Here’s a photograph I took while on holiday on the Isle of White in about 1988. I’d taken my family on a day trip around the island and we had planned a visit to Alum Bay. I had no idea that Southern Vectis were still running a handful of Bristol Lodekkas, converted to open top, on some tourist routes so it was a nice surprise to see this old timer waiting at the bus stop in Yarmouth, albeit in a rather garish Viewfinder livery.
It was filling up fast and we could find standing room only, in the lower saloon. That suited me fine, as I was standing at the noisy end! As the bus pulled away in 2nd gear I could tell that the gearbox was showing signs of a hard life. There appeared to be teeth missing – I could almost count the revolutions of the gear shaft!
I don’t remember much of the journey but I did take a photo after we had alighted at Alum Bay. I thought it might be the last time I would see such an old timer in service. Little did I know…
Many years later (about 20 in fact) I went up to Taunton for an interview to become a part time conductor with Quantock Motor Services. Imagine my surprise and delight to find MDL 952, large as life, parked in the garage!
By this time it had lost its Island registration and now bore the number BAS 563. Apparently, Isle of Wight registrations (ending in DL) were highly sought after until the current numbering scheme came into being. Vehicles with ‘DL’ numbers were given priority on the island ferries, or so I’m told, which explains why this bus lost its original number when it came to live on the mainland.
Since becoming re-acquainted, I have conducted on this bus many times on ‘Exmoor Explorer’ duties. The bus is now up for sale… any takers?
The latter part of MDL 952’s service life with Southern Vectis is charted on this web site, along with photographs showing several of the liveries it has carried.
Looking ahead, this year’s ‘Exmoor Explorer’ season starts again on Saturday (May 22nd) and I’m off to conduct on the first trip.