This photo brings back so many memories for me. All through my childhood, while staying with my grandparents in the summer holidays, I travelled into town on Lodekkas, including this one. Consequently it represents my favourite half-cab bus of all time. It belonged to Wilts & Dorset and is pictured (by me, in 1973) approaching the bus stop outside the West End pub in Wilton Road, Salisbury. My grandparents’ house is just out of shot on the right and just at this moment, my pulse would be racing as I anticipated another journey, albeit ever so familiar. I can still hear my grandmother saying to the conductor after we’d found a seat, “two and one half to the Blue Boar Row, please”. And then that characteristic, metallic whirr as the conductor’s Setright machine spat out the requested tickets. I could never have guessed then that I would be doing his job 40 years later, on a Lodekka in service!
Well I survived my assessment day and so, I’m pleased to say, did the coach I was driving. In fact I can safely say that the only thing that I hit was the brake pedal!
The day dawned grey and showery, but thankfully the rain stayed away during my one-and-a-half-hour driving assessment. To be honest, the weather was the least of my worries!
After my driving licence was checked and copied, I was led out to the training vehicle. I don’t remember much about it except that it was white and VERY big. I found out during our jaunt around the Somerset countryside that it was a Scania coach with an 11 litre engine and 10 forward gears. Yes, ten! This awesome gearbox was the first thing to rear up and bite me once we were on our way. The gear stick travels quite a long way but, due to the many linkages on the way to the gearbox at the back, it feels a bit like stirring treacle. I have to admit that I missed the gears quite often and, in hindsight, should have spent some time exploring the gearbox before starting the engine. There are actually only 5 gears + reverse but the forward gears are multiplied by a 2-speed rear axle (I think). There’s a neat little switch near the top of the gear stick which lets you select high or low ratio. You merely dip the clutch shortly after flipping the switch to implement the change. A bit like the old-fashioned pre-select change I imagine.