Thursday, 29 December 2016

And the end of another year!

 And so as the year comes to an end we have our final hurrah with our Running Day and as always we do our best to time completion of major projects to allow them to debut at the event. After some two years of restoration pre war Bedford WTB EYE599 hit the road. We used it for local tours around Lakeside to bed it in as it had not run for over 50 years in service and thus the long routes we cover are not ideally suited for a gentle reintroduction into service. By PM she was struggling a bit with a distributor issue and was thus limped home to be on the safe side but is seen here returning to Lakeside bus station in a photo taken by John Lidstone.
 The vehicle has an interesting local history, hence our desire to save it. It was new to Underwoods of Orsett, who as local landowners used it for trips out for staff amongst other things. During the summer it would often be hired out to Harris of Grays. Initially delivered in a green and cream livery, it went to the RAF in 1939 for the duration of the war. It was said it served at Hornchurch which was a Battle of Britain fighter station and then in Norfolk at a bomber base as the tide of war turned. Many bomber bases had small coaches that were used to pick and drop off servicemen at the station when going on leaver or coming back as well as dropping crews off at the bombers before missions. Sadly we have no pictures of its military service but perhaps one day one will turn up.
 The interior finish is spectacular. The moquette pattern was specially commissioned based on a small section of the original we had. The roof lining the same and all the art deco wood pattern on the sliding roof is the original stuff restored. As to the exterior livery, well I guess thats where we as an operator perhaps differ from enthusiasts as whilst we also would have liked to use the Underwoods livery, the grey, dull green and dark blue would have meant bookings would have been very thin on the ground, so we went for a more attractive red and cream. We did however use an Ensign logo based on the design used by Underwoods all those years ago.
 Another major project, that whilst not complete we readied for the running day was J6332 or 6332J as we have managed to have it licensed as on the UK regsiter. The engine is away still being reconditioned and thus out of our control as to when exactly its ready, so she was towed to Lakeside for static viewing and will have to wait until 2017 before becoming an active member of the fleet. 
 And as the Jersey TD moved from Lakeside we brought down a left hand drive vehicle that could then load on the 'wrong side' where the Jersey had been. Yes our MCI MC9 had been repainted in the 'Pepsi Cola' Greyhound livery of the 1980s. Being only on a Class 5 it offered members of the public some free tours around the area as seen here in Grays in an image taken by Russell Young. It wears the UK plate YYR832, the 'Yankee-Yankee-Romeo' prefix being the best we could do for its heritage and an Oklahoma and California plate also showing its UK identity complete the image.
And lastly, whilst we await the TDs engine its time to start a project that initially we condemned as being to bad but had a rethink and decided to bite the bullet and do. BDJ807 was a London type RT built for St Helens Transport before later being sold to independent operator Harpers Buses of Heath Hayes Staffordshire. Its in a pretty poor state as can be seen from this first image with sides being removed to view the extent of the decay. This is another quandary for final finish much like the Underwoods Bedford. Clearly we want to keep the Harpers later fetaures such as the doors and lighting as to remove them would be to remove a big part of the vehicles history, but the exterior livery of Harpers, the rather washed out green, would mean the vehicle would likely see little use, so perhaps the St Helens livery keeping the Harpers features means a nicer looking vehicle that is only ever a lick of paint away from being depicted as eiher operator is the compromise to make. Who knows but as we are some-way-away from having to worry about that we have plenty of time to consider the options...

So thats it for 2016 and chance for me to wish everyone out there a happy new year from all at Ensignbus.



  1. Thank you for keeping us all informed and good luck for 2017. Ray Collar.

  2. Thank you for your updates over the years keep up the good work and good luck for 2017

  3. I really do hope you decide to keep BDJ 807 in Harper Brothers Livery of Green and Cream. It may well be a washed out Green to you but to many people in the Midlands it was a very welcome site. Taking them to work and back, shopping and visiting. The theatre, day trips, football matches and express services. When they were bought from St Helens BDJ 807 was just one of seven RTA's. It was Harper's that made that bus unique not St Helens. It went into their body shop in Cannock and was transformed. They replaced the upper saloon front windows to non opening, they fitted florescent lighting, they used the rear and side blinds for advertising with back lighting, they changed the two lower saloon front windows over to put the opening window behind the driver so it could be used for driver training, the driver operated platform doors. I think all that Harper's did to make this bus unique deserves their livery recognition, it would make many Midland bus enthusiasts very happy to see it restored in Harper Green. I have driven and conducted many miles in that bus and Don Fowler R.I.P. its previous owner would turn in his grave if he thought his bus was being put back in St Helens Livery, so please give it some thought, Harper's in their day was one of the largest independent operators in the Midlands. I have photos of BDJ 809 if you would like copies.
    Kind regards
    Phil Burton e mail

  4. Hi Phil

    I think Don would be pleased the bus has been restored, it is/was in very very poor condition and we thought long and hard about it and what to do. One of his daughters has visited and left a message for Don under the skin of the bus, so we truly hope whatever the colour he would be pleased its extant and not disapointed in the colour.

    I agree that Harpers made the bus unique in many ways and that's one of the reasons we wont be undoing their mods, such as the platform doors. I guess I am blase to seeing dozens of buses change colour every week through the dealership and for me its survival and operation ranks as number 1 priority and colours can be changed easily 'as and when'.

    Our real problem is that it would never get used in the green. No one would book it where we are based for wedding/PH/Film work etc. whereas in the St Helens livery it will be more popular to a wider market and get to stretch her legs once in a while!

    I certainly though wouldn't rule it out in the future us running it on the Harpers livery at some point as we never averse to the odd surprise.