Thursday, 31 March 2011

Reminding me of home

I nearly forgot the most interesting spots of the holiday in Orlando, so lets take a step back and have a look at these before continuing. 

Firstly, was this Routemaster, WLT 951, which certainly seems to have got around a bit. She was seen outside an English style pub/restaurant type set up a short walk from where we were staying. She looked in very good condition, though seemed to be used more as a tool for capturing the attention of customers more than anything! This bloke kindly stopped his bus to allow me to get a photo of the 2 posed together, quite a rare shot! I've taken this overview of its history from 

RM951  WLT 951         new: 8/5RM5/8
              11/61 NX into service on 141
               1965 NX
               5/66 NX to Aldenham overhaul
               5/66 NX from overhaul
               5/66 WN transfer
               1967 WN
               8/69 WN repaint
               3/73 PM transfer
               5/73    Aldenham overhaul, body changed to B910
               5/73 X  after overhaul
               9/74 Xu unlicensed
               3/75 X  relicensed
               6/76 X  repaint
               3/78    Aldenham overhaul, body changed to B786
               3/78 GM after overhaul
               1/82 GM showbus
               9/82    Aldenham overhaul; no body change.
              10/82 CA (N) after overhaul
                    GM transfer: showbus
                    CA (N) transfer: showbus
               6/86    withdrawn, 
               9/86    bought by Clydeside Scottish
               5/89    taken overby Western Scottish, #C63
               8/90    sold to Lister (Bolton)
                       sold to Brakell Omnibus Sales (Cheam)
                       sold to Kangaroo Colnbrook for export to Australia.
                       but remained in England. (seen around Windsor and Surrey)
               1997    sold back to Brakell.
               3/98    bought by Jim Moore, Hillsboro, Texas USA,
                       exported to USA: shoppers shuttle service
               3/00    in preservation by Jim Moore, Hillsboro, Texas
               7/05    bought by Atlantis Limo, Orlando, Florida
              11/08    retired for preservation by Scoobey Meltcher

The best find came in the shape of JHW 62E, an Ex Bristol Omnibus, Bristol Lodekka. She looked like she may have been sat there a while, on the grass verge of this duel carriageway coming into the centre of Orlando. From what I could see she was actually serving very little purpose. There was a billboard next to the bus advertising space for RVs, but there was no real green site anywhere near the bus! The interior of the Lodekka was completely stripped, but there was a what looked like a generator along with some CCTV installed on the back of the bus. Good to see she's still surviving though, and in relatively good nick. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Isle of Wight

I'm back from the 'break' to the old IOW! Good to see the automatic posting system has done its job properly. The days were unfortunately packed to the rafters, as well as the centre we stayed at resembling something like Fort Knox, in its protection systems! But there we go, a few photos were grabbed, and I shall start with some photos of the 'Island Breezer' liveried Leyland Olympians. These have only just returned from their winter break, so I was quite lucky with the timing. It is also rumoured that they may be approaching there final year/s doing the route, so its certainly good to get them now. K742/3 ODL are the only 2 I managed to catch on camera! Both were following me round the whole 4 days! Though saying that, I don't know how many there are in total! SO I'll let the photos do the talking now!

Monday, 28 March 2011

And a video!

Here's a quick video of one of the high floor buses. Though this also caters for the disabled in that it has a ramp that fold out very quick and easily, still meaning any passenger can use it. Perfect! 

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Innovation in America (2)

The simple things are always the best, and buses in America used some very simple things to make traveling just that bit easier. The one most interesting was the rear doors. These are interestingly not operated by the driver, and instead by putting slight pressure on it this then release them and they swing open. So simple yet it saves time, keeps in the heat (not that you really need in in the states!) and gives the driver one less thing to worry about. They also close automatically after a certain period, and when the driver takes the handbrake off. This also means its impossible to open them from the outside meaning there's no chance of fare dodging. This is such a simple solution and I really think the manufacturers were onto something here, I could really see this being used here in Britain. 

Another simple little tool used was the bell was simply a long metal wire running along both sides of the bus you pulled to activate it. Much like the rubber strip found on VRs and Olympians of old, this is such a simple yet effective way to doing this, rather than having countless poles which just get in the way. Of course these days they are used for standing passengers, where as America has grab handles hanging from the roof. Sometimes the simple things are certainly the best! 

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Innovation in America (1)

There were certain points that really did impress me with American public transport. Firstly was the ticketing system. The driver deals with no cash himself, all buses are fitted with a type of self service machine. The downside to this is you have to know the fares! For someone who had never used one before, I had to ask the driver how much the day ticket was and show me what I was needing to do to get my ticket. You then place the coins and notes into the dispenser and press a button when you have the correct fare in the 'hopper'. A simple and effective system. I presume therefore they carry a flat fare for any single and return unless they operate a zonal system for each fare stage i.e. $1 per zone etc. The system sounds much simple than ours, but there is no information about fares whatsoever! $4.50 was all I paid for my 'Day Pass', which I thought was very good value, especially considering the distance you can travel with it. The drivers never check tickets themselves. Instead you swipe them through a reader whenever you enter a bus, and it checks the type of ticket and date etc using the magnetic strip reader. Again this saves boarding time, though unfortunately in most cases the drivers didn't wait for all the passengers to sit down before moving off which of course some do find challenging when trying to reach a seat. 

Another interesting point was that every single bus had a bike rack fitted to the front which folded down using controls in the cab. This was used several times with the passenger loading the bike themselves. Again this is another point where there is just so little interaction between driver and passenger giving a bit of an impersonal feel. The dash is high enough to make sure the bikes to not obstruct the view, but of course the driver has to take that bit more care when pulling up towards a car to that he doesn't squash the rack in the process! Of course we have seen the Devon Bike Bus Nationals as well as Darts carrying racks on the rear in years gone by, but the idea has never really caught on.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Buses in the states!

Now this is something I never actually ended up posting about, even though this was some 8 odd months ago, so please excuse me if my memory hasn't served me 100%. 

On the holiday we stayed in Orlando, Florida, of course the tourist magnet of the USA. Surprisingly though, public transport was comparatively scarce when compared to what I would have expected. You would assume there would be loads of shuttles to the various theme parks and so on, and indeed in the morning and evening peak, there were, but these had no stops along the way. They simply went from A to B on pre booked tickets with the holiday you booked on, and generally there were few people using each service. 

The service buses themselves were operated by a company called 'Lynx'. Unfortunately, no, the fleet was not entirely operated with Leyland Lynxs (hmm do I put Lynxes, to be correct in grammatical terms, even though technically is should be Lynxs?). I actually have no idea who made the buses, but they used only 2 different types, a high floor and a low floor, though both offered disabled access across the board. The gearboxes on both types sounded very similar, but the engines were certainly different. What is somewhat confusing is there's no real identity. True they are basically in a monopoly situation so why do they need to be specific liveries, but all the buses were painted in different plain bold colours. There was no hint of branding for each route due to this, it was simply random. I suppose it does make it a bit more interesting, but brand identity seems to have been completely forgotten about. 

The bus station itself was certainly impressive. It looked very modern and airy, the waiting area was also very well kept. Generally it was all kept very clean and in good condition, with facilities plentiful, but what did strike me was the sheer lack of information across the board. Even in the bus station timetables were few and far between. There is no real time information to be seen whatsoever and I never saw one at stop poster timetable anywhere! There is also very little fare information, but we'll get onto that later. 

The routes I travelled on were also somewhat different in their structure when compared to UK routes. Of course here we are used to express type travel using main roads only, and then supported routes using the back roads to put it very simply. Of course there are lots of variations but for the purposes of this we will stick to those 2 main types. Of all the routes I used there, all of them took forever to get anywhere. From my hotel to the centre of Orlando took some 1hr 30 - 2hrs if memory serves, even though the distance is only around 6-7 miles. It goes via everywhere possible on the route. Its simple things like this that make you see why people generally just jump in the car, especially as fuel is so cheap. 

As I'm off to the Isle of Wight for the next few days I have pre-written several posts for you to enjoy over the next couple of days. Hopefully all will go to plan! Hopefully I'll be able to sneak away for an hour or 2 on the IOW to grab a few photos of what Southern Vectis has to offer, but we shall see what happens! 

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

X891 is not alone!

Does this look familiar to you? No its not because A-Line's Gemma has had a repaint, or moved somewhere else. This is sister bus X892 YGU!

Looking just as fine is her sister is down here in Cornwall, she is pictured in Cambridge working for Meridian Travel. Both were new as a batch to Lambeth Services in London as disability vehicles, but have now been sold on (at a very reasonable price!) to other operators. Interesting to note that X892 like her sister has also now had the fancy wheel rims removed. They look stunning, but they're proven very easy to catch in strange places while negotiating obstacles on route, and have therefore been removed. Other than that I can see very little difference between the two buses! Good to see another one at work though. Now if only we could swap R651 YCR for this one...

With thanks to AndrewHA on Flickr, from whom I have 'Shared this' from using the Flickr share feature! Please don't hesitate to click on the photo to see more of his great photos. 

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Snap on Sunday

Yesterday, surprisingly for the first time, I took a trip on FDC's 6 from Penzance to Mousehole. Of course this route has always been renowned for its incredibly difficult manoeuvres around the village of Mousehole. I've seen plenty of photos of it, but actually being there for yourself you get a real sense of how tight the roads really are. If I get time I shall post a video at some point. I did the trip there on Vario, 52526, which though struggled, did get through comparatively comfortably. The Solo on the other hand found it much harder to get through and it got very close to the walls either side, but the driver negotiated it with much professionalism! 52526, one of only 2 Varios still in service with FDC, is pictured here resting by Mousehole harbour. 

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Another Demo for PCB

Plymouth Citybus have had a wide variety of buses on test over the years, and it was feared that under Go-Ahead ownership we may have seen no more on loan from the manufacturers. But no, here we have one of the Mk2 Wright Eclipse bodied Volvo B7s, on loan from Wright for some route testing. Of course we have had the original Eclipse with a Volvo chassis in the city before, but none were ever bought. Will the same be said for the Mk2? The styling is certainly more up to date, though personally I prefer the more 'friendly' look of the Mk1, rather than the more mean and sharp appearance of the Mk2. The bus has previously been on loan to Wilts and Dorset for trailing on a variety of their routes over previous months. Photos thanks to Tom Pearce.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Quick update!

Just a quick update for you. Its a busy time yet again with 3 physics practical exams this week along with a changed date to all of my english literature coursework after a bit of a 'cock up' by the teacher! To top it off there's a nice 1500 geography essay to sink my teeth into as well, joy of joys! The pressure is full on with only 2 months to go until the final AS exams already! I apologise for this short gap in blogging, and I'm afraid I doubt that this trend will be broken any time in the near future. But bare with me, there will be postings wherever possible! Now who feels like writing an analytical essay on Iain Banks' "The Wasp Factory"!? 

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Snap on Sunday

While trying to find my actual picture I wanted to use today I stumbled across this photo of 150232, with one of the S reg Dennis Darts passing by. The 150 has just left Keyham, so the Dart is therefore seen on Saltash Road crossing the line over th bridge. I have no idea why I never posted this at the time, but this view was seen on the 6th of March last year, which I've just realised is exactly a year ago today! How fantastic. Really good timing for the photo, and for the day of posting! 

Thursday, 3 March 2011

X81 Extension

First Devon and Cornwall have announced today that they will now be extending the X81 to now serve Dartmouth. The route currently operates between Totnes and Torquay which of course used to be fine when Totnes depot was in operation. I believe that some buses now do dead journeys to/from Totnes (correct me if I'm wrong though!) , or otherwise are interconnected with X80s from Plymouth. With the route starting from Dartmouth this could mean buses are stabled in Dartmouth's depot before working up to Torquay. The timetables have certainly been very well thought out and all X81s that I've looked through on the new timetables to link with X80s to Plymouth, with typically between 10 and 15 minutes gap, which should mean connections are pretty secure. First are certainly driving this fact and have even gone to the trouble of devising some days out that you can do from different starting points. This is really good to see and I shall certainly make use of this. 

What was interesting to note was that the journey from Plymouth to Totnes and then onto Dartmouth is indeed quicker than catching the traditional 93 between the 2 locations by about 15-20 minutes. In every situation my looked at it was more effective to wait a few extra minutes in Bretonside and catch the X80 rather than going for the 93. Using an example the 0950, 93 arrives in Dartmouth at 1204. If you catch the X80 and X81 at 1010 (the closest to 0950), you arrive at 1200 on the dot. So yes technically it is quicker, but in the long run, 4 minutes isn't much to anyone. Passengers I would imagine are more likely to want to relax on 1 bus, than have to change buses in Totnes. But we shall see how that works! It will of course by a nice thing to fall back on if you did end up missing your 93. 

The corridor between Dartmouth and Totnes, and indeed onto Torquay is already covered by Stagecoach's 111. Cleverly FDC's service departs at --50 past each hour, and therefore runs 10 minutes ahead of every 111. Take the 0950 which arrives in Torquay at 1130. Stagecoach's 111 leaves at 1000 and arrives at 1145, showing that the physical journey time is 5 minutes faster than the 111. It will be interesting to see if Stagecoach responds to this. 

But this certainly seems like a very good bit of thinking at FDC, and personally I can't wait to try it out!