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AEC Reliance - Single Deck Bus - MOR 581 celebrity numbers
Image by Fotorus MOR 581 has led a long, interesting and eventful life. When Express Coach 250 (MOR 581) first entered service with Aldershot & District Traction Co. Ltd on 1st May 1954, allocated to Aldershot Garage, few people would have believed she would still be in active revenue earning service as a full Class Vl PSV with one of A&D successors, Alder Valley West Surrey, in 1997, more than 43 years later. As AEC Coach 250, MOR 581 was amongst the first production models of the "New Breed" of underfloor-engined AEC Reliance vehicles and was the first of a batch of twenty-four Strachan Everest bodied express coaches delivered to Aldershot & District over a twelve month period during 1954/55 as replacements on the Farnham - London, Victoria Express Service for a batch of 1948 Dennis J3 half cab vehicles. Radically different from all previous A&D coaches, for the first year or so Express Coach 250 was a celebrity vehicle, regularly attending various shows and special events throughout the UK. Eventually she settled down to work a regular duty schedule of three or four round trips daily between Farnham and London on the London Express Service, where she remained until early autumn 1966 when her twelve years as Express Coach 250 ended. In September 1966 Coach 250 went into Weymann's Addlestone works where, with fourteen of her sisters, she lost her coach body and was completely rebuilt from the chassis up as a one-man-operated bus. Re-numbered 543 in the A&D fleet. It then re-entered service in March 1967 at the A&D's Woking Garage mainly working on the Woking - Chobham - Bagshot/Sunningdale group of services, 55A, 55B and 55C. In November 1976, after 22 years continuous service with the A&D and their successors, (latterly during NBC days as 347 in the Alder Valley South fleet), she was finally withdrawn and purchased for preservation by Trevor Scard, the Engineering Foreman at Woking Garage on his retirement after fifty years service with the Company. Trevor restored MOR 581 to full A&D livery, complete with fleet number 543 and for the next eighteen years she led a quiet life in some comfort as a preserved vehicle, only rarely venturing out to attend rallies. In September 1994, following Trevor's death, 543 was purchased by Alder Valley West Surrey (later re-named Arriva), to become part of their Heritage Fleet. She was restored to full PSV Class 6 Standard and based at AVWS Guildford Garage, worked regularly on summer Sundays under contract to Surrey County Council on Surrey Hills Leisure Service 65 between Guildford and Farnham via Puttenham. During the summer of 1997, when a batch of new Dennis SLF Darts failed to arrive on time, she was even fitted with a Wayfarer electronic ticket machine and for a while regularly worked on local Arriva bus routes in and around Guildford. In October 1997 Arriva Plc put the entire Heritage Fleet up for disposal and 543 once again found herself in private ownership, this time as part of the Aldershot & District Bus Interest Group fleet. 543 remains active, regularly attending rallies and other special events. Notes provided by Bill Tutty - Aldershot & District Bus Interest Group.

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Image by Sarah Ross photography