Midland Red bus #1 Midland Red bus #2

What is Midland Red?

The Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company (BMMO) played a pre-eminent role in bus and coach design. Their bus and coach operations were based in the Midlands, and with their bright red livery their mission was to “paint the Midlands red” with their fleet. And so they became colloquially known as “Midland Red”.

Midland Red bus #1

The company began life in 1904 during the era of horse buses, and rapidly expanded across the Midlands. It was eventually nationalised in the 1960s, lost its Birmingham heart in the 1970s, was split up for privatisation in the 1980s and finally swallowed up by the big boys.

But Midland Red was more than a bus company - it was the only company in the hey-day of British bus transport to design and build prototype and production vehicles from the ground up. BMMO was probably the most significant engineering bus company in the history of British road transport. It was led by three strong characters: pre-war by L.G. Wyndham Shire (SOS - Shire’s Own Specification) who was in charge of engineering, and O.C. Power who ran traffic and operations. Post-war D.M. Sinclair assumed both roles for a while and led the company to further great engineering achievements.

With a bus operating network covering over 12,000 square miles, and its nationwide coaching activities, it ran with a team of almost 8,000 staff, with its headquarters and Central Works in Birmingham, and 35 garages spread across the Midlands.

Midland Red played a big part in the lives of the people of the Midlands for most of the 20th century, and still retains a fiercely loyal following of enthusiasts, which is why it is important for stories of the Red such as those in this book to be retold for future generations.

Midland Red was entrepreneurial and enterprising, and a spiritual home to those working or associated with it. Their designs were innovative, creative and exemplary - they were quite simply years ahead of their time. They had a small expert group of engineers working in large engineering workshops with specialised testing facilities, and many of their developments were taken up years later by mainstream bus and coach manufacturers.

The pinnacle of their coach design was the CM6, a coach designed in 1963 that regularly operated a Motorway Express service between the Midlands and London until the mid 1970s. It was capable of continuous cruising at over 85mph with the journey between Birmingham and London of just 2hrs 15mins, often travelling in the outside lane of the motorway - all entirely legal at the time!

Read all about this and much more in Ashley Wakelin’s new books Inside Midland Red, Midland Red Influence and Midland Red and its People.

Midland Red bus #2

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