Saturday, 4 December 2010

Fylde's Ribble connection

The trio of traditional BET style Leyland Leopards suited Fylde's blue and white - a welcome break from the traditional red. 31 was exhibited, appropriately, at the Ribble Enthusiast Club rally at Southport in 1980.
During the mid 1970s Fylde expanded its fleet with a number of second hand purchases to help complete OPO conversions and expand its private hire fleet. Amongst these was a trio of 13 year old new to Ribble Weymann bodied Leyland Leopards. New in 1965, these were the standard 'BET' bodies on Leopard chassis which Ribble ran in bus and coach form - high backed seats, split ratio axles and a bit more brightwork set the coaches out from the buses.

Overhauling the Leopards was very slow, a repaneled 31 sat alongside 32 in the rear yard for some months in 1979
Withdrawn at 13 years in need of an overhaul, 808, 810 and 816 (ARN808/10/16C) were purchased by Fylde from the Paul Sykes dealership in February 1979. As a small operator Fylde didn't have much capacity for undertaking the major overhauls required in those days usually at 7 years, 13 years and generally decreasing periods thereafter. In 1977 it had completed the overhauls of 68-70 of 1964 and 75-77 of 1970, it then certified a batch of ex Merseyside Atlanteans which were the contemporaries of the Ribble buses and then got round to the Leopards - alongside the first of the 1972 built Seddons. 808 was the first to be overhauled followed by 810 and  both entered service in May 1980 with fleet numbers 30 and 31 respectively. 32 (ex 816) finally entered service on 1 October.

The sylvan terminus of Green Drive shows 30 on one if its stints on local service work. It also highlights Fylde's short lived folly of yellow wheels.
Their coach configuration made them useful for private hire work - though they were in the shadow of the more modern Dominant coaches and they saw regular service and contract work. Their manual gearboxes were no doubt a source of complaint to drivers now used to the mainly semi automatic fleet.
31 loads holiday makers at Pontins while on trunk service 11A to Blackpool

32 featured a double step to its waistband, thanks to the additional grill on the front. Here it is being rescued from the M55 roundabout having failed on a works service
Their life with Fylde was short as 1982 saw substantial cuts to keep the operation afloat and all three were withdrawn between April and August 1982. 32 was snapped up by Lonsdale Coaches of Heysham for use on staff services for Taylor Woodrow's construction  staff at Heysham Power Station and soon gained a vivid fluorescent yellow livery but was scrapped in 1984. 30 stayed in Blackpool with the Evening Gazette, modified with a Parisienne style open rear balcony - it was later used for spares by preservationists. 31 went to Scotland running for Waddel's coaches Lochwinnoch and Nobel of Glasgow until 1986.

A fourth member of this batch of 10 Ribble buses operated on the Fylde after sale by Ribble. ARN811C was purchased by C&H of Fleetwood and the associated Birch's of Knott End and was later purchased for preservation. It has since been marvellously restored by the Ribble Vehicle Preservation Trust.

ARN811C as restored to original condition by the Ribble Vehicle Preservation Trust
A postscript to the story was Fylde's operation of former Ribble XTF809L which was in the ownership of Bispham Parish Church. Looked after by Fylde, they took it on loan for a few months in spring 1988 and operated in full Ribble NBC red/white livery!

A later Ribble visitor, Leopard XTF809L was briefly Fylde 129 during 1988