FOR generations, the name of the coach company Royal Blue was a part of everyday language in Dorset and the west country.

“It was used as a generic term for express coach travel; if anyone said they were going by Royal Blue, everyone knew that they would be making a journey by express coach,” says Chris Harris in his new book on the company.

Royal Blue Recollections is packed with photographs that tell the story of the coach company that began in Bournemouth.

Royal Blue was founded in 1887 by Thomas Elliott, then aged 30, at Avenue Lane.

Motor coaches were still years away, and the company originally hired out horses and undertook coachbuilding, saddling and blacksmith work.

It soon added day trips and local excursions to its business.

The company’s first motor coaches were introduced by Elliott’s sons in 1911, and replaced its horse-drawn carriages altogether in 1914.

An express coach service between Bournemouth and London was launched in 1919. It was initially a summer weekend trial, but became daily in 1921.

The Tilling Group bought the company from Elliott Brothers in 1913, and the excursions and tours business transferred to its company Hants & Dorset.

Confusingly enough, Hants & Dorset initially continued to use blue liveried coaches and the name Royal Blue for its tours and excursions, but by 1937 it had put its own name and green-and-cream livery on the coahces.

Meanwhile, the express coach services came under the control of Western National and Southern National, and kept the Royal Blue name.

Although the headquarters moved to Exeter, the company kept the three sheds it owned in Rutland Road, Charminster, where a quarter of the fleet was stored in winter.

Coach travel boomed after the war, with passenger numbers peaking in 1965.

The photographs Mr Harris has assembled show Royal Blue vehicles over the lifetime of the company, seen in places including London, Oxford, Henley-on-Thames, Newbury, Totnes and Falmouth.

Locally, there are several glimpses of the grand, two-tier bus station that opened in Bournemouth square in 1931 – with Hants & Dorset buses on the upper level and Royal Blue coaches in the basement.

The National Bus Company took over the coach network in 1969. Initially, all the coaches were painted white, but with a “waist rail” in their original fleet colour, and their company name.

However, by 1973, a uniform white livery was imposed, to make sure the National name was on every vehicle.

It was the end of the Royal Blue brand – which had become, as Mr Harris notes “one of the famous names in coach travel across a wide area of England”.

n Royal Blue Recollections is a 48-page book in the Nostalgia Collection from Silver Link Publishing Ltd of Kettering, Northants, and retails for £6.

Its author, Chris Harris, joined Hants & Dorset as a bus conductor in the days when its buses were Tilling green, and went on to work in publicity and marketing roles for Hants & Dorset, Wilts & Dorset and Go South Coast, becoming public relations manager.

Details are at or by ringing 01536 330588.