As we power ahead in to 2018, it's safe to say that 2017 was a busy year for our preserved Black Prince buses, here are some of our memories from the year gone, headed up by the Mercedes-Benz trio, 577/202/441, at the depot.
January-February 2017 saw several jobs in progress on the Mercedes fleet, with Dave Crowther working on maintenance tasks and repairs to both 202 and 441 over the winter.
The photograph below shows the rear end of 441, which had been subject to some unfortunate collision damage. The rear end light clusters and skirt had been removed for repairs and this gave the chance for some wiring repairs and improvements whilst the rear of the bus was exposed.
202 was also in need of some serious TLC, after the discovery of severe decomposition within the framework around the boot lid. After carrying out an assessment of the vehicle, it was decided to cut away the fibreglass rear end, to enable access to the framework behind it.
Dave is shown here mid project, the process continuing over several months as time permitted, but the results were a much stronger and tidier rear end framework complete with protective metal paint covering, which it seems was not so well applied at the factory!..More '202' news later!..
March took 577 to the Dewsbury Bus Museum for the Spring running day, crewed by Bradley McMullan, Adam Smith and Jack Berry, the Mercedes proved an ever popular attraction carrying good loads all day. Jack is shown here, posed on the step of 577 awaiting departure at Dewsbury South Street.
On 5 March, 577 visited the St Helens Museum of Road Museum, for the running day in the town centre and surrounding area. The museum is a really superb place to visit, with a great selection of vehicles on diplay, a nice cafe and friendly staff. Sadly, rain stopped play at this event, with the day being a washout and visitors retreaing early, but we were in safe hands, 577 being expertly piloted by driver Gary Hardwick.
April saw repairs to 441 being completed, the rear end of the bus back together and the rear light clusters in full working order once again. The opportunity was duly taken to treat the bus to a run out in the countryside, a wash and a full tank of diesel! 441 is seen posed in the beautiful Yorkshire flatlands, near Goole, East Yorkshire.
On April 23, 577 was entrusted with our annual enthusiasts excursion to the Teesside vintage bus running day, expertly organised by the "500" group. The trip saw a healthy load of passengers on board, 577 performing very well and seemingly enjoying the "A" road mileage between Selby and Middlesbro!. 577 operated in service at this event, with a huge following for this type of bus in the North East, the Mercedes is always a popular visitor.
Wakefield played host to a fantastic Classic/American car show on 30th April, with 577 being added to the display right outside the Trinity Walk shopping centre, alongside WYPTE Atlantean, 6294.
The buses were really rather popular attractions, with lots of positive comments about Black Prince and memories from passengers who used to travel around Morley many years ago-including former Black Prince bus driver, Chris Crookes, who was the former regular driver of 577 on the evening shift, driving the 770 route between Leeds and Wetherby!
Chris was delighted to get back in the seat of the Mercedes, with a photo duly snapped!.
I seized the opportunity to photograph 577 with another form of yellow transport, in the shape of a fantastic NY cab, restored beautifully-the two machines complemented each other really well in the display!.
Sunday May 14 saw Scarborough play host to the "Busfest" and running day, with 577 heading to the East Coast town to take part in proceedings!. The sun shone on the town for the main part of the day, with enthusiasts and families taking advantage of the chance to ride on classic buses along the seafront.
May was a busy month, with Sunday 21 May being the Fenland "Busfest", based in Whittlesey near Peterbro. 441 was the vehicle lined up to represent the red and yellow Black Prince fleet at this event, but sadly, during preparation we discovered a flat rear tyre, which was down to a faulty valve.
This meant that 441 was grounded until the tyre company could attend to replace the valve, so 577 stepped in to visit Whittlesey for the second year.
Our bus is pictured here en route to Whittlesey, at a refreshment stop, alongside another beauty from the Mercedes-Benz stable, a Leger "Silver Service" coach, looking resplendent in the smart blue and grey livery.
577 performed faultlessly and again proved a popular subject for the photographers, posed up alongside former rival from the Yorkshire Rider stable, 8601.
During May, Dave was in a position to rebuild the bodywork around the frame of 202, after the rebuilding was completed, the rear of the bus shown here midway through reconstruction.
Sadly, the electrical problems which have plagued 202 since our acquisition of the bus developed further during this time, resulting in having power only when the bus was ticking over. The electronic throttle was dismantled and sent away for repair, but the fault was not cured. We suspect a broken wire is causing the gremlins with this bus and work is still in progress to cure the issue. The joys of classic vehicle preservation?!..
The West Coast was next on our agenda, with a fabulous excursion to Morecambe, for the Ribble Vintage Vehicle Trust vintage bus running day. Jack Berry, Commercial Manager, is seen here checking up on the passenger satisfaction levels.
We had a very healthy contingent of guests on board for our trip to the sea, expertly driven by driver Adam Smith and with the Skipton Fish N Chip stop thrown in for good measure, as an end to a great day!
577 is seen in Morecambe with a superb line up of other classic buses, many from the Ribble stable.
June 2017 proved to be an equally busy and certainly eventful month for Black Prince buses, with several excursions, our "Sunday Service" event in Morley, a failure in traffic and some additional drama with 202! The month started with a full oil change service on 577, carried out by Dave Crowther.
After a service, fluid change and all the filters renewed, 577 was in fine fettle for a trip to Merseyside, for the Kirkby running day, which was combined with an excursion to Liverpool for the afternoon.
On the 4 June, we at last managed to find a tyre repair business who were able to sort out the flat tyre on 441, which had been stood idle for over a month-really frustrating after it had completed little time in traffic since the previous collision repairs. With the tyre sorted, 441 was back in the game.
Two weeks later, with some free time to hand, myself and Jack Berry collected 441 from the depot for a visit to our good friends at Connexions Buses, Tockwith, where we were lucky enough to be able to treat the bus to a valet at the company wash plant!.
Here we see Jack with a brush in his hand for the first time since Black Prince was sold, followed by the Managing Director of Connexions Buses, Craig Temple, rinsing the soap from 441. Cheers then, washing team!.
Dave was determined to sort out the electrical gremlins surrounding 202, so in mid June, set to work rewiring the electrical board at the rear of the bus, which was in a particularly poor state due to corrosion and damp.
Unfortunately, this effort resulted in further issues being revealed, including a starting problem, meaning the bus will fire up but immediately die. At this point it was decided to recruit an automotive electrician as we had exhausted our knowledge and expertise. Top marks to Dave for having a go at curing the woes of 202, if anyone reading this blog could offer any advice or wiring information for the Mercedes 0405, please get in touch!.
On Sunday 18 June, we had more bad luck, when 577 suffered a failure in traffic en route to the Peak Park running day, Matlock. The bus was subject to a broken throttle linkage, so the trip was cancelled part way, with the passengers de-bunking and providing well appreciated patronage in the local public house, who were very helpful in looking after all of our guests.
A huge thank you to all who helped to recover the bus and the passengers, Dave for his telephone assistance, Richard Cleggs and Darren Sentance for facilitating a temporary repair on 577 and John Wright and Ian Amarnani, who rallied to provide a vehicle to take our passengers back home to Morley.
It was bad luck for all on this day, as, upon arrival at the site of the breakdown of 577, the rescue bus duly developed a fault which meant the vehicle needed attention to start the engine! With a temporary fix attached to both buses, Dennis Dart, D15 transported our guests home, while myself and Lisa drove 577 back to base, with repairs to the throttle completed the following week by Dave Crowther.
After the rectification of a faulty 577, it was full steam ahead with our big event for 2017, "Sunday Service" by the Black Prince heritage fleet and friends! Our event had been several months in the planning, supported by several owning groups of other classic vehicles and volunteers helping to make it a huge success.
The preparation started with the fuelling, then valeting of our buses inside and out, a whole day at work when you have over 100 seats to clean and the buses to wash outside, thank you to Lisa Austin for her efforts helping with this task! After the big cleanup, the buses were posed for some pre-event publicity shots!.
Our "Sunday Service" event is covered in more detail in a dedicated blog post, which you can navigate to by clicking on the linky below-I must extend my heartfelt thanks again for all who pulled together to make our day in Morley town centre such a great success.
July started with our attendance at the Saltaire running day of the Keighley bus museum trust, a day which was well organised and bathed in sunshine. The town of Saltaire was explored by our guests and a wonderful afternoon was enjoyed.
The community gala event in East Ardsley was the next in our calendar, on Saturday July 8, with our bus providing two circuits around the Black Prince route 424, parking on display at the gala between these circuits. 441 proved super popular with the local children who had the chance to sit in the cab of the bus and the adults had plenty of nice stories to tell about the old Black Prince coach holiday operation, happy memories of trips abroad by Brian and Sheila's own coach tours!.
Sunday July 9 saw 441 carrying a bus full of our guests to the Heath Common classic bus running day, again bathed in sunshine and as always an absolute pleasure to spend time in these wonderful historic surroundings.
In Rotherham, a newly launched bus museum and transport trust was opening its doors for the first time, we went along with 441 to have a look at this venture and participate in the running of services-thank you to driver Joseph Makepeace for doing the honours!.
We were very impressed indeed with the storage facilities for the buses and restoration work being carried out in the depot.
A real highlight of our visit was the chance to view Black Prince (new to SYPTE) Ailsa, 377-outdoors and in an operational condition for the first time in several years!..
The bus is remarkably still carrying its special Black Prince green livery which was applied in 1994, with the silver vinyl still intact and the livery not too shabby considering how long it has been in situ!
A bonus was a second ex Black Prince Ailsa, 388, which was tucked inside the shed, in a state of heavy restoration. Full credit to the team involved with these vehicles and the very best of luck with the future work involved!.
Keep checking this blog for information about these superb machines as we hear about progress!.
July was rounded off with a busy weekend, starting with the appearence of 441 at the Yorkshire Day celebrations in the centre of Morley, our bus was placed on display in the heart of the town, with the public able to climb aboard and enjoy the surroundings of a quality Black Prince bus once again!.
Our friends from the Bournemouth Bus Preservation Group were in the North for the following days' Sandtoft Gathering, meaning 441 was enrolled to provide transport to deliver our party for a meal after the Yorkshire Day celebrations drew to a close.
The Sandtoft Gathering took us to Doncaster on the Sunday, with sunshine between the showers and ice cream the order of the day, another successful run for 441 and the trolleybus museum at Sandtoft playing host to a Black Prince bus for the first time in several years!
Fast forward to August 13, with Batley classic bus running day, Batley Mill Village being our next engagement, with 441 rostered to attend and run in service between Batley and Birstall.
This event was the second Dewsbury bus museum event of the year, proving a very successful afternoon with plenty of good loadings on the buses.
441 is pictured alongside a much younger Optare product, the "Versa", of the Transdev operation.
Sunday August 20th was the date of our second big event of 2017, The Leeds Running Day, organised jointly with our good friends at Classic Connections, Bradford, the home of the Wallace Arnold heritage fleet.
We took over the organisation of this event from the previous team and at very short notice, revitalised the schedule and route, providing a regular and easy to use service for the day.
We were all very proud of the outcome and we extend our thanks to all who supported our event. The date for the 2018 running day, is Sunday August 19.
A more in depth report about The Leeds Running Day can be found by clicking on the link below.
After a special request, 441 was entrusted with an excursion to Whitby on August 25, conveying guests on holiday from the Island of St Helena, in the South Atlantic Ocean.
We collected our passengers at Selby bus station, travelling directly to Pickering, where the party left the bus, for a journey by nostalgic steam powered train service to Whitby.
441 was driven to Whitby, via Fylingdale, to collect the passengers after they had enjoyed fish and chips and an afternoon of refreshments and shopping in the historical streets of this wonderful East Coast town.
441 performed very well, making us all very proud. All the guests were delivered safely back at Selby for trains home, after a very enjoyable day out.
In September, 441 was successful at the MOT test station, with the bus being required to operate the Black Prince trip to Heaton Park, Manchester, for the annual transport gathering.
We accompanied a Classic Connections Wallace Arnold coach for the journey across the Pennines, but sadly, due to extreme weather conditions, the event closed early.
441 returned home in convoy with the Wallace Arnold coach, rounding off a quiet September month.
The Yorkshire Dales vintage bus running day in Skipton took place in October, with Black Prince buses providing key feeder services within the network of timetabled FREE bus routes.
441 was entrusted with the 781 service, from Leeds to Ilkley via Otley, a Black Prince route for several years. This bus was driven by Gordon Fitzgerald, who looked after 441 for the day.
577, Driven by myself, transported our guests directly from Morley to join the event. The opportunity was also taken to snap a photograph of a Black Prince bus alongside LWR424, the WYRCC Bristol wrecker, which for some time was resident at the Fountain Street depot, as the company recovery vehicle!.
Into October, the Samuel Ledgard Society organised a weekend of events in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the end of this famous Leeds operator. Some say, Black Prince was a very similar kind of operation, with a varied and interesting fleet of buses, owned by one family.
Saturday October 14th saw a transport fair in Pudsey, followed by an evening of celebrations for invited guests and members of the society.
Sunday 15th, saw the celebrations transfer to Otley, for a running day in the former stamping ground of the company, where a Samuel Ledgard depot once operated.
441 participated in the day of running, along with my Leeds Atlantean, 331. The work was shared out between myself, driver Mark Conlon and driver Andy Rawnsley.
The team at Classic Connections contributed with coaches on display and several other classic vehicles visited the town for the day.
The weekend event was a real credit to Barry Rennison and the Samuel Ledgard Society, a fitting celebration of the famous operator.
Late October was the time chosen to replace the entire exhaust system on 577, which had been in need of attention for some time. The bus was taken to "Wunoff" Exhausts, Idle, Bradford, who created a lazer cut copy of the original exhaust system and made a new replica out of stainless steel.
The results were certainly impressive and we have been very pleased with the new system.
November was an exceptionally quiet month in Black Prince land, but December was not so, with our annual staff evening out on Sunday 17th December.
Our Christmas catch up started in Morley, JD Wetherspoon, where food and drink was consumed, then 577 treated everyone to a tour of the Christmas lights in the City of Leeds.
The bus is pictured here, in front of Morley Town Hall in the cold winter atmosphere!.
The photographs above, show 577 on City Square, then the Headrow, outside the Art Gallery, where the superb Ferris Wheel provided a bright colourful background.
A very enjoyable evening of laughs and stories about the old days with Christmas crackers on the bus and sweets all round!
577 looked awesome in Leeds amongst the neon lights and the trip out set the scene for our upcoming Christmas Day FREE bus service, over route X51...
2017 was drawn to close, with our now annual Christmas Day bus service, running FREE of charge over the X51 route, between Morley, Leeds and the Leeds hospitals.
The bus service operates once every hour, with good passenger loadings the whole day. A full writeup can be found by following the linky below.
There we have it, my review of our incredible 2017!
When Brian and Sheila retired back in 2005, who would have thought that all these years on, Black Prince buses would once again be roaming the streets of Morley and the surrounding area?!..
I certainly didn't expect to see those wonderful red and yellow colours again!..
My greatest thanks go out to all who have helped to make things happen with our buses, but above all, if it wasn't for the amazing dedicated input of David Crowther, as the engineering department and Jack Berry as the senior advisor, none of this would be possible!
Great Job guys!..
Here's to 2018!.