A bright and early start found me meeting in the office for a crew briefing. I was paired up with a very experienced volunteer driver on EVD 406, a Crossley/Roe DD42/7 once operated by Joseph Wood of Mirfield. We were the first bus out of the depot, running an all day shuttle service to Taunton.
A couple of visiting Royal Blue coaches had arrived just before me and were parked in the yard. Inside the depot were people setting up their stalls, selling bus models, books, magazines etc. Right at the back was a stall selling refreshments, including a range of home-made cakes. Yummy!
Our first departure from Taunton Railway Station was quite well loaded and on the next run we were almost full by the time we had picked up at the Bus Station as well. We also called at our old depot at Norton Fitzwarren (which will be demolished at the end of June) where some of our fleet was on display, along with some ‘restoration projects’. We set down and picked up there so that passengers could wander among the buses and spare parts on display.
It was fascinating to operate the route with about 5 other heritage buses – I never knew which one we’d pass next! We also passed others on short excursions to different destinations in the area. In fact we had about 15 vintage vehicles on the road that day. Some of the visiting buses found their way into service as well!
The Crossley performed well, under the expert hands (and feet) of the driver. He is well known for his skill with a constant mesh gearbox and has links with the LVVS and often drives for their running days. Our bus was particularly challenging in that most gear changes are quick but the change from 2nd to 3rd is slower. Something to do with a wider ratio between those 2 gears. Anyway, my driver had the measure of it and I didn’t hear a crunch all day.
We were allowed a long lunch break but this was cut short by a breakdown. On our last trip back before lunch we came across a Crosville Leyland PS1 parked on the verge and we were flagged down by its crew. We pulled in ahead of it and took the stranded passengers on board for the short trip back to the depot. The conductor, who was coming with us to find the duty mechanic, told me the bus was struggling with fuel starvation. While eating lunch, the PS1 arrived back at the depot, having been coaxed back by the mechanic but it was still poorly so we had to take its next turn on the shuttle while a replacement was found.
One other exciting moment came during the afternoon when we were pulled over by the Police. No, not for speeding. An unmarked police car was following us in town and noted that we didn’t have a brake light showing. A quick discussion and demonstration showed that a) there is only a single brake light fitted and b) it was working but the brake pedal switch needed adjustment as the bulb didn’t light up when the pedal was pressed lightly. No court appearance or fine was necessary, just a friendly chat about old buses!
The weather had been getting dull and drizzly during the afternoon and by the end of the day not even my winter uniform could keep the chill at bay so I pulled on my heavy overcoat for the last trip back.
By all accounts it was a successful weekend. We may even have made a small profit as a good number of programmes were sold. We even sold 3 buses!
(With grateful thanks to Bob Brimley for the use of his photographs).