A Trio of T types
by Will Hughes
The need for specialist vehicles for the transport of disabled children from outlying rural areas to residential special schools in the greater Belfast area saw the Western Education & Library Board purchase what as it turned out were to be three unique vehicles for this work.
For many years the WELB and its predecessors had relied on the somewhat basic Albion Viking chassis for its big bus requirements, a chassis which shared a certain amount of commonality with contemporary truck chassis. The Viking was deemed unsuitable for this work which was going to involve a lot of relatively long distance high speed running on A class roads, dual carriageways and motorways. In the event an order was placed for three Leyland Leopard PSU3E/4R chassis, similar to those being delivered to Ulsterbus at this time. As with Ulsterbus the body order was placed with Alexander (Belfast) but unlike Ulsterbus who were having them bodied with the X type body so familiar to us all, the WELB opted for the more stylish T type body, construction of which was generally carried out at their Falkirk plant. In the event the bodies for these vehicles were supplied in kit form from the Falkirk plant and assembled at their Belfast plant, the only T type bodies to be constructed there.
Because of the nature of the work these vehicles were engaged in, their interior specification was fairly plush by school bus standards. When new they were equipped with 40 coach seats and had a toilet compartment in the rear nearside corner. In addition the rear offside corner had a wheelchair lift fitted below the emergency exit. First to enter service in October 1979 was EJI 7136 which was based at the Londonderry. It was joined by EJI 8221 in March 1980 and EJI 9206 in April 1980 which were based at Omagh and Enniskillen depots respectively. These vehicles would frequently be seen around greater Belfast on Sunday evenings as they transported children from their homes to the schools and again on late Friday afternoons as they returned the children home for the weekend. Whilst these vehicles would operate between their home depots and the schools, a number of smaller vehicles would also be engaged in the operation, providing feeder services both to the home depots and to various points along the route to/from Belfast where they would connect with the bigger vehicles.
The 3 T-types were frequent visitors to Belfast when new, and EJI 9206 is seen in Glengall Street during the early 1980s. 1001 (EJI 7136) seen here at the WELBs former depot Mountfield Road, Omagh. By the time this photograph was taken the coach seats, toilet and wheelchair lift had been removed.
Ultimately a change in the Education Department policy saw an end to this operation and the vehicles were all downgraded to normal school buses. They were taken into the boards own body shop at Lisnaskea depot where they had the coach seats, toilets and wheelchair lifts removed being fitted instead with 49 standard service bus seats. In February 1992 the WELB instigated a fleet numbering system using fleet numbers and codes similar to those used by Ulsterbus, these vehicles becoming LD 1001, OM 1002 and E 1003. The similarity to the Ulsterbus system should not really come as much of a surprise; the boards then transport officer being Brian McLean, a former Ulsterbus depot manager.
1002 (EJI 8221) is seen here at the WELBs former depot at Mountfield Road, Omagh. Following accident damage, this vehicle has received a much simplified front panel.
First to be taken out of service was 1001 (EJI 7136) which had been withdrawn by 3/00 following accident damage. It was gradually stripped for spare parts at Lisnaskea depot before the hulk went for scrap. Next to go was 1003 (EJI 9206), latterly based at Lisnaskea (LS), which had been withdrawn by 3/02. 1002 (EJI 8221) was withdrawn by 4/03 and after many months lying dumped at the back of Lisnaskea depot, both it and 1003 (EJI 9206) were sold to Erin Metal Recyclers, Kinlough for scrap in 11/04.
End of the road for 1003 (EJI 9206) as it awaits its fate at the back of Lisnaskea depot in September 2004. As with 1002 (EJI 8221), this vehicle had also received a modified front panel following accident damage.
A special word of thanks to the engineering staff at the WELBs Lisnaskea depot for their help in the preparation of this article.
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