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CHARLIE'S CARS

 
Cheeky green and white minibuses running
round Bournemouth in the mid-1980s


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Please note - this is a site of historical record and does not contain current service information



The name Charlie's Cars was well known to many generations of residents and holidaymakers in Bournemouth. Noted for the fleet of plum and cream coloured excursion coaches (with Harrington bodies with that trademark "dorsal fin" in later years) the firm had been founded by the Pounds family in 1919. Eventually they were to be taken over by the orange and cream coaches of long established rival Shamrock & Rambler in 1963 (itself formed by a 1924 merger of two eponymous earlier operators). Subsequently Shamrock was nationalised in 1981 and then came under the auspices of area bus operator Hants & Dorset. Two years later the coaching activities were again separated out and the Shamrock & Rambler name re-established as Hants & Dorset itself was split up into several smaller units. 

Then came bus deregulation in October 1986 which brought changes and some new competitive operators to the area. Shamrock revived the name of their subsidiary company Charlie's Cars for a new activity, namely the operation of green and white minibuses on local services in and around Bournemouth.  This started whilst still a National Bus Company subsidiary under the management of James Freeman. Neither Bournemouth Transport Yellow Buses nor Wilts & Dorset - the local incumbent bus operators - had yet considered substantive minibus operation, Wilts not starting their Skipper minibuses until September 1987. In the same month new interloper Badgerline started to operate a mix of full size vehicles and minibus routes as a local foray into this area. But this was for just six months until Badgerline's abrupt withdrawal locally in March 1988.

As an aside the new 'hail and ride' mini bus service by Charlie's Cars was possibly the last licensing battle under the old pre-1985 Transport Act legislation, and was granted as a licence despite strong opposition from Bournemouth Transport and the Borough of Bournemouth. Operation started with a road service liceence one day before deregulation of bus services commenced in autumn 1986.

The Charlie's Cars operation expanded considerably in 1987 and grew to some 40 or more Ford Transit and Leyland Sherpa minibuses in and around Bournemouth. The new services gradually encroached upon some of Yellow Buses’ key routes, which eventually resulted in a robust response that would see Charlie’s Cars off in the end. Then as part of the government's sell-off of NBC companies Shamrock & Rambler were purchased by Drawlane, a subsidiary company of Endless Holdings of Salisbury, for £0.7 million pounds. That took place on 6th July 1987 whilst Ray McEnhill was chairman of the company; and this was the company that would eventually become British Bus.

Town Tracker limited stop services X5 and X6 were introduced on 19th October 1987 and operated for a while on a route linking Southampton through Bournemouth to Weymouth. The Bournemouth to Weymouth section didn't last long and was dropped from 12th July 1988. Shamrock & Rambler also tried a short lived bus operation with full-sized single-deckers (S & R Buses) with a fleet of ten Leyland Nationals. But by the end of 1988 the new owners decided to abandon the Charlie's Cars operation altogether and the minibuses last ran on 3rd December. Some of the drivers were then employed by Bournemouth Transport for its short-lived Yellow Flyers minibus operation. Coaching operations continued for a while but with the loss of National Express contracts and a decline in the local day excursion trade as more holidaymakers came by car, the Shamrock & Rambler business closed altogether on 29th April 1989.

The first Charlie's Cars routes had started on Saturday 25th October 1986 and linked the Hampshire Centre (an important out of town shopping mall subsequently redeveloped and known today as Castlepoint) to Winton by a circular route mainly  through residential roads. Route A ran clockwise and Route B anti-clockwise, with a seven to ten minute frequency and  hail-and-ride operation. The publicity was brash, colourful and cheeky. Routes were lettered and not numbered. As the depot was not far from the Hampshire Centre, the shopping mall was to form the keystone of many of the routes that developed. Nine vehicles were required initially. The operations were to progress through a series of planned extensions of routes and areas served. Five new routes were introduced from 26th January 1987, the B and C from the Hampshire Centre to Bournemouth Square; the D to Christchurch; and the G and H to Boscombe. The original A and B were dropped at this time, although covered in the main by the new routes. Vehicle requirement was doubled to eighteen. Bringing the vehicle out-turn up to twenty-nine, new routes E and F were introduced in April 1987 from Westbourne through Bournemouth and Boscombe to Christchurch and Somerford on a ten minute headway, competing directly with Bournemouth Transport's main routes. This provoked substantive retaliation for the first time with increased frequencies on the corridor by the incumbent operator.

Major alteration and expansion took place on 19th October 1987, which brought the minibuses to Parkstone and Poole for the first time. The services were operated by drivers working an all day single shift system with considerable interworking of vehicles between routes. There were never evening nor Sunday services. A colourful timetable booklet was issued. This was the only booklet produced and future timetables were individual route leaflets. Further revisions followed on 7th March 1988 with routes S and T to Highcliffe added, and the E extended to Burton. More growth on 6th June 1988 included the introduction of S&R Buses routes V and W with full sized single-deckers (using nine ex-Midland Red North Leyland Nationals) and minibus route K was extended from Poole to Wimborne. The minibus fleet at this time numbered forty-nine: nine Ford Transit / Carlyle (the original vehicles for start of operations in 1986, all others mentioned hereafter were acquired in 1987), twenty Sherpa / Dormobile, fourteen Sherpa / Carlyle and six Sherpa / Optare. Retrenchment started on 19th September 1988 with the withdrawal of minibus services A and G and the Town Tracker routes. Both of the S&R Buses routes ceased on 2nd October and minibus operations continued for only a few months longer until final closedown and withdrawal of all services on 3rd December 1988. (The coaching side of the parent company continued for a little longer but the loss of National Express contracts at the end of April 1989 led to the closure of the Shamrock & Rambler business. In September 1988 the coaching fleet had numbered forty-five).

In part substitution Bournemouth Transport introduced five 'Yellow Flyers' minibus routes from 5th December 1988. Focused largely like Charlie's Cars on the Hampshire Centre they were to prove to have an operating life of only nine months, finishing at the beginning of September 1989. Routes 36 and 37 covered Charlie's Cars route B, the 39 covered the C whilst the 41 and 43 covered parts of the A and K.

Charlie's Cars at work in Upper Parkstone, one of
the original Sherpa / Carlyles on route K


Charlie's Cars working eastwards through Boscombe,
passing the end of Sea Road
Charlies in Parkstone

Charlies in Boscombe

Cover of October 1987 timetable booklet



List of routes and alterations October 1987

timetable cover 1989

routes 1989

The Charlie's Cars route map from the centre pages of the 1987 timetable booklet is reproduced below

map 1989

Charlie's Cars routes reached their maximum extent with the June 1988 service revisions:

    A - The Hampshire Centre - St Catherines Hill - Christchurch - Somerford
    B - The Hampshire Centre - Brassey Road - Winton - Bournemouth Square
    C - The Hampshire Centre - Muscliffe - Bournemouth - Penn Hill - Poole
    D - The Hampshire Centre - Townsend - Castledean - Christchurch - Highcliffe
    E - Bournemouth Square - Boscombe - Iford - Christchurch - Burton
    F - Poole - Parkstone - Bournemouth - Tuckton - Christchurch - Somerford
    G - The Hampshire Centre - Charminster - Boscombe - Boscombe Pier
    H - The Hampshire Centre - Townsend - Castledean - Boscombe - Bournemouth
    K - The Hampshire Centre - Wallisdown - Parkstone - Poole - Wimborne
    S - Bournemouth Square - Southbourne - Christchurch - Beach Approach - Highcliffe
    T - Bournemouth Square - Southbourne - Christchurch - De Havilland Way - Highcliffe
    V - Bournemouth Square - Winton - Moore Avenue - Kinson   (V and W are S&R Buses)
    W - Bournemouth Square - Leybourne Avenue - Kinson - Bear Cross - Bearwood


Starting in October 1987, in addition to the Charlie's Cars minibuses there were the X5 and X6 Town Tracker routes, linking Southampton, Bournemouth and Weymouth. The Weymouth section was dropped in July 1988 and all Town Tracker services ceased in September 1988, the minbuses following soon after in December.
Town Tracker 1987



Older and newer examples of the Charlie's Cars timetable leaflets. The older format (January 1987) was more colourful and the cartoon logo of the minibus featured in all their publicity throughout the operation. B and C each operated every 20 minutes, giving a combined 10 minute frequency. The K was the longest route after being extended from Poole to Wimborne; it ran half hourly with an end-to-end running time of 80 minutes.

On the left the S& R Buses timetable leaflet. On the right 'the route that never was', the M. This was originally intended to be operated by Badgerline, but before it could be introduced they had already decided on their withdrawal from Poole and Bournemouth. So the route was lettered rather than numbered in anticipation of operation by Charlie's Cars from 9th May 1988. But in practice that never happened and the route never ran.



old and new timetables
more timetables



If you remember the earlier days of Charlie's Cars as one of Bournemouth's leading coach operators, follow the link below


     Click to go to the Countrybus index page


      Click here to go to the Charlie's Cars 1946 page



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