Unfortunately, its not only the Park and Ride Enviro 400s that we're losing from the local bus scene, but also a quintuplet of buses that are dear to my own heart over at A-Line. As briefly mentioned before, A-Line have been disposing of a majority of the withdrawn/semi-withdrawn fleet to make room for the new buses that should both be arriving during tomorrow if all goes to plan, for new contract wins. This has meant that coaches are no longer needed for the school services, and therefore only one coach will be kept on do to private hire work, thankfully being B10M A182 MNE, even though she's older than all 3 coaches being disposed of! At least Jim can appreciate a good solid vehicle when he sees one, despite its age, possibly a factor that is too heavily concentrated on these days. I doubt if you asked a majority of passengers they'd ever guess that A182 MNE was actually some 28 years old, and yet they likely would guess more accurately the age of the Plaxton Paramount bodied vehicles which haven't dated as well as the Van Hool bodied vehicles.
First to go as mentioned last week was Volvo B10M G526 LWU which was withdrawn from onward sale due to the new buses arriving so soon, with the extra depot desperately needed. I've already vaguely explained her history so I won't dwell too much, but she certainly isn't the one I'm saddest to see disappear. Not the most solid of vehicles, and although the engine sounded nice, it didn't pack very much of a punch.
Next to go over the weekend was Scania K112, JIL 3755. It was only on Friday while I was down at the depot taking photos of the vehicles before their final trips that I was able to locate the chassis and body number, and consequently was able to uncover her true identity after flicking through Scania chassis lists. It turns out that JIL 3755 was actually quite a rare coach in her real guise as D359 OBA. She was new to Smiths Sherings at the same depot ironically as stablemate A182 MNE, but was bought for National Express Rapide work. D359 was in a batch of her own strangely, and to my knowledge, must have been the first, if not one of the only Scanias that Smiths Sherings operated. I'm sure someone will be able to correct me if I'm completely wrong on this, but Scanias were certainly non standard at Smiths, although quite common when they became purely 'Sherings' several years later. Did D359 kick off a revolution, or was she bought simply because of contract agreements to do with the NX Rapide work? This discovery has certainly raised some interesting questions, so hopefully someone with a greater amount of knowledge on this than myself will be able to shed some light on this. If my hunches are right and she was quite a significant or at least interesting vehicle, it is a shame that she couldn't have been saved. Even at the age of 26, D359 was a very capable vehicle with a very sound body and a consistently strong engine. The only thing preventing her from fulfilling full potential was a fuel bug which ceased to go away after several attempts and therefore she was relegated to the depot, where she has sat for around a year now. Yet still, even in her dying days she fired and was able to make it outside and onto the tow truck on her own power, showing how capable and reliable the Scania K112s always were. Real shame to see this one go.
Next on the hit list is another one of my personal favorites, Mercedes 709D M152 LPL, nicknamed 'Milly'. What a step up in comfort this was when she first arrived, replacing the clattery, uncomfortable Ex Southern Vectis Ivecos, J234 and J238 KDL. She was one of those buses that seemed to have a real character, and I did grow very fond of Milly on my daily travels to and from Cremyll each morning and afternoon. Endlessly more interesting (and reliable!) than the Varios I endure daily today. Milly started off life at East Surrey not long after I was born, giving me a real perspective of how long and hard the poor old girl has labored. She then moved on into Wales where she was converted for coach work rather than bus services, and then was bought by A-Line in 2007. She didn't survive hugely long in service in comparison due to the grants put in place for vehicle upgrades at A-Line to the two Varios. Still, nevertheless she remains close to my heart for a variety of reasons, and therefore its another particularly sad passing for such a lovely little bus for who time has finally caught up. Even looking at her parked next to D359, really even I have to admit she looks older, even though she is actually nearly 10 years younger! Note also that I made sure the blind was set appropriately for her final departure.
And lastly, the bus that can't make it out of the depot under her own power and therefore will be left until last is Volvo B10M E920 EAY. This was the coach that replaced the beautiful old Bedford YNV, C344 FTT, and consequently I was quite cold towards her in her early life at A-Line. E920 started off life in Nottingham with Silverdale before moving down to Cornwall firstly at Williams Coaches, and later with A-Line. She suffered with chassis rot quite early on in her life at A-Line and therefore didn't spend a huge amount of time on the road before being withdrawn and replaced by G526 LWU. Mechanically she was much better than G526, but unfortunately the Cornish sea air over many years didn't seem to aid her in her fight against the common problems of the Plaxton Paramount bodied B10M. Since then she has been canabalised for bits to keep A182 and G526 on the road, and therefore is no longer in a drivable state, so she will end her life being dragged away later this week.
Well, I've talked far too much there, but I hope some of it has been of some vague interest! However 'exciting' new vehicles get, nothing for me beats the emotion and interest involved in vehicles ending their working lives after carrying so many happy passengers, and covering so many hundreds of thousands of miles over their lives. It certainly becomes even more real when they are vehicles that you have effectively 'grown up' with, and most certainly these four have been close to me since I first started taking an interest in the bus scene in 2005. A sad end to some lovely vehicles, but to coin the common phrase "You can't save them all!"