Thursday, January 5, 2012

SMRT Buses : Nissan Diesel U31RCN/ Fuji Heavy Industries

The Nissan Diesel U31RCN was brought in in 1993 by Trans Island Bus Services (more commonly known as TIBS) from Japan. It would be the last Nissan Diesel U31 series bus which was brought by Trans Island in both original airconditioned (OAC) and the non-airconditioned (NAC) before TIBS went on to purchase mostly European brands (with the exception of Hino HS3KRKA/KRKK with Volgren bodywork).

The previous U31 series, U31F and U31SCN had already been phased out.

U31F (Photo from the old TIBS website)
U31SCN (Photo from the old TIBS website)

U31RCN, TIB362M when brand new. Photo from the old TIBS website.
All 3 variants of the Nissan Diesel U31 were fitted with Fuji Heavy Industries' R15/5E bodywork (with slight variations between the 3 models). The U31RCN is powered by the Nissan PE6H Diesel (emission standard EEC 2403) coupled with a ZF4HP500 automatic gearbox.

Though the U31RCN is the only U31 series model to be fitted with a LAWO flipdot signage. The chassis uses leaf spring suspension, sometimes giving commuters a bouncy ride.

The good old Nissan Diesel PE6H.

Words cannot describe the nostalgic feeling that you get when you see this bus on the modern roads of today. The design of the bodywork in Singapore today gives it a very retro look and sometimes look a bit out of place at times with modern Singapore. Not to mention the feeling that you travelled back in time when you board one of the U31RCN with its interior which by today can be considered retro.

The U31RCN buses has also been frequently mistaken as a bus that is older than what its real age is due to the design.

Unlike the front signage which is a large board of flipdots, the side signage only consist of 3 distinct flipdot areas allowing for a maximum of 3 numbers or characters to be displayed.

The side signage.

City Shuttle Service (also known as CSS) brought in both the OAC and the NAC versions for plying on their various CSS routes.

TIB369U seen arriving on Yishun Int.
As part of an effort to achieve a 100% fully air conditioned fleet, TIBS's NAC buses underwent conversion to become a converted air conditioned (CAC). For the U31RCN NAC buses they were fitted with the same Fuji airconditioning unit as the OAC cousins, but the sliding windows were bolted shut instead of being replaced with full glass windows, as with many other TIBS converted airconditioned buses such as the Mercedes O405 (Hispano CAC) and the then-unrefurbished Scania L113CRL ELBO buses.

CSS194M, one of the few converted air conditioned U31RCN which was transferred to SMRT Buses' fleet while retaining the CSS registration number.

Both the OAC and the CAC variant parked at Geylang Lor 1. (TIB369U & CSS194M) in late December 2011

The bumper/headlamp cluster
Towing load sign at the bumper area.
Nissan Diesel's wing mirror with the rust on the bus.
A destination signage holder together with its slightly newer counterpart, the flipdot signage behind the glass window.
Apparently a feature unique only on the CSS Nissan Diesels, there is a fluorescent light tube that illuminates the entrance and exit. According to sources, it was used back in the 90s when the street lighting was not very good.

Entrance illiumination
Exit illumination
And there is a grab bar outside of the bus just right outside at the exit door to facilitate alighting.

The grab pole on the outside of the bus.

Though the interior writeup will mostly feature the converted airconditioned variant, the original airconditioned variant has mostly identical feature sets. The CAC bus featured is CSS194M, which is about to be retired as of this posting, with the revenue service equipments removed.

The unique steps at the front entrance
The space is allocated so as to allow the folding leafs of the door to move freely.
The folding door with the grab pole for boarding.
The front door when closed.

The badging and chassis/engine number of the bus, with the front door mechanism just below.

The dashboard of the bus is simple, with all analog dials and indicators.

The driver dashboard. Retro goodness.
To the right of the dashboard, the old style flick switch to activate the opening and closing of the entrance/exit doors.

The gear selector switch and the lights towards the left of the dashboard

Engine temperature and air pressure to the left of the gearbox selector switch.

And above the driver cabin
The various switches to activate power for the EDS, interior lighting, EDS controller and interior fan selector. It reminds one of a very old house which uses similar looking switches.
The LAWO signage controller

The Fuji airconditioning switch.
The first aid kit box behind behind the driver. This bus has been removed from revenue service, hence the first aid kit is not present. There's a slot for putting a lock on it.
And not forgetting the green bus stopping bell in front, with the spotlight on the ceiling that illuminates the entrance at night.

The entrance door. "No Standing On Steps"

The U31RCN was one of the first few TIBS bus types to feature a zero-partion interior giving the interior a very spacious and roomy feel, and is said to be one of the lowest entry floorline for step buses.

The original seat covers on the OAC was a grey and blue fabric seat covers, while the NAC/CAC was a brown PVC seat covers before refurbishments. The U31RCN was the last in the TIBS fleet to be using bench seatings; newer buses brought by TIBS featured individual seatings mostly by Vogelsitze.

Also due to the lower floorline, the seats above all the wheel arches are raised slightly higher than usual and there are raised metal foot rests installed for the passengers to put their feet on.

OAC interior
Original interior of an OAC Nissan Diesel (Photo by Public Transport Hub)

Refurbished interior of an OAC
NAC/CAC interior
The original NAC/CAC interior before refurbishments (Photo from the old TIBS website)

Refurbished interior of a CAC

On this particular converted airconditioned bus CSS194M, it was possible to open the sliding windows.

A window opened up.
Right behind the driver's cabin.
No smoking, eating and drinking and durians are allowed on the bus.

This two are ventilation slots that can be opened and convert an OAC bus to an NAC bus in case of an aircon breakdown to continue service, and allow more fresh air to be blown into a NAC. Today, any aircon breakdowns == declare bus breakdown.

Aircon ductings. When it was NAC, this channeled fresh air ino the bus.
The Fuji aircon filter.

Just above the left wheel arch, the farecard validator and the ticket dispenser.
The emergency door cock is right beside the front door at the wheelarch.

The wheel arch is very big.

On the left front wheelarch, and the metal foot rest for both the back facing and foward facing passengers.
The same for the right front wheel arch.
The priority seats are smaller than the regular seats, due to the accomodation of the sliding door pocket.
The pocket that holds the sliding door.
The sliding door, with the exit sign, spotlight and red door closing sign.
Both the door and the pocket side by side.
The steps and the bin. The photoelectric sensor (safety feature, in blue) was  not a feature fitted when the U31RCNs were first brought in, but was an upgrade for enhance passenger safety.
A sign for opening the sliding exit door in an emergency found beside the door.

The bus stopping light in the middle of the bus. The yelow strip running in the middle of the bus is also a bus stopping bell strip, which is not featured in the newer buses of today.
The bus stopping bell and the button together.
A ventilation fan near the rear of the bus. There are two of them on the bus.

Towards the rear half of the U31RCN
More foot rest for the seats above the left rear wheel arch....
and the right rear wheel arch.

And all the seat covers are white backing too!

The Emergency Exit door. 4 Generations of stickers, The sticker on the door should be the original sticker in traditional Mandarin.
Wear and tear, and the tradiational Mandarin character for open under "To Open".
To sum it up, it's hard to say goodbye to the U31RCNs as the rest of the remaining gets retired from service. There were U31RCNs retired after 17 years, while those that are still in service were given a 2 year extension and refurbished.

TIB365E on off service reaching Yishun Interchange.
Currently still one of the most iconic buses around, it is the second last Japanese public bus type in service in Singapore (the other being the Hino HS3KRKA (TIB905Y) demonstrator and its production variant, the Hino HS3KRKKs.

TIB1255H, the only CSS converted TIB rego CAC U31RCN to be still in service in 2011/2012 before eventual retirement.
Goodbye to the old and hardy U31RCN (1993-2012). Thank you for your service =)


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