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Extreme Bus Journeys

The Nairn Transport Company was set up by two New Zealander bothers, Norman and Gerry Nairn, in the 1920s, pioneering a dusty track from Damascus to Baghdad, a distance of 505 miles, using Buick and Cadillac touring cars.

After securing a contract to carry mail and another for staff of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company 14 seat GMC buses replaced the cars. On one occasion a convoy of Buicks was ambushed by bandits on camels, stealing the cars but leaving the mail and drivers abandoned in the middle of nowhere and it was not unknown for agreements to be made with the local Bedouins for safe passage. Many famous people used the service including Agatha Christie.

Articulated Bus

Car With Luggage

Changing A Wheel

Six Wheel Bus

At this time some of the “roads” across the desert were marked by oil drums but shifting sands meant that the course of these tracks would change and the drums had to be constantly relocated.

The brothers, however, had a vision of desert road trains and after much searching persuaded General Motors and the Marmon Herrington Company in the United States to build two 70 foot long articulated vehicles weighing 26 tons in 1934. Passengers enjoyed airline style comfort with a buffet, toilet and food at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. These had to traverse very difficult desert terrain and winding roads especially when crossing over the 4000 ft high Lebanon mountains with great skill required by their drivers. Much of the 20 hour journey was undertaken at night to avoid the searing daytime temperatures of up to 50c, the buses leaving in the afternoon and arriving at Baghdad the next morning.

During the Second World War the service still continued latterly carrying British troops and equipment reverting to regular passenger use from about 1948 when the Company with its fleet of road trains prospered until the rise in availability of air travel made this long but exciting journey through the desert less attractive.

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