Monday, 26 October 2009

The Ones that Got Away

Fylde RE 37 chases a speeding cyclist down Woodlands Road bridge on route 4 towards Lytham Green Drive in original livery.

Fylde Borough acquired five Bristol REs in 1975 - just as production for the home market was coming to an end. These were the third batch of OPO single deckers purchased following the three Leyland Panthers in 1969 and six Seddon RUs of 1972. They were fitted with 44 high backed seats to be attractive for private hire work and were to the shorter 10m "RESL" format with Leyland 0.680 engines in common with the Leopards and Atlanteans that arrived during the 1970s.

37-41 (HRN104-108N) entered service in July 1975 and operated mainly on the Lytham St. Annes local routes 1-4, contracts, private hire and even the odd summer National Express dupe. A joint route with Ribble was introduced from Spring Gardens via St. Annes, Lytham and Freckleton to Wesham in 1978 and REs were quite common on this and the new St. Annes Roamer services introduced the same year. They were increasingly common on the trunk services to Blackpool in the evening and on Sundays.

Service 4 was a pre-deregulation haunt of the REs and every Wednesday included a diversion to the local Cemetery where 39 is leaving in this 1982 shot. This is version two of the livery.

They carried two versions of the blue, white and yellow livery, with their first repaints between 1979 and 1981. From 1984 onwards four out of the five carried all-over adverts for bus travel:

37 Fylde Coast Rover 5/84-10/86; Blue Bus Rambler 10/86-10/89
38 Lancashire Bus Pass 8/84-2/87; Blue Bus Rambler 2/87-8/89
39 Travel by Bus 6/84- 9/89
41 Lancashire Concession Passes 8/85-1988 (lettering then changed to Baby Blues until 7/89)
40 retained fleet livery, uniquely gaining the blue band version in June 1986.

All bar 40 received in house adverts 39 imploring people to "Go by Bus to your Local Club Day" in this in Elswick, whilst 37 encouraged you to use the Fylde Coast Rover bus ticket.
Deregulation gave the Bristol REs new vistas with various tendered services picked up from both Ribble and Blackpool. For example 27 April 1987 found:

37 on routes 190-2 (Blackpool-Great Eccleston/Kirkham) during the day and the 23A (South Pier to Mereside) in the evening
38 did a morning and evening contract for Langdale School and the off peak 8A/8B St. Annes Roamer and the evening service 3 (Gynn Square to Mereside)
39 did morning peak trips on the 15 (Staining to Blackpool), an afternoon contract and provided the second duty on evening service 3
40 did an afternoon college contract and the peak and evening work on service 15.
41 enjoyed the day off!

After renumbering 15 ex 38 heads along Corporation Street on service 44 to Mereside (Keith West)

Tendered services came and went and the REs continued to appear on the St. Annes Roamer and the 193s to Wesham as well. In 1989 all five received the new two tone blue scheme, 41 with a yellow band and lettering for Baby Blues services and Seagull Coaches excursions, though it gained the standard version (but without the white stripe) in February 1991. All four were renumbered 14-18 in March 1992 as part of a tidy up of the fleet numbering system. By this time REs had begun to see regular use on the trunk 11/11A (Cleveleys to Lytham) services, alongside Atlanteans and three new Deltas of 1991 as minibuses took over much of the tendered duties.

Their use had always been quite bitty, with their working day often made up of several different duties and it was not until August 1992 that they had a single regular route. The 44 (Blackpool to Mereside via Whitegate Drive and Great Marton) was a minibus route that had seen an escalation of competition from Blackpool. Fylde converted it to RE operation - incongruously with "Baby Blue" fleetnames and four of the five were required daily. It reverted to minibus operation the following March and the REs utilisation declined. Generally they could be found on the 11/11A and 193. During 1993 four Atlanteans single deck rebodies arrived and entered service, virtually sidelining the REs. The inevitable happened and on 3 August 1993 all five were noted without tax, ticket machines and destination blinds, just 15 and 16 seeing use in August with 16 believed to be the last to operate on 2 August (route 3 Town Centre to Zoo).

All five were quickly snapped up by Northern Bus of Sheffield who at the time had a large fleet of REs. They left on 27 August in convoy and became their 2504-2508. Initially used in Fylde livery they gained Northern Bus blue and cream. However their second career was to be short as Leyland Nationals started to oust the REs and progressively the Fylde ones journeyed to PVS in Barnsley for scrap during 1996. 41 was advertised for sale to preservationists but sadly went unclaimed. Still you cannot save everything sadly, though personally this batch represents the one that got away.