Ulsterbus Mark III Goldliners – a history
by Will Hughes

To further enhance the ‘Goldline Express’ network of services and to allow the replacement of the three batches of Leyland Tigers with Alexander (Belfast) ‘N’ type bodies used on express duties, Ulsterbus placed a further order for 25 new vehicles for delivery in 1992. The Mark I ‘Goldliners’ had received Alexander (Belfast) ‘TE’ type bodies with the Mark II ‘Goldliners’ receiving the new Alexander (Belfast) ‘Q’ type body. In a departure from previous practice, the order for the Mark III ‘Goldliners’ was placed with Wrights of Ballymena. Ulsterbus had ordered 50 Leyland Tiger TR2R62V16Z4 chassis, a 12 metre version of the TR2R56V16Z4 version used for the final two batches of ‘N’ type Tigers and the new ‘Q’ type Tigers already delivered to both Citybus and Ulsterbus. Eight of the chassis were diverted to Citybus and received 53 seat ‘Q’ type bodies for use on the ‘City Express’ service. A further 17 also received ‘Q’ type bodies but with 64 seats (a mix of 2+2 and 3+2) to allow replacement of the few double-deckers remaining on Ulsterbus school services. The remaining chassis were sent to Wrights where they received a new design of high floor body named ‘Endeavour’. This order represented an important landmark for both Ulsterbus and Wrights. For Ulsterbus they represented the first significant batch of full-sized vehicles to be supplied to them from the Ballymena-based company and for Wrights the order represented a significant breakthrough into the ‘big bus’ market both here and on the mainland. Only one other order for this type of body style was placed, in this case a batch of five Scania K93 with 53-seat bus bodies delivered to Yorkshire Traction in 1992 (275-9, K275-9 EWA). Even then there were noticeable differences between these and the Ulsterbus vehicles, particularly with regard to the window spacing and heights. However when you look at other body styles being built by Wrights at the time, the family resemblance is obvious.

Above: Seen here near Ballymena prior to delivery to Ulsterbus was 1417 (WXI 4417) whilst on a demonstration run for members of the Irish Transport Trust. It is being driven by a young Rodney Mark, who is still with Wrightbus nineteen years later. [Paul Savage]

By using the 12 metre chassis, it was possible to get 53 very comfortable Lazzerini reclining seats into these vehicles. On the downside, because of the desire to provide more legroom for passengers, this resulted in them having a narrow entrance door, which was fine whilst the vehicles were on express duties, but which made them slow to load when they were downgraded to normal service or schools duties. The cabs were also small, which made them unpopular with tall drivers and also with those who, how shall I put it, are ‘more substantially upholstered’. Indeed, because of his height, our late member, Terry Noble, would do his utmost to avoid 1430, the Larne-based example.

First to enter service was 1413 on 5 June 1992. Based at Great Victoria Street, it was joined later in the month by 1415/8/21 (Glengall Street – on loan) and 1417 (Londonderry). A further seven entered service in July – 1414 (Great Victoria Street), 1416 (Coleraine), 1419 (Great Victoria Street), 1420 (Enniskillen), 1422 (Armagh), 1426 (Dungannon) and 1428 (Coleraine) – with another five in August: 1423 (Armagh), 1425 (Dungannon), 1427 (Enniskillen), 1430 (Larne) and 1431 (Magherafelt). 1424 (Omagh), 1429 (Ballymena) and 1432 (Antrim) took up duty in September with 1408/9 (Craigavon), 1410 (Newtownards) and 1411 (Newcastle) following in October and the final example, 1412, at Newry in November.

The batch was to suffer two premature withdrawals, both as a result of the ‘Troubles’ and both as a result of firebomb attacks on Armagh depot. First to go was 1423 on 12 August 1995in an attack which was to claim a further two vehicles. The second to go was 1416 which had been transferred to Armagh in September 1995 (probably as a direct replacement for 1423). It was destroyed on 13 June 1997 in an attack which claimed a further three vehicles. The remains of both went to Beattie, Hillsborough for scrapping.

The arrival of a batch of 46 Scania K94/Irizar coaches for ‘Goldline’ duties in 2003/4 was to herald the end of these vehicles on express duties. Following an accident in June 2003, 1432 was detaxed and sent to Duncrue Street Works for repair. When it returned to service in September 2003, it had been re-seated with 57 Lazzerini Practico individual bus seats for school bus duties and it had been repainted into standard fleet livery. Rather surprisingly, they were not seat belt fitted on refurbishment. The conversion of 1432 heralded the conversion of the rest of the batch, 1413/5/8/21/6 being converted in October, 1425 in November and 1408/9/22/4 in December. The remainder were converted in 2004 – 1410/1/27 in January, 1412/9 in February, 1420/8 in March, 1414/29 in April, 1417 in May, 1430 in June and 1431 in September.

Their unpopularity with the operating staff probably precipitated their early withdrawal. First to go were 1411/5/7, taken out of service in April 2009. Over the next year all were to be withdrawn, the final examples going in May 2010 (1420/5/6).

Above: Lough Swilly 530 (92-DL-5729), formerly Ulsterbus 1432 (WXI 4432), seen here arriving at the Foyle Street Bus Centre in Londonderry. [Paul Rafferty]


Still being relatively modern vehicles, they soon attracted attention on the second-hand market. Looking to update their fleet, Lough Swilly took 1417/9 in May 2009 as their fleet numbers 520/1. Over the next year or so they acquired a further eight examples, full details of which can be found in Table 1 below. A number were for use on school services and on the insistence of the relevant authorities were down seated to 55 and seat belt fitted.

Three also went to private operators in the Republic of Ireland. In January 2010 Duffy, Ballinglass took 1410, placing it in service in March 2010 as 92-CW-1668. The same month Sprughan, Bagnalstown took 1412 with 1422 going to the same operator the following month. Both were placed in service in April 2010, 1412 as 92-CW-1671 and 1422 as 92-CW-1673.

These vehicles also attracted the interest of a mainland operator, James (t/a Heartlands Travel/Invincible) of Tamworth, Staffordshire who in July 2010 took six of these vehicles. In April 2011 they took a seventh example of the type. Full details of the vehicles involved can be found in Table 2 below. Some have been re-seated to 70 or 72 (with 3 + 2 seating) for use on school services and most now carry cherished registration numbers. Interestingly they were used to replace other vehicles with a Northern Ireland connection – Cummins engined Leyland Tigers with Alexander (Belfast) ‘N’ type bodies built new for Shearings.

1431 was acquired for preservation by Irish Transport Heritage in April 2011, joining its collection of Leyland and Volvo-engined Tigers.

This left only 1420/1 is storage awaiting disposal. In July 2011 both were sold to Geoff Ripley, Carlton, a well-known Yorkshire dealer and breaker of buses. Hopefully both will see further service with an operator on the mainland.

Above: Former Ulsterbus 1425 (WXI 4425), which is now 131 in the fleet of James {Heartlands Travel/Invincible}, Tamworth, Staffordshire. It now carries the cherished registration 520 MWX. [Will Hughes collection]

Table 1        

Ulsterbus Fleet Number

Lough Swilly Fleet Number


Lough Swilly Registration Number






WXI 4411  




92-DL-5728 (12/09)  




92-DL-5772 (3/11) Re-seated to B55F by1/11




WXI 4418 Re-seated to B55F by1/11




WXI 4419  




92-DL-5745 (6/10) Re-seated to B55F by2/11




92-DL-5746 (6/10) Re-seated to B55F by2/11




92-DL-5747 (6/10) Re-seated to B55F by6/10




92-DL-5744 (6/10) Re-seated to B55F by2/11




92-DL-5729 (12/09) Re-seated to B55F by10/10


Table 2        

Ulsterbus Fleet Number

Heartlands Fleet Number


Heartlands Registration Number






JSK 957 (9/10) Re-seated to B72F 8/10




JSK 958 (9/10) Re-seated to B72F 9/10




YHT 988 (10/10) Re-seated to DP72F 9/10




PCK 335 (c3/11) Re-seated to DP72F 9/10




520 MWX (8/10)  




SSU 837 (9/10) Re-seated to DP70F by8/11




WXI 4430  

Above: Preserved 1431 (WXI 4431) seen at the former trolleybus turning circle at Strathmore Park on Belfast’s Antrim Road in June 2011. During its service at Magherafelt, 1431 no doubt passed this location many times. [Paul Savage]



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