The gradual phasing out of the RA-type continues
Above is Dublin Bus RA299, a 1996 Volvo Olympian at Ringsend Garage. Beside it is a newer 1999 RV-type Olympian, RV534, cascaded from Harristown as new VTs enter service at Phibsboro. The RVs are very similar to the RAs in many respects, but are slightly newer technology emissions wise, conforming to the Euro-II standard, and with a Volvo engine rather than the Cummins unit in the RAs.
To the general public, one bus type is much like another, but to the enthusiast similar buses can be very different, and even within the same type individual vehicles can acquire their own personality over years of observing them in service.
RA299 is one such bus, whose passing from the fleet I will mourn more than others.
Although it ended up at Ringsend in its final years, RA299 spent much of its life in Donnybrook, and for a number of years was allocated to the 75 route.
The RAs were known for their unusual howling sound-effect at this stage, due to a fan issue, and RA299 seemed to have it worse than most, being the loudest RA in the garage at that stage.
For a year or so in 2002/2, I needed to get into town before 7am, and the earliest buses on the 14/A and 48A were not early enough to do this for me. The 16 was not yet extended to Ballinteer, but there was an early, unscheduled 16A from Nutgrove Avenue, worked by a Donnybrook bus which would get me to town in time. To reach this, I would catch the first westbound 75, which passed along Broadford Road at around 0610. In the early morning stillness, I could hear RA299 at least a mile away, when it was still on Ballinteer Road, the howling getting louder as it turned onto Ballinteer Avenue, and eventually reaching maximum as it came around the corner onto Broadford Road.
There was never any chance of my missing this bus, it could be heard coming so far away that a gentle stroll to the stop at the last minute would suffice.
Later I changed my commuting habits, and no longer needed the early bus, and the extension of the 16 and the new early 0620 departure means that the early 75 would no longer be needed in any case.
The 75 now has RVs, and RA299 transferred to Ringsend a couple of years ago, where it lived out its final years on the 15s and 77s.
It is scheduled to be withdrawn this week, as its DoE cert expires, and will soon make its way over to the UK along with the rest of the batch. Indeed, it may already be withdrawn, and sitting on the pits in the picture above ready to be prepared for departure.
Who knows where it will end up – maybe in some leafy Essex lane a schoolboy will be waiting each morning, able to hear his schoolbus coming a mile away as it howls through the countryside.