Earlier this week, I took advantage of the glorious February sunshine to visit Exeter - my first visit in 6 and a half years. While those photos are being catalogued, I thought I'd reminisce about my first visit in 2006. Exeter (along with Plymouth) has always been one of those areas I'd love to photograph in more often as I've always followed the bus scene in these Devonian cities - however, the sheer distance means it is usually impracticable. I've found I can now do Exeter in a day - Plymouth is just that extra hour too far either way.
The Stagecoach Devon fleet was in transition between 2004 and 2006. Out went a whole host of Iveco Turbo-Dailys and ex-London Volvo Olympians, and in came a variety of other buses. They were predominantly brand new Solos, Darts and Tridents, but also a variety of older double deckers joined the fleet - such as Volvo Citybus 15206 (F306MYJ) - pictured arriving in Exeter from Exmouth. F306MYJ was one of a number new to Southdown - a batch of buses I was very familiar with in Portsmouth.
Four elderly Leyland Olympians joined the fleet too. I managed to photograph 3 on the day - and they were all immaculately turned out. 14375 (D125FYM) was a former London and Warwickshire Olympian, pictured here heading for Crediton on route 50.
The Bayline route 12 - once Ivecos, then Volvo Olympians - had just been upgraded to this batch of 2004 plated Tridents. The 12 connected Paignton, Torquay and Brixham, so this one was certainly lost on the day. 18073 (WA04CSX), or Minotaur, is pictured arriving from Dawlish and Teignmouth.
Stagecoach Devon owned very few step entrance Dennis Darts from new - and this one is now exception. L716JUD was one of many buses new to Oxford, a former sister Harry Blundred operation, that found its way to Devon. 32016 is about to depart for Newton Abbot. Incidentally this Oxford connection is maintained well into 2013, with Enviro400s new to Oxford having just entered service in Devon following the introduction of new routes in North Devon and Cornwall.
Back in 2006, Western Greyhound only had a small presence in the city. The 510 was operated by a couple of coaches, and connected Exeter with Newquay. Today, the 510 operates from Exeter to Wadebridge, with connections to Newquay, either by coach seated Enviro400s, Citaros or Optare Solos. 234 (J234HNC) is pictured having a rest in the lower coach station.
Enthusiasts in Devon are rather fond of these former London Scanias. These were all(?) convertible open toppers, used on the various summer tourist services along the south coast. Here 15326 (J326HMC) takes a break inland, arriving from Crediton on the 50.
One of the then-new order in Exeter - a very smart looking 34869 (WA06HNC), which was then brand new, arrives outside Exeter bus station on city service A. These had recently displaced Volvo B6LEs onto other city routes, as the Ivecos were disposed of.
This green livery is now lost from the streets of Exeter. It was designed to illustrate the service from Digby to the university, via the city centre. Optare Solo 47107 (WA04TXY) does the honours here.
At this point, Exeter was still served by (technically) 4 different First companies. As pictured here, the 92 came in from First Somerset & Avon from Taunton, operated mainly by Darts but the odd Leyland Olympian could sneak onto the route - as pictured here by 34964 (G904TWS). First Hants & Dorset served Exeter on the X53 / X54, the Red Bus operation came into Exeter on the X9 and 315, and the Plymouth operation served Exeter on the Sundays route 82. This was far fewer services than in previous years - but today only the X53 remains...
Finally, here is one of a batch of 4 Volvo Olympians that were native to Stagecoach Devon. 16602 (R902JDV) is pictured here operating service R, heading for Rifford Road. I'm not sure if 16602 is still in the fleet - certainly I didn't see any step entry buses in service in Exeter during my whole visit.
My over riding emotion from these shots is what variety was on offer back then - especially considering that by 2006 the fleets of First and Stagecoach were more standard! My visit this week provided only Enviro400s, Enviro300s, Enviro200s, Darts, Solos and Tridents... the above photos show at least 8 different types of Stagecoach buses. Ah well - then again they don't run fleets for enthusiasts...