Public transport in the Isle of Man commenced in 1873 with the opening of the narrow gauge Isle of Man Railway with routes from Douglas to Port Erin and Peel. Three years later, an urban tramway opened for business in Douglas, and control of this passed to Douglas Corporation in 1902, following the liquidation of the operating company. The first buses on the island were a pair of Argus charabancs introduced in 1907 by the Manx Electric Railway, and these linked Bungalow (on the Snaefell Mountain Railway) with the company’s hotel and tea-rooms at Tholt-y-Will.
Seven years later, Douglas Corporation bought its first buses, a Tilling-Stevens and a Straker-Squire, both seating 25. After just six years service, they were replaced by a further four Tilling-Stevens, and from 1922 to 1930 a further 34 buses entered service, including the first double decker in 1922.
The Corporation’s first Leylands were the two 1936 20 seat Park Royal bodied Cubs, and these became known as “Wolsey’s Midgets", J.H.Wolsey being the then general manager of the Corporation’s transport department. Apart from the buses, the horse trams and Douglas Head tramway also came under the local authority’s remit. The latter tramway did not survive the second world war, being closed in 1942. Buses which operated on services inside the borough boundary were exempt from road tax, but a small fleet which worked on routes beyond the edge of Douglas were subject to the full rate, and to distinguish them, such buses carried the letters "EA" (extended area) on the front panels. Thus, in effect, Douglas Corporation ran TWO fleets of buses.
In 1933, the first pair of an eventual fleet of 42 AEC Regents went into service. These were supplemented in 1945 by a trio of AEC powered Daimler utility buses, which were to remain in service until 1970. A varied selection of single deckers were also bought over the years, including Bedford OWB and VAS, AEC Regal and Reliance, Leyland Comet and Cub, and Guy Otter. Some of these buses received outsize destination screens, capable of taking the large scrolls fitted to double deckers, thus giving a distinctive appearance to the vehicles in question.
The 1957 batch of four AEC Regent Mark 5s were the first such buses in the fleet, as well as being the last rear platform buses to enter service. 1957 also saw five Guy Otter buses enter service, the only examples of that manufacturer's output on the island. Two AEC Reliances arrived in 1958, thought to be the only Reliances ever fitted with Mulliner bodywork.
Seven forward entrance Regents arrived during the 1960s, including the last ever one built (one of a pair of Willowbrook bodied buses in 1968), while in 1970, for the first (and last) time secondhand buses were acquired, in the form of eight ex Lancashire United Leyland Tiger Cubs. An unusual purchase in 1974 was a Willowbrook bodied Bedford YRQ, followed by three more in 1975. These were to prove to be the final new Douglas Corporation buses, as on October 1st 1976 the yellow fleet was merged with the red Road Services buses to become Isle of Man National Transport. This move, first suggested in 1966, brought an end to 62 years of Manx municipal bus operation. However Douglas Corporation retained the famous sea-front horse tram route, and happily this still remains as it was.
Please note the above information was kindly provided by Shane Conway from his excellent site The Classic Manx Buses website (opens in a new window). Please take the time to visit his very informative site.