BOLTON'S BODY BUILDERS 1888-1989

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ET74
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BOLTON'S BODY BUILDERS 1888-1989

Post by ET74 »

Having read somewhere in the WA discussion group a topic about Bolton's I thought I could add a bit to that topic !!
There may be a few mistakes but here it is :-



A CENTENARY OF BOLTONS
COACH AND BODY BUILDING FROM 1888 TO 1989


Isaac and Isabella Bolton and their eight children arrived in Fremantle on the steamer Yeoman in 1887.
Shortly after his arrival Isaac founded a coach building business Bolton & Sons in Fremantle having been a wheelwright in Hollingbourne, Kent England.

Their initial factory was at 45 William St Fremantle and he employed most of his sons.

In 1902 Bolton’s engaged an architect Oldham’s to design a new factory at 63 Henry St Fremantle (corner of Henry St and Marine Terrace) with 40 x 40 ft showrooms and was made dustproof.

Their business brochure circa 1909 Bolton & Sons boasted the best workmen in the Commonwealth and manufactured all types of Buggies Wagons etc and every kind of vehicle new and secondhand. They were also direct importers.

Isaac retired in 1912 and the business was carried on by two of his sons, Alfred and Len until 1924 when Alf retired.

Isaac died in 1912 and it is of interest that one of his mourners was a leading hand by the name of Porter who later started his own business which still operates under the name Howard Porter.

As Bolton’s used Tuart for the most of their timber that was used for wheels hubs and even car bodies, they purchased a timber mill (Bailey’s) in Mandurah where Len Bolton installed a manager W McKerracher after the war and operated the mill for their own use until about 1926. This gave then a big advantage over other coach builders at that time as they had access to their own timber and could control the seasoning of the Tuart.

In 1926 Leonard Bolton purchased the business of Daniel White and Co., amalgamating the two and formed Bolton’s Ltd.

Daniel White and Co. was a company who had their main business in Melbourne that was formed in 1869 and opened in Perth in 1897. They started to build bodies on imported car chassis in 1904 both British and American.

Bolton’s turnover in 1928-29 reached 80,000 pounds and they had about 200 employees.
In 1935 Bolton’s Ltd purchased for about 5,000 pounds 13/4 acres of land belonging to Holden’s Ltd (the early car manufacturer) at the corner of Sutherland and Stone St. West Perth just under the Subway.

They proceeded to build a new factory consisting of approximately 35.000 square feet and large enough for 300 employees. It was opened in June 1936 by the then Minister for industry A R Hawke (later premier of WA 1953) at a function attended by over 200 prominent business persons of WA.

In his speech Minister Hawke mentioned that the factory was designed to allow plenty of light and for keeping the air clean and fresh for the workers. Also that Bolton’s had endeavored to see that there was an entire lack of monotony in their employee’s work.
Also during his speech he stated that the value of imported car bodies from abroad amounted to 10,000 pound and from the Eastern States approximately 227,000 pound.

The building was built by well know Perth builder Doust.

Bolton’s, before moving to West Perth had built many of WA’s Trams Buses and coaches including in 1936, 10 of the Alpine Co’s Reo parlor cars.

The Alpine Co’s Parlor car board of directors at that time included Mr J J Poynton Lord Mayor of Perth and G Nankivell whose family in later years was involved also in Perth’s body building industry.

In 1939 Mr L Bolton submitted a tender to build 44 Double-decker buses for Melbourne.

War Time Work

After being successful in a tender to manufacture 2000 timber boxes for packaging 18 pounder shells for the Defence Department in 1938 Bolton’s war time work continued by an order in 1940 for the machining and completion of 550,000 smoke bombs worth around 75,000 pounds.

They also were to make up to 120,000 wooden containers for the bombs.

During the war Bolton’s paid their women workers 90% of the male award rates even when the Union recommended about 80%.

A gas producer called the EVER-READY was also made by the company to help the war effort as well as military ambulances.
At the time of closure of the munitions manufacture Bolton’s employed some 330 workers who were working up to 3 shifts a day.

In 1948 Mr Leonard Bolton MLC died and two of his sons took over the management of the company.

Mr Keith Bolton became the Managing Director and retained that position until Bolton Ltd closed in 1972.

Immediate post-war public transport body building would naturally be a time of slow build-up and Bolton’s first large body building order was for 40 bodies to be built on the Sunbeam trolley buses in 1949.
The Government Tramways had ordered 50 Sunbeams and 10 were built at Commonwealth Engineering in NSW.

The first 26 chassis’s arrived in Fremantle in October 1949 and Bolton’s first built Sunbeam was delivered in to the WAGT in July 1950, (WAG 51).
It was stated that this was also WA‘s first all-steel bus body, however Bolton’s also built in 1948 two all-steel bodies on Daimler CVD6’s for United Buses.

They also built some AEC Regal Mk 111’s for the WAGR immediate post war period. There is large Photograph of the AEC Regal fleet in the East Perth Terminal.

Bolton’s Pty Ltd regularly built bus bodies until they closed in 1972 as indicated in the below list.

Sunbeam Trolley 40 Daimler 11 Leyland Lion 11
AEC Regal 111,1V,V1 58 Diamler Roadliner 1 Leyland Tiger 8
Albian Viking 10 Guy Arab 150 Leyland Worldmaster 24
Leyland Tiger Cub 41 Leyland Leopard 50 Leyland Panther 19


Their last bus delivered to the then MTT was a Leyland Panther MTT 849 in December 1971.

Isaac Bolton and his sons were quite involved in local sporting and political scenes.
It was started when Mr. Isaac Bolton was elected to the first Municipal Council of North Fremantle and later, his eldest son, Herbert, was Mayor for three terms.

A second son, Harry, was the member for North Fremantle in the Legislative Assembly and, when this seat was abolished in 1911, he represented the South Fremantle electorate.

On his return from active service is World War I, he became State president of the R.S.L.
Mr. Leonard Bolton was for six years a member of the East Fremantle Municipal Council and was also Mayor for five years. In 1930 he was elected to the Legislative Council as the member for the Metropolitan Province. He also was on the executive of the Royal Agricultural Society 1932

In sport the family had a distinguished record. Mr. Herbert Bolton was a prominent cyclist who was narrowly beaten by an Italian champion, M. Porta, when he visited this State, and Mr. Leonard Bolton represented WA in a Dunlop 100 miles relay race, in addition to playing first grade cricket and being selected for the State lacrosse team for the first interstate carnival in Adelaide in 1905.

His three sons played first grade cricket in WA. Bowls has always been a popular sport with the family and during one season four of the Bolton brothers, playing as a team.

After Bolton’s Pty Ltd closed Keith Bolton’s only son John with the help of some of the staff and workmen from Bolton’s started a new company based in Belmont called J W BOLTONS. They started manufacturing Fire Tenders and then bus bodies on Mercedes, Leyland B21 and Renault PR100 and PR180.

John was not an apprentice at Bolton’s Pty Ltd, however he continued in the long line of WA Body Builders that his great grandfather Isaac Bolton commenced in 1888 and their last bus body delivered was in December 1989.

His contribution to the Bolton's Body Building Dynasty was to ensure that the name BOLTON survived for just over a century of coach building for Western Australia.

The writer is also a descendant of Isaac and Isabella Bolton but is not a Bolton, however was closely attached to Perth’s Public Transport.
First PSV I drove was from Mt Lawley to East Perth Carbarn 64 years ago was a WAGT E-class Bogie .

The last a Mercedes Benz O305 in 1976

In between have driven many types old and new.
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Dennis96
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Re: BOLTON'S BODY BUILDERS 1888-1989

Post by Dennis96 »

Many thanks for a very informative item. It does raise some questions that you may be able to answer:-

1. What can you tell about the connection or liaison between Boltons and Commonwealth Engineering (Waddingtons) of NSW in the early post World War II period? Commonwealth Engineering is said to have provided Boltons with jigs or patterns for the framing for steel bodied buses. It is difficult to envisage that CE would provide such technical support and assistance to a pure competitor.

2. Did Commonwealth Engineering take a financial interest in Boltons? Or perhaps Boltons may have paid a royalty or licence fee to Commonwealth Engineering for use of their designs?

3. Was the contract for the bodies of the 50 Sunbeam trolleybuses awarded to Commonwealth Engineering who may have subcontracted the manufacture of 40 to Boltons?

4. Do you have any photographs of Boltons premises in West Perth - external views, or work inside or completed vehicles? Boltons regularly had examples of their handiwork photographed by professional photographers, but their archive or albums and illustrations don't appear to have survived. I last saw them at West Perth in 1966 when they were busy churning out bodies for the MTT Leyland Tiger Cubs.
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ET74
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Re: BOLTON'S BODY BUILDERS 1888-1989

Post by ET74 »

Regards your questions re Boltons
Dennis96 1. What can you tell about the connection or liaison between Boltons and Commonwealth Engineering (Waddingtons) of NSW in the early post World War II period? Commonwealth Engineering is said to have provided Boltons with jigs or patterns for the framing for steel bodied buses. It is difficult to envisage that CE would provide such technical support and assistance to a pure competitor.
I would assume that you are referring to the Sunbeam contract.
In 1946 the WA Tender Board called tenders for trolley buses to replace some of the WAGT trams. In January 1947 they accepted the tender from Sunbeam Commercial Vehicles Ltd for 50 trolley buses with a value of £114,348 which included freight to Fremantle.

Sunbeam trolley buses of that era had a distinctive Pod around the overhead pole which contained various electrical mechanism and support framing. I would suspect that Sunbeam would have specified that the body construction be of steel construction.

If that had been so then as no Body builder in WA had had experience in Steel framed construction one would suspect that Sunbeam and the Engineering dept at the Govt. Tramways would have conferred and worked out a design I would say based on existing designs in UK and also South Africa, Cuba and other countries. Brisbane also ordered Sunbeams at the same time.

Boltons Ltd plant and machinery was more up the date that any other Body Building factory in WA and would one would assume be the preferred choice for a local manufacturer. The also had tendered prewar for 44 double deck buses for Melbourne which called for steel framed.
2. Did Commonwealth Engineering take a financial interest in Boltons? Or perhaps Boltons may have paid a royalty or license fee to Commonwealth Engineering for use of their designs?
I do not know and from your question are you assuming or do you know that the design was definitely Commonwealth Engineering?
However I do not think that there was any financial connection between the two companies. I have read that Com Engineering had opened a branch in WA but at present I cannot confirm if that was with Boltons.
It seems that a lot of the records from Com Eng had been destroyed but John Dunn has written a history of Com Eng 1921 to 1955 so perhaps it may have been mentioned there. Have you read it ?
3. Was the contract for the bodies of the 50 Sunbeam trolleybuses awarded to Commonwealth Engineering who may have subcontracted the manufacture of 40 to Boltons?
At present I cannot answer this question, however I may be able to find that out and if so I will post it.
At the time of the contract that was awarded there was a lot of government preference for local manufacture and so it may be that Boltons were awarded the 40 buses.

The 10 chassis for Sydney arrived in April May 1948 and the other 40 arrived in Fremantle between May and October. Construction was held up in Sydney due to a coal strike in NSW and other circumstances.
Jack Napier the general manager of the Tramways Dept and Cecil Bolton manger of Bolton’s went to Sydney in mid November 1949 to inspect the progress. Cecil took over from Mr Len Bolton who passed away after a short illness in 1948.
4. Do you have any photographs of Bolton’s premises in West Perth - external views, or work inside or completed vehicles? Bolton’s regularly had examples of their handiwork photographed by professional photographers, but their archive or albums and illustrations don't appear to have survived. I last saw them at West Perth in 1966 when they were busy churning out bodies for the MTT Leyland Tiger Cubs.
No to later photo's, but I have some early photos of Boltons and Staff in Henry Street Fremantle. I will be able to get some of the West Perth factory soon and will post them.

I knew Mr John Orton, Sunbeam's engineer who spent some time in Perth (about 6-8 months) to assist in the body building and commissioning of the buses. I have a photo of him with early bus.

Would post it if I knew how !! perhaps someone may help me please.
First PSV I drove was from Mt Lawley to East Perth Carbarn 64 years ago was a WAGT E-class Bogie .

The last a Mercedes Benz O305 in 1976

In between have driven many types old and new.
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Dennis96
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Location: Perth

Re: BOLTON'S BODY BUILDERS 1888-1989

Post by Dennis96 »

ET74,

Thanks again for another session on the history of Boltons. Silly me, I fired off my questions and response to your initial post without thinking things through thoroughly. I do have John Dunn's books on Comeng, although it must be the best part of seven years since Part 1 came out and I need to re-read it.

I should have recalled that John Dunn's book was the inspiration to my questions re Boltons and Commonwealth Engineering. John delved into the arrangements between Commonwealth Engineering and established body builders in other states, - e.g. Lawtons in Adelaide, Hedges in Brisbane. But we don't know if Commonwealth Engineering took a financial interest in Boltons or were paid a royalty for use of their designs.

I will review the relevant part of the book when my circumstancespermit, but I do seem to recall John's book indicating that Commonwealth Engineering secured the contract for the bodies of the 50 Sunbeam trolleybuses for Perth and had Boltons construct 40 on their behalf. Around this time, the Western Australian Government Tramways secured 12 AEC Regal III chassis and these may have been the first steel framed bodies built by Boltons to Commonwealth Engineering designs, possibly using kits of parts or pressings provided from Sydney. (WAGT 44 to 55 full front Regal III's, - later converted to half cab by the MTT as their 366 to 377).

Two early Bolton (Commonwealth Engineering style) half cab buses survive in preservation in presentable condition. These are Metro Omnibuses 81, a Leyland OPS4 and WA Govt Tramways Guy Arab 101. WAGT subsequently had other buses bodied by Commonwealth Engineering in Sydney, - Leyland OPS4 and OPD2 half cabs and more AEC Regal IIIs. One of the Leyland OPS4s is in preservation, although the MTT rebuilt its body to the extent there is very little of the original remaining.

Great stuff - what other detail of the WA Government Tramways motor bus fleet do you know? We are always keen to learn more about how the WAGT Daimler and Dennis buses with bodies by Charles Hope of Queensland came about and where their chassis landed in Australia.
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Tobaderf
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Re: BOLTON'S BODY BUILDERS 1888-1989

Post by Tobaderf »

Read with interest your post regarding Isaac Bolton and his business.
I am currently researching the Bolton family tree. I was ware of his business from various newspaper articles I retrieved from National Library of Australia archives. I found the "bus australia" forum via google. Do you have any photo's of Isaac and his sons which would greatly enhance the family tree?

I enjoyed reading your article very much.
Hope you can help.


Regards
Tobaderf
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