D685 SEM was ordered by Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive in September 1986 and was received by Merseybus from Alexander’s in Falkirk in January 1987. It was part of a batch of 54 Dodges that were purchased new, 27 of the batch were bodied with the Alexander AM body and the other 27 being bodied by Northern Counties. Some of these vehicles had Merseymini fleetnames which was the Merseybus route branding for parts of the minibus operations. The influx of minibuses enabled Merseybus to take on younger drivers at a slightly lower rate of pay, an apprenticeship really, before moving up to the double deck vehicles and the higher rate of pay. The original 54 vehicles were later supplemented by further second hand examples purchased from Greater Manchester.
The Dodges were used on several routes around the operating area. In Liverpool they operated on routes such as the 100 and 101 which was originally joint operation between Edge Lane and Walton depots and on the Wirral 501, 502, 503 and 504 along with Merseytravel tendered work. During their life on Merseyside the Dodges operated from most Merseybus depots on a range of routes.
Apart from Laird Street, where the Dodges lasted until the mid 1990's, all were gone from Liverpool by 1993 when the routes that they had run on had either been lost, converted to bigger buses or were run by the low cost Merseyrider unit with newer Mercedes minibuses. Some Dodges however did see a short reprieve with Merseyrider when this low cost unit opened in 1992. The last ones finished their lives at Laird Street as shunt buses from Woodside and the garage to various remote relief points.
On disposal from MTL, the successor to Merseybus, after ten years 7685 passed to Darwen Coaches of Lancashire along with several of her sisters where they operated local services around Darwen. Darwen Coaches in turn replaced the Dodges with Mercedes and Optare MetroRiders and 7685 passed from Darwen Coaches to Merseyside based PSV driving school Specialised Transport Training based near Gillmoss in 2002 where it was intended to become a driving assessment vehicle.
In 2006 the vehicle was purchased for preservation and carried passengers again in 2013.
The picture below shows 7685 when quite new. (Photo: Mike Evans)