Tuesday 17 February 2015

Essex Ecstacy Part One

It is probably true that the frst two words of the title of this post don't often appear together! However, today has been one of surprise, nostalgia and a fair slice of luck!

I decided it was about time I found and travellled on some more Olympians before they all get repaced over the coming months before DDA in 2017. First port of call was Hedingham, part of the Go-Ahead East group of companies, which include Anglian, Konect and Chambers. Hedingham have 4 depots, at Clacton, Kelvedon, Hedingham and Tollesbury. The majority of their 28 Olympians - no that wasn't a typo they really do still have 28 Ollies - are at Tollesbury, so that seemed a good place to head off to. Just one problem - where on earth is Tollesbury. I will enlighten you. Tollesbury is a little village not far from the Essex Coast equidistant from Colchester, Witham and Maldon. But more of that later.

I had to totally abandon the plans to get the train to Maldon when Greater Anglia conveniently tweeted that the refurbished coach (see here for report and pics taken on first day out) was on the service half hour after the one I had planned to get. Too good an opportunity to miss so after much timetable checking (most Hedingham services are two hourly in that part of Essex) I worked out I could go via Chelmsford. So I rode the packed refurbished coach and have to say the excitement of getting pics of it that first day was soon dispelled. It feels no different, seems to be noisier, everything is grey apart from those 1970's seat backs and if you are in a table seat it's still bloody difficult to get out. The power sockets are the only improvement I can see. I'm not sure how much per coach GA are being charged but anything more than a tenner is a rip off. The GEML passenger deserves much, much more, and maybe they should have decided to convert those Class 442 emus after all, as they are leaps and bounds better. Better start calling them Greyter Anglia

So I got to Chelmsford feeling somewhat underwhelmed, and went to the Bus Station to find my X31 to Maldon, not expecting to bump into Dave Warren and his fiancee there. Not sure who's stalking who, Dave but was good to see you and Jo. After a sizeable wait, which turned out to be because of roadworks on the A414 (why was I aurprised), one of Chelmsford's finest rolled in. Are they the right words? Maybe not!! Anyway the Dart gave a decent enough ride for a Dart and soon I was in the town of Maldon.

First Chelmsford Plaxton Dart 42483 at Maldon
A 20 min wait and the first object of the day appeared. Hedingham 67, ex Arriva Volvo Olympian P605 CAY came up the hill and was my transport to Tollesbury. A real bus with real seats on a lovely country route on a sunny day. Doesn't get better than that!

Hedingham Olympian 67 at Maldon
Seats!!! Proper seats!! Comfortable seats!! Nice patchwork too!
The friendly driver was more than happy to take me to the depot - tucked down a side street and not visible until you were virtually on top of it. I went in the office, introduced myself, and a really decent chap, whose name I never discovered, immeidatey volunteered to show me around the depot. In all 15 Olympians were in the depot, including 2 in the workshop and one being MOT'd. It was just amazing and the 10yo in me was bursting to jump up and down in excitement. There can't be many depots like this around, and you could sense the fondness they have for their buses there.

Olympians 66, P602 CAY, 73, R643 MNU and 605 in Tollesbury Depot
  It is mainly the ex Arriva Olympians that have ticket machines in them and go out on public service, the rest are used on school contracts - a shame really but saves on ticket machines!

Three of the school fleet, 89 ex Chambers  N529 LHG,  83, ex Dublin Bus M273 UKN, and 95, ex London Central R279 LGH
There was one familiar face there, which stood out from the crowd rather...

740 ex Anglian ALX400 Trdent V161 MEV next to 74, ex Stagecoach Olympian R702 DNH
I was invited back on a schoolday to watch them all go out, and I'll take them up on that offer! Many thanks, Hedingham, a lovely depot with a nostalgic fleet, and I shall return.

After being told I had the choice of a Dart to Witham or an Ollie to Colchester - as if that's a choice - I walked to the village square to wait for the Colchester service to arrive, and got one of those pics that only comes once or twice a yearr - the blue of the sky compliments the Olympian perfectly. Just a shame I was forced to take it with my phone so not quite a sharp as it should be.

Hedingham 74 loads up on the 91 to Colchester.
I would recommend that route to anyone. The scenery is quite stunning and I have got to get out to that resevoir it crosses to get some pics on a sunny day like today. I can't wait to get back there.

In part two lots of sightings in Colchester, including many old friends, and yours truly drops a clanger and gets on the wrong bus!

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