Monday 16 December 2013

Its all about the people

The thing is with old buses, its all about the people and memories they hold which is what is so great. Whether it was a trip out with the grandparents to see the Christmas lights, or a summer excursion, going to school or perhaps working on them, memories abound.

So I was delighted when I received an email from a gentlemen whose father, Bernard Allen had driven a staff bus for London Brick Company in Bedfordshire in the 1950s. A recent visit to a transport museum where an RT was on display had made Bernard reminisce about his time driving LBC's fleet number C3. He even dug out a photo to show the family of him proudly standing by his bus, the registration only partly visible was KGK75?. Well some online research by the family showed that the only KGK75? that was owned by LBC was KGK758, the ex LT RT1499 and to their amazement the vehicle survived and was still in use with us as part of our vintage fleet. 'Would it possible to view it' was the question... The answer was 'we can do better than that' and that he must come for a ride in it and sit back in the cab!

So it was that on our Running Day we scheduled 1499 out early so it could pick up Bernard and his family at Lakeside, including his son who had flown in from Australia especially. On finishing its rounder the bus and its special guests returned to the depot where we assisted Bernard back into the cab of his bus for the first time in over 50 years and where we presented him with an RT bonnet plate proudly displaying the number RT1499 for him to put on the wall at home. 

So here is Bernard with the bus in the 1950s...


Whilst here is the recreated image 50 years on...

The story was picked up by the Bedfordshire press where Bernard commented : “It was a very emotional day, I thought that the bus had been scrapped years ago but she was running beautifully and she was in original condition, she even had the same engine.
“I never thought I would sit behind the wheel again. I am very grateful to Ensign and the Newman family for such a fantastic experience”.

And we here were delighted to welcome Bernard and his family to our depot to be reunited with the bus, like I said to start with, its all about the people and stories.

So whilst I am mentioning people the image below shows one of our unsung heroes of the works here Jason, who was integral to making sure the 10T10 and indeed many other vehicles made it to the road in time, sitting in one of our latest restoration projects that was being moved last week for work to commence. Whilst Jay is great with buses his choice of head dress is notoriously poor....

And lastly, its that time where I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and promise to be more active in putting up posts in 2014. So what better way to end the blog and start the festive season than with a festive image. For me one of the best shots I have seen taken of one of our buses for a long time. Taken by John King and forwarded to us it shows RTL453 on our running day in Gravesend, Kent, enjoy!

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Running Day Part 2- The Buses

Well we nearly made it six out of six new vehicles out, which was meant to comprise of three buses and three coaches, however two of our buses didn't quite make it, as we were forced to move resources over to the 10T10 as the completion of that was slipping and time fast running out. However, late in the day an opportunity came to put another double deck out so we got to five new ones out in the end with only RCL2226 and MD60 having to wait a little longer for their debut. So on any 'normal year' surely a newly restored RTW would be star of the show and it certainly looks well in this shot kindly sent in by Graham Smith of it at Upminster Station having just completed its maiden run.

Perhaps a quick reminder of the condition that it was in as it was first stripped down shortly after having been acquired by us is worth looking at...

It was recovered from France in 2004 by a rather well known and dedicated group but before that it had spent many years in Germany with Hywema who used it to demonstrate their vehicle lifts, and its here a family connection to Ensignbus comes into play as it was delivered to Germany all those years ago by our Chairman here Peter Newman ....And for those who perhaps missed its recovery, Leon's blog takes up the story here

The RTW is a great example of the hassle behind the scenes sometimes, as it had no log book, the dumb iron plate was missing and due to the LT body swap scheme the Leyland plate on it would relate to the card for RTW363 that went to Ceylon many moons ago, hence the original application to get its registration back was refused pending more evidence. This we got with help from the LT Museum and Nick Agnew one of the original group who recovered it along with a number of other individuals who sought out paperwork providing an irrefutable paper trail. Thanks to them all and indeed a very helpful DVLA in Swansea and KXW435 was restored back to her... We then had an issue the day before where no DVLA office wanted to tax it as a bus... but 8 hours later that was overcome and she entered service back in the UK for the first time since disposal in February 1966.

The next new decker was somewhat newer as seen in this image by Russell Young...

 One of the last of the Southend Transport Fleetlines that made up part of the Essex scene for so many years with a number of earlier batches as well as these W reg ones. They ran on many different services as well as normal stage carriage work they would venture onto rial replacement and even X1 commuter runs when vehicle shortages demanded. Following sale from Southend it returned to its old stamping ground in the hands of an independent operator seen below looking very sorry for her self at Leigh Station before passing to Stephensons of Southend who restored her in the earlier blue and cream livery, which as a single door vehicle 233 never ran in, so we put her back to the later version that was also worn by the Southend Routemasters. A gearbox problem and new MOT were needed before she ventured out on Saturday and being completely different and unexpected made a welcome addition.

Tomorrow I will add part 3, looking at a few people and tell a little Christmas tale of how one gentlemen's visit to the Running Day was an emotional visit down memory lane...

Monday 9 December 2013

Running Day Part 1- The coaches

So the 2013 Running Day has passed and all in all I think an excellent day was had by all. The event was larger than ever before and saw us put out the grand total of 22 buses of which five were new vehicles to our fleet. I am intending to do a couple of updates this week as there has been a lot going on but this post will concentrate on the 'newbies'.

So first up is T499 our 10T10 ELP223 that was repatriated from Australia by us. In restoration now for some three years a few months back it became apparent that whilst we could be set with it mechanically, and we could recertify in time we had no chance in getting it finished to the required standard, so what to do. Well the answer was to 'undercoat' it grey and run it to look as an American Red Cross Clubmobile. 55 of the 10T10s went for this purpose, each was named after a US state and they were driven by an LT driver with three American Red Cross girls as the serving crew. They would visit US air bases, army camps and hand out a 'taste of home' by the way of doughnuts, coffee, baseball cards, play US music from the speakers and generally give the GIs a cheer up. Every one of them seems to have worn a slightly different livery all based on the same theme, so we took various aspects that we found recorded on film to create a good likeness. We chose Oklahoma as we sold some of our very first export vehicles there many years ago and are still in touch with the family there, who were chuffed to see we used their state for our vehicle. The serial number is the one that the original Oklahoma would have worn, which was by the way T659 in the LT fleet. In this shot taken by Russell Young on its maiden journey, its drab but interesting colour makes for an interesting shot.

Below as a comparison is a shot of one of the original Clubmobiles that had serving windows, a doughnut machine and bunk beds for the crew in it. This one doesnt carry the white mudguards, whereas others do.

Next up and a huge project and impressive in just such a different way is our ex Southdown Tiger TS7 DUF 179. From 1937 she would have plied her trade from the South Coast to London but the war changed all that. Used for the evacuation of children from the coast our vehicle survived the fate that befell the rest of her sisters in being recruited by the RASC for army service... never to return. Having for many years worn the post war 'swoops' we have turned the clock back to the halcyon pre war coaching days and the pre war livery. In this photo taken by John Lidstone she looks content following completing her fifth rounder...

The last coach that ran excursions for the day was ex East Kent Royal Tiger FFN451. New in the early 1950s with Park Royal body there are more than a few similarities to the RFW class LT ran. The vehicle eats up the miles on the fast roads as this was what they were built for and used to be on the run to Paris, no such distance for it to worry about today leaving Lakeside in this image captured by John Lidstone.

 Tomorrow I will do Part 2, and take a look at the double deckers that took to the streets on Saturday.