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January 2002    
The Vale of Leven lies to the North West of Glasgow and comprises five communities - Alexandria, Bonhill, Renton, Jamestown and Balloch.   Loch Lomond laps the pier at Balloch and is a favourite destination of those escaping the hubub of the Scottish capital.   For many years Central SMT provided local services and operated the trunk routes 133/134/136 to Glasgow.   Other companies included  Gareloachhead Motor Services who ran into Helensburgh and Barries of Balloch who's coaches ran on Coulport contracts. 
First Glasgow MD3 (P854VUS) and McColls F27XOF at Westcliff terminus in Dumbarton.
Central vehicles were garaged at Gavinburn depot beneath the Erskine Bridge.
Scotland: click to enlarge
Both Barries and Garelochhead Motors disappeared in the 1980's and Central SMT is now part of the vast First Glasgow empire.   Gavinburn depot shut and a small compound in Dumbarton houses the First fleet.   Competition may be a thing of the past in most of the UK, but not in the Vale of Leven.    Recently McColls Coaches have started competing with First Glasgow on local services in Dumbarton and Alexandria.   The twist in the tale ?   They're based at the old Barrie's depot near Balloch.

This article looks at current operation in the Vale of Leven and reflects on times gone by when red was crimson.

Above: One of the most recognisable landmarks in the area is Alexandria Fountain.   It features in many old photographs of the town, and is the meeting point of most of the main bus routes.   First Glasgow MD2 (P853VUS) is seen on the (205) service to Haldane.
Above: The Vale of Leven population expanded dramatically in the 1970's when it was decided to accommodate Glasgow overspill in new housing in Bonhill.   McColl's MCW Metrobus GOG267W is seen leaving Ladyton, one of several such sprawling estates.
Right: Apart from the obvious charms of Loch Lomond, the Vale of Leven cannot be thought of as a major tourist destination.   Those that stop for an ice cream en route to the lochs and the glens would be surprised by the tranquillity of the Christie Park.   The peace of the park contrasts with the buzz of the main road where a McColls Metrobus is seen here heading from Alexandria to Bonhill.
First-Free Buses
Above Central SMT Bristol FLF's and an LD at Balloch Bus Stance in October 1974.
Middle: Garelochhead Motors MUS104P, a Duple Bus-bodied Leopard, at Helensburgh railway station in July 1976.
Below: Barries of Balloch ended its days at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, where its
MPL126W is seen in March 1988.
vale-luss.JPG (52267 bytes)Tendered Services
In common with other parts of Scotland, most of the rural services around the Vale of Leven are operated under tender.   First Glasgow operate an hourly service from Dumbarton to Helensburgh and First Edinburgh (ie Midland) operate the cross-country and cross-region Stirling to Balloch route from its Balfron depot.   
Ironically McColl operate tendered services to Gartocharn and Luss, which is the destination for their W514PSF seen at Balloch.
All services in Helensburgh operate under tender.   Wilson of Rhu and Garelochhead Coaches provide minibuses for the local routes and those to Rhu and Garelochhead.   Wilsonís
N400RHU is seen at Churchill Square on the Helensburgh town service.
vale-luss.JPG (52267 bytes)Express Services
Before the bypass was built in 1975, the Glasgow to Campbeltown service used to trundle through Jamestown, Alexandria and Balloch.   For many years, Western SMT black/white liveried Leopards were the mainstay and along with Highland Fords on the Oban and Uig services they provided some variety to the local bus scene.  
All three routes are now operated by Citylink coaches which stop only at Balloch on the main A82 road.   West Coast Motors M100WCM is seen at the Balloch roundabout on its way to Campbeltown.
Vale of Leven
Click to enlarge photos
  All photos taken in April 2001
Links Torpedo Factory
First Glasgow are the main bus operator in the Vale of Leven
Strathclyde PTE are responsible for tendered services in the area
The Maid of the Loch is the last steamer on Loch Lomond
Order books and videos about the history of the Vale of Leven
The Torpedo Factory was originally built for Argyll Motors at the beginning of the 20th Century
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