Wow, what a day. I have just returned home from the 2015 Norwich Classic Bus Running Day as I write this post and am still smiling from ear to ear. There were some excellent vehicles in attendance and some excellent people to spend the day with. I am truly flattered by the number of people who approached me to pass on compliments about the blog, so a massive thank you too all who did so! If you have found the blog tonight from one of the cards a few of the conductors and myself were handing to people who we had a chat with, a very warm welcome to Norwich Buses Blog, and I hope you come back many a times in the future. If you are one of these people, why not a leave a comment on this post and let me know?
Today was the first day since 2007 that vintage buses have had a dedicated day in Norwich, and judging by the turn out it has been far to long. On each of the free circular services I traveled on almost every single seat was taken, not only by enthusiasts, but families and those wishing to re-live their childhood on the buses they grew up on.
|Preserved LL711 at the Costessey Church terminus used by|
Eastern Counties on service 13A
My day began meeting my bus spotting partner in crime Sam Larke for the bus ride into Norwich, not one from the running day, ready to board the 10:00 replica of the Eastern Counties 13A to Costessey Church. Being worked, by Patrick Burnside's preserved 1950 Eastern Coach Works bodied Bristol LL LL711 KNG711, driven by the owners and conducted by the wonderful Dan Peart and Syd Eade, the service was busy all day and was quite a spectacle for the villagers of Costessey. The 1930s variation of the 13A operated via Dereham Road and The Oval, once a terminus for Eastern Counties buses, which used the car park to head back to the the City Centre. Now the Cherry Tree, the pub kindly allowed the bus to be operated into the car park for the nostalgia and the clicking cameras. The 13A involves a tight three point turn into a junction at the end of the route, which caused a bit of trouble for the road users.
Returning back a little past eleven, when the event was scheduled to start, Sam and I waited for the next service back to County Hall. With the first vehicle being completely full, we waited for the next which just so happened to be First Ipswich Eastern Counties liveried Alexander ALX400 bodied Volvo B7TL 32479 AU53HJV, under careful watch of Chris Speed for the journey back to County Hall via Tombland and the rail station.
|Greenway WAH587S heads National YY3274T as they head into|
The arrival at County Hall was a shock for me. The attendance levels, as mentioned earlier, were enormous and there were plenty more vehicles than up with Matt Webb, who I spent most of the day with thereafter. First up, we took a ride round on Richard Walker's preserved Eastern Counties Leyland National Greenway LG587 WAH587S, driven by good friend Leon Wells. Interestingly, a group of passengers got on at Norwich Station with the Plusbus rail tickets thinking the bus was legitimately in service, and were very interested in the event. I believe they ended up going on some of the other heritage buses too. WAH587S was one of a number of refurbished Leyland Nationals used by Eastern Counties and interestingly never wore the livery it is preserved in today. It was delivered in the cream and red variant, and Richard tells me that is the livery it was withdrawn in too. Also in attendance was Leyland National YYE274T, also preserved in a livery it never actually wore, but is preserved to quote the owner "just because he wanted to". The bus was one of the many Leyland Nationals left over from the closure of CHASE bus services, after being new to London Transport. Owner Oliver Fosker brought the bus from its use as a berry picker transporter. These are two stunning vehicles, and looked amazing as they traveled through Norwich together.
|Norfolk Coachways 2176MZ at Trowse White Horse|
Just after hopping off of WAH587S, one of two surprise entrants appeared at the bus stand ready to operate a circular service of Trowse, Stoke Holy Cross, Caister St Edmond and Poringland. Norfolk Coachways entered Plaxton Paramount bodied Bedford YMTs 2176MZ and A838PPP to the event, both of which were acquired from Turner and Butcher of Kenninghall, who ceased trading in February. At the hands of David Smith, the Bedford appeared a wonder to drive. For a 1983 motor, the coach matched the standard of some newer vehicles which still exist in some fleets today. The three coaches acquired by Norfolk Coachways still see active service on school contacts in the Attleborough and Old Buckenham areas.
Four routes were in operation today, two operating circles of the city, one to Mulbarton and one to Trowse and Poringland. I managed a ride on all of the routes, but sadly timing did not permit for each and every one of the vehicles at the event. As well as this, First opened the doors of the Roundtree Way depot and took two double decker bus loads to the site. I had did not take this opportunity as this is something I had already experienced, more on that can be found here, but from the reports of others who did I heard it was an excellent tour. Chris Speed reports that some 120 people attended the tour.
|Preserved Ulsterbus 1321 at County Hall|
For the next journey, myself and Matt took a ride on preserved Ulsterbus Alexander Q-Type bodied Leyland Tiger 1321 RXI3321, which is owned by a wonderful group of gents with the most amazing sense of humour. RXI3321 took me back around the Trowse loop, by which point full sun was out pounding down on the bus in the wrong direction, so no pictures of her on route sadly. 1321 again provided an amazing ride, almost complete silence from the engine and really sturdy build.
Today, the most used word from the event had to be "proper". Endless numbers of visitors were commenting on the "proper buses", with the "proper engines" and the "proper seats" and the "proper destination boards". There were some truly excellent vehicles at the event, with all the regulars from the local museums and preservationists, and some from a little further away too. The event really couldn't have gone on without the vehicle owners happy to bring along their buses, and the hard work of the faces behind the organisation of the event. Looking through the events Facebook page, it is currently going wild with people commenting wanting another event next year. Steven Yallop says "What an amazing day. A very big thank you to everyone involved in organising this.", and from Chris Speed "I would like to Thank everybody who attended today. There were some many happy face both young and old. Also a big thanks to all the bus owners who without it wouldn't have been possible."
|Old and new on St Stephens Street|
To quote the 2006 single "All good things" by Nelly Furtado, why do all good things come to an end? After a ride on a Bristol Lodekka back into Norwich, and some very dangerous bus spotting on top of St Stephens Car Park with Sam and another chat with Syd Eade and Dan Peart the day was over. I'm sure by the words of this report, you can tell I had a very enjoyable day. It's always excellent to meet the readers of the blog, and the friendly face who make putting hours of work into it worthwhile. In the past seven days, the blog has passed one thousand page views a day four times and is on track to do so today - so a sincere thank you to all. I will leave you with one final photograph, which I entitle "Old and new on St Stephens Street". Whilst it is not a Bristol VR and a Streetlite as hoped, I suppose this will do! I'm sure you will join me in sending a big thank you to the organizers and drivers who made the day possible.