Todmorden lies in the heart of the Pennines and until 1888 the county boundary between Lancashire and Yorkshire ran through the town, bisecting the Town Hall. The town is reached via the Calder Valley, which provides the only low-level access between the two counties.
Horse buses were operated in Todmorden by the Todmorden and District Carriage Company in the late 1890’s, using a number of double- and single-deck three-horse omnibuses garaged at the Golden Lion Yard.
Although the 1902 Todmorden Corporation Tramways Order authorised the construction of tramways, they were, in the event, not built, ostensibly because of the cost, which was prohibitive for the small town.
Private backers failed to come forward and so the Corporation purchased four motorbuses and on 1st January 1907 commenced operations in the area, using a livery of olive green and cream, which remained unaltered throughout the life of the undertaking.
The first buses were 4 open-top double-deck buses (one was later modified by having the top section removed to make a single-deck vehicle), a mixture of Critchley-Norris and Leyland manufacture.
They were joined later in the year by a similar bodied Ryknield. As was common amongst early motorbus operators, bodies and chassis were often interchanged, and Todmorden was no exception.
It was common practice to separate body from chassis during maintenance and not uncommon for body to be reunited with a different chassis on completion.
This seems to have happened at Todmorden on at least one occasion when Nos. 10 and 11, Leyland G’s of 1919, ‘exchanged’ chassis sometime before 1921.
The re-use of expired registration marks was also not uncommon and the registration number AP2015 was used on three different chassis between 1906 and 1928.
The three initial services ran from the Town Hall to Cornholme; Hebden Bridge; and to the ‘Waggon and Horses’ between Walsden and Summit.
These were all former Todmorden and District Carriage Company routes and it seems that the Corporation merely replaced the horse buses with its own motorbuses, with no compensatory payments taking place.
In 1908 a new depot was built at Millwood and later extended. It was still in use when the undertaking was absorbed into the Calderdale JOC in 1971.
The three original routes were not added to until 1923, when two routes serving Burnley were introduced.
One travelled via Cornholme and Portsmouth, where a low bridge precluded the use of highbridge double-deckers, and the other travelled via Bacup, which necessitated a climb over the Pennines from 500 to 1300 feet and then a descent of a further 700 feet into Bacup town centre.
In 1925 the Hebden Bridge service was extended to Oxenhope (which was further extended in 1927 to serve Keighley) and in 1926 a route to Lumbutts was inaugurated.
The final route was introduced in 1928 when a joint limited-stop service into Rochdale with Rochdale Corporation, operating daily in peak hours only, commenced. By 1943, however, this service was reduced to Saturdays only.
Although allocated route number 20 by Rochdale Corporation, Todmorden vehicles had no facility for displaying the number, even though it was shown on bus stop signs in the Todmorden area.
In 1929 negotiations with the LMS Railway Company, who had gained powers to operate motorbuses under the 1928 Transport Act, took place.
Rather than engage in needless competition against the Railway Company (which the small town could ill afford) the Council decided to agree to the formation of a Joint Omnibus Committee with each party holding 50% of the equity.
And so on the 1st January 1931 the Todmorden JOC came into existence. The Railway Company purchased half of the fleet and the LMS Railway Company crest began to appear on the JOC buses, beside that of Todmorden Corporation, with the words ‘Todmorden Joint Omnibus Committee’ encircling them both.
Until 1947 each party owned half of the fleet, but, from 1947, individual buses were nominally owned by one or other of the partners.
From the early 1920’s the Todmorden fleet had standardised on Leyland vehicles and these became the standard vehicles under the JOC, no other makes being purchased up until the absorption of the Todmorden undertaking into the Calderdale JOC in 1971.
Lowbridge vehicles were the norm because of low headroom under the garage roof, although the low bridge at Portsmouth was also a factor in earlier years.
A peculiarity of the Todmorden JOC fleet was the use of ‘X’ prefixes for vehicles nearing withdrawal, intended to denote ‘spare’ vehicles, although in some instances these ‘spare’ vehicles lasted up to ten years after receiving the prefix.
In 1947 Todmorden purchased the very first production Leyland Titan PD2/1 (No.11[FWT183]). By the early fifties the Todmorden undertaking was carrying in excess of 10 million passengers annually and was running over 1¼ million miles.
From this peak, passenger numbers slowly declined and, by the end of the sixties, Todmorden was carrying less than 5 million passengers annually on mileage of just over 800,000 miles. In the interim period, cuts in services and fares revisions maintained viability.
1961 saw the first one-man operated vehicle enter service and others followed, but the closure of many of the local coal mines seriously affected loadings on the Bacup service and, although negotiations for a subsidy were held with Bacup Council, the service was abandoned in March 1966.
In 1967 dual purpose vehicles were added to the fleet in an attempt to cash in on the private hire trade, which was still a good source of income when the undertaking was merged with Halifax JOC.
The LMS interest in Todmorden JOC passed to British Railways on nationalisation in 1947 and subsequently to the National Bus Company in 1969. The NBC interest in the JOC was finally sold to West Yorkshire PTE in 1974.
On the 29th July 1971 the Calderdale Joint Omnibus Committee was set up and the merger of the JOC fleets was finally completed on 6th September 1971, at which date Todmorden JOC became an integral part of the Calderdale JOC.
Its vehicles were duly repainted in the agreed new Calderdale JOC livery of green and orange (identical to that of Halifax Corporation) and the former Todmorden JOC routes were absorbed. The new legal lettering proclaiming the owners as Calderdale JOC.
The Todmorden fleet at this date consisted of 7 double- and 20 single-deckers, some of which were immediately withdrawn without being operated, thus ending some 64 years of Todmorden involvement in motorbus transport.
In producing this history reference has been made to the following sources;
Halifax Corporation and Joint Omnibus Committee and their Successors (David Bentley/Autobus Review Publications 1998), Todmorden Joint Omnibus Committee by MA Sutcliffe (Buses Illustrated No. 65, August 1960); PSV Circle Fleet History PB23 (1989); Developments in Calderdale: Todmorden and Halifax Committees Merge (John Ryburn, Buses No. 199; October 1971).