Edinburgh's Transport

Gas-powered Buses

during WW2

Perhaps somebody else may be able to provide a photo or some memories of gas-powered buses, in response to the comments below from Gus Coutts of Duddingston, Edinburgh.

Gus wrote:


"Do you know of any photos existing of gas-powered buses in Edinburgh during WW2?  I am 65 and recall that they ran on what was then the No. 12 route from Portobello Town Hall to Surgeonís Hall.

The buses were single deckers.  The gas generator  towed behind was 2-wheeled and resembled an oil drum on its end as far as I can recall.

I have asked several of my contemporaries about them but nobody can remember these buses."

Reply to Gus?

Please e-mail me if you have any response to the comments by Gus, above.

Thank you.

- Peter Stubbs:  May 24, 2006



1. Walter Lyle Hume
Cowes, Isle of Wight, England

-  SMT Buses

2. Peter Stubbs

-  Photo:  World War 1

3. Ron McBride

-  I Remember the Buses

4. Alex Dow

-  World War 1

-  World War 2

5. Douglas Beath
Burnie, Tasmania, Australia

-  SMT Buses

6. Alex Dow

-  Technical Background

-  Central Garage

7.  Douglas Beath
Burnie, Tasmania, Australia

-  Corporation Buses

-  SMT Buses

8. George Murray

-  Service 12

-  Single Decker Daimlers

-  Burst Tyre

9. Glen Barr

-  Gas Buses in Britain

10. John Ogbourne

-  North Yorkshire

11. Laurence Wiles

-   London

-  4-Year-Old

12. Alan Fawcett Smith
Crawley, West Sussex, England

-  Yorkshire

13. John Simpson
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

-  Kirkcaldy

14. George Derrick

-  Pickford Removal Vans

15. Tony Sanders

-  North Devon Bus

16. Murray Jacklin

-  Pathť Film

17. George Orr

-  No Gas Operated Buses seen in Edinburgh

18. Geof Jones
Lakeland, Florida, USA

Question:  Gas Trailers

19. Geof Jones
Lakeland, Florida, USA

More Questions:  Gas Trailers

20. Frank Mitchell

-  London

-  Edinburgh

21. Kevin Jones

-  The Cramond Bus

22. Tony Russell
Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

-  London




Walter Lyle Hume

Cowes, Isle of Wight, England

I don't yet have any photos of the gas-powered buses, but I received this interesting account of them from Walter Lyle Hume who remembers them from his days of training at the Leith Nautical College.

Walter says that he remembers them as "gas-bag buses".

Walter wrote:

SMT Buses

"We travelled to 'live ammunition' gunnery practise on the sand dunes about fifteen miles from our base at Leith,  by SMT bus, complete with trailer! 

This transpired to  be a gas generator to run the engine.  The gas storage bag, rather like a mini-barrage balloon was fitted on top where normally external luggage would have been stowed.

The trailer, very similar to a small fire pump had a mini-boiler, the furnace being stoked with anthracite coal to make the propellant gas.  The solid fuel was stowed in the rear boot of the bus."

Walter Lyle Hume, Cowes, Isle of Wight, England.  May 25, 2006



Peter Stubbs


 Photo  -  World War 1

I have not yet found any photographs of gas powered buses in Edinburgh during WW2, but I have found a photograph of one during WW1.

A Gas Bag Bus on Waverley Bridge during World War 1 ©

Peter Stubbs:  June 7, 2006




Ron McBride

Thank you to Gus McBride who wrote:

I remember the Buses

"Iím the same age as Gus.  I was 66 a couple of weeks ago.

I have a memory of the gas powered buses he mentions, also on the number 12 route. The picture in my mind is of a bus and its trailer at a bus stop on Peffermill Road just before it would have turned left on to Duddingston Road.

I could only have been at most four years old at the time.  Iíve also  mentioned these buses a couple of times to contemporaries but no one has ever remembered them.

Iím glad to read now that they really did exist and werenít just in my imagination."

Ron McBride:  November 25, 2006




Alex Dow

Fife, Scotland

Thank you to Alex Dow, Fife, Scotland, who wrote:

World War 1

   A Gas Bag Bus on Waverley Bridge during World War 1 ©

"That bus had the bag filled with "town gas" at specific filling points; and did not have a trailer.

For a more permanent version of that means of propulsion, search for Trams in Neath, South Wales.

World War 2

"The WW2 gas-producer trailers did not require a bag on the bus."

Alex Dow, Fife, Scotland, October 27, 2006




Douglas Beath

Burnie, Tasmania, Australia

Thank you to Douglas Beath, Burnie, Tasmania who wrote:

SMT Buses

"I remember producer gas trailers on some  SMT  buses during  W.W.II.  One in St Andrew Square  (for long Edinburgh's apology for a "bus station")  was giving out a very pungent whiff.  Perhaps it was faulty or was being uncoupled."

Douglas Beath, Burnie, Tasmania, Australia:  December 5, 2006




Alex Dow

Fife, Scotland

Thank you to Alex Dow who wrote again giving:

-  some technical background information on gas-powered vehicles.

-  his memories of gas trailers at Central Garage, Annandale Street.

Alex Dow, Fife, Scotland, December 5+6, 2006




Douglas Beath

Burnie, Tasmania, Australia

Thank you to Douglas Beath, who wrote again, a couple of days later:

"I have no recollection of  Corporation buses with gas trailers.

However,  Hunter, in his book on Edinburgh's transport (below) tells us about both Corporation buses and SMT buses with  gas trailers."


Edinburgh's Transport

 (DLG Hunter)

Corporation Buses

"The next 'headache' was the instruction from the Ministry of  War Transport that a proportion of the buses must be adapted to run on producer-gas in order to save fuel. 

A good deal of experimental work had been done in the south on petrol engines, but apart from some very old vehicles, Edinburgh now had only diesels and these were more difficult to deal with. 

The standard two-wheeled trailer units were supplied by the Ministry, some of the latest standard single-deckers fitted with towing gear, and experiments went ahead. 

Buses A71, A86 and A88 were among the nine adapted, and a fair measure of success achieved.  About April 1943 the buses were run on the Barnton route, but the inherent difficulties of the system, lack of pulling-power, the use of trailers and the troubles with the gas plants themselves, made Edinburgh just as glad as every other operator in the country was to drop the scheme entirely as soon as the Ministry of  War Transport allowed it. 

 The last 'gas' run was on 7 October 1944."    

[page 226]

SMT Buses

"An early experiment was made in March 1940 with a gas-producer fixed to the back of an AEC bus, No.B3, while later a number of AEC and Leyland vehicles were adapted for the standard producer-gas trailers and run on the fairly flat North Berwick route."

[page 329]


Douglas Beath, Burnie, Tasmania:  December 6+7, 2006

NOTE:  D G Hunter's book, Edinburgh's Transport was published in 1964.  This was later published in two volumes:

Edinburgh's Transport: The Early Years (Publ 1992) and

Edinburgh's Transport:  The Corporation Years (Publ posthumously, 1999).




George Murray


Thank you to George Murray, Edinburgh who wrote:

Service 12

"I also remember the gas-powered buses on the service 12.  This route suited trailer operation as the buses did not have to reverse at either terminus.

At Surgeon's Hall they turned from Buccleuch St via West Nicolson St, Nicolson St, Nicolson Sq (terminus) then off to Portobello by Marshall St and Bristo.

At the Porto end they came down Brighton Pl, turned into High St and terminated in front of the Town Hall.  To return they completed a "U" turn often between trams on the Joppa and Levenhall services then right turn into Brighton Pl. 

This kind of manoeuvre would cause chaos now but then there was very little other traffic.

Single Decker Daimlers

"The buses converted to gas power were the then standard single deckers Daimler COG5's with Gardiner Engines and Wilson pre-select gearboxes. 

When at a stop picking up passengers, the driver would select 1st gear but hold on the brake which made the engine note appear to hustle as if to hurry the passengers to board and not waste time.

Burst Tyre

"I remember (aged about 4) returning home from a day on the beach by 12 bus (not gas powered) when we were approaching Duddingston X-roads there was a very loud bang. 

This proved to be a rear tyre blow out and the vehicle settled down with a distinct lean towards the pavement.  I recall a very long wait before a replacement bus was forthcoming to take us back to Newington.

George Murray, Edinburgh  December 26, 2006




Glen Barr

Gas Buses in Britain

Thank you to Glen Barr for contacting me.  Glen told me that he does not know of any photographs of gas buses in Edinburgh, but he sent me several photos of gas buses in London, Brighton, Bedford and Leeds.

Glen tells me that copyright on these is held by The Imperial War Museum, Getty Images, www.bedfordtoday.co.uk and Chris Hodge Trucks (StillTime.Net) and that the images are not licensed for use on a web site.

Glen also sent me details of British Pathe Films that include scenes with gas buses in London and Perth.

Glen Barr, May 30, 2008




John Ogbourne

North Yorkshire

Thank you to John Ogbourne who wrote:

"My hairdresser,  a sprightly octogenarian,  has recollections of these buses operating between Northallerton and Leyburn, North Yorkshire,  but we can find no further information.  Can anyone else help?

He says that at one point (Harmby, steep hill)  younger passengers were asked to get out and walk up a hill to assist with lack of power."

John Ogbourne:  July 3, 2008 




Laurence Wiles

Thank you to Laurence Wiles who wrote:


"I can recall seeing gas powered buses about 1945.  They towed a two-wheeled trailer.  As far as I can remember, they put sawdust in the upright cylinder to generate the gas,

The buses I remember were London Transport, ST class double deckers, running out of Hornchurch Garage where my father worked as a bus conductor."

Laurence Wiles:  July 5, 2008 

Laurence added:


"When I saw these buses, I was 4 year old.  My father, being a conductor at one of London Transport's  garages, used to take me for rides on the buses and on one trip this ST class  double decker pulled up with a trailer attached.

This is when my father explained it was producing gas by putting sawdust in the drum.  I've just found out, it was anthracite and when heat was generated it sucked the gas through to the engine, but on steep hills they were not so good and only lasted 2 years, then reverted back to petrol.

So, in Scotland they would certainly be hard pressed to find flat ground.  But who knows?  We might be towing these trailers behind our cars shortly if Gordon keeps putting the price of petrol up."

Laurence Wiles:  July 13, 2008 




Alan Fawcett Smith

Crawley, West Sussex, England

Thank you to Alan Fawcett Smith who wrote:


"I remember, quite distinctly, that I travelled on a gas powered bus with my grandfather during WWII.  This was in Harrogate, then West Yorkshire. I was born there in March 1940, and must have been about 3 or 4 years old.

It has always stuck in my memory.  I recall the gas envelope on the top. I have also asked several people about whether they remember them, but the answer has always been negative.

Having found your information, I can now be happy that it was not a figment of my imagination."

Alan Fawcett Smith, Crawley, West Sussex, England:  September 1, 2008




John Simpson

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Thank you to John SImpson who wrote:


"I recall seeing similar gas powered buses in Kirkcaldy, Fife.  The 2-wheel trailer had a gas producer boiler but no gas bag. The gas was a weak substitute fuel but as long as the route did not have steep hills the performance was acceptable.

The smell was another matter!"

John Simpson, Calgary, Alberta, Canada:  August 4, 2009




George Derrick


Thank you to George Derrick who wrote:

Pickford Removal Vans

"I don't recall buses equipped with gas-producing trailers but I clearly remember the PICKFORD removal vans using that apparatus during the war.

I have contacted PICKFORDS head office specifically seeking confirmation and photographs etc, but with no luck."

George Derrick, Canada:  August 7, 2009




Tony Sanders

It has been a while since I received any comments on this topic, but now Tony Sanders has sent a contribution.

Tony wrote

North Devon Bus

"It wasn't in Scotland, but as a boy in North Devon during WWII, I remember gas powered 57-seat double decker buses towing two-wheeled trailers on which were large soft wobbly bags containing the gas.

Power was obviously modest because, on a summer Sunday afternoon on the way back to Bideford from Westward Ho! beach with a full load of passengers, the bus stopped at the start of one hill (not particularly steep).

We all had to alight, walk up the hill, and climb back into the bus for the remainder of the three-mile journey.

Tony Sanders:  March 16, 2010




Murray Jackson


Thank you to Murray Jackson for telling me about this two minute film clip on gas-powered buses and other vehicles in London.  Please click on the link below then on the 'click to play' link to view the film clip.

You may have to watch a little advertising before the interesting part begins!

Murray wrote:

 Pathť Film

"Here is a link to a short British Pathť video newsreel film about London buses and other vehicles with gas trailers."

Murray Jackson, Canada:  November 14, 2010




George Orr


Thank you to George Orr who wrote:

No Gas Operated Buses Seen in Edinburgh

"I was born in Edinburgh  1929 and attended Danial Stewart College.  then became an Apprentice Joiner with Robert Laurie Belford Road.

During my time in Edinburgh I never saw  Ggas-operated buses, only electric tram cars  which travelled all over Edinburgh.  They were noisy but serviceable."

George Orr, Australia, formerly Featherstone Crescent, Edinburgh:  March 27, 2011




Geof Jones

Lakeland, Florida, USA

Geof Jones wrote:


Gas Trailers

"A lot of people seem to remember the petrol buses that used anthracite gas trailers trailers in WWII, but does anyone know where I can get any information on these machines?  I guess they were pretty basic.

 -  How long did the bus run before someone had to put more anthracite in, etc, etc.?

How reliable were the engines that used this gas?

A few buses in Oxford used these trailers.  I presume that those in Scotland were the same as in England.  I also read that similar gas-producing 'plants' were used on cars/vans in France."

Geof Jones, Lakeland, Florida, USA:  May 28, 2012

Reply to Geof

I don't know how many buses used these trailers in Scotland, but I believe it was very few.  I've heard that the engines on these buses had difficulty climbing hills, which would have been a problem on many Scottish routes.

If you can suggest where Geof might be able to find more information, please email me, then I'll give you his email address so that you can contact him.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  June 5, 2012




Geof Jones

Lakeland, Florida, USA

Geof Jones wrote again adding:


Gas Trailers

"I am from Oxford, and remember a few buses towing these trailers, which I was recently informed used anthracite to produce gas.  I am curious about the following:

1. How did they work?  How was gas produced and not burned in production?

2.  Some articles mentioned that engine power was compromised.  The part of Oxford I lived in had few hills, so I'm not sure if power was an issue there.

3. How often did the bus have to return to the depot for fuel?

4. How did the driver know when he was getting short of fuel?  Hopefully it was not because the engine began to stall!

5. Do any museums have one?  I presume presume that the Oxford Museum does not have one, as the guy that I wrote to there had no information.

Thanks for your help"

Geof Jones, Lakeland, Florida, USA:  June 6,, 2012

Reply to Geof

You could try emailing the London Transport Museum, to see if anybody there is able to answer any of your questions or can suggest who else you might contact.

If you can suggest where Geof might be able to find more information, please email me, then I'll give you his email address so that you can contact him.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  June 6, 2012




Frank Mitchell


Thank you to Frank Mitchell who wrote:


"There is a book, 'Londonís Wartime Gas Buses' by A. G. Newman which details the producer-gas trailers used during the war.  As far as I know most of the trailers were similar, being manufactured in bulk by the Bristol Tramways Company."


"The Ministry of War Transport decreed that operators must have some buses adapted to producer-gas. According to D L G Hunter in his book on Edinburgh transport, nine buses were modified for use with the trailers, including:

A71 (BWS 205)

A86 (BWS 221)

A88 (BWS 223)

All were 1938 Daimler COG5s."

Frank Mitchell, Edinburgh,  August 4, 2012




Kevin Jones

Norfolk, England

Thank you to Kevin Jones who wrote:

The Cramond Bus

"I have vague memories on return trips from Cramond up to City Centre being ordered off the bus to walk up the hill as the bus was unable to cope with the hill when using producer gas.

Kevin Jones, Norfolk, England:  January 2,  2014

Kevin added:

Edinburgh Trams

"I spent much of the Second World War, from late-1941 until August 1945, living in Slateford, Edinburgh.  I enjoyed the trams and hope to live long enough to ride along Princes Street by tram again.

Kevin Jones, Norfolk, England:  January 10,  2014




Tony Russell

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Thank you to Tony Russell who wrote:

London Buses

"I was a kid in London during WW2 and remember some of the London Transport buses running on producer gas, in particular, No.126 from Eltham to Bromley.

The buses had the gas producer drum at the back on a small trailer.  They stank awfully and made some dangerous sounds.

I recall they often had problems getting up Chinbrook Road in Grove Park which was a bit of a climb.  They often used to stop altogether and have to be cleaned out and restarted by the driver and conductor.  It was usually quicker to get out and walk up the hill to the station and catch your train up to London."

Tony Russell (now nearly 81),  Adelaide, South Australia, Australia (since 1957):   4 January 2016


More photos:   Early Edinburgh Buses

Horse bus at Leopold Place ©


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