From Our Collection
Midland Red/Birmingham City Transport O 9926
One of Birminghams first motorbuses
Reg No: O 9926 - New 1913
Chassis: Tilling-Stevens TTA2
Engine: Tilling-Stevens petrol
Transmission: Electric Traction Motor
Body: Thomas Tilling 34 seats
Tilling-Stevens was a very popular early builder of buses. Its success was due to its ‘petrol-electric’ transmission rather than the conventional ‘crash’ gearbox of the period. Not many bus staff were then used to driving motor vehicles so simplifying gear changing was significant. The engine was connected to an electricity generator; the current produced passed to a motor which drove the rear wheels. Tilling-Stevens consolidated its position with bus operators in the First World War because the petrol electric chassis were not considered suitable by the Army for commandeering for use in France. However the War also introduced motor vehicles to forces personnel who became familiar with handling ‘crash’ gearboxes. By the late ’20s Tilling-Stevens was failing to keep pace with technical development and a steady decline began until, today, the name is virtually forgotten.
The Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Co Ltd (better known as Midland Red) had experimented with motor buses from 1904 but reverted to horse buses until Tilling-Stevens’ design. Many were ordered from 1912 including, at first, double-deckers like this one, O 9926, delivered in 1913. Midland Red and Birmingham Corporation struck a deal in 1914 whereby Midland Red would only run services to points outside the City and the Corporation restricted its activities to inside the City. As part of the deal 30 double-deckers passed to Birmingham Corporation Tramways. O 9926 thus exchanged red and black colours for blue and cream and ran until 1924.
It covered around 6,000 miles per month; the mileage and 11 year life was very creditable for a solid tyred, 12 mph vehicle. The body was sold and was a garden shed when acquired by a Nottingham enthusiast many years later. The Museum’s predecessor purchased it in 1974 and in 1980 it was reunited with a Tilling-Stevens chassis. Major parts still need to be located but recent cosmetic facelifting allows visitors a better idea of how early motor buses looked. The chassis is not actually of the correct type and the Museum would be grateful to receive news of TTA2 chassis in existence.