There is a connection between this model and that of a 1927 Talbot van featured elsewhere on this website. The latter model was one of the ‘Models of Yesterday’ range by Matchbox. These were the brainchild of master model maker Jack Odell, who in 1982 co-founded a company using his name reversed – Lledo. Between 1883 and 1999 the company manufactured diecast metal models in England, having purchased machinery from Macau, previously used to produce models for Matchbox. Later production was switched to China.
Odell’s intention was to produce model vehicles for collectors akin to the Matchbox ‘Models of Yesterday’. His new range was called ‘Days Gone’. The first models released were horse-drawn vehicles, including a tram, a milk float, a delivery van, a fire engine and the model illustrated here – a horse-drawn London omnibus. The bus carries an advert for ‘Heinz 57 varieties’ and shows its route to be from Piccadilly to Farringdon. Following the success of Matchbox in promoting firms through successive models having a different livery, the omnibus became available in different colours and advertising, featuring such firms as Pear’s Soap and Lipton’s Tea.
A model driver or coachman is missing from the model, as can be seen from a picture below. In real life he sat outside the bus exposed to the elements, as would have been any passengers who climbed the exposed stairs to the upper deck.
The first (short-lived) public bus service commenced in Paris in 1662. The first British bus service opened in Manchester in 1824. What distinguished it from a stagecoach or cab was that no advance booking was needed and passengers determined where the bus stopped. The Paris omnibus service which started in 1828 was hugely successful and George Shillibeer introduced a similar service to London in 1829. Rival services were introduced until in 1855 The London General Omnibus Company was formed to amalgamate and co-ordinate the bus services across the capital. At the end of the 19th century there were 131 omnibus routes in and around London.
The first omnibuses were drawn by three horses and only carried passengers inside. The floor was covered with straw for warmth and mud removal. Later, as in the model, a top deck was added and only two horses were used. Initially access to the top deck was by a dangerous rungs at the front. Later in the 1880s a safer design with a staircase at the rear was adopted.
Horse buses were gradually replaced by horse drawn trams, electric trams and motor vehicles. There was also the increased use of railways, both above and below ground. The last London horse-drawn bus service was withdrawn in 1914.