One of the local romances in the early transport business of Bedlingtonshire must surely be that of Orange Brothers. It is a story of remarkable achievement concerning three brothers, Joseph, Robert and William Orange. These three brothers began with the intention of providing a local bus service between Bedlington and Bedlington Station. They first purchased a Ford Model T’ bus, which had fourteen seats, in October 1923, registration number NL6214. Later the brothers considered running a bus to Newcastle on one or two days of the week and in May 1924 the brothers applied for a license to do this. By then they had just taken delivery of a Lancia, with 20 seats, registration number, NL6845. They then began to look for approval to pick up and set down passengers in the Haymarket at Newcastle, but unfortunately were refused permission to do this, and so had to be content with selling return journeys only from Bedlington to Newcastle. However, they were more favoured by the Newcastle Watch Committee when they applied for a similar licence to pick up passengers from the Haymarket for Bedlington in July 1926, by which time the three brothers had three Lancia buses and two Model T’ Ford convertibles. In March 1927 the brothers were told bluntly that unless they bought a more up-to-date bus, their licence to operate into the Haymarket would be revoked. The brothers began looking around for a more modern vehicle, purchased a unusual Gilford type bus, registration number, CN2956. This vehicle was very smart and satisfied everyone concerned until in June it developed severe cracks in its chassis. The only way to get it repaired was to return it to the manufacturers in Surrey. On June 5th, 1927 got an idea of taking a load of passengers to London at £1. per head, to defray their expenses. This venture proved to be so successful that the brothers realised that their future was to lie in long distance express coach services, rather than in local bus services. By September, daily services with Gilford coaches were running again. They could not offer speed, as they were only permitted to travel at twenty miles per hour, and there were no by-passes or dual-carriageways built on the A1. However, they at least could give their passengers a comfortable armchair seat with a rug and a pillow. It was not long before several other operators joined in to create competition with the London to Newcastle run, but even the mighty United or S.M.T. could not equal the quality of service which the Orange Brothers offered, who even arranged for a taxi or minibus to connect passengers at the Haymarket with Whitley Bay, Blyth, Bedlington or Ashington, and gave excellent personal service. By August 1928 they were running night services and they found it essential to open an office in King’s Cross, London. They even extended their main route northwards from Newcastle to Edinburgh and Glasgow in July 1930. They even moved the headquarters from Bedlington to the Haymarket, Newcastle. However, they kept their maintenance side of the business at Bedlington to service their ever-growing fleet of coaches. These coaches were kept in immaculate condition and were hand-painted in a distinctive olive green colour known to all as “orange green.” In September 1933 the brothers were employing over 100 staff, and prided themselves in having fitted radios to all of their 35 coaches. Business was good for the brothers and their reputation continued to grow. They also planned the first air service between Newcastle and London. The “North Mail” of May 24th, 1933, had the headline “London – Newcastle in 3 Hours,” and stated that Mr. J. Orange, with his sister, Miss Watson, arrived “at Cramlington Aerodrome last night in a six seater de Havilland Dragon similar to the two he intends to use to link London with Teesside and Tyneside.” The Orange service was to run from White Mare Pool, a flying field near Sunderland, about five miles from Newcastle, to Stag Lane Aerodrome, London, and the would have been £5. In the event the brothers failed to obtain enough capital, and the route was begun by Railway Air Services instead. However, the Orange Brothers coaches became strong competitors for United that by 1934 the giant company could no longer resist buying out the remarkable brothers. This inevitable event occurred in April 1934, but United had such a high regard for the name of Orange that they continued to use it on their coaches until the outbreak of war. The “orange green” was in fact retained on all United coaches right up to the arrival of the all-white “National” coach livery in the first half of 1970. But what happened to the Orange Brothers after the United takeover? Strangely enough they faded from the transport scene after trying unsuccessfully to run a small coach-hire business before moving into other fields. Yet the rise of the three Orange brothers to such a place of dominance in the transport world of the early 30’s is one of “romance of transport history.”
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