Sunday, March 31, 2013

National Geographic Explorer Bus: Dennis Dart/UMW Duple Metsec (PC442C)

It's not every day that we get to see a passenger carrying bus being re-purposed for another use that does not involve carrying passengers, such as ex-SBS1992G and ex-SBS468K. They were donated ex-SBS Transit buses that were converted into a mobile library by National Library Board.

The first Molly, ex SBS468K aka XD2037B which have been retired and presumed scrapped.

Ex SBS1992G aka XD5296A is the current Molly bus. It is an ex SBS Transit Volvo B10M MK IV Strider.
And then we have this - a private plated Dennis Dart with Duple Metsec bodywork (UMW variant) PC442C that was recently converted into a mobile garden bus for educational purposes, and named as "National Geographic Explorer Bus".

PC442C at North Vista Primary School after the launch.
The Dennis Dart buses are quite hard to find in Singapore as there have only been a handful of them owned/operated by private bus companies and SBS Transit (which have been retired), bodied by Duple Metsec. The Dart chassis is pretty popular around the world with various configurations and bodyworks, with it later having a SLF (super low floor version) zero step

A few of the private Dennis Darts around in Singapore that was managed to be encountered and photographed so far:

PA172S, one of the handful of Darts around. This unit is rumoured to be an ex-Trans Island demonstrator, but there's no information about it so...let's leave it as a rumour. It has a different front due to the bus having met with an accident some time ago. Usually based at the heavy vehicle park beside Bishan MRT depot.

CB5645K, a Dennis Dart in stock configuration and very similar to PC442C, though this may have been de-registered and scrapped.

SBS Transit's Dennis Dart fleet, which numbered around 10 and fitted with Duple Metsec bodywork similar in configuration to their earlier Duple Metsec bodied Mercedes Benz O405 and B10M MK III and. They were usually plying service 42 and 92. A more in-depth write up of the SBS Transit Dennis Dart can be found here.
One of SBS Transit's Dennis Dart, which have been retired.
PC442C was originally mistaken by some to be an ex-SMRT Dennis Lance (UMW variant) due to a TV news report which showed the interior of PC442 - mainly due to the grey fabric covered aircon ducts and the hopper windows that is a shared feature of the UMW variant Darts and Lance.

Coincidentally the SMRT Dennis Lance fleet was undergoing early retirement hence it would be easily mistaken that an ex-SMRT Lance had been converted into the garden bus instead.
The interior of the UMW Lance.
And since this post is mainly on a private plate Dennis Dart, here's a private plate Dennis Lance (UMW) to accompany it~ The hopper windows on the windows can be seen here.
PC442C's history

This particular Dennis Dart was originally registered as PC3300U, in blue with another company. It was later used by Keinzo in orange livery while retaining the dark blue bumpers and registered as PC442C. The bus was first brought into service and registered on 7th Oct 1998, and will have its lifespan expire in another 5 years at the time of this post on 6th Oct 2018.

This is PC3300U as it laid over at Jurong East Bus Interchange a long time ago. Photo credits : Muhd Zakaria.

From SGcarmart where the bus was put on sale after its life at Kenizo and managed by Thinkone Automobile. The following photos below are used for the purpose of illustrating the bus as it was awaiting its new owner. Photo credits

And it had found a new owner and is now a Mobile Bus Garden/ Explorer bus with National Geographic Singapore in partnership with NParks & Science Centre Singapore.

It was announced on the Straits Times news website 3 days before its launch by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Education Sim Ann at North Vista Primary on 25th March 2013.

PC442C as the Explorer bus
The base design of the bus remains unchanged - The bus retained its original orange and blue livery, but has a new stickered livery by National Geographic on the vehicle and only showing the blue bumper.

PC442C's offside

The rear nearside of PC442C. Note the power cables at the bottom left of the bus - the interior ventilation system runs on this electricity source while the engine is off.
What used to be designated as an emergency exit doorway on the bus is now a normal exit door with steps to exit the bus. The steps is stowed on the bus when travelling or not in use.

Entrance remains as entrance at the front, but the exit is now configured to be here. Previously as the city bus Keinzo Dart, the entrance doubles up as the exit.
The Dennis Dart's rims up close for those who are curious.

Front rim

Rear rim
And no, the bus hasn't grown some stylish "hair" at the front and rear; those are flora, grass and plants fixed on the roof~

From the nearby flats - the offside roof shot  of the vehicle with National Geographic staffs busy preparing for the day ahead before the launch in the afternoon.
Close-up of the roof attachment - the aircon pod has also been stickered or painted over in yellow, and the roof attachments at the front and rear of the bus can also be seen. On the roof, it shows "National Geographic - Young Explorer"
Into the bus~
The front interior & driver cab of the bus is mostly retained, the major works are done in the passenger space - and according to the Ms Then from the public relations company, the bus was converted within two and half days~

The chassis plate and identification for the bodywork. UMW-Dennis ftw.

This Explorer Bus concept is designed, built and maintained by Nature Landscapes~

The driver's dashboard/workspace. Though the driver cabin's floor space has some grass floor on it~
The gearbox selector lever in Neutral (N) & handbrake~
The passenger space is where the major modifications were done - all of the Vogelsitze system 600 seats have been removed to convert the vehicle, along with most of the grab poles.

The original interior of PC442C. The following photo is used for the purpose of illustrating the bus as it was awaiting its new owner. Photo credits
After the conversion to the mobile garden bus. Note that the original grey fabric covered aircon ducting is retained. The interior is lit by two strips of parallel LED lighting for illumination as the bus engine is off and is powered by the external power source when it is on "display mode".

According to the news report on Straits Times "Only some natural light will be allowed to penetrate through the foliage to mimic a real jungle atmosphere.".
Tada! The garden~

The Vogelsitze seats above the two front wheel arch has been replaced with garden benches~
The left wheelarch that used to house 3 Vogelsitze seats with a bus stopping bell~
And the right wheel arch that used to house 3 Vogelsitze seats too.

Note that the wood fitted at the pillar has a slot for the vehicle identification plate above the right wheel arch that's behind the driver's cabin, above the right wheel arch. Unfortunately, the flash blanked out most of the details.
According to the Straits Times news report -  The interior features 57 tropical plant species commonly found in Singapore and are split into three sections - the bromeliad and airplant garden, the cactus garden and the fernery garden.

The right side space with information boards and plants~ On the left are quite a lot of plants/grass which are marked by small signs for each plant species.
Further up ahead to the rear half of the bus, with more info boards and plants. There are iPads fitted for interactive learning~ For the taller people visiting the bus - a "Mind your head" sign is fitted, together with a "Mind your Step" at the floor step below.

At the rear of the bus, with the original aircon duct intact and the LED lighting visible. The rear seats have been replaced with bench seating with more plants on display, and an iPad for interactive learning~
View from the rear to the front of the bus, with another iPad on the left for interactive learning.
Since the engine is turned off when the bus is in "display mode", how does this bus ventilate itself? Good question.

There are two portable air-conditioning systems on board the bus (in green to camouflage with the green plants), together with a portable and powerful fan at the rear to keep the air flow moving constantly and not have the bus being very stuffy, powered by the exterior power cables attached to the left rear of the bus.

The fan and air con system at the rear of the bus.

And the air con system at the front of the bus, with a National Geographic logo beside it and plant name info stuffs.
And that wraps up the post on this unique bus~
The bus will be roaming to various schools in the coming weeks =)

As the day ends with the equipment and banners used for the event being removed from the school.

Special thanks to North Vista Primary School's staff/liaison Mr Michael Au and National Geographic Singapore for allowing entry to the school/vehicle for photography + documenting purposes.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tokio Marine 65th Anniversary free rides on 16 & 17th March 2013 on service 65.

It's not everyday that one will get to have free rides that is not due to an MRT breakdown (free shuttle) or free shuttle services like the IKEA shuttle.

During the December 2011 MRT disruptions, free shuttle buses were deployed by both SBS Transit and SMRT Buses to do free shuttle duties to temporarily replace train services so that SMRT could check the island wide tracks/third rail.

Free IKEA - Tampines Retail Park Shuttle service (note the free ride quotes on the top of the livery), though this vehicle was working on the Boon Lay - Alexandra IKEA shuttle.
But there was a free ride on a public bus service on 16th and 17th March 2013 - Tokio Marine had their celebrations for the 65th anniversary and here's the extract from their website and a press release -

"We would not have come this far if not for the dedication of our past and present staff, the support of our agency consultants and business partners and the trust that our valued clients have placed in us.
This celebration would not have been possible without you!

To kick start this celebration, we invite all to hop on to our very own Tokio Marine Life Insurance Bus 65 for free rides all day this Saturday and Sunday (16 & 17 March)!"

On their website, they feature a ComfortDelgro bodied Volvo B9TL but for service 65, there are no ComfortDelgro bodied B9TLs permanently deployed on the service (as of the writing this post). So SBS9531B - Volvo Olympian 3 axles batch 2 (deployed from Ayer Rajah Bus Park controlled 65 was pasted with the advertisement) did the free rides stint for the whole day.

Credits : Photo by Tokio Marine website.
The banners at Harbour Front Interchange's queuing berth for service 65.

SBS9531B not in sight >.<
And the banners at Tampines Interchange's queuing berth.

SBS9531B at Tampines Bus Interchange waiting for the front bus on 22 occupying the boarding berth to depart. It does look like any other normal buses from far, with no indications it was giving a free ride.

Boarding time!
Took  a free journey from Tampines Interchange to Jalan Kolam Ayer. On board, there's 5 pieces of cardboard stuffs covering up the Ezlink readers and coinbox.

As there's no "free rides on 16th & 17th March" promotional signage on the windscreen, many passengers along the journey on boarded presumed it was a normal revenue service bus proceeded to habitually tap the ezlink card after boarding, only to be told by the driver that it's free and resulting in many having a surprised reaction that it's a free ride~
The most prominent cardboard signs when one boards the bus. And a box covering the coin box.
Have to salute the Bus Captains for both day, having to tell/explain to the passengers that it's free at probably every stop with boarding passengers for SBS9531B and seeing the surprised & happy looks on the commuters the entire day.

The revenue equipment systems were probably disabled for the day or the signs pasted on the EZlink reader are thick enough to stop any wireless contact with the EZlink card, but the former is more likely to prevent any accidental deduction of fares.

On its way to Harbour Front on the last few evening trips of the day.....
The exit readers are covered up too ~
Goodbye free rides for the last day (17th March 2013).
SBS9531B has since resumed its revenue collecting service from 18th March 2013 with this new advertisement by Tokio Marine.