Editions of the North County Times Serving San Diego and Riverside Counties Sunday, January 29, 2006 Contact Us Archive
  News Search   Web Search   Classified Search   Advertising   Home Delivery   Reader Services   Traffic   Stocks   Weather
 Home  News  Sports  Business  Opinion  Entertainment  Features  Columnists  Community
 Top Stories  Coastal  Inland  Californian  San Diego / County  State / West  Nation / World  Military  Politics


Last modified Sunday, July 22, 2001 10:00 PM PDT

Email this story   Print this story
textup     Comment in our Blog

Endangered double-deckers sit in Murrieta field

    CYNDY SULLIVAN / Staff Photographer
    Don Vierstra of Murrieta owns three double-decker buses that he had hoped to use for a tour company. Three double-decker buses from England that Vierstra bought for $225,000 in 1993 now sit idle near his Murrieta home.

      Staff Writer

      MURRIETA ---- In the field next to Don Vierstra's home in the west end of town, a few things seem a little out of place. Amid the brown grass stubble, weeds and aging clunkers, sit several European classics.

      Vierstra admits his three double-decker buses turn a lot of heads.

      But if people knew the story behind the buses, they'd probably take a closer look and appreciate the triplet of transporters.

      Vierstra, 66, says he bought the buses for $225,000 in 1993 and planned to use them for tours in conjunction with the Western Entertainment Center, a western-themed entertainment and shopping center once planned for Temecula.

      "That's the only reason I bought them," Vierstra said.

      When the center went belly up in the late 1990s, Vierstra played with the idea of using the buses for a tour company, but the idea never took off.

      "I just ran out of gas," Vierstra said.

      Since then, weeds have grown around the buses' tires. Spider webs cling to the vehicles' circular stairways and a thick layer of dust covers the paint that once shined bright red.

      But underneath all the dust are three vintage vehicles and a story about survival.

      To the untrained eye, Vierstra's buses seem like typical double-deckers. But in the small world of double-decker bus enthusiasts, Vierstra's buses are special.

      Only 76 buses like Vierstra's were manufactured in the early 1950s to fulfill a special function for London Transport, the bus company serving England's capital city at the time.

      What makes Vierstra's buses unique are their height, a characteristic that distinguishes them as RLHs (Regent Low Height), a mutated double-decker built 14 inches shorter than its counterparts. Their specialized height enabled them to pass through tunnels in parts of London where bridges were built lower than in other areas.

      An anomaly among London's busing fleet, the shorter RLHs lived in the limelight and performed a duty no other bus could do. But their special place in London's history was short-lived.

      By 1971, London's bus routes had bypassed all the low bridges and the RLH double-deckers became expendable. They were forced to make their living another way.

      Almost half of them were exported across the Atlantic and used by restaurants and other businesses for advertising ---- like RLH 7, which was last seen at a movie rental store in Topeka, Kan., in 1987, according to a bus enthusiast club that tracks the stray RLH buses still in existence. Several such clubs have Web sites with "survivors lists" where buses are listed by model, serial number and last known location.

      Others buses, like RLH 59, fared worse. Fifty-nine made a long voyage across the ocean to Atlanta in 1969, only to be mutilated in a traffic accident several months later.

      Other siblings in the RLH clan held on longer, like RLH 26, which made it all the way to Hawaii before being sold to a junkyard in Kailua in 1984.

      Other RLHs seem to have simply disappeared.

      One Web site, posted by Timebus Travel, has whittled the number of remaining buses down to 25, including the three in Vierstra's field ---- RLH 53, 69 and 71. Only a handful of the survivors are operational.

      But it's the nature of a bus to move, and Vierstra says 53, 69 and 71 could still end up back on the road where they belong.

      "I will donate the buses to somebody if they'll pay the shipping charges," said Vierstra, who says he paid $15,000 to have each bus delivered to Murrieta from London.

      And if no one takes him up on his offer?

      "They'll just sit there," Vierstra says. "I enjoy driving by and seeing them."

      Contact staff writer Henri Brickey at (909) 676-4315, Ext. 2616, or [email protected]



      Comments On This Story

      Add Your Comments

      First name only. Comments including last names, contact addresses, email addresses or phone numbers will be deleted. All comments are screened before they appear online. Click here to view additional comment policies.
      To begin a discussion on this topic visit our Online Forums.

        Click here for daily newspaper delivery
      Click here for daily online news alerts
      Click here to send a Letter to the Editor
        Click here to send an Announcement

      Recent Top Stories

    • Avocado growers facing array of new challenges
    • SANDAG seeks to put rural advocate on board, hold meetings outside county
    • Pier resort developer unveils plans for Top Gun house
    • Arts Center sculptures to be on loan this summer
    • Miramar air group heads for Iraq
    • Plane wreckage being removed from crash site
    • Rural voice proposed for SANDAG
    • Morrow resigns from controversial association board
    • Water officials debate waterless urinals
    • Investigators find 'black box' in Carlsbad plane wreckage
    • Fed official says county economy strong
    • San Bernardino joins medical marijuana lawsuit
    • Tri-City ER docs have never done Blue Cross
    • Correction: Photo caption had incorrect location
    • Two Pendleton Marines killed in bombing
    • Residents question need for new transmission line
    • Son of La Jolla resident dies in crash
    • Neighbors hope plane crash alters airport policies
    • Researcher: Planes safer than cars
    • Fatal plane crash incidents in the McClellan-Palomar Airport region
    • Tri-City and Blue Cross to jumpstart negotiations
    • Campo, Imperial airport costs detailed
    • Nonprofits fret over proposed immigration bill
    • ACLU to protest county's marijuana lawsuit
    • High winds cause power outages, fire concerns
    • Keyword Search

      Arts & Entertainment Magazine

      News Update

      ...more AP news


      Print this story     Email this story


       Home  News  Sports  Business  Opinion  Entertainment  Features  Columnists  Community
      [email protected] [email protected]