Friday, 16 March 2012

The Trent Olympians

409 puts in an appearance on route 6 in place of the usual Deltas in March 2001

Trent Motor Company was a National Bus Company subsidiary operating mainly in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Its fleet was mostly comprised of standard NBC spec vehicles and amongst the last purchased before privatisation were ECW bodied Leyland Olympians. It took delivery of its first batch 700-706 (XAU700-5Y and XCH706Y) in Spring 1983; followed by 707-711 (XCH706Y, A707-11DAU) a year later. Three further batches of four took the total fleet to 24 by the end of 1985.

After deregulation, Trent was bought out by its management and took over Barton Buses and began to reinvent itself as a high quality operator with distinctive branding and retired many of its double deckers early to standardise on modern single deckers. Of the 24 Olympians, ten were sold to Blackpool Transport in winter 1996/7. The Olympians were allocated across the Trent operating area and Blackpool's ten are understood to have  started at Derby (701/2), Nottingham (703-6), Alfreton (707/8) and Langley Mill (709/10). New in NBC red, they finished in red with cream skirt and roof level band in a layout similar to Blackpool's 1994 livery style.

April 2004 and 402 enters Lytham Square on Line 11, still in original livery
Blackpool purchased the buses to replace several elderly Atlanteans inherited with Fylde, and it was initially understood that the buses would go straight to Squires Gate Depot but in the end they went into use from Rigby Road cascading Atlanteans 336-341/3-5, 363 to Squires Gate which allowed Atlanteans 449, 451, 456-9, 486/8, 490/1/3 to be withdrawn.
Delivery was protracted with over ten weeks between the first and last. 407 and 410 introduced the breed to Blackpool - becoming its first ECW bodied buses and its first low height ones too. Delivery continued in pairs with 403/8 on 29 November; 401/6 on 11 December; 404/9 on 19 December and finally 402 and 405 on 20 January 1997. All were repainted in house into the standard green and cream livery, except for 405 which received a dark green side and rear advert for the Zone Card ticket.

Spring 1997 and 410 stands at Lytham Station on the Rail Replacement service to Kirkham
February saw the batch make their debut with 407/10 first on 3rd; 401/3/8 on 5th. Two weeks elapsed before 409 debuted on 19th and then 406 followed on 22nd. The last three all required more extensive work than the others and 402 and 404 debuted in March (13th and 20th resp) with 405 not appearing until 7th April. The Olympians operated alongside Atlanteans and other Olympians on double decker workings such as the 12 and 22/22A, generally not on crew workings though as conductors were less than impressed about the reduced headroom. They also seemed to regularly appear on a short lived contract to the Co-op Hypermarket at Marton (now Asda) and also ran on a month long rail replacement service covering the complete renewal of the South Fylde line between 24 February and 23 March 1997, providing a Blackpool North to Kirkham service via Blackpool South, St. Annes and Lytham with some peak trips running to Preston.

After three years the Olympians were treated to a repaint into the same livery between December 1999 and July 2000 (though 410 wasn't done until October). 405 lost its all-over advert so all ten were uniformly treated. Several received full rear end adverts:
  • Rotary Watches (401-4 - 9/97)
  • Magic Am (402/3/10 - 3/99)
  • Twix (402 5/01)
  • Mars (403 5/01)
  • Vauxhall Aglia (403/4 2/03)

May 2003 and 406 shows the attractive Line 11 colours applied only to 401 and 406
The Metro era saw 401-410 allocated to Line 11 (Cleveleys to Lytham) and all ten received small Line 11 stickers in June 2011. Repaints commenced in January 2002 with 401 and 406 taken into the works but there was some uncertainty about the process. New Dennis Tridents had been ordered for Line 14 and these were to cascade Volvo Olympians to the 11, so it was decided to paint 401/6 in pool livery - then grey, mustard and yellow. Seemingly this did not impress and the completed 401 was quickly sent back to the paint shop for the grey/mustard to be over painted in turquoise for Line 11 and 406 was modified before completion and both returned to use in mid February. However the other eight continued in green and cream until December 2002 when 410 was out shopped in orange and yellow. More Line 14 Tridents meant that the 11 could cope without the Trents and they were downgraded to schools and seasonal work. 410 was lettered for 'Schools + Line 1' in April 2003 and 407-409 were similarly repainted between April and June 2003. 
January 2004 saw 406 have its Line 11 colour replaced with orange in a partial repaint while in February 401 was partly painted into a new Lilac and yellow scheme for route 20. 402 and 403 received full line 20 repaints in June and July 2004, with 405 receiving Line 1 livery in August with 404 completing the set in September 2004 with three for the 20 and seven for the 1. This balanced swayed in March 2006 when 404 moved onto the 20 with the orange over painted lilac. The 20 branding was discontinued after that season and 401-404 were all treated to orange/yellow repaints between January and March 2007, 406-410 had all received another Line 1 repaint from April 2006 to January 2007 but 405 was never treated.

August 2004 and 402 has been repainted into Line 20 Lilac and Yellow and has received a home made grill following damage to its standard one - 403 was similarly treated.  
The Trent Olympians formed the backbone of Line 1 each summer until the route became a permanent year round route from November 2007 with Tridents taking over the bulk of booked working, backed up by Olympians. Since the end of the Metro network in July 2010 demarcation by lines ceased but by this time the 1 was almost entirely Trident operated; though Olympians provided high summer duplicates and continued to do so during 2011. The Trent Olympians finally lost their route branding in Summer 2011 and made quite frequent appearances on route 20 (Blackpool to Marton Mere). They also stood in for more modern vehicles on other routes periodically - often on route 14, but memorably including 408 on route 10 on 21 July 2011 and 405 on route 17 on 17 January 2011. 

The Olympian era on Line 1 as Roe bodied 366 and Trent 410 sandwich 409 at Manchester Square in September 2005
28 October 2010 saw the withdrawal of buses 401 and 403 and these were joined in store by 404 and 409, officially withdrawn in February 2011 but both had been laid up with faults. Surprisingly 403 was reactivated at the start of the new school year returning to use on 9 September 2011. On the debit side, 406 suffered accident damage and was duly withdrawn - its last day was 23 November 2011. 404 and 409 have both been scrapped, departing on 6 June 2011 and during October 2011 respectively. Both were broken up by Parton's in Barnsley. 401 has been secured for preservation with the Lancastrian Transport Trust.
Dusk in December 2007 and 409 heads back to depot from School Duties
Summer 2011 saw the first of 11 ex Bus Vannin Tridents arrive from the Isle of Man for refurbishment and it entered service in December 2011, with more following in the spring to replace more Olympians. 406 was sent for scrap on 24 February. Mid March saw 402 and 407 withdrawn, leaving just 403, 405, 408 and 410 in service.

408 heads for St. Annes on School Service 570 on Church Street, Lytham in March 2007