Saturday 21 February 2015

News Round Up

Blackpool Transport has disposed of further Excels this week with 212 and 215 now collected by Partons. This leaves 214 in store and just 216-218 of the new to Blackpool buses in service.

The new Mercedes Benz Citaros are expected in late March and are understood to be for service 5 with an enhanced level of quality including passenger announcements, leather seating, free wifi and dedicated drivers. It is believed a customised livery will be used too.

Catch 22 Bus has purchased one of the Darts recently returned to a leasing company, 512 X512UAT. Ex Diamond 658 has returned from repaint and will enter service dedicated to route 6, as is sister 657 which awaits repaint. 

Saturday 14 February 2015

More Excels reach the end

Excel 210 was collected by Partons on Thursday, with 212/5 expected to follow next week. Sister 214 has now been withdrawn with effect from 13 February, though it is believed to have been out of use with faults already.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Routemasters stand in while Darts arrive

Catch 22 Bus operated Routemasters RML887 and former Blackpool 521 (RM1583) on service 22 regularly during the last week or so, as its fleet is stretched following the departure of leased vehicles. The recently acquired ex Cardiff Darts have now been joined by two from East Yorkshire Motor Services (latterly with their Whittle's fleet) as W466/8UAG and two from Diamond Bus, Kidderminster (V657/8HEC) which started life in Blackburn. 468 has entered service in Whittle's green and white, while 657 is expected to run in Diamond's blue livery - the other two are currently under repaint.

Catch 22 Bus Fleet List February 2015
69F69SYEMCW MetrobusMCWPleasure Beach advertChina Motor Bus ML81 11/88
139W139EONVolvo B7TLAlexanderRed/GreyLondon United 3/00
143T143AUADennis DartAlexanderNew Catch 22Armchair, Hounslow 5/99
147T147DAXDennis DartPlaxtonOrange/GreenCardiff Bus 8/99
186X186CTGDennis DartPlaxtonCardiff Cardiff Bus 9/00
326F326UJNMCW MetrobusMCWPleasure Beach advertChina Motor Bus ML77 10/88
356R356LERDennis DartAlexanderNew Catch 22Stagecoach new 10/97
466W466UAGDennis DartPlaxtonNew Catch 22East Yorkshire 4/00
468W468UAGDennis DartPlaxtonRed/GreyEast Yorkshire 4/00
617X617JCSDennis DartAlexanderNew Catch 22Stagecoach 2/01
657V657HECDennis DartPlaxtonBlueBlackburn 1/00
658V658HECDennis DartPlaxtonBlueBlackburn 1/00
898R898XVMVolvo B10MAlexanderRedStagecoach Manchester
RM1583583CLTAEC RoutemasterPark RoyalRedLondon Transport 
RML887202UXJAEC RoutemasterPark RoyalRedLondon Transport 

Blackpool Disposals and Repaints

Parton's ERF wagon tows Olympian 379 on its farewell trip on Blackpool Promenade (Jono Niblock)
This week has seen Parton's of Barnsley visit Blackpool to collected stored buses for scrap. On Monday, 211 was the first of the Optare Excels to be disposed of, while Olympian 379 became the first of its type to go today (Tuesday). Excel 213 departed on Wednesday morning (11th)

The new Citaros are expected in late March and are likely to replace the six remaining non DDA complaint Excels 214, 217, 218-220 and 222. What else will depart is not yet known - though the Olympians may have a stay of execution until 2016.

Trident 341 has been repainted following 286 and 340 in January. 287 is now currently being treated.

updated 11/2/15

Sunday 1 February 2015

Preserving the Past (Part 1)

The bus display for the 2010 Blackpool Transport open day featured three contrasting restored Blackpool PD3s. On the left is 501, recently restored to its 1980s livery, in the middle is LTT's 529 in original scheme and on the right 390 in its experimental livery
As a follow up to "You Can't Save them All"  this article charts the status of the currently preserved former Blackpool Buses, over two posts.

Luff Era 
As noted in the earlier post, 7 (FV9044) of 1937 is the oldest surviving Blackpool Bus. It was preserved in the 1950s and purchased by its present owner in Sussex in 1977. It was restored to its latter day tow vehicle condition and was rallied from the late 1990s though has not been reported recently.
One of two surviving centre entrance PD2s, this is 246 being shunted at the former LTT premises on Brinwell Road. 

Two of the iconic postwar streamliners survive, both owing their current existence to post service use as tramway 'Permanent Way' buses. LTT owns 246, which spent over a decade as a site hut at the premises of Lister of Bolton - a well known dealer. In 1989 it was rescued and temporarily stored at Blackpool Transport depot by a local enthusiast, but LTT took it on the following year moving it to Burscough then St. Helens. 25 years on and the bus remains stored, back in Blackpool awaiting extensive restoration.
In February 2012 I was fortunate to view sister bus 300 at its then storage site in Huddersfield. Restoration is stalled while the owner works on a Sentinel single decker, but the bus has since been reassembled for towing to a new storage site near Wakefield
More complete is sister 300. Purchased by John Hinchliffe of Huddersfield, it was cosmetically restored and rallied during the 1980s. Since then structural work has commenced, but stalled while other projects took precedent. After many years stored under a railway arch in Huddersfield, 300 was moved to a new storage site still in West Yorkshire in July 2014.

Rear Loaders
Just two of the 80 full fronted rear loaders purchased from 1957 to 1964 remain. PD2 346 spent its first retirement as a mess bus for the Illuminations gangs. In 1985 it passed to North West Museum of Transport, then at Burtonwood, but soon moved to St. Helens. A collection downsizing saw it pass to LTT in 2005 where it remains in the restoration queue.
PD2 346 in its Illuminations Department yellow, at the former LTT Depot
Pioneer PD3 351 was preserved in 1992 after use as a playbus. Periods of outdoor storage and ownership changes saw it deteriorate. LTT stepped in to purchase it in 2000, but in 2013 passed it to a Blackburn based preservationist for restoration.

No less than eight half cab PD3s survive in preservation. The oldest is 390 (CFR590C) which represents the original 1965 batch. It is preserved in its experimental 1982 livery carried prior to withdrawal in 1983 when it was preserved by its current owner in Cheshire.
501 under restoration in Glasgow in 2007 - the lower panels have been replaced, all glazing removed prior to a full repaint and reglazing with new window rubbers (Gary Conn)

501 (HFR501E) was preserved back in 1985 straight from service by David Hunt and moved to his native Edinburgh. After a brief period of use, it deteriorated in store eventually moving to the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust premises. A group of enthusiasts purchased the vehicle in 2007 and began a restoration to its as withdrawn condition in the 1980s green and off-white livery which was completed in 2008. It is still owned by Martin Gurr, Gary Conn and Bill Thomson.

511, seen at Maghull Coaches depot in 2004 retains the faded Blackpool livery applied in 1985! (Keith Till)
511 (HFR511E) was one of the ten PD3s that survived until the type was withdrawn in 1988. It then passed to a driver training school in Liverpool with sister 538. The latter was scrapped following accident damage, but 511 survived until purchased by the owner of Maghull Coaches in Bootle, it is believed to be still in store there.
512 back on the road for the first time in over ten years at Fleetwood on 25 June 2014

Sister 512 (HFR512E) joined London & Country as a driver trainer in 1989 but was withdrawn a few years later. After a couple of further owners it was purchased by LTT in early 1998 from Danesbury Freight, Congleton. A quick restoration into 1970s all-over cream was completed in time for the summer. Mechanical problems sidelined the bus around 2003. In 2013 it was purchased by Bill Thomson and David Wilson and has been overhauled, returning to road last summer. 
516, as restored as a driver trainer on Ashfield Road in 2004

516 (HFR516E) was the last PD3 to operate with Blackpool Transport, as a driver trainer until 1999. It was purchased by Graham Oliver on withdrawal and restored, retaining its driver trainer configuration, but with a full set of seats reinstated. Sister 518 (HFR518E) was purchased by a Glasgow based preservationist in 1989 and even spent a Christmas operating in service with Stagecoach's Magicbus operation! It later passed to Chepstow Classic Buses were it forms part of their vintage fleet.

Only two of the 1968 batch of 15 PD3s survive. LTT owns 529 (LFR529F) withdrawn as early as 1980. Initially bought by Graham Oliver, it later passed to Mike Brady, before passing back to Graham and onto the LTT. It was restored over a number of years and returned to use in 2008. 

Last but by no means least, 540 (LFR540G) is the sole survivor of the three G-reg PD3s. These were licensed at the start of August 1968 when the registration year changed from F-G. At the time Blackpool's registration office started a new three letter series (eg CFR-C, HFR-E, LFR-F, PFR-H) and it is believed MFR/NFR were issued with G-suffices. 538-540 were allocated LFR538-40F, but with their late arrival, it was simply decided to change the last letter, rather than allocate new registrations! Throughout their life the front plates on these had a "G" in a different letter style than the rest of the plate. Even the surviving registration ledgers have the "F" crossed out and a pen written "G" inserted. All very informal by today's standards.
540 in a modified, but faded version of 1980s livery stored in St Helens Transport Museum in 2003
In 1988 540 was withdrawn along with its final sisters. Last painted in 1982 it was one of the scruffiest PD3s. A preservation attempted failed as the batch was in demand for training duties and 540 headed to London, working in the former Middlesex area, still mainly in BT livery. It was bought for preservation in the 1990s and moved to Huddersfield where parts from sister 510 were rescued for its restoration. This did not progress despite a move to the owners native Staffordshire. LTT had chosen to preserve two PD3s to display in different eras, 512 was initially joined by 515, but 540 became available and relegated 515 to spares. It was duly purchased and moved to St Helens Transport Museum and later the LTT depot at Brinwell Road, Blackpool. The availability of 529 from Graham Oliver meant that this usurped 540 which was relegated to a further spares donor. Thankfully others were determined this last of the breed should survive and David Wilson stepped in to secure the bus. It is currently dry stored in Cheshire, awaiting its turn for restoration.

Part two of this story will start with the surviving AEC Swifts.