Service 400 – last one ever?

Taking a rest at Wheddon Cross

This Sunday’s conducting duty on the Service 400 ‘Exmoor Explorer’ could be my last one ever. Prospects of a further season as a commercial enterprise continue to look bleak, unless I can persuade Mr QMS to take a chance with the revival plans mentioned in my last post! I will of course write next week about how it went.

One of the ex-Western National Bristol LDL open top buses is also due to run on Sunday September 25th, the final run of the season. The pair of LDLs have been a popular and familiar sight as they have plodded around the tortuous Exmoor route for the best part of 10 years.

I’m amazed that they have stood up to the enormous wear and tear inflicted upon them in that time. They have never been ‘restored’ in the usual sense of the word, having been acquired in as-withdrawn condition. As far as I know, they weren’t stripped down but were given a repaint and pressed into service. Only regular servicing and maintenance has been carried out – testament to the rugged design and sturdy build quality of the ECW bodies, which date from 1957. A few dented panels have been replaced, along with various engine and gearbox repairs, to keep the pair on the road. I know for a fact that no waterproof membrane was ever fitted to either bus. I have been soaked to the skin on several occasions while conducting. And that was standing DOWNSTAIRS!

Perhaps they will now be retired from service – they are certainly in need of some TLC. Preferably a wheels-up restoration, but that will be costly. I’ve no doubt that as soon as the outer panels and upper deck floor are removed, all kinds of rot will be revealed. In fact, I’m convinced that as soon as the seats are removed, the bodywork will collapse in a heap of twisted aluminium and rotten ash!

For those in the south west, there’s the Westcountry Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust annual rally at Westpoint, Exeter this Sunday. I would be there if I wasn’t conducting on Exmoor! On October 2nd, the popular West of England Transport Collection rally is revived at Winkleigh. Again, I would be there if it wasn’t for a prior committment.

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