Luton's Leyland Olympians

This page created 7th May 2004 by Ian Smith

612-620: The United Counties buses

United Counties bought nine ECW-bodied Olympians in winter 1981-2. Luton & District took them when United Counties was divided up in January 1986. They worked mainly on Aylesbury services, and lasted well, most retiring in 2000 and 2001.

633-642: The new Luton Buses

Luton Olympian/Alexander drawing In December 1988 Luton & District took delivery of its first new Olympians. They were bodied by Alexander with their 13ft 8in low-height (RL) design, seating 76 with single front doorways. Unusually they were fitted with dot-matrix displays. Two (636 and 641) were given coach seating. All were powered by Cummins engines through ZF four-speed automatic gearboxes. Luton had them painted in their red and ivory livery mainly for use on routes 37 and 38, linking Dunstable with Stopsley or Luton Airport via Luton and Houghton Regis. Operating from Luton garage, they gave the main route a six-minute headway. Inevitably some strayed to other garages, at Aylesbury and Dunstable, and after the takeover of London Country North-West to Hemel Hempstead and High Wycombe. 636, one of the coach-seated buses, was repainted in LCNW-style dark green and silver-grey for Green Line duties from Hemel Hempstead.
ATS Olympian/Alexander drawing The Shires rebranding saw them don blue, yellow and stone livery, which some retained for a remarkably long time into the Arriva era. They were renumbered as 5083-5094. Some have been refurbished at Derby, followed by a repaint at Garston into Arriva national turquoise and cream, and three were sold in late summer 2003 via Ensigns to Western Greyhound for their high-capacity services around Newquay.

633 in Newquay, July 2004

633 was on contract services for Western Greyhound in Newquay in July 2004. Considering that it had been bought by them in August 2003 it seems that replacing the electronic indicators with conventional blinds has been problematic. 638 was in similar condition, but sporting large "schools" plates.

645-657: More Alexanders

Another batch of thirteen with Alexander RL bodies (including one, 654, with coach seating) was bought at the end of 1989. They have worked almost exclusively on Luton, Dunstable and Aylesbury services, but the integration with London Country North-West saw Luton buses appearing on the long-standing 321 route. 656 (by then 5106) was loaned to Wycombe to test its hill-climbing capability in comparison with the ex-Oxford buses during October 2002.

They progressed from red and ivory livery to The Shires' blue and yellow. Renumbering saw them take 5095 - 5107. Slowly they acquired Arriva turquoise and cream, mainly as they progressed through Derby's refurbishment programme in the early years of the new Millenium.

Arriva The Shires 5095 in Luton, Saturday 5th September 2009. Arriva The Shires 5095 in Luton, Saturday 5th September 2009.

5095 on Luton local service 9 on Saturday 5th September 2009.

5078-9: The Buffalo Buses

Buffalo Bus of Flitwick had bought two Olympians with Northern Counties bodies in 1984, and these were taken over with the company and services in February 1995. The Shires put them to work from Aylesbury, numbering them 5078-9.

In February 2002 they were sent on loan to Arriva Merseyside, for possible use on rail replacement duties during Arriva's dispute with its railway staff. They stayed unused in Bootle garage, but were sold the next month. They did not stay with Arriva North-West for long, being sold on to dealers Fleetlink of Liverpool, and on to Collinsons of Stonehouse in May.

The ex-Rhondda Olympians

Rhondda Buses had bought a batch of ECW-bodied Olympians in spring 1982, and disposed of them in the early to mid-nineties. Southend Buses bought at least three in late 1992, and Luton & District acquired four in 1995. (Armchair Buses also bought one in October 1995). The Luton Buses acquired numbers in the 506* series, and were used wherever needed in The Shires area, while the Southend buses gravitated into the "..& Essex" fleet with 53** numbers. Keeping track of them through Arriva's frequent reorganisations isn't easy, but some of the Southend ones have appeared in the "Shires" lists. Most of the Luton examples were sold as ex-London Olympians started to oust older buses early in the new millenium.

5108, 5130: Motts & McMenemy

In 1995 Luton & District acquired two more secondhand Olympians. 5108 was a 1988 Northern Counties-bodied bus bought new by Mott's Travel for Milton Keynes work. Luton & District took over Mott's in July 1995, and the Olympian came with the sale. The Shires put it to work at High Wycombe.

ex-A1 Olympian/Alexander drawing 5130 was needed as an extra for LRT-tendered route 142, to replace LR100. Luton & District bought it in 1995 from McMenemy of Ardrossan (a member of A1 Services), who had it new in 1989. It had been unusual in the A1 Group in having Alexander bodywork, but it fitted in fairly well with the L&D fleet. It was used to launch the new "Shires" livery. There were detail differences from the Luton Alexanders: a roller blind rather than dot-matrix display being the most obvious from the outside. It also had bright-finished hopper windows, and openers on the front. But it was need at Garston for the 321 and 142, so they numbered it LR103 and allocated it there.

5162-68, 5170: ex-Yorkshire Olympians

In summer 1998 Arriva transferred eight more ECW-bodied Olympians to The Shires from Arriva Yorkshire. They went to Luton, Dunstable and High Wycombe. Some were sold in 2002-3.

5823-5835: ex-Oxford Olympians

In December 2000 Arriva The Shires took over the Wycombe Bus Company, a subsidiary of the Oxford Bus Company. Included in the takeover were fourteen Olympians with ECW bodies dating from 1986 and 1988. They continued to be based at Wycombe Bus Station, which soon became the company's only garage in High Wycombe. The ex-Oxford Olympians quickly went for repainting, mostly into turquoise and cream.

5384-5388: ex-Southend Olympians

Southend Transport acquired a number of ECW-bodied Olympians from Crosville during the winter of 1990-91. Together with one bought the following summer from Southern Vectis these became Arriva 5384-88, operating on north Thameside from Grays, and consequently shifted between control by Arriva The Shires & Essex and Arriva Southern Counties with various reorganisations. 5387 spent a little time at Ware, and then at Luton-Dunstable.

5889: the M&D Olympian

May 2002 saw the transfer to Garston of Maidstone & District's 5889, a 1984 coach-seated Olympian. It soon settled down as the Watford Junction staff rest-room.

5889 at Watford Junction, May04 5889 at Watford Junction, May04

5889 was still the Watford Junction rest-room on a very dreitch day in May 2004.

Bus Stop index Armchair bus histories photo refs Alder Valley