Swallow Coaches

Born out of the Wonder Bus Company started by his father Albert in the 1920's, Reginald Albert Carding (1905-1972) began the Swallow Coach Company in the early 1930's.  David Williams, has written about his great uncle Reginald (see Note 1) and has provided the information and images below.

Can anyone identify the vehicles shown? Please let me know. Ed.

This bus, and most of the others, carries the logo "Wonder". Wonder Bus was Reginald Carding's original trading name, up to about the end of 1932. I think about then he sold his two Bedford town services, either to Union Jack of Dunstable or Eastern National. This photo was I think taken at the King William IV pub in Kempston which was one end of Reg's Kempston to Bedford route.

This was taken outside Bedford Midland Road railway station and the bus is on Reg's other town service which ran from there to Stanley Street. I don't know who the driver is (does anyone? Ed.).

This is I believe a Vulcan VWB7 26 seater. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulcan_(motor_vehicles) Ed.) 

I believe this shows the original Wonder Bus.  A very primitive looking effort pictured outside 29 Park Road, Kempston (see address on the bus door), which was where Reg lived with his parents before he married my great aunt in 1936. His father Albert was also in business as a grocer, hence the adverts. The depot was at 33 Park Road, a corner site a few doors along.  (From a note on the rear of a duplicate photograph, this appears to be a 'Wolseley-Siddeley'; a marque that was in production between 1905 & 1909. Can anyone help identify it further? Ed.)

This shows the Ideal Garage at nearby Elstow, which was a separate business run by Albert and his younger son Percy. It may be Albert in the white coat though I'm uncertain as it doesn't look like a photo I have of him in his army uniform. They had their own vehicle that operated a service from Elstow into Bedford and presumably that's what the bus seen here was doing. Whilst Reginald appears on the notepaper of this business as a partner, Albert and Percy did most of the work.

This handsome looking double decker is pictured, I believe, at the Park Road depot. (This vehicle, registration VC5867, is very similar to a bus pictured on the Hall Lewis page that is a 1928 Manchester Dennis H with Hall Lewis bodywork. Can anyone identify it more accurately? Ed.).

Ready to set off from the King William back to George Street in Bedford.  I'm not sure who the conductor is. (The  vehicle registration appears to be YV2530. Can anyone identify it more accurately? Ed.).

Here is VC 6112 as owned and operated by the Swallow Coach Company.  This Maudslay ML7A 30 seater, dating from 1930, was the pride of Reg’s “Swallow” fleet. It was used on its services in Bedfordshire, chiefly from Bedford to Harrold. Probably purchased from Bircher, Ibstock (see below), it was sold in 1938 to Birch Bros. Ltd., along with the goodwill of the 'Swallow' business, several other vehicles and the benefit of all the licenses to operate stage and excursion services.  I have the completed contract in my files and this vehicle is listed in the schedule.  There is a "ghost" image to the left that could well be Reg himself, who appears in several other shots of the fleet.

(This bus is thought to be VC 6112 (shown above), is pictured here new in about 1930. The bus built on a Maudslay ML7A chassis (number 4799) is recorded with B32 body by Hall Lewis but was probably under construction at the time Park Royal was formed in April 1930; hence the writing "Body Built by Park Royal Coachworks" on the window.  New to Maudslay in May 1930 as a demonstrator it then transferred to Bircher, Ibstock, Leicestershire in February 1932 from whom Swallow Coaches no doubt obtained it. 
The ML7 chassis could take a saloon, coach or double-decker.  It had a large and no doubt powerful & thirsty engine. Ed..)

Here is Reg with his 1929 Dennis G-Type 20 seater bus, ready to operate the Midland Road Station to Stanley Street service. (The registration is probably UL 5919 as per records recently discovered. Can anyone identify this vehicle more accurately? Ed.).

Taken on 6 May 1931 in Bedford Road, Kempston, these photographs show Swallow's Vulcan 26 seater being passed and then "cut up" by an Eastern National vehicle.  So much for the dignified world of bus operators.

A Swallow excursion, date and place unknown.  Probably pictured at a welcome refreshment stop.

A timetable for the Wonder Bus’s route between George Street, Bedford, and Kempston.

[Note 1] David Williams has kindly granted permission for his article about his great uncle Reginald Carding to be made available as a downloadable PDF on this website. The article featured in the March 2014 journal of the Bedfordshire Family History Society and is entitled "REG’S WONDER BUSES AND BEDFORD’S BUS WARS". Click the title-link to read. Click this Adobe Logo for the reader. 

[Note 2] Reginald Carding's archive of memorabilia and photos of his bus and coach days has been accepted by the Bedfordshire Archive Service and is therefore available at the county archives for consultation by social history enthusiasts.