Although the local Council had buses demonstrated to them as early as February 1921, it was not to be until September 1928 that Gelligaer (until 1954 it was spelled Gellygaer) UDC commenced its first bus service.
Running from Bargoed, which was the centre of operations for Gelligaer UDC, via Gelligaer village, to Ystrad Mynach, the route was initially operated by five Leyland A13 vehicles on hire from Hall, Lewis and Company of Cardiff, but later that year four new Leyland TS2 buses (Nos. 1-4) with Leyland B29D bodywork, and two Hall Lewis-bodied Albions (Nos. 5-6) replaced them.
The first four vehicles were liveried red and cream, but the Albions introduced a red, green and cream, livery, reputedly based on the colours of the Welsh national flag, these colours forming the basic livery throughout the lifetime of the undertaking, although for a period after World War II, grey replaced the white.
In October 1928, a service between Bargoed and Deri commenced (extended later to Pontlottyn, via Fochriw), part of the route from Blackwood to Deri previously operated entirely by the West Monmouthshire Omnibus Board.
The remaining section (Blackwood – Bargoed) was operated jointly by the two undertakings from 1931.
In November 1928 a further service, between Bargoed and Pontlottyn commenced (later extended to Rhymney and Rhymney Bridge), and finally, in December of the same year, a service between Bargoed and Nelson, via Gelligaer, was inaugurated.
All these services faced competition from private operators and in the early years the venture was beset with financial problems, although the situation was alleviated somewhat in March 1929 when two of the local operators, Ystrad Saloon Coaches and Amber Services, both operating on the Bargoed to Ystrad Mynach route were taken over.
In the same year, Lewis and James, who were operating on the Bargoed to Deri route, came to an agreement with the West Monmouthshire Omnibus Board and handed over their Deri to Bargoed service, which was subsequently passed to Gelligaer UDC, reducing the number of private operators still further.
The fleet remained entirely single-deck for a number of years, with AEC and Leyland vehicles predominating, the garage being unsuitable for double-deckers.
The first AEC vehicles (Nos. 7-9) in the fleet came with the take-over of Ystrad Saloon Coaches in 1929 and in 1931 five more AEC Regal’s were ordered, and it was not until 1938 that another manufacturer’s products were chosen, in the shape of two Leyland TS8’s (Nos. 15-16).
During World War II, the inevitable Bedford OWB made an appearance, along with the first double-deck vehicles (two Daimler CWA6’s with Brush L27/28R bodywork) in 1944, which had to be parked on the street when not in use because of the limitations of the depot.
On the 1st November 1945, the business of Jones Brothers (Treharris) Ltd., was jointly taken over (with Caerphilly UDC, Pontypridd UDC and the West Monmouthshire Omnibus Board) along with three vehicles, but one, a 1932 Dennis Lancet was never operated.
The take-over brought with it routes from Nelson and Bedlinog, and from Blackwood, to Pontypridd.
Apart from minor modifications to service timings, the network of routes remained largely unchanged until August 1968, when a joint route between Newport and Rhymney Bridge, with Red & White Services, Western Welsh Omnibus Company, and Bedwas & Machen UDC commenced.
By this time the depot, which had been constructed in the early part of the decade on an open site, was to be found in New Road, Tiryberth.
Throughout the lifetime of the undertaking operational costs were kept to a minimum and in the middle of the 1960’s Gelligaer introduced one-man operation, using second-hand motor-driven Setright machines bought from Macbraynes.
Since the only vehicles at the time to have electrically operated doors were Nos. 33-34, two AEC Reliances of 1966, it often meant that drivers had to manually open the doors using a lever in the cab.
In 1973 a move towards the private hire market was made and two Duple-bodied Bedford coaches (Nos. 102-103) were purchased, along with two dual-purpose vehicles (Nos. 100-101) from Western Welsh.
On the 1st April 1974, under local government re-organisation, Gelligaer UDC became part of Rhymney Valley District Council, and the fleet was merged with those of neighbouring Bedwas & Machen UDC and Caerphilly UDC, to form the new Rhymney Valley District Council fleet, thus ending over 45 years of Gelligaer UDC as a municipal operator in its own right.
In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
‘Small is Beautiful’; Roy Marshall; Buses Extra No.46; Ian Allan 1987; Municipal Buses in Colour (Reg Wilson, Ian Allan 1997); PSV Circle Fleet History PG6 (1996).