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BAthurst Coaches AEC Merlin Mo7978

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BAthurst Coaches AEC Merlin Mo7978

Postby SMS88AEC » Sun Apr 22, 2007 5:36 am

The day after the Bi-centennial airshow at Richmond finished I went to Bathurst to track down their 3 ex-London Transport Merlins.This no8, was recently deregistered Mo7978, and it had been sold to a Bathurst Coaches mechanic for use as a caravan. Oddly enough,it was the only Aussie Merlin that I ever recorded seeing in the UK as a child, when it passed me one saturday morning heading to the storage facility from where most went for scrap.
With thanks to ALAN MORTIMER for the wonderful wet London winter 1968 shot showing Mo7978 (right,VLW446G) the week before it entered public service, when it was one of a pair showing off turnstiles and coin in the slot ticket machines to the public.The other bus, VLW444G is one of only 4 to make it into preservation in the UK,where only 8 Merlins remain.Third shot is a 1993 view of VLW444G newly saved for preservation
I would guess that perhaps 30 Merlins survive as motorhomes,caravans or sheds in Australia - please share any sightings to tie up loose ends .they will be welcomed,have a study of the new Merlin list that is about to appear on the Fleetlist site
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Postby Centralian » Sun Apr 22, 2007 9:09 am

Love the middle photo, the red certainly suited them. To me anything else just didn't look right. From my memory Rowes in Sydney may have been the biggest operator here, certainly looking forward to the listing. I have a few photo's of Merlins in Australian service and an accessible listing will certainly help identifying some of them.
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Postby SMS88AEC » Sun Apr 22, 2007 9:25 am

Rowes bought 10 Merlins from London Transport with red vinyl seats in 1976, of which 7 entered service as Mo4095,4102,4107,4114,4121,4280 and 5446. The other 3 passed to Kirklands in 1978.6 more Merlins, fitted with brown/black/green moquette cloth came in 1977 from an english wrecker.I dont know for sure if any of these entered service with Rowes or if they were sold off unused (3 to Bathurst,2 Kirklands,and 1 Seargent of Wyong) .If you have any other than the 7 above in service with Rowes then that is new to me! Of course Rowes as Busways took over Camden Coaches with their 4 Merlins, at least Mo7230 operated for Busways from Camden in 1988 and Mo5480 was at Rowes main depot for up for sale in May 1988.So 1970s plus 1980s gives a total of 20 different merlins owned ,if not all entered service, compared to Kirklands 22 Merlins owned, 17 of which were put in service.
Please share your photos,especially if you have Mo4095 with its unique front doors folding to the sides not the centre
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Postby SMS88AEC » Sun Apr 22, 2007 9:34 am

And another special for centralian, here is the final 1979 livery that was applied to many of London´s final 70 Merlins which survived the 1976 cull in service until May 1981.I took this shot at Victoria station in April 1981 - this bus was set aside for preservation but by late 1987 had rotted so much underneath it was scrapped for spares
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Postby leopard1543 » Sun Apr 22, 2007 11:09 am

SMS88AEC wrote: Image


Looks exactly like the bus model I have in my bus cabinet. :lol:
Great pics, thanks :!:
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Postby THE INFORMANT » Sun Apr 22, 2007 11:22 am

What a fine looking bus!! What were they like as buses? Where they suited to Australian conditions? I once saw an article where a bunch of Merlins were sent to the island of Malta and were the mainstay of the gov fleet there for many years!! Suprising with the Hill's import regieme in Wollongong that none ever saw service in the gong!!
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Postby captainch » Sun Apr 22, 2007 3:42 pm

yes they did keraville buses had a couple
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Postby White Super Power » Sun Apr 22, 2007 3:48 pm

captainch wrote:yes they did keraville buses had a couple


Sorry Captain but I believe Keiraville had Diamler Roadliners or Panther Cubs.
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Postby captainch » Sun Apr 22, 2007 4:19 pm

your right agin it was panther cubs i think simaler
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Postby leopard1543 » Sun Apr 22, 2007 4:41 pm

THE INFORMANT wrote:What a fine looking bus!! What were they like as buses? Where they suited to Australian conditions? I once saw an article where a bunch of Merlins were sent to the island of Malta and were the mainstay of the gov fleet there for many years!! Suprising with the Hill's import regieme in Wollongong that none ever saw service in the gong!!


I don't know whether or not it's an old wife tale but I use to hear nothing but bad reports about the poor old Merlins. :?
I've always had a soft spot for them though. :lol:
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Postby Swift » Sun Apr 22, 2007 4:46 pm

Yeah it's wierd how chronically unreliable they were in London yet were not too bad in Australian hands.
My theory is that the constant stop start conditions in London were no good to them.
They get to cruise more in Australia and it seems all is okay with them.
They were reported as being too long for London's cramped streets as well.
Drivers were known to severely mistreat them without driving them with some finesse.
I think I read that the later Swift 505 version with their shorter wheelbase were somewhat less troublesome in London service.
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Postby SMS88AEC » Sun Apr 22, 2007 5:46 pm

Just talk to any 1980s ex-Kirklands ,Pioneer or Amberly-Rosewood guys if you want to know about working with Merlins :wink:
The main reason why Aussie Merlins didnt suffer from the biggest UK problem, overheating, was because they were all fitted on arrival with a much greater water capacity radiators,and extra fan blades (London spec was only 5 or 6).Another trouble spot was the auto gearbox electrical control circuit - most Aussie Merlins had a simple wiring alteration making them semi-automatic with the open doors gearbox cutoff switch disabled.
Compared to a normal c1976 Rowes or Deanes Bedford the Merlins were luxury motors with their power steering. The London differential had a rather low ratio limiting top speed to 42mph at 1800rpm(and reducing fuel economy) so some operators invested in a higher ratio diff to improve economy and performance
London Transport was a rigid bureaucracy with defined operating procedures - small Aussie operators used their common sense to fine tune a British 1960s designed citybus to make them a fine commercial tool for the 1970s and 1980s-afterall the Merlin is an AEC Quality design (that was operated in the UK by a London Transport organisation which finally learned to operate them with excellent reliability from 1978 after most were scrapped!)
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Postby Swift » Sun Apr 22, 2007 5:52 pm

So what we basically have here is a sum of good parts used in the wrong way and conditions.
Amazing what abit of alteration can achieve.
It must have unfairly tarnished AEC's reputation as LT ws traditionally their biggest customer.
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Postby boronia » Sun Apr 22, 2007 6:17 pm

While they might have performed well mechanically out here, I believe the bodies were not strong enough to cope with our poor roads, and this resulted in possibly their premature demise.
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Postby SMS88AEC » Sun Apr 22, 2007 7:16 pm

The 2 obvious problems with the bodies were the wooden fillets used to secure the aluminium skin to the steel frame, and the spring design of the window sliders. Loose screws and flapping beading on corners were a common problem in when these were only 2 years old in the UK.
I can confirm that Kirklands 94,95,110 and 136,Pioneer no2, Amberly Rosewood no 8 & no9, Edwards of Armidale Mo9403 at least had all wooden fillets removed and the skins were rivited directly into new steel. Kirklands 136 had new designed tinted windows fitted.see below.Kevin Kirkland in 1988 had planned to keep his Merlins and Atlanteans running forever ,but in 1989 a big company that bodied and sold buses made him an offer for the Kirklands business that he couldnt refuse, so they were all sold off and replaced with brand new buses in 1990
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Postby Swift » Sun Apr 22, 2007 7:28 pm

This thread has sure become a great stream of Merlin pics and info for all to learn from!

Whats the story of the second pic??looks like it's getting a bit done there :!:
Interesting taillights as well.
Another bus enthusiast told me that the Merlins were a very smooth bus to ride and went nicely.
I always found Bankstown-Strathfield's 760 Swifts a very pleasant ride -not to mention it's rich driveline character!
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Postby THE INFORMANT » Sun Apr 22, 2007 9:27 pm

What running gear did they use? 5o5 aec donk?Pnumo Cyclic gear boxes one would presume?
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Postby SMS88AEC » Sun Apr 22, 2007 10:07 pm

The 2nd photo shows a closeup of Kirklands 94, with its new smoother rivited skin- no bodywork probelems with this bus - its ready for another 20 years service :idea: I visited Kirklands Lismore workshop 5 times between July 1988 and January 1989, each time 94 was either in the workshop or blocked in by parked buses -i was unlucky never to pick a day when this was out on the Lismore town service.This is a 1977 import that came from an English wrecker, hand picked from about 100 buses.
The motor is an AEC AH691 - 691 or 760s were normal fittings in the 36 foot chassis and 505s were normal for 33 foot Swift chassis
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Postby SMS88AEC » Sun Sep 23, 2007 5:01 pm

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Here is MO 7978 seen at the Cranes and Commercials scrapyard , Lasham, England in 1977 with MB324 behind (joined Edwards in Armidale ,Sept 1977).Out of almost 100 Merlins on site when this photo was taken, 13 were chosen for Australia, 6 went to Dubai and the rest scrapped, even though all were complete and drivable when they arrived

In this group shot , some made it to Australia (most were scrapped ) , with MO7978/MBS446 seen in the centre just where the land levels split.
With thanks to Tim Clayton (owner of MBA588) for the pix
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Postby bus2681 » Tue Sep 25, 2007 11:44 pm

Hi Guys,

Wonderful string on the Merlins. I wonder how many have survived in tact
here in Australia as records seem to get a bit vague after about 1991.
It would be nice to rescue one to go with my LS13. The Nationals though
were the replacements for the trouble prone Merlins.
From our London Transport Heritage centre here in Sydney the records show exactly 52 Merlins were imported to Australia between 1976-77.
The numbers were
Ex Red Arrow dual door buses (MBA)
MBA166,168-171,173-176,178-181,185,186,188,192,193
Ex normal dual door central London route buses (MBS)
MBS229,268,446,448,468,483,502
Ex LT Single door (MB)
MB306,308,315,321-324,326,328,331,339,347,357,361,363,365,368
372-375,378,379,385,389,393,395

The Merlins were introduced by London Transport from 1968 as replacements for RTs and RFs and were built to be standees buses
like in European cities. They were built with only 25 seats initially
and large standing areas. They largely lasted in service until around
only 1974 as London Transport had a policy at the time of overhauls
of bodies and chassis every 4 years at Aldenham. Unfortunately the
Merlins were found to be too expensive to overhaul. They were plagued
with body problems such as the timber supports mentioned above. London Transport was also facing alot of opposition from the public over
single man operated buses and the queues created. Cutting their losses
LT decided to store and eventually dispose of the 500 odd fleet with only a handful remaining in service into the 1980s.

If anyone has a Merlin we would be interested in preserving one. Maybe someone might want to donate one to us given the state it may be in by
now. About only 10 survive in the UK. Our hope is to help co-ordinate
London bus preservation here including some further London bus imports.

By the way on a foot note on LS13 official Leyland Australia records show
around 234 Nationals were imported to Australia and assembled here
but apart from 1 11.3M trial version all were built as a special version
for the Australian market to the non standard length of 10.9 metres.
LS13 is therefore the only 10.3 metre short version in Australia!

Don't forget to come and say Hi to us on the Forest Miniatures (London Transport Heritage Centre) stand at the Hurstville Model railway exhibition.
Best wishes.... :wink:
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Postby SMS88AEC » Wed Sep 26, 2007 4:37 am

Windy has just acquired ex-Kirklands no91 ex MB375 from Drouin, perhaps he will post some photos soon.MB306 remains in preservation at Drouin.Perhaps if anybody wants to find a good Merlin in Australia the best place to start would be Ipswich ,QLD, and try to trace the pair from Amberly Rosewood (immaculate when in service) and the other Pioneer examples.Maybe an unmodified example is just sitting on a backlot someplace.......
Only 51 Merlins were imported, 448 on bus2681´s list is wrong - the real MBS448 was a non-runner sold for scrap in the summer of 1977,it either broke down when on hire to London Country or on its way back to London Transport and sat at Catford garage seemingly forgotten for months after the rest of its kind had been sold off.
On a historical note, all Merlins when built 1967-69 were issued with a 7 year Certificate of Fitness, overhauls only became due when these expired,and about 120 Merlins received new 1 year or 2 year CoFs to keep them in service until replaced.
Due to huge unpopularity with drivers (length), mechanics (lack of spare parts and poor quality control in production of spares) and passengers (not enough seats, cattle truck like standee areas) replacement started in 1973 and was completed in April 1976 with the exception of 70 kept for the Red Arrow network which came out of service in the first 7 months of 1981.
These pix of former Camden Coaches MB378 ex MO7230 were taken by its Aussie owners (name unknown) and supplied to the UK owner of MBA444 in 2005.At this time the same couple that had bought MB378 back in 1988 (from Rowe´s Busways)still owned it and lived in it (2005) although they were on a europe trip when they met Keith, the owner of 444.I think these pix are maybe not so old, because MB378 had a fine curved windscreen when it was sold - in the photos a lot of work has been done including the fitment of a flat windscreen
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LS13 is not the only 10.3 metre national in Australia. Rockhampton City purchased 6 second hand 1975 Scottish 10.3m Nationals, and correct me if I am wrong, but I seem to remember that the Tasmania Nationals were also 10.3 metres long.But all the rest apart from the original Leyland demo bus (11.3m preserved in Surfside colors) were 10.9 metres long
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Postby spud » Thu Sep 27, 2007 8:22 pm

I found an unidentified Merlin in a caravan park at Coolgardie WA on my recent Westbus to Buswest trip

http://www.busaustralia.com/fleetlists/merlins.htm

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125
Around 147 posts.....not like others


That stinks
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Postby bus2681 » Thu Sep 27, 2007 11:18 pm

Hi Guys,
The Tasmanian Nationals were 10.9 metres long as they were
Australian delivered. No 10.3 metres were built for the Australian market or assembled locally. It looks like the short Nationals were not
popular here and Australia must have wanted extra seating
capacity. The 11.3 metre demo was unpopular and was considered
too long at the time.
Interesting about the secondhand Rockhampton Nationals I have no
data on these or if they indeed even survive today so if scrapped
LS13 would be indeed the only surviving short National here in Oz.
Indeed it would be interesting to find out how many Nationals now
survive in Australia.

I'll be interested to see Windys Merlin when it arrives and how much of the
original London vehicle is in tact. If anyone in there travels confirms a
current sighting of a Merlin in tact and not a motorhome can they please pass word on the message board here. I believe Windy's is a single
door so it would be nice to find a dual door example.

I'll recheck my records of the 52nd Merlin and come back. I have histories
for each vehicle mentioned in my other posting. Like I said they appear
to dissapear in the early 90s as the buses passed in to private hands ie
motorhomes.

Best wishes 8)
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Postby bus2681 » Thu Sep 27, 2007 11:40 pm

Hi Guys,

It looks like MBS448 escaped the cutters torch. Yes it did get sold
to Wombwell diesels around June 1977 possibly non running.
Wombwell diesels scrapped a number of Merlins but MBS448
was onsold within a month to Cranes & Commercial Winchester
who I assume returned it to running order. It was then sold to
Rowes Coach Tours Plumpton NSW Australia July 1977. 52 Merlins hence were exported to Australia. As to its fate after this no information
is available. I will try and find more out about Rowes coach tours fleet
to confirm this.
Best wishes :roll:
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Postby bus2681 » Fri Sep 28, 2007 12:24 am

Hi Guys,

Further update on MBS448 Rowes are now part of the Busways group
whether any records exist from 1977 I don't know.

LS13 I can confirm is the only one of her kind in Australia and
her chassis is 10351A/2R body 03491 which means she is between
a Mk1 and Mk2 in build. The Singapore National is the only later
build no other National here carries the "A". Here electrics are completely
different to any of the Australian versions and is a full automatic. It
was built in 1976. Leyland produced the A version with improvements
to mechanical and electrical design a bit like an update version. The battery box is even located at the front like the volvos and scanias we have today under the drivers cabin in a swing out cradle.

I believe all the Rockhampton examples became derelict around 1993
and I doubt any will have survived. Either way they are not 1A versions.

Hope the above clarifies a few areas :wink: .

Best wishes
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