Leyland Tiger / Alexander N-type history

340 - 379 DXI 3340 - 3379

The initial vehicles in the Tiger fleet were delivered in early 1984, with 340 being the first in to service on 14th January at Newcastle. Externally the all-new N-type body had a somewhat boxy design with only flat glass, although the pillar spacing was carried over from the X-type bodies to allow for commonality of spare glass; the utilitarian looks were not helped by a livery which contained considerably more blue than the previous designs. Internally 53 dual purpose seats were fitted, representing an increase of 4 over equivalent Leopard vehicles, and a more pleasing internal decor with less unfinished aluminium than on the X-type predecessors. Passengers would also have noticed the deep throb of the exhaust brake which was fitted to all subsequent vehicles and which could become irritating on long journeys. A novel, but ultimately short lived feature was the rear mounted windscreen wiper; Under the bonnet 340 was quite different to the following vehicles as it was built on a bottom tier coach chassis with the 218bhp engine, whereas the remainder of the fleet was based on the 170 bhp bus style chassis. 340 was also easily recognisable as being the only N-type delivered new with wheel trims, and also a lower case fleetname which was replaced with a more forceful upper case variation from 341 onwards. These features were all removed at a later stage in 340's life. One further pleasing feature was the 'Tiger's head' badge which was present on all subsequent Ulsterbus deliveries - unfortunately these have fallen victim to collectors over the years. A small Tiger's head was also fitted as a steering wheel centre and these too have disappeared over the years. Interest was added to this group of vehicles by the specification of 360-9 as express coaches, continuing a tradition of upgrading standard vehicles for use on longer routes. In the case of the Tigers internally this involved the fitment of 53 non-reclining Diplomat high-back seats, whilst externally the livery included a broad blue stripe swooping down from the front of the bus and large 'Ulsterbus Express' fleetnames. A distinctive feature of these 10 was the front and rearmost side windows which were trapezoidal rather then rectangular in shape - in fact these were actually the rearmost windows from the RELL style body turned upside-down ! Eventually 360/2-7 were converted to 53 seat service buses with their seats donated to the 1130-9 batch of vehicles; 368/9 survived longer as coaches, but were reseated to 62 seat school buses in later life and gave long service, both only being withdrawn in late 2008. 361 probably had the most interesting life after coming off express work, as it was transferred to Citybus in June 1991 to be converted as a specialist bus for the carriage of wheelchairs. In this form it had 34 seats and the distinctive modification of a second door amidships which was for use during the operation of the wheelchair lift. 361 was painted in Citybus tours livery and gave 17 years service in this form, only being replaced by SchoolRun 360 in April 2008. Another unique vehicle in this delivery was 370, which was powered by a Gardner 6HLXCT engine coupled to a Hydracyclic gearbox rather then the normal pneumocyclic type, which was the only one of this type purchased new by Ulsterbus, although subsequently 35 similar ones with the 6HLXB engine joined the Citybus fleet. 370 operated for all it's life from Coleraine depot. Sister 371 was also used for livery experiments in early 1990 carried a number of variations before eventually receiving a much brighter livery which was carried from new on 1322 onwards and subsequently applied to all the existing fleet. Many of this group had long lives with 341/57 surviving long enough to be renumbered on paper as 4341/57 to make way for SchoolRuns. From new these were delivered to Newcastle, GVS, Magherafelt, Derry, Ards, Enniskillen and Armagh and Coleraine. Delivery of this group was completed in November 1984 and production proceeded immediately to the second batch; all of 340-79 are out of use.

380 - 419 FXI 380 - 419

These 40 buses were all built to the 53 seat dual purpose specification and were delivered between November 1984 and June 1985. They were all allocated to depots which already had examples of the type, excepting 393/4 which introduced them to Newry and 416/7 to Oxford Street. 412 achieved unfortunate fame, being the first Tiger to be withdrawn on 24/03/1987 when less than 2 years old. Of this batch 409 was also notable, being painted in an experimental blue and white livery with gold lining, although this did not find favour and was repainted to standard livery without being used. 421 was which rebuilt by Alexander to the revised specification with the emergency door moved forward hald a bay following a severe accident at Hilden. For many years 384 (Enniskillen) was easily recognisable as it carried a green UTA destination blind. All of 380-419 have been taken off service and none remain on the books.

420 - 459 GXI 420 - 459

The third group of Tigers were delivered between July 1985 and January 1986; again these were to the same 53 seat dual purpose design as 380-419, although they were easily recognisable externally by the omission of the rear wiper, which by this time was missing from many of the earlier deliveries anyway. The first of this group, 420, had a slightly modified chassis to accommodate shallower entrance steps and also a wider entrance; this was adopted as a production feature from 480 onwards. This group spread the types sphere of operation to include Lisburn, Ballymena, Larne, Omagh and Dungannon. 438 directly replaced the Trust's original Leopard, 1337, at Coleraine on 16th September 1985. 445 was the first Tiger to be maliciously destroyed (on 8/11/86), although it hung around in Ulsterbus ownership until being withdrawn in February 1988. All are now out of use, although 434 survived long enough to be renumbered to 4434 (on paper at least).

460 - 479 HXI 460 - 479

A small group of 20 buses were delivered between January and June 1986. The first 10 were express style buses in the same style as 360-9, whilst 470-9 were again 53 seat DP's. Of this batch 460/3 were rebuilt as 53 seat buses following accident damage; their coach style seats were re-used for the 1130-39 group of vehicles. 461/2/4-9 were later rebuilt to 62 seaters with 3+2 seats, and in this form 461/2/8 survive in Derry at the time of writing (November 2008). This group introduced the type to Downpatrick, where 471/2 were destroyed in May 1987, achieving less than a years service. 478 of this group has also survived, shortened for use as a tow bus at GVS; notably it is the only N-type to carry the current Ulsterbus house style blue and grey livery.On receipt of Scania 478, the Tiger was renumbered in the service vehicle series as 4478.

480 - 499 IXI 1480 - 1499, 1000 - 1009 IXI 1000 - 1009

Delivered between June and November 1986 this group of 30 vehicles adopted the wider entrance prototyped by 420. To the despair of many enthusiasts Antrim, Craigavon and Bangor were no longer 'Tiger free' after this delivery. For a time 1005 carried an unusual rear 'spoiler' in the same profile as the standard roof dome. The idea of this was to try to reduce road dirt adhering to the back of the bus - this was not successful and it was subsequently removed. 481 was subject to a modification to the engine air intake which was moved to the drivers cab for a period of time but made the cab noisy in service. At the time of writing all of this group are out of use.

1010 - 1039 JXI 1010 - 1039

At this stage things were getting monotonous for enthusiasts, with another group of 30 53-seat DP's delivered between November 1986 and February 1987.

1040 - 1099 KXI 1040 - 1067/2068 - 2099

1040 introduced the 'bus style' variation to the Tiger fleet. Internally they had less comfortable bus seats with fibreglass backs, luggage racks along only half the length of the vehicle, whilst the luggage boot was omitted completely. 1040-59/80-99 were built to this design, with the remainder being DP's. Interestingly the registration sequence increased by 1000 after 1067. 1060 became the first Tiger to be converted as a towbus in August 2007 and is smartly shortened to about 10 meters in length for it's new role.

1100 - 1154 LXI 1100 - 1139/7140 - 7154

A minor variation introduced from 1100 onwards was that the emergency exit was moved forwards by half a bay; this was as a result of a rear end accident at Hilden between a lorry and 421 in which the emergency door was not able to be opened after the impact. Again this group were all DP's, with the exception of 1130-9 which were to express specification, and were built using the seats from earlier buses 360-7/460/3. As with the other express buses these were rebuilt to school bus specification 62 seaters in later life. 1140 when new carried a dot matrix destination display; this proved unreliable and was replaced with conventional roller blinds later. These were delivered between November 1987 and June 1988. Service cuts in May 2009 saw all the remaining active vehicles in the group taken off service.

1155 - 1179 MXI 3155 - 3179

Delivered between July and October 1988 this group was built to the bus specification. A number were not painted in fleet livery from new, but arrived in base colour for the application of overall adverts. None of this batch remain in service.

1180 - 1209 NXI 1180 - 1209

1180-99 was another batch of 'bus style' vehicles; however the subsequent 10 (1200-9) were built to a unique 48 seat layout featuring a pram pen. These were for use in Derry City and indeed remained associated with the North West for most of their lives. 1209 initially was fitted with experimental moulded wooden seats; these were later replaced with the standard bus style ones. 1180 was used for a number of modifications by the Technical Department but none were to remain for long. Notably it had the engine air intake moved to the saloon floor where a box, a little like a heater, was fitted to the floor just behind the offside wheel arch. 1191 was another experimental vehicle as it was fitted with kneeling suspension to allow the entrance step to be dropped to kerb level for earlier access to the bus. This feature became standard from the start of the Volvo engined vehicles (1300). 1187 survived a mere 6 months in service at GVS before being maliciously destroyed. 1183 has been converted to a tow bus and will be allocated to Newcastle depot, which unusually has not had a towing vehicle for over 10 years. Service cuts in May 2009 saw all the remaining active vehicles in the group taken off service, although 1184 returned to use at Magherafelt in September 2009 and became the last Leyland engined Tiger in use, surviving until the end of November when it was withdrawn for conversion to a towcar, also at Magherafelt. 1183 has also been converted for towing, at Newcastle.

1210 - 1259 NXI 4210 - 4249, OXI 1250 - 1259

These were the final batches of DP's, delivered between December 1988 and March 1989. 1213-5 were delivered with the Rockwell style rear axle in place of the standard Leyland unit; 1250-9 also had this feature when new, although most reverted to the standard axle through time. 1215 was also identifiable in later life as it had unsightly wire mesh grilles placed over the rooflights after an incident where a brick was thrown through a rooflight from a bridge. Another exception was 1250 which was actually the final Leyland engined N-type to enter service in February 1990. This became a development vehicle for the subsequent delivery of Volvo-engined Tigers and featured kneeling suspension and a revised interior with DIPTAC fittings (sharks teeth edging end LEDs on the steps, palm operated bell pushes, orange grab rails). It also prototyped a minor interior redesign with the brown and orange 'spotty dick' seat fabric, grey seat frames and maroon rather than wood laminate sidewalls. This was applied as a production feature to 1300-20/2-39 until the more major re-design of the Q-type came about. 1219 was delivered with an overall advert for the Buttercraine Centre but lasted a mere 2 months in service before being maliciously destroyed, thus becoming the shortest serving Tiger in the fleet. Several of the batch have been converted for Towing, with 1223 going to Metro at Falls, 1238 to Downpatrick and 1255 to Newtownabbey.

1260 - 1299 OXI 1260 - 1299

The final delivery of Leyland engined N-types arrived between May and November 1989 and were standard 53 seat service buses. None remain in passenger use but 1260 has converted for Towing at Derry depot, 1261 with Metro at Short Strand, 1285 at Bangor and 1286 at Dungannon.

In later life:

From new all the DP vehicles had plain brown moquette seats whilst the bus seated vehicles had brown PVC squabs and glassfibre backs. At a later stage all the bus style Tigers were fitted with fully upholstered seats in a mid brown moquette with vertical stripes. At least 1 DP also got this style, although towards the end of their lives most vehicles had the brown and orange speckled material first seen on 1250.

With the exceptions of the express vehicles and a few buses delivered in base advert colours all the Tigers initially carried the style of livery seen on 340 ie blue skirt, and waist upwards, with trader ivory mid panels and roof. Unusually the wheel colour was a darker shade of blue (Oxford blue) as Tiger wheels couldn't be exchanged with the rest of the fleet. From 1989 onwards the remaining vehicles were painted in the style pioneered on 371 with brighter blue, more ivory, black window pillars, a blue line above the windows, silver wheels, and the fleetname in white on a blue block. Subsequently this was amended with the small Translink style fleetname above the first window and the paper clip replaced by the green 'Translink/Ulsterbus Citybus/NI Railways' name. Finally, to facilitate spray painting the blue line above the windows was omitted. 1155 was unique amongst the N-type fleet in carrying the current rugby-ball style of fleetname and logo.

One modification applied to the majority of vehicles was the replacement of the original heavy steel bumpers with flat fibreglass replacements. Although presumably cheaper to repair, these scarcely improved the N-type's box-like looks. 1080, in latter days allocated to Newry and out-stationed for at Forkhill, was the last Tiger to be modified about 2 years ago although 378 at Newtownards actually retained the steel ones at the front until withdrawal. Another modification applied to quite a number of buses was the fitment of 'Skybreaker' advertising panels. Most survivors have had the exhaust break equipment disconnected over the years.

From 1989 onwards the DOE did not issue 1, 2 or 3-digit registration numbers as a matter of course, but sold these as 'cherished' registrations (you have to admire them creating a market where none existed previously !). Hence the registrations carried by the FXI, GXI and HXI batches became more valuable. Unusually these were retained by the company and transferred on to Scania/Wrights 2401-80. Where possible these were matched to the fleetnumber (eg 2401 - FXI 401), but with gaps caused by buses having been withdrawn over the years a number of mismatches was inevitable (eg HXI 472 was not available so 2472 became FXI 398). FXI 396 was eventually reused on earlier Scania 700. The donor vehicles were re-registered with non-matching numbers (usually Belfast EZ numbers, but 446 got a county Antrim one - SKZ 4094 and 460 a Derry one - JNZ 7487). This re-registration process caused chaos and often resulted in 2 buses running with the same registration (sometimes even from the same depot !). A number of other attractive numbers were owned and it was intended to reuse IXI 1000/1 and LXI 1100/11 on Volvo coaches 124-7, but these did not join the fleet as intended.

N-type Leyland engined Tigers operated at all depots throughout the system (although none were delivered new to Newtownabbey), and quite a number spent their entire lives based at one depot (eg 340 spent 22 years at Newcastle). At the other end of the scale 1196 was probably the most travelled of the breed, having operated at no fewer than 16 depots (Lisburn, Craigavon. Downpatrick, Newry, Dungannon, Omagh, Enniskillen, Coleraine, Ballymena, Antrim, Oxford Street, Newtownabbey, Newtownards and Bangor). The reason for this was that it carried an overall advert for Vauxhall cars and hence spend time at different locations to spread the message.

Unlike the long drawn out decline of the Leopard and RELL fleets, the Tigers have come to the end of the road in a surprisingly short space of time. Apart from the premature retirements due to accident or malicious damage the first to come off service were 345/9 in July/August 2005 having achieved a respectable 21 years use. These were both subsequently repainted red and continued a long tradition in being sold to the Belfast Royal Academy for use a schools transport. Bulk withdrawal of the fleet started in earnest in June 2006 with the arrival of the first of 110 Scanias L94's. Subsequently a huge delivery of 160 Volvo B7R/Wrightbus and 125 Volvo B9TL/Wrightbus during 2007/8 saw the end of may of the fleet and during late 2008/early 2009 a delivery of 90 rural low floor buses (45 Volvo/45 Scania) saw off quite a number of the type. The majority of the remainder were withdrawn after service cuts at the start of May 2009 leaving only 5 in use and these came off at the end of June 2009 at the start of the school holidays. 1184 obviously didn't wish to go quietly and returned to service in September 2009 at Magherafelt and lasted until the end of November, becoming the last Leyland engined example in use. The vast majority of the fleet have been scrapped by Hamill at Ahoghill although a number have been sold to other operators notably 344/405/6 to Dodds of Troon, 433 to St Malachys Primary School (replacing RELL 2481) and 1235/49 to Lough Swilly (their 515/6), 351 and 1119 have appeared with Tiger Coaches and 1003, 1106 and 1121 were sold to Mike Nash. On the preservation front the following have been saved: 340/1/3/63/70 (DXI 3340) 385 (FXI 385, KEZ 2859), 393 (FXI 393, MEZ 5669), 400 (FXI 400, KEZ 3555), 424 (GXI 424, KEZ 1014), 460 (HXI 460, JNZ 7487), 485 (IXI 1485), 1000 (IXI 1000, SEZ 9973) 1025 (JXI 1025) 1122/31 (LXI 1122) 1143 (LXI 1143).

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