Friday, 25 April 2014

THE 'NORFOLK COASTER'



Konectbus of East Dereham (part of the Go-Ahead Group), recently introduced a new open-top bus service. Marketed as the 'Norfolk Coaster' it is numbered 22 and now operates x60mins along the coast road from Cromer via East and West Runton to Sheringham and then x120mins on from there to the Muckleburgh Collection located between Weybourne and Kelling.



A sole Northern Counties bodied Volvo Olympian (number 50 in the fleet), is run on the service, a bus that was transferred earlier in the year by the Go-Ahead Group from their South Coast subsidiary. This had previously operated within the 'Island Breezer' network of services on the Isle of Wight, and has basically retained the livery from that operation.


Number 50 heads for Cromer as it passes through Beeston Regis on the A149, a road that mostly hugs the North Norfolk coastline all the way from Cromer through Sheringham, Weybourne, Salthouse, Cley-next-the-Sea, Blakeney and Wells-next-the-Sea to Hunstanton.



Two images taken from within the covered area of the top deck. Eleven passengers can be accommodated within, so the bus can remain in service in the most inclement of weather and still provide top deck panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

There now follows a selection of images taken on the first day of operation.




The very first public service journey to allegedly enter the environs of the Muckleburgh Collection (unless anyone knows otherwise), at the western end of the route.

The Muckleburgh Collection is as the name suggests, a collection of military memorabilia both large and small, the large being a variety of working and non-working vehicles, mostly from the 2nd and Cold War periods. Amongst them are a few upon which one is able to take a ride around the vast grounds of the complex, that border onto the North Sea, as illustrated below.



Having served the complex the bus departs and begins the journey eastwards towards Sheringham and Cromer.


The first stop on the way back is in the village of Weybourne.

From here the next point of interest is the bridge that carries the North Norfolk Railway over the A149 between Weybourne and Sheringham.


It is clearly marked at 14'3" (4.3m).................


............and is indeed a bit of a tight fit..............


...............but with a maximum height of 13'10" (4m), and a little bit of due care and attention, the bus is easily guided through the obstacle. This is the first time for very many years that a scheduled double-decked service has operated beneath the bridge, probably not since the days of the Bristol LDs run by the erstwhile Eastern Counties Omnibus Company.

This section of the route is shared with Norfolk Green's (now part of Stagecoach), 'Coasthopper' route CH3. 



This runs in several sections (CH1 CH2 CH3) from King's Lynn all the way around the North Norfolk coastline via Hunstanton and the A149 to Cromer. Here number 318 one of their fleet of Optare Solos,  runs alongside the preserved North Norfolk Railway line on the approach into Sheringham.

Along with  the established x60mins Konectbus route 2/2A (Norwich & Holt via Cromer and Sheringham), this now provides a Daily x30mins service between Cromer and Sheringham. The Sunday service (x120mins), has also been enhanced by the introduction of a x60mins element that now runs between Cromer and Holt.



The regular operation of the 2/2A route since introduction in 2013 has been with a selection of Optare Tempos, represented by number 410 seen here at Beeston Regis on the main A149 road between Sheringham and Cromer.



Now and again double-deckers, mainly Alexander Dennis Enviro400s operate the route, but more recently with the introduction of the revised schedules, they have become more prevalent. Sunday observance sees number 604 in Sheringham (upper), bound for Cromer, whilst below it is illustrated at Beeston Regis bound for Sheringham as a number 2. There it changes the blind display and becomes a number 2A for the onward journey to Holt. 


The other main operator in the area and who run services parallel to the 2/2A and 22 is Sanders of Holt. The group of routes X44/44/44A run variously from Sheringham to Cromer and then onwards to Norwich and are generally operated by a selection of Scania double-deckers, although the odd Dennis Trident and Volvo has made an appearance. Number 114 is one of three Scania OmniDekkas that were acquired a while back from Reading Transport, and is illustrated here as it passes through West Runton.


For a short period Sanders also ran a 22 route, but only between Cromer and Sheringham also with another Olympian. Despite the East Kent registration, the vehicle's origins lay much further away, in fact way over the Border in Edinburgh with Lothian Buses. Numered 109 the bus is shown as it departed Sheringham in April 2012.


But even further back during the 1979 season, an open-top route was operated by the Eastern Counties subsidiary of the National Bus Company. Number OT1 had originated with the Western National Omnibus Company and was used on the 'Seaside Special' from Sheringham via Cromer to Overstrand, where the bus is illustrated as it prepared for another journey westwards.

But as we draw this to a close.

Just a few 'preserved' images. Buses have served the Muckleburgh Collection before, but not on a regular basis. Once in a while when there has been major events associated with the nearby North Norfolk Railway, the complex has served as a 'Park-&-Ride' venue. To provide the transport to/from the events, various preserved buses and coaches have been pressed into service, such as those that follow.




And finally is this not where we came in?



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