Wednesday 28 October 2015

Midweek Memories 2

Once again I'm using Oddball Wednesday to trawl my own personal memories to bring you some of the quirkier vehicles I have driven over the years. I was lucky enough to grow up and drive in Mid Kent, Maidstone in particular. I doubt there can have been a more varied, and in some cases bizarre fleet of buses such as Maidstone Borough Council had in the 80's and 90's. Boro'line, as the name became, is known in our region for loaning Ipswich Atlanteans for LRT work, but at Maidstone there was a veritable cornucopia of vehicles. Among the strangest was this...

Boro'line 207 D207 MKK in Ashford 1987       pic by Ian Fuller
Isn't that something! When I first saw this odd looking bus I assumed it had come from the continent and been converted to right hand drive or something but not so. I will use Ian Fuller's excellent description of her. My claim to fame is that the very first decker I drove in service was one of the 92 seaters, at the time the biggest in the country.

The bus is an East Lancs-bodied Scania K92, the only one of its type in the Boro'line fleet, and boy is it ugly. I've always been a bit ambivalent towards East Lancs bodies - occasionally they've produced something really original and striking (the 1960s/1970s standard body design on Atlanteans, such as for Bolton and Southampton, springs most readily to mind), but most products from Blackburn seemed to have been thrown together from whatever was in the parts bin and were... er... aesthetically challenged. Maidstone 207 is definitely a case in point. Was the body intentionally designed like this, or merely assembled?
 Three Scanias were bought new by Maidstone. The other two were giant double-deckers on the same K92 chassis, and were no better looking. They were, when built, the most capacious double-deckers in Britain with 92 seats, but looked like glorified pantechnicons. When Boro'line collapsed, and Maidstone & District acquired the remaining vehicles and the depot, this was the last bus to be sold, perhaps due to its dowdy appearance. Seamarks of Luton eventually took it away. Perhaps they got a bargain.

What Ian doesn't mention is the gearbox. I have tried unsuccessfully to find out the name of it, but it was a 10 speed manual box with a splitter on a stick, meaning no actual gearstick. Everything was done on a LCD display - a number flashed saying which gear you were going into, you dipped the clutch, waited for two beeps, lifted the clutch and carried on - much quicker than it sounds. I adored 207, and it must be said that after due consideration if I could go back in time and drive any bus from my past again I'd choose this one. Looks can be decieving and this was an absolute gem. Sadly it seems 207 is no more - a quick search shows she is not taxed or insured, so unless she is in storage somewhere this quirky yet brilliant bus is now a fridge or something!

Now with Seamarks of Luton seen in Harpenden 1993.     pic by John Law

On the preservation front I can reveal a momentous event is happening in the coming days. Keep an eye on East Norfolk Bus Blog for first news.