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This is the big one; the largest bus rally in the North of England, a showcase event for the Society, the one where any newly restored vehicles are unleashed upon an unsuspecting public and an event on home turf for the Society and its vehicles.

As most members will know and has been described elsewhere in this newsletter, work has been progressing steadily on Bristol VR 408 (AJA 408L) and MCW Metrobus 5001 (GBU 1V) and although it is two years since we last launched a restoration project, this being Leyland Fleetline 8001 (XBU 1S), we were able to complete these two vehicles in time so that they could debut together this year.  

In addition a steady stream of vehicles of significance had been acquired and thus we had the opportunity to take a large display of five different vehicles along again, as had been the case in both 1999 and 2000.   Both those years saw the Society make a video production of our attendance and this was organised again so that our participation in 2002 is again recorded for posterity.   A further significance is that the three videos together will feature fifteen different Society buses in action, as the five-vehicle line-ups have been completely different each year.  It is also notable that the move-round that occurred at Leigh at the end of the 2000 video also saw Bristol VR 408 (AJA 408L) moved to the front of the depot in its condition as acquired, so that work could commence on its restoration.   Two years and a lot of hard work and expense later, the finished product was about to be presented to the outside world.

In 1999, the line-up consisted of Exhibus Mancunian 1066 (LNA 166G), Park Royal-bodied Fleetline 7185 (WWH 43L), dual-door Northern Counties-bodied Fleetline 7206 (VNB 177L), former Lancashire United Fleetline standard 6990 (DWH 706W) and last, but not least, the only surviving Greater Manchester Dennis Domino, 1751 (C751 YBA).  Then in 2000, the line-up was Exhibition Vehicle Fleetline 7232 (VNB 203L), prototype standard Atlantean EX1 (PNF 941J), Leyland Fleetline 8001 (XBU 1S), prototype Olympian 1451 (NJA 568W) and the last standard Atlantean 8765 (A765 NNA).

The five vehicles selected to star in the 2002 video were open-top Atlantean 7077 (WBN 955L), Bristol VR 408 (AJA 408L), MCW Metrobus 5001 (GBU 1V), Olympian 3001 (ANA 1Y) and Northern Counties-bodied Metrobus 5320 (D320 LNB).   Additionally, Exhibition Vehicle Fleetline 7232 (VNB 203L) was despatched separately and directly to Heaton Park, driven by Society trustee Martyn West and accompanied by Adrian Jones, to perform its role of promoting the Society and showing transport-related videos to interested viewers.  This meant we were actually showing six vehicles at the same rally, a record for the Society!

With so many vehicles to prepare and a further video production being made this year, the participating trustees and members arrived very early in the morning at the Society�s premises in Leigh, in order to open the doors fully and to perform checks on the vehicles prior to them being started.  All six started with no difficulty, although Exhibus Mancunian 1066 required coaxing as usual, it being necessary to move this outside for a while to release 7232 from its parking space.   The camera crew arrived and the vehicles were filmed being moved into their allocated position in the line-up in the order given above.  Once a driver�s briefing session had been completed, we were away shortly after 7.45 am.

Most members and trustees had expressed a preference as to which vehicle they wished to travel on � or drive � on the day and so were allocated, though not everyone remained on their first choice of vehicle throughout the event!  The vehicles were also kept in strict order in the convoy, the line up being 7077, 408, 5001, 3001 and 5320.

Even with the quiet roads early on a Sunday morning, it once again proved difficult to keep the five buses together for filming in convoy, due to traffic lights and other vehicles inserting themselves unavoidably in our line-up or preventing the desired shots from being obtained.  Nonetheless we made satisfactory progress, despite gremlins resurfacing with the gearbox of 3001 initially, problems with the gearbox/retarder set-up on 5001 and a couple of leaks on other vehicles.  After filming was completed on the East Lancashire Road heading towards Manchester, we continued through Salford then via Trinity Way and Cheetham Hill Road to the Museum of Transport, where we were able to park our five vehicles together in Boyle Street, having arrived a little after 9.00 am.   Time for a well-deserved breakfast break in the Museum!

It was almost possible to imagine that there had been no Heaton Park Rally last year, 2001.  Not only did we not make a video of the event � having done so in 1999, 2000 and now 2002, but the day itself was cool, grey and overcast and the rally was held in a different area of the park to the traditional spot which apparently had been double-booked.  This year everything seemed just like it did in 1999 and 2000, however.   Although it was chilly at first, the glorious sunshine and blue skies that prevailed for the previous video productions were again on offer and the day soon became pleasantly warm.   It was a perfect day for the filming!  The rally site in the park was back to normal too and the only change from the previous two productions was having to enter Boyle Street from the Queens Road direction and use the turning circle installed outside the Museum, there no longer being any through access to the top of Boyle Street from Smedley Lane.  This meant that although our five vehicles were able to park together, restrictions on space meant that many other exhibits were directed into First Manchester�s adjacent depot, or indeed into various parts of the Museum.  This unavoidable state of affairs is a little regrettable, since those visitors who like to wander amongst the lines of historic vehicles as they prepare to depart on the Road Run to Heaton Park can no longer do so.

Once the vehicles were ready, our five vehicles left Boyle Street shortly after 11.00 am. on the traditional Road Run to Heaton Park, which this year was accomplished by ourselves without any wrong turns!  The cameramen filmed the convoy as they travelled down Queens Road to Rochdale Road, following this through Blackley, Middleton and Castleton to Sudden, on the outskirts of Rochdale, and then turning to head back through Heywood and Rhodes to reach Heaton Park via the Middleton Road entrance. 

Meanwhile, 7232 had arrived at Heaton Park and was already parked separately, displaying a new selection of photographs prepared by Society Trustee, Ian Mitchell, and offering the public a chance to watch transport related videos, including the previous similar productions to the one being filmed on this day.

The five vehicles were parked in a very similar spot to that held on previous years by the Society, and were put on display to fellow enthusiasts and the general public, for the afternoon.   One of them, being Metrobus 5001 (GBU 1V), was however removed from the line-up during the early part of the afternoon and taken into Manchester City Centre, visiting some of its former haunts for the first time in nearly sixteen years.  This was not just a pleasure trip, however, as the main purpose of the bus leaving our display at Heaton Park was so that it could be photographed by Philip Lamb of Bus and Coach Preservation Magazine, in connection with a forthcoming article for the November 2002 edition of the magazine about the history and entry into preservation of this still-quite-modern vehicle.

After taking a circuitous route to reach Piccadilly, we collected Philip from London Road and proceeded first to Cannon Street.  Nowadays this location sees considerable use as a hardly suitable terminus, since the Arndale Bus Station, which 5001 would have frequented when new, has been out of use since the nearby bomb attack on 15th June 1996.  When the Bus Station was in its heyday - indeed it opened at around the same time as the first Metrobuses were delivered - Cannon Street would have been used merely as a stopping point for buses en-route to and from Victoria Station and Piccadilly Bus Station.   After taking some rear end shots on the sunny side of the street, 5001 used the decidedly recently installed turning lane at the top of the street to turn back down and head along Cross Street to the next port of call, St Peters Square.

The sun and the one-way system dictated that photographs be obtained at the stop used only by City Sightseeing tours, outside the shops on the opposite side of the Metrolink lines to the Town Hall and the Square itself.  5001 then proceeded via G-Mex and Deansgate to reach the frontage of Victoria Station.   From there, we headed via the modern Trinity Way and Cheetham Hill Road to the stop on Corporation Street, outside the CIS Building. 

Then it was on via Princess Street to Oxford Road, where photographs were first obtained parked under the railway bridge with the Refuge Building and tower in the background, and then having turned the vehicle around, outside part of the University Students Union further down Oxford Road.

The whole exercise was most enjoyable but consumed a considerable amount of time and probably could have been done quicker with a pre-planned itinerary; it was also important to visit certain locations at the right time for the correct light and sunshine.    Having returned to Heaton Park, we arrived at the gates as some of the exhibits were leaving, including former Lancashire United standard Fleetline 511 (PTD 655S) looking resplendent in LUT red/grey.

Once 5001 had been reunited with the other Society exhibits, the vehicles were lined up for photography facing the sun as had been the case in previous years.  Separate photographs were also taken of all five vehicles.  We also took the opportunity to line our vehicles up with other preserved vehicles from the GMT/GM Buses fleets, in particular Atlantean 8551 (ANA 551Y) in GMT orange, brown and white and sister 8697 (A697 HNB) in GM Buses orange and white with whortleberry skirt, both looking very fine in their sparkling coats of paint.

After filming of a section for the forthcoming video for the event, the vehicles and members were ready to leave the park.  Once clear of the gates, the vehicles turned onto Middleton Road and joined the M60 ring road at the Three Arrows Roundabout, thence returning via the East Lancashire Road to Leigh.  Exhibus Fleetline 7232 (VNB 203L) ran home with the other vehicles this time.  Although it was a very long day, it was not over just yet as a small �move-around� was necessary back at the depot in Leigh.  In order to ensure that the five vehicles taking part in the video of this rally had been kept at the front of the depot, some of the vehicles that have already been restored to operational and indeed show condition had been temporarily placed further back in the depot.  

Although 408 (AJA 408L) and 5001 (GBU 1V) are now in show condition themselves, despite the need for further rectification work in respect of defects that had arisen on both vehicles, it is likely to be another couple of years at least before any restoration work begins on either 3001 (ANA 1Y) or 5320 (D320 LNB). 

However, while these two vehicles have been at the front of the depot, EX 1 (PNF 941J), 7206 (VNB 177L) and 7232 (VNB 203L) have all been kept in the middle section of the depot, where they were not easily accessible.   Further space on the front row has been taken up by Exhibus Mancunian 1066 (LNA 166G), which is not being used regularly at present.  Consequently, on this occasion, EX1 was moved out of its position, being replaced by 5320, while 3001 was placed into the space formerly occupied by 7232.  EX 1 and 7232 then in turn replaced the two newer vehicles on the front row.

Finally, a further section of video footage, involving the members and Trustees of the Society and a summary of the day�s events, was filmed, the depot was secured and it was time to go home.  We now keenly look forward to the finished video production of such a great day!

As indicated in this article this event was our third attendance at this Rally with five different vehicles, following on 5th September 1999 and 3rd September 2000 and the third time that we had embarked upon a video presentation of our attendance at this event.  The video of our attendance on 1st September 2002 has the following sections.

Part 1
Members prepare and line up 7077, 408, 5001, 3001, 5320, 7232 at Leigh.

Part 2
Five vehicles: 7077, 408. 5001, 3001 and 5320 are driven to the Museum of Transport via the East Lancs Road (7232 went direct to Heaton Park).

Part 3
The vehicles have arrived at the Museum of Transport and preparations are made to undertake the Trans Lancs road run to Heaton Park.

Part 4
The buses leave the Museum of Transport to take part in the road run via Middleton and Heywood to Heaton Park.

Part 5
7077, 408, 5001, 3001 and 5320 arrive at Heaton Park and go on display to members of the public.  7232 having arrived earlier shows transports videos and exhibits a bus photography display.

Part 6
The five main display vehicles are lined up in the sun for photographs before setting off on the return journey.

Part 7
All six buses return to Leigh.  1066 is moved to bring EX1 to the front and all vehicles are then parked up.

Edited review � 1st September 2002.
Edited review � 3rd September 2000.
Edited review � 5th September 1999.

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