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A look back at Black Prince buses through 2020 ...

Dear Reader, Happy New Year!

As we have (mostly) safely landed in 2021, I thought it would be nice to take a look back over what has been achieved with Black Prince buses during 2020.

Although the year has brought with it an unprecedented situation the likes of which we have never seen before, there have been many positive aspects which I shall mention here - sadly 2020 will also be remembered for the sad loss of two good friends of the Black Prince preservation movement, John Wright and Neil Millington, neither loss due to Covid-19.

I shall pick out the better moments of 2020 to have a look at here in the blog and I do hope the photos and memories bring a little interest to your day!


New Year's Day 2020

The NYD 2020 service was a huge success, starting the year off in style with 2 Black Prince buses in operation. Mark Conlon started the shift, with Mercedes 441 in traffic during the morning, running until lunchtime when Mark parked 441 for dinner.

Stephen Whiteley was on hand to take over for the afternoon, with his pride and joy - Optare Vecta 73 making a rare appearance in public service for the day. The Vecta drew a fair crowd of riders, eager to sample the sounds of the little MAN engine on Churwell hill!

We had a fabulous day, the weather was super kind to us and the centre seemed rather busy which was great! We saw many more passengers on the bus this year than the previous year, I didn’t think we would carry many more than last time but we were all pleased when the clicker turned over to 184 clicks at the end of the day!

Most of the passengers tended to bob in to the shops between trips and get on the bus later on to go back home, some came for a ride round on our red and yellow buses and we even welcomed Morley Town Cllr and friend of Black Prince buses, Wyn Kidger!

The evening part of the service was completed by myself with Mercedes 441, running into the night with the last departure being the 1900 from Morley Town Hall to Morley Railway Station.

The gallery shows a selection of images from NYD 2020 and the 87 was a superb way to kick off the year... if only we knew what was to come!


January 21, Staff Day Out

Another beautiful sunny day was in store for our busmans outing which took us on a run with 441, also calling in to collect Bournemouth Atlantean 230. Both buses were given a countryside road run and taken for fuel, with lunch in Selby topping off a great day out for those who made it to join in.


May 29, A "wash and brush up"

As we are all aware, early 2020 saw the emergence in the UK of the Covid-19 virus, which resulted in the first full lockdown situation in March. The restrictions meant the cancellation of every public event until July 4th, when the initial lockdown was temporarily lifted as virus infections had reduced.

For the Black Prince buses, this meant the cancellation of the Morley St George weekend in April, meaning the buses had been parked up since the summer of 2019.

The Volvo Ailsa, 814 and the Mercedes-Benz, 441 were chosen to head across to Connexionsbuses, Tockwith, where Craig had kindly offered the use of the washing facilities. The buses needed a good run and a clean-up, it does them the world of good. It was great to catch the Mercedes-Benz, BK13XYF in the yard which was paired up alongside 441 as an added bonus, showing generations of Mercedes bus side by side.

Some excellent photographs were taken of the buses on this hot sunny day, the red and yellow livery looking amazing against the blue skies!.

Many thanks were due to Craig and the team at Connexionsbuses for the kindness and help.


Weekend 6/7/8 June, Riding, Fuelling, Repairing

This weekend saw a lot of action, with buses 814, 441 and Leeds City Transport 331 taken for fuel and a short road run around the countryside surrounding the depot during the Saturday.

577 had suffered from a failure in the air suspension system, so the Saturday saw DNC across at the depot on the Sunday to repair the fault with new parts in from Mercedes. The bus had been stood for a long while prior so it was good to get the repair done and dusted. It was also noted that the exhaust system was becoming noisy, on investigation it was found to have cracked. A top effort from Dave as always to get things sorted and 577 back in traffic :-)

577 was taken on road test during the Monday, heading to Connexionsbuses for a long awaited wash and fuel on the way home, via the Wetherby Whaler of course!. The repairs to the air system bedded in well and the exhaust was monitored and still noisy, further developments later.


Weekend 4/5 July, Sadness, Drama and Success!

The loss of a railway colleague and a friend was a terribly sad occasion, but the railway family were certainly out in numbers to say goodbye. I had been asked about the possibility of providing buses to carry guests to the site of the funeral, so after some thought, 814 and 441, (with the help of Northern Rail to get the buses sorted for the social distancing measures) duly obliged... R.I.P Sean...

After funeral duties were complete, myself and Adam set off home to the depot, via York Road, but whilst we passed along York Road, we were witness to an accident with another bus. 441 was duly commandeered to take the regular passengers forward in service as an emergency vehicle!.

The Sunday saw the Wetherby Wanderers event for 2020, which went ahead against all the odds, the Covid-19 regulations being relaxed the previous day.

The day really did run superbly, with major changes taking place to ensure we complied with all the new Covid-19 regulations.


Weekend 21/22 July, Welcome Home "Charles Henry Roe", R.I.P John Wright

July 21 saw 441 attend the opening ceremony of the latest addition to the Wetherspoon "fleetlist", the Charles Henry Roe, opened in Crossgates on this morning.

A small but interesting cross section of vehicles produced by the former Roe business were assembled for a road run around the vicinity of the new pub, really turning heads as they passed by. After the opening ceremony and superb breakfast was polished off, the buses did one more parade of the area, much to the delight of the locals and enthusiasts alike. The destination display was set to "ROE CROSSGATES" in tribute to the days events and the factory where the bus was built.

On leaving the Crossgates area, 441 was taken to Hunslet depot for a wash, in readiness for the following days rather sombre duties. The evening saw 441 out for a quick blast through to Slaithwaite, for fish and chips and refreshment in memory of John Wright. The bus was garaged in Huddersfield depot overnight, ready for the important duty the morning after.

The following day saw 441 conveying invited guests to the funeral of our good friend and railway colleague John who had died after a short battle with cancer during June/July.


July 30, "Route Rambling" to mark 15 years since the closure of Black Prince

Richard Huxham's Volvo Ailsa, 814 was chosen to take our group on a trip down memory lane to mark 15 years since the retirement of Brian and Sheila Crowther and the end of Black Prince Buses.

The Ailsa was taken for a leg stretching over several former Black Prince routes, 88, 54, 428, X49, 90, 205 and 53.

It was an awesome way to remember Black Prince and the people who came along had a most enjoyable day out...

Of course, fish and chips were added into the itinerary at the socially distanced compliant Wetherby Whaler, Pudsey.


August 9, sizing up the joint

By August, It had become apparent that a new home was required for the buses, so after feelers were put out for alternative storage in the area, a depot was found and needed trying out for size before any commitment was made.

Myself and Mark Byard (WROPS) took a trip across to the new shed with a Mercedes and the Ailsa, to test for size and height.

Although the Mercedes fit very well, it was extremely tight for the Ailsa which is low height as we know... this meant the Atlantean would most definitely not be able to fit, so alternative storage was found for the Leeds bus, now staying with Connexionbuses.


August 13, Exhausted, but still time to play with the tigers!

After the discovery of the cracked exhaust system earlier in the year on 577, the system manufacturer was contacted and an arrangment was made to transfer the bus to the Idle premesis where an inspection could be made and a course of action taken to repair under warranty.

Whilst at the building, the chance was taken for a coupleof shots with Yorkshire Tiger who were based next door.

I rather liked this neat little bus and the livery suited it well, such a shame the company is no longer functioning in the Flying Tiger brand...

577 was consequently furnished with an improved exhaust system. With thanks to Mark @ Wunoff CPE


September 7, Stretching their legs!...

577 and 441 were taken for a run on this day, a beautiful breakfast was enjoyed in the local garden centre. It did the pair of Mercedes the world of good as always, the more running the better!.


October 20-31, Depot Move

When the contract had been finalised at the new depot, efforts were made to move the fleet across ASAP.

Volvo Ailsa 814 and Mercedes 577 were the first pair to transfer across to the new building on October 20.

The rest of the fleet followed suit on October 31, with Leeds 331 heading off to live with Craig at Connexionsbuses.


November 24-December 5, MOT preparation with successful result

441 and 577 were both due an MOT at roughly the same time. Engineering had requested the pair of buses so they were transferred to Huddersfield depot for DNC to work on whilst preparing for the test...

The two buses consequently passed the test and transferred back home.


December 22, Santa Claus is coming to Morley

Santa and his elves came to town on December 22, making a huge effort to fight against the negativity brought about by "Covid" The Christmas Grinch!

The Santa Special bus run went down an absolute treat, amazing considering we had only a handful of days to organise the event and make it happen!...

441 was decorated in true festive fashion, complete with a sound system booming Christmas songs through the doorway into the streets - you could certainly hear this Black Prince bus coming! Santa was absolutely amazing, the streets were lined throughout the chosen route and the children were out in force to see their hero!

The route encompassed most of the easily accessible schools in the area with a short pause at each forecourt for Santa to give the kids a wave!.

It was a very proud moment to see such enthusiasm surrounding the bus and the fact that we had managed to spread some cheer through the town at this difficult time...


December 25, Christmas Day X51

The Christmas Day service for 2020 was operated to a reduced timetable, reflecting the situation with the Covid-19 virus and the resulting visiting ban at the hospitals.

Nonetheless, the X51 carried 23 passengers during the course of the day in this 6th year of operation.


December 28, Destination Re-Wind

It has been noted that the roller blind destination display fitted to Optare buses is not the best design in the world, so after a length of time, the display will appear wonky as the roll becomes creased or offset.

441 was beginning to suffer from the effects quite severely, so the opportunity was taken between the seasonal bus services to do a bit of work on the roller gear. Many thanks due to a good friend of Black Prince for expert destination blind advice and help with this matter.

After the destination blind task was completed, 441 was given a quick tidy round in readiness for the New Year's Day bus service, bringing to a close the activity of Black Prince buses for the year of 2020, a year of many "ups N downs", shocks and upsets, successes and progress.

2020 was a real mixed bag, but throughout the year, I'm really proud to see just how much was achieved with these wonderful red and yellow buses, in the face of adversity nd given a bit of thought we still managed to work out a way within the rules to safely run the buses, putting a smile on faces wherever they went.

As always a huge thank you is due to everyone who has made it possible, helped, supported and worked on the buses during 2020...

As I write this blog, we are in the midst of the third national English lockdown of the Coronavirus pandemic, with vaccines on the way and (hopefully) control of the virus going forward...

What will happen during 2021?... Well, we shall see what we shall see!... The almost wholesale cancellation of all public events during 2020 really was unprecedented and hugely disappointing but sadly necessary in many situations unless Covid-19 regulations were observed at all times.

We can hold out hope that it'll be possible to return to running some buses during this new year...

Anyway, from me, it's bye for now, time for a nice brew and a piece of cake... keep safe, keep well and God willing we shall all be able to meet up again very shortly on one of our fabulous Black Prince days out!...

Best Wishes to all for 2021.

Bradley and the Black Prince Gang!




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