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THE SELNEC PRESERVATION SOCIETY

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D) ATTENDANCE AT BIG ORANGE EVENT ON 9TH AND 10TH OCTOBER 2004

The weekend of Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th October 2004 was the climax of 18 months of hard work and planning for the SELNEC Preservation Society, its Trustees and working members.  This was the occasion of the Big Orange, a major event that took place at the Manchester Museum of Transport at Boyle Street, Cheetham, to mark a number of anniversaries in connection with the creation and demise of SELNEC / GMT as we knew it, and to celebrate the vehicles of that era that we knew so well and which are an increasingly uncommon sight on our roads nowadays in 2004.

Member, Elliot Stuffins, reports on this event which was organised to commemorate the following anniversaries:

v      35 YEARS since the creation of SELNEC, which brought 12 local companies together as a whole;

v      30 YEARS since the formation of Greater Manchester Transport out of SELNEC and adding Wigan to the area of operations;

v      18 YEARS since the incorporation of GM Buses, the arms length company set up to operate the PTE’s buses after deregulation and subsequently sold to its employees; and

v      10 YEARS since the split of GM Buses into North and South, these companies soon passing into the hands of First Group and Stagecoach respectively, and continuing as such today.

The event was organised by the Manchester Museum of Transport in conjunction with the Greater Manchester Transport Society and ourselves and they too worked tirelessly over the preceding months not only to prepare vehicles for the event, but to plan and co-ordinate displays, special services and activities for the public and visiting enthusiasts to enjoy - Mark Prescott, Paul Nicholson and Adam Stephenson in particular making Herculean efforts.

For our part at the SELNEC Preservation Society, the event was a unique opportunity to display as much of our collection as was feasible.   The Museum of Transport only has a small number of vehicles in its collection that are relevant to this particular era, whereas we specialise in preserving and restoring vehicles from this very period in time.  In fact, nearly all of our collection of more than 50 vehicles would qualify to attend!  This would obviously be a ludicrous impossibility, but plans were put in hand to take a monster display of no less than 17 of our collection to the Big Orange, more than three times the size of our presence at any previous event!

Consider the scale of what was required to achieve this, if you will.  We had two unfinished restoration projects from 2003 to complete, these being Leyland National 105 (HNB 24N) and Dennis Domino 1751 (C751 YBA). We had to commence and complete the restoration of GMT’s first production Olympian 3001 (ANA 1Y), including the rebuilding of the front end to repair damage and to return it to its unique 1982 Commercial Vehicle Motor Show specification.  Recently acquired ex-Eastbourne open-top Atlantean 7032 (VNB 132L) had to be rubbed down, painted and generally smartened up, though it was very tidy anyway.   Dennis Dominator 2001 (B901 TVR) and the last first generation standard of all, Atlantean 8765 (A765 NNA) had to be repatriated from Lincoln. One vehicle, Olympian 3030 (A30 ORJ) had not even been acquired and joined our collection from Stagecoach’s Magic Bus fleet only two and a half weeks before the event!  Then there was a thorough programme of cleaning and tidying up of the other vehicles attending to be undertaken, a number of MOTs needed to be undertaken – several vehicles requiring rectification to make it through the examination – and ongoing mechanical headaches had to be attended to on several of our restored vehicles, Bristol VR 408 (AJA 408L) and Metrobus 5001 (GBU 1V) in particular.  

Working members Colin Mackay and Lea Worrall had their own tasks to progress in order to ensure that their own Atlanteans, 8460 (SND 460X) and associated Society vehicle 8645 (ANA 645Y, as 4645) were ready to attend the event.   Then there were the logistics of finding drivers and planning how exactly we were to take 17 vehicles to one event in three waves from three different locations over two days with some vehicles not returning to their bases on Saturday evening, 9th October 2004.   On top of this, it just had to be captured on camera to follow on from our Heaton Park trilogy, and a camera crew were duly booked.

The list of vehicles to be taken to the event was decided upon as follows:

Vehicle Registration Significance
EX1 PNF 941J First prototype SELNEC Standard, Leyland Atlantean /NC, SELNEC
105 HNB 24N

GMT Leyland National, GMT orange/white livery, new restoration

408 AJA 408L Only surviving SELNEC/GMT Bristol VR/ECW, SELNEC Cheshire
1751 C751 YBA First and only surviving GMT Dennis Domino/NC, new restoration
2001 B901 TVR First GMT production Dennis Dominator, in Stagecoach stripes condition
3001 ANA 1Y

First production GMT Standard Leyland Olympian/NC, new restoration

3030 A30 ORJ

GMT Standard Leyland Olympian/NC, Voith gearbox, Magic Bus livery

5320 D320 LNB Last Northern Counties bodied Metrobus in First Manchester red livery
7032 VNB 132L

Open top Park Royal Standard Atlantean, GM Buses livery, new restoration

7077 WBN 955L Open top Park Royal GMT Standard Atlantean, society open top livery
7185 WWH 43L Only surviving Park Royal GMT Standard Fleetline, SELNEC Northern
7206 VNB 177L First production GMT Standard Fleetline, dual-door, SELNEC Central
7232 VNB 203L GMT Standard Fleetline, dual-door, exhibition vehicle, society promotion
8001 XBU 1S First GMT Standard Leyland Fleetline/NC, GMT orange/white livery
8460 SND 460X Colin McKay’s alloy framed Standard Atlantean in “People on the Move” livery
8765 A765 NNA Last GMT Standard Atlantean / NC alloy frame, First Manchester red livery

 NC = Northern Counties

 With the exception of a few snagging jobs, the restorations of 105, 1751, 3001 and 7032 were completed in time for the event, in the case of 7032 many months previously whereas 1751 was still way off completion with just one week to go! Gremlins still struck right up to and indeed during the weekend itself!

The restoration and re-paint of Dennis Domino 1751 (C751 YBA) had been completed with only hours to spare, but there was then a problem in that the vehicle had developed a gearbox fault and would not change higher than second gear, the maximum speed thus achievable being only 18 mph.  It could not possibly feature on any of the convoys of vehicles in that condition, and was therefore despatched to the Museum of Transport under cover of darkness on the Friday evening before the event.   This was a pity as this vehicle had featured in as-acquired condition on the first Heaton Park video of 1999.  However, its restored glory was to be captured aplenty over the course of the “Big Orange” itself.  1751 had been intended to travel from Wigan along with 105, but due to the change of circumstances, 105 was moved into Leigh for the night and 1751’s place in the first wave of vehicles on the Saturday morning was taken by member Colin Mackay’s Atlantean 8460 (SND 460X), making its debut in GM Buses “People On The Move” livery.

Preparations for the event continued late into the Friday evening, but nonetheless members all arrived punctually at 6.30 am. on the fine and very chilly Saturday morning at Leigh, and were met by the three person camera crew.   A problem then became apparent in that it was still very dark, and our departure time from Leigh was put back, delaying our arrival at the Museum of Transport and having a cumulative impact on the timing of the second and third waves of vehicles.  One by one, 7032, 3001, 105 and 2001 were started up and vehicles for the second wave were moved into the optimum positions in order to make a swift departure later on.  8460 arrived from Croft and all that was necessary now was for the sun to rise and shine!   It did and we left Leigh over an hour behind schedule, at nearly 8.30 am.   7032 led the line-up with 3001 behind, then 105, then 8460 and then 2001.   There was a problem early on in the journey when 2001 took a different route out of Leigh than the other four vehicles!   Suitably reunited near to the East Lancs Road, the convoy were filmed as they took the now traditional routing to the Museum of Transport.   This wave of vehicles comprised four new restorations and they looked stunning in the autumnal sunlight.  In the meantime, open top Atlantean 7077 had been despatched ahead of the convoy to the Museum, and upon our arrival it was used to transport drivers and passengers, all munching on hastily acquired items of sustenance, back to Leigh in order to collect the second wave of vehicles.   In the few minutes we were at the Museum at this stage, the visiting vehicles and people were already much in evidence and the event had not even opened as yet!

Back at Robertshaw Street, 7077 took its place at the end of the street, ready to lead the second wave of vehicles which comprised Fleetline/Park Royal 7185, Fleetline/Northern Counties 7206, Bristol VR 408 and prototype Standard Atlantean EX1, all of which have previously been restored to their original condition by the Society and which have been seen on many occasions by the general public and enthusiast populations.  As all have already featured on Society video productions, in particular being filmed passing along the East Lancs Road, an alternative routing to the Museum was devised in order to capture a few shots of the buses from a different perspective, as well as providing a contrast with the first wave seen earlier.  If timing and routing problems caused minor irritations during the first wave, it was mechanical gremlins that were to cause some issues with this second wave of vehicles and further delay their arrival at the Museum of Transport.  Firstly, although it had been started and moved the week before, Bristol VR 408 refused to be coaxed into life.  Checks of the batteries revealed that a connection had become weak and indeed there was some evidence of arcing with smoke pouring out of the battery, so the bus was very unfortunately left at Leigh for the weekend and did not attend the event; there was simply no time to attend to the matter there and then.  Even a change of battery would have still left a fire risk as all the electrics will need to be carefully checked over.  We apologise to those members and guests who were disappointed by this.   7185, 7206 and EX 1 were therefore lined up behind 7077 only to find that the latter had decided that the round trip to the Museum was quite enough for one day and it refused to restart!   We have experienced problems of a similar nature before with this vehicle when the engine is warm, but we could not wait for it to cool down and arrangements had to be put in hand for a member to remain with it on the street until such time as 7077 decided to start.   However, one final attempt to start the vehicle was successful and so, much delayed, the four vehicles were able to set off. 

By this stage it was gone 11.00 am. and the chosen filming route via Atherton and Over Hulton was clogged with traffic.  Nevertheless some good shots were obtained of our four vehicles as they travelled through Atherton and then turned right onto the A6 at Four Lane Ends.   Passing Little Hulton and Walkden, they then proceeded to the East Lancs Road and thence via normal route to the Museum, where our arrival was well after midday.   This was unfortunate for a number of reasons, not least the fact that the recalcitrant Bristol VR should have completed a duty on the special bus service by that time!.  And we had not even finished yet!  There was still the third wave of vehicles to collect from our premises in East Manchester!

Another quick turnaround and this time 7206 was to be the shuttle bus, conveying crews to East Manchester to collect the six vehicles being filmed as they made their way to the Museum.  These were Greater Manchester’s first Leyland Fleetline and Metrobus 8001 and 5001 in fully restored livery followed by recently acquired 3030 in Magicbus blue and yellow colours.  Behind this were Greater Manchester’s last Metrobus and Atlantean 5320 and 8765 both in First Manchester red and finally our Standard Exhibus 7232 in SELNEC Preservation Society promotional livery and depicting all the symbols from the four different anniversaries this event was intended to depict.     Thankfully the collection of this wave of vehicles was trouble free and our party of drivers were now free to enjoy the rest of the event.

The most striking thing about the “Big Orange” was the sheer scale of it in comparison to many other special events held by the Museum of Transport in recent years.   Boyle Street and the Museum were full of people and buses – several hundred paying visitors entered the Museum on the Saturday alone.  The SELNEC Preservation Society had the largest presence at the event due to the number of relevant vehicles we were able to take, but that is not to say we had a monopoly of the interest, for both the Museum of Transport and a number of private individuals had worked hard to have vehicles to display and operate at the event.  

From the Museum’s own collection came Seddon Midibus 1722 (XVU 352M), the first production Leyland National EX30 (TXJ 507K), Park Royal bodied Atlantean 7001 (VNB 101L) which is the first production Standard, and representative late model Atlantean 8706 (A706 LNC, as 4706) in GM Buses (South) livery.  The Museum also provided one concession to the pre-SELNEC era, with ex-Stockport PD3 5871 (HJA 871F) in GMT orange/white livery providing a contrast with all the vehicles that fall under the category “rear engined”.   Also to be seen from the Museum’s collection but not operating were Metrorider 1676 (D676 NNE), Metrobuses 5083 (ORJ 83W) and 5208 (C208 FVU), the Battery Electric Seddon EX62 (XVU 387M) and the Ring and Ride vehicle (M939 XKA).  Privately preserved vehicles in attendance on the Saturday included the Telford Bus Group’s Mancunian Daimler Fleetline 2236 (RNA 236J) in GMT orange/white/brown livery, while both days saw a high concentration of alloy bodied Atlantean Standards, with Colin Mackay’s 8460 (SND 460X), Steve Owen’s 8551 (ANA 551Y), Lea Worrall’s 8645 (ANA 645Y) and Adam Stephenson’s 8697 (A697 HNB) all in attendance in addition to the Museum’s 8706 and our own 8765.  Between them, these six Atlanteans showed off five different liveries seen on the type over the years – GM Buses “People On The Move”, GMT orange/white/brown, First Manchester red, the later GM Buses livery with whortleberry skirt and GM Buses (South).   The Bolton Bus Group’s fine East Lancs bodied Atlantean 6809 (TWH 809K) was another visitor and at the other end of the size scale, in contrast to this 86-seater, our member Greg Taylor brought along his attractively-restored Dodge minibus 1807 (C807 CBU).   

It was pleasing that a number of operators, including both the successors to GMT/GM Buses, supported the event by sending vehicles along, particularly on the Sunday.  Stagecoach sent Olympian 3027 (A27 ORJ) in training livery, which rejoined our own 3030 (A30 ORJ) as these two Olympians with Voith transmission were parked together.   Another Olympian visitor, and a long distance one at that, was the former 3008 (ANA 8Y), now in the immaculate fleet of The Delaine, Bourne, and turned out to the standards one has come to expect of this operator.   Again this provided a comparison with one of our own vehicles, 3001 (ANA 1Y), the first of the initial batch of these TL11-engined Olympians, but alas 3001 was parked inside the Museum and so direct comparisons between the two – all the more obvious since 3001 has just been fully restored to original 1982 Commercial Vehicle Motor Show condition – could not be drawn. 

The keen Atlantean operator North Birmingham Busways brought a party of visitors in former GMT Standard Atlantean 8696 (A696 HNB), which carries the company’s latest livery in customary immaculate condition.   This vehicle again provided a comparison with one of the preserved vehicles at the event, for it is numerically the very next vehicle to Adam Stephenson’s 8697.  First Group sent along a rather tidy former GM Olympian from Bolton depot, this being one-time Express example 3263 (D263 JVR), which still has coach seats in the lower saloon.  They also brought us right up to date with 53145 (local number 1653, MX54 GZC), one of the brand new long Solos intended for the third Manchester Metroshuttle service, providing a contrast – abeilt one not appreciated by many visitors to the event - with the previous generations of small buses present that were previously employed on what was then known as the Centreline service.

In summarising the large representation of preserved vehicles attending the event by type, it can be seen that the vast majority of the types operated over the years was to be observed: a Mancunian Fleetline and Atlantean (since Manchester City Transport-liveried pioneer 1001 (HVM 901F) was also inside the Museum although not part of the event); Standard Atlanteans with Park Royal and Northern Counties bodies, including in open-top format; Standard Fleetlines with Park Royal and Northern Counties bodies, including dual-door format; Standard Olympians in TL11/LVA and Gardner/Voith formats; MCW Metrobuses with both MCW and Northern Counties bodywork, including both the engine variants found amongst the latter; Dennis Dominator; Dennis Domino Midibus; Seddon Midibus in both conventional diesel and battery-electric formats; Leyland National in both single and dual-door format also demonstrating the two roof-pod sizes used on the type over the years; Bolton-specification East Lancs bodied Atlantean; MCW Metrorider; Dodge minibus with Northern Counties bodywork; Leyland PD3 half cab and the Ring and Ride vehicle.   Of course, some types of vehicle were absent – there was no rear-engined Titan nor any of the 14xx experimental double-deckers, though the SELNEC Preservation Society could, if resources were not already more than stretched, have assisted with Titan 4015 (GNF 15V), prototype Olympian 1451 (NJA 568W), Scania 1461 (FWH 461Y) and Dennis Falcon 1472 (A472 HNC), plus the other type of minibus used in the Little Gem era – the Iveco Turbo Daily, of which we have 1509 (D509 MJA).   Some other time, maybe!  

The parking area outside the Museum doors was fully occupied with buses, not surprisingly given the large number attending, but further displays and opportunities for nostalgia were to be found inside. A lot of thought had gone into ensuring that this was no ordinary Museum of Transport event.   For a start, special tickets were produced, replicating the styles used by GMT/GMB, as admission tickets and for the special bus services, of which more anon.  An attractive and good quality programme booklet was produced, and by the Sunday these were in short supply.   This contained everything you needed to know about the event, using familiar headings like “Bus Guides” for the timetable section and “Know Your Ticket” where information was laid out about the ticketing arrangements for the event.  There was a paragraph of description for every vehicle entered in the event, including information such as former depot allocations, and short sections about the history of SELNEC, GMT and GM Buses and their evolution into the present day situation.  As at large events such as Showbus, a specially commissioned model bus was available for purchase from the Museum shop and this featured a type of vehicle sadly absent from the ranks of preserved Greater Manchester vehicles attending the event or indeed even in existence – the MCW Metropolitan.  Having previously released 1425 (GNC 277N) in GMT orange/white livery, Britbus had now produced 1430 (GNC 282N) in the orange/white/brown livery which some of these vehicles carried before their demise.  Additionally, EFE planned to release SELNEC Cheshire Y-type Leyland Leopard 959 (VDB 959) but had not been able to do so in time.  Interestingly EFE chose not to release a special issue of their much criticised GMT Standard!   The Museum shop also sold memorabilia such as mouse mats showing 7001 and EX 30 parked together.  Trade was brisk and the takings for the weekend impressive.   The Museum’s much loved café ran out of everything!   A couple of trade stalls provided the opportunity to purchase photographs, and the Museum had set up special displays of appropriate memorabilia from its archives to give people a trip through the past 35 years of transport memories in Greater Manchester.

But it was the vehicles that were the main focus of visitors’ attention and besides those on display both inside and outside the Museum, the most appreciated aspect of the event was an impressive amount of riding opportunities available on a large number of vehicles operating in “service” over the weekend.  The Museum of Transport operated EX 30, 5871, 7001 and 8706 regularly but more appreciated still was the opportunity to ride on privately preserved vehicles and, further still, some vehicles from the SELNEC Preservation Society’s collection, which very rarely carry passengers.  The Museum’s customary shuttle service to and from Victoria Station operated throughout both days on a 20 minute frequency, and took the route number “0x” for the occasion.  A longer service 353x was operated on the Saturday to Piccadilly via Belle Vue, every 30 minutes.   On the Sunday, the longer service was numbered 91 and ran to Greengates arches, via a photographic stop at the former Frederick Road depot in Salford, thence via a circular route with a terminus at Swinton Church.   Additionally, two special services were operated, and these required passengers to acquire free tickets in advance from the Museum entrance in order to board, so as to regulate demand due to the limited number of seats available.   Like the entrance tickets to the Museum, the tickets were attractively produced to a high quality and used the names “Busabout” for the Saturday (the former GM Buses season tickets) and “Sunday Rover” from the GMT era for the Sunday.  The first special service was a recreation of the famous Centreline, as far as is possible with today’s traffic flow and road layouts, travelling first to Victoria Station and then via St.Mary’s Gate,  Cross Street, King Street, Spring Gardens, Peter Street, Piccadilly Gardens and London Road, passing Piccadilly Station before continuing via Great Ancoats Street back to the Museum.  Because the restoration of Dennis Domino 1751 had been largely completed in the nick of time, two vehicles were able to make this journey operating twice each afternoon and taking around 50 minutes to complete the journey.   The other vehicle was the Museum’s Seddon 1722 (XVU 352M), newly repainted and, like 1751, making its public running debut.   Operating the two vehicles together doubled passenger capacity and also recalled the era in late 1985 / early 1986 when the outgoing Seddons and their incoming Domino replacements ran side-by-side (or, more accurately, one behind the other) on the Centreline service which, in those days, was a very busy operation seven days a week, prior to the construction of the Metrolink system.   The Centreline recreations were extremely popular with visitors, capacity seated loads being carried on both vehicles on most trips.   Participants were able to switch between the two vehicles at photographic stops, and of course they were able to observe the sight of the other vehicle ahead or behind them running through the heart of the City Centre in its proper context.

Member, Greg Taylor, used his digital camera to capture some splendid scenes as crowds swarmed around 1722 as it pulled onto the departure stand to make the first of the weekend’s four Centreline journeys.  A members only trip for the GMTS/SELNEC groups was intended to operate at 5.00 pm. on the Saturday but this did not happen, so it was just as well that members who wished to partake had followed the correct procedure and obtained tickets, just like everyone else, prior to boarding the special services.  It was unfortunate that 1751 chose the occasion to demonstrate its erratic temperament, since not only would it not change up the gears, making for slow progress, but it took considerable amounts of time for it to build up sufficient air-pressure to allow it to obtain any gears at all.  Trustee, Ian Mitchell, entrusted with driving the vehicle on each journey, displayed great patience as 1751 held up the departures of the Centreline each time until it finally decided it was ready to leave.

The other special service, similarly operated on a ticket only basis, was more of a mystery tour under the route number “777” and this was the Express service.   It had been intended that the Museum’s Cummins-powered Express Metrobus 5208 (C208 FVU) would be fully restored for the “Big Orange” or at least roadworthy, but as is often the case further work was discovered to be wanting as rectification work progressed.   So while 5208 remained over the pits inside the Museum, re-panelled but requiring mechanical attention, our own 5320 (D320 LNB) took the strain and carried good loads on both the afternoon tours, which commenced at 2.00 pm. from Boyle Street.   On the Saturday the trip visited Swinton while on the Sunday 5320 revisited its old haunts, tracing route 167 as far as Heywood and then following the 16/17 services from Middleton back along Rochdale Road towards the Museum, as far as Queens Road.   The fact that the vehicle was still in First Manchester red livery, as restoration work has not yet advanced beyond mechanical work, service, MOT and a seat-swap with similar vehicles still in service at Oldham depot, meant that it looked and felt far more workaday and like a service bus than the two little buses buzzing their way around the City Centre resplendent in their respective Centreline liveries.  This was unfortunate as 5320 could have been restored, at least externally, in time for the event but it had been expected that 5208 would show the Express livery to visitors and thus there was no need to duplicate it.

A good variety of vehicles were used on the 0x, 353x and 91 services to Victoria Station, Belle Vue, Piccadilly, Greengates and Swinton.   Besides the Museum’s vehicles already mentioned, privately preserved Atlantean 8551 (ANA 551Y) was kept busy on the Saturday and Mancunian 2236 (RNA 236J) spent an hour in use on the Victoria shuttle on the same day.   SELNEC Preservation Society vehicles used on the Saturday 353x service were Metrobus 5001 (GBU 1V) and Stagecoach-liveried Dominator 2001 (B901 TVR), whose seats could have done with a good clean following many months of the vehicle being in storage!   On the Sunday, Fleetlines and Atlanteans mostly reigned supreme with our 7185 and 8001 working on the Swinton service and 7206 spending an hour on the Victoria shuttle, while privately preserved Atlanteans 8460 and 8697 together with the Bolton Bus Group’s 6809 all made two return trips to Swinton.   The use of the two Leyland Nationals together – EX30 and our own 105 (HNB 24N) – on a round trip on the Swinton service proved very popular.  The downside was that the timings of the Swinton service were somewhat ambitious and late running soon became a problem, with buses sometimes not able to wait for each other at Greengates, where passengers would otherwise have the opportunity to swap vehicles.  In this respect the bus service was very authentic in its operation!   Having travelled from Leigh to the event without a problem, Fleetline 7185 decided that its public debut in “service” was the perfect opportunity to develop problems with its accelerator, and the low speeds attainable as a result meant that its trip to Swinton was cut short and diverted to Pendleton Precinct (Salford Shopping City) for an impromptu photographic stop.   And in case it appears that we had the monopoly of mechanical difficulties, EX30 refused to restart on the turning circle in Boyle Street during its Saturday afternoon stint on the Victoria shuttle, and had to be replaced by Atlantean 7001. 

Special mention must be made of those vehicles operating which were not only restored to particular eras by their owners, but which offered some additional nostalgia in the form of internal and even external period advertisements/traffic notices.   The Museum’s EX30 and 7001 both carry various notices but 7001 had recently had authentic external advertisements applied promoting SELNEC’s fleet for private hire, as featured on several EFE models of double-deck vehicles in SELNEC livery.   Not to be outdone, Atlantean 8551 had received specially made “See the CIS for Insurance” advertisements, a classic and long lived sight on the sides of buses during the 1970s and 1980s, with the blessing of the CIS themselves.  This vehicle, along with 8460 and 8697, also featured copious internal advertisements for all manner of GMT-era – or GMB in the case of the latter two vehicles - activities and promotions.   All these vehicles additionally had authentic period ticketing equipment fitted, and together these aspects gave a nice, homely, familiar ambience aboard.

A further attraction was the Evening Drive, which featured Atlanteans 7001 and 8551 and followed the 135 route to Whitefield’s redundant bus station for a photographic stop in the darkness, calling at Heaton Park’s Grand Lodge for similar purposes before arriving back at the Museum.   Although evening drives at previous events have covered greater distances with more than just two buses, and have involved a social stop en-route at a suitable hostelry, the sheer amount of work involved with putting vehicles away for the night and preparing for the continuation of the event the following day understandably meant that the itinerary this time was somewhat brief, but the trip was well supported by enthusiasts.

We had our own Saturday night logistics to act out too in that although quite a number of our vehicles were able to stop over at the Museum, some had to be taken back to East Manchester for the night.   In order for this to be accomplished as soon as possible, the transfer was undertaken instead of the “members only” Centreline trip shortly after 5pm.  The vehicles taken to East Manchester were 3030 (A30 ORJ), 5001 (GBU 1V), 5320 (D320 LNB), 7232 (VNB 203L), 8001 (XBU 1S) and 8765 (A765 NNA).   Accompanying them was Colin Mackay’s Atlantean 8460 (SND 460X) which returned all the drivers to the Museum of Transport afterwards, in time for the Evening Drive.   The following morning, the exercise was repeated in the reverse direction to bring all the buses back to the Museum so that they could be displayed and/or used on the second day of the event.

Despite one or two technical problems and the non-appearance of our Bristol VR 408 (AJA 408L), we were very fortunate not to be afflicted by any major problems or breakdowns at all over the weekend.  Clearly the problems with 1751’s gears and 7185’s accelerator needed to be addressed and accordingly arrangements were made with Stagecoach Manchester’s Princess Road depot in respect of 1751, Stagecoach kindly having agreed to investigate and rectify the problem so that the bus could obtain all gears as necessary.   At the conclusion of the event, it was taken direct to Princess Road depot.  Meanwhile the three buses normally stationed at East Manchester, being 3030, 5320 and 8765, were all taken back there during the afternoon so that by 5.00 pm., at the close of the event, the main batch of vehicles could be taken back to Leigh.   As the vehicles prepared to leave the Museum, newly restored Olympian 3001 was besieged by photographers as it emerged into brilliant late afternoon sunshine, having been displayed inside the Museum since it first arrived there early the previous day.   Once it was time to leave EX1, 2001, 3001, 7032, 7077, 7206 and 7232 headed back to Leigh via the East Lancs Road, the vehicles changing position in the convoy on occasions during the journey and being tailed by 7185 limping home and 8001 in the capacity of shuttle bus.

Once back at Leigh, the task of putting the buses away commenced and continued as darkness fell, and once it was accomplished and while we waited for 7185 and 8001 to arrive, the summing up of the event and our achievements was filmed in a piece-to-camera for the forthcoming video of our attendance at this marvellous weekend event.  However, we were not finished just yet, as other vehicles still needed to be moved, and drivers needed to be reunited with their cars.  Remaining at the Museum were 105 and 5001, together with member-owned 8460 and 8645.  Therefore once 7185 had been installed in Leigh, ready for its accelerator problem to be addressed in the future, a large group of drivers and working members set off back to the Museum of Transport in Fleetline 8001, arriving just before 2000 hours.  105 was then taken to Wigan, 5001, 8001 and 8460 to premises in Croft and 8645 to our premises in East Manchester.   A long, tiring but very enjoyable weekend was finally over.

Our thanks must go to all those working members and drivers who made our attendance at the event on such a scale possible, and to all those at the Museum of Transport who worked so hard to put on what has to be the best and most successful event they have staged for quite some time.   We look forward to what the planned Rear-Engined Running Day in May 2005 might have in store!


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