By way of an introduction…

on the platform

Me, on the platform. Photo © Martin Fowler.

Welcome to my blog! Follow me as I embark on a nerve-racking – but ultimately rewarding – journey towards my destination: becoming a bus driver.

For those who can’t be bothered to read the About Me page, or perhaps haven’t found the link yet, here is a little background.

I’m a bloke of… ahem, mature years who has a lifelong interest in vintage transport. I think I inherited it from my Dad, who took great delight in taking me for rides on buses and trains in the 1960s when I was growing up. I have abiding memories of riding into a certain town in Wiltshire which was served by one of the ubiquitous Tilling fleets. The red and cream variety.

My preferred position would be to kneel on the front bench seat of a Bristol Lodekka behind the driver, watching him as he wrestled with the heavy steering and crash gearbox. Some experienced drivers would of course make it look like child’s play while others made a right pig’s ear of it. Even then, as a little boy, I wondered why some could master the fiendish – but exquisitely musical – transmission of these vehicles whereas some could not.

If you’d asked me then what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have said “a bus driver” quick as a shot. My Dad even photographed me in the driver’s seat of a Lodekka as it waited at the end of its route. Maybe I’ll find that photo one day and post it here.

Fast forward to the 21st century. The days of half-cabs passed into history long ago, along with most of the buses. I still looked back with nostalgia to those far-off days and picked up bus magazines occasionally or books from the library so that I could relive my memories. Those memories were always in glorious technicolor whereas most of the pictures I found were in monochrome.

One day I happened across the website of a bus and coach operator in Somerset which also had a remarkable fleet of vintage buses. Why hadn’t I heard about these people before, I wondered? They were looking for drivers and conductors. Immediately those memories kicked me into crazy mode and I picked up the phone. We met and before you could say “any more fares?” I had agreed to train as a conductor. To top it all, they had Lodekkas. Not just one, but several!

That was five years ago and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed conducting for wedding hire and for regular trips around Exmoor on Lodekkas and other remarkable survivors from the half-cab age.

I still harboured a dream of driving one day so the management allowed me to drive around the private industrial estate where the depot was located. This year it became apparent that crash box trained drivers were becoming thin on the ground and there were occasions when we had to use more modern vehicles as a result on a route that usually had Lodekkas.

So I’ve bitten the bullet and have decided to take the PCV drivers’ test. Gulp!

I’m not a spring chicken anymore and I don’t learn new skills as quickly as I used to. As Homer Simpson once said, “Every time I learn something new, some old stuff gets deleted!” Passing the test is not going to be easy, despite some of my colleagues saying that I have an aptitude for driving.

Well, if you’d care to stick around, I’ll take you with me as I take the journey.

Mind the stairs!

2 comments on “By way of an introduction…

  1. Steve says:

    Good Luck with the actual driving instruction and test!
    The best advice I can give is mirrors mirrors mirrors and spacial awareness, take the space you need rather than a squeeze. I took mine on a Lodekka which sadly cannot be done anymore, unless you know of one with ABS brakes, as the 50 mph minimum speed was no problem for some of them. Personally I think it was a backwards step allowing a driver to pass a test on a 10m long single decker and then immediately drive a decker but thats progress for you.
    I regularly drive Bristol Lodekkas and Leyland PD’s and enjoy the simplicity of the technology of the time.

  2. busmanjohn says:

    Thanks Steve for your comments. I’ve driven a Lodekka on private roads a few times and I’m looking forward to driving one for real next year. Once the nerves have subsided, I’m sure I will enjoy it as much as you do!

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