END OF THE ROAD FOR FELIX
Saturday 28 January 2012 was the last day of operation of the Black Cat bus through Chaddesden by Felix Bus Service of Stanley. The former Felix journeys on the Black Cat between Derby and Ilkeston Hospital are now operated by Midland General Omnibus Company, a subsidiary of Trent Barton. Midland General also works the Sunday Black Cat between Derby and Heanor, reduced from 7 to 4 return journeys.
Felix Bus Service was months away from its 90th anniversary. The company was founded by local man Norman Frost, born at Stanley. Frost was apprenticed to a garage on leaving school but his apprenticeship was interrupted by the First World War in which he served with the Royal Army Service Corps in France. After the war he returned to the garage but later moved to Rolls-Royce.
A few year later he borrowed some money from his father, bought a Crossley lorry for £500 and began delivering coal and transporting miners. This lorry was converted at weekends to a bus that ran between Stanley and Ilkeston.
In 1924 Mr Frost started to run to Derby, terminating in the yard of a public house where the Council House now stands. The fleet then consisted of two Crossleys, one carrying a body built by William Dickens of Loughborough. When Dickens asked what name he wanted on the side of the bus, Mr Frost’s favourite song “Felix kept on Walking” provided the answer. The bus was painted in his favourite colours of red and maroon.
Operation of the Ilkeston – Derby service became daily when a licence was obtained to terminate at the Derby Albert Street Bus Station. In 1933 the Derby terminus was changed to the Morledge Bus Station. A temporary terminus on Derwent Street was used between 2005 and 2010 while the new Derby Bus Station was being built.
The route through Chaddesden has always been via Nottingham Road, Chaddesden Lane and Morley Road. The original garage was in New Street, Stanley. In July 1937, larger premises were opened in Station Road. Post war the route was lengthened with a diversion through a new housing estate at West Hallam.
Although Mr Frost stopped driving buses in 1966, he continued to run the company and supervise repairs and maintenance until his death in March 1975. The business then passed to his nephew, Mr G. Middup, of Grantham. Miss Ida Bacon, who had helped Mr Frost run the business, became company secretary when Felix became a limited company in 1975.
The company’s 60th anniversary was celebrated by a line-up of five buses in Ilkeston Market Place in March 1982. The Ilkeston terminus was moved to Wharncliffe Road in 1986 when the Market Place was pedestrianised and the route extended to the new hospital a year later.
By this time the sole route had acquired a number – 12. Competition had appeared in the form of the Trent 120 following the same route between Derby and Ilkeston and extending to Mansfield. The branding of both routes as Black Cat is a recent innovation.
In 2009, “Felix the Cat Creations Inc.”, a large United States company, approached Felix and claimed it owned copyright for images of cats used next to the Felix name. To avoid a costly law case Felix buses carried just the company name for their final years of operation, while Trent Barton buses on the same route continue to display a black cat logo which is even printed on the tickets.
Peter Barnes, with additional information from John Bennett
YJ08 EFL, a VDL with Plaxton Centro body new in March 2008, seen at Chaddesden Lane End on its last day with Felix. John Bennett