Saturday, 20 September 2014

Showbus Time Again

Well its that time of year again when all us "Anoraks" visit Duxford for the annual Showbus event, it returns to Cambridgeshire after a year away at Long Marston.

I decided to have a look back through my collection and share some photos from past Showbus events, as you will gather both Danny Beales and Chris Speed are good friends of mine and so i have been lucky enough to travel with First to the event on numerous occasions. 

I think the first Showbus for me was 2001 and the entrant from Great Yarmouth was Dart G457KNG which wore the Blue & Yellow Blue Bus livery, driven by Des Speed. The following year saw the arrival of the fleet of Plaxton Paragon Coaches for the X94 and so 209 AO02RDU was chosen to be entered and myself and Chris spent the Saturday night at Caister Road cleaning and polishing her for the big day and we were rewarded by winning the award for Best Transbus/Plaxton vehicle at the show!
A Youthful Chris Speed and the prize for best Transbus vehicle 2002

Great Yarmouth Depot has always entered a vehicle for Duxford and in the past various types have been chosen to make the trip, 2006 saw Routemaster NML623E in Flying Banana livery, 2007 a newly repainted Volvo B10M 20119 N619APU, 2009 it was X1 Gemini 37572 AU58ECW and 2010 saw newly arrived Plaxton President 32212 LT52WTV on show, just a few of the numerous entrants from Caister Road!

2006 saw NML623E make the trip from Caister Road
This year will see a mini invasion from First Eastern Counties with 3 Enviro 400's, 66957 in the new Ipswich livery and heritage liveried 32479 (my steed for the day!) and a Norwich based vehicle is also expected.

Over 400 vehicles are expected at the Imperial War Museum site and its always a good social event where lots of familiar faces meet up and have a chat.

So here's to a good day out and fingers
crossed the Duxford downpours stay away and the sun will shine on us all!
Newly repainted 20119 in the 2007 sunshine

I know Roy is unable to attend so i will be supplying a report on the days events in his absence and sharing the odd photo along the way so come and say hello, always nice to put faces to names.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Agatha Christie Festival

Leyland Tiger AHL694 turns at the Clocktower on The Strand in Torquay
This week sees the Torbay area hosting the International Agatha Christie Festival

This years programme includes world leading crime authors and exhibitions, as well as talks and readings by special guests, including Agatha Christie’s grandson.

A full programme of events such as vintage bus rides, murder mystery dinners and visits to some of the places in the area which the author loved and which inspired her writing.

This afternoon I observed a vintage bus service at The Strand provided by AHL694, a Leyland Tiger PS1/1 single-decker with Barnaby bodywork - operated by Agatha Christie Bus Tours

The bus was new to J Bullock and Sons in 1947. Three years later, Bullock merged with the West Riding Automobile Co and the bus passed to West Riding. It now operates tours to Greenway, Agatha Christie's holiday home run by the National Trust

Teignmouth Trip

Country Bus Solo V112DCF in Regent Street Teignmouth yesterday
Wednesday meant a short trip to nearby Teignmouth, where my father was born

A wander along the seafront was followed by a tour of the central area shops

It was during the latter when I came across Devon's largest independent bus company Country Bus

The company has been operating local bus services since 1993 
Stagecoach Southwest 18074 WA04CSY on service 11 to Dawlish Warren
and runs eleven subsidised services for Devon County Council and twelve commercial services along with many school buses

The majority of Country Bus services run out of Newton Abbot, although there are services based in Exeter, Teignmouth, Totnes and Brixham.

Yesterday I captured one of their Optare Solos on Regent Street having completed its route. V112DCF has been with the company for a few years now but was first registered by Reading Buses in January 2000

Later, I observed Stagecoach Southwest Transbus Trident WA04CSY leaving from the same stop on a service to Dawlish Warren

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Ambassador Travels!

Ambassador Travel's KIG7202 - an unexpected sighting
Yesterday finished with an early evening stroll around Torquay We found ourselves wandering along the back streets on our way back to our holiday accommodation

Walking along Abbey Road I thought I recognised the registration of a white liveried coach parked on the forecourt of the Ashley Court Hotel

On closer inspection, I found it to be KIG7202 of Great Yarmouth - based Ambassador Travel! Formerly with National Express branding, it is now in all over white as was formerly registered FD54DGV

An unexpected sighting to say the least

Paignton Visit

Former Southport Corporation Leyland Titan FFY403 on a sightseeing tour
Yesterday I paid a visit to Paignton to take some pictures of the incoming Cathedrals Express hauled by steam locomotive Nunney Castle and to observe the local bus scene.

We left the car outside the guest house and decided to 'work off' the cooked breakfast by walking there along the coast road and footpath. It took in excess of half an hour to get to the station
Local Link Optare Solo at Paignton Bus Station awaiting its next working
after consuming a cappuccino on the pier

As we were entering Torbay Road to access the commercial area, Leyland Titan PD2/3 FFY403 turned in front of us. It was built for Southport Corporation in 1948 and subsequently converted to an open top. In 2013 it was acquired by Riviera Sightseeing Tours of Torquay who was operating it on the one hour and thirty minute tour around the 
Stagecoach Optare Solo WA59CRZ works the Foxhole service
English Riviera

After a short visit to the Dartmouth Steam Railway to witness ex GWR steam loco 4277 Hercules running around it's train, I visited the neighbouring bus station. I immediately espied an independent Local Link Optare Solo YN53ELU laying over among the numerous Stagecoach buses. One of the latter was another Optare Solo 47695 WA59CRZ, 
Volvo Olympian M832HVC on a Rail River Link service
employed on the FOX service to Foxhole.

Also seen was Rail River Link Alexander Royale bodied Volvo Olympian M832HVC operating a service. The bus has previously seen use in Cambridge as a demonstrator and more recently
 with Finglands and East Yorkshire
Motor Services

Finally, I observed the bottom half of ex Portsmouth Corporation Leyland PD2 LRV992 peeping out of a building on the site. The open topper was painted in Devon General colours

I then retraced my steps in time to get some photos of the steam train arriving prior to heading back to Torquay by bus

Reynolds Latest

The Second Plaxton Profile aquired by Reynolds has had its lettering added and is now in service, AW53GAX is named Lady Kristina,noted this morning at the garage in Caister awaiting a school run.

Sister AW53GAU is named Lady Jodie.

Other changes to note are that BIG9854 Lady Penny has had new light clusters fitted front and rear giving her a new look.


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Caister Road Depot ~ Special Report

The operations centre showing buses allocated - note 32202 tab hanging vertical
Following an invitation from First Great Yarmouth's Operation Manager Danny Beales, Colin White from Eastern Transport Collection and myself were, on Thursday last, privileged to have a tour of Caister Road depot

Both Colin and myself travelled from Gorleston on ex Leicester ALX400 32064 to the north end of Northgate Street for a short stroll to the depot

NML623E in the special Routemaster bay
Upon arrival and receiving our 'hi-vis' tops Danny explained that the front of the depot had recently benefited from a £4,500 repaint/ makeover and what a difference it makes too as can be seen from the blog header above

Our first stop was the busy operations centre with a board showing the vehicles available for service. It was noticeable that one of tab
Norwich decker at Caister Road for its MOT
was hanging vertical and Danny explained it was currently unavailable as one of the safety rails had been vandalised and required replacing before it could return to service

We then continued the tour of the office area which including a learning centre, an interview facility and the all important drivers restroom which included a recently recovered snooker
The final one of the four former First Essex Darts to receive the rear advert
table. Caister Road currently employs 105 drivers

Exiting into the depot itself we were pleasantly surprised by the activities carried out on the north side of the building which I had hitherto assumed was just the supporting wall. How wrong I

Hidden away was the Seat Bay where a gentleman was busy repairing a seat that had been vandalised
Olympian 34110 out of use - what future does it have?
by a knife. It's the only place in First Eastern Counties where all the seat types are reupholstered

Then there was the tyre shop, where the tyres are retreaded, and the well stocked parts store with all individual items automatically restocked using a computer system

After observing the canteen area we saw the staff toilet/shower facility was currently being revamped, Also noted were some of the recycling activities carried out. In the cleaning facility the main item on display was chewing gum remover

The last bay on the north side is a specially
dedicated Routemaster area where the two buses
will be stored during periods of inactivity to protect them from damage etc: NML623E being the only one resident at the time of our visit

It was then out into the garage area proper. Great Yarmouth is the major facility for garage work and MOTs with buses being sent here from Lowestoft, Norwich and Kings Lynn for attention

As if to prove the point, Norwich's Dennis Trident/Plaxton President 33238 LT52WVG and 20515 WV02EUR were both present for an MOT

There are two separate areas for repairs; one for large operations such as engine and gearbox replacements whilst the other is for smaller scale repairs such as window replacements

Over the pits at the time of our visit were 34114 W434CWX, 43864 EU52FGA and 37579 AU58EDK. Also undergoing inspection was Olympian 34108 W435CWX

Parked up opposite the pits was Dart SLF 42920 EU05AUM  which had just received a rear wrap around advert for Great Yarmouth College - all four ex First Essex Darts have now had the same treatment

Plaque dedicated to those losing their lives
The garage roof and lighting has
recently been refurbished although there is still evidence of damage to
a girder from an air attack during World War Two. Additionally a plaque has been affixed to one of the pillars dedicated to the 49 persons who lost their lives during the attack

We then proceeded to the rear yard where the four Olympians were stationed - for the record they were 34110 W437CWX, 34112 W432CWX,  34113 W433CWX and 34187 S687AEE. The first mentioned is the last Olympian built whilst 34187 was withdrawn with gearbox problems and looks unlikely to enter service again

Upon re-entering the garage we passed a board displaying old bus numbers with key hooks  beneath where the drivers use to obtain their keys prior to starting up their buses

All too quickly the tour had come to an end and Danny presented us with some souvenirs to remind us of our visit including a ticket roll from Great Yarmouth Corporation Transport

Many thanks for the tour Danny and for showing us that there was plenty going on behind the scenes to enable First to keep the wheels turning.