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: www.essexbusrally.com) 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: www.essexbusrally.com) 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.

Monday, 1 January 2018

New year news

It's been a over a year since I lasted posted on this blog, and my fleet has been through some changes in that time.....

In terms of events attended, 2017 was the quietest year since I got into the preservation scene 7 years ago. The big issue has been lack of money - increased monthly storage costs since being forced to move due to redevelopment  of my previous storage location at Yeldham being the main problem.

So the decision was made in October 2017 to reduce my fleet from four vehicles to two. I was also paying for a spare space - "just in case something else comes along" - but in reality this was being used to store all the equipment associated with my Basildon Bus Rally. With that equipment moved to a mates garage I was able to free up 3 storage spaces and slash my storage costs back to a level which is more manageble and thus allows me to attend more events.

The decision to reduce the fleet was the easy bit - actually choosing which two to sell was initially the hard part, though I used this rationale in the end:

I had two double deckers and two single deckers, so it made sense to keep one of each.

Once I'd decided to split them into the categories of doubles and singles, the choices became a little easier to make;  the deckers were relatively straightforward in that DAF P337ROO had a brake issue that needed sorting but which I couldn't afford to put right, and I'd started repainting Olympian H105GEV into its former Grey Green livery (cheaper to do as I use Dulux and a roller!). So the DAF was put up for sale.

The choice between the single deckers was easier still - 45mph automatic Dart (J317XVX) or 70mph six speed manual B10M (D302PEV) - the B10M was originally bought to give me the "longer distance rallies motor", so the Dart lost out and was also put up for sale.......the Dart was my first bus which I'd previously sold and instantly regretted. On the previous occasion I got it back after six months; although this time I needed to let them both go because it makes finacial sense, will I regret my actions again?.....

As it happens two buyers from within the same group came forward - the group is based in Northern England and so the chances of me seeing the two vehicles again in the flesh is quite remote (though Showbus 2018 may well provide the oportunity for a timely reunion). This is in contrast to when I sold the Dart previously as it was kept in the same storage place and was thus constantly 'in my face'. I'm happy with the outcome this time around though as not only are the vehicles far enough away to not be a constant reminder of my loss, but the new owners really appreciate the livery and history of the vehicles; they've found a really good home.

So that was that........or so I thought.....

I'd always fancied a coach but I also had this self imposed criteria where I would only buy vehicles I had an association with - this limited my interest in coaches and most I could muster an association with had been scrapped anyway. Having reduced my fleet and bearing in mind coaches usually command much higher prices than buses, I'd given up on the idea of adding a coach to my fleet.

Then, just I was down to two vehicles I saw an appeal on a Facebook preserved owners group to save a coach! Agghhh!!

The motor in question, W649FUM, is a Volvo B10M and a six speed manual......so in some respects similar to already owned D302PEV. The coach belonged to Essex operator Hedingham so is local, but has no other association to me. Mind you, I did take the last UK Olympian off First Eastern Counties despite having no association with it so the precedent was already there to ignore my previous association rule I guess........

Curiosity got the better of me and so I asked what the price was - the answer that came back got my attention! Thing is, its too good to scrap but at 17 years old and with DDA regulations for coaches on the horizon, that was its likely fate. So I threw caution to the wind and bought it.

Ah!, yes, I was now back to three vehicles........ONE HAD TO GO!

It made no sense to keep two vehicles that essentially do the same thing, so D302PEV had to go. This was really hard to do given its rarity and I was extremely wary about ensuring the right person took it on, but financially I couldn't afford for sentiment to get in the way. Happily the right person did come along and 302 is very much in the safest of hands.

So there we are, my fleet now consists of just two vehicles - Leyland Olympian H105GEV and Volvo B10M Plaxton Premiere 350 W649FUM.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Ensign running day

For a lot of preserved owners the rally season finishes in September or October. Not mine!

Having acquired Leyland Olympian H105GEV with a class 6 MOT (that's what you need to operate for hire & reward), I offered myself and the vehicle to Ensign Bus for their heritage running day on Saturday 3rd December. As the running day is operated commercially, collecting fares, only class 6 vehicles can be used.

Subject to a satisfactory safety inspection, check of my licence and agreement on how the vehicle would be correctly insured etc, Ensign Bus agreed to the Olympian's inclusion in their event.

We were allocated to the X81 Grays to Shenfield route - we were unable to work either of the other two routes (X21 Upminster to Ongar & X55 Upminster to Gravesend) because of the London Low Emission Zone, and also a low bridge on the X21 means its a single deck only route.

Ensign had the Olympian stored at their depot from the Tuesday prior to the running day to allow time for the safety inspection to be completed, so it was only a short dead trip on running day morning to take up service at Lakeside on our first trip to Shenfield. We then duly completed 3 round trips.

Because the running day uses only class 6 vehicles, it is a properly registered bus service that observes all bus stops on line of route and thus offers local journey's and one off connections for one day only. It was certainly different stopping when people put their hands out or ring the bell..........and collecting fares - the last time I did that was 16 years ago! We sold £17.10 worth of local fares, so it goes to show that we didn't just have enthusiasts on board.

Here we are at Lakeside before entering service on our first trip to Shenfield:


Friday, 14 October 2016

W437CWX moves on

Having come to the conclusion that I'm getting nowhere fast with Olympian W437CWX, and given that its storage location at Yeldham is about to be redeveloped into a housing estate, I've decided that the best thing for the vehicle is to find a new preservationist owner.

To get a base value for the vehicle I got a quote from a scrap yard and then advertised the vehicle within select preservation circles. Only one serious person stepped forward and the vehicle is now destined to make its way North to Yorkshire to hopefully be restored to its former glory. The buyer wishes to remain anonymous so that's as much as I can say at the moment.