OK, so Christmas was several weeks ago but I think I can just about get away with a Christmas-related post!
For people like me, who only work on buses part time (and then only during the tourist season) the winter months are like a drought. No heritage bus activity and, apart from the annual Christmas meal, no contact with my bus colleagues.
So you can imagine that a regular winter duty helps to break up the long wait before the new season begins. This was the case until a couple of years ago. Quantock Motor Services were contracted by the local Council to run a park and ride service for Christmas shoppers, using heritage buses. The route went from the Blackbrook estate (near the motorway junction) into the centre of Taunton and ran annually until 2008, when a purpose-built Park and Ride Car Park was completed. A year-round bus service was tendered and Quantock’s fleet was no longer needed.
Those of us that crewed the vehicles (usually 6 ran all day) really enjoyed the challenge of running a ‘proper’ bus service, with 10 minutes separation, throughout the day. We ran this service on the five Saturdays leading up to Christmas, although I didn’t ever do all five due to other committments. Fares were only 50p – a bargain – but no bus passes were valid. You’d be surprised how many older folk begrudged having to part with 50p when they found they couldn’t use their passes!
We used a variety of vintage vehicles on the service. Open platform as well as front entrance double deckers, single deck buses and coaches but definitely no open toppers! I’m pictured above on the platform of an ex-Stockport Corporation Leyland PD2 during the first occasion I conducted on this service. This was before I managed to find a genuine Tilling Group winter uniform and, dressed in a lightweight jacket, I sometimes f-f-froze on that open platform!
It was fun travelling in and out of the town centre. I used to enjoy watching the expressions on shoppers’ faces as a vintage vehicle passed by, sometimes accompanied by another one passing by in the other direction! Collecting fares was relatively easy too, with only a flat fare of 50p to worry about. There was ample time, even with a full load, to go all round the bus collecting fares and issuing tickets before arriving at the town centre stop. Perhaps one of the best aspects (for an enthusiast mostly) was running after dark when the vehicles’ interiors were bathed in the warm glow of their tungsten lights.
You can get a flavour of this event by watchng this YouTube clip:
The full DVD is still available from Next Stop Productions. (Scroll down to near the bottom of the page).