Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The 'sawley xprss'

It is barely three months since I wrote about this new venture for ‘trentbarton’ (tb) which ran into Nottingham with fleet liveried Optare Solo’s.


At the time, I commented that I was disappointed that there was no route branding on the vehicles. 


I had an Email from Alex Hornby ‘tb’s Commercial Director which stated "that the route needed to prove its value before committing to the investment of branding”. 


This has proved to be a sound piece of thinking because I note from Derbyshire County Council’s ‘Changes to bus services’ that the service will be withdrawn as from the 26th. of January 2014.


It is sad to see it go but I see in the same notice that ‘tb’s ‘Zoom’ service is to be extended from the same date to New and Old Sawley so hopefully all is not lost.


The ‘Zoom’ service Optare Solo's are route branded and a couple of images are shown here for completeness sake.










Friday, 27 December 2013

'Scene' at Crewe (even more briefly than Stafford)

I literally had 10 minutes between trains at Crewe so it was up the steps and point the camera at anything that came my way. It was also getting late in the day and the lighting was not at its best so it was a case of get what you can or not at all.



A DAF SB120CS with Wright Cadet bodywork working for ‘D&G’ Bus came from  ‘Johnsons of Henley in Arden’.




P185 TGD

A Volvo Olympian with Alexander RH bodywork has been around the ‘First’ group block a few times. Currently with

‘First Potteries’. it was new to ‘Strathclyde’ coming to ‘First’ when that operator became part of the group. It then had spells with ‘First Essex’, ‘First Wyvern’ and ‘First Midland Red’.




A Dennis Dart MPD with Plaxton Pointer 2 bodywork belonging to‘Arriva Northwest & Wales’ 




A Volvo B7RLE with Wright Eclipse Urban bodywork, A ‘First Potteries’ bus that was new to ‘First Manchester’.Although route branded for the service 25 it is operating on the 20 to Hanley.



An Optare Solo M850SL carrying ‘Cheshire Connect’ livery. One of 6 buses carrying this livery that are part of the fleet of ‘D&G Bus’, Crewe.




One of 7 3 car class 323 units allocated to Northern Rail shortly to return to Manchester Piccadilly on the hourly service.

Built by Hunslet TPL in 1992/3. They were last Hunslet produced vehicles prior to that company’s collapse.  




Monday, 23 December 2013

Thursford at Christmas

‘Scene before Christmas‘                                                                                                                              


I recently had the pleasure of visiting Thursford in Norfolk for their annual ‘Christmas Spectacular' musical entertainment.


Thursford is probably equally  well known as the home of the Thursford Collection which is a collection of steam vehicles and farming machinery set up by local man Mr. George Cushing in the 1970’s.


At this time of year, the collections vehicles are displayed in Christmassy surroundings and it is with the spirit of Christmas in mind that I present these wonderful ‘old timers’ for your entertainment.


Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy new Year.

Dennis Basford





















Friday, 20 December 2013

'Scene' in Kings Lynn

A recent trip to Norfolk allowed me an hour or so in and around the bus station in Kings Lynn.


It was one of those cold wet dreary days when the wind comes straight from Siberia. Combine that with overnight rain and a high tide that saw parts of the town awash with mud and and it wasn’t difficult to see that whilst operators were doing their best to keep buses clean that mother nature was having a big say in the matter.


Kings Lynn bus station is roughly circular with stands around the outside with over laying buses being parked up in the middle.


‘Norfolk Green’ (NG) A much admired local operator in the county started up in 1996. Starting out with four buses and expanding to todays total of 70, becoming the dominant operator in Kings Lynn.


As I write (18th. December 2013) it has been announced that ‘NG’ has been sold to the ‘Stagecoach’ group.



A Dennis Trident fitted with East Lanc Myllenium Lolyne bodywork. Its current operator is ‘Norfolk Green’ (NG). One of two similar buses in the fleet.


At one time it worked for ‘Stagecoach Cumbria’ in a blue and green livery dedicated to the X35 Kendal to Barrow-in-Furness service.


It is a interesting then that having once been sold by ‘Stagecoach’ it is now about to return to the fold.



NG buses mostly carry names. In this case ‘Jessie and George Ruhms’. 


A survey of the range of names on NG’s website shows an eclectic mix of names from history ranging from Boudicca a brave lady who fought the Romans to Sir Peter Scott the preservationist.


The one that tickled my fancy was ‘Sox the dog’ who seemingly helps out in the RSPCA shop in Hunstanton. Good for him (or her).


This is a pleasing feature which adds a personal touch that passengers can identify with.




An Optare Solo that was originally with Mistral the bus dealership and lessors that has only recently been repainted into the new ‘NG’ livery.




Another Solo, this time in the old livery but advertising local radio station KLFM 96.7.




Another NG Optare Solo although this time branded for the ‘Coasthopper’ service. This is a much valued service the route of which is shown in the map.




NG have built up a fleet of a dozen or so Optare Tempo’s. This one is see laying over between duties




An Optare Spectra. Was originally new to ‘Reading Buses’ as its 729.

The Spectra was based on the designs of the MCW Metrobus which Optare purchased. Entering production in 1991, built on the DAF DB250LF chassis, the Spectra had a relatively short production run ending in 2005.


I had a ride on one of ‘Wilts & Dorset’s vehicles in Bournemouth and I thought them quite impressive vehicles. I could never really understand why it wasn’t more successful.




One more of NG’s Optare Tempo’s. This one branded for the X29 which links Fakenham and Norwich so what it is doing in Kings Lynn I don’t know. Perhaps it was a case of needs must.




It is not often that I see a bus and I am stumped at identifying it. I had never seen one of these before.

Research shows it to be an ‘Iris Agoraline’. Produced by Renault from 1996 until 2002 as the Agora. From that time it became a joint venture with  FIAT subsidiary IVECO. The Agoraline differs from the Agora in as much as the engine is mounted longitudinally as opposed to the layout of the Agora where it is mounted transversely.

NG have built up a fleet of nine buses all in this livery.




Another Optare Solo showing the type of conditions prevailing on the day. Previously with one of my local operators in the East Midlands, ‘TM Travel’.




Another product from the Optare range is this Versa. NG are only short of an Optare Excel to be able to show a full hand of Optare products.




An Alexander Dennis Ltd (ADL) E40D with ADL Enviro 400 bodywork on First Kings Lynn service X1.

This lengthy route (four and a half hours) links Peterborough to Lowestoft.



Finally a personal comment on the take over, I think ‘Stagecoach’ have done a good bit of business in purchasing NG and with the strength of the group behind them I am sure that NG employees will feel more secure.


I would like to wish both ‘Stagecoach’ and ‘NG’ every success in their shared future.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

'Scene' at the East Midlands Aeropark (EMAp)

After a long and difficult gestation period the EMAp finally settled into a site adjacent to the perimeter of the airport which is easily accessed from Castle Donnington village. It opened on this site in 2001.


With a diverse collection of aircraft on display it has recently added the cockpit and front fuselage of former RAF VC-10 XV 108 to its collection. This is from an aircraft recently scrapped at Bruntingthorpe.


Armstrong Whitworth AW 650 Argosy 101 c/n 6660. Built for ‘Universal Airlines’ as N895U, it first flew on 16th. December 1960. Returned to the UK in the early 1980’s, it worked for ‘Air Bridge Carriers’ (ABC) who were based at the nearby airport. Now displayed in ‘Elan’ livery it was donated to the EMA in 1987 by ABC.



Part of the fuselage has been converted into a cinema.


Whilst stored in the rear fuselage, is part of the fuselage of Beagle- Auster (B-A) Terrier 2 registered G-ASDL.

Originally built in the 1950’s as an Auster T7 for The Army Air Corps with the military serial of WE 558. It was sold to B-A in 1961.



Originally the Blackburn NA 39, then named the Blackburn Buccaneer which then became the Hawker Siddeley (HS) Buccaneer when HS took over Blackburns in 1960.


XV 350

A former Royal Navy S2B model delivered in 1967. It served with the MoD (Procurement Executive) and the A&AEE from 1969. 


It spent some time in the USA working with the US Navy before being retired in 1993. It is the only aircraft of its kind in preservation carrying this livery.



ZF 588

English Electric Lightning F53. Built for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) as its 53-693 being delivered in May 1969. 


It served the RSAF until 1985 when it was one of 22 bought back by British Aerospace as part of the deal with the RSAF to buy Tornado’s.


At one time it was thought that the RAF would form an additional squadron using the ex RSAF machines but it came to nothing.


Displayed in the colours of an RAF F6 in 74 Squadron markings.



XL 569

Hawker Hunter T7. It first flew in March 1958 serving with several RAF Squadrons and Training Units. Its final ‘posting’ was to RAF Abingdon from where it was purchased by the ‘Aeropark Volunteers Asssociation‘ (AVA).  



XT 604

Westland Wessex HC2 for the RAF. First few in 1966 being a Napier Gazelle powered development of Sikorsky’s S-58.

Operated in the UK by 103 and 208 squadrons and in the Middle East by 78(Bahrain) squadron. Stored in 1995 at RNAY Fleetlands from where it was acquired in 2002.



XG 588  

Westland Whirlwind 3. Built as a piston engined machine for the Royal Navy where it served in the Pacific. Retired and sold to Bristow Helicopters, converted to Rolls Royce Gnome turbine power and registered as G-BAMH. It was later Bermudan registered as VH-BEP. It came to the Aeropark in 1986 and is painted to represent an RAF Air Sea Rescue machine.





Aerospatiale SA 341B Gazelle AH1. One of 212 built for the British Army and Royal Marines. Delivered in 1976, It crashed and rolled over on a flight from Middle Wallop in 1987, was written off and became an instructional airframe.


It now carries the marking TAD 001.


XD 382

De Havilland Vampire T11 built in 1953. This aircraft was rebuilt using the wings and tail from XD 382 and other parts from XD 447 which arrived at the Aeropark in 2009.



XW 664

BAe Nimrod R1 Developed from the De Havilland Comet airliner and the Nimrod MR2 the Nimrod R1 was a specialist reconnaissance and electronic intelligence gathering variant.


Delivered in 1972 to 51 squadron at RAF Wyton, the squadron relocated to 

RAF Waddington in 1995 from where the aircraft flew until retirement in 2011. It arrived at the Aeropark in July of that year.


The massive tail mounted radar frames Meteor TT20 target tug WM224.




The Britten Sheriff. (John Britten was half of Britten Norman Ltd (BNL) who found major success with the Islander).

He left BNL in 1976 and started work on the Sheriff. Unfortunately John died in in 1977, work came to a halt and the aircraft was never completed. It came to the Aeropark in 1986.


An unusual feature was that the engines originally were to be mounted behind the wing in pusher mode.



G-ANUW (I think)

De Havilland DH. 106 Dove which has a long, long way to go !



WM 224

Gloster Meteor TT20. It was built as a NF11 (Night Fighter) and joined the RAF in 1952 flying first with 228OCU and later 29 Squadron. It was converted to a Target Tug in 1961. This involves removing all its weaponry and fitting a winch above the starboard wing. At one time it was in a museum at North Weald before coming to the Aeropark in 2003.



WH 740

English Electric Canberra T17 was originally built as a B2. Delivered to the RAF in 1952 it was one of 15 similar aircraft loaned to the Royal New Zealand Air Force in 1958 and saw action in Malaya during the ‘Confrontation’. It returned to the RAF in 1962 and was converted to T17 configuration. Operated by 360 Squadron before becoming an instructional airframe at RAF Cosford from where it joined the Aeropark.



 XM 575 (G-BLMC)

Avro Vulcan B.2. Delivered in 1963 to No. 617 (Dambuster) Squadron which was based at RAF Scampton. At that time it carried the Blue Steel stand off weapon. Converted to free fall bombs in 1969, it continued with 617 squadron and went on to serve Nos. 101, 50 and 44 squadron’s before retirement in 1982 coming to the airport in 1983.



XJ 714

Hawker Hunter FR10. This is an amazing aircraft being built out of parts of fellow Hunters WT 684, XF 383, XM 126, XG 226, PH-NLH and ET-272 and you cannot see the joins !!!


WV 382

Hawker Hunter GA11 of the Royal Navy was built as an F4 for the RAF in 1955. Stored for some time it re emerged in RN service in 1962. Operating from Lossiemouth and Brawdy with 738 squadron in the 1960’s it eventually went to Kemble for modification.

Next to a Fleet Requirements Unit at Hurn and then Yeovilton and finally, It went back to Kemble for storage in 1976.



XP 568  

Hunting Jet Provost T4 was built for the RAF in 1962. At one time it served with the RAF College at Cranwell before being struck of charge at RAF Shawbury in 1970. It then went to the RAF Hatfield Technical College in 1971. It came to the Aeropark in 2008.