Volvo engined Leyland Tiger history

In the first part of this article we looked at the history of the Ulsterbus Tiger with Leyland engine covering the period 1984-1989. When Leyland Bus was privatised in the late 1980s it lost control over engine production, which passed to Leyland Trucks. Eventually that organisation wished to cease production of the TL11 engine, which was Ulsterbus' favoured option, and offered customers the choice of the Gardner 6HLXB or Cummins L10 units, neither of which appealed to Ulsterbus. After viewing a Tiger chassis with a Volvo DH10 engine at the 1987 Motor Show, Ulsterbus management managed to persuade Volvo to offer this as a factory option for the Tiger model. This resulted in a substantial order for 250 vehicles, for delivery during the years 1990-1992. A further major mechanical change made at this time was the adoption of the ZF automatic gearbox, in place of the previous pneumocyclic semi-automatic transmission. When the first of these vehicles hit the streets, the gruff bark of the Volvo engine contrasted sharply with the earlier deliveries, and unsurprisingly made them sound like contemporary Volvo B10Ms. Indeed, such was the political manoeuvring, with Volvo wishing to lock Ulsterbus in to this chassis option for future deliveries, it was rumoured that there was pressure to accept proper Volvo chassis in place of Tigers for the later deliveries in the batch. Doubtless this contributed to the purchase of DAF coach chassis around this time. Performance wise the Volvos seemed much livelier than their predecessors, with the engine being rated at 220bhp (compared to 170 for a Leyland); acceleration away from a stop could be brisk, often to the detriment of standing passengers! Bodywork on the initial vehicles of this type continued to be the Alexander N-type favoured for the previous deliveries, although around this time management decided that a better standard of vehicle was necessary, particularly for Citybus use, and accordingly a new style of body was developed by Alexanders. This was the Q-type, also referred to as the Cityliner. Externally, the same basic pillar spacing as the N-type was continued, although, as the body was 3 inches higher than the N-type, the glazing was not to a common size. The front and rear of the new body was extensively remodelled with large, one-piece screens front and rear and extensive use of glassfibre mouldings. Internally a colour co-ordinated scheme was adopted with a new red and blue moquette, light blue sidewalls and much improved styling around the entrance area and driver's cab. Combined with the larger windows this gave these buses a much airier feel internally, particularly when compared to the N-type with it's dark coloured interior. A specific livery variation was adopted, consisting of ivory with blue skirt, back window pillars and a U-shaped stripe above the skirt and windows. A feature of this group of vehicles was the diverse combination of chassis and body configurations specified, with N-types, Q-types, Wrights, 11m chassis, 12m chassis, service buses, high capacity buses, Goldliners, and city vehicles of various combinations delivered.

Below are further details of these unique and interesting vehicles:

1300 - 1320, PXI 1300 - 1320
1322 - 1339, RXI 3322 - 3339

The initial group of Volvos entered service between January and March 1990. Externally they differed little from their Leyland-engined predecessors, although they sounded a lot different. Internally the revised trim prototyped in 1250 was adopted with red side walls, mushroom coloured seat frames and the brown and orange spotty dick moquette. DiPTAC features were also present, with brightly coloured grab rails, palm operated bell pushes and shark's tooth edging to the entrance steps illuminated with red LED's. The chassis model for these buses was TR2R56V16Z4, indicating 11m length, Volvo engine and ZF gearbox. Armagh, Craigavon, Ballymena and Coleraine depots were the recipients of this batch. A number of these have been destroyed over the years (notably 3 lost at Armagh on 11th July 1996; the remainder are still in service, with the exception of 1304/10 which are in Reserve, 1306 (now sold for scrap) and 1309 sold to the Kells Bus Museum. The second batch, 1322-39, were delivered between May and September 1990 and were the first vehicles in the fleet to be delivered in the brighter style livery, as carried by the Trust's own Leyland-engined 343. 1322-30 entered service at Newtownabbey on the occasion of the opening of the depot, whilst others went to Newry and Lisburn depots. 1339 was the last of the N-types to enter service along with 1334/7/8 on 1st September 1990. A number of this batch are currently in Reserve, whilst 1330 is the only one of it's type to be sold for further use (to Lough Swilly as their 517). An unusual event in these vehicle's lives was the re-registration of 1311/2/3/5/17/8/9/22/3 with former Leopard marks AXI 311/2/3/5/7/8/9, BXI 322/3 in order to keep these alive for Ayats coaches 2011 etc. Once the Ayats entered service the Tigers reverted to their original registrations.

1321 RXI 3321

This was the prototype for the Q-type body and entered service some time after the remainder of the group (in September 1990). It was completed to a dual-purpose specification with 53 conventional bench seats, as with it's peers, but finished to the new internal scheme. 1321 was delivered to Antrim depot where it spent the subsequent 17 years, and is currently in use at GVS. From February to October 1986 it carried the registration BXI 321 in order to keep this alive for Ayats 2021, but subsequently reverted to it's original registration.

2636 - 2660 SXI 2636 - 2660
2661 - 2680 VXI 2661 - 2680

The initial production delivery of Cityliners went to Citybus with the SXI group entering service between January and March 1991 and the VXI batch between September 1991 and January 1992. These buses represented a step change in the standard of vehicle specified for city use, with a 51-seat layout replacing the previous semi-standee arrangements, and bright, colour-co-ordinated, fully upholstered interiors. All were initially allocated to Short Strand, although 2653-60 moved to Newtownabbey in May 1991 to inaugurate the CityExpress service, for which they received large CityExpress branding below the windows. 2661-4 were delivered as 38-seaters for use on the RailLink service, which was previously worked by the Leyland Lynx, and were smartly painted in a cream and red livery corresponding to the contemporary NIR train scheme. 2637 gained unfortunate distinction in being the first Q-type to be maliciously destroyed on 15th July 1991, having only achieved 6 months use. Others which only had a short life in Belfast were 2653-7 which moved to Ulsterbus Armagh and 2658/9 to Ulsterbus Derry City in 2000. Whilst with Citybus these batches were notable for the variety of overall advertisements carried. In later years these were often of the wrap round contravision type covering the windows (2664 was the first of this type, for Carlsberg); super rear adverts were also popular on these buses. From 2005 onwards all bar 2678-80 were transferred to various Ulsterbus depots, with the final 3 moving to Ulsterbus in 2008.

1340 - 1359 TXI 1340 - 1359

The first production group of Q-types for Ulsterbus entered service between February and May 1991. After the Goldline express coach network was launched in May 1990 there was a rapid requirement for more coaches to expand the network. Continuing a long tradition, the service bus design of the time was adapted and the result was the Mark II Goldliner. These featured 49 reclining coach seats in the original striped moquette, and externally wore Goldliner livery. Unusually they also featured tinted glazing, although over the years most have reverted to standard glass after breakages. This batch was initially allocated throughout the network, and was given a light refurbishment after 5 years use, the most noticeable feature of which was the re-upholstering of the seats in the same moquette as used on the Mk IV Goldliners. The batch was displaced from frontline Goldline work by the delivery of the Mk5 Plaxtons in 1999, and from that time most lost the Goldline branding, with many running in an non standard white (rather than ivory) and blue scheme for many years. The survivors of the group were further refurbished in 2006 during which they were reseated to 63, in 3+2 configuration. 1348 had already had it's original seats replaced by a set of ones removed from a Leopard. At this stage all regained the proper fleet livery.

1360 - 1379 UXI 1360 - 1379

Following directly on from the Goldliners was a batch of 20 dual-purpose vehicles. 1360-9 were identical in specification to 1321 and entered service at Derry and Newcastle during May and June 1991. From 1370 onwards the internal specification was further revised to replace the previous bench style DP seats with individual ones with headrests. Whilst these look impressive from a distance, in reality these were uncomfortable, being unduly upright and with little legroom due to the desire for a 53-seat configuration. 1370-9 were stored for a time without seats pending arrival of the new interiors, and only entered service at Antrim, Magherafelt and Oxford Street depots during March 1992.

1380 - 1399 WXI 4380 - 4399
1450 - 1454 WXI 4450 - 4454

Another batch of DP vehicles, these entered service April to July 1992. Further design modifications applied at this stage was the adoption of bonded panelling in place of the traditional pop-riveted variety, giving these vehicles a much smoother appearance that their predecessors, and also a slightly more reclined version of the seats used in 1370-9. Roof mounted external marker lights were also introduced at this stage to comply with EU legislation. Old habits die hard, however, and many have gained riveted panel straps over the course of their lives. Another unusual modification was the repositioning of the rear registration plate behind the rear window, due to a bizarre craze in some parts for removing number plates from vehicles whilst on the road! Newtownards, Downpatrick, Bangor, Enniskillen, Omagh, Dungannon, Larne, Oxford Street and GVS were the recipients of this batch.

With the focus on improving the standard of vehicle design at this stage there was a need for further Goldliner vehicles and also the desire to finally replace the last of the acquired Atlantean/ECW double-deck vehicles in the Ulsterbus fleet. In order to allow flexibility to achieve these aims, 50 of the order for Volvo-engined Tigers were specified as 12 metre length (TR2R62V16Z4 - 6.2 metre wheelbase). These were the first chassis of this length bought new for the service bus fleet, although coach chassis had been to the longer specification for a number of years.

1400 - 1407 WXI 1400 - 1407

The first arrivals for 12m chassis were 8 for Citybus. Externally, Alexanders has successfully adapted the Q-type to the longer length without the need for short RML-style bays as with the previous 12m N-type designs built for Shearings (this was achieved by using all long length bays instead of the 2 long and 4 short configuration on the shorter chassis). These 8 entered service on 22nd April 1992 and were specified for the CityExpress motorway service between Belfast and Newtownabbey. Internally they had 53 Lazzerini fixed high back seats, with a bright chevron style moquette, whilst externally a branded livery was introduced with white, a red skirt and a large multi-coloured rainbow with CityExpress fleetname. Tinted glazing was also specified. All were allocated to Newtownabbey depot. 1406/7 were displaced from CityExpress after the arrival 1480-2 and became Tours vehicles allocated to Short Strand and painted in the white and multi coloured stripes livery. These themselves were displaced by former Ulsterbus Goldliners 1571/2 and returned to bus use at Newtownabbey. The remainder of the batch were eventually displaced from the CityExpress service by the 10 low floor Mercedes O.405s delivered in 2000 and were repainted in red and cream fleet livery. In time all were transferred to Ulsterbus, repainted blue and reseated with high back bus style seats, with the exception of 1400 which had already gained a set of low back bus seats apparently recovered from a Mercedes UrbanRanger.

1408 - 1432 WXI 4408 - 4432

At this stage the Goldline express service brand had taken off and there was an urgent requirement for more express coach type vehicles. Management had a desire for a more a more coach style appearance and a contract was awarded to Wrights for 25 53-seaters. These had a new high floor body style (named Endeavour). Ulsterbus management must have had high hopes for these vehicles and Wrights had already produced the stylish Contour body, but unfortunately the Endeavour was based on the contemporary low floor body design, with small gasket glazed windows and a box like appearance, it didn't really deliver the style required. Neither did the chassis option help, with the raucous Volvo engine, a 4 speed gearbox and limited soundproofing, a long journey on these buses could often result in a sore head! The batch entered service between June and November 1992 with one or two vehicles allocated to most depots. These lasted until 2003 on Express services, at which time they were cascaded on to schools work with the delivery of the first batch of Scania/Irizars. Starting with 1432 the coach seating was removed, 57 individual bus seats installed and standard blue/ivory bus livery applied. Due to their non-standard nature a number of these have been prematurely withdrawn and sold to Lough Swilly: 1417-9/1/5/32 now 520/2/1/8/9/30. 1431 is also currently out of use.

1433 - 1449 XXI 1433 - 1449

At this stage deliveries reverted to the Q-type design. It was desired to finally get rid of the last of the 12 acquired ECW-bodied Atlanteans and finally cease normal double deck operation within Ulsterbus and in order to meet this requirement a further derivative of the Q-type was developed. These unusual buses had 64 seats in a mixture of 2+2 and 3+2 configuration. The front 6 rows of seats were in a 2+2 configuration and were low back individual units, with the rearmost rows being conventional bench seats in 3+2 configuration. In this manner the vehicle had more comfortable seating for use in lightly loaded off peak services, but still had the capacity to replace double-deckers for schools use. All entered service in September 1992 and have always been particularly associated with the Coleraine and Omagh areas.

1455 - 1480 YXI 1455 - 1482

The final delivery of Tigers for Citybus arrived between October 1992 and January 1993. These were numbered in the Ulsterbus series and were virtually identical to contemporary Ulsterbus deliveries, the only notable difference being the substitution of a small luggage pen in place of the first nearside seat, giving a capacity of 51. Further buses were required for the CityExpress service so 1480-2 were specified as per 1400-7, although being on the shorter 11 metre chassis these only seated 49 rather than 53 on the larger buses. At this stage electronic destination displays were becoming popular and 4 buses were so equipped: 1476/7 had full electronic screens at the front, together with electronic number displays at the nearside and rear, whilst 1478/9 had electronic number displays at the front, side and rear combined with high visibility yellow/black roller blinds at the front. This equipment did not prove to be reliable over the years and all have reverted to the standard roller blinds and numbers at the front with the side and rear screens being decommissioned. Unusually for a group of City vehicles these did not suffer any malicious losses with only 1455 being withdrawn after accident damage. 1481/2 were transferred to Ulsterbus in 1996 after delivery of the inital 2 articulated Volvo B10Ms 3000/1, whilst 1480 followed in 2000 and 1456-67 in late 2005/early 2006, with 1468-73 going in mid-2008.

1483 - 1500 YXI 5483 - 5500

The final batch of Tigers was delivered between January and August 1993 and were to the now familiar 53-seat DP spec. Appropriately 1500 was the last to enter service at Lisburn on 12th August 1993; this was the final Tiger chassis and also the last Leyland purchased bringing to a close a long history for this historic make in Northern Ireland dating back to the arrival of PLSC1s for the BCDR and LMS (NCC) fleets in 1926. 1490 was withdrawn prematurely with accident damage in February 2009 and was sold on to the Swilly for spare parts.

And the others ?

Sharp-eyed readers will have spotted that the vehicles detailed above totalled 246 chassis, so what about the other 4? These were in fact 4 chassis between the UXI and WXI Ulsterbus batches which received Q-type bodies and were delivered to Lowland Scottish as their 301-4 (J301-4 ASH), in the vivid yellow and green Lowland colours. These later became 62271-4 in the FirstGroup national numbering scheme. An example of one in Lowland livery can be seen at

In later life:

During the course of their lives there have been few changes made to these vehicles, with probably the most obvious being the changing livery style over the course of the years. From 1999 onwards the block style fleetname was replaced with a smaller Translink one and the paperclip was replaced with the inappropriate green Translink 't' style logo. At this stage most vehicles lost the lower portion of the blue coach line; in later times this was deleted altogether to facilitate spray painting, although a few vehicles which haven't had full repaints still carry it. 1474-9 stayed with Metro after the remainder of the batch left for Ulsterbus and all gained house colours which suits them well. No Ulsterbus Q-types have gained this livery. These Tigers suffered relatively lightly in the 'Troubles', with only 16 losses due to malicious action; a number have also been prematurely withdrawn due to accident damage. Normal withdrawals commenced with the withdrawal of 1330 on 31/12/08 and doubtless with the pending delivery of 60 more Volvo B7Rs during late 2009, many more will come to the end of the road.

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