I took this photo in May 1974 while on a field trip from Art College. We were visiting art galleries in London and taking in a few sights as well when I came across this 1930 AEC Regent on Sightseeing Tour duty. London at that time was seething with Routemasters of various kinds so it was a pleasant surprise to see such an ancient vehicle – with an open staircase – in service in the capital.
Petrol engined GJ2098 (ST922) began life as a Tilling-bodied ST in November 1930 and operated in South London until withdrawal in 1954, latterly as a mobile canteen. After some time in a dealer’s yard, it was bought and restored by Prince Marshall before being re-introduced onto London’s streets on the above mentioned sightseeing tour.
It now resides with the London Bus Preservation Trust at Cobham and is currently operational.
Last weekend I had a double dose of conducting, being on Service 400 duty on Saturday and Sunday. I had a trainee conductor with me on Saturday. She shadowed me on the first trip round and I let her do the conducting (under my supervision of course) in the afternoon. She did pretty well for a youngster. Her dad is a bus driver and she has conducted on private hire jobs with him several times so she knew the basics already. She will need several more training trips before we let her go solo!
I couldn’t resist taking this picture before we set off in the morning! It’s not often that all three of our Bristol Lodekka open toppers are parked together.
I had two special passengers on board on Saturday too. One was a good friend from Torquay whom I’ve known for about 25 years. The other was a regular reader of this blog – it was good to meet you!
Our driver was relatively new to the Exmoor route and to driving heritage vehicles. His driving was a little rough round the edges but, like some of the roads on our route, the learning curve is steep!
As promised, I’ve added a piece which was sent in by one of my regular readers. Bob Harrison worked for Wilts & Dorset as a conductor for a few years in the early 1970s before heading off to pastures new as a teacher. His fascinating story is under ‘Pages’ in the list on the right hand side of this page.
I had another conducting duty on the Service 400 ‘Exmoor Explorer’ this weekend. No driving this time. We had an ex-Western National Bristol LDL6G which has a 5-speed crash gearbox so I was happy to leave that to the nominated driver! The gearbox has an additional ‘gate’ which has often caught me out when driving this bus around the old industrial estate. When in 4th gear this gate gives access to 5th gear and has its own neutral position. But if I’m not careful when changing from 4th to 3rd I can easily find myself in 5th by mistake!
The 400 trip was fairly average, as trips go. No breakdowns, accidents or other dramas. Although sunny, there was a chilly breeze and this may have kept the numbers down – we were only about half full. I was pleased to welcome a family on board from Brixham who I’ve known for some time. They took a leisurely lunch break in Exford on the way round and rejoined us on the afternoon trip. Makes a great day out!
Coming up soon - one of my blog followers commented on one of my earlier posts, ‘This is where it all started’, and has now sent in some of his own memories of his time as a conductor for Wilts & Dorset in the 1970s. I will add a special page for this fascinating personal account within the next few days.