A Look at School buses before accessibility rights act..

Another week passes during COVID-19 Lockdown and we continue to bring you blogs to talk about! This week I thought we’d take a look at school buses before the PSV Accessibility rights came into effect.

So prior to 2020, many operators used a wide range of different buses for schools, kids in rural communities tended to get the standard 16 seater minibuses, some smaller secondary schools/colleges got your bog standard 53 seat coach dependent on where pick-ups were and some schools/colleges with young people coming from multiple different estates chose to use either two coaches or a couple of double deckers, dependent on patroange.

I went to two schools, Blakeston School until 2007 (which didn’t use any school buses) and then Ian Ramsey until 2009, it was upon changing schools to Ian Ramsey that my interest for buses stepped up a notch, we had Tees Valley Luxury Coach Travel/Tees Valley Coach Travel running our school bus, initially it started with a Bristol VR/ECW and a Leyland Leopard, the school had a high patronage in the Norton area so required use of not only a single deck, but a double decker too. Eventually as time grew on, we got a tri-axle former Hong-Kong Dennis Condor G863FVX, starting out purple with “Angelas” wrote on the front, it was eventually painted school bus yellow and was ideal for the large amount of young people that we carried back in 2007-2009, the company progressed further and further with a range of different buses coming, mainly Leyland/Volvo Olympians but a few odd balls such as a large acquisiton of Volvo B10M Citybus East Lancs, initially H675GPF saw use, before H652GPF, H654GPF & H655GPF joined.

Later on in life I got to know a few drivers and as well as my photographing, it gave me the opportunity to see what other vehicles were in use on school runs, mostly of course buses that started out life with the big operators such as Arriva or Stagecoach before passing to a dealer and passing to Independent operators. Olympians were a favourite among many operator for school runs, I’m told due to their robust strength, their strong Gardener/Cummins engines and the ability to be able to take a kicking and still perform.

I would often frequented college runs with operator “Croft Coach Travel” who had a contract to run transport from Cleveland College of Art and Design, my friend Barry worked there as a driver and the management were often ok with one or two of us travelling providing there was space, CCAD had operators there such as Metro Coaches and Commercial Coaches but it seemed that Croft certainly had the larger routes, especially as they acquired two former East Yorkshire Motor Services Leyland Olympian/Northern Counties J561HAT/J567HAT specifically for this contract and they were used for a period before swapping to up-seated Plaxton Premieres which were converted into 3+2 70 seat capacities.

Metro were running a 33 Seat Mercedes 814D Plaxton Vario and usually a Plaxton Paramount Coach with 49/53 seats on the contract and commercial just a small 33 seat..

Other operators that spring to mind when we talk about school buses are Garnetts of Tindale Crescent in Bishop Auckland who had a number of school runs and used former London Leyland Titans for these along with a couple of Olympians. Stagecarriage of East Cleveland who had many different double decked vehicles for school/college contracts and Generation Travel of Stokesley who had a number of double deckers.

Of course operators who were able to do school runs, also had the ability to do other things with the school buses when the schools weren’t on or in between times. The likes of Tees Valley Coach Travel running the 87 and timing it so the buses could come off the route to do the 876/897 Ian Ramsey/Northfield School runs before returning back to route and of course rail replacements mainly on evenings/weekends where required, certainly one I recall of the Whitby to Middlesbrough Line being off and Croft using their leyland olympians whilst other operators opted for some older style coaches.

Looking at schools then and schools now, a lot has changed. School buses aren’t quite the same as what they once were, your traditional Olympian that could take a good kicking is replaced by your newer Enviro 400s and Volvo B7s which are a little more complex to work with in terms of engineering point of view, more computers involved and more electronics than the traditional volvos. Those schools which take money whether on the bus or off the bus, now have to have an accessible vehicle, this means that the days of a step entrance coach are long gone, coaches these days replaced with Cateano Levantes from some of the larger operators such as National Express. It also means that rail replacement work with independents is becoming a thing of the past, lately when Northern have been off they have opted to use their Arriva status and bring in Arriva buses to run, this meaning that service buses with low floor capabilities were able to run, as well as some more modern coaches when first are off.

Times may have changed but nevertheless its still worth photographing and documenting where possible, because who knows what could happen in years to come…. Could we have electric vehicles? Could designers bring even bigger buses out?

Time will only tell……

Breadvans or Workhorses?

We’re back to another blog and another hot topic of conversation among many a bus enthusiast and that’s Minibuses, many referring to a minibus regardless of the amount of seats as a glorified bread van!

So I’m discussing the various minibuses I’ve photographed over the years and their uses and giving a different spin on “Glorified Bread Vans”.

Make no exceptions, some minibuses are ghastly, they’re just vans with seats in, but don’t tar them all with the same brush! Some were different and some served a very good purpose.

Operators in the Teesside area that stuck out to me the most for using minibuses would be Arriva, Abbey/A1 Coaches, Leven Valley, Compass Royston, M&D Travel and P&E Coaches to name a few. They used a variety such as Mercedes 709Ds, Mercedes 814D, Optare Metroriders and all with a variety of bodies.

But just how useful were these buses? I’d say from an operators point of view they were very useful. They were relatively straight forward and easy to fix, they were nifty to get in places your long coach couldn’t and they were an alternative to having a half empty bus running round. Not to mention the savings you could make and the unique offering that you could give to potential customers. They were ideal for pottering around the town, up and down the country side and just general pottering around.

P&E Coaches is a fine example of a company that very much made “Breadvans” work for them. They had a number of ready to go Mercedes Minibuses for school contracts along with one or two larger coaches, now from an operators point of view, they’ll of stood out from a crowd, the use of small minibuses keeps the price of fuel down, the maintenance costs will be low and in turn this cost saving can be put onto the customer, with a profit margin still to be made.

Some operators had an advantage over others, those smaller minibuses were ideal for contracts that you couldn’t use a large bus on, whether that be ferrying children from rural communities to schools within town areas, for around the town work pottering up and down estates or for use on things such as rail replacements. I recall one opportunity where Compass Royston used a 16 seat LDV Minibus to call at a number of stations along the Whitby line during a rail replacement along with Croft Coach Travel’s 33 seat Mercedes and Commercial Coaches Mercedes Sprinter.

Not all minibuses look the same, with the varying body styles, not all were and including current ones, are, as awful as you think. Some Mercedes Sprinter minibuses coming out these days have posh seating, mood lighting, bus type doors, destination blinds and air conditioning and the same for some 33 seat mini coaches. However actual “minibus breadvans” on service work seem to be very much a thing of the past, the Optare Solos and other smaller Enviro Type vehicles that operate on services up and down the country these days are certainly more advanced in technology.

But regardless of the views, they served a purpose, a purpose of being economic and cheap to run along with being ideal for a variety of work!

Wild Cats in Teesside – The Leylands

There has been many theories throughout the years that Teesside has Panthers and other such animals living in the wild in Teesside. In this latest blog we’re looking at “Wild Cats” in terms of Transport.
Independent operators in Teesside all had a varied fleet, the main stay of many a school bus fleet was usually a Plaxton bodied Volvo in the early years of 2008/2009 for a young bus spotter like myself, but by now most of the rare and interesting things such as Leyland Leopards/Tigers seemed a distant memory and the chance to see such fine machines would only be possible at Bus Rallies/Gatherings.

The first independents I stumbled across had plenty of “Wild Cats”. Skelton Coaches an independent operator in East Cleveland had a number of different Leyland Tigers in various states of restoration and some even in active use on school services. They even had EDC406V, Leyland Leopard Supreme formerly of Cleveland Transit. So I wasted no time in photographing these, of course it was amazing to see such a collection still in existence when most were gone

David Stainthorpe and his son Paul, who run Skelton Coaches of East Cleveland were more than accommodating towards enthusiasts and gave us a good chance to look around and tell us a bit about what they had. Leyland Leopard Supremes, Leyland Tigers with Plaxton bodies and even a Leyland Royal Tiger Doyen which were super rare to see! I wasted no time in photographing the vehicles and even took note of Paul who informed us some had been saved from a scrapyard.

So I’d already had my fair share of Wild Cats in Teesside when visiting Skelton Coaches, but things stepped up a gear when I was informed Richardsons of Hartlepool owned former Cleveland Transit Leyland Tiger/Plaxton sisters OIB3515 & OIB3516 and they were mainly used for school work, I had made two attempts already to see Richardsons of Hartlepool yard but it was all locked up and no access over the fence to see, but this one day I did visit, there was OIB3515 resting between school runs I managed to photograph it through the depot gates, another depot visit and I found a member of staff in and there was OIB3515 & OIB3516 surrounded by several new ford transit 16 seater minibuses and its replacement, a plaxton premiere. Richardsons kindly allowed me to photograph them and I was on my way.

Relief! I’ve caught all the tigers that are owned by operators in Teesside and that is that, or at least that’s what I thought… Until the day I gets a phone call off a friend at Croft Coach Travel, “Hey you want to see the new bus we’ve just got, Old Leyland it is” I thought he was pulling my leg! I often met with my friend Barry and would travel on some of the runs he was doing, it was good fun and a good opportunity to catch some of the fleet of Croft Coach Travel along with some of the other operators…

I couldn’t believe my eyes… A time when newer style Volvo/Berkhof and Volvo/Panther were coming in, there was a Leyland Tiger again, purchased with the intentions of doing school runs… My word! LIB6439 (B439RNA{) came via Pygalls Coaches of Peterlee to Croft Coach Travel at Stockton and stayed for a short period before it was sold on Ebay. It was a gardener engine rather than the usual Leyland TL11, the gardener engine wasn’t well sold outside of Scotland and very few operators opted for Gardener engined vehicles, however it would seem Mayne of Manchester who originally owned this vehicle certianly wanted to give it a go!

As I make this blog in 2020, Leyland Tigers as a school bus seem just a distant memory as PSVAR rules came into place resulting in many school runs requiring accessible coaches, with many operators opting for the former national Express Cateano Levante.

All those wild cats… Up to the scrapyard in the sky it would seem, or at least that’s what I thought until Kirkby Stephen 2019 when former Skelton Coaches HIL2156 (PRO441W) Leyland Leopard Plaxton Supreme had arrived, its in preservation as PRO441W and preserved in all over National Travel White from the NBC Years!

Wildcats could live on though, in 4 legged form and of course in coaches as our next blog will feature the younger, more modern, wildcats of Teesside!

Enjoy a selection of pictures from my small feature of Teesside Wildcats and check back again for our next blog!

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Self Isolating Volvo Olympian is given a make over….

Our Volvo Olympian Northern Counties 223 M223SVN was used on the rally scene for a year in as acquired condition with some Transit Logos but eventually the time had come where she deserved a make over, with the Teesside 500 Group Running Day, our very own event, just around the corner what better time to do it? So she was broke out of self isolation by our Maintenance team and taken for a make over, her worn and tired body panels replaced with new, straight and clean panels..

Imagine the face of the attendees at the running day when they seen such beauty? You could imagine people rushing to photograph it… Teesside 500 Group’s best secret, 223 having a make over. But ALAS! Coronavirus COVID-19 started to increase in speed, government guidelines were released and events were cancelled, but she deserved a make over, we wanted her to look great regardless of the fact our event didn’t go ahead, so she was picked up on Friday 20th March and she looks a million dollars… Looking virtually like she had just rolled off the production line and was delivered to Stagecoach Transit, M223SVN was back in her original livery.

She was taken by our maintenance team for a few sneaky snapshots before she headed back to her warm shed to meet with her fellow friends and show off the new look…

Selection of photographs below.

Buses for the future…

Many cities across the UK are to become “Clean Air City” and as a result it means that many perfectly good and useable buses are to be replaced with more environmentally friendly vehicles with the latest engines reducing the emissions released into the atmosphere. Now the older generation of people may say that “a bus is a bus” to them these days, but during this article we take a look at just some of the steps that are being put in place to become “cleaner and greener” and show that there are many different types of clean air buses.

Many City Council’s across the UK have talked a lot about their carbon footprint and ways to reduced, so that they can be more environmentally friendly to the planet, with many opting for the plan to impose restrictions on non-environmentally friendly vehicles with some having to pay a fee to access the city in such vehicles, just like they do in London. So this would of course include the bus operators within these area, their buses are regularly going to be travelling through these areas and it could be a costly exercise if they had to pay such fees. So many operators have decided to replace ageing vehicles with more modern up to date Euro 6 Buses. First West Yorkshire already had a number of Hybrids at their Leeds depots but also a number of non hybrid buses and an older fleet. They wasted no time in bringing in a number of brand-new and rather smart Wright Streetdecks (Hybrid Technology) to replace some non-compliant vehicles and opting for a new Green livery to showcase this. Several of these will be illustrated below.

Over in Liverpool, The City Metro Mayor and operators are working together looking at ways they could reduce the carbon footprint, not only did they opt for several different renewable energy source buses, they also opted for overall advertising on buses to encourage more people to simply park the car up and get the bus. With one even having a play on words from The Beatles “Give Peace a chance” with the advert “Give bus a chance” trying to encourage more people to use the bus instead of taking the car.

Of course places locally to The Teesside 500 Group are not yet affected by Clean Air policies other than Newcastle and of course operators such as Go North East, Stagecoach and Arriva are starting to invest in their fleet, but could we eventually see such buses hit our streets on Teesside? We’ve already got the gas bus in Darlington and of course Teesside Municipal Transport had their “clean air bus”

The revolution has just begun!

Happy New Year!

Happy New year to all our friends and members alike who take an interest in the activity of The Teesside 500 Group and our activites.

The maintenance team have a busy schedule of checking over our buses for the new season, already JDC599 our Middlesbrough Corporation Dennis Loline has had great efforts put into her and passed her MOT test.

RDC106R Cleveland Transit Bristol VR is undergoing some maintenance work ready for the new season.

JVN40E our Leyland PD2 with Roe body has had some progress made with seats fitted and the maintenance team continue to work hard on her.

JDC544L our Leyland Fleetline Teesside Municipal Transport is under restoration in another location and making steady progress.

M223SVN our Leyland Olympian Northern Counties has had time spent on her over winter and she is ready for the season again.

R833OVN our Volvo Olympian Alexander has had some time spent on her and preparations are under way to fit an engine.

Our in house maintenance team which consists of our volunteers giving up their spare time have gone to great efforts to keep all our vehicles in tip top condition and deserve some great credit for their efforts.

MEMBERSHIP – Its that time of year again for our members to renew their membership, see the membership secretary at the next meeting or find his email address in the newsletter. We’re always happy to welcome new members that wish to join and you can contact us by the email address on the contact us page and our membership secretary will be in touch. We produce a newsletter of group happenings as well as other transport related information in the Teesside area.

Our blog will restart properly in April and we look forward to you checking back then!

Wardley Wanderings….

On a slightly chilly Sunday 3rd of November, We’re off on another adventure as we go to visit our friends at North East Bus Preservation Trust to see some of their exciting projects and of course to catch up after a busy rally callendar. Leaving our usual Stockton Pickup point, with a relatively good crowd of members and friends as we travel north to the Wardley shed of the NEBPT in Gateshead.

We arrived at NEBPT by around 10.30am to be greeted by Chairman Peter Elliott and his daughter Caroline, we were given a short talk about the vehicles and the history before we were given the opportunity to explore another fantastic preservation group in the North East of England and see some of the ongoing projects that the team have at Wardley.

Vehicles from Economic, Sunderland Corporation, Northern and United yesteryears were just some of them in various stages of restoration within Wardley and this gave us a great insight into the work currently ongoing and the efforts to bring rare and historic vehicles back into use. After some light refreshments, which were kindly supplied by Peter, it was time to head home. We had a great time, we saw some fantastic vehicles and an enjoyable morning out to see NEBPT and the work they are undertaking on their vehicles.

A selection of photos from the day

All aboard! Its Keighley Twilight Running Day..

Sunday 27th October seen a good crowd of Members and friends alike head to Keighley for the annual Bus Museum’s twilight running day. Piloted by Trustee John Atkin, we took M223SVN proudly sporting her Red Poppy for Remembrance Day. We arrived at Keighley around 10.30am and carefully unloaded the sales stand into the museum before we dispersed off and went to enjoy the day. M223SVN took part in the Shuttle runs organised by Keighley Bus Museum and there was certainly a good selection of vehicles on the run including an Alexander Royale Volvo Olympian, an ECW Leyland Olympian and a Leyland Fleetline. I (Website Editor) speak for myself in saying we all had a very enjoyable day but by 18:30pm after a cold day, we were all very grateful for a warm 223 and her heaters to take us home! See a selection of my photographs from the day, of course a trip to Keighley is no trip without a visit to the fantastic preserved Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.

Teesside 500 Group Visits Tyneside Heritage Vehicles

On a rather cold and wet Sunday 20th October, Members and friends alike jumped aboard 223 (M223SVN) our preserved Volvo Olympian Northern Counties and made our way to Tyneside Heritage Vehicles at Felling in Gateshead. We arrived around 10.30am and arrived to see a number of familiar vehicles from previous visits. We were given a grand tour of the premises by Matt and Lee along with the opportunity to grab a coffee and a biscuit to warm up on what was a wet and miserable date! To say we were impressed would be an understatement, the facilities at Tyneside Heritage Vehicles is something we could only ever hope to have, with bus jacks/lifts, panel cutting equipment and electricity, it was very much an active bus museum right in the heart of the North East of England. We came across a fellow Teesside bus OEF74K which had recently been acquired by Tyneside Heritage Vehicles and was very much in as acquired condition. She was looking very solid for her age though a little play worn. She is under evaluation by Tyneside Heritage Vehicles as to the next steps for her. By around 1.30pm it was time to call it a day and we headed home with an insight into the operation, some photographs of the different preserved vehicles within the shed and of course an insight into their operation.