Sunday, 6 December 2015

Something different

I only normally do bus rallies or running days, but a combination of my family & friends often saying about how it'd be good to go out for a day trip on one of my buses along with the perfect opportunity combined to make a good day out today.

The event was the Dickinsian Christmas Festival in Rochester, Kent, which combines the themes of Charles Dickens (Rochester was his home town) with Christmas. Locals dress up and play the parts of people from Charles Dickens time - you have everything from Policeman to drunkards to differeng generations of the same family - they wander up and down the High Street and interact with visitors; it really does add to the whole atmostphere of the day.

There's also snow machines all along the High Street and a fun fair within the grounds of the castle. A live brass band between the Castle and the High Street play all day and into the early evening and later on there's carol singers in the High Street, in period dress naturally!

We've been going for a couple of years now and usually end up taking 5 or 6 cars. Swapping the cars for one bus was a bit of a no brainer really so I booked in with Medway council and duly got myself free parking for the bus and a departure slot as part of the event arrangements which meant my friends could all be delivered straight to the event and picked up directly from it after - the only person having to suffer the park & ride service was myself.

Here is 337 having unloaded at the drop off point right next to the event:

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


My fleet has a new member!

W437CWX, the last Olympian built for the UK was today acquired from First Eastern Counties.

In fact not only is she the last UK Olympian (only two more were built and both went to Southern Ireland) but she carries the last ever Alexander Royale body and is last full sized step entrance bus to enter service in the UK. Quite a celebrity then!!

It does have a number of issues - the most obvious visually is the nearside top deck window missing....less visual is the chassis corrosion. She's also missing a number of parts taken to keep others on the road - first item to replace will be the fuel pump so that I can get her moving again under her own steam.

Here we are ready to leave Great Yarmouth garage:

With that top deck window missing, some extra bits & bobs found their way on board!

Sunday, 11 October 2015

End of season round up seems I've been neglecting the blog element of my website!

Today it was the traditional end of season Canvey bus rally. I'll come to that in a moment....

Colne Valley Railway bus rally

Colne Valley Railway's bus rally was on the Sunday of the August bank holiday weekend and can be summed up as follows:

15 buses attended of which 11 came from Yeldham Transport Collection
2 sales stalls
2 fire engines

Those stats pretty much sum it up. It wasn't advertised so nobody came. The only visitors were those that were visiting the railway as they would have done anyway - none of them knew there was a bus rally on!

Next year? Nah!

Showbus, Woburn Abbey
This event was a highly anticipated return to Showbus's former home - one they left due to issues with soft ground and buses often getting stuck in mud.

We left Yeldham at 8am and having stopped off on the way so that some in the convoy could diesel up, we arrived in Woburn village at about 10.20am

We got parked on site at 2pm. That is not a typo!

Buses did indeed once again get stuck in mud on soft ground and in the process blocked the only entrance onto site. Not once but twice after marshalls directed a second vehicle into the same area where a previous vehicle had gotten stuck. The organiser says he wasn't aware of the issues onsite as he was at Parking reception.......did he not realise there was an issue when no buses moved passed him for over an hour?! Pull the other one pal!

The Police came close to shutting the event down due to the gridlock caused in Woburn village. The organiser blamed this on Milton Keynes growing over 20 years and that there was a wedding in the village; thats total coblers - the chaos outside the Abbey estate was caused entirely by Showbus's own entry system!

Passengers on my bus paid good money to get in. I spent time getting my vehicle ready and putting a fair amount of diesel in to get to & from the event. Three weeks on there has been no real sincere apology and it was all somebody else's fault. Frankly I feel the organiser has buried their head in the sand and stuck two fingers up to everyone judging by the Facebook/twitter posts and website updates. Its too late now, I will not attend Showbus next year no matter where it is......and I may never go again at all.

                                            Here's 337 after eventually getting parked at 2pm:

Canvey bus rally

Finally a decent event - shame its the last of the season.

DAF P337ROO was the weapon of choice (Dart J317XVX is a seat store for "project X" and Volvo D302PEV is out of MOT). As is usual for me we went straight into service upon arrival at the Labworth display site.

That first trip had pretty much a full 70 seat load. We did two rounders initially; well the DAF did - other drivers at Yeldham were curious as to how she drives so they drove the other 3 trips. I didn't mind as I know they're good drivers and it is sometimes nice to have a ride on your own vehicle (and check out what unsuspecting passengers are saying about ya motor). It was pleasing to hear positive comments being made - in fact many people snubbed the chance to ride on Ensign's very nice ex Southend Transport Astromega so that they could instead sample 337! #proudmoment

As there were sufficient buses now in service we duly parked up for a rest, food and a visit to the museum & sales stalls - I had an ulterior motive on the last point as I'm starting a new rally next year and so wanted to get a few stall holders primed with entry forms (same was done at Showbus).

Whilst waiting to come back from the museum it became apparent that the queue was far outstripping the capacity of the buses in service. So I managed to sneak a space on a bus ahead of the queue and got myself back to 337 sharpish.....

Having agreed with the bus service controllers that I'd run empty to the museum to help queue bust, we took a cheeky shortcut along roads not really recomended for double deckers (but where I knew I'd get away with it). The plan worked as we got to the museum right when there was a gap between buses...........and we left with a standing load! Upon arrival back at the Labworth display site we were again asked to run empty to the museum which we did, via the cheeky shortcut, and this time we made such damage to the queue that things returned to normal. So upon arrival back at the Labworth display site we parked up.

337 performed exceptionally well all day and received many well deserved compliments from fellow drivers and passengers alike. Here she is on a trip I didn't drive on:

Bring on Canvey 2016!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Alton Rally

I had originally booked Volvo D302PEV in for this one as its in Hampshire, 125 miles away from my storage place at Great Yeldham in Essex. Afterall, the whole point of 302 is to cater for these longer distance runs.

Only problem is since I booked it in, the season has panned out with DAF P337ROO being used as my main bus for the season and Dart J317XVX standing by in reserve whilst 302 stays off the road out of MOT. There's no way I'm taking the Dart on a 250 mile round trip, but can DAF 337 manage it?

I was very confident given that we'd already done a 200 mile round trip to Brooklands without incident, and also attended Clacton without any issues, but everyone who knows me and the grief I've had with 335 and on Detling day with 337 were raising their eyebrows and looking for the men in white coats!

Well I'm very pleased to say we did indeed manage the whole 250 miles completely trouble free. Given all the people lining up ready to slate us when the inveitable breakdown occured, I have to say I felt like a proud parent when we returned incident free. It's been a long while but I actually enjoy driving my buses now which is a nice feeling - much better than worrying the whole time about what may go wrong next.

Anyway, it was my first time at Alton (the rally was highly recomeded) and I thought the rally itself was good & well worth travelling the distance. My only complaint is that most of the service runs were the best part of an hour long; thats a long time off site. I guess if riding buses rather than socialising on the rally field or perusing the sales stands if your thing, thats probably ok, but if like to socialise, peruse the buses and spend time amongst the sales hour offsite riding a bus is likely to be too long for some. That said, every bus I saw leaving site was full so what do I know?!

Here's 337 on display on the rally field:

Sunday, 21 June 2015

North Weald Rally

Well in terms of vistors and buses, it was a slight improvement on last year though this event is still struggling to shake its poor reputation.

For my part, I took something a little different this time around.

Although both Dart 317 and DAF 337 are available (302 has no MOT), I fancied a change; in any case we have two "low floor" Darts at Yeldham (my storage location) that were donated by First Essex for preservation and I felt it was time to get one of them to an event in Essex.

So I offered to take one and was given R721DJN, a Plaxton Pointer 2 bodied motor that's spent its entire 17 year service life at Hadleigh (Essex) depot.

Here we are parked up at North Weald:

Monday, 1 June 2015

Clacton Rally

It was the Clacton bus rally yesterday and visiting buses/people were not put off despite the weather being cloudy all day with rain in the afternoon. Some 60 buses were in attendance and the crowds were consistently good all day. It was very pleasing to see the trend of poor support at events turned around........I sincerely hope we see a repeat at my next planned event, North Weald on 21st June as that event really has suffered in recent years.

It was particularly surprising how busy the two open toppers were given the poor weather!

For my part I took DAF P337ROO - its likely to be my main vehicle this season with Dart J317XVX acting as back up (Volvo not currently MOT'd and having a rest after much use last year).

Somehow or other myself & the DAF ended up as the lead vehicle for the convoy run from Great Yeldham to Clacton. The journey went well with no issues at all - I'm very happy with 337's reliability now so expected a trouble free day anyway.

I was booked to operate two runs on the town centre service and the fisrt was almost a full 70 seat load!! Good job I took a decker!! The second run was much later in the day and so was expectedly quieter. I didn't drive for this run; much like last year at Clacton, a couple of other owners had a go as they were curious as to how the DAF drove (and its always a pleasant change to be a passenger on your own motor from time to time). Both drivers were very complimentary about 337........quite right too as she is a lovely drive!!

Here's a couple of images of the service runs - the first image is onsite at the rally and the second is in Clacton town centre.....

For the return journey back home, I was again elected to take the lead for our convoy - a chance presented itself in one of the villages at a set of traffic lights for some roadworks.........there's actually 7 buses in this image!!

Monday, 20 April 2015

London Bus Museum's Spring Gathering

After the tow back following the failed attempt to reach the South East Bus Festival at Detling, DAF P337ROO was again subject to more mechanical work. In addition to fixing the leaking power steering pipe, an inspection was carried out prior to MOT - it was found that the exhaust back box needed replacing as did the pipes off the compressor, so these were replaced too. A few other odd jobs were also done, including engine oil & filter change.

The MOT was a straightforward affair with no advisories.

So the big question was, would it make the trip to Brooklands? From where I keep my buses its a 200 mile round trip......

Well I'm pleased to say she made it with no issues at all. In fact she ran so well I even diverted off on the way back to visit friends and pop into Lakeside bus station for a cheeky photo!

Here she is at Brooklands:

And here we are in Lakeside bus station. Unfortunately my camera couldn't pick up the destination blind in the bright sunlight, but as my friends live on the 33 route, and I'd accidentally picked that stand to pull onto, I cheekily put up the Ensign route on 337:

Saturday, 28 March 2015

New year same issues!

So a new season has begun and today it was my first rally of 2015, the South East Bus Festival at Detling in Kent.

Given that its always been my intention to get DAF P337ROO to this event - I can run it in service and its carrying an advert for Yeldham Transport Collection's open day on 17th May (shameless plug!) - it took priority over the winter break. In fact this is attempt number two at getting this motor to Detling as despite being booked in last year, I wasn't able to get it taxed in time.

The previous overheating issue has now been resolved thanks to a brand new radiator, thermostat and fan drive belt.......and the electronic destination equipment has been upgraded from a Bright Tech system to Hanover along with additional side and rear displays. The former work was required as the original radiator was found to be two thirds blocked and the latter now means I have full control over the displays and can update them whenever I like via my laptop.

So, we were all set for a successful start to the new rally season........

Then, whilst on my way to Detling, an all too familiar issue appeared to raise its ugly head as I negotiated a I pulled into the first available bus stop and had a look underneath towards the back...........sure enough, Red fluid was running out onto the road. Just like sister 335 at North Weald two seasons back, we had a failed power steering pipe.

I knew from the previous experience that this was a straight tow back to base job as driving it with no fluid can damage the power steering pump beyond repair.

I'm almost fully trained now in the art of putting a bus on the back of a suspended tow!!