Since rolling out of the Bristol, UK factory back in July of 1981, this Leyland Olympian double-decker bus has seen many kilometers go under its tires; more than half a million of them! Originally purchased by Ribble Motor Services (a subsidiary of the National Bus Company), it was operated in the Blackpool and Preston area, initially sporting a livery of poppy red and ivory (and later bedecked with promotional graphics for local places of interest).
In May 1989, after the deregulation and privatization of bus services, Ribble was purchased by Stagecoach Holdings, a Scottish firm operating transit in the UK. While the bus continued to operate in the same areas, it did get a new silver "starship" paint job and an upgraded destination display above the lower front windows.
In 1997, Stagecoach acquired Burnley & Pendle, yet another company operating buses in and around Dorset county, and rebranded itself as "Stagecoach Burnley & Pendle," giving our bus a slightly updated white "starship" livery.
In 2001 "Stagecoach Burnley & Pendle" was divided up into Lancashire United and Burnley & Pendle (again). Our bus winds up on the Burnley & Pendle side of the split and continues it's service as a school bus in Dorset County. Burnley & Pendle continued to use the bus for school services in and around Poole until 2003 when the bus was sold to Shamrock.
Poole-based Shamrock operated public routes as well as school services for about 12 schools in and around Poole, Christchurch, and Wimborne. They, of course, gave our bus a fresh new coat of paint and also updated it's "fleet number" from 2111 to 301 in keeping with their established numbering system. It did, however, retain it's original JFR11W registration plate.
Beginning in 2009, Shamrock began to replace some of its older double-decker buses with single-deck, low floor buses. At this point, our bus was decommissioned and offered up for sale, just a few years before Shamrock ceased operations in 2011. The bus was imported to the United States by the British Bus Company, based in San Francisco.
Together with Figure Plant, another Portland marketing agency, they took possession of the bus and in six weeks they had removed all the seats, added two additional sets of accordion doors on the left side, chopped the roof off and put it on chain-driven screwjack lifts, added some cool artwork by Jeff Foster, dropped in a new engine, and turned the whole thing into the “Run Happy Cavalcade of Curiousities”, a travelling, shoe-themed carnival and “Arcade of Oddities” curiosity museum.
Beginning in 2010, Brooks used the bus for several years, making stops on the Rock 'N' Roll Marathon series as well as various stops all across the country at specialty running stores and sundry events. Appearances included prize giveaways, carnival-esque performances, and a set of specialized treadmills on the upper deck which allowed runners to have their running gait analyzed and matched with their perfect shoes! The bus even made stops at Riverfront Park in Spokane and Fleet Feet in Coeur d’Alene in July of 2011.
In January of 2015, Brooks retired the bus, donating it to the Fremont Arts Councilin Seattle to help them raise money for the annual Fremont Solstice parade. The FAC quickly recognized that the cost to operate and maintain the bus was prohibitive and immediately sold it the following April to Outlander Brewing, a small craft brewery in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood.
Outlander painted the bus red and began using the upper deck as a stage for outdoor events and performances at their brewpub.
They also decided to convert the bus into a mobile coffee shop. They removed one of the extra sets of doors and replaced it with a service window, added counters, plumbing, electrical, refrigeration, an espresso machine, a fresh water tank, a water heater, a gray water tank, a point of sale system, and dubbed it the Madchester Coffee Bus.
For reasons unspecified, the decision was made to sell the bus, and in early 2018, a Craigslist post caught our eye. For several months we worked on evaluating the idea, coming to an agreement with the seller, and arranging the transfer of ownership and delivery. Transporting a big bus with very low ground clearance is a little tougher than we anticipated, but in August of 2018, it arrived at our corporate offices on a lowboy removable gooseneck trailer.
It was a little rough around the edges (and the middle!), but what we saw when we looked beyond the wear and tear of half a million miles was a thing of beauty! We saw an opportunity to create a unique experience that dovetailed nicely with our brand and would be a fun project to dive into, and what a project it was!
First thing first, we had to get it up and running properly. Parts for 40-year-old British double-decker buses don't exactly line the shelves of the local auto parts stores; so, this was and will continue to be, an ongoing challenge.
After the major overhaul to get the bus up and running, we had to give the exterior
some good ‘ol TLC! For about two months, the awesome crew at Fleet Painting rolled up their sleeves and ground off 37 years of paint and vinyl, pulled thousands of rivets, and worked their fiberglass and steel magic to bring the bus back to life with a fresh coat of Wake Up Call red and some sweet graphics on the sides. With a new set of tires from Les Schwab, it was starting to look like the picture in our heads!
The next stop was the workshop at Yost Gallagher. There, they worked their magic on the interior to brighten it up and give it that distinct Wake Up Call feel with lots of storage, new refrigeration units, and stainless steel countertops.
Having a 31 foot long bus presents a number of challenges, not the least of which is finding a place to park. While we were pondering exactly what to do with the bus once it was completed, the Spokane Indians were looking for a coffee vendor. They contacted us to see if we’d be interested in setting up a concessions cart at Avista Stadium; well, we didn’t have a cart, but we had a bus! From that point forward, there was simply no question that this would be a perfect fit; an opportunity for us to partner up and support a great local institution, a place to park the bus, and a stadium full of thirsty people!
So after 569,000 kilometers on two continents, countless passengers, and close to 40 years of provenance, our journey is just beginning.