaptable to our operating standards.
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Mr. Linsky
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Joined: 16 Apr 2007
Posts: 5071

PostPosted: Sat Jul 26, 2008 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's an open top double decker for you;

A French built Fifth Avenue Coach (circa 1910)

Courtesy New York Public Library.

Mr. Linsky - Green Bus Lines, Inc., Jamaica, NY
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Age: 61
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Posts: 1654
Location: Central NJ

PostPosted: Sun Apr 16, 2017 9:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It took my about 9 years but I found this report online that summarized the MTA's pilot program for the Leyland Atlaneans that had served several MaBSTOA routes in Manhattan.
Apparently passengers liked these buses, but their mechanical reliability was not too good.
I haven't searched yet for any MTA reports describing their far more recent evaluation of the Van Hool TD725, but I have to wonder if similar passenger flow problems also were encountered with the 'Hool.

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