As has been mentioned in the review of the 2014 Cotswold Model Railway Exhibition, the late inclusion of Ming Ing was a chance to display some of the upgrades applied since its appearance at Gloucester earlier in the year. Also uniting both these and some guest lorries and coaches was the theme “Powered by Volvo”. These added value to the vehicles and structures already part of Ming Ing for both old friends and new spectators alike.
As a number of the newly acquired Volvo coaches – along with lorry kindly loaned by the Mellor Brothers, a digger working at City Coaches’ Ming Ing depot, some of the cars at Viking Vehicles Jeremythorpe Garage and possibly even some of the boats on the canalised River Foss – were powered by Volvo engines, it only seemed right to have a Volvo powered aircraft flying overhead.
The Saab JAS39 Gripen was designed to replace the Swedish Air Force’s iconic Saab 35 Draken and 37 Viggen and first flew in 1988. Its Volvo RM12 gas turbine can take the canard configured delta winged fighter up to Mach 2 and it features relaxed stability aerodynamics controlled with fly-by-wire systems. As well as being used in Sweden, the Gripen ( “Griffin”) has been exported to South Africa, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
On the ground meanwhile, new PSVs appearing in the yard of City Coaches included Van Hool Alizee 688 of Shearings Executive Coaches. Bearing the registration M688 KVU, this was the last of a batch of 43 similar Van Hool bodied Volvo coaches delivered in 1995. Fitted with only 46 seats to provide maximum legroom, 688 also featured rear toilet facilities, fridge and hot drinks machine but no roof mounted air conditioning pod or rear window.
Although allocated to Shearings Continental Tour Programme up to 1997, 688 was then allocated to tours of the Scottish Highlands during the summer while transporting football supporters – notably those of Blackburn Rovers and Bolton Wanderers around the country. Perhaps 688 had just arrived from an away match with York City FC at Bootham Crescent! The models Original Omnibus product number was 42712.
5.1 of the fleet of Gillingham based King’s Ferry meanwhile carried the 1996 registration P661 LKO and was one of the later Alizees with twin headlights, roof air conditioning unit and rear window built on a Scania K113CRB chassis and modelled by Original Omnibus as their product 42722. The Kings Ferry which spends millions of pounds each year on the latest high-specification new vehicles.
Skills Motor Coaches Ltd was founded in 1919 by Arthur Skill, grandfather of the 21st Century directors Nigel and Simon Skill who took over the business in 1987. The company employs over 100 people at its base at Radford, Nottingham, and in retail travel outlets in Nottingham, Beeston, Derby,Mansfield, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Ripley, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Leicester and Brighton.
The turn of the Millennium fleet of over 50 vehicles included Volvo badged Plaxton Premiere M34 TRR, one of five such PSVs which were acquired on 7 April 1995 and can be distinguished from the similar sized Van Hool vehicles by thre skylights in the roof as well a rear window and single headlights. Originally purchased from Yates of Loughborough as a 53 seat standard interior, M34 TRR was soon returned to Plaxton for conversion to a 49 seat version with a hot drinks machine and onboard toilet facility. In its new guise, M34 TRR was used extensively abroad and acquired a Tempo certificate for travel throughout Germany. The 1998 vintage OOC product number is 43308.
Representing Gloucestershire on the preserved coach scene at York – courtesy of Andy Peckham was Plaxton Panorama 1 bodied Daimler Roadliner HDG 772D which carried the Black and White fleet number 272 from 1967 to 1975. The rear engined Daimler Roadliner was an uncommon vehicle on the coach scene with only Black & White and PMT buying any significant numbers.
In 1926 George Readings began short tours around Cheltenham with a 14 seater REO. He took delivery of two larger vehicles shortly afterwards and started a service between Cheltenham and London taking four hours for the 95 mile journey. The company rapidly expanded and by 1934 there were 5 major coach operators in the West of England and South Wales – Greyhound of Bristol, Midland Red, Royal Blue, Red & White and Black & White. Later that year the companies came together as Associated Motorways to rationalise services with each company retaining its own livery and fleetname. In July 1973 the company was renamed National Travel (South West) Ltd, a part of National Express Services.
At the truck stop on the other side of the Derwent Valley Railway meanwhile, a more up to date guest star from the fleet of the Mellor Brothers was Volvo FH 460 6×4 cab unit WX 59 FXT in the markings of Quedgeley based C. M. Downton.
C M Downton Ltd was formed in 1955 when Conrad Michael Downton, the owner of a small Gloucestershire farm, invested in a gravel-carrying tipper lorry and began moving small loads around the county to supplement the modest income from the farm.
The business quickly became involved in a number of major projects across the region such as the building of the M5 and the construction of the approach roads to the Severn Bridge. By the end of the 1960s, Downton had built up a fleet of tipper vehicles and was heavily involved in the construction industry in Gloucestershire and along the M5 corridor.
In the early 1970s, Downton purchased its first articulated lorry and the business continued to flourish. Soon it had more than a dozen articulated vehicles. Downton diversified its operations and commenced working for the local brewing industry, winning major contracts with Bass Brewers and the Flowers Brewery in Cheltenham.
Although the company was growing quickly, the business’ philosophy was the same as when it had a single truck: whatever the request, Downton would do everything in its power to get it done.
In 1985, Conrad Downton died suddenly at the age of 52. His three sons – Andrew, Richard and John – and daughter Kate took over the running of the business, setting their sights on turning the small but flourishing haulage company into a major player in the logistics industry.
Under the stewardship of the next generation of the family, Downton continued to expand and diversify. The business grew rapidly across all sectors, but especially in the drinks and publishing industries, where it has established itself as one of the leading logistics providers.
Today, the company is considered to be one of the UK’s leading independent logistics firms. The long-term relationships that Downton enjoys with some of the UK’s leading business brands like Dyson, Magners Cider, AB InBev UK and Pets at Home is testament to the prominent role that the business has carved for itself in the industry.
Although Downton has grown dramatically over the past half century, the core principle of the business remains constant – Downton will always deliver, no matter what.
As well as cab unit WX 59 FXT, David and Paul Mellor also very kindly loaned me a three axle curtainside trailer in the colours of Jigsaw Transport, wholly owned by C.M. Downton since 2009 but founded in 2003 with a new road transport business model for the 21st Century based on a regional network of partner hauliers with local expertise. Nationally managed, Jigsaw Transport continues to offer a flexible and sustainable way of transporting goods simply and cheaply.
Another bastion of transport for the public good – Royal Mail – also received a boost at the 2014 Cotswold Model Railway Exhibition when I had the chance to invest in Peco Modelscene’s 5058 Passenger Standing Set B. This had primarily been to add a crown round the corner of the Ming Ing Cafe but also included a postman with a red bag, making a visual link between the nearby pillar box and the Oxford Die Cast Land Rover Defender Post Bus in matching livery.
5057 Passenger Standing Set A meanwhile yielded a traditional nuclear family of Mother, Father and two children as well a woman holding a bunch of daffodils and a man in a red jacket with a set of golf clubs. As the York I remembered did not have any golf courses near the city centre I placed this character alongside the gold Volvo C70 at Viking Vehicles, asking the dealer if the clubs would fit in the back of the car. In fact, with golfing figures being readily available from both Peco and other manufacturers a golf club would make an ideal filler for an otherwise problematic piece of layout scenery, simply needing some sand bunkers and greens with pins and flags in addition to grass matting or flock powder fields with trees, hedges and fences as desired. Similarly, suitable plastic or card kits could be extended to create a “Nineteenth Hole”, Pro Shop, caddyshack etc and the inevitable parking lot could be populated aspirational cars.
Indeed, among them could be the new 2015 model Volvo XC90 sports utility vehicle, launched in August 2014 as the first new model produced by the Swedish company following its change of ownership from Ford since 1999 to Chinese firm Geely in 2010. Designed to compete with the BMW X5 and Audi Q7, the XC90 is also the result of an $ 11 billion investment in a new Scalable Product Architecture chassis and four cylinder engine as well as fresh powertrain and electrical components to replace those previously shared with the Michigan derived Taurus and Focus. Normally available with seven seats, the XC90 will also be available with four seats for the Chinese market. Next to be outshopped from Gothenburg will be a new S90 salon to compete with BMW’s 5 Series, Mercedes E Class and Audi A6.