The history of York Pullman can be traced back to the early 1920’s when Hartas Foxton started a small garage, taxi and bus business in the city of York.
Operating from Piccadilly, just south of the city centre, he commenced a service north from York to Easingwold, trading as the ‘Red Bus Service’.
Around the same time another garage proprietor, Norman Pearce, commenced a service between York and Stamford Bridge, using the name ‘Pullman’.
In June 1926, Hartas Foxton acquired the business of Hutchinson and Greenland, who were also operating to Easingwold, but via Tollerton and in October 1926 he joined with Norman Pearce, who was in need of assistance on his route, to form the York Pullman Bus Company Limited, taking a 50% share.
Foxton was now operating two bus companies, but in 1929 Norman Pearce sold his half share to Foxton and on the 1st January 1930 the ‘Red Bus Service’ was amalgamated with York Pullman and the business unified.
The livery of maroon, yellow and cream was apparently based on the ‘Pullman’ railway coaches of the time although the colours were slightly richer.
Three vehicles and a garage at Holme-upon-Spalding Moor were acquired in July 1932 with the business of R.P. & N. M. Walls, along with routes from Holme to Selby and York.
It is reported that because of the amount of luggage carried on the Holme to Selby service on market days the Company used a Dennis lorry to tag along behind the bus in order to carry the excess baggage!
This may have been a converted bus (possibly No. 19 [VY2102], which was sold in 1936 as a goods vehicle) since it is said to have carried a fleet number but no further details have come to light. In 1933 C.J. Wainwright’s Thorganby/Wheldrake to York service, along with one bus, was purchased.
Later in 1933, the coaching business of Robert Whitehead, also of York, was purchased.
The deal included the tours and excursion licences and five coaches, but Whitehead retained the garage for use with his taxi and funeral business. In 1935, however, the remainder of the Whitehead business was purchased and this time the James Street garage was acquired.
Shortly afterwards the Company opened a coach booking office in Foss Bridge.
In the meantime the extra vehicles had to be housed somewhere, as the Piccadilly premises were overflowing, and so land at nearby Leadmill Lane was purchased to house the coaching fleet – a part of the business that was subsequently expanded.
By 1938, with the Company operating from three small sites in York and a new fleet of taxis purchased, a move to larger premises was contemplated. A large area of derelict land, the former site of a glass works, was purchased in Navigation Road and a spacious new garage built.
This enabled the garages at Leadmill Lane and James Street to be closed, although the Piccadilly premises were retained for the time being.
With the onset of World War II in 1939, the Piccadilly garage was requisitioned, and Hartas Foxton became a controller in the Observer Corps, and in 1941 was elected onto the Board of Directors of York City Football Club.
The demands on the bus fleet increased during the war with the restrictions in private motoring and the construction of airfields at nearby Rawcliffe, Linton-on-Ouse, Melbourne, Holme and Elvington, which may have been the reason for the sale of the taxi and funeral business in 1943.
York Pullman was fortunate amongst operators in that none of the fleet was requisitioned for war work.
With the onset of peacetime, the Piccadilly garage was returned but was used for a separate business – Foxton’s Garages Ltd, and was not retained as part of the York Pullman operation.
Passenger numbers were also changing, with new developments on the outskirts of York and an RAF station at Linton increasing the loadings to the north of the City, whilst to the south of the City passenger numbers were falling.
This led to the disposal of the Murton route (operated alternately with the Stamford Bridge service) in 1947, which passed to York-West Yorkshire, although York Pullman continued to operate an hourly journey to Stamford Bridge.
In 1951 the Company’s head office was moved from the Piccadilly site to Bootham Tower, a 13th century gate tower.
The Company’s first double-deckers (Nos. 63-65: JDN667-669), three AEC Regent III’s with Roe H33/25RD bodywork arrived in 1954. At the same time the Company disposed of the Holme to Selby service, along with the garage at Holme-upon-Spalding, to Thorne’s of Bubwith.
Sadly, in 1960, Hartas Foxton died, his wife having pre-deceased him earlier in the year. With no immediate family, the business passed jointly to six of his nephews and nieces who became administrative directors.
The day to day running of the Company was left in the hands of four long-serving employees who became executive directors.
Throughout the 1960’s the Company maintained a slow growth and the fleet strength rose from 22 in 1962 to 27 by the early 1970’s.
Part of this can be attributed to the acquisition of Fawcett’s Motor Coaches of Acomb in 1968, along with four vehicles, which gave the Company a virtual monopoly of tours and excursions out of York, and part by good management, which brought about an increase in other areas such as private hire work.
An increase in demand for the company’s stage services resulted in a new peak period service to Brecksfield Estate in Skelton. The village of Dunnington also saw a growth in population and the Stamford Bridge route was diverted to cater for this.
By the middle of the 1970’s York Pullman was in an extremely healthy position and was carrying around 1,000,000 passengers annually, approximately 80% of whom travelled on the Company’s stage carriage services and a period of consolidation followed.
It was not until the de-regulation of express coach services in the early part of the 1980’s that further expansion was undertaken.
In collaboration with Epsom Coaches, the Company introduced an express service linking York with London. No. 135 (JBT835Y), a Leyland Tiger with Plaxton C49FT bodywork was purchased especially for the service and introduced a new style of livery with cream the dominant colour.
The service was not a success and was withdrawn shortly afterwards.
With the future of the stage carriage services in doubt because of their impending de-regulation, the family decided to sell the company.
In January 1985, the Company was purchased by John and David Marsh, trading as Reynard Coaches, who merged their existing fleet into the York Pullman fleet.
At the same time it was decided that it was no longer economic to operate double-deckers and by the end of the year they had all been sold.
In December 1986 the stage services and five-vehicle fleet of Milburn Brothers of Leavening (trading as Leavening Motor Services) were purchased, although the stage services were subsequently abandoned, and, in August 1988, the fleet and services of Knaresborough Taxis were purchased.
This saw the Company operating stage services in York, Harrogate and Tadcaster, which, along with the contract and coaching side of the business, necessitated a fleet of 47 vehicles.
Additional services in York and Harrogate commenced in 1989 and in January 1990 the Company inaugurated a new service to the South Bank area of York in competition with York City & District.
In the same month the Harrogate services were disposed of and suddenly the company seemed to be in terminal decline.
The following month the York Pullman trading name was sold to Hull City Transport, along with 20 coaches, which necessitated a change of name to Reynard Buses Ltd.
At this stage the Company introduced a new service to Copmanthorpe and took over subsidised services withdrawn by York City & District, but this was just a brief interlude in the fortunes of the Company and on 24th July 1990, Reynard Buses was acquired by Yorkshire Rider with all vehicles being absorbed into the subsidiary West Yorkshire Road Car Company, thus completing the rapid demise and extinction of the York Pullman Bus Company.
In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
The Independent Bus (Keith Turns; David & Charles 1974); PSV Circle Fleet History PB26 (1992).