Monday, 13 November 2017

Anglianbus RIP

It has been announced on the Anglianbus website that Anglianbus will operate as Konectbus from Monday 20th November. This puts the final nail in the coffin of Anglianbus, who under the stewardship of Go Ahead have suffered one of the longest, tortuous, embarrassing and predictable deaths in the history of public transport.

A full post commemorating Anglianbus will follow in a few days, once I've got some research done regarding the early days. Lord only knows how Andrew Pursey and Dave Marshall are feeling tonight. It is a sad day that everyone has known was coming, but that doesn't make it any easier to take. Business as usual doesn't sound promising.

Monday, 6 November 2017

A Little Taste Of Heaven Part One

I wonder how many of you remember the gentle qame show "Call My Bluff". It involved two teams of 3 well known people giving alternative definitions to obscure words, and the aim was to decipher which was the correct definition. More often than not the definitions would start with the phrase "Imagine, if you will..." before the viewer was transported to a world where the word was relevant.

Well if the word I had to describe was "Heaven", my definition would probably go something like this: Imagine, if you will, a Mecca of all things bus. A huge site, crammed with vehicles. It is a working bus depot, a bus dealership and a bus museum. There are happy, friendly staff, a boss who is clearly extremely popular, a couple of young women busy stripping a bus engine down, a mini open top bus the boss takes his kids to school in, and just to put the icing on the cake a high speed rail line running alongside. My guess is not many would believe that definition, but that is precisely what I experienced when I visited Ensignbus last week.

After reading my reviews of the two BCI buses that were loaned to First and Borderbus I was invited by Ross Newman, one of the owners of Ensignbus, to take a look round. Many notable names in the bus industry had told me it would be an experience I'd never forget, and they were right.

A mix of Ensignbus's working fleet.
The place is huge. Two storage yards for sold and purchased vehicles lie either side of the main complex, which apart from housing all the working fleet has two big workshops including one where body conversions take place, and a truly mouth watering warehouse full of heritage vehicles.

Ross met me in the impressively airy and relaxed office section, all the more surprising as the QE2 bridge had been closed all day and Ensign's services were in utter chaos. yet there was no sense of panic, just quiet competence in getting as much running as possible whilst fielding a barrage of phone calls. Hi-viz vest on it was time for the tour to start. Ross explained the basic organisation of the depot, including a dedicated place for drivers to park vehicles with reported defects, so engineering staff could sort them out asap without having to hunt for them. All the time staff were greeting us and smiling. We entered the main warehouse and the first thing I saw was a freshly converted ex Tower Transit Volvo B7tl Gemini still rather pleasingly showing what I presume to be the last route it operated.

Now an open topper former Tower Transit VNW32410 LK04 HXW
I'm pretty sure Ross told me it was going abroad, but I can't for the life of me remember where! That's possibly because I had spied what is known as MCW corner. My good friend at Stagecoach, Matthew Arnold, had told me what to expect and I'll admit I did rather swoon. A couple of posts ago I said if I could go on just one bus again it would be the Metropolitan Scania. Decades ahead of its time it gave an astonishingly smooth ride, and as Ross accurately said; "two gears - fast and very fast!" Just a shame the bodies corroded as quick as they drove! And there, in front of me was the country's only preserved Metropolitan Scania with a Class 6 licence - ie it can be used for anything anytime. Indeed last year it was in public service during the Tube strikes.

The 1976 Metropolitan Scania.
But that wasn't the only icon in MCW corner. A couple of Metrobuses, and another rare beast I remember well, a former Kentish Bus and Northumbria MCW Metroliner, that at one time was the bastion of National Express. Now an open topper, still in Northumbria livey I got the impression this was one of Ross's favourites - he spoke with pride about it as one would a child who has achieved something special.

MCW corner, with the Metroliner standing out proud
Next to the Metroliner was an absolute beast of an American bus. YYR 832 is an MCI MC9 Greyhound coach, like everything else in the warehouse in full working order. It has the most incredible door mechanism - total overkill - and apparently not a rattle on it! I should think not - it's built like a tank!

Not to be argued with - the MCI MC9 Greyhound coach
Next to that is an ex Southend Transport Astromega, again a familiar sight from my commuter coach days. It's wonderful to see these memories preserved for others to enjoy, and the fact they are all kept in full working order makes it even more special.

The ex Southend Transport Astromega
I will freely admit that I don't have much affection for vehicles I have no memory of. There are, of course, exceptions, one of which will be coming up in the next post, but as a rule not. I do know, though, that some of you will be swooning over these RT's as I was the Metropolitan, so just for you here is a rather handsome trio!

I believe these are pre war, so again very rare.
Of course no bus museum is complete without an Ollie, and this ex Bristol In Sight Olympian did the trick nicely.

Ex Bristol In Sight Olympian P757 SWC
I'm reliably informed the Newmans like to buy each other odd presents, and I'm pretty sure this is one of them - a 6 wheel drive, erm, thing! Not completely sure the orange light is totally necessary! I think you'd notice it coming..

A proper boy's toy!
And of course there were Routemasters. Lots of Routemasters of all shapes and sizes.

Just some of the RM's (and 1 RT) in the museum.
I should point out that I took all these photos on my own after I had finished the tour and Ross had given me total freedom of the depot to photograph what I wanted. "We have no secrets here", he said, which compared to some places I've been to down South knocked me for six a bit. The reason I didn't take any while being shown around was because we were talking. And then some. Ross is one of those instantly likeable blokes, extremely interesting and easy to talk to, and the passion for what he does shines through. Far too much for one post, but coming up in Part Two we'll see a bus once temporarily owned by Hitler, a mini Routemaster and an office view to die for!