This time last weekend, the heritage buses were just about back at respective home depots after a fabulous day at The Wetherby Wanderers running day.
Sunday 07/07/19 saw a fine selection of preserved buses in service on the Leeds-Boston Spa-Wetherby route, a brief report of which I have compiled below!.
Last year, I started to organise the event as part of the Black Prince 50th birthday celebrations, but also to showcase this beautiful countryside bus route, which links many small towns & villages along the way.
My idea for the day was to illustrate several generations of rolling stock seen on this fabulous countryside corridor over the years, starting in the morning with West Yorkshire red buses from the 1970's/1980's, progressing through to the earlier Black Prince style vehicles, the 1990's Harrogate & District colours then ending the day with more modern Black Prince vehicles in the shape of the Mercedes-Benz single decker.
The route carried several number variations over the years, so the departures were numbered according to the vehicle type allocated. The West Yorkshire departures of the day therefore carried route number 741, as would have been seen in the days of West Yorkshire (WYRCC) operation.
Simon Wiles provided his beautifully restored WYRCC Bristol VR double decker PUM149W fleetnumber 1746 to operate the 741 journeys shown in the timetable.
Simon & his crew thoroughly enjoyed putting the VR through its paces over its old stamping ground, the bus looked absolutely at home on the Leeds to Wetherby corridor, photographed here in Wetherby bus station.
The numbers (or era illustrated) changed as the day progressed, through the 1990's 760 era, on to the 770 of the early 2000's. Buses used to illustrate the 760 were of the Leyland & Volvo variety, representing years gone by.
Keith Billinglsey & the 4738 group kindly provided us with superb former Black Prince Volvo Ailsa, A101SUU (V1), which proved very popular with enthusiasts sampling a ride on this Voith gearbox machine.
It was really good of Keith to offer V1 for use at the event, the attendance of the bus was made possible only by the generosity of a handful of Black Prince fans & former employees who clubbed together to fund the temporary vehicle transfer to the North from its base in the West Midlands.
V1 is seen here after preparation for our event with destination displays & also whilst on service in Wetherby. Driver Jon Folwell, a regular driver of V1 during its time at Black Prince is photographed with his former machine.
To avoid potential for conflicting vehicle movements in the narrow streets of the Thorner area, the afternoon saw short workings introduced between Wetherby & Bramham, the buses numbered as 760 & using the loop in Bramham to turn around & slot back in to the 15 minute frequency of service, the preserved buses working with the Transdev service buses to create this clockface timetable.
Our friends & current operators of the route at Transdev ran their smart fleet of buses, the route being known now as a "7" on its own & running through from Wetherby to Harrogate. The photo below shows FJ58LTK, number 1859 of Harrogate Starbeck depot, awaiting departure from Wetherby.
Illustrating a previous era of the Leeds-Wetherby route, Craig Temple brought along his superb Volvo/Alexander single decker, painted in the smart red & cream colours of Harrogate & District, this type of vehicle was new to Transdev predecessor, Blazefield.
The image below shows the Volvo sharing the stand at Wetherby with 441, a sight which would have been very familiar in the town during the 1990's-2000's.
After the failure of our Mercedes 577 in the run up to the event, Craig also very kindly offered to substitute his Leyland National to run in its place. The SYPTE machine was used to run those short workings between Wetherby & Bramham numbered 760. The National is seen in the image below, parked on the stand at Wetherby bus station, complete with a display of Black Prince slip boards.
We were blessed with some beautiful sunshine during the course of the day, providing some simply stunning photo opportunites along the route, the photography fans have been sharing the results during the last few days-fantastic to say the least!.
Into the evening, P441SWX was pressed into service, having been parked on display representing Black Prince at Wetherby during the course of the day. 441 operated the 1625, 1825 round trips from Wetherby to Leeds in the capable hands of drivers Jon Folwell & Craig Temple. The Mercedes was a regular performer on the evening 770 service during the early 2000's, alongside fleetmate 577.
The bus is seen here taking off from a pause at Thorner Kirkfield Avenue which was the traditional passing point for the 2 buses on the route during the evening. The Leeds bound service would wait patiently for the Wetherby bound bus to pass, to avoid a conflict in the extremely narrow streets ahead.
Star of the show during our Wetherby event had to be the lowheight Volvo Ailsa, TRR814R, supplied by Richard Huxham/4738 Group.
The Black Prince liveried machine performed absolutely superbly, running in service for several hours, 0900-2230 to be precise!. The bus was entrusted with a double shift, deputising for Mercedes 577 in the previous days.
The veteran Volvo was driven mostly by Dave Crowther & Stephen Hough during the daytime running, transferring over to myself in the evening to work on the opposite journeys to 441 at 1725/1925 from Wetherby to Leeds & return. The Volvo is seen posed, lights blazing, on the last return to Wetherby of the night. The location is The Pax Inn, Thorp Arch, a long-standing fare stage on this route.
Metro WYPTE have been particularly helpful with the planning for this event, the use of stand 24 at Leeds City Bus Station was a really welcome & very kind gesture, enabling the sight & sound of Black Prince buses to grace the former Wetherby stand for the first time since 2005...
It would certainly be a pleasure to work with the bus station management again in the future. The photograph below shows Volvo Ailsa 814 parked on stand 24 Leeds City Bus Station, awaiting departure with the 2025 service 770 to Wetherby.
I'd just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who contributed to and helped out with the Wetherby running day!...
The day seems to have been a massive success with favourable comments streaming in from visitors who stopped by to say hello whilst I was manning Wetherby bus station.
I'm really pleased with how the event progressed and the weather made the day extra special!. 2019 is proving to be a great year for preserved Black Prince buses in what would have been the 50th year of operation for Brian Crowther's red and yellow fleet.