Archive for January, 2014

Hawke Coachworks

January 29, 2014

1980 saw the introduction of new buses by SBS. Two models were purchased by the company : Volvo B57 and Mercedes OF1417. Instead of the usual body kits supplied by Soon Chow, SBS chose body kits from New Zealand. The first 100 Mercedes OF1417 were bodied using kits from Hawke Coachworks. The rest were bodied using New Zealand Motor Body kits. Hawke buses were common in Zealand.
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Even though Soon Chow did not get the order for the bus body kits, they were selected to assemble all the Hawke body kits.
Hawke Coachworks were founded by two brothers Haddon and Leslie Hawke in 1951. They were previously known as Hawke Brothers Ltd with the first workshop in Takanini, North Island, New Zealand, building bodies for motor vehicles. They changed the company after they moved to a new premise in Palmerston North. The company closed in 1991 and merged with NZMB to form Coachwork International (CWI).
Mercedes OF1417 buses were front engine chassis powered by a Mercedes OM376 8720cc engine producing 170hp. Maximum gross vehicle weight is 14000Kg. All of them were equipped with Allison MT automatic gearboxes.
The interior layout was similar to the Volvo B57s, with the front half having single seats on both sides and double seats at the rear half. On the roof were four ventrilation hatches made of tinted fiberglass.

Memories of bus rides – Casinos in motion

January 22, 2014

Long before we had Marina Bay Sands and Resort World Sentosa casinos, there were travelling mobile casinos.
Taking bus need patience, lots of patience, back in the 1970s. I had many experiences of sitting at a bus stop for more than two hours just to catch a bus home. Such cases often happen to many services but not all services are like that. When the bus finally come, they came in a convoy of 4 or more buses. Buses bunch up due to bad traffic conditions? Unlikely, because it happens even at off peak hours. The mystery was solved one day. I was a Toa Payoh bus terminus one day. The first Toa Payoh bus terminus at Lorong 6 is a big open air parking lot:


There were no rules back then that forbid people from walking anywhere in the bus parking area. I waited for a long time for any of the service 158 bus to move off. From where I was standing, I saw a number of service 158 buses parked at the parking area. I got tired of waiting and I walked to the bus parking area to take a look at all the service 158 buses. In one of the bus, I saw a group of bus crews busy gambling away. Not wanting to create trouble, I hurriedly left and went back to the bus stop and wait. When the service 158 bus crew finally decided to move off, four of the buses move off togather. I board the first bus and saw the bus conductor was one of those gambling. So the convoy of buses travel to the other end of the line and maybe the gambling will continue. If the bus crews had enough of gambling, then frequency goes back to normal, lucky for bus passengers during that period of time. The terminus at both ends are the bus crews’ resting and gambling places and the bus is their casino. Unfortunately, back in those days, bus drivers and conductors were one of those occupation which attracted a lot of Ah Bengs, Ah Lengs, Ah Sengs,…many of them were triad members, some of them proudly showing off their tattoos. When the government team of officials took over the management of SBS, they had to second a number of CID police officers to join the company in order to rid the organization of these triad members.

Old cameras

January 15, 2014

Time for house cleaning. Took out my old cameras for a dust off. I am not an expert in cameras. Over the years, I have used several cameras. The first camera I used was a Kodak Instamatic 25 :

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This is a cheap no frills easy to use point-and-shoot camera. Camera body is made of fragile plastic. The shutter speed, aperture and focus were fixed. It has a mounting for use with flashcubes. The flashcube is is used to provide flash light. It is a disposable module with 4 bulbs mounted at 90 degrees to each other. After one shot, the cube will rotate by the film winding mechanism. After taking 4 images, the flashcube had to be replaced.
This is a what a flashcube look like mounted on an Instamatic 155X :

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The second camera I used was a Yashica 35MF compact :

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It was also a simple point-and-shoot 38mm camera with a built in pop up flash. It has a fixed lens and is fully automatic scale focus. The aperture setting ranging from f/2.8 to f/16 is displayed inside the viewfinder.
The Kodak and Yashica were my family’s camera used by all members of my family. The first camera bought by me is this Minolta Dynax 5000i :

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It was also the first SLR camera I used. It came with a built in flash and weighs 500g, which is rather heavy. It was popular, easy to use and capture good images, my family members and in-laws often borrow the camera whenever they went for holidays. In a way this camera has been to more places than me, the owner. This camera finally broke down after many years of use and by then Minolta no longer have any spare parts. I was forced to give it up for a while.
The next and fourth camera was a Nikon F??, the replacement for my Dynax 5000i. I forgot what model it was because I hated it so much. Although it was lighter, the overall quality was inferior to the Dynax. After a short while, I gave up and decided to look around the camera repair shops and see if they can repair my Dynax. I eventually found one shop at Scotts Road and they managed to fix it. With my Dynax back in action, I sold the Nikon on eBay at a lost, happy just to get rid of it.

By the 1990s, the digital age arrived. I decide to try it out a digital camera. The one I choose was this Canon Powershot S20 :

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It cost me a bomb. Being the early generation of digital cameras, it was slow to capture images resulting in several blurr photos! LCD screen is only 1.8 inch. Image resolution is 3.3megapixel and sensor is 1/1.8 inch CCD. Lens is 32-64mm f2.9-4.0. Power consumption is very high, it can drain out the battery very fast. A great drawback of this camera design is the on/off switch is located in such a way that the camera can be turned on accidently without the user knowing resulting in the battery going flat!

Acknowledgement : Kodak Instamatic 25 from Camera Wiki.

Scheme B – SBS integration

January 8, 2014

The current use of private bus by LTA to operate public bus service is nothing new. The scheme was introduced back in December 1981. A pilot scheme to incorporate private buses into the same routes the SBS ply was implemented. This is to relieve SBS the need to buy additional buses which will be left idle during off peak hours. Four private bus companies with a total of 30 buses took part in the scheme to ply 8 routes alternating with SBS buses. The SBS routes chosen are 26, 32, 60, 61, 77, 136, 185 and 186. Fare will be 10 cents less than SBS. Time of operation will be 6 – 8am and 4 – 8pm. The route number plates will be supplied by SBS and frequencies will be controlled and scheduled by SBS time keepers. Fares collected will belong to the operators, not SBS.
The four operators were chosen out of 18 because they meet the requirement of relatively new buses, a fleet size of more than seven buses and they operate around the area of the services they will be plying. Two man operation will be used initially. All of them were later converted to one man operation.

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Blue & White Bus Company’s Mercedes OF1315 on route 61.

The scheme was further expanded in June 1982. The second lot of services offered are divided into four clusters :
Cluster A – SBS routes 6, 40, 301
Cluster B – SBS routes 71, 102, 303
Cluster C – SBS routes 132, 162, 305
Cluster D – SBS routes 177, 201, 206
Unlike the first round where routes were given to fleet owners, the second round will be opened to applicants who were fleet owners or individuals banding together. The buses used must not be more than 12 years and at least 35 seaters.
The scheme ended sometime in the mid 1990s by the private operators due to some disagreement between them and SBS.
I had the opportunity to take route 32, 61 and 201. No tickets were issued. Passengers just toss the coins into the fare box. It was difficult for the driver to monitor who pay what fare and some people cheated paying the minimium fare and travel maximum distance. It was also ironic that some of the private bus operators used buses which were disposed off by SBS, especially the Bedford SBs, resulting in former SBS buses plying on SBS’s routes again but in different livery.

Old bus terminus – RAF Seletar

January 1, 2014

Outside main guard house of Seletar Camp is Jalan Kayu. It used to the bus terminus for Paya Lebar Bus 1A, 5 and 6. The terminus was called RAF Seletar. It was changed to Jalan Kayu after the British withdrew from Singapore. Paya Lebar Bus Company also operated a un-numbered shuttle bus service looping around inside the camp terminating at the same location. In the 1971 after the bus re-organistaion, only Associated Bus Service route 70 used the terminus. Terminus was later expanded to cope with the increase in number of services in the 1980s. It was used by SBS for 70, 103, 163, 214E and 214W. 214E and 214W were feeder buses serving the eastern and western half of the camp respectively. This is a map of the location :

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The grass patch used to be the parking lot for buses :

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The terminus was closed and the area around it was used as a bus stop for buses passing through the area :

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Most of the bus services were either discontinued or diverted to terminate at other places leaving only service 103 and 103W to cover the route of 214E and 214W inside the camp. Route 103W is a loop service running long West Camp Road to the end and return.
103 run along Piccadilly Road up to the end the road just before the camp gate :

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The bus will made a short layover before making a three point turn in front of the camp gate for the return trip. The area was later improved with a proper U-turn and bus stop :

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This terminus was short lived. It was demolished soon after Seletar was developed into an aerospace hub for aviation industries. Route 103W was withdrawn and 103 took over the West Camp Road section.