I was a fare-paying passenger on a regular Stagecoach bus today. Yes, I know. I wouldn’t normally choose to ride on one of these modern contraptions (a Dennis Trident, I think) but I’d just dropped my wife’s car off for its MOT and had to get to work pronto. So I caught the number 12 from town.
It’s not that bad really, but it just doesn’t cut the mustard for me. Yes, it’s clean and bright. Yes, it’s a comfortable ride. Yes, it’s packed with modern gadgetry. But, as I sat with a screaming automatic transmission behind me and having passed or seen half a dozen identical buses already, I thought to myself no, give me an open-platform halfcab every time.
Who cares if you can feel every ridge and knobble in the road? What does it matter if you can feel a draught around your ankles from the open platform? So what if the noise of the engine and gears drowns out all attempts at conversation? I want to ride on a bus with Character, Style and Charm. There’s more fun to be had on the journey than just getting to your destination!
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.
It’s been a while since I posted anything (a whole month, actually) but several things have distracted me recently. Namely; Christmas, New Year and Snow. Yes, even in the South West. Ice and snow everywhere, not nice.
Bus services here are gradually getting back to normal after several days of cancelled or amended services. Routes that normally take in residential estates or rural areas have been curtailed to run on main roads as they have the only treated surfaces. Just as well really, Torbay probably has the hilliest terrain in the region to negotiate. That’s why, years ago, Devon General specified the largest engines available in the AEC Regents they ordered for service in Torbay. 9.6 litre I believe.
Anyway, back on topic. With life returning to normal shortly, I need to catch up on my theory revision and book a test. I’m sorry if posts are rather sporadic. Things will pick up again once I’ve passed my theory test and booked up my practical instruction. Even conducting is a rare event in the winter months as the service 400 “Exmoor Explorer” doesn’t start up again until May and private hire duties are normally covered by my conductor colleagues as they live nearer to the depot.