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07 May 2021
When they originally formed in 1923, W. Alexander & Sons buses were given fleet numbers using numbers only. In 1932 a new system was introduced using both letters and numbers. The letter denoting the make of vehicle. To the layman the lettering system seemed rather illogical. However over the years similar letters were used for different chassis as the older ones became redundant. By the formation of W. Alexander & Sons (Fife) in 1961 there were several letter combinations in use including AL for Albion single deckers, E for Bristol single deckers and G for Guy single deckers. Whilst all single deck Leylands strangely started with a P all double deck buses started with an R. Both P and R types were further sub divided such as PA, PB, etc and RB, RD and RO, etc.
Vehicles generally carried a cast aluminium fleet number plate of varying sizes depending on the batch of vehicle. Plates were carried on the front, bonnet side (in the case of half cab buses) and on the rear. However not all buses carrier a plate on the rear, opting to have a painted (or transfer) number located within the W. Alexander roundel logo. Every vehicle displayed a cast depot allocation plate on the front and rear. Fife examples included A for Anstruther, CR for Cupar, D for Dunfermline, STA for St Andrews, etc.
"The repainting of buses took place at the Gallatown works in Kirkcaldy and it was here I would travel as a young teenager"
Upon the formation of W. Alexander & Sons (Fife) in 1961, and buses were being repainted into the Ayres red/cream livery, early repainted buses retained their original fleet plate although on paper they were now given an F prefix to their fleet number. Eventually all buses had the old fleet plate removed to be replaced with initially a hand painted F prefix number, transfer letters and number were later used. Vehicles new to Fife, post 1962, carried the F prefix on a cast aluminium or stamped aluminium plate but later ones carried a simple flat transfer plate. The use of letters and numbers ceased in 1988 when buses were allocated digit only numbers.
The repainting of buses took place at the Gallatown works in Kirkcaldy and it was here I would travel as a young teenager every Saturday and rake in the bins seeking out the old discarded number plates. I then progressed to searching the scrapyards where Fife buses were being dismantled and removed their fleet plates to add to my collection. Fife fleet plates still appear at rallies and on line selling sites. I have collected around 250 Alexander bus plates, the majority being of Fife origin. I also have in my collection the complete set of Fife depot plates.
[Photo credits: All fleet plates - Eddie Taylor; vintage bus photos - John Sinclair]