ONE IN TWELVE – The Musical Tour

To celebrate the 12th anniversary of the founding of the site, every day during November I’ll be bringing you one of my favourite photos from the past 12 years.

Today we remember a very short-lived tour operation in Dublin.

Click on any picture for the fullsize version.

Ailsa 83-WD-468 on the short-lived Musical Tour

Ailsa 83-WD-463 on the short-lived Musical Tour

Alongside Dublin Bus and Dualway there have been other smaller tour operators in the city, such as Viking Tours, and, a few years ago, The Musical Bus.

This short-lived operation departed from the North side of St. Stephens Green close to Dawson Street, and boasted a live band on board for each tour.

The bus was an Ailsa, imported second-hand from the UK by J J Kavanagh and used for a while on Naas Town Service before being converted and sold on to this one-bus operation.

The Musical Bus did not last long, and I’ve no idea what happened to the vehicle afterwards.

ONE IN TWELVE – VanHool Tours

To celebrate the 12th anniversary of the founding of the site, every day during November I’ll be bringing you one of my favourite photos from the past 12 years.

Click on any picture for the fullsize version.

D635 in tour bus guise

D635 in tour bus guise

During the early years of this site, when I ran it while living in the UK, I would usually visit Dublin twice a year or so to get fresh photos and see what was happening on the scene. No such visit was complete without a ride on the city tour, which gave me the opportunity to travel on the VanHools of my youth, which were by the mid 90s gone from normal service.

Of all the buses used on the tour service, my favourites were D635 and DF760, both of which I had known from new in the mid 1970s. 760 had been allocated to my “home” garage, Donnybrook, and although it didn’t work my local routes, I still considered it one of “my ” buses.

I had even stronger memories of D635 however, as despite being a Summerhill bus, it was allocated to a route which came very close to home – so close in fact, that it could be seen from a vantage point at the top of the tall pine tree which grew in our back garden. I had been given a telescope for Christmas one year, and discovered that by climbing to the top of the tree, I could just see the 16As turning round at the Bottle Tower through a gap between the houses. I spent several happy afternoons up the tree watching the buses through the telescope, until complaints from the neighbours to my parents brought a quick end to the practice – they were not so sure it was buses I was watching (though in all innocence, it was! )

When not up a tree, I would often wander over to the Bottle Tower junction, where all the local routes – 14, 14A, 16A, 17, 47A and 61 could be watched together. D635 was a regular on the 16A, and stood out because it was out of sequence from the rest of the route’s allocation, which consisted of D665-669, and 673-699.

The odd ones out were 634, 635 and 644 which had somehow escaped being allocated to Clontarf (through 634/5 were to be sent there in an allocation tidying excercise in 1980).

D635 had a brief spell in Donnybrook in the early 90s, thus becoming one of a small number of buses which would have worked the Churchtown area as both a 14/A and a 16A.

I was pleased to come across it surviving on tours in the late 1990s, and even more pleased that it eventually survived all the others in the system as a tree-lopper to become both the last VanHool owned by Dublin Bus, and the last two-tone green vehicle in the fleet at the time of it’s eventual disposal in February 2003.

Even that is not the end of the story for D635, which has survived in private hands in tree-lopping format, and is currently undergoing renovation to become a special event vehicle.

Given my childhood method of observing the new VanHools on the 16A, it is somewhat appropriate that this bus became a tree-lopper – perhaps there is a message there somewhere?

ONE IN TWELVE – Fresh Cream

To celebrate the 12th anniversary of the founding of the site, every day during November I’ll be bringing you one of my favourite photos from the past 12 years.

Today’s picture takes us back to 2001 to remind ourselves how good the old blue & cream “core” livery could look when freshly painted.

RA248 about to turn onto Matt Talbot Bridge

RA248 about to turn onto Matt Talbot Bridge

I was always very fond of the blue & cream livery which I felt looked well not only when freshly painted, but also stayed good looking over the years inbetween repaints.

This picture of RA248 fresh from a midlife repaint shows how much nicer a freshly painted bus could look without the usual adframes.

RA248 spent a lot of its life in Phibsboro, but moved to Donnybrook for a while when it’s position as a potential tourbus was usurped by RA260, which had suffered upper-deck damage in a malicious fire at Dun Laoghaire. RA260 was repaired by conversion to open-top, and 248 came across to Donnybrook as a replacement.

AV167’s de-roofing (in 2001)

FROM THE ARCHIVE: After only a couple of months in service, AV167 was deroofed in a low bridge accident in May 2001.

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Above: a rear view of Dublin Bus Volvo B7TL/Alexander ALX400 AV167 awaiting repair following a low bridge accident in May 2001. Nobody was injured in the incident, despite the fact that the bus was in service on route 19A at the time.

The bus driver became lost while on diversion off the normal line of route due to the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which was taking place in May having been cancelled in March due to Foot & Mouth restrictions. I can’t remember which exact bridge was responsible, either Sandwith Street or Macken Street is possible, as the route had been diverted via Merrion Square South and Clare Street.

AV167 was more or less brand new at the time, having been delivered and put into service early in 2001 (despite the 00 registration). It was based at Broadstone, and worked the 19/A along with the other AV160s.

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AV167 was off service for almost a year, but eventually returned to traffic and can now be found at Harristown, working various routes, including recently the 102.

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The upstairs of the bus, showing how it had been stripped of seating and prepared for reconstruction.

This shot gives us an unusual opportunity to see the “double-skin” construction of the outside shell of the ALX400 body.

Were this accident to happen now, the bus would probably be converted to an open-top tour vehicle, but at the time there was no question of a brand new lowfloor bus not being put back into normal passenger service.

As a result of this accident, the company tightened up on the marking and supervision of diversion routes during big public events, and paid special attention to drivers who might not be familiar with the city.

More ex-DB Olympians find home at Dualways

While visiting Dualway to file a report for CBW Magazine on new additions to their very fine coaching fleet, I unexpectedly came across some old friends from the Bus Atha Cliath fleet in exile.

Dualway has built up quite a fleet of former Dublin Bus RH types, but they are now acquiring some of the more modern RA (Volvo) Olympians now that these are being sold by Dublin Bus.

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ex-RA273 – click for fullsize image

Former Clontarf bus RA273, which hung on in service on the 130 route until very recently, has already had its open-top conversion and repaint, and looks just about ready to go on the road.

Dualway do most of their own engineering work, and to a very high standard too.

Note the 3-bay-covered conversion – given the huge amount of rain we had last summer, you can’t blame the company for hedging their bets!

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Former Donnybrook bus RA256 is next to get attention, and is seen here in the workshop at the assessment stage.

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Sister vehicle RA257 is also acquired, and is currently stored in the depot pending refurbishment.

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Dualway also has a growing fleet of purpose-built lowfloor accessible open-toppers, with another due to arrive shortly, but these were all out earning their keep while I was there.

The above shot shows one of Dualways covered-top lowfloor buses, and some of the Routemasters acquired for sightseeing work a couple of years ago – use of these tends to be seasonal, and for special events.

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Finally, I musn’t forget to mention the coach I had come to see, a new 08-registered MarcoPolo/DAF which has just joined the coaching fleet. Dualway do a lot of private hire and some corporate coaching, and have built up a quality fleet of modern coaches, all bought new, over the last several years.

As well as sight-seeing and coaching, the firm operates local services in southwest Dublin, particularly around Tallaght and Rathcoole, and has lowfloor accessible single-deck buses as well as the double-decks.

All in all, a firm to watch, with nice mix of the modern and the classic, and setting the standards for the best in private operation.