Alongside occasional design work recently, I have also been tasked with delivering and collecting some of the Crosville fleet in preparation for the 2017 season.
This has meant a lot of solo mileage but fortunately the destinations have been familiar, so not too stressful. The first of these movements, a few weeks ago, saw me taking one of the Crosville hybrid deckers up to the Yorkshire premises of Cobus, the bus restorers. Last week I took another of the Wrightbus hybrid buses up to Cobus and, the following day, brought the first one back to Weston-super-Mare as its conversion to open top had been completed.
As before, the journey was slow and tedious. Don’t get me wrong, the bus is dead easy to drive around town as it was originally used on the (mostly flat) streets of London. But put a gradient in front of it and, just like a tired donkey, it gets all moody and unresponsive. Normally, power comes from a Cummins diesel engine which charges the propulsion batteries but in Direct Energy mode (used for these long journeys) these batteries are switched out and the bus relies solely on the relatively small diesel engine. Propulsion still comes from the Siemens electric traction motor but it can only deliver the energy provided by the diesel engine. Which isn’t nearly enough on hills. Even on motorways, where gradients are usually gentle, our speed dropped away alarmingly. At times we were down to about 30mph!
I was just about able to complete the journey in daylight, thanks to the lengthening days, so I headed off for a meal and a rest before facing the return journey.
Early the next morning I was given a guided tour of the newly converted bus that I’d taken up a few weeks earlier (pictured at the top of this post). The guys at Cobus had done an excellent job of removing two thirds of the roof, forming a supporting partition under the remaining part of the roof, re-routing the electric cables and adding ballast resistors to the system to compensate for the missing ceiling lights. The upper deck seats had all been removed and re-trimmed with vinyl to make them more weatherproof too.
The journey back from Yorkshire didn’t seem to take so long, probably because I was now so used to driving this route. Arriving back at the Crosville depot, the newly-converted bus was eagerly explored and admired by staff and, within a just few days, was out in service on the 100 to Sand Bay.
The day after returning from Yorkshire I was off again with another open top bus, this time 1976-built Bristol VRT LEU263P. This bus needed to be taken up to Stoke-on-Trent to heritage bus specialists Reliance Bus Works for some mechanical work and a Class 6 MOT. The journey this time was not so smooth, proving the benefit of airbag suspension vs leaf springs! However, that was a small price to pay for a journey that was not spoiled by a lack of power. The Gardner 6XLB fitted to the VRT provided enough oomph to carry us up all the gradients without the need to change down.
I returned to Weston by train but no doubt I’ll be heading back to collect the VRT in a week or so, when it has a fresh MOT. This time I will take another – older – open top bus with me.