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On Thursday 24th February 2005 our potential future preservation project, Greater Manchester�s last Leyland Olympian 3305 (F305 DRJ) had a fire started on its rear offside upper deck by vandals to the extent whereby by the time the Fire Brigade had attended and put out the flames two thirds of the rear upper deck had been destroyed by fire with most of the roof missing, windows gone and seats burnt out.  The vehicle was towed back to Bolton depot and we were subsequently in discussions and correspondence with First Group with a view to hopefully obtaining their agreement to undertake the repair work.  We offered to pay for any spares parts that they cannot gain from a similar vehicle which could be cannibalised before going for scrap and to possibly even consider help with the funding for the labour costs. In the meanwhile 3305 was securely parked up at Bolton Depot with signs on it making it very clear that no parts are to be removed whilst the fate of its future is decided upon.   This was meaning that with the the space of eight days, two potential preservation projects have been discovered to have suffered detriment - Leyland National WBN 464T at Chase Coaches of Chasetown, which on a visit to their depot on Saturday 19th February  2005 found the vehicle parked up in the scrap line of other Leyland Nationals following an engine failure and with many internal parts removed, and 3305 (F305 DRJ) in Bolton Town Centre. A photograph of 3305 in flames appeared on the front cover of the Bolton Evening News on Friday 25th February 2005.

Since 24th February 2005 a number of discussions had taken place as we had originally hoped that the bus could be repaired and put back in service.  Unfortunately, the cost of doing so would have been not viable for First Group costing �40,000 if the work was carried out externally and at least �12,000 if completed internally.  However, even if the work had been carried out it is highly unlikely the bus would have been returned to its original condition.  The reason being that the last 28 Olympians delivered to Greater Manchester, 3278 � 3305, had the new body structure being manufactured by Northern Counties at that time and hence the upper deck could not have been properly repaired by using parts from a scrap B, C or D registered vehicle.  On the F-Reg vehicles (3278 � 3305) the dome is different as are the vents, ducting, melamine, etc.  Clearly the only way it could be adequately repaired to its original condition would be if First Group took another ex-Greater Manchester F-Reg Olympian off the road which would not make financial sense.  Consequently, we received notification from First Group�s Head Office that the bus would be donated to us and they would do everything possible to supply all the parts necessary and supplies and any other help they could in order to allow us to repair it and return it to its original condition.   This we agreed to but made it clear that part of this exercise will require us to have another F-Reg Olympian from the last batch of 28 provided to us in two or three years time when they come out of service in order to be an effective and compatible donor vehicle for a replacement upper deck.  Of these last 28 Leyland Olympians 15 of them passed to GM Buses North Limited and then on to First Group being a number their batch 30201 to 30215 as follows:-

GM Buses (North) GM Buses (South)
3278-3281 3282-3283
3284/3286-3288 3285/3289
3290/3292-3293 3291/3294-3298
3299/3302-3303 3300-3301
3305 3304

The remaining 10 went to GM Buses South Limited and are currently running for Stagecoach Manchester.  Because the damage to 3305 is principally confined to the upper deck it is still operational and is mobile and can be driven but clearly it would be dangerous to drive it any distance in that condition and also it would draw undue attention.  Consequently, First Group kindly agreed to send their tow wagon from Queens Road to Bolton Depot at 2.30 pm. on Saturday 9th July 2005 to hook the bus up to take it to our premises in Blackburn.  Unfortunately, however, having set off there were two fatalities of the A666 causing the traffic to become jammed and in the heat a slight problem with the air system on the tow truck developed requiring the bus to be returned to Bolton.  A repeat exercise however was embarked upon one week later at 2.30 pm. on Saturday 16th July 2005.

The Scammell-8-wheeler tow wagon, E587 BNE, took the vehicle from Bolton to Blackburn and due to the speed reached on the motorway, certain pieces of burnt debris and ash were seen to leave the vehicle and be deposited on the motorway as was part of an advertisement that had not been previously removed.  At Blackburn the vehicle was unhooked and it was backed into its storage facility by use of its own power.

The vehicle is fully operationally mobile but it was felt because of the external appearance of the vehicle that it would be sensible to have it towed to Blackburn rather than driving it there under its own power, although this was something that could have been achieved if we had chosen to do so.

The vehicle is now safe and secure and protected from the elements and we just await the opportunity to start to examine precisely how badly damaged the fixtures and fittings on the upper deck of the vehicle actually are in order to prepare it for rectification and hopefully eventually to be able to move onto it a replacement upper deck from a sister F-reg Northern Counties Olympian which we hope to secure as a donor at some point in the future.

We are grateful to First Group for donating the vehicle to us, for their pledges of support for the future and for taking the vehicle to our premises in Blackburn. 3305 was Greater Manchester�s last Standard Olympian as the last of the batch of 28 F-Reg vehicles with the upgraded Northern Counties body.  It first entered service on 24th January 1989 and has chassis Olympian 10868 and Northern Counties body number 3638.  Its ownership officially transferred to the SELNEC Educational Trust on 6th July 2005, the day the V5 current MOT and certificate of initial fitness was collected from First Group Head Office in Walshaw Street, Oldham.



3278 - 3305

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(F305 DRJ)


Northern Counties H43/30F Light Alloy



Leyland Olympian ONLXB/1RZ



24th January 1989



6th July 2005



Greater Manchester's last Olympian and the last of the 28 upgraded post 1988 Northern Counties bodywork vehicles. Withdrawn on 24th February 2005 due to upper deck fire damage.


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