Double-decker buses made to increase the number of passengers that could be carried were very different from the luxury cruisers of today in two main respects. There were drawn by a pair of horses and the upper deck had no roof. That saved weight although it was advertised as being the place to see the best view.
Motorized double-deckers first appeared in 1919, immediately after World War I, and they too had an open top deck. The company that manufactured them, Leyland motors, made no less than 55 styles between 119 and 1926. France too was quick to adopt the very economical way of moving passengers. Originally the stairs to the top deck hung out as an addition at the rear of the bus and were open to the elements but it wasn’t long before the stairs was incorporated into the shelter of the bus body. The buses are between 13 and 15 feet high.
It was until the 1950s that many foreign countries adopted the style. In 2008, the first double-decker buses reached Dubai. In London, despite a few double-deckers remaining, the difficulty of making them accessible to the handicapped and to wheelchairs has resulted in most being brought out of service.
I worked on double-decker buses in Britain, in Wales, sixty years ago.
Working on these buses in the fifties was exciting.
The conductor had more responsibilities than simply taking fares and, in those days, clipping tickets. As the conductor I was in charge of the bus, which meant everything from the schedule to filling it up with petrol when we finished our shift. I had to tell the driver when to start and when to stop.
The location in which I worked (Pwllheli and the Lleyn peninsula) was very hilly and some double-deckers could not climb some of the hills so it was also my task to select the right vehicle for my shift. If you couldn’t get a powerful enough vehicle passengers were forced to walk up the hill.
Furthermore, some of the bridges couldn’t take the weight of a full double-decker so I had to stop the bus on one side of the bridge, make the passengers get off to walk across the bridge individually and then they could remount the bus on the other side. I also had to learn to endure complaints.
My final responsibility was to avoid carrying drunks on the final buses of the evening. Drunks could both be obnoxious, dangerous and could easily be sick on some of our country routes. Getting them off was simple. I simply announced to all the passengers that the bus was not going to go until this drunk left and I immediately had plenty of willing helpers to eject him.
While passengers were never allowed on the platform at the back from which the stairs rose to the top deck, the conductor was free to hang out and let the cool breezes blow through his hair.
All in all there was not a moment of boredom on a double-decker bus.