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Sunday, 13 August 2017

Norwich Bus Bash Report

The rain stayed away, the sun shone but not too harshly, and the public turned up in their droves. Thus was the first Norwich Bus Bash a success, and hopefully raised an impressive amount for East Anglian Children's Hospice.

Sometimes when your as involved as I am with the industry, albeit now as a former insider observing from the outside, it's all too easy to be super critical, to want perfection, to yearn for what isn't there rather than appreciating what is, and today was a classic occasion for doing just that. So I'm going to try and be a member of the public, and not an enthusiast. I understand on social media many enthusiasts have suggested how things could have been better, but in all honesty today wasn't for enthusiasts but for non enthusiasts, young and old, particularly young to enjoy riding on old buses, getting a pic of them in the cab of a bus, going through a bus wash etc. I only saw smiles and happy faces so job done!

As usual all the familiar faces were there, most of them friendly, I went with Tim, and on our arrival were met by Take That Superfan Sam Larke of Norwich Buses Blog, with Jamie Glasspoole, and First Eastern Counties Operations Director/Manager/Driver Chris Speed (should have seen his face when someone asked if he was a driver), whose brainchild today's event was. Most of the city centre shuttle buses were operated by the usual suspects, one of which I understand didn't last the pace and failed early on, but I will keep its identity anonymous. But there were some welcome visitors, and due to the higher than expected attendance some of First's own vehicles were pressed into action.

Our first trip was on Eastern Counties' last Greenway National. The Gardner engine boomed out and gave a pleasant ride, although it must be said it didn't enjoy the steep hill towards the end of the trip.

LG587 WAH 587S
A variety of First vehicles were in attendance, including Lowestoft Heritage liveried 8, Ipswich's Eastern Counties liveried VA479, recently named "Jim Long", X1 E400 33824, and the still striking E400 from Yarmouth, 33423.

Lowestoft 8 at Roundtree Way

33824 was a static display

33423 in need of a little TLC

Jim Long there in spirit, and in person!
The next trip was on an old friend. Great Yarmouth Transport AEC Swift WEX 685M was reunited with former owner Chris Speed, and operated a couple of trips. A lovely bus, and Chris was clearly chuffed to bits to be driving her again.

Swift 85 reunited with its old dad!
 Hungry work too, as it didn't take Chris and best mate Grahame Bessey of East Norfolk Bus Blog long to get back up to the city joining Tim and myself for lunch. A really good time spent chewing the cud as well as burgers, catching up on the latest news and gossip.

Chris and Grahame went back to Roundtree Way on the Greenway, while Tim and I waited for my main target of the day, Viv Carter's immaculately restored Bristol VR  VEX 294X. It looks simply majestic, sounds as awesome as a Class 37 loco, and gives a ride totally devoid of background noise. I was taken back 35 years in a instant. It was best in show by a country mile and worth the trip to Norwich on its own. Here it is in Castle Meadow

Magnificence! Bristol VR VEX 294X
A bus making its first pulic appearance in new colours was Norwich Volvo B7l 60916, now renamed VW916 (still a Volvo not a VW). Repainted into Eastern Counties Livery and, praise be, re-padded seats it looked very good. I don't know if the rattles have been sorted but I presume not!

VW916 YG02 DKU at Roundtree Way
The workshops were also partially open, and inside was ex Ipswich B7rle 66981, halfway through being repainted into Red Line livery.

66981 being "Redied" up.
There was also the chance to see all of Norwich Network's different colours lined up together for the first time. Sadly not in rainbow order but even so an impressive sight.




So impressive one small boy wanted his photo taken in a driving cab.....

Tim's Mum would be so proud!
And the day was done. Nothing reaches its peak first time round, and I hope this is the first of many Norwich Bus Bashes. What I will say is if you are going to open a depot up it needs to be all or nothing. I know Roundtree Way is operational 7 days a week but so are most depots. The engineering staff in particular seemed to resent the public's presence, and that was a shame. Having most of the other buses parked facing away from the public area was also noted, and it rather showed up less than universal co-operation in making today happen. I hope next year's date is set much earlier, so all departments can come together and work towards making the second Norwich Bus Bash even more of a success than today's was.

Kudos to Chris for making today happen, thanks to those who brought their buses and above all to the public for supporting the event in their hundreds. Good to see all the friends I did, sorry to miss those I didn't see, especially Clive, and catch you all soon.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Norwich Bus Bash

This Sunday sees the inaugural  Norwich Bus Bash organised by First Eastern Counties. The new extended Roundtree Way depot will be opening its doors to the public, including the long awaited "rainbow" line up of all the different coloured routes. you can take a trip through the bus wash, sit in a driver's cab, inspect the workshops and more.

There are frequent free bus trips around the City, including County Hall where you can park, as parking at Roundtree Way is severely limited. My thanks to Chris Speed for the info, and hope to see many of you there.

UPDATE

Due to Norwich City re-arranging their home match against Sunderland to Sunday the plan to serve County Hall has had to be scrapped. Apologies for the false information but I've only just found out. This is also the reason buses to/from Roundtree Way can't serve the Rail Station.


Thursday, 3 August 2017

A Piece Of Konect Humble Pie

A spot of Short Set chasing today,of which more later, but this time I did it by bus, leaving the car at Wangford and catching the 146 into Norwich. Have to say BB60 BUS is in pretty good nick for its type (E200) and age, even though the unusually strong wind threatened to low in the doors at one point. On arrival at Norwich I caught the 5, operated by Konect to Thorpe, and very soon realised i was going to have to eat some words. The 65 plate E400 was immaculate. Clean, quiet, WiFi worked well, and above all not a single rattle. In fact a joy to travel on. Since I'm the first to criticise E400's in rough conditions I had to mention this.

Konect 636 SN65 OAV in St Stephen's St
 After I had completed my Short Set photography and enjyoed an excellent lunch at the Town House in Thorpe I caught another Konect E400 back into the City, this time older 606 SN61 CZW. Again, for its age the condition was remarkable. Yes the blind box door rattled but that was about it. So, not for the only time in this post, well done Konect. Keeping E400's in that condition takes some doing so congratulations to the engineering team. 

I had gone to Thorpe to try and capture the Class 37 Short Set in new locations, especially while the blue and grey (faded white) coaches are still on it. Thorpe provided a couple of locations, the first being the footbridge over the railway to Thorpe lakes. A short wait and the familar rumble was heard, and 37419 appeared.

37419 with the set, having just passed Whitlingham Jct
Here is the full video.


I then moved a couple of hundred yards up the line where there is a gate crossing to Thorpe Sailing Club. Crossing to the Club side I waited and thanks to the strong wind heard the set accelerate from Crown Point  Another good angle and shot of the set ensued, with a smoking 37405 leading the way.

37405 with the blue/grey set
Here is the full video with the 37 pleasingly drowning out the crossing alarm.


Now back to Konect. It is normally very difficult for those under 21 to get a bus driving job for insurance reasons. So when I was chatting to a couple of Konect drivers in St Stephen's St another driver came up who I thought I vaguely recognised. A smiling, jovial young man who was clearly content with life. It was only as he departed to take over his bus I got a glimpse of his name badge. I had known this particular person was driving for Konect but truly didn't realise it was him.

Kieran Smith spent a period of time running the very successful Norwich Buses Blog, and it's fair to say we didn't get on. I mean seriously didn't get on. No one was really at fault, he was obsessed with his blog and I know I was obsessed with mine - so much so it nearly cost me very dear. I don't know how much I've changed since then but seeing Kieran today was like meeting someone for the first time. He has come out of his shell, is clearly living his dream driving for Konect, and any history between us is precisely that. Kieran had already supported me by email over the troubles I had with my anonymous abuser, which I was extremely touched by, but to see this outgoing, joking, happy person was something else. Kieran it was great to meet you, and I'll be over next week to assess your driving skills! But more than that huge credit needs to go to Steve Royal at Konect for giving Kieran the chance at an age the vast majority of companies wouldn't. I could hear the gratitude in his voice, and see the sparkle in his eyes. Top marks, Konect, top marks.