Sunday, 19 May 2019

Hastings 2019

It was my first time at Hastings Bus Rally, and their first time at a new venue.

Frankly, I hope they don't use the site again as it just wasn't suitable for a bus rally.

For starters one had to squeeze between two bollards to enter the roadway off the main drag, then it was an immediate and tight left turn to access the display area. The display area itself wasn't wide enough to accomodate buses on both sides but the marshalls persisted with parking vehicles opposite each other regardless - as a result it took me 8 shunts to get my coach into position.

I left my coach in the display area whilst I went for an explore and when I returned I found Ensign's Enviro parked at an angle to the coach such that it was blocking access to the rear emergency exit door on the coach. Given that I'd blocked the front entrance door of the coach with a piece of wood to prevent unauthorised access, the plan was to access the vehicle via the emergency door which I can lock with a key. But of course with the Enviro parked as it was, I had no access to my vehicle.

I would stress that this was in no way the fault of the Ensign driver. He'd simply parked his vehicle under the guidance of the marshalls and they were trying to make the vehicle fit in the only [unsuitable] space available.

Vehicles struggled to manovoure around the extremely tight display area with several shunts often required to get into or out of display positions.

W649FUM on display

This image shows the blocked rear emergency exit door
And the end of the day was just as bad with a now tight right turn to get through the tight bollards.

Whoever looked at this site and thought is was just wasn't I'm afraid.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Detling 2019

On display at the 2019 South East Bus Festival
Today was the first rally of the 2019 season, the South East Bus Festival at Detling in Kent. It was a 150 mile round trip from the storage barn in North Essex and 649 soaked up the miles effortlessly. So much so that despite departing some time after the other vehicles from the same barn at the end of the event, we arrived back "home" first!

The weather forcast for the day was cloudy but dry. In reality there was a freezing cold breeze and it rained on and off all day with rolling mist towards the end. The weather certainly didn't ruin the event - indeed no vehicles got stuck on the damp grass - but mother nature could have done better!
Copyright Dylan Thomas - awaiting the Arriva bus connection

At the event we did three round trips on the external shuttle service that links up with Arriva's local services passing on the nearby A249 dual carraigeway. Each of the trips carried a decent load and again 649 took it all in its stride.

Hopefully I'm not tempting fate when I say it seems to have setled down nicely after the issues that plagued the 2018 season.

So all in all, a cold and damp day. But enjoyable all the same.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

2019 Season Begins

Here it is being washed
So Winter appears to be over and the first big rallly of the season - the South East Bus Festival at Detling in Kent - is just over a week away....

Seems like a good time to visit the storage location and wake up my preserved Hedingham coach in order to get it prepared for the season ahead.

First things first, it was given a wash. Not only has it gained a layer of dust over the past few months, but it rained on the day it was last out on the road; a private trip for friends and family only to Rochester in early December hence the yellow signs which were required due to special parking restrictions. It had gotten a bit dirty from that rainly day.

All systems were given a check and all appears to be healthy. Happy days. I'm hoping the 2019 season will be much more enjoyable - and indeed busier - than 2018 proved to be.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Ensign Running Day 2018

Having driven the last two Ensign running days, its now become a regular thing for me to offer my services to Ensign Bus for their annual December running day - they support my bus rally in the summer (shameless plug: and so I return the favour by supporting their running day.

Best thing about it is getting allocated a vehicle from Ensign's own heritage fleet. Last year it was an RMA; this year it was the last ever DMS built - THX646S.

I'd never driven a DMS before but they're pretty similar to an Atlantean, right?

I have to say it was an absolute pleasure of a vehicle to drive and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole day. Especially as the cab heater worked perfectly.

Here it is at Tilbury Ferry:

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

2018 Season ends

Well 2018 was my quietest year as a preserved bus (& coach!) owner.

A combination of dire finances and unexpected alternator repairs on the coach made it quite a challenge to be able to attend any events. In the end I did manange to get the Olympian to my own Essex Bus Rally in July but had to resort to selling it soon after as my financial situation showed no signs of tangible improvement.

Originally I was going to sell the coach and get out of the preserved owner game altogether but lack of interest and a ridiculously low price from the scrapman has led to me re-evalauting things and the decision to keep it.

So with the Olympian gone (for further preservation in the North West) and an improving financial position as a result, I set about getting the coach fully repaired and MOT'd - the target being to get it to the last event of the season; the Castle Point Transport Museum's Canvey Bus Rally.

An MOT was successfully gained at the begining of September and with a month's window before the Canvey event, I thought I'd have a go at refreshing the external red area's and re-doing the fleetnames as the large one's on the side's were both peeling off and the front one was in lower case whereas originally it was all uppercase. This turned out to be a bad move as the new red paint just would not go on right - after five coats I had to throw in the towel and go with it as the rally date was getting to close for comfort.

The vinyl logo's don't quite match in terms of colour; this was the result of two different methods being applied to make them. This is something I may revisit next year, along with the dodgy red paint job.

Anyway, she was all set for Canvey and performed faultlessly all day. We did five or six round trips on the special shuttle service and although a coach rather than a bus (I'd previously been warned that "no one likes coaches"), she carried healthy loads and attracted positive comments. From my point of view, I'd never driven a coach with passengers on board before and immediately there was an obvious difference compared to driving a bus - the passengers are much closer to the driver on a coach.

So Canvey rally was a success from my point of view, and I particularly enjoyed how the coach cruised along the A130 and A12 - a much more pleasent driving experience compared to a bus!

Then 15 minutes from the storage barn I got a low suspension warning on the dash along with an audible alarm. I duly pulled over in a safe place to check and sure enough the front suspension had dropped. Then the air system dropped to just under 4 bar causing the safety brake to apply - this could not be released with the air so low.

To cut a long story short, I called for assistance via the breakdown policy we preserved owners have on our insurance policies and after a five hour wait the coach was eventually moved to its storage barn.

The actual fault is suspected to be a cracked pipe somewhere near the compressor.

So it was a cracking end to a poor season. I'm pleased that the 2018 season is now over - hopefully the 2019 season will go a lot more smoothly!

In the mean time here's some images from Canvey rally, when all was well:

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

2018 Season Starts....

But without my vehicles taking an active part.

Detling did indeed come and go, as did the Brooklands Spring Gathering.

The siezed alternator on the coach turned out to be very broken as you can
see on the right - something very catastrophic must have occured to crack
the casing like that!

A replacement was eventually sourced from a very helpful company in
West Lancashire and the coach is now mobile again.

Once my pocket recovers I'll be able to look at getting the original work done to fix the faulty air dryer and push on to finally get the MOT done.

It is hoped to get the coach fully fit in time for the Essex Bus Rally
(Shameless plug: but time will tell.....

Monday, 19 March 2018

Pre season update

Its been hard to get the vehicles ready for the 2018 season due to the recent adverse weather we've been experiencing - snow in late March is bonkers!

I had attempted to get the coach to a bus mechanic last week as it has an air dryer fault which needs fixing, and whilst there a pre MOT inspection was planned.

However, when I started her up there was an awful squeal and lots of black smoke with an acrid burning smell attached - I geniuely thought it was on fire. Obviously it was stopped and electrically isolated straight away. On close inspection it was found that the alternator has siezed solid and the black smoke was being generated by the rubber belt that's driven by the engine trying to move the said siezed alternator.

Oh the joys of preservation!

Unfourtnately, aside from the obvious financial pain and time needed to put this issue right; the dead coach is currently blocking in 4 other motors - one of them is my Olympian.

The first event planned to attend is the South East Bus Festival at Detling on 7th April. As things currently stand, this is looking doubtful.