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The need for a low height bus
|(above) No. 99 on the Northern Counties stand at the 1958 London Motor Show
Middlesbrough Corporation had a need for low height buses, because of the low bridge on their principal route to the Transporter Bridge, from the town centre This bridge, built by the North Eastern Railway Co. spans Albert Road, carrying the railway eastwards towards the industrial heart of Teesside.
Unfortunately, it has only 13ft 6in. clearance above the busy main road, thus requiring low height buses. Until 1957 the Corporation always had to purchase double-deck vehicles of the 'lowbridge' type, with a side gangway and bench seating to the upper deck. This meant very restricted head room in the lower deck seats in order to keep the overall height down to 13ft. 5 in.
In the early part of 1958, Middlesbroughs prefered body builder, Northern Counties Motor Engineering, of Wigan informed the undertaking that they had been asked to provide a body for a new type of chassis being developed by Dennis Brothers Ltd, of Guilford. This was to be a low height model, suitable for a conventional double deck body and able to be built to the 13ft. 5in. maximum height requirement.
The completed vehicle was to be exhibited at the 1958 Earls Court Motor Show in October 1958 and finished to a very high standard.
The bus was duly purchased by the General Manager, Mr. Frank Lythgoe, at a considerable discount, as was normally required by the Council. It was decided that henceforth, it should be the standard bus purchased, being state of the art at that time.
No. 99 in service 1958 - 1970
|Following its two weeks of stardom in London, it entered service on 5th November 1958, the event was marked by a civic reception attended by the Mayor and Corporation.
It was put to work on the 'M' service, running between the Transporter Bridge and Lodore Grove or Levick Crescent.
It served well, and but was followed by a larger production batch of Dennis Loline Mk IIs which featured front entrances and a closing saloon door, together with a more modern looking full front.
The whole concept however, turned out to be a blind alley, because at the same Motor Show, Leyland Motors had shown the prototype of their Atlantean, rear engined model, which was soon to become the accepted style of double deck-bus used by most operators in the United Kingdom.
By 1965, No. 99 had been relegated to other services because of it's non standard layout and was finally disposed of by Teesside Municipal Transport in 1970
(below) No. 99, seen here in Turquise Teesside Municipal Transport livery, which it carried from 1967 to 1970. It was the first bus to be repainted in the new scheme in 1967
Life after Teesside
Teesside Municipal Transport sold off the bus because it seized its Gardner 6LW engine at the end of 1969.
It was subsequently sold to a Scottish dealer, 'Tiger Coaches' who fitted it with a manually operated rear door instead of its open platform. It was sold on to a Mr. Wilson of Airdrie near Glasgow who used it to ferry clients to a Bingo Halls in Bellshill.
At this time it was fitted with a grill from a Bristol Lodeka as no Dennis one was readily available!
It stayed north of the border for several years before being finally scrapped at a yard in Larkhall, Lanarkshire in 1977.
Two Middlesbrough enthusiasts, Ron Maybray and Andy Wood, were keen to preserve the unique bus, which had been quite a celebrity during its time on Teesside. They scraped together the cash to purchase it and it was collected and driven south to a parking place in the garden of Ron's home,in Bawtry, near Doncaster.
Work was done sporadically but time overtook it and corrosion set in at all entry points to the body such as blind boxes and air intakes.
It was a further fourteen years before The 500 Group were offered the vehicle. It was by this time stored at Derby in a local bus garage, used by many other preservation projects.
After inspecting the bus, some negotiation took place and it was agreed that the Group should take on the project of restoring it.
(below) No. 99 pauses on the A74 during its journey South to Bawtry. The Bristol grille is fitted at this time
No. 99 passes to the 500 Group
The first task was to recover the bus to Teesside
Middlesbrough Council were approached and agreed to pay the towage costs to recover No. 99 back to Teesside.
On 26th June 1991 she was collected from Derby by Hargreaves recovery truck and front end lifted for the long journey to Transits depot in Church Road Stockton
(Right) Hargreaves make light work of the journey North, here she is seen on the A19 (M. Dowling)
After a long search, a suitable workshop was found to undertake the restoration
'Teesside Tomorrow', an industry/community liaison group was instrumental in arranging for N0.99 to be taken to I.C.I. Wilton?s No. 5 shop for work to be done by a 'Get back to Work' scheme, to be organised by I.C.I.
The scheme was however stillborn and so she languished again, this time in good company, the building also contained Deltic No. 9, Alycidon, which was being restored by the Deltic Preservation Society and a variety of steam locos under the care of N.E.L.P.E.G.
(Right)Hargreaves edge No. 99 into No. 5 Shop at Wilton, 11th December 1992 (The late Maurice Dowling)
We restore her ourselves
After a long delay, we were allowed into No. 5 depot to continue the restoration with our own team and from our own resources.
We of course, had to have the necessary fire training to enable us to work in the Wilton complex and comply with all the health and safety rules that are required for a safe working environment.
David Hunter put a project team together and the work started in 1994.
Panels were stripped to expose the rotten woodwork where water had got behind the alloy outer panels, the front lower saloon bulkhead was considerably corroded and had to be stripped for inspection and rectification.
A major task was to repair the front outrigger which supports the engine bay and bonnet. This was done with the help of a local agricultural engineer who re-fabricated the original piece
We tackle the rear end
A major task was to remove the rear doors and restore the platform area to its original configuration
After removal of all the rear panels, we realised that the bus was in a far worse condition than we had anticipated.
The rear panels frames all had to be renewed but the worst problem was the? ring frame? which supported the upper deck. Water ingress through the blind boxes had completely rotted this complex structure so it had to be re-fabricarted and replaced.
The platform floor was completely rotted as was the nearside rear cross-member and these too had to be replaced by the team
When this work was complete the rear panels had to be re-fabricated, using original photographs as a pattern
(Right) the rear platform area stripped for inspection
The upper deck
|The upper deck seats were removed and it was seen that the floor above the cab and engine were rotted.
Mick Southgate manfully took on the task of replacing this floor and removing the remnants of the Cave-Brown-Cave heating system which had not been used since 1960.
All the apertures had to be sealed up but ?faked? to still look like the original fittings. The main steel rail that supports the upper deck front had to be renewed and then all the panels etc refitted,
Work makes progress - 1997
By the summer of 1997 considerable progress had been made in the restoration of the bus.
David Fisher had finished the reconstruction of the cab and was now turning his attention to the work of getting the engine ready for running
(Right) David Fisher, an great engineer, who did a magnificent job of remaking the cab area, is seen whilst changing the engine oil
The bodywork was re-panelled
Water had rotted the timber which had originally been used to attach the outer aluminium panels to the steel frame of the bus. The lower deck area was completely striped and the timber replaced by Mick Southgate
(right) Mick finishes off the fixing of the panels on the nearside rear.
Restoring the upholstery
The interior was tacked next, Tony Carroll stripped thee seats and repainted the frames. Meanwhile Howard Williams used his upholsterer?s skills to clean and recondition the leather upholstery.
(Below) Howard shows off the? before and after? pictures of the renovated upholstery
Almost ready for a new life
July 1998 saw the bus almost finished at Wilton, just in time as the depot was closing.
We left and want to Stockton with only the final painting and some minor mechanical work to be completed. Plus of course the small matter of an M.0.T.
(Right]The Loline faces home as it prepares to leave the Wilton workshop; it is still in undercoat in this view
Another Motor Show
A principal objective of the previous four years was to have the bus complete in time for it to be exhibited again for its fortieth birthday.
There was of course no Motor Show in 1998 but it was decided to take her to Showbus at Duxford.
There was a last minute panic to get No. 99 finally finished; the paint shops at Transit did a superb job of the finish coat paintwork. We had crests made and we fitted them together with all the lettering and lining three days before we had to depart to Showbus.
Then we had to have her tested for an M.o.T. Paul Brown and David Hunter worked through the night to get her ready for a 7.30 a.m. appointment with the examiner two days before the show.
It passed with flying colours and so we drove it to Duxford, her first journey on public roads for twenty one years.
It was, in the words of the press ?The Star of Showbus 1998? and drew admiration provided delight for all who attended including Ron Maybray who had saved her for the future, all those years earlier.
We were awarded the trophy for the best Dennis Bus in the Show, a fitting reward for four years and four thousand hours of effort.
(Below)David Hunter receives the trophy, awarded to the 500 Group for the Best Dennis
A Crowning Glory for the 500 Group
Showbus 1998 was a highlight for the 500 Group
We now had two preserved buses to show the world,
(Below)The 500 Groups two active buses, Loline JDC599 and Fleetline JDC544L pose in front of the magnificent ?American Pavilion at Duxford, both buses show ?Transporter? on the blinds and were much photographed
We had truly made our name
Now fully restored
|We had a lot of press coverage with the unveiling of the re-borne Loline.
(below) This magnificent photograph was taken for the front cover of "Bus and Coach Preservtion"
It was produced in a photo-shoot at the Transporte Bridge one wet day in 1999
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