Citybus Gardner engined Tigers - history

After the successful purchase of Bristol RELLs during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the next generation of city chassis needed to be selected for ongoing fleet replacement in Belfast. The experiment with 6 Leyland B21's ( a locally bodied National 2 underframe, fleetnumbers 3000-5 ) was not successful, and another evaluation group of 7 Alexander bodied Leyland B60 Lynx's (fleetnumbers 3006-11) even less so. Whilst Ulsterbus had already successfully been using the Leyland Tiger chassis as the replacement for the Leopard, the mid engined configuration of this was less than ideal for urban service, although eventually this model was selected, there being no suitable alternative. However a number of modifications were adopted to make it more suitable for city use, notably the adoption of low profile tyres which reduced the step height by one and a quarter inches, which, combined with previous work to widen and lower the entrance steps, made for a more acceptable layout. Fuel economy also exercised thoughts within the engineering department, and eventually the Gardner 6HLXB engine option was agreed on, even thought this meant that the offside chassis member had to be cut to accomodate the larger engine, which raised fears of weakening the structural integrity of the chassis, potentially causing unacceptable vibration. A low ratio differential was also fitted as a high top speed was considered unnecessary for city operation. These modifications resulted in a price premium of several hundred pounds per chassis. Construction of an initial batch of 10 commenced, with bodies by Alexander (Belfast) to the usual N-type design. Eventually this variation of the Tiger design numbered only 35 buses, as events in the wider world caught up with the chassis, but what they lacked in numbers certainly was made up for in terms of a varied life.

2601 - 2610, LXI 6601 - LXI 6610

The initial vehicles in the Citybus Tiger fleet entered service between June and September 1988, all at Short Strand depot. The N-type body was to the same single door configuration as with Ulsterbus vehicles, but with no luggage boot; the Ulsterbus livery layout was adopted in red and ivory, with no fleetname. Internally a B43F+37 semi-standee layout was specified, with bench seats over the front wheelarch and a standee area bordered with single seats; as was usual at that time all the seats were unyielding moulded glassfibre. 2601/10 were equipped with air suspension, the remainder with 'taperlite' leaf springs similar to that fitted to the contemporary RELL fleet. From a passengers perspective these buses were scarcely an improvement over the RELLs, with the raucus Gardner engine, a noisy exhaust brake located just behind the offside wheel, little soundproofing and hard seats, even a short trip became something of a trial. 2601/2/4-9 were transferred to Ulsterbus between July 2001 and January 2002, with 2610 going in September 2004, although with low seating capacity and top speed they probably weren't the most useful of buses for the Ulsterbus fleet. 2603 remained with Citybus and was eventually sold to Lough Swilly, although it was not used and returned to Citybus; 2607 also returned to Citybus between December 2007 and February 2008. 2608 was the last of the group in use, being withdrawn from Antrim depot in September 2007 having given a respectable 19 years use. Eventually 2601-8 were all scrapped, whilst 2609/10 are both survivors, being sold to the Kells Transport Museum.

2611 - 2635, NXI 4611 - NXI 4635

The second group of Gardners were delivered rapidly after the first, entering service between December 1988 and May 1989 (although the entry in to service of 2618 was delayed until June due to it having suffered accident damage in Short Strand depot even before it was bodied). One subtle difference was that the second batch were not fitted with the Tigers head badges, doubtless as those fitted to the initial 10 had disappeared remarkably rapidly. Again all were initially allocated to Short Strand depot. All of this batch had taperlite suspension, although this did little to enhance the general ride quality of these buses. At this time management's thoughts had turned to improving the interior specification of the City fleet and to this end 2618 had individual Fainsa seats, with a thin cushion upholstered in a blue check moquette (similar to that used in NIR trains at the time); similarly 2620 had conventional bench seats trimmed in a yellow and orange fabric - this was the same as Alexanders were applying to contemporary N-types being built for Shearings and certainly made a dramatic improvement to the interior ambience of these buses. In the event neither design was adopted as standard, as 2635 was delivered with seats trimmed in the brown and orange 'spotty dick' style moquette and this was eventually adopted as standard. 2635 was painted in NIR Rail Link colours and was the backup vehicle to the 4 Leyland Lynx's used on the Rail Link service between York Road and Central Statons. During 1992 it was also used in Derry, again on the service linking Waterside Station and the City Centre (and in a strange twist of fate replacing Lynx 3007 on this service). As with the earlier batch, many others of these buses also eventually operated with Ulsterbus either permanently or on loan (2611-6/9/20/6/9/34/5). The first of this type to be lost maliciously was 2632, destroyed on the Forthriver Road on 21st May 1990 when less than a year old, this was followed by 2617 (Ardoyne depot), 2622 (North Queen Street) both in 1994 and 2633 at Short Strand depot in July 1996. The remainder of the batch survived to have long lives with 2613 lasting until February 2008, having returned to Citybus from Ulsterbus in December 2007. 2611/6/20/1/8 ware used a mobile training units for new Wayfarer TGX ticket machines in the latter months of 2004, whilst 2625/30 continued a long tradition in operating for Belfast Royal Academy during June 2005. Some examples gave further use after being withdrawn by Translink, with 2611/4/25/6/8/30 going to Lough Swilly as it's 487/4/76/60/85/6; 2634 also went to the Swilly for spare parts. These were reseated by the Swilly to 49 or 51 seaters, whilst 2614 was converted to a towing vehicle in 2007, being shortened in the same style as Ulsterbus towcars, and still survives with the Swilly, the only one of the 6 still operational. 2616/9/27 made a trip beyond these shores, being sold to Hann, Liverpool (dealer) in 2006. 2619 made it to 2010, reseated to B70F with Elliott, Finney and Richman, Kidsgrove. The other 2 appear not to have been taxed on the mainland, and Hann's original plan to buy a number of these vehicles probably foundered on the inability to move them on. Finally, a number of the group have made it in to preservation, 2620/4/9 with the Kells Transport Museum, and 2635 very impressively restored by the Shannon's in Newtownards.

Later life

One of the first modifications made to these vehicles was a change in seating capacity, with a single seat being removed and replaced with a buggy pen, the layout then becoming B42F+38. Eventually all buses received upholstered seats in the brown and orange 'spotty dick' style, including 2620 which had the Shearings yellow and orange; however 2618 retained it's unique seats until the end. From 1992 onwards the livery was changed to the Citybus equivalent of the contemporary Ulsterbus style with large paperclip and italicised fleetnames - 2605 was the first bus to be repainted in this scheme. Another modification was the replacement of the right hand pane of the windscreen with armoured glass to offer the drivers some protection from stone throwers. This could be detected by the slightly heavier frame, although the overall effect was much less noticible than on the RELLs which were modified at the same time. 2603-10/2-5/8-21/3-6/8-31/4 received Skybreaker advertising panels from November 1991 onwards; these were to a much sturdier design than the panels fitted the RELL fleet. 2620 later had it's panels removed. As with equivalent Ulsterbus vehicles, the original steel bumpers were replaced with fibreglass ones to reduce repair costs. One modification which wasn't immediately obvious to the naked eye was the installation of transponders to 2606/10/1/22/33. This was for an experiment on the Newtownards Road, whereby the transponder signalled the approach of the bus to traffic signals thereby allowing the signal to be set to allow the bus through the lights quicker than would otherwise have been the case. Transponder equipped buses were denoted by a white diamond shaped sticker in the windscreen. For a small group of buses they were surprisingly well travelled, with only Dungannon, Armagh and Coleraine never having been allocated one. In many cases however the allocation of the type would only have been brief, usually Citybus advertising buses on the move to be shown off to a wider audience. Of overall adverts however, there were many, with some buses carrying six or even seven different promotional schemes. A list of adverts carried is shown below:

Some images of these buses throughout their lives can be found in this gallery.

2601 - Irish Power Boat Racing Grand Prix and Citybus Balloon Carnival
2601 - Wellworths
2601 - Y.M.C.A.
2601 - Tango Orange
2602 - Fiat Cars
2602 - Harp Lager
2602 - Wellworths
2602 - Gullivers Kingdom
2602 - Fruitopia
2602 - Belfast City Council Dust"bus"ters
2602 - Guinness
2603 - Armagh Planaterium
2603 - Harp Lager
2603 - Dalys Garage
2603 - 100 years of Bass
2603 - Guinness
2606 - Citybus Hot Air Baloon Carnival
2606 - Citybus Gold and Silver Saver Tickets
2606 - Irish Power Boat Racing Grand Prix and Citybus Balloon Carnival
2606 - base white livery
2606 - Citybus Nightline Service
2606 - Be Seen to be Green
2606 - base white livery
2606 – Integrated Primary Schools – Our Childrens Future
2610 - Citybus Hot Air Balloon Carnival
2610 - Citybus Gold and Silver Saver Tickets
2610 - Irish Power Boat Racing Grand Prix and Citybus Balloon Carnival
2610 - base white livery
2610 - Citybus Nightline Service
2611 - Vauxhall Motors
2611 - Car Tec (N.I.)
2611 - Dundonald International Ice Bowl
2611 - Blackpool Tourism
2611 - Tango Orange
2613 - Dencourt Motors
2613 - Phoenix Natural Gas
2613 - Diamond Recruitment Agency
2616 - Kennedy Shopping Centre, Belfast
2616 - Dalys Garage
2616 - DHSS Organ Donor Card
2616 - Eirecell Special Olympics
2616 - Environment and Heritage Service
2618 - Laganside Development Corporation
2618 - Poetry in Motion
2618 - Ulster Museum Dinosaurs Exhibition
2618 - Citybus Get Up and Go
2618 - Low Sulphur Diesel
2620 - Citybus Hot Air Balloon Festival
2620 - Citybus Gold and Silver Saver Tickets
2620 - Road Safety Council Don't Drink and Drive (1)
2620 - Road Safety Council Don't Drink and Drive (2)
2620 - Free Bus and Rail Travel.
2620 - Phoenix Natural Gas
2620 – Irish Power Boat Grand Prix & Balloon Carnival
2620 – Enjoy a drink but never drink and drive
2621 - Guiness World of Records
2622 - Budweiser Beer
2622 - Diet Sprite
2622 - Into the Heart of Belfast with Citybus
2622 - Bus It with Bass
2622 - Ulsterbus Tours
2626 - Guiness World of Records
2626 - Nambarrie Tea
2626 - H.M. Customs & Excise Drug"bus"ter
2627 - Coca Cola
2627 - Heinz Baked Beans
2629 - Harry Corry Ltd.
2629 - Health & Safety Executive.
2629 - Local Enterprise Development Unit
2630 - Health & Safety Executive
2633 - Abbey Centre, Newtownabbey
2633 - Ulsterbus Parcelink
2633 - Lee Clothing
2634 - Progressive Building Society
2634 - Westwood Shopping Centre, Belfast
2634 - HFC Bank
2635 - N.I.R. Rail-link
2635 - Heinz Tomato Soup


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