Thursday 26 February 2015

Throw Back Thursday - When Is A Coach A Bus?

This is a quite common question - after all go to the states, start talking about coaches and they'll think you're talking about sport. The same applies to the continent - buses are buses regardless of their use. Only here in good old complicated UK to we have a distinction between buses and coaches, which of course gives more scope for increased regulation and red tape.

But occasionally you'll get a vehicle that manages to cover all bases, though to be fair not at the same time. No not Dual Purpose vehicles - that's too obvious! Way back in the last century I did a bit of coach driving on Grey-Green, which at that time was part of the Cowie group, before it was absorbed into Arriva. They had a depot at Ipswich, which I must be honest I didn't know at the time, although I'm pretty certain it had already closed by time I was zooming about. I was normally to be seen either driving old Leopards or Volvo B10M high floor Paramounts, although the odd Neoplan tri-axle decker or Van Hool Scania weren't unusual. But it is the Paramounts we are interested in today. This is how they looked back in the 80's when I was driving them. The pic is by John Openshaw whose Flickr page you can access here.

Grey-Green 864, Volvo B10M plaxton Paramount B864 XYR at Manchester Piccadilly Station     pic by John Openshaw
Grey-Green had a fleet of around 14 of these B reg Volvos - 859 - 871 I think, but unfortunately pictures of them are extremely hard to come by. My regular was 859, which was great to drive. However after the success of Grey-Green's bus operations in London, typified by the 24 from Hampstead Heath to Pimlico they started veering away from Coaching. London Coaches took over the commuter routes from Kent, and the Stamford Hill depot in North London was dedicated to bus services. And a rather strange thing happened to all but 2 of this fleet of coaches. Here is 864 a few years later, quite a few years later, having passed from Grey-Green to Arriva and seen here with A&P Travel, though not sure whch one as there seem to be three of them in Ely, Grantham and Sleaford! Pic is by London Buses In Exile, whose Flickr Site you can access here.

B864 XYR still a Volvo B10M but now a double decker bus.   pic by London Buses In Exile
Here is another of the fleet, 867, another that I used to drive quite regularly, but not looking like this. Seen at Wood Green, unfortunately I know not when, the pic is by Chris Greenwood, whose Flickr site you can access here.

Former Paramount coach B867 XYR at Wood Green  pic by Chris Greenwood
But what about 859, I hear you ask. Well sadly I can't find a pic of her as a coach, but she was one of several of the fleet who weren't converted into double deckers. In the Summer of 2003 I was holidaying in the West Highlands of Scotland. We decided to go to John O'Groats by train and bus, travelling by bus from Thurso. In Thurso there was a small depot belonging to Highland Country, part of the Rapsons Group, which was taken over by Stagecoach in 2008. There, staring me in the face was B863 XYR - I think - with a completely new persona. This was the first I had heard of the XYR fleet being re-bodied. My own 859 also travelled to the other end of the UK and here she is with quite a spectacular backdrop, but not a very spectcular body. I think she looked far better as a coach. The pic is by markkirk85, whose Flickr page you can access here.

Former Grey-Greem Paramount coach B859 XYR at Fort William  pic by markkirk85
Sadly this vehicle was destroyed by fire but I'm sure a few of you to the South of the region are jumping up and down shouting "please, sir"!! Because there is a local link to this bus, which I was totally unaware of until I started researching this post. I mentioned that Grey-Green were taken over by Arriva. Arriva had operations in Essex, and 859 was detailed to a certain town. Here she is in May 2000. The pic is by Stephen Hughes, courtesy of Fred Lawrence, whose Flickr page you can access here.

B859 XYR working for Arriva Colchester on the 1A.    pic by Stephen Hughes/Fred Lawrence
A couple of years before then 859 was wearing a Colchester Borough Transport livery, and I think it really suits her. In a very complicated saga Colchester Borough Transport were bought by British Bus for £1 in 1994, which in 1997 was bought byy the Cowie Group - hence the Grey-Green link, which was renamed Arriva in 1997, which is how she eneded up in Colchester! Still think she looked better as a coach though! The pic is again by Stephen Hughes, courtesy of Fred Lawrence

B859 XYR in Colchester Borough Transport livery. pic by Stephen Hughes/Fred Lawrence
So from Kent and London as a coach, converted to a bus working locally before ending up in the Highlands of Scotland she had quite a life, of which I played a very, very small part. Hope you have enjoyed this Throwback post.


  1. Hi steve I believe that the two coaches that where not converted to buses run with lewis at bury St edmunds (now at Brandon) in the mid nights one went to beestons for a short time then sold for spares

    1. Thank you, David - I know one of them was 868 but can't remember what the other one was.

  2. CBT had the full batch of saloon rebodies, 55-62 if I remember correctly -- A855/856UYM and B857-862XYR.

  3. Brilliant! My fav comment of the week! 27 years is a long time to remember accurately! Were they popuar with CBT and did they ride better than they looked? When did they go to Highland?

  4. They always sounded brilliant-- much more of a squeal than the standard bus B10Ms. Unpopular with pax because of the high floor.

    Never got a chance to ride the decker versions with Arriva London -- mostly used on the 66 Romford-Newbury Park. Note the long wheelbase (B10M-62 rather than B10M-55 for bus models) and the subsequent lack of rear overhang on the deckers.

    No idea how drivers found the CBT saloons, other than occasional comments about the wheelbase length. I was always an EN enthusiast, so rarely dabbled/mixed with CBT!

    1. I think the Volvo B10M has to be one of the more recognisible engines of the last 40 years. I drove Citibuses tooo, and they were just as good to drive, and I did like the old H-BPH ones Colchester had until quite recently. I wonder if any of that Grey-Green fleet still surviive today.

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