Today I was on duty again for the West Somerset Railway Spring Steam Gala. No, not on the railway but on the heritage bus that was helping to run a shuttle service between Taunton Railway Station, the Silk Mills Park & Ride car park and Bishops Lydeard station. The photo shows LFM 302 waiting to pick up passengers at the stop beneath the railway bridge at Taunton Station. Taken from the back for a change and showing off the shapely lines of the 1950 Weymann bodywork.
On one of the morning trips I had a very interesting conversation with a chap who does fund-raising lectures for the A1 Steam Trust, the group that built LNER A1 Pacific 60163 “Tornado”. Watch out, he may be coming to a society meeting near you!
Another passenger introduced himself, having read a post of mine on the National Preservation forum. Nice to put a face to a familiar name!
Well, that had better be all, it’s nearly Saturday already!
Yesterday I took my bus driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) Case Study Test and passed. Like the theory multiple choice and hazard perception tests, I was able to take it in Torquay near where I work. Very convenient. I just managed to squeeze it into my lunch break. There were 50 questions based on 7 Case Studies where basic facts surrounding fictional scenarios were presented. Most of this was covered by my revision for the Theory Test so I really didn’t do much preparation. That’s probably why I got 4 questions wrong. The pass mark is 40 and I got 46 out of 50.
So, that’s three out of five hoops I’ve jumped through so far. Just the Practical Test and CPC Practical Demonstration Test to do.
The next day dawned bright and sunny in marked contrast to the gloomy weather of the previous day. I was due to conduct on a private hire job with VDV 752, one of our ex-Western National open top Bristol LDL6Gs. With steam from a nearby BR Standard 9F locomotive billowing over the yard, I helped my driver shunt buses around to release our 53 year old relic of the road.
We were to pick up a party of people in Minehead and take them to a restaurant just outside Bishops Lydeard, just a couple of miles from where I stood! I decided to set some appropriate numbers on my Setright ticket machine. The family group were celebrating a 60th birthday so I set the fare at 60p and the fare stage to 60. I wondered if they would notice my little tribute?
We set off up the road to Minehead, about an hour’s drive away. It was to be a surprise party for the lady in question so we parked a little way down the road where she lived, beside a park. While we waited, I set the rear destination numbers to 60.
Before long, members of the family party began to arrive, laden with presents, champagne and pink balloons. As the lucky lady emerged from her house she was greeted by a cacophony of shouts and a chorus of kazoos. She appeared to be almost speechless as I welcomed her aboard! Moments later we were all set to leave so I gave my customary warning about overhanging branches and low bridges.
I’ve had two conducting turns this weekend. On Saturday I was conducting on LFM 302, a 1950 ex-Crosville Leyland PS1. We have been contracted by the West Somerset Railway to provide a bus service linking their station at Bishops Lydeard with the railway station in Taunton for the duration of the Spring Gala. We had three buses running, one of which was the aforementioned Leyland.
The weather was rather grey and dismal but that didn’t seem to stop families and enthusiasts alike from enjoying the spectacle of an intensive train service up the line to Minehead. Motive power was boosted by a good number of visiting locomotives. At one point I counted five locos in the station, only one of which was resident on the line.
Our single decker can seat 35 people and almost all of those were taken on our second journey of the day. Several folks commented that it was very pleasing and suitable to have a heritage bus bringing people in to the WSR event. I had to agree! At last I was able to get my Crosville badges out and wear them on my newly-acquired winter uniform. I was asked by one passenger who had noticed our destination blind “Are we really going to Llandudno?” I couldn’t help answering “Yes sir, we’ll be there by teatime. Tomorrow.”
After many years of searching, I am now the proud owner of a genuine bus conductor’s winter uniform. These appear to be as rare as hen’s teeth and this one was listed on Ebay last week. Although it carries no clear identification, it was described as a Western National uniform from the 1960s. This turns out to be correct, because I found several old Western National bus tickets in the jacket pockets!
In today’s post I received my PCV Large Vehicle Theory Test Pass Certificate which confirms that I can go ahead and book my Practical Driving Test. The pass is valid for two years but somehow I don’t think it will be anywhere near that long before I take my practical test!
To drive professionally, which I may want to do later this year, I will also need to take my Driver CPC Case Studies Theory Test. This is based on information I’ve already learned while preparing for the 2-part test that I’ve just passed. It presents a series of theory questions based around a fictitional scenario, or Case Study. I suppose it’s designed to check that I understand how I would put the theory into practice, without actually doing it.
Anyway, I booked that module today and I’m due to take it in a couple of weeks time.
Here’s a photo of a bus crew in about 1969, taking a lunch break in Blackhorse, Bristol. I came across this image by chance, while my father-in-law was scanning his collection of colour transparencies onto his computer.
The subject of the photograph wasn’t the bus crew, in fact they only occupy a corner of the image. The main event (the opening of a new church building) was taking place behind them. I’ve cropped everything else out to illustrate the uniform of the time and to chuckle at the Elvis hairstyle and loud socks. Curiously, the conductor has placed the chin strap (normally an obsolete feature, just above the cap’s peak) over the top of the cap. I wonder why?
Their green and cream Bristol Omnibus steed, probably a Bristol LD or FLF, was out of shot to the left.
I’m interested to note that, although both the conductor and driver are wearing summer dust jackets, the conductor’s cap doesn’t have a white top. Some operators issued these removable fabric covers (or ‘gloves’) to crews in the summer but the practice doesn’t seem to be as widespread in Tilling group companies as I’d thought. I’ve seen another image recently of a Western National crew wearing summer jackets but not white topped caps. Words of wisdom, anyone?