With the Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company Limited (BMMO—Midland “Red” Motor Services) first operating direct services between Birmingham and Worcester from 1914, the modern-day successor to the company and current operator of the service, First Midland Red Buses Limited, marked the centenary in 2014 with vehicle repaints, a Heritage Day event, and a book on the history of service 144.
The first part of the First Midland Red celebrations was to repaint two buses into heritage livery. The first was Dennis Alexander Enviro300 fleet number 67644 (registration number VX05LWH) which received overall red BMMO livery as used in the late 1960s, before the National Bus Company took control, and the second was Dennis Trident fleet number 33404 (registration number VX54MUA) which received 1930s BMMO double-deck livery.
Both of these vehicles are used mostly on service 144 and have generated a great deal of interest from passengers. During the school holidays, the company published times on their website showing exactly which 144 journeys would be operated, but during term times they are on general use but staff try to keep them on the 144 as much as possible.
On Wednesday 15th October 2014, First Midland Red held an event at the Grand Stand on Pitchcroft Racecourse, to “Celebrate 100 Years of Midland Red in Worcester and Service 144”. The event was strictly by invite only and guests included company officials, members of the press, museum and preservation group members, and selected retired staff.
The day started in Crowngate Bus Station with a short bus ride along the 144 route to Droitwich Spa, then to the Racecourse. Three vehicles were used, these being the two buses painted in Heritage livery plus a 1940 preserved SOS “SON” that had been hired for the day from Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Trust (BaMMOT — The Transport Museum), Wythall. The use of the vintage bus came as a surprise to the guests as it had deliberately been kept a secret by the event organisers.
At the Racecourse, guests were treated to another three historic buses that First Midland Red hired for use as a static display, these being a BMMO D9, BMMO S22 and a Leyland National. The Leyland National was a very apt choice as it was fleet number 544 (registration number NOE544R), which had spent its entire service life at Worcester depot and would therefore would have been a regular on the 144 route. Also on display was a brand-new Wrightbus StreetLite freshly delivered from the factory and waiting to enter service at Worcester depot.
Once indoors, the First Midland Red Managing Director, Mr Nigel Eggleton, greeted the guest and spoke for a few moments about his childhood memories of Midland Red and service 144. He then handed over to the transport historian and author Mike Greenwood, who gave a presentation on the history of service 144.
A buffet lunch was provided and guests had a chance to talk directly to the senior policy makers in the company, before everyone headed back outside to take photographs. MidlandRed.net was there with a press invitation, and is pleased to report the lunch was superb!
The date chosen for the event, 15th October, does not have any direct relationship with events in 1914. BMMO buses were first used on the route from 29th August 1914 as part of a joint operation with Worcestershire Motor Transport, but this ended on 4th November 1914 when BMMO took full control of the route as sole operator.
As one final surprise for guests, all guests of the Heritage event were giving a “Goodie Bag”. This mostly included the usual FirstGroup trinkets like pens and key rings, but a real treat was an 18-page book on the history of the 144 service, published by First Midland Red Marketing.
The book contains over twenty-five photographs of the various bus types used on the route over the years, and also has a map and examples of ticket types, along with a very detailed history of how the route evolved. This book was intended for guests of the Heritage Day Event and was thus printed in limited numbers, but following a number of requests the company has printed more and they are now available to buy from the FirstGroup website (£6 inc P&P).