Flashback Friday: Volgren’s Hong Kong double deckers


Over the years Volgren has built and supplied several notable vehicles both in Australia and overseas. One type that stood out was a series of double deckers built for operators in Hong Kong.

Flashback Friday: Volgren’s Hong Kong double deckers
One of the many Australian-made Volgren double decker buses that operated in Hong Kong.

Why did they stand out? Well, at the time (1997) the production of double deckers was not high on the priority list for Australian body builders

The last were a series of coaches by Volgren, Denning and Austral and the last buses were by PMC for the then PTC NSW on Leyland Atlantean chassis.

However the double decker was thriving in the Asian markets of Hong Kong and Singapore — and Volgren was up to the challenge.

Volgren provided one MAN 24.350 (2500) to Citybus (CTB) and 17 MAN 24.310’s (AMN31-47) to the Kowloon Motor Bus (KMB) company.

Citybus ordered one 12-metre air-conditioned double decker from MAN in 1997.

In December of that year, the bus entered service as fl eet number 2500 with a registration of HN 1013.

It was the first time that that Volgren had designed and built a double-deck bus body.

The frontal design is similar to the Alexander ‘R’ one, as requested by Citybus.

The bus is powered by an 11,967cc, 350hp MAN D2866LOH engine with ZF 5HP600 transmission. Nippondenso supplied the air-conditioning.

Although Citybus placed an order for a further batch of MAN 24.310s (with Berkhof and Volgren bodies) this order was subsequently cancelled owing to Hong Kong’s Transport Department imposition of a fleet quota on all franchised bus operators in Hong Kong.

Two (AMN34, AMN35) were originally destined for CTB, however due to quota limits, CTB could not take delivery and these buses were eventually purchased by KMB and placed in their AMN class. KMB operate 17 Volgren bodied MAN 24.310s, and these are classifi ed in the AMN class. Numbered AMN31-47, they entered service between April and August 2002.

AMN39 entered service on 22 July 2002.

Without doubt these series of vehicles are impressive and more than comparable with other similar units.

 

REPLICAS

As the Volgren deckers serve Hong Kong it is perhaps no surprise that there is no shortage of models for these buses.

Other than the UK, Hong Kong has perhaps the greatest range of models catering for the bus modeller.

They are mostly in 00 or 1/76 scale that makes them most suitable for display, taking up little room. They are the same scale as the Trux series of buses, although of a vastly different era.

The modeller has several choices from a couple of manufacturers.

The first is the well-known Corgi that produces five models of the original (and only) Citybus unit 2500.

One model is in the original yellow and white livery, two in standard Citybus colours, one in corporate Stagecoach and the final in all over livery commerating the year of the snake.

The model of the bus is 24.350 NL-DD, and is fitted with an Australian Volgren CR221LD body, however the lower front dash panel is flat.

The model reviewed is catalogued as OM45404 and is the Stagecoach corporate unit.

The model is 160mm long and comes with a fully detailed interior. This includes full seating, driver’s area and farebox.

The interior is spoiled a little by the presence of two securing poles to hold the decks together. This is one of the drawbacks of using a model maker in the mass-produce market.

They tend to use simpler methods of securing the parts such as pressing rather than screws. However the presence of the poles is not too intrusive.

Livery is very impressive with the joins between colours being crisp and without over spray. Lettering and numbers are excellent and even the very small passenger capacity details are represented.

Engine and a/c grills are a mixture of moulding and transfers.

Passenger doors are separate parts, flat rather than moulded and separate mirrors are fitted. The destination screens are set behind realistic glass and feature dot matrix displays. These are very realistic.

Wheels are moulded in ‘reddish’ plastic and don’t look exactly right, additionally, the rear wheel is too flat to truly represent the prototype.

However overall the model is a very good representation of 2500 in its recent state. As with all models in the Hong Kong series there is a limited production run, this particular one was 1300.

The second model reviewed is one of the 17 MAN 24.310’s serving with KMB.

This model also has the Volgren CR221LD body but does feature distinctive curves on the front dash panel. Cars Workshop — a manufacturer that will not be familiar to Australians — builds this model.

This manufacturer builds two versions of these buses and the reviewed model also came with a small bus stop diorama, a nice touch.

It is featured in the distinctive champagne colours of KMB. Finish is excellent. Unlike the Corgi bus, this unit is held together with screws and therefore the interior is free of the securing poles.

And the interior is extremely well detailed too. Not only are seats, driver’s area and farebox represented, but also there are a number of other touches that make this one a cut above the rest.

Firstly, the distinctive hand rails and safety barriers are represented on the doors, on both decks and at the front of the upper deck. They are possibly a little too thick but not overly so.

Next the overhead information TV screens are there, two on each deck. And finally internal route maps and adverts are accurately portrayed.

There is not much lettering on a KMB bus but what there is, is excellent. Of special note are the MAN logos and disabled access sticker.

Once again the destination screens are behind glass and are dot matrix. Mirrors and wheels are portrayed correctly.

On real double deckers water drain holes are fitted between decks and Cars Workshop has gone to the trouble of representing these, three to a side, a very nice touch.

Doors are very well represented and are moulded rather than flat as on other models. Overall this is a very impressive model that is an excellent representation of the real class of Volgren built buses.

Once again production was limited, this time to 2000. Both models are an excellent investment although the KMB one outshines the Citybus unit.

They represent a particular part of Australian bus building and would not be out of place on an operations desk.

Several suppliers in Australia stock these models however they are easily available direct from Hong Kong.

 

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook