Sun and buses at Bromsgrove and Droitwich 8 April 2017

Vehicle and Fleet discussions for First Midland Red Buses Limited or its predecessor, Midland Red West Limited.
TimBrown
Posts: 229
Joined: 05:59 Monday 4th July 2016
Location: Worcester

Sun and buses at Bromsgrove and Droitwich 8 April 2017

Post by TimBrown » 16:53 Saturday 8th April 2017

Have just received my old camera back from cleaning and servicing today so I took a few random 'proving' shots of buses in the sunshine at Bromsgrove and Droitwich.

PEZ 3058 ex Midland Red West/First Midland Red O814 Vario (52546, S546 SWP) continues to soldier on with Clearway on the Charford service despite being in its 19th year. By coincidence it is featured in the 'today in history' section of 'on this day one year ago'.
08 April 2017 Bromsgrove 105.jpg
08 April 2017 Bromsgrove 106.jpg
08 April 2017 Bromsgrove 107.jpg
08 April 2017 Bromsgrove 108.jpg
08 April 2017 Bromsgrove 111.jpg
08 April 2017 Droitwich 112.jpg
08 April 2017 Droitwich 113.jpg

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AdamH
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Location: Worcester

Re: Sun and buses at Bromsgrove and Droitwich 8 April 2017

Post by AdamH » 19:27 Saturday 8th April 2017

Added one from today to keep it company. Tim, You need to make a note in your diary for 8th April 2018...

Oh, and it's nice to see a Diamond Bus on the correct side of the road for a change! :lol:

chason
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Joined: 14:24 Friday 22nd July 2016
Location: Bromsgrove

Re: Sun and buses at Bromsgrove and Droitwich 8 April 2017

Post by chason » 09:17 Sunday 9th April 2017

Some great photos there, Tim. I see 'PEZ' several times a week and often wonder for how long it can carry on. When new, am I right in thinking that their intended lifespan was about 7 years? If so, it's continued regular use is quite remarkable although I guess it's present route is not particularly challenging. But a tribute nevertheless to those who designed and built it and to whoever at Clearway seems to manage to keep it going.

Ridercross
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Joined: 12:03 Monday 11th July 2016

Re: Sun and buses at Bromsgrove and Droitwich 8 April 2017

Post by Ridercross » 11:22 Sunday 9th April 2017

chason wrote:
09:17 Sunday 9th April 2017
Some great photos there, Tim. I see 'PEZ' several times a week and often wonder for how long it can carry on. When new, am I right in thinking that their intended lifespan was about 7 years? If so, it's continued regular use is quite remarkable although I guess it's present route is not particularly challenging. But a tribute nevertheless to those who designed and built it and to whoever at Clearway seems to manage to keep it going.
But how do they manage to get away with running this, it is quite clearly not DDA compliant!?

TimBrown
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Joined: 05:59 Monday 4th July 2016
Location: Worcester

Re: Sun and buses at Bromsgrove and Droitwich 8 April 2017

Post by TimBrown » 11:53 Sunday 9th April 2017

chason wrote:
09:17 Sunday 9th April 2017
Some great photos there, Tim. I see 'PEZ' several times a week and often wonder for how long it can carry on. When new, am I right in thinking that their intended lifespan was about 7 years? If so, it's continued regular use is quite remarkable although I guess it's present route is not particularly challenging. But a tribute nevertheless to those who designed and built it and to whoever at Clearway seems to manage to keep it going.
I think you are right about the 7 year intended lifespan; the earlier 608 buses were depreciated over 6 years, but generally ran for 12 years with some managing 14 years. They were simpler and more ruggedly built than the later O814. I sent a letter to another enthusiast in August 1999 on the subject of Worcester's O814s which I was then driving on City Service. At that time the general view was that they had disappointing reliability, heavier than expected fuel consumption and myriad body defects. At the time of writing most 'Varios' had completed 40,000 miles, had three or four replacement sets of disc pads and some replacement front discs.

By all accounts the cylinder heads and engine blocks were a bad match (one or the other reputed to be of Trabant's Zwickau factory manufacture) leading to diesel oil contamination of engine oil sump. Exhaust emissions were said at the time to be much worse than full sized Dennis Lances, and I thought the engineers had cut the Varios back on fuel and maximum revs to counter this problem. I recorded gear speeds on maximum revs at this time as 20 MPH in first, 30 MPH in second, 45 in third and 60 MPH in top, which was more than adequate for stage carriage services.

The Allison automatic gearboxes had a tendency to stick in second when changing up to third (or trying to be in both gears at once!) leading to snatchy 'kangaroo' progress until the foot came off the gas. This problem also occurred on Dennis Darts with similar gearbox. Most drivers tended to use the over-ride gear lever to change down uphill as the auto box held too high a gear otherwise and speed dropped off very quickly.

I have a note that some gearboxes over heat, and with the engine in front of the driver with gearbox by your left foot the cab was like a sauna in the summer months, with added bonus of the cold air vent supply passing over the exhaust to give 40 degree C relief! We were prohibited from driving with the passenger door open in these conditions, but did so when the buses were empty and no one was looking.

Also mentioned was the shoddy standard of The Plaxton bodies, with rattling doors (not properly shimmed) and that four of their workers were resident at Padmore Street on Fridays and Saturdays trying to sort out the fractured cross members supporting the body to the chassis. There were also problems in the emergency door area and with all the seat mountings. These buses always had rolled up tickets pushed into myriad positions to stop rattles! The screws holding the drivers door often worked loose and you would open the door and it it would fall sideways into your arms - hence I always carried a Phillips head screwdriver to fix it back into the door post.

I noted that all the steering boxes had got to be replaced, but no firm dates when the Serbian source could supply had been given.

The air suspension was dreadful, the front was harsh and the rear bounced up and down over the slightest undulation and crashed into small potholes with jarring results; it was never improved despite many efforts. Paradoxically, O814s fitted with standard suspension ride quite nicely.

Despite all the faults, they were suprisingly reliable in service, in five years of driving, I only ever failed to complete service on three or four occasions, once with a nearside front wheel bearing failure, once with failed brake pedal cylinder, once with flat batteries (near end of financial year) and once with changeover for crawling uphill with worn out injectors (which seemed to need replacing every four years or so and usually cured the fault).

I expect Clearway's mechanic has some tales to tell about his charge!

MattW
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Location: Welland

Re: Sun and buses at Bromsgrove and Droitwich 8 April 2017

Post by MattW » 14:44 Sunday 9th April 2017

Superb photos as always Tim. I really need a new camera then i can get out and do a bit on the weekends.

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Red Midland
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Location: Worcester

Re: Sun and buses at Bromsgrove and Droitwich 8 April 2017

Post by Red Midland » 23:05 Sunday 9th April 2017

Thank you very much Tim for the informative account of the Vario's in service. It were these that really encouraged a younger self to pursue a career in the industry and they firmly remain as my favourite minibuses.

I was particularly intrigued by your reference to the reliability of the injectors. I suspected this to be an issue with 560 (S560RWP) when I purchased her for intended preservation back in February 2015.

Her performance was very admirable in my opinion, particularly for a minibus of its age. It certainly outperformed any Solo I had driven up until that time. It did, however, have a tendency of struggling with inclines, particularly after sustained drives, and I did suspect that worn out injectors may had been the issue. She did also struggle to start after a sustained drive on one occasion, which helped justify my suspicions.

The harsh ride quality offered by these are vivid, and dare I say fond, memories from my childhood. You could often make assumptions as for how busy a duty the driver had been having by the tone of the change crashing about in their cash trays, especially when riding through Brickfields or over the speed humps in Ronkswood. :lol:

ANDREW
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Location: Bromsgrove.

Re: Sun and buses at Bromsgrove and Droitwich 8 April 2017

Post by ANDREW » 09:15 Tuesday 11th April 2017

But how do they manage to get away with running this, it is quite clearly not DDA compliant!?

This question has been asked quite a few times and the general opinion seems to be that the vehicle is deemed to be a "coach", not a bus . . . . . . :D
Not sure how this works though. :?

theshadow
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Joined: 14:44 Monday 4th July 2016

Re: Sun and buses at Bromsgrove and Droitwich 8 April 2017

Post by theshadow » 17:15 Tuesday 11th April 2017

From what I understand, it has been re registered as a Coach, so can run in service till 2020!

I believe the most notable change is the removal of the Handrails with the bells on, pretty sure it never had any last time I was on it anyway!

TimBrown
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Location: Worcester

Re: Sun and buses at Bromsgrove and Droitwich 8 April 2017

Post by TimBrown » 09:54 Saturday 15th April 2017

Red Midland wrote:
23:05 Sunday 9th April 2017
Thank you very much Tim for the informative account of the Vario's in service. It were these that really encouraged a younger self to pursue a career in the industry and they firmly remain as my favourite minibuses.
The Varios certainly have character, I recall that they consumed vast amounts of replacement headlight bulbs; it was almost a daily routine getting one or other changed before commencing service early in the morning. The one side, and I can't remember which, had reasonable access and an engineer could replace it in minutes, but the other side was inaccessible unless the engineer had a very slim hand and nimble fingers and this one inevitably led to an immediate changeover whilst the grille and various other bits were removed to get at the back of the light assembly!

I thought these buses had the best brakes of any I have driven, they were progressive and the bus could be brought smoothly to a halt with light pedal pressure allowing 'feathering off'. They would stop on a sixpence if the pedal was pushed hard in an emergency too.

The handling was quite predictable too, I was empty (luckily) one day on service turning right off a side road into a major thoroughfare which was damp and (unbeknown to me) a bit muddy so when I gave some power on the throttle the back-end started to slide; I turned the steering wheel into the slide, lifted the accelerator foot and almost five tons of bus neatly straightened up like a rear wheel drive sports car. Can you imagine the screams if there had been some passengers on board?

They always felt a safe vehicle to me, with manual override you could use a low gear downhill in icy conditions using the throttle to control speed and only needing to brake at very low speeds, thus avoiding nasty slides. Did other drivers find them to have more more predictable handling than some of the rear engined buses of the time?

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