Sunday, 29 December 2013

Snap on Sunday

A couple of Snap on Sunday's this week, depicting something interesting but unfortunately of fairly poor quality, and another, quite mundane, but pleasing to the eye! 

Firstly, the interesting, with the rare occasion of a Volvo Olympian nonetheless operating on the PR2 on Friday afternoon. As Plymothian Transit reported recently, there has been widespread displeasure with First after moving the '12 plate Enviro 400s off the Park and Ride services, and onto the Tavistock routes, leading to a variety of older Dennis Tridents replacing them on the Park and Rides. It was interesting to hear of the Council's reaction to this, but later did seem very ironic that they themselves appeared to be making the 'commercial' decision of introducing parking charges to the Park and Ride sites. A gesture of spite towards FDC? Who knows; but since this story was published I've heard no more of it, so perhaps they came to their sense before it was too late! Anyway back to the bus, and P568 EFL had the honour of appearing likely due to the severe congestion experienced on Exeter Street on Friday afternoon, with her coming in to try and restore a frequent service. That, or perhaps an Ex-London Trident failed; also a likely explanation! Unfortunately a poor point and grab shot with no time to set the camera up properly for the photo; it certainly took me by surprise, but thought I better at least get a record shot! 

Now onto the better quality shot, and to a subject I actually very rarely include in the blog. The photo here depicts Plym II as she plods her way across the Tamar on the 1300 departure from Devonport to Torpoint in the low winter sun; the dockyard buildings providing a satisfying backdrop. 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Multiple Mercs!

Hello and welcome back once again to PTOTPA whilst I'm back in the South West for the Christmas period. Unfortunately (and unusually for us students!) the Christmas break has started very late, with myself only managing to get back to the region just in time for the festivities; late on December 21st. Thank god I did manage to get all the travelling done on the Saturday though, as no doubt I would have come across far more problems if I'd left it any later! 

A quick update then; University continues apace, with this year already being far, far more intense that my first year. Weekends seem to nearly purely now be filled with endless hours spent in the library with my head buried in books, or my fingers blurring away on a keyboard to keep up with the pressures of University life. Even in my final week before Christmas I'd handed in a 6'000 word report for the Managerial and Enterprise Skills module, along with another 17 pages of Logistics Planning Techniques and Applications (in essence, using many complicated algorithms and computer software to come up with logistics solutions). Other activities have included coming up with a 50 page tender response to a 'fake' manufacturer of personal care products, with us having to come up with a total logistics solution. This included everything from working out every single route for every single delivery the company needed to make, working out fuel, tax, depreciation, maintenance costs, right through to coming up with health and safety policies, KPIs, and even lorry liveries (any resemblance to a well known bus operator's livery is purely a coincidence; along with the company name ;-) ). It's certainly very interesting, but my days is it all time consuming and hence bus spotting is unfortunately being cut to a minimum. Thankfully we're having a small reprieve over the Christmas holidays from work, so the camera is ready and primed to get out and capture all the exciting stuff I've missed in the area over the past few months! 

So to kick us off, a photo of a sight which is becoming increasingly rare as DDA looms ever closer. In just over a year's time, a scene like this will be just a memory; a trio of A-Line Coaches Mercedes minibuses lined up for battle! Reliable and dependable workhorses soon to be lost from the bus industry. Somewhat oddly, two of these are Ex-First vehicles, and the other, Ex-Plymouth Citybus; an unlikely group of stablemates! 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Coaches through Cornwall

Cornwall has recently seen an influx of Ex- First Rail Air coaches from Reading, introduced to the region for college work for the longer routes, in particular the Callington route. Cornwall currently seems to be suffering vehicle wise, with native coaches quite regularly appearing on stage carriage work, surprisingly most often on prime route 14/18 from Truro through to Camborne and Penzance/St Ives. Indeed, YV03 UBB appeared out in service on the X18 on the day I visited, with no blind visible at all, not even a paper destination, and also with no ticket machine fitted. It seemed possible therefore that this was only a temporary cover, but it did precede to work the service all day, taking no fares whatsoever! I later found WSV 408 out on the 18, although unfortunately a photo wasn't able to be grasped! 

The use of these two coaches was even more surprising when I later found Volvo B7RLE MX56 AEN on the 27 from Truro to St Austell and Par! In fairness to First, this is the first time I've ever seen one of the B7s off route in the 6 years I've been spotting down there! Usually the depots are very good at indeed allocating them onto the correct route. 

A video of WSV 408 operating in servicecan be found below: 

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Snap on Sunday

Unfortunately my time in the South West has come to an end for now, although a couple of extra posts are in the pipeline for the next week, and no doubt odd bits of news may crop up from time to time as they did before. It's a shame I'm going to be missing out on so many interesting developments over the coming month within Plymouth and the surrounding area, I very much look forward to Christmas when I can come and see it all in the flesh. No doubt Graham Richardson's capable hands over at Plymothian Transit will keep you well updated as things progress. 

For now I shall leave you with one of my favorite spots in the region; that of St Ives Malakoff, with one of the stalwart Volvo B10M Citybus' still hard at work on the glorious 300 service. Well worth a trip if you get a chance before the end of the month, before these are put away for the winter once more! 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Snap on Sunday

Tuesday produced the unusual event of a Western Greyhound vehicle winding its way through Torpoint, a scene that has become a rarity since April of 2012 when the Torpoint to Liskeard route passed to A-Line Coaches. Vario WK02 SUN is seen here working what I thought would have been a 572 which is the usual Vario route from Plymouth, although appears to be blinded up for a 593 to Plymouth, despite heading the opposite direction into Cornwall. WGL were diverted through Torpoint due to an RTA on the A38, forcing all of the Tamar Bridge traffic to go across the Torpoint Ferry instead, and hence as can be seen from the photo, the queues were huge, eventually leading right out of Torpoint.  

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

President for the Peninsula

Torpoint Depot has recently gained a new addition to the ranks of vehicles that are able to operate across the ferry, this being the first Plaxton President Dennis Trident to be converted for use, LR02 LYP. My belief had always been that the fuel tank was mounted too low on the Presidents for them to be able to negotiate the ferry ramp, but evidently this isn't the case, or at least, it has been found this is no issue. We would usually expect to find the front/rear cut away to give added ground clearance, but this hasn't been the case with 33172 which has only had the suspension modified to include a ferry lift. It seemed an interesting choice to me though that the first President to be modified is the one in the new livery, with possible overtones that this may be for added capacity come the time Plymouth Citybus introduce their services to Torpoint. I can only speculate of course, as we still wait for First's official announcement on their game plan. From what I hear though, extra Presidents will, or already have been fitted with ferry lifts, so expect to see them become more common on the Torpoint routes in the near future. The drivers certainly seem impressed with LYP's performance, although I have to admit, these are far from my favorite buses on offer. 

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Snap on Sunday

This week's SoS is a few more photos taken up at the idyllic bus photography spot in Barne Barton. I've been worried that the recent development works in the area would mean that the great backdrop from this corner in Barne Barton would disappear forever, but thankfully, the gap in the houses is still sufficient to be able to get some really good photos. 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Red Flash looking flashy

Monday marked the start of Plymouth Citybus' new network of premium routes with the introduction of 4 ADL E40Ds to the established 21/A linking Plympton in the East with Barne Barton in the West. The vehicles certainly look very smart indeed in the new 'Red Flash' branding, with the simple yet stylish livery creating a very good impression. Unfortunately  as several photographers seemed to have found out already, including myself, the darker red bands are very difficult to photograph clearly, but in the flesh, compliment the design very nicely indeed. The trend of ever decreasing fleet number size continues though, with the rear one actually being quite difficult to find unless you know where to look for it! 

The E40Ds are certainly very pleasing vehicles to ride on, even from an enthusiast's point of view. Usually I'm not a huge fan of the Enviro, particularly the more recent incarnations  but these are surprisingly pleasing to the ear which I certainly wasn't expecting. The somewhat jerky gearbox previously found in the Enviro has also been modified, and the changes are now far smoother. The interior itself though I found to be really quite dark, even on the upper deck, largely due to the grey rood and side panels, as well as the grey of the leather seating which in all honesty I didn't find particularly inviting. The layout though is certainly very nice, with plenty more seating than what is currently found on the Ex-London Volvo B7TLs, as well as much more space set aside for pushchairs. This is a feature we seem to be seeing increasingly in the modern bus, as parents continue to discover the benefits of not having to unpack and fold down the pushchairs to fit into the car. It seems slightly ironic though that the people occupying all this extra space don't actually pay! 

My one criticism of the 'Red Flash' is actually the red itself. My thinking would be that considering people in the areas the 21/A covers are already used to red buses from Plymouth Citybus, they aren't standing out as much as they could, or indeed should do considering the sheer amount of investment put in to these high spec brand new vehicles. Should red have in fact been reserved for one of the new routes where the impact would be fully felt, freeing up another colour for the 21/A, for example blue, which would stand out from the crowd, and hopefully attract the attention of non-users to the fact that the local companies has just invested many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and that they'd like to have a go. Most non-bus users I would doubt will really take a huge amount of notice of the branding "It's just another red bus". On the other hand though, are PCB keeping it red in this area for familiarity, so the people don't end up letting the vehicles go by thinking that they're being operated by another company. Although we all too often see passengers completely ignore the colour, route number and destination of a bus they put their hand out for, undoubtedly some of the more savvy users may be wary of a strangely coloured bus heading towards them. 

The next four operating on 'Blue Flash' service 12 will shortly commence service on the new route to Tavistock. 

Friday, 6 September 2013

Patched up PUI

Following on from the Snap on Sunday last week, the bus featured, PUI 6627 was unfortunately broken into whilst parked at it's overnight location one evening a couple of weeks ago. The handbrake was subsequently let off by the offender, and the bus careered down the hill and somewhat thankfully hit a tree rather than rolling into the road. This caused severe damage to various front body panels and the blind box, but luckily this was mostly cosmetic damage. Replacement body parts were sourced from one of Target Travel's withdrawn T reg Varios, and although in a somewhat sorry state, she is now back on the road. During this period no spare buses were available, so it was a case of make do and mend as quickly as possible to make sure service was maintained. A sterling effort by all involved, particularly under the circumstances. 

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Snap on Sunday

This week's Snap on Sunday comes from South East Cornwall on A-Line Coaches service 80, on which there are many lovely scenic photo opportunities available. This particular one is taken right at the top of Lower Anderton Road just before the junction to turn to Cremyll, with the backdrop of Insworke and Foss Quay. The relaxed atmosphere of the route is embodied in this instance by the driver pausing on his break to feed the horses which belong to the farm by which L813 SAE (PUI 6627) is parked. Nothing like a good rural Cornish bus route for harking back to old times! 

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Going for Gold!

Stagecoach now seem to be well prepared for the launch of their new Gold services, linking the English Riviera with Plymouth and Dartmouth. With many thanks to Nathan Bentham I can bring you these exclusive photos of 3 of the 9 Scania N230UDs that are currently in Plaxton's holding yard in Leyland awaiting registration onto '63' plate, and then delivery. The fleet numbers are believed to be 15924 through to 15932. As we now expect from Stagecoach Gold the vehicles look very impressive indeed, and are certainly a huge step up from First's flimsy seated Ex-Bath Park and Ride Tridents. 

The timetable is certainly an interesting read though, with service timings not necessarily what I was expecting to see. I have to admit to thinking that Stagecoach would opt for a classic tactic, timing their services 5-10 minutes ahead of the competing First routes in order to cream off the passengers, using the tactic of getting people on the first bus that turns up, but no! Instead, Stagecoach have been very sensible with their service timings, slotting the service right in between the X80 and X81 between Torquay and Totnes, the busiest part of the corridor, and then 15 minutes ahead of each from Plymouth and Dartmouth respectively. This seems interesting. Although this will be the ideal situation for Concessionary Pass users, offering a more frequent service to them, I would doubt this would attract normal fare paying passengers. Certainly on trips I've done on the routes, a high proportion of the users do use Concessionary passes, but still, running 5 minutes ahead will still mean they get more of them, rather than hoping that they will be sitting around a fair amount of time before the normal offering leaves. 

Stagecoach's Gold certainly appears to offer a more usable service though, with services starting earlier, and finishing later in the locations that I would presume matter most, in what I'd presume would be the directions that would potentially see the largest demand. Indeed from Plymouth, Stagecoach run 2 1/2 hours later into the evening than First do - a huge leap. But of course, this is vice versa on the Torquay end, where Stagecoach's last service departs 2hours 45 minutes earlier than First's final service. Of course I haven't got any figures infront of me, and this is purely speculative, but I would guess there is a bigger shift in the morning towards Plymouth, and hence, a larger move outbound from Plymouth in the evening, and hence the opposite would be seen further up the route. Then again, Totnes passengers I would presume generally head West to Paignton and Torquay rather than to Plymouth and Dartmouth, so both companies likely have their own advantages. 

Another interesting thing to discover was that Stagecoach have added in an extra stop on Royal Parade, departing from the already busy A11 outside Poundland. With 12 minutes layover, this could be interesting, even if they do wait time in the now reduced amount of space available outside the Theatre Royal. Although there is of course added convenience with a stop on Royal Parade, it will be 8 minutes before passengers actually depart the City Centre, as Stagecoach will also drop down to serve Bretonside before heading off towards the A38. 

Very interesting times ahead on the route though, and I look forward to seeing how passengers will react to Stagecoach's very impressive new routes. 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Snap on Sunday

It's not often I actually seem to post about the local rail scene in and around the Plymouth area, but what better way to make a return to it than with this glorious locomotive. This is the stunning looking Class 50, 50017, better known as Royal Oak, meandering her way along the Plym Valley Railway yesterday afternoon in all her Network South East glory. 50017 spent a fair amount of time down in the South West during her working life, so it's lovely to see her working hard in the region once more. The Class 50 is a type I have a great admiration for; there's just something about that little face, and of course, the biblical sound of the 2'700 horsepower English Electric 16 CSVT. Absolute credit to all who've been involved in her restoration. 

Friday, 23 August 2013

GOD-dard: A small tribute to a great man

It is with deep regret that I report on the passing away of a man I held in the highest regard.  Jim Goddard of A-Line Coaches, and indeed, Jim's Taxis prior to this, unfortunately passed away on Wednesday, just a matter of hours after completing his final duty on Service 80 the evening before. As I'm sure many of you realise, with the regular postings on the company over the years, A-Line held a special place in my heart, and indeed, that's all down to the wonderful man behind it all. 

I've got some quite early memories of Jim, soon after starting school at Fourlanesend Primary. The school being right at the top of a steep hill meant that on wet days, the walk wasn't particularly inviting, and even on a good day, the steepness wasn't kind to 5 year old legs, so more than often, Mum and I would hop aboard 'Jim's Bus' and journey to Fourlanesend. The way he looked after us on there was quite unforgettable and indeed, completely selfless. Not only would he get out of the bus and help us cross the road, not only would he let all the kids have a toot on the horn as they got off, but every Easter and Christmas he would always buy chocolate for all the regular kids. What a fantastic impression he gave of the industry. It's the small things you remember, such as on the old 270, where there was always extra time built into the timetable at St John to allow him to park up, pop into his house for a cup of tea and to read the post, before then continuing on to Trago Mills again with many happy regulars aboard. 

Jim on many occasions would also act as a bit of a mentor for me as soon as I began taking an interest in buses. Although not an enthusiast himself, he was always very accommodating of my strange hobby. He was never one to hide things from anyone, and over the years I've learned a lot from the constant feed of information about the goings on behind the scenes of a small independent bus company. Undoubtedly many would try to keep a lot of the things I got told under wraps, but Jim always thought it was best for me to learn what went on, and indeed, it was this that began to inspire me to take up the path I am now taking in life. Transport Management wasn't actually necessarily the thing I was looking to do, and we used to talk about my prospects regularly. It was Jim who planted the seeds in this respect, moving me around from my original thoughts of going into engineering, to what I'm doing now, and without any shadow of a doubt, without his supervision, I may well have ended up making the wrong decision in the long run. Again, there aren't many bus drivers who are so enriching to your life in such a deep and personal way, and I owe a huge amount to Jim in this respect. Even the day to day things, he was always there as a shoulder to lean on, offering proper, realistic advise that really helped. 

The way he always looked out for people was another trait that was always so endearing. Again from the little things such as his constant waving to people around the Rame Peninsula from the wheel of the bus. When people wave at the vehicle, despite whoever may be driving, really, they're waving at Jim. New drivers have always commented how everyone's always waving at them, and they have no idea who they are! Goes to show how well known and loved he was among what is quite a tight-knit community. He'd look out for you in other ways though. When I first started at Devonport High, LFJ 847W failed on us at Insworke. Jim was soon there though with Iveco J234 KDL to cover the journey, and as he loaded everyone on, he told all First's passengers not to worry about paying him "I just want to make sure you get to your ferry". Not a journey he had to do, not a thing he had to oblige to, taking no fares, but again, just one of an endless stream of selfless things he did to keep the community moving. During snowy periods he was unable to move the bus out of St John, as the roads were never gritted, so rather than give up the service for the day, he'd park the bus up on the main road a good mile away up a very steep hill, and walk there at around half 5 in the morning, to make sure his service was maintained, whilst First in some cases wouldn't run to the villages at all on these days. His commitment to the community was just fantastic. Leading on from this, he used to run the local Youth Club in his very limited spare time; always an integral part of the community, even though it made his life more difficult, the people always came first. As posted above, another classic example of him stepping in at the last minute was recently at the Torpoint School's Leavers Prom, where the group's original transport failed them, so Jim stepped in and provided M698 HPF as their transport with a difference to make their evening that bit more special. 

He was always very hands on in the running of the business as well, if there was a problem with your bus, he was the one on hand, he'd instantly drop what he was doing and head down to, very often, fix it at the roadside. His knowledge of raw mechanics was boundless, but it was also the way he came up with such simple solutions to problems, that few other people would even think of, that was so brilliant. You could always tell when a bus had been 'Jimified' to coin a term I've used previously for a repair this is just so obviously, only a thing that he would do. His whole thought process was truly unique, such a clever, thinker, if that makes any sort of sense. I did once ask him, why A-Line Coaches was named A-Line Coaches, and his answer was the perfect embodiment of his type of thinking. "Well, I named it A-Line so that it would appear as the first entry in the Yellow Pages, so that I would usually be the first person they contacted". Just a totally straightforward piece of logical thinking. 

After their working lives were up, the buses would often find a good home, not always one that would be expected either. The two Ex-Southern Vectis Ivecos were donated to a local charity to transport people to beach cleaning sessions. The R reg Iveco has now been sold on to be converted into a camper van, and as you know, R178 NPN the Volvo B6 has now been passed on into preservation. I'm sure Allan will testify that Jim helped him a fair amount during this stage once he knew his plans for it, with him helping prepare for the move and so on. Again time and effort put into something that didn't directly benefit him, but meant a lot to others. 

I could go on for far longer, I have so many great memories of being with him over the years, as do many others around the Rame Peninsula. It's come as a great shock to many people, particularly because it was so unexpected, he was always so fit and well. If there was ever a man who deserved his retirement, it was Jim, and indeed he did have plans to semi-retire come early September when he intended to let his licence go and not complete the CPC training. But as was so typical of Jim, he decided that this life wasn't for him, he wouldn't know what to do with his time, and hence he did complete his CPC training ready for more years at the helm of A-Line Coaches. 

My little tribute to in all honesty, one of the greatest men I ever had the privileged to know. His advise given to me over the last 10+ years will undoubtedly stay with me forever. He has been a true inspiration to me, and I intend to honour this as I progress through life. Without his guidance, who knows where I might be now. Rest in peace Mr Goddard, one of life's true gentleman's gentleman. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Progression in preservation

Volvo B6LE R178 NPN, or as she is more commonly referred to as now, HM 2053, has continued her progression in preservation with new owner Allan Wagner, having recently been moved to a more permanent storage site in Plymouth. The bus had previously been stored in Millbrook after being removed from A-Line Coaches' depot after the sale to Allan. 

After issues with the original recovery company that was selected to transport the bus to her new home, well respected Field Services were taken on to transport her to Plymouth, using stalwart Mercedes wrecker P778 FOD and a draw bar to complete the journey. 

Through the Facebook page, there has been a growing community of Hong Kong based enthusiasts becoming interested in the preservation of the bus, with many excited by the plans to restore her into her original Hong Kong spec. The B6 was certainly a vehicle Hong Kong took a liking to, referring to them as the "Smiley buses", thanks to the Alexander body's curved front panel. R178 NPN is a somewhat unusually capable example of the type despite some overheating issues, and appears to have been appreciated through the generations thanks to her notably loud engine and gearbox compared to what you'd expect from the sluggish B6 you will more commonly come across. It is hoped that R178 will soon be out on the preservation scene, with plans currently in place to have her running during 2014. 

To follow the continued escapades of the bus, please take a look at the Facebook page for the bus which is can be found at;

Photos come courtesy of Allan Wagner, many thanks! 

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Snap on Sunday

Yesterday marked the 110th anniversary of the very first Great Western Railway motor bus service, running between Helston and The Lizard. To mark the momentous occasion, Colin Billington brought down his immaculately restored Guy FBB from Fifield. This was joined by First Kernow's Ex-Truronian Dennis Dart, TT03 TRU, which has just been painted into the GWR chocolate brown and cream livery specially for the event. Bristol VR VDV 141S was also present, wearing her version of the GWR livery as well within which she is currently preserved. The trio really did look the part traveling together through the Cornish countryside, and hence I decided to travel in the vehicle following behind, this being sister VR, VDV 137S. I was able to take advantage of her relatively rare hopper windows (seeing as it was raining fairly heavily) to take photos of the trio on their way between Helston and The Lizard, an example of which is seen above. A really slick and well organised event, and a very pleasurable day out, despite the atrocious weather Cornwall put on for us! Many thanks to all involved. 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

An RM on RP

With Royal Parade a hive of activity after the annual National Firework Championships in the City, it was surprising to find South Devon Railway operated Routemaster ALD 872B out earning her keep on a private hire trip. It's been quite a few years since an active Routemaster has been seen working within Plymouth, with the last (if I'm not mistaken) being First Devon and Cornwall's use of Cummins engined examples. Quite a delight to see among the sea of deckers flooding Royal Parade at 11pm, always a delight! Somewhat strange though in the fact that PCB's Volvo B10Ms no longer make up the ranks on these evenings anymore; once a common feature on these services purely down to the fact there were no other deckers available within PCB at the time. My apologies for the quality of photography, I didn't have time to set the camera up correctly to photograph in these conditions, and I needed to board the bus behind to get me home, I certainly didn't want to be at the back of the queue with the possibility of being turned away due to capacity. Thankfully though 32761 did manage to swallow up all its passengers for Torpoint and beyond! 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Snap on Sunday

For this week's SoS I revert again to Olympians within Plymouth, with a nice little 'photoshoot' session done with K803 ORL earlier this week. The weather has again been perfect for photography, so a chance was grabbed to photograph 34003 thoroughly while on layover in Torpoint, as well as at various strategic points along the way, with many thanks to the driver for helping achieve the perfect shots! Note also the photo of the interior, which still appears very fresh and well looked after, while of course being very comfortable - far better than a leather seat could ever be in my opinion! 

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Trident at Tesco

On a recent pass by at Tesco in Roborough what was there to greet me, but this very colourful Dennis Trident, although it appeared she wanted to hide her true identity! But of course, no bus can escape the enthusiasts of the UK that easily, and after a few minutes of searching, her real identity was revealed, this being Y416 HMY, new to Metrobus. 

The vehicle is on a tour of the UK promoting the children's toy 'Moshi Monsters' at the moment, although in the past she has been used by the National Young Volunteers Service as their 'V Bus'. It's somewhat surprising that such a young vehicle has been used in this capacity for this length of time already, with her having been converted as early as 2009 at the tender age of just 8 years old. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

So long S412!

A very recent departure from the South West bus preservation scene is that of Ex-Torpoint Mercedes Vario S412 GUB, one of quite a number of First Calderline Varios to join the ranks of First Devon and Cornwall in the mid 2000s. 50306 was my 'favorite' of the trio of Varios permanently based at Torpoint, and in fairness, she wasn't a bad little runner during her relatively brief stint before being replaced by Ex-Truronian Darts at the depot. 

When her time was up with First, she moved onto ownership with the Western National Preservation Group, with whom she has been with for the last few years, up until last weekend, as she attended what was to be her final rally up on the Hoe with the WNPG. Financial problems appear to persist with the group forcing the sale of a number of vehicles, with S412 being the latest to leave what was once quite a large rank of interesting buses. I can't yet confirm who has purchased S412 GUB, although I'm sure someone will know, but she has already been out and about being shown off in her vivid pink and purple Tamar Link swoops at the Gosport Rally the weekend just gone. 

Thankfully S529 RWP, the 'other' Torpoint Vario in preservation lives on in the South West with the ever expanding Cornwall Bus Preservation Society, so pink Varios won't disappear from the South West bus scene totally. Despite this though, it is a bit of a shame to see the duo split up after what has ended up being quite a pampered life for them down in Devon and Cornwall; no doubt they will eventually meet again though! She will of course also say farewell to long term stablemate LFJ 844W, with whom she has worked alongside at Torpoint, and been in preservation with during her time down here. Nevertheless, a healthy number of Ex-Torpoint vehicles continue to survive in the South West, as well as further afield, so all is not lost!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Beaches and a Bristol

It was a surprise and a pleasure to rediscover a long lost friend on a recent trip to Croyde Bay this week, in the form of Bristol VRT AFJ 760T. I have had the thrill of being behind the wheel of 38760, or, if you prefer 1153 in old money several times whilst she was in preservation with Jon Harris at Winkleigh. I had also been involved in the restoration of her, although after a change in circumstances 1153 was stuck in a corner and slowly but surely forgotten about, with mold encroaching over her latter day First Western National livery, eventually ending up looking quite sorry for herself. 

She was later offered back to her original savior from the scrapman, Steve Cocks, but because her condition had deteriorated to such an extent, the offer was rejected, and hence she ended up with David Hoare at Chepstow Classic Buses in May of last year. 

Thankfully, this has actually ended up being her saving grace, with restoration having taken place to bring her back up to scratch for her new role as a surfing school in Croyde Bay, painted in a very attractive light blue advertising livery. The lower saloon appears to have been converted for storage, whereas the upper saloon has had the original seat frames re-positioned to face inwards right the way round, presumably now used as a teaching space. 

It is a shame in one sense to know that she came so near to being loved and cherished by enthusiasts throughout the South West, with plans to repaint her into the green and cream Western National/Plymouth Citybus livery of the mid/late 80s; an accolade relatively few buses could justifiably be painted into. But on the other hand, she is still one of the lucky ones who dodged the cutters torch to continue living on in the South West, and is certainly now being put to good use; although I'd presume it will be quite a while before she turns a wheel again. Who knows, maybe in 10 years time she could be saved for preservation once again, and the life she always deserved may still be in reach. Only time will tell!