Diecast model buses from Ireland
The Emerald Isle can boast a fine public transport system that over the years has been seen in an attractive array of liveries. Fortunately many of these, from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, have been captured by our model manufacturers, focusing on Dublin, Belfast, Bus Éireann and Ulsterbus.
To begin, a brief outline of the operators as represented by the models (all the models are pictured in our March issue of Diecast Collector magazine, following is a selection). The public transport in Ireland is answerable to government, and is known as Coras Iompair Éireann (CIÉ). It was established as a private company in 1945 following the merger of Dublin United Transport Company and the Great Southern Railway: it was nationalised five years later.
On 2nd February 1987 it was divided into three, as Dublin Bus (or Bus Átha Cliath), Bus Éireann and Iarnród Éireann, the latter being the rail operation (the Luas tram system in Dublin is under separate control). There has been talk of abolishing CIÉ, leaving the separate operations, but as yet this has not occurred.
The Great Northern Railway in Ireland came into being in 1878. In 1953 the company was jointly nationalised by the governments of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This arrangement continued until 1958 when the assets were divided, between the Ulster Transport Authority and CIÉ.
As its name clearly implies, Dublin Bus operates the services in and around Dublin. The recent livery styles are seen on models from the two shades of green introduced in 1987, through the cream and blue with orange flash first seen in 1997 to the yellow and blue brought in around 2003. Among the other colour schemes featured on models are the City Swift livery, for routes that provided a frequent service, the open-top sightseeing tours and the Airport express link.
Bus Éireann serves the remainder of the Republic of Ireland, although the private company, Lough Swilly, still operates in part of Donegal. The Bus Éireann operation is largely divided into five sections: stage carriage; urban; express; schools; tours and Eurolines. However, the branding of CIÉ Tours International is still used. The livery of white with red bands is seen on many models, although other livery styles have existed, while a modern rendition with swirls and curves is now seen. Its operating area today includes Cork: there are two models that focus on Cork.
Moving to Northern Ireland, Belfast Corporation Transport has a long history, with models recalling the days of trams and trolleybuses. In 1973 the services in Belfast were re-branded as Citybus, and today are operated as Translink Metro. For the remainder of Northern Ireland the operations had been under the auspices of the Ulster Transport Authority, which had rationalised a fairly chaotic situation that existed prior to 1936. Re-organisation in April 1967 saw the creation of Ulsterbus. The original Ulsterbus colours of blue and cream have given way to a modern livery in shades of blue.
Turning to the models there are a few that are not truly authentic. Before a fine choice of accurate model buses started to appear, Corgi tried to satisfy the demand by putting an AEC radiator on its 1/64 scale Routemaster casting, calling it an AEC Regent: this appeared in Dublin livery.
In a similar vein, Matchbox released its AEC Omnibus casting, introduced initially in the Models of Yesteryear range, in Dublin livery as part of a separate Trolleys, Trams and Buses series of six models.
The Corgi Routemaster, as an open-top, has also appeared for ‘The Dublin Tour’. Also rather ‘toy-like’ is the Plaxton Paramount produced by Corgi in an unspecified scale: this has appeared in Bus Éireann livery.
Again from the era before appropriate coach models began to appear comes one with a fine rendition of the Bus Éireann livery. This is of a Jonckheere Bermuda, in 1/87 scale commissioned from the company Efsi, based in Holland. It is made of plastic, and has left-hand drive.
The Britbus range (now no longer produced) provides several castings of interest: some are branded as Irbus rather than Britbus. The most significant is the Leyland Olympian with Alexander R body, as it portrays the three main liveries already noted for Dublin Bus, plus a model in the City Swift livery including a version of this as a vehicle on loan to Bus Éireann. There is also a Driver Training Vehicle in a distinctive red and white livery.
The liveries that appear on the AEC Regent III take a step back in time, featuring both CIÉ in two livery styles of blue and bistre or shades of green, and Great Northern Railway. In two cases, Britbus offered the same model with a choice of fleet and registration numbers and destinations.
Moving to Belfast, and the Citybus operation which has been featured on the AEC Swift with dual doors. From the same company that provided Britbus now come B-T Models. Of plastic construction, the model of the Duple Dominant MkII is available in Ulsterbus Tours livery.
Corgi, namely through its 1/76 scale Original Omnibus Company (OOC) range, has provided several Irish models. One is the MCW Metrobus MkII in the Dublin Bus livery of two shades of green.
This is an interesting choice as it is one of two vehicles (the other being a Leyland Olympian) that were evaluated by Dublin Bus when seeking replacements for its double deck fleet. This model comes with a choice of destinations, either Blanchardstoown, Corduff or City Centre, Donnybrook. The other OOC model in Dublin Bus livery is the articulated Wright Eclipse Fusion, the current yellow and blue colours suiting the vehicle very well.
The Bus Éireann white with red stripes livery has appeared on various OOC castings, namely Dennis Dart SLF with Plaxton Pointer body, East Lancs Wyking and Volvo Alisa. The latest livery is seen on the Wright Eclipse Gemini and the Scania Irizar PB (this latter model being offered with two destinations, Cork or Galway). The Scania Irizar PB also comes in the livery of Citybus Galway, again with a choice of destinations, either Cork or Dublin Airport. The branding Eurolines features on the OOC Plaxton Premiere, while CIÉ Tours International appears on the Plaxton Panther.
With the OOC range there is also the chance to include more localised operations. The Lough Swilly fleet is represented by a model of the Leyland Leopard with BET body while the East Lancs Wyking comes in the distinctive Park & Ride services provided by Cork City Council in conjunction with Bus Éireann.
Moving to Northern Ireland, Corgi provides a useful look at the earlier days of public transport in Belfast. Its model of a Dick Kerr tram has been used to represent many of the tram operations that once existed across the United Kingdom. Two versions, both double deck – one with open-top, the other fully closed – have appeared in Belfast livery.
Belfast had a trolleybus system from 1938 to 1968, and the OOC model of the AEC/BUT three-axle trolleybus has been produced in two Belfast colour schemes of red and white, and blue and while.
Today’s transport in Belfast has been featured on the Wright Eclipse Urban in Translink Metro livery. This was a special model produced for members of the Corgi Collectors Club, and was offered with alternative destinations of Knocknagoney or Springmartin.
The days of the Ulster Transport Authority are represented by just a couple of models, one being the Leyland PD2 with Orion body from OOC (the other is from EFE). The livery in shades of green and white is very appealing to my mind.
The changes that have occurred to the Ulsterbus livery over the years can be seen through models from OOC, namely the Burlingham Seagull, Optare Solo and Plaxton Excalibur, while the Plaxton Panther carries the Ulsterbus Tours branding. The Burlingham Seagull comes in special packaging, as it was one of the models released to mark the 50th anniversary of Corgi.
Creative Master Northcord
Soon after the Creative Master Northcord (CMN) range was launched in 2003, the company accepted a commission for a series of models depicting several of the City Sightseeing Tours liveries, all featured on the open-top Plaxton President tooling. One of the liveries was for Dublin Tours.
CMN has featured the bus operations around Dublin on several models: some were given their own distinctive numbering system as the IExxxx range. However, before the separate numbering was introduced, the company twice released its Dennis Trident with Alexander ALX400 body in Dublin Bus livery, first in the cream and blue and later the blue and yellow livery. This latter model sadly has Dublin Bus on the offside instead of Bus Átha Cliath (Dublin Bus correctly appears on the nearside).
Numbered in the ‘IE’ series, the Alexander ALX400 body has also appeared as a Dublin Bus Airlink service, providing the Coast and Castles tour and, as an open-top, operating ‘The Dublin Tour’. Finally, for Dublin Bus, the Mercedes-Benz Citaro comes in the Quick Park livery.
The Citaro from CMN is also found in Bus Éireann livery as is the Alexander Dennis Enviro 200 Dart and Dennis Dart with Plaxton Pointer body.
Finally, another commissioned model from CMN, the Alexander ALX400 body is in the livery of Translink Metro.
Exclusive First Editions
Exclusive First Editions (EFE), like Britbus, recalls the days of bus operations by CIÉ. Three models have so far appeared, all being the Leyland PD2 with Leyland highbridge body. One features the blue and bistre livery while two have the pale and deep green livery produced operating either route 8 or route 45. EFE also provides a model in the livery of Cork City Services, namely the Leyland TD1 with enclosed staircase.
The Bus Éireann livery is seen on three models: Plaxton Paramount 3500; Plaxton SLF Dart; and the Wright Volvo Renown.
The only model bus that represents the pre-Citybus days in Belfast is the Daimler Fleetline from EFE in deep red and white, while the modern Translink livery is seen on EFE’s Wright Volvo Renown.
EFE has also produced the Ulster Transport Authority livery on the Leyland PD2 with Leyland lowbridge body. Ulsterbus is featured on four EFE models, namely the Alexander Y Type (in blue and white livery), Plaxton Paramount 3600 (as Ulsterbus Tours), and on two versions of the Wright Volvo Renown (one in the modern Ulsterbus colours, and one in the branding for the Foyle City Services).
The models so far recorded are all 1/76 scale or thereabouts. It’s good therefore to be able to record two models, both in 1/148 scale and from Oxford Diecast. Both represent Belfast, one being the BUT three-axle Trolleybus, the other a Dick Kerr style tram.
It’s clear that the enthusiast can really build up an impressive collection to recount the story of public transport on the beautiful Emerald Isle and I hope you have enjoyed this brief tour round the island.
NB Since this article went to press Oxford Diecast has advised the release of its 1/76 scale Bedford OWB in the livery of the Northern Ireland Road Transport Board, and a new 1/76 scale Scania Irizar PB for Bus Eireann Eurolines. More information in the April issue of Diecast Collector magazine.