Topic: Indiaman

Indiaman, or ???????: I must be getting old now - because I'd forgotten that name; although I first saw one of their buses in Iran or was it Afghanistan, forty years ago; but by then the 'Indiaman' days were coming to an end.

What jogged my memory? by chance I found this website, which includes a link to another site (plus this one..!): Indiaman. In 1957 Indiaman was certainly a very early starter (possibly the first...) in the Overland business - the above links are the source of the following photographs:



Indiaman, I've learned from the two links, was started up by Paddy Garrow-Fisher, and the story can read on the second link, where the name Nick Nichols is on the Indiaman crew list; the same name is listed on this site, where it says he once worked for Mr. Garrow-Fisher, plus Penn Overland. But no mention of the word Indiaman - or the real early days.

One noticeable thing about this Indiaman AEC bus is the statement written on the side of it: "20,000 miles through 15 COUNTRIES by A E C of course" - a nice bit of self-publicity by AEC; also the sponsorship by Exide batteries. The Second World War had finished only twelve, or so, years before, and the bus itself, and the one in the second photograph, were most likely to be pre-war models.
                                                                                               . . .this looks like the Kabul Gorge or Khyber

That first photograph reminds me of a book I read a long time ago about the Nairn Brothers - who ran an overland bus service across the Syrian desert, from Beirut and Damascus to Baghdad - in the 1920s and '30s. A brief account of this can be read here. When I read the book, it was from a library; I wouldn't mind a copy of it now - there's one available on, but fify-five quid is too steep for me. . .


This is the bookseller's comment:
Book Description: Caravan Books, New York, 1980. Hard BACK in Dust Wrappers. Book Condition: As New. Dust Jacket Condition: As New. First Edition. 8vo. 112 pp; numerous b/w illustrations, 1 map, vignette on title page, endpaper maps. HARD BACK Binding in dustwrappers. Copy in Very Good Condition. The Nairn way is the story of two pioneering New Zealanders, Norman and Gerry Nairn, who established the first cross-desert bus service between Damascus and Baghdad. After serving with the Allies during World War I in the Middle East, the Nairns decided to stay on in first Palestine and later Lebanon, gradually building up a flourishing motor transport business, which was finally liquidated after World War II. Confronting flash floods and Druse rebels, desert temperatures and the Vichy French with the same high-spirited self-assurance, the Nairn brothers not only survived but prospered, and in the process added an important chapter to the centuries old history of desert transport.

Re: Indiaman

Some more early Indiaman stuff:

.                                   Picture from the first link. . . .

"The year is 1957. The Suez Canal is blocked with ships scuppered by Gamal Abdel Nasser in the aftermath of the failed invasion by Britain and France to reclaim that waterway. The only sea route to Malaya, where I am headed, is via the Cape and beyond my means. All I can afford is 80 pounds Sterling for a seat on the first ever commercial overland bus that has just commenced operation."

These words are by Peter Moss, and are on the back of the first photograph in this link to Part 1 - London to Tehran; the second link is to Part 2 - Tehran to Penang.

The images are shown using a so-called Tilt-Viewer, which I didn't find easy to use at first. But it's good stuff, there are some superb photographs - and by coincidence only posted in May 2008.

In his account of an overland journey to India, Steve Abrams mentions that he saw an Indiaman bus crossing the border from Pakistan to India on 16th November 1968 (we'd gone through with the Safaris bus on 12th October '68) - the link to his site is here

Re: Indiaman
                                                              Nairn Bus in 1955

This picture is from the book "First Overland" by Tim Slessor, first edition 1957; I decided to re-read it and had forgotten that there was a picture of a Nairn bus in it. This was approaching the end of the era for the Nairn overland bus service in the Middle East (before it was wound-up in 1957, and the vehicles and equipment sold) - and as can be seen, it's an articulated bus. The (Cummins engined) tractor unit is American (with 12.00 x 24 inch tyres - by the look of them...), and the passengers travelled in the stainless-steel bodied semi-trailer. What a fantastic overland vehicle...! And below is an earlier Nairn bus:
                           Click the picture to go to the source website. . .where I found the picture.
                                                          As before - click the image. . .

This picture gives an idea of the length of the articulated Nairn buses - this one dwarfs the Ford V8 car in the foreground, and that's not a small car...
                              Route of the 1955 Oxford & Cambridge Expedition to Singapore

Of course things have moved on since the book was first published - its been reprinted since I bought mine decades ago - and there's some stuff about it on the Internet now. The book is a fascinating read, it describes the eastbound part of a return journey overland from London to Singapore, by six undergraduates in two Series-1 Landrovers. They called their 1955 trip the "Oxford & Cambridge Far Eastern Expedition from London to Singapore" and clicking this will bring up a handful of sites about the book and journey. Somewhere is a digitised version of the cine-film recorded as they travelled. The DVD should be available through the link below - click the picture of the re-printed book's front cover:


Re: Indiaman


Peter Moss, a passenger on the second Indiaman bus journey from London to Bombay in August 1957, has not only put a lot of photographs of the trip on the website I gave the link to, here and here, but he's included a description of the experience in his book "Bye-Bye Blackbird: an Anglo-Indian Memoir" (ISBN: 0-595-31373-6). The pages covering his Indiaman trip are 186 to 218. It's not a full account of the trip, and doesn't set out to be, but it gives the atmosphere of it. It also allows a glimpse of the character of Mr. Paddy Garrow-Fisher - the man behind Indiaman - and the wheel. I'm not going to repeat it all here, but apparently that second Indiaman trip ended in tears. Mr. Moss and another bloke left the bus in Agra, before it sped on to its destination