TE Tigers - history

514-529, PXI 5514 - PXI 5529

Whilst many of Northern Ireland's large fleet of Leyland Tigers have been standard vehicles with N and Q-type bodywork, a number of small batches of less usual models have also been operated. Amongst these were a batch of 16 with Alexander (Belfast) TE bodies which became fleet numbers 514-29.

The history of these started with the purchase by Ulsterbus of a group of 20 Tiger 12-metre coach chassis which were the last produced with the Leyland TL11 engine, which had been cancelled by the MoD. Mechanically these differed from previous deliveries in having the 260bhp rated engine and uniquely for the Leyland engined fleet a ZF 5-speed automatic gearbox (chassis type TRCTL11/3ARZA). 4 of the batch received Duple 340 bodies and became numbers 530-3 (OXI 530-3) in the touring fleet. The remaining 16 were dispatched to Mallusk for bodying by Alexanders. At this stage management wished to improve the image of express services, as the previous 'Ulsterbus Express' branding had become diluted by excessive application to large numbers of Leyland Leopards used mainly on normal service. Improved comfort was a key requirement and to this end Alexander TE bodywork was specified for these 16 vehicles, although the TE was already a familiar sight in Ireland with delivery of 40 similar Cummins engined buses to Bus Eireann during 1988/9.

Fleetnumbers 514-29 and registrations OXI 514-29 were reserved, and after a protracted period the first of the new buses emerged from Mallusk. Externally the most notable feature was the adoption of a completely new livery of white with blue skirt and a gold line along the length of the bus swept up towards the rear, with the new branding of Ulsterbus Goldliner applied. Internally 53 reclining seats were installed upholstered in a cheerful grey, red and mauve moquette. Such was the time take to get the first vehicle completed, a second block of registrations was reserved (PXI 5514-29), although the original OXI registrations were re-used on a number of secondhand coaches and double deckers (OXI 518 is still with the company on Ards based Scania 2456).

The first of the batch into use were 516/7 allocated to Derry on 30th April 1990 for the launch of the Goldline network. The remainder entered service the following day at the following depots: 514/5 (GVS), 518 (Derry), 519/20 (Enniskillen), 521 (Armagh), 522/3 (Dunagnnon), 524 (Magherafelt), 525 (Coleraine), 526 (Larne), 527-9 (Newry). The allocation of 520 to Enniskillen was noteworthy as for many years Leopard 520 (COI 520) had plied the road between Enniskillen and Belfast, becoming the highest mileage vehicle in the fleet in the process. As there were insufficient TEs to cover all express services, the initial Goldline timetable indicated which journeys the new Goldliners would operate on, although this was often not achieved in practice. The new arrivals soon settled down on the Goldline network and such was the success of this they were rapidly joined by several more batches of Goldliners, although this time with Q-type or Wrights bodywork. Dungannon based 522/3 were loaned to Bus Eireann for the summer of 1992 where they doubtlessly crossed paths with some of BE's own TE types.

In 1994/95 the entire batch received a mid life overhaul and refurbishment at Duncrue Street works. The most notable aspects of this work was an interior retrim with the moquette used in the 15xx series Plaxtons, the fitment of seat belts, as well as a slightly different application of the Goldline livery (compare the photographs of 517 and 525 below ). Toward the end of their service lives some vehicles had the seat belts removed or partially removed to counter constant vandalism. The first and only member of the batch to be maliciously destroyed was 521, which was lost in an attack in Armagh depot on 13th June 1997. In subsequent years the TE's led useful but uneventful lives; 515/7/22 operated from Bangor on railway replacement services between October 2001 and May 2002, whilst 515 and 517 were loaned to Citybus during the summer of 2003, similarly 527 was loaned to Metro between October and November 2007.

The first of the group to be taken out of active use were 515/7/22/7 which went to the Driving School in May 2002. Amazingly every single bus out of the batch, with the exception of destroyed 521, was alocated to the Driving School at some stage of it's career, althought some were not operated. The majority of the TE's were taken out of use between 2005-7, the final survivor being 527 which operated briefly out of Newtownards during October 2008. In November 2008 the surviving vehicles were renumbered with the addition of 2000 to their existing numbers in order to free up numbers for new B7RLEs 501-545. The affected buses were 514/6/8-20/2/4/5/7/8/9, becoming 2514 etc. First to be sold were 515/7/23 which went to Dodds of Troon in Scotland in April 2008 for use mainly on schools and railway replacement work - a picture of 517 with Dodds can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ruglen/3322543023/. Also sold in April 2008 was 526 which made the long journey down to Kelleher, Tipperary where it was re-registered 90 TS 3692. Of the remainder 525 was sold to Hamill for scrap and no less than 9 went to Lough Swilly between February 2009 and March 2010.

514 Lough Swilly 531 November 2009; reregistered to 90 DL 6665
516 Lough Swilly 532 November 2009; reregistered to 90 DL 6666
518 Lough Swilly 535 January 2010; reregistered to 90 DL 6672
519 Lough Swilly 533 November 2009; reregistered to 90 DL 6667
520 Lough Swilly 534 December 2009; reregistered to 90 DL 6670
522 Lough Swilly 536 January 2010; reregistered to 90 DL 6673
527 Lough Swilly 518 February 2009
528 Lough Swilly 538 March 2010; reregistered to 90 DL 6679
529 Lough Swilly 519 February 2009 - withdrawn by January 2011 after mechanical failure.

But for a mechanical fault, 524 would probably also have gone to Lough Swilly, fortunately this bus was secured for preservation by ourselves.


Below: 519 under construction at Alexanders in early 1990. This version of the livery was eventually not adopted.

Tiger 524 - May 1990 [ Martin Young ]

Below: 524 Standing at Glengall Street shortly before entering service. Note the missing 'paperclip' logo.

Tiger 524 - May 1990 [ Martin Young ]

Below: Derry based 517 at Glengall Street having operated down via Omagh on the 273 route.

Below: 525 at Laganside with a healthy load on the Coast Road express to 252 to Portrush.

Below: Interior view of 519 in post refurbishment condition.

Below: 524 leaves the Europa Buscentre on a 210 to Magherafelt. Compare this photo to the one above when it was new.

Tiger 524 - GVS - [ Paul Savage ]

Below: 514 in use with the Driving School at Royal Avanue.

Tiger 524 - GVS - [ Paul Savage ]

Below: 528 looks rather down at heel at Duncrue Street. The Goldline stripe and branding have been removed as it was operating with the Driving School.

Tiger 524 - GVS - [ Paul Savage ]

Below: Former 514 in Foyle Street after joing the Swilly as it's number 531.

Below: Swill 533 seen at Pennyburn shortly after repaint. This was formerly Ulsterbus 519.


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