The Friends of King Alfred Buses (FoKAB) was born in 1985. Its continuing aim is preserve King Alfred buses & coaches and anything and everything to do with King Alfred Motor Services (KAMS).
FoKAB was formed in 1985 to assist James Freeman in the preservation of two KAMS buses that he had purchased - Tiger Cub 104 (WCG 104) and Atlantean 591 (HOR 591E - since scrapped but parts used to help restore HOR 592E). Since then further ex-KAMS buses and coaches have been rescued, including two repatriated from the USA. FoKAB aims to maintain 12 buses and 4 coaches in a roadworthy condition. Bedford VAL14 (CCG 704C) completed its restoration in time for the 2002 King Alfred Bus Running Day and the Leyland Olympic bus (JAA 708) was fully restored in time for our 2013 Running Day. A rare Bedford CALZ minibus (BHO 543C), is now restored and returned to the road for Heritage Open Days in September 2019, whilst a 1950 Leyland Titan PD2 is nearing completion of extensive renovation of the body. Our latest acquisition, thanks to a very generous donation, is a 1929 Leyland Lion RU 8678 which originated with Hants & Dorset Motor Services. Currently some mechanical work is under way, together with completion of external lettering. The vehicle is initially presented in King Alfred livery, being almost identical to two Leyland Lions in the fleet in the pre-WW2 era. It is then planned to restore it to full Hants & Dorset condition in time for its centenary in 2029. This vehicle appeared at The Original King Alfred Running Day on 1st May 2023 and is planned again to be in use for Winchester Heritage Open Days on 10th September 2023.
FoKAB's membership now stands at about 200 people. One may ask why there still so much interest in a bus company of such relatively small size that has been gone for nearly fifty years? The answer lies in the nature of King Alfred Motor Services (R. Chisnell & Sons Ltd) itself. King Alfred was one of the few privately owned bus companies to run a municipal service. KAMS was proudly independent, with the statue of King Alfred on the green side panels of its buses to add that ultimate distinction. It is also down to the enthusiasm of members to keep the memory of KAMS alive and protect part of Winchester's great heritage.
In 2000 we became a Registered Charity, rather than just a group of enthusiasts preserving buses and coaches. Anyone who has travelled on our vehicles at our running days or at other events will have noticed, even the crews try to wear the correct uniform of the 1960's.
Our aims are eventually to house all our vehicles together in a living museum in Hampshire to assist in educating the public in the role of transport in Winchester and in the surrounding district. We of course already re-create the past when we hold our Running Days and show our vehicles at many local events.
Being a charity can have many advantages. We benefit strongly from the Gift Aid scheme where we are able to reclaim the income tax paid on donations. In 2004, Hampshire County Council made a small grant towards the restoration of JAA 708. As we have a unique collection comprising all known surviving ex KAMS buses and coaches, our next aim is to attain museum status. At our 2004 Running Day we launched our new mobile information unit to explain the work of FoKAB and the history of KAMS.
Preserving the past takes both time and money. This is where you can help by becoming a member or by making a donation! We hold regular working sessions on the vehicles near Winchester on Tuesday afternoon and evenings and all day Saturday.
You will certainly see our buses and coaches at The Original King Alfred Buses Running Day which used to be on New Year's Day. Now, we usually hold a smaller event on 1st January with the main event on the first Bank Holiday in May and further activity for Heritage Open Days in September. We also take vehicles from our collection to running days, rallies and other events in southern England when the opportunity arises.
As an organisation we do not hold an operator's licence so are not allowed to carry out private hires with our vehicles. We do, though, occasionally run free bus services for other charities and non-profit making organisations in Winchester and the surrounding district, when members of the general public can have a free ride and experience bus and coach travel as it used to be.