Tuesday, 25 October 2016

A Fugly Bus Demo & Gas Buses complete Journey

First of all a message for Mrs Borderbus, who informed me today she doesn't bother reading train posts - although there is a loco pic below this is a bus post so carry on reading!!!

In the seedy world of rail enthusiasm all locomotives have a nickname - Class 66's are "sheds", Class 37's "tractors" and so on. Below is a picture of a Class 70, known as a "Fugly". If you need that translated you have a sheltered life and I have no desire to corrupt you - suffice it to say it's not complimentary.

70014 at Ipswich being bombed on the left by Ipswich Buses!
Now for some reason buses don't have nicknames, probably due to a lack of imagination, but if there was a "Fugly" of the bus world surely the Wright Streetdeck is it. Yesterday Borderbus took a Streetdeck demonstrator on loan for a couple of weeks, and it has to be the ugliest bus I've ever seen - it even makes Norwich's pink ones look attractive!

Streetdeck Demonstrator SL15 ZGP
Now long time readers will know I'm not exactly a fan of the Streetdeck. Every time I go on one I'm left feeling somewhat underwhelmed. However, being the eternal optimist I always think I've just been unlucky and the next one I go on will be better, just like winning the lottery. And so I gave this Streetdeck a clean slate, once my eyes had come out of shock, and tried to find some positives. I succeeded!

On this Streetdeck the staircase has been opened up with light, windows now dominating the offside.

The very visible staircase
This is all well and good but just a couple of questions. Firstly if you are a group of ladies on a Friday night out you will NOT want to go upstairs as that staircase will reveal all to anyone who happens to be passing. I'm not sure that design came from a woman. Secondly, and this came from Mr Borderbus, the upstairs windows are narrower to apparently save weight. Replacing half the offside with glass isn't going to do much to help that weight loss. And it's not just the offside that has seen new glass - so has the roof. Two glass roof panels adorn the front of the top deck. Nice idea, or at least would be if it wasn't for a minor detail. I'm not the tallest on the planet, but anyone taller than me is in peril, as demonstrated by my glamorous Borderbus assistant.

If we refer back to that Friday night out, assuming you're in a place with late buses on a Friday night, you've had a few light refreshments, stagger upstairs to exhibit yourself to pedestrians on the offside, and then split your head open because the glass panels are higher than the rest of the roof with ridges in between that need either yellow and black tape or foam strips. The roof is low anyway but to have uneven heights is asking for trouble. The side windows are too high for young children to see out of properly, and then when I tested the bars at the front meant to protect me in the event of a collision it turned out if I was thrown forward my gullet would be pushed out the back of my neck by the bar. Thanks. Note the bus hasn't even started moving yet!

The demonstrator on an evaluation run
As usual when Borderbus get a demonstrator I was taken on a ride, accompanied by Mrs Borderbus and the Heir to Borderbus. We all noted the same thing, power, or lack of it. The Streetdeck is horribly slow pulling away, which is going to make life difficult for drivers wanting a quick getaway from bus stops. Mrs Borderbus and I said at the same time pulling away from Thurton with a decent load is going to hold a lot of traffic up. Overall the ride was bumpier than the Metrodecker, and there is a feeling of cheapness all around, far too much blue scratchy plastic everywhere, and displaying the opposite of the thought put into the Metrodecker. It doesn't feel as solid as an E400MMC, and yet again I struggled to find anything to like about it. Apparently these are not cheap buses. They certainly feel it.

I can report that all of the working ex Anglian gas buses have arrived in Plymouth. I'm grateful to Martijn Gilbert, supremo of Reading Buses for allowing me to use his pictures of the convoy refueling early Monday morning.

Anglian 110, 102 and 107 refueling at Reading Buses        pic (c) Martijn Gilbert

Reading Buses also explain where their gas comes from....

No bull there!      pic (c) Martijn Gilbert
A long journey via M4, M5 and A38 later and in filthy conditions the gas buses arrived at their new home. I'm grateful to Mark Collins, one of the bosses at Plymouth Citibus for allowing me to use his pic of the line up at Plymouth. I am certain the next time we see them they will look very different. I've already been invited by Plymouth Citibus to go and see them once they are in service, and I'm seriously looking forward to that. Might have to combine with a trip to Dawlish.....

10 of the 12 safely arrived at Plymouth
I can also report that Anglian suffered problems yesterday due to vehicle shortages, and their fares go up today. Wasn't even worth opening a book on that was it.

I'm down in Kent for a few days now, but hope to squeeze a couple of trips in, the Scania E400MMC's being a priority, and as long as engineering works don't make it pointless I'm hoping to get to Paddington on Saturday for some HST photography. If anyone is in Beestons territory they have the Orange Metrodecker for 10 days starting yesterday, so try to grab a ride on it if you can.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Rubber Duck We Have A Convoy

Oh well that's it. The most unique fleet of buses in the country has gone West. South West to be precise as this afternoon the 12 MAN Ecocity gas buses left Anglian Bus to begin a new life in Devon at Plymouth Citibus. Myself and Tim were at Ellough to witness the departure. No words are needed so enjoy the pics and videos. A commemorative post will be published soon, hopefully with some exclusive pics never seen before of their initial construction.

A word of thanks to the Plymouth drivers who collected them today - it doesn't show on the videos except when Tim's arm appears, but nearly all the drivers acknowledged us as they left - a nice touch much appreciated.

Anglian have reinstated all the Scania Omnicities and Omnilinks previously withdrawn, as well as Trident 712, which has had more lives than a cat. And so East Anglia plunges back into the Dark Ages, with nothing to suggest the 21st century exists - no gas buses, electric buses, even hybrids, no MMC's, no B5's, nothing except a few pink Streetdecks which are hardly trailblazers in the future of bus travel. An era has ended, a sad day indeed.

101 WX62 HGU was the first to go
Followed by 110 AU13 FBJ
And 103 WX62 HHE
Those three left in front of the remaining 9, who left the yard and then rather pleasingly assembled outside before leaving in convoy. 106 was the last to leave the depot, although it headed the convoy away. For the record the order leaving the yard was after 101, 110 and 103 was 109, 107, 108, 111, 105, 102, 100, 112 and 106.

Still showing 81 Bungay 106 AU62 DWN is the last gas bus to leave Anglian's yard

So long, farewell and thanks for the memories. I will come and see you in Plymouth.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Few Hours In Peterborough Part 2

In Part One I looked at the somewhat mundane bus scene in Peterborough. Now to the rail side, which certainly from a personal point of view was far more interesting.

First of all I had to get there, and I decided to really take the plunge and catch the first train out of Lowestoft, This is because of what was operating it. No, not a short set but an anomaly that occurs six days a week, but is far too early for your average enthusiast. The second train to Norwich on weekdays, and first train on Saturdays is operated by an East Midlands Trains Class 158, which then goes on to form the 0757 from Norwich to Liverpool. Quite why this is I have no idea, but since it meant I could stay on it at Norwich and not have to change it seemed the obvious thing to do. So I arrived at Lowestoft to see the odd sight of an East Midlands train as far East from the Midlands as it's possible to get!

East Midlands Trains 158810 at Lowestoft
I confess to liking 158's. Always have done and this one was no different, fast, quiet and smooth. Have to say though EMT need to look at the upholstery - some of the head rests on the seats looked decidedly grubby. Anyway before I knew it we had steamed, well dieseled, through Thetford Forest and across the Fens and had arrived at Peterborough. Someone is bound to correct me here but to my reckoning Peterborough has seven different operators passing through it. Greater Anglia, EMT, Crosscountry, Virgin Trains East Coast and Great Northern all stop while Hull Trains and Grand Central pass through without stopping.

It was Great Northern that had a personal interest for me. Apart from the soon to disappear 317's and 319's there are also the Class 365 Networker Expresses to see. 15 years ago I was working some of these trains for Connex Southeastern, before they were replaced by Class 375 Electrostars and returned to Great Northern. Now history is about to repeat itself, as Class 387 Electrostars are cascading from Thameslink and ousting the current stock. The 365's were destined for Great Western, but the new Electrostars there has put pay to that idea. The 365's are highly underrated trains and there must be use for them somewhere. Here is 365516 looking a bit different to 15 years ago, with a 317 at Peterborough on Saturday.

365516 at Peterborough
I have happy memories of the 365's and later when 365508/15 came in together, a combination I would have worked many times I did get rather nostalgic. Just a shame their interiors look more like hospital waiting rooms now than the cosy, warm interiors they had originally.

However there were other attractions to be seen, and just after I arrived it was announced a charter train was going to stop en route to Scarborough. Excellent, your trusty reporter thought, steam? 37's? 47's even? Sadly no, nothing nearly as exciting. A pair of sheds, Class 66's to normal people. Slight anticlimax there!
Looks so wrong doesn't it!
But I had come to see something far better than a shed. As I'm sure you're all aware this year marks the 49th Anniversary or the Intercity 125's, or HST's as they are now known as. I had seen a London bound HST from Lincoln stop, but wanted to get one at speed passing through. It wasn't long before the 1000 London - Inverness service roared through, with the sun making a rare appearance to show it in its majesty as it headed North. 43296 is the loco on the rear

VTEC 43296 heading North
Now obviously you would expect me to have a video of  the HST's and the pic above is a still from the video I took. I have combined the videos i took of the two HST's and a couple of Hull Trains 180's flying through into one video, which you can see below.

There was also one other treat in store. It would appear that D6757 enjoyed my review and praise of it so much it followed me to Peterborough, this time on the rear with 37419 leading, and gave a bit of a show as it made its way out. The sun was out again and at last I saw this beauty in all her glory. You can have all the Diesel Galas you like, and of course they have their place, but nothing, I repeat nothing beats seeing these magnificent machines out on the mainline still earning their keep.

I think it's just a shame VTEC haven't commemorated the HST's in the same way GWR have. A trip to Paddington might be required.

Finally a bonus item. The RMT have called off the Strike action on Southern planned for November 3rd following a request by the Royal British Legion. November 3rd is National Poppy Day, and collectors will be at all London Stations. Well played RMT - you couldn't really say no I appreciate as it wouldn't have looked good - but all the same a good gesture. However, it would appear the Daily Mail isn't totally up to speed on the dispute as the headline below shows. You can hear the spluttering from East Croydon (HQ of Southern) as I type. Now exactly who IS calling the strikes......

Oooookay that's all clear then

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Last Week of Gas Buses

I have been reliably informed that Anglian's MAN Ecocity Gas Buses will be withdrawn from service on Saturday 22nd October prior to transfer to Plymouth Citibus. This will therefore be your last chance to ride what I consider (and I'm not alone) the best single deck buses ever seen on these shores before a long journey is necessary. There will, of course be at least one commemorative post.

Anglian 100 in Great Yarmouth

Monday, 17 October 2016

A Few Hours In Peterborough Part 1

On Saturday I travelled to Peterborough in the hope of meeting an acquaintance who was down for a Diesel Gala on the nearby Nene Vallley Railway. Alas the meeting never materialised, and let's face it after sitting in the cab of D6757 the other night I had no need of a Diesel Gala at a railway that actively publicises its dislike of people just coming to take pictures. I'm not a rich man so sod them!

Anyhow I had decided to split the day into two, first half trains and second half buses. However I'll concentrate on the buses this post as there is precious little happening in the bus world at the moment.

Unfortunately Peterborough is also in the bus world, and frankly it makes Ipswich look interesting. If E200's and E400's are your favourite - old models mind you as MMC's have yet to find their way there - then you will be in mundane Heaven. However I had chosen the right day to go for something totally unexpected and very welcome. I had seen from the railway station some bright yellow Olympians frequently crossing the bridge over the tracks and when I had finished my business on the station one of them was parked outside the station on a free shuttle service to I presumed the NVR for the Diesel Gala. I was wrong. It was further than that so I had a much longer than anticipated ride on Decker Bus of Whittlesey M18 WAL which turns out to not be an Olympian but a DAF DB250 with Northern Counties Palatine body. New to Walls of Sharston, hence the registration, this Olympian lookalike, soundalike and ridealike took me on a mystery tour ending up at the East of England Showground where the horror of all horrors was taking place.

Decker Bus DAF DB250 M18 WAL at East of England showground
I confess I am not into models of any description. I prefer the real article, and if I was to ever have a model railway it would have to be life size. You can probably work out the obstacles in that aspiration yourselves. So to stumble on this was the stuff of nightmares, even more so to see it cost a tenner to get in!

I'm a full size train enthusiast - get me out of here!
I had to get out of there fast and luckily within a few minutes a genuine Olympian had arrived, and one of my favourite types too. With Christmas looming I may as well do some hinting - if anyone would like to buy me an ex Dublin Bus Olympian I'd really be very grateful! T570 EGB was new to Dublinbus as 99-D-539 and those Alexander RH bodies are just superb, silent and strong as Alexander bodies used to be before molded plastic infected them. Add a friendly chatty driver and a perfect combination was formed.

Decker Bus Olympian T570 EGB at East of England Showground
Back to Peterborough and the bus station in what had turned into a very dreary afternoon. First spot was Great Yarmouth, or is it Lowestoft these days - never know where the X1 Enviros are actually allocated to these days - 33821 which is on loan to Kings Lynn as a lot of the E400's are now showing the strain of being on a route totally unsuited for them and breaking down with monotonous regularity. Pretty sure someone predicted that around 3 years ago.

33821 heading for Wisbeach
Delaine provide the only bright spot in Peterborough these days now Emblings have gone, and their uniquely liveried Geminis always look impressive. AD15 DBL is a Volvo B9tl Gemini2

Delaine Volvo B9tl AD15 DBL
And here's the matching pair - AD14 DBL, also a Volvo B9tl

Delaine AD!$ DBL on break at Peterborough Bus Station
In case you're wondering no there doesn't appear to be an AD16 DBL! Anyhow apart from that it was all Stagecoach E200's and E400's. Even the Stagecoach Gold service X4 to Milton Keynes was operated by 61 reg E400's. So I gave that up as a lesson learned and headed back to the station. Sorry Peterborough wasn't more interesting but you live and learn. Might have to try and get to Reading for a better bus & train day. In Part Two my rail activities will be reported, including some old friends of mine.