I cannot hope to cover the history of these services in this gallery and for those really interested in detail I refer you to Keith Healey and Philip Battersby's Book "Tyne-Tees-Mersey" which has 64 pages to do the subject justice.
For those unfamiliar with these services, they formed a pooled operation involving six operators, Lancashire United, North Western, Yorkshire Woollen District, West Yorkshire, United and Northern General. Mileages operated and receipts were shared and on many occasions this would result in the vehicle of one operator being operated by a crew of another.
The story here will focus on developments on the service over the years that affected the operation through Saddleworth. It is hard to imagine now the travel opportunities these services once presented. They stopped at Lees (County End), Lydgate, Uppermill, Saddleworth Station, Ambrose (near Diggle), Bleak Hey Nook (Horse and Jockey), Floating Light and Great Western. From any of these stops you could get on without advance booking and travel to any other stop between Liverpool and Newcastle and Middlesbrough. The service on the core section from Manchester to Leeds was hourly, at least in the summer.
In its heyday in the early 'fifties the service would see a cavalcade of coaches crossing the Pennines, a fascinating variety which appears sadly to be completely unrecorded in Saddleworth at least. Some journeys could see more than twenty duplicate vehicles.
The first element of the service through Saddleworth was a temporary Manchester to Huddersfield service operated by North Western from 28th March 1929. This interim service operated whilst licensing was sorted out and replaced the early Oldham to Linthwaite service (see the 160 gallery). From 15th May 1929 a through Manchester to Newcastle service was operated, which at this stage just connected with one to Liverpool.
There were many route variations in the early years. Between Huddersfield and Leeds some services went via Liversedge and some via Dewsbury although all took the latter route in later years. There were two alternative routes between Manchester and Liverpool and these remained until the end of the service. In 1929 some Manchester to Leeds services were extended to Scarborough but for the 1930 season this became a separate service whose story can be found in the X25 gallery.
A service to Hull was operated in 1929 and from 1931 to 1934 and for this period East Yorkshire was another member of the Pool. The original pool involved just four operators, but from 1931 Lancashire United became a member with the service running through to Liverpool on a regular basis.
United's involvement with the service was very complicated at the beginning as there were many licensing difficulties but by 1935 the service through Saddleworth had stabilised as follows:
Liverpool to Newcastle (two-hourly via Altrincham and Dewsbury)
Liverpool to Middlesbrough (two hourly via Eccles and Liversedge)
Liverpool to Newcastle via Bradford (one trip each way daily)
The Second World War had a dramatic effect, as the services were completely stopped after operation on 9th June 1940. Services did not re-commence until 6th October 1946 with several changes - passengers had to change at Leeds but duplicate vehicles still ran through. The route variant via Liversedge was discontinued, all services running via Dewsbury.
Through running between Newcastle and Liverpool started again in 1951 although for a time this was confined to North Western and Northern General vehicles as they shared common insurance.
In 1953 various links to the service were established - one relevant one here being the operation from the east of the Pennines to North Wales (principally Llandudno). At first this technically involved a change in Manchester but many duplicates simply ran through.
The Suez crisis saw an emergency timetable introduced from 30th December 1956. When services resumed there was a more permanent change in that a reduced timetable became normal from Tuesdays to Thursdays. 1958 saw an overnight Liverpool-Newcastle journey operate on Fridays and Saturdays - this called at Uppermill at 0353 heading towards Liverpool, the only night service to operate in Saddleworth! (It was around 0020 the other way.)
In the summer of 1960 route numbers were introduced as follows:
X97 - Liverpool-Newcastle via Dewsbury
X98 - Liverpool-Newcastle via Bradford
X99 - Liverpool-Middlesbrough
From 1963 the X98 was changed to become an express service calling only at major towns and this was the beginning of the end of the parade of coaches through Saddleworth in the summer. It used the A62 to travel directly from Oldham to Huddersfield without stopping and no longer served Bradford.
From 1965 the Middlesbrough service ceased to run through Leeds and passengers to and from there had to change.
From 26th May 1967 the X98 was extended from Liverpool to New Brighton and the overnight service became an X98 instead of an X97. With less stops, the X98 also became a one-man operated service at the same time.
The first shift in emphasis was from 19th April 1970 when the X98 became the principal service and the X97 was reduced to a Liverpool to Leeds service. From 1972 the X98 ran direct on the M62 from Manchester to Huddersfield and thus, as it didn't even pass through Saddleworth, it disappears from this story, except to note that the summer weekend overnight service continued to call at Oldham and therefore used the A62.
The formation of the National Bus Company as well as the opening of the M62 led to many changes. In 1970 the Yorkshire Woollen part in the pool was transferred to Hebble and the North Western one was transferred to Ribble a year later. By 1974 these latter two operations were named National Travel (North East) and National Travel (North West) respectively.
The X97 and X99 were renumbered 397 and 399 respectively in the new National Travel series in autumn 1973, although the 399 didn't last long in this area as all journeys were routed through Altrincham and 399 was used for the alternative route via Eccles. 399 was still used for Leeds to Sunderland journeys (the Middlesbrough service having been extended) and a couple of these were extended to Liverpool for the 1976 season only.
In Spring 1977 the two National companies took on responsibility for National Travel Midlands and dropped the "North" element of their names. In May of the same year National Travel East decided they wanted nothing more to do with the 397 so it became solely a National Travel West operation and was renumbered again as 897.
After further reductions in September 1978 which saw the service reduced to a Manchester to Leeds service worked by a single vehicle the 897 finally ceased operation in September 1979.
© David Beilby