Hot breakfasts, a full-size snooker table - what a workplace this was!

Former Northern bus drivers take a last look at the old Philadelphia depot.
Former Northern bus drivers take a last look at the old Philadelphia depot.

It will be sad to say goodbye but the memories will live on for scores of people who still remember the Philadelphia bus depot.

Thanks go to the fabulous ex-staff who got in touch with us to share recollections of times gone by.

Former driver Richard Grecian.

Former driver Richard Grecian.

Many of them met up for one last visit to the place they used to call the workplace, before it is demolished to make way for housing.

They included former driver Richard Grecian who was there from 1996 until it closed in around 1998.

“I have a lot of fond memories of it from when I was a child growing up as a bus enthusiast and a driver at the depot,” said Richard.

“Philadelphia was a great depot. We had all the best buses and all the best long haul services and my favourite was the 535/6 and when I bacame a driver there it was like a dream come true.”

We had a lovely canteen that served us hot breakfasts in the mornings, a full size snooker table upstairs, and in the winter mornings we didn’t have to worry about our buses being iced up as they were under cover

Richard Grecian

But it wasn’t just about the buses. The Philly facilities were top-notch as well, remembered Richard.

“We had a lovely canteen that served us hot breakfasts in the mornings, a full size snooker table upstairs, and in the winter mornings we didn’t have to worry about our buses being iced up as they were under cover.”

On our last look back at the old depot, we have Andy Robson to thank for filling in the history of the depot.

From 1905 to 1925, the Sunderland District Electric Tramways site had two sheds housing 18 trams. It was powered by an electricity supply from the North Eastern Electric Board who had a large generator next to the depot.

Motor buses were bought in 1924 and a year later, the firm became the Sunderland District Omnibus Company – “also known as the SDO or Blues because of the distinctive blue livery,” Andy told us.

By 1931, Northern General acquired the SDO. “This was controlled by the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) and The British Electric Traction company,” said Andy.

Bus deregulation arrived in 1985 and the depot was around for more than another decade before it finally closed.

We are indebted to Steven Oliver who posted online that both Philadelphia and Park Lane depot in Sunderland went at the same time, “replaced by Deptford.”

What a set of responses we got when we shared the story on social media about former staff meeting for one last time. It reached more than 36,000 people.

Norman Heron said: “My mam used to work there cleaning the buses late 70s early 80s” and Gemma Elsey called it the “end of an era, still fill up every time I drive past x.”

Elaine Dosh Bell commented: “My dad Michael Stephen Dosh worked there. As a child I can remember popping into the canteen with him x.”

Wilf Newall said his dad worked there “as a bus conductor on the 60’s” while Denise Ward added: “My dad Harry Ramshaw worked there he was a conductor.”

Heather Lickfield Bashford told us: “My dad, Frank Bashford worked there as a sparky” and Christine MacTier added: “My dad worked there – Albert (Smudge) Smith.”

Paul Rutherford’s dad Keith Rutherford “worked there for years” while Sonya Colgin remembered “the trips the drivers would organise for their families.”

Linda Newton’s mum was a clippie over 70 years ago and Linda told us: “She is almost 94 now.”

Emma Jane Kelly told us: “My Dad worked there for years, loved it.”

And Janet Naylor Forster said: “My uncle Jim Short was a mechanic there many years ago.”

Norma Williams’ mam Ena Marley worked in the office in the 70s.

And Helen Peverley and Claire Short both remembered the days in the late 1980s when they were at the depot on their “first jobs on a YTS.”

Claire said: “Feels like yesterday xx and Helen added: “Nearly 29 years ago, scary thought x.”

We’ve loved all of your contributions and our thanks go to the people who liked the story, including Alfie Stephenson, Mike Gray, Peter Cluer, Ann Hedley, Kelly Jordison, Andrea Knapp, Lisa Short and Norma Mitchinson.

Others to like the post included Gary Pitt, Teresa Barnes, Pauline Cooper, Ugo Ezechi Anyanwu, Norma Williams, Gordon Ranton, and Billy Groves.

What’s your favourite Sunderland workplace from times gone by?

Email chris.cordner@jpress.co.uk