21 September 2009

Two rallies in two days

Saturday saw the annual Bristol VR running day, with Johnson Bros. Tours and their sister company Redfern Travel. 2009 would break with tradition slightly, with the event being based at Redfern Travel's Mansfield Woodhouse depot.

A rather impressive line-up of Bristol VRs at the Mansfield Woodhouse depot belonging to Redfern Travel, sister company to Johnson Bros. Tours.

There were three regular shuttle services operating throughout the day: one linking the site with Mansfield town centre, one with Johnson's base at Hodthorpe and the other offering tours of Rufford Park and Newstead Abbey.

Not every vehicle at the Redfern depot is in their livery - take this preserved Mercedes 811D, J216 AET, looking resplendent in its original Chesterfield Transport livery.

The main event was the 1030 tour, utilising two VRs, that would take-in a tour of north-east Derbyshire, skirting South Yorkshire for a time, visiting three operators' sites and back in time for a spot of lunch.

Vehicles operated in pairs, so the 0950 to Mansfield town centre and back consisted of HTU 155N and OSF 305G - the former being pictured here.

RWT 544R, new to West Yorkshire in 9/76 and based at York, was accompanied by KKY 835P, which was new to Yorkshire Traction in 1/76, leaving a little late due to a late incoming service from Worksop, which wasn't shown in the itinerary.

Is this what it's come to - hi-vis jackets, even for bus photographers. The chap second from left stands out more as he's the only one not wearing a vest!

We wound our way in a circuitous fashion to Killamarsh, the base for Coopers Coaches, taking in a couple of turning circles for photos. However, as we arrived at the Norwood Industrial Estate in said locality, we were asked not to leave our respective vehicles as there's been an incident involving the Police at the site last night and an "area" had been cordoned off and it was thought best not to permit 60 people with cameras to meander around. In actuality, one coach had been effectively wrapped in Police tape for unknown reasons. We about-turned and left, bound for Halfway.

With restricted access, the only decent shot at Coopers Tours was of their sister fleet of trucks.

For it is here that TM Travel moved recently, having outgrown their original depot on Fan Road in Staveley. The site is the former First bus depot at Halfway, a five minute walk from the Supertram terminus.

I spotted this immediately, hence the photo - can you guess from the advert where this bus last operated? (Clue: not on mainland Britain.)

TM Travel's fleet is so big, they were the largest independent bus and coach operator in Derbyshire until they crossed the border into South Yorks last year. The company is currently awaiting a Public Inquiry with the Traffic Commissioner after one of its vehicles was involved in a fatal collision earlier in the year and the fall-out this then caused. Consequently, everything at this depot is done by-the-book. Specifically, no one is permitted onto the site without a hi-vis jacket.

One of the reasons for TM Travel's expansion was the purchase of Thompson Travel a couple of years ago. Vehicles operating the former Thompson Travel routes initially wore the same overall red livery that the former operator used. This Solo still wears said livery.

Much of the fleet was out and about, so there weren't that many vehicles of note. It was the first time I'd visited the depot and was surprised at how small it was. I assumed it would be much larger than it was. If the fleet continues to expand at the size it has done, it wont be long before they outgrow this one, too.

We re-boarded our VRs and headed to McEwen's Coaches depot in Mansfield where we were now so late, we were asked to undertake a whistle-stop tour, taking photos and back on the buses within five minutes. I've never been to McEwen's Coaches depot before either.

Of note at McEwens was this Beford VAS5/Plaxton, new to Glynglen in 5/85.

Immediately recognisable with this ex Greater Manchester Leyland Atlantean/Northern Counties, A751 NNA.

Back at Redfern Travel HQ, the company's three immaculately preserved vintage vehicles had been positioned for photos: the Bedford OB, the VAL and the Volvo B58.

The company has spent many thousands of pounds and hundreds of man hours restoring these vehicles to their former glory. They look absolutely stunning.
L-r Bedford OB, Bedford VAL, Volvo B58.

The next trip we undertook was the 1415 to Johnson's depot at Hodthorpe. In the event of our late-arrival, this departed at 1430 and formed two VRs, this time sisters ODL 661/4R, both new to Southern Vectis in 4/77.

The Bristol VR count at Johnson's site was, I think, four - two of those we'd travelled in. Whether they'd been moved to Redfern Travel for the running day or whether they now reside there operationally wasn't made clear, but the Hodthorpe site is now the mainstay of the worse-for-wear ECW-bodied Leyland Olympian. Numerous examples were from the LEYTR area, including ex EYMS A530-2 OKH, B533-5 WAT and H548/50 VAT. Ex RoadCar B503 FFW was operational in its commemorative 75 years of Lincolnshire RoadCar livery!

If the LEYTR had a fleet of ageing vehicles, it could look something like this - RoadCar meets East Yorkshire Motor Services.... in Hodthorpe.

We also identified a near-cannibalised former RoadCar Leyland Olympian/ECW, OWG 608X, in the adjacent field - identifiable only by its dental records!

Upon our return we had to disappear. It was nevertheless a fascinating day out. Very little advertising online takes place for this event. Even less publicised is the £10 fee that is payable as you're allocated a Redfern Travel hi-vis jacket.


Yesterday saw the annual Meadowhall Rally take place. It's the last big event in the area before the 'biggy', Showbus - next week. I'd travelled courtesy of First Transpennine Express (TPE) where I initially wondered if they'd sorted the climate control settings out on the Class 185 'Desiros' as it wasn't too chilly onboard; that was until we departed Doncaster, when the driver must have turned the system on! My friend at TPE claims it's set at 21C and there's nothing anyone can do to alter the temperature, though it is being looked into.

Having warmed up outside, I couldn't help but take a photo from within the confines of Meadowhall Interchange, having had many a curt discussion with their security people over the years. It's a little tradition I have whenever I visit one of the SYITA-controlled sites - take as many blatant photos as possible before I'm accosted.

Said shot - a First South Yorkshire Volvo B9TL/Wrightbus Eclipse Gemini on the flagship Service X78, operating between Doncaster-Rotherham-Meadowhall-Sheffield.

Happily, I wasn't antagonised security guards, so I headed to the site of the former heliport where the rally is held. It was a good turnout and the weather was exceptional. The heat of the sun was quite unexpected and as I type this I can see a bit of sun burn! So many vehicles had turned up this year that a fourth tier had to be accommodated. A few more ties for the ever-growing collection were acquired and with one of Europe's largest shopping centres next door, those extortionately-priced burger vans stay well away (they'll be at Showbus next week though)!!

The Huddersfield Bus Company is owned by Centrebus Holdings, which in turn Arriva has a 40% stake in. Centrebus Holdings took over the former Yorkshire Traction operation in the town and K-Line business last year and is now the second largest operator in Huddersfield.

The only rear-engined Leyland Tiger in existence. It's owned by TM Travel, though spent much of its life in the LEYTR area with Applebys of Conisholme and then Amvale, Grimsby.

Arty shot 1: One year and 10 month-old Arriva CrossCountry meets 119 year-old Delaine Buses of Bourne.

Yet another LEYTR presence was in the form of GAT 180D, a Leyland Leopard/Roe new to Hull Corporation in 6/66.

Arty shot 2: Delaine Buses of Bourne are 120 years old in 2010; we hear they're planning something special...

It's been far too long since I last visited the Meadowhall Rally and I intend to make the pilgrimage again next year. It'll be interesting to see if Johnson Bros. Tours/Redfern Travel feel they've come up with a winning combination of hosting their running day at Mansfield Woodhouse, should it return unaltered in 2010. (GL)