Leyland Olympian C412 HJN was new to the newly privatised Eastern National in February of 1986, and was put to work on a new venture, the X51 express service from Southend-on-Sea, to London’s Oxford Circus. The route was designed to compete with the train, and cream off passengers unsatisfied with the British Rail service being provided, offering competitive fares, fast journey times; but most importantly, the C-HJN Leyland Olympians, with their high backed coach seating, early electronic flip dot blinds, a new exciting livery and high speed differentials.
Despite this, 4012 spent much of her first 10 years allocated to the Southend depot, before subsequently moving on to Chelmsford, Harwich and Colchester. Thankfully despite being downgraded to normal bus work, they all retained their duel purpose seating, and a majority kept their very useful high speed diffs, giving the C-HJNs a real reputation as “Fliers!”
Edging into the 2000s, the Olympians were given another refurbishment by First, to gain Barbie 2 livery, with full fades, and newly refurbished interiors, somewhat strangely with varying moquette between different vehicles. They were then allocated predominantly to Chelmsford and sub-depot Braintree, before being rewarded with yet another refurbishment into First ‘Willow Leaf’ livery, previously only reserved for newer vehicles. It was therefore clear to see that they weren’t ready to let them go yet!
I’m sure much to Essex’s dismay, C409, 412, 413 and 417 (already having been transferred to Bristol) were relinquished from their native land, and sent for further service in Cornwall. Torpoint Depot had at this time recently received its five brand new Dennis Tridents, but of course, this wasn’t enough to replace the aging fleet of Bristol VRTs.
The task of replacing these well loved and cherished vehicles fell to the HJN quartet, and they were greeted with quite a cold reception after replacing what were now the last VRs left in a land once dominated by type. In all honesty though, we couldn’t have really hoped for anything better than the ultra comfortable, fast and very well looked after Essex girls. The C-HJNs, like our native VRs had most certainly become the depot pets, with lots of tender loving care being given to them right up until the native vehicle’s final withdrawals in 2010.
Unfortunately, as with many vehicles, the ‘Cornish’ HJNs got no where near the same level of attention as Essex’s final vehicles, including the stunningly presented C415 and C418 HJN, both now in preservation. The Torpoint Olympians survived until mid way through 2009 when they were withdrawn and replaced with another well loved batch of vehicles, the K-ORL Volvo Olympians, leaving C412 and C413 HJN free to enter into new life.
C412 HJN was acquired by Routemaster Buses, and passed swiftly on to the St Michaels’ Entertainers Dance Troupe of Crewe. Painted into her current all-black livery, and gaining the nickname ‘The Stealth Olympian’, C412 HJN has been providing sterling service with her touring the length and breadth of the country attending shows and competitions with the dancers. She has been extremely capably looked after by Reliance Bus Works, and runs like a dream.
This extra extension to life has been her ultimate saving grace, enabling new owner, Laurence Mayhew, to being in a situation where it was possible to buy her out of service before the inevitable trip to Barnsley almost occurred!
On Saturday 1st November 2014, Laurence Mayhew together with a few others made the journey to Reliance Bus Works in Stoke on Trent to collect C412 HJN, and return her to the South West. C412 performed absolutely faultlessly for the entire 250+ mile trip all the way down to Plymouth, comfortably sitting at 55-60mph along all the hundreds of miles of motorways. Plans are not yet finalised for her restoration, but rest assured, she will be on the rally circuit in the very near future.
C412 HJN was one of 4 selected to undertake this high honour, with ‘4012’ as she was known at the time, being used in publicly photos for the new route. But despite their best efforts, the X51 turned out to be a commercial flop, and was unfortunately discontinued after a relatively short amount of time.