With another 80th birthday to celebrate this year (my mother’s), we decided to take my side of the family for a day out at Bicton Park, East Devon. We had booked H&D Bristol FLF DEL893C for the day and my son Peter and I arrived at the Crosville depot early on Saturday to collect the bus. One of my colleagues had just very helpfully brought the bus out of the garage for us. Or perhaps he just wanted it out of the way in order to get to another one!
I also found that, although it was my responsibility to check fluid levels myself, I found that the garage staff had already done it for me. Oh well, it doesn’t hurt to check again! I used the Displacement method to check how much fuel was in the tank… a wooden pole and a Mark One Eyeball! We had one brake light go u/s so we waited while the chief mechanic brought it back to life. We took our fully fit Lodekka out to the motorway via the filling station to top up the tank and then set off southwards to collect members of my family from various places near the M5.
We left the M5 at Exeter and took the A376 to Exmouth, a road I know very well, having grown up there. My parents had no idea we were bringing a bus, we’d all kept it a secret. My Dad was speechless when he saw us – he is the one from whom I’ve inherited my interest in buses and all things heritage! Not only was the bus a Bristol, a manufacturer he is very familiar with, but also Hants & Dorset. H&D operated near to (and sometimes into) Salisbury, where he grew up.
A few months ago I inherited a photograph collection devoted to the buses and coaches of Wilts & Dorset Motor Services Ltd, whose head office and centre of operations was in Salisbury. The photographs have been collected by my father, who grew up in Salisbury and followed the development of the company and its vehicles until the early 1960s.
Here is one of the early photographs, showing a 1929 Leyland TS single decker wearing the pre-1948 livery and fleetname. The collection is spread over three volumes and contains several hundred photographs. I haven’t counted them all yet! Most are postcard-sized black and white prints, published for collectors and enthusiasts by distributors such as Haynes, Simpson and Pennels. A few of my father’s own shots are included too.
Prior to the standardisation of the state-owned Wilts & Dorset, when ECW body on Bristol chassis became the norm, W&D ran buses and coaches from all the major manufacturers such as Leyland, AEC and Daimler. Shown above is a 1931 Leyland TD1 passing the Style & Gerrish department store in Salisbury. Fleet number 97 has a Leyland body and wears the pre-war livery of red and grey.
One of the last photographs in the collection is of this 1967 Leyland Leopard PSUR1/1R, acquired in 1971/2 from Maidstone & District.
I photographed the fleetname on this bus after it had been withdrawn in 1973 and was languishing in the dump at the back of the bus station in Castle Street, Salisbury.
This reflected my interest, not only in the buses of Wilts & Dorset but also in letterforms because I began training for a career in graphic design in the same year.
These are just a few examples of the many photographs in this wonderful collection. Maybe I’ll share a few more of them later!
I’ve written before about what kindled my interest in vintage transport. That should more properly be ‘who’ because it was largely my father’s interest in anything to do with all forms of transport that rubbed off on me.
He would often sit me in the saddle of his extremely loud (to me, as a 3 year old lad) single cylinder motorcycle as it sat in the back garden. He would take me down to the railway station at Salisbury to watch the fast-disappearing steam hauled expresses.
Then there were the buses. Big, red and lumbering. I loved every journey. One day we both took a ride, just for the fun of it. We took the Wilts & Dorset number 61 from Wilton Road into town and then took the number 59 ( I think) up to the end of Devizes Road. Like most of the town services in the early 1960s, it was operated by one of many Bristol Lodekkas. There the bus would lay over until it was time to return from whence it came.
Just to pass the time (and to prove that I’m still here), I’ve delved back into my memory to bring you another snapshot in time from the half-cab era. This one involves the shady corner of a bus garage where a mechanic was ‘treading carefully’.
There was a time when bus operators were permitted to re-tread the tyres on their vehicles when they became worn down to the minimum legal tread depth. Maybe they still can – does anyone know?
Sometime in the 1960s (I was a small boy then) my Grandfather fixed it for me to have a look around the inside of the Wilts & Dorset bus garage in Salisbury. My eyes were out on stalks as we wandered round, watching MWs, KSWs and Lodekkas in various states of disassembly. I was even allowed to go into a pit, over which a bus was parked. I had no idea what I was looking at but I felt strangely privileged to be looking at the underside of a bus.
We were shown into a dark corner by the back doors where a couple of mechanics stood surrounded by wheels. Strewn around under their feet were zig-zag strips of rubber, the waste product of a handy tool one of them was wielding. As I watched, he held the tool in his gloved hand and guided it slowly along the shallow remants of the tyre’s tread. The tool, plugged into a substantial power supply, had a V-shaped cutting blade which evidently was heated by the electricity. Beneath the mechanic’s hand there appeared a brand new groove as a new zig-zag strip of rubber fell to the floor.