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Sunday, 8 January 2012

A Trip back to the Past....Northern Counties Motor & Engineering Co. Wigan Plant

Now thanks to the excellent Ned Basher we are delighted to announce that we are able to host his truly stunning shots of a rare visit to Plaxton's Wigan plant when it was open. The shots are from 2001, an era when Plaxton were in their prime, receiving orders from London's top companies in masses, these companies included First, Go Ahead Group and Metroline.


Plaxton in their current form was founded in 1907 in Scarborough. Plaxton made quite a mark on the UK Bus industry. however their years as a bus manufacturer were not always blissful. Various failed attempts didn't help secure Plaxton's place in the bus industry, although they did establish themselves as coach-builders. However the 1990s Plaxton finally found their feet and introduced two of the United Kingdom's greatest double deck and single deck bus bodies, the Plaxton Pointer and Plaxton President. The Pointer was a hit with most operators throughout in England and Ireland as it was cheap, durable and quite stylish. However it was the announcement of the Plaxton President that stole headlines and went a way into cementing Plaxton's place in U.K double decker market.

Above is a shot of 6 nearly completed Plaxton Presidents at Plaxton's Wigan based plant, destined for London Central's Bexleyheath Garage. The bodies were mounted on the on the reliable Volvo B7TL chassis which proved very popular with the majority of London operators. 

Unveiled in 1997, the Plaxton President offered a whole host of new features, it became the first low floor double deck bus in the U.K and it's streamlined front half made for a much needed change to the box on wheels we were used. It's launch attracted a host of London operators including MTL who subsequently placed an order for 65 President bodies on the Dennis Trident Chassis. The TPs were initially delivered in 1999 and by that time MTL group had already been absorbed by Metroline Travel Limited so the specification of the buses were built to that of Metroline. However the fact the model only started production in 1999 made it fall short of the ALX400 body that was launched a year earlier in 1998. However Plaxton were smart and following the introduction of the President, they allowed the bodies to be mounted on the DAF DB250 Chassis, Volvo B7TL Chassis and the Dennis Trident Chassis. Metroline were the first company in London to order the Plaxton President, and in 1999 65 examples were delivered to Holloway Garage for routes 17,  43 and 134.

Completed Metroline VPL194 Y194 NLK sits in the MOT bay at Plaxton's Wigan Plant undergoing testing before being delivered to Metroline's Willesden Bus Garage (AC) for the recently retained Route 52. This was part of a batch of 30 vehicles numbered from 168 - 197. These were mounted on the Volvo B7TL Chassis.
In 1999 Go Ahead London or London Central as they were known back then placed an order for 39 Plaxton President bodies on the Volvo B7TL Chassis. They were numbered between PVL1 - 39. They were allocated to Bexleyheath (BX) for the Routes, 229, 401 and 422. They proved a favourite for Go Ahead and at the time of this visit (2001) GAL had recently just placed an order for a further 48 Presidents mounted on the Volvo B7TL Chassis. This time they were allocated between Bexleyheath and New Cross Garages.

Two newly made Plaxton President Volvo B7TLs lay stagnant at Plaxton's Wigan Plant having just got their rears moulded together. They will then be painted into their operator's livery, these two being destined for GAL London. They are part of the batch numbered between PVL208 - 256 for Stockwell Garage (SW)

At the very same time First had also placed orders for many Plaxton Presidents, however this time they were built on the Dennis Trident Chassis. Their models consisted of both long wheelbase and short wheelbase models.

Above is an unidentified Plaxton President body that had just been mounted on the Dennis Trident Chassis.
The President I must say is one of my all time favourite bus bodies, I think its sleek design made it stand out above its rival the ALX400 and throughout its 8 years in build, it sold over 1000 models in London which is an astonishing achievement!

Below are some more shots from the Plaxton Wigan Plant in 2001. I say thank you very much to Ned Basher for kindly allowing us to use his excellent and exclusive shots of the Plaxton Wigan Plant which are very rare. I must stress that these shots are not my property and must not be published elsewhere. If you wish to see more excellent shots of this nature please see Ned's amazing photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/nedbasher/




A freshly made Go Ahead London Plaxton President sits inside of Northern Counties Wigan depot awaiting a paint job that will see in transform from white mould and sheets of aluminium, to a shiny new red London bus.


A freshly made Go Ahead London Plaxton President sits inside of Northern Counties Wigan depot awaiting a paint job that will see in transform from white mould and sheets of aluminium, to a shiny new red London bus.

The interior of a Go Ahead London Plaxton President that judging from this picture has a long way to go before reaching completion. The exposed panels show the complex wiring in a modern day bus.

Go Ahead London President nearing completion at Plaxton's Plant in Wigan

An all but complete Go Ahead London Plaxton President Volvo B7TL Bus sits inside of Plaxton's plant in Wigan, awaiting a wheel hub, minor interior fitments, body panelling and some London Central logos. 

Go Ahead London Presidents nearing completion at Plaxton's Plant in Wigan

Go Ahead London President nearing completion at Plaxton's Plant in Wigan

Go Ahead London President nearing completion at Plaxton's Plant in Wigan

Go Ahead London President nearing completion at Plaxton's Plant in Wigan

Go Ahead London Presidents nearing completion at Plaxton's Plant in Wigan

Go Ahead London President nearing completion at Plaxton's Plant in Wigan

Go Ahead London President nearing completion at Plaxton's Plant in Wigan

Go Ahead London President nearing completion at Plaxton's Plant in Wigan

Two province specified Plaxton President bodied Dennis Trident 2s sit in the yard at Plaxton's plant in Wigan. Quite weird to see them with manual blinds and not the dot matrix style blinds we are use to seeing with province specified style buses. 
Go Ahead London President nearing completion at Plaxton's Plant in Wigan


10 Comments:

Anonymous
at: Monday, January 09, 2012 10:59:00 am said...

It has to be said, not many people get to see buses in the process of being built!

Anonymous
at: Monday, January 09, 2012 11:27:00 am said...

Wow - excellent shots. Thanks for sharing them.

A few small points to make about the text. I don't think it's true to say that the Pointer was the only body fully compatible with the Dart - it was the most popular body, but by no means the only compatible body. Of course the first Pointers were built by Reeve Burgess, who were owned by Plaxton at the time.

Metroline TP 1-65 were new for the 17 as well as the 43 and 134. I think these buses were actually ordered by MTL, and the order was inherited by Metroline when they acquired MTL's London operation.

London Central's PVL 1-39 were for Bexleyheath routes 229, 401 and 422, not for Stockwell. Route 88 used the first batch of PDLs (1-13).

In the photo captions you mention PVL208-256 being destined for Stockwell - these buses were actually for New Cross and Bexleyheath, as you correctly say in the text, although a handful were loaned to Stockwell for the 345 for a few months.

Finally the white buses in the penultimate picture are Tridents, not B7TLs - you can see the Trident badge on the bus on the right. My guess is that the number 839 on the blinds refers to the last digits of the body number (6839), so this bus became PO51UGF, which spent much of its life in London with Blue Triangle despite being single-door. BTW it wasn't at all strange to see manual blinds back in 2001 as LED displays only really took off a few years later.

Jay says:
at: Monday, January 09, 2012 12:21:00 pm said...

Thank you for sharing your information 'anonymous'. When I have time I will edit the information. Also thank you very much for the kind comment!

Tom Bowell says:
at: Monday, January 09, 2012 6:28:00 pm said...

Good post mate.

Anonymous
at: Monday, January 09, 2012 10:28:00 pm said...

The caption on the 2nd picture may be wrong. Shown is PVL210, it was the first of the batch into service at NX, on the 171, and brought with it the new DDA style blinds that saw both halves being equal in size (The previous style had the destination smaller than the route number/via blind.

Flippy

Anonymous
at: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 3:57:00 pm said...

I remember driving PVL's 1 to 39 at BX when they were brand new we had to type train on an AVL from PM as the pvl's were late arriving oh happy days

Lewis
at: Thursday, January 12, 2012 6:37:00 am said...

I really thought this was present productions before I read the post! Unfortunately not, they were great buses

Anonymous
at: Thursday, January 12, 2012 10:00:00 pm said...

Nice article. However the DAF DB250 was the first low floor double decker. Initially the DB250LF/Optare Spectra variant. Then the DB250LF/Alexander ALX400

Anonymous
at: Thursday, October 18, 2012 10:06:00 pm said...

Reliable B7TL chassis - really - it took years to get them right with many chassis mods instigated to correct problems at cost to Volvo?
NC personnel were good to work with and listened to operators and took many points onboard and produced in the end a really good product

Anonymous
at: Friday, March 08, 2013 7:24:00 pm said...

I worked there 1977 ---1982 doing the selnecs for gmt and others but mostly spent time up wigan lane for my sins only did a couple of yr at pem,good pics though cheers

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