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Hmm, time for another delve into the rather tedious world of bus shite.

Tonight's example is a one off that sort of isn't a one off but it is.

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This is the one time RTO1R of Derby City Transport. It is a Ailsa B55 with an Alexander body. So far so relatively common for the time? Well this was designated a B55-20, the lowheight version of the Ailsa, the others having the designation B55-10. So what changed? Well very little actually. The chassis was pretty standard and the rear axle was already a drop centre type so in reality there was very little difference at all. Now the body, well, that was a bit different. Inside there was a hump in the floor, under some of the seats, to accommodate the centrally mounted gearbox and the emergency exit for the lower deck was moved from the side to the rear wall, losing a seat in the process. Lower deck windows were shallower but basically that was about it.

So a normal Ailsa just built a bit lower then? Well, yes but it did have its own chassis code and no doubt there were some other slight differences between this and its taller brethren but for all intent and purpose this was just a normal Ailsa.
It was ordered by the venerable Blue Bus of Derby but due to its rather bespoke nature, it took so long to be built that by the time this was delivered, Blue bus had been bought by Derby CT and their garage and remarkable fleet of geriatric Daimlers (including the first Fleetline built, the first and second production Fleetline and other gems) had burnt to the ground. Derby took over the order and it was eventually delivered as its No.71 and settled in to whistling around the mean streets of Derby.

Due to the, rather compromised layout, especially downstairs RTO was the only B55-20 built and with the advent of a straight rear axle on the Mk2 and 3 versions of the chassis, the lowheight Ailsa became a one off. In the early 1990's I tracked it down to Eagre Coaches of Gainsborough where it was being used as a school bus. After ending up in Scotland, it eventually entered preservation and was restored (twice) it now being painted into Black Prince livery - an operator known for its Ailsa fleet yet never actually running this one.

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I used to be involved with ex Rotherham 37 (second from left, top pic). It was kept in Sheffield in the late 60's and early 70's and was towed to Sandtoft for one of their first events in 1973 when that Henschel had just arrived. Our towing vehicle, on a fixed bar (no connected up brake lines or electrics etc),  was Fosters of Dinnington Leyland Titan TD4 / ECW FEV178 (now preserved). We were on another bus, think it was ex Southdown 381, and on the way back waited at Conisborough for it to pass and take pictures. As it came whistling down the hill past the old "Star" pub, a bloke at the bus stop spotted the Rotherham colours and tried to flag it down thinking it was his bus home. This of course was despite it being about 10 foot behind a red and cream double decker that was clearly not going to stop.

Oh happy days.

 

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Yeah, Aachen 22 (the big ‘un) is my all time favourite trolleybus of all time. Built for an autobahn express route but never really used as such. The rear is split with a lower deck containing some seating but primarily a standee area with four abreast seating accessed by a side gangway above it. Those upper deck seats were bloody great for overnights and gathering weekends (plus other activities best not mentioned here). 
22 also has the honour of managing to stall the diesel generator that used to power the overhead. The contactor drum on this is motor driven with a 24v motor and if the battery was not in the best of health the drum would fail to return to off leading to over 12 tonnes of German trolleybus steaming along with no way of stopping it. Luckily the brakes were very good and on one occasion it was steaming down the back straight, failed to shut off and so the driver anchored up.  A screech followed by an almighty cough and smoke from the generator room then silence as the Cummins engine had been stalled from effectively full throttle (I shall tell tales of the washing machine solenoid that made things go another day). Poles down and a re-start of the genny solved that issue and a fresh battery fitted to 22 sorted its unintentional cruise control issue enough for it to be parked up and something a little less finicky chosen to use. 

Aachen was not the only one foreign trolley with its foibles. Limoges 5 or Vera as it was known had two throttle pedals. To make it go you had to push one throttle fully down then back off as you notch up. At about 20 your feet were free of the pedals and to make it go faster you pushed the second throttle down through another series of notches. All of this fun and games was cancelled by the brake pedal so going through the myriad of frogs and dead sections in front of the sheds, your feet looked more like a frantic pipe organist than driver. Vera is still used in service but I believe there are only a few drivers selected to drive it as the opportunity for utter carnage is quite high on this one!

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I always assumed that the dial a ride type operations were just there for pensioners and the disabled.  I've never considered using the local one but technology really seems to have made it worth looking at again.  From not even thinking about it before I'm now hoping something like this will take over our local busses.

 

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My first bus.

 

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You know when you are young and there comes a time when the cash in your pocket from your job starts burning a hole? Yes, that time before the responsibilities of mortgage payments, rent, food, electricity and gas bills and all of that stuff that grown-ups have to contend with but not you?

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See those pictures? well, that was that sort of moment for me. We had gone to photograph the buses around Nottingham that day and we called into the operator Lamcote Motors, not only an operator but a Ford car dealer too. We knew that there would be something interesting in their yard but didn't know that there would be two Midland Red shortened Fords there. Shortened Fords? Let me tell you the tale.

In 1977, Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) were conducting their Viable Network Project (VNP) route surveys and a need for smaller buses on certain routes was identified. Following this, the company bought three Ford Transit minibuses for trials in Evesham and Redditch, but these vehicles were soon found to be not up to the job.

By late 1977, a number of Ford buses (bought by Midland Red in the late '60s and early '70s to replace own built vehicles on lightly trafficked routes in the country areas) were scheduled for disposal and as an experiment, one vehicle was taken to Midland Red’s Central Works and shortened to make a twenty-seven seat midibus. The shortening work involved removing the whole bodywork and shortening the chassis by cutting out sections from the wheelbase and behind the rear axle. To assist weight distribution, the fuel tank and batteries were moved to the rear. The original bodywork was overhauled and shortened by two bays before being refitted.

This experimental vehicle re-entered service at Redditch depot in December 1977, and was found to be very successful so, over the next two years, Midland Red shortened an additional eleven vehicles for their own use. 

Midland Red Omnibus Company Limited (MROC) also offered these conversions to other National Bus Company (NBC) subsidiaries that were looking for small capacity vehicles. However, demand was not very strong and only four vehicles were converted for other operators, two for Western National, one for City of Oxford, and one for Alder Valley.

The conversions didn't last that long with Midland Red, given the amount of work put into their rebuild; most were withdrawn at the expiry of their certificate of fitness five years later with a scant few lingering on in lesser capacities.

However, small operators around the country saw the potential in these heavier weight minibuses and a number were bought and turned into useful, if slightly utilitarian, mini-coaches. Lamcote Motors bought at least three of these and reseated them with Plaxton coach seats and they proved to be very useful little vehicles lasting into the 1990s. When we visited their yard, two were still operating; YHA361J and this one YHA359J (one of the two sold to Western National after conversion).

Parked in an awkward spot with the shadows of other vehicles putting 359 in the dark we knocked on the office door to see if it was possible for it to be moved into the sun for a shot.
"Shure, you can buy it, if you like too" came the reply from the reclining man at his desk in the office. Inevitably the "how much" question was asked in retort and with a reasonable figure quoted back to me, I shook hands on a deal that I had no intention of making that morning.

And that was that. I owned a bus. What I was going to do with it, I had no clue but it started me down the slippery slope of bus ownership with others soon joining the 'fleet', all kept under duress at my 'friendly' local bus operator. Soon, the opportunity of saving the earliest WMPTE Bristol VR came up, meaning that 359 had to be sold on to raise funds. An advert in the trade rags caught the eye of a small operator in Great Yarmouth who, as it turned out, had been a uni pal of one Brian Souter. He seemed over the moon at the little green Ford and duly paid the asking price for it, netting me a tidy little profit and enough for my share in the VR. I wasn't that sad as there were a number of these little short Fords knocking around so someone will preserve one, surely? Sadly this was not to be and they all disappeared until there was one, now under the care of Wythal bus museum although it hasn't turned a wheel in anger for many years.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if I had my time again, I'd have stopped at this one (and probably bought a house or two with the money I subsequently spent on keeping them and their smaller cousins around). Historically largely forgotten but these really were the last buses built by Midland Red. Okay, they had a starting point in the withdrawn Fords but they were totally dismantled and rebuilt into a completely new bus, at least initially, specifically for Midland Reds needs and then offered to other operators, just like they used to do before WW2. Yes, they built bodies after this but never again a complete bus making them, in my mind, the end of an era.

I should have kept it.

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37 minutes ago, Yoss said:

Well at least he'll have known where he was going. He was a Brixton driver for many years. He's had a lot of work done underneath, even stuff that didn't really need it. A friend of ours is giving the interior a bit of a refresh soon. I am keeping on top of events with it. 

ah thats awesome to hear, I did wonder where she would be going/what would happen with her, happy to hear that she is getting some TLC and your able to keep an eye on her still :) 

dont suppose you could convince him to bring her to the next FoD gathering for me to ogle over/have a drive of? :mrgreen:

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That would be a long day out. He lives in South London but the bus lives near Worthing. Also I can't remember how the trees are on the lane from the main road to the field but that's something you always have to think about with buses more than the width. 

The 159 rerun happens every December on the Saturday nearest the 9th. It never seems to fall on my day off (I get one in four Saturdays off) but if it does I'll let you know and get you on a bus, even if it's not my old one, I'll know somebody there. 

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1 hour ago, Yoss said:

That would be a long day out. He lives in South London but the bus lives near Worthing. Also I can't remember how the trees are on the lane from the main road to the field but that's something you always have to think about with buses more than the width. 

I do believe (this is before my time here a little) that at a previous shitefest held at the FoD they managed to get the Triaxle olympian into the FoD, Just, so if that  can fit then a standard length/hight Routemaster should be no problem id think :)

(although I dont actually know how tall said olympian was)

1 hour ago, Yoss said:

The 159 rerun happens every December on the Saturday nearest the 9th. It never seems to fall on my day off (I get one in four Saturdays off) but if it does I'll let you know and get you on a bus, even if it's not my old one, I'll know somebody there. 

Ah cool, that would be very much appreciated! its been far too long since i have ridden on a Routemaster sadly, and I sadly dont know anyone from the scene anymore (many years ago I was part of the RMOOA but due to various reasons that sadly fell to the wayside, would like to renew my membership with them someday, I did email them a while ago but never got a response sadly)

looks like the last time I rode on a Routemaster was in 2017 on RM1397 at that years east grinstead bus rally 

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with some lovely original tungsten lighting :) 

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I have some more pics (not all Routemasters before people start complaining!) from that day out if anyone is interested in seeing them

 

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My last Routemaster trip was in 2016, on the one that's my avatar (have many pics and a bit of video).

Did a two part article for RMOOA back in 1999 / 2000 on the Sri Lankan ones (plus pics in Buses then and of my avatar in 2015). 

I've photographed them in Sri Lanka, Bulgaria, Spain and an RT in Germany but never driven either. TBH that doesn't bother me, chucking ex Western SMT FLF's around Derbyshire lanes, including operating them one man where I had to get out the cab, nip around and collect fares then get back in the cab (we were short staffed) more than makes up for it!

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12 hours ago, LightBulbFun said:

@Yoss you or well your old Routemaster has been papped :) 

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makes me wonder has any other shitters on here ever owned or does currently own a Routemaster?

Not personally but Martijn Gilbert, MD of our parent company Go North East owns one which is usually parked at our Anlaby Road depot 

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17 minutes ago, Eyersey1234 said:

I can't remember if I have shared this before so here it is. 

 

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ah cool RMC1510 :) a pretty well known bus (or at least to me it is, I see it quite frequently in the Routemaster books I own and in general when Routemasters enter the news, like for example as the blinds alude to when the news features the imber run :) )

the RMC was the coach version of the Routemaster 

you can read more about the class on the excellent countrybus.org/ians bus stop website :) http://www.countrybus.org/RMC/RMC.html#top

 

I wonder if she still retains her medium speed diff (sadly she was fitted with a Cummins engine in the past in place of her original AEC AV590 engine) 

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17 hours ago, LightBulbFun said:

ah cool RMC1510 :) a pretty well known bus (or at least to me it is, I see it quite frequently in the Routemaster books I own and in general when Routemasters enter the news, like for example as the blinds alude to when the news features the imber run :) )

the RMC was the coach version of the Routemaster 

you can read more about the class on the excellent countrybus.org/ians bus stop website :) http://www.countrybus.org/RMC/RMC.html#top

 

I wonder if she still retains her medium speed diff (sadly she was fitted with a Cummins engine in the past in place of her original AEC AV590 engine) 

I'm not sure but I will try and find out for you

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Just now, Eyersey1234 said:

I'm not sure but I will try and find out for you

dont suppose you could also grab a picture of the insides of one of the fluorescent fixtures and what ballast they use? :mrgreen:

the Routemaster coach class was fitted with fluorescent lighting from new, and im quite curious to see how they where setup :) 

 

but on that note what id be REALLY interest in seeing is some interior shots of RTC1, http://www.countrybus.org/RT/RTC1.htm

which had fluorescent lighting in 1949!

fluorescent lighting was still pretty new in general back then let alone in a vehicle, so id very curious to know they set that up

I know some early low voltage/DC fluorescent setups used a vibrator setup much like you would find an old valve/vacuum tube automotive radio like the one in @PhilA's Pontiac chieftain 

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3 minutes ago, LightBulbFun said:

dont suppose you could also grab a picture of the insides of one of the fluorescent fixtures and what ballast they use? :mrgreen:

the Routemaster coach class was fitted with fluorescent lighting from new, and im quite curious to see how they where setup :) 

 

but on that note what id be REALLY interest in seeing is some interior shots of RTC1, http://www.countrybus.org/RT/RTC1.htm

which had fluorescent lighting in 1949!

fluorescent lighting was still pretty new in general back then let alone in a vehicle, so id very curious to know they set that up

I know some early low voltage/DC fluorescent setups used a vibrator setup much like you would find an old valve/vacuum tube automotive radio like the one in @PhilA's Pontiac chieftain 

I'll see if I can get a picture the next time I am at head office if the RM is there 

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20 minutes ago, Eyersey1234 said:

I'll see if I can get a picture the next time I am at head office if the RM is there 

ah thats much appricated :) although what im looking for are pictures inside one of the fixtures which might be a bit tricky to grab!

iv seen the fixtures from the outside but never inside one, but I have some insight into what to expect thanks to @Yoss who grabbed some pictures of the offside illuminated advert setup on his Routemaster

its interesting to note that the RMC and must buses of that time that had fluorescent tube used 2ft 20W  tubes, but ballasts for running larger tubes up to at least 4ft where available for 24V operation (as used the aforementioned offside illuminated advert)

so im quite curious as to why they where not used on the inside on coach Routemasters and the such like, was it just styling thing or where there other reasons behind it?

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19 hours ago, LightBulbFun said:

ah cool RMC1510 :) a pretty well known bus (or at least to me it is, I see it quite frequently in the Routemaster books I own and in general when Routemasters enter the news, like for example as the blinds alude to when the news features the imber run :) )

the RMC was the coach version of the Routemaster 

you can read more about the class on the excellent countrybus.org/ians bus stop website :) http://www.countrybus.org/RMC/RMC.html#top

 

I wonder if she still retains her medium speed diff (sadly she was fitted with a Cummins engine in the past in place of her original AEC AV590 engine) 

I've had a response, yes she does have the medium speed diff in place of the high speed diff she should have 

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25 minutes ago, PhilA said:

Each tube must've had its' own supply then because 20W off a vibrator transformer supply is going some.

well the vibrator ballast comment was made in reference to RTC1 from 1949, to which I sadly dont know what size of tube was used as I have never seen any interior shots of that bus/coach

im pretty sure the RMC and such like, used early transistorised ballasts as featured in @Yoss's Routemaster 

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although it is worth noting just how large the ballasts are (the one on the far right being a 1970's replacement im pretty sure)

and the fixtures in an RMC are quite slimline so im curious where the ballasts are

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certainly the 1970's Thorn 20W T12 I saw install in an RMA's (Routemaster Airport, which used the same fixtures as the RMC IIRC) fixture missing its cover I was once onboard had wear/end blackening patterns consistent with a tube being driven off a DC transistorised ballast

 

 

 

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52 minutes ago, Eyersey1234 said:

I've had a response, yes she does have the medium speed diff in place of the high speed diff she should have 

ah thats interesting, I was always under the impression that the RMC's always had a Medium speed diff (I believe Country RML's also had a medium speed diff)

and that only the RMA (and maybe RCL) got a high speed diff (along with a larger AEC AV690 engine), in the RMA's case for 70Mph running on the M4 motorway :) (I know the RCL's got the larger engine but im not sure if they had a medium or high speed diff)

(and standard RM's and RML's had a City diff, good for about 40Mph-45Mph depending how much you care about your hearing!)

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48 minutes ago, Yoss said:

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I assume the end one is smaller because the rearmost tube is smaller. The advert panel contains four long and one short tube. 

im pretty sure its a newer replacement based on its style thats its 1970's or 1980's Thorn/smart brown unit, the other 4 are unmistakably 1960's :) (and I think I can make out an outline of where the old ballast once was on the board)  

 

 a 20W 2ft tube runs at 57V 370Ma, a 4ft 40W Tube runs at 110V 430Ma

so in terms of current the specs are not that far off, and generally its lamp current that determines a ballast's physical size (lamp/tube voltage can do so, but that has other dependancies like what the incoming voltage is for example)

in fact because of that a lot these low voltage ballasts are often rated to run a group of sizes from 2ft to 4ft (2ft 20W 3ft 30W and 4ft 40W) or 1.5ft-2ft 15W-20W

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