Last Saturday dawned bright and warm, to the delight of the bride’s family at today’s wedding no doubt. A very fashionable affair, with the wedding taking place in Bristol Cathedral and the reception at Bristol’s Mansion House. This job required two buses.
I was allocated the Bristol FLF, seen in the background above, which was waiting for me outside the Crosville Motor Services garage when I arrived. The FLF is an ex-Hants & Dorset bus, delivered in 1965. The Bristol L in the foreground is the one I took out last weekend to Shepton Mallet. The FLF was showing ‘Southampton’ on the destination blind but I wanted it to show ‘Private’ or something similar so I started winding. Various destinations in Hampshire and Dorset passed by but, as my arm was getting tired, I left it on ‘Ringwood’.
The FLF has had a new clutch fitted since my last trip with it. That was when I nearly didn’t make it back to the garage as the clutch friction disc had virtually disintegrated. I was looking forward to finding out how it behaved. So, having checked lights, oil and water and that it was equipped with the requisite number of wheels, I climbed into the cab and set off behind the Crosville Bristol L. The FLF was a delight to drive and gearchanges were refreshingly easy after the trauma of my last two driving jobs!
We took the direct, cross-country route to Bristol along the A370 through Congresbury. Arriving with plenty of time to spare, we parked the buses in the turning circle outside the Cathedral and then retreated to the shade of the Central Library.
So, at last I can write about a bus that isn’t a Lodekka. Well OK, so it’s still a Bristol but I’m sure I’ll find a Leyland or an AEC to drive one day!
My first driving duty with a Bristol L went reasonably well, considering that I hadn’t received any ‘type training’ or practise beforehand. The job involved taking a recently-acquired Crosville Bristol L5G to East Somerset for a private hire job. I had thought it was to be a wedding but it turned out to be a ‘civil partnership’ ceremony. I arrived from Paignton in time to chat to a gentleman who is restoring an ex-Crosville AEC Matador recovery vehicle. I may write about this fascinating machine another time.
My first impression, on climbing into the cab of the Bristol L, was that it was rather cramped. Compared to some of the Lodekkas I’ve driven, the driver’s seat is very close to the pedals even though it is as far back as it can go. I’m a small bloke with short legs – I wondered how long-legged chaps get on!
A friendly colleague in the garage showed me how to operate the ‘cold start’ button which, on a Bristol L with a narrow bonnet, is easy. You just reach through one of the two large holes in the bonnet side sheet and lift up a button under the injection rack! With the button duly pressed and my exterior checks completed, the engine started first time.
This time I brought Mrs Busman-John with me. She had volunteered to decorate the bus with gold and burgundy ribbons, which were the colours chosen by the customer. We added some flowers and balloons of our own just for good measure.
It has been some time since I posted any photos from my Wilts & Dorset photograph collection so here’s another helping. This time we’ll look at a few vehicles which have cheated the scrapman and survive today.
First up isn’t a Wilts & Dorset bus at all, but an example from an operator which rubbed shoulders with W&D. While not in direct competition, Silver Star shared road space and bus stops with the red and cream brigade in certain locations.
1013MW is a Leyland Altantean PDR1 delivered in 1962 to Silver Star of Porton Down and after only 6 years service was sold to Berresfords before being preserved. I believe it regularly re-visits some of its former haunts in Wiltshire but the clip below shows it leaving Winchester during the 2010 FoKAB Running Day:
Seen here in original format after passing to Wilts & Dorset from neighbouring Hants & Dorset is BOW169. Built in 1938 as a Bristol J single deck saloon, it was converted into a recovery vehicle in 1956.
It is preserved in this condition and spent some time at Winkleigh in Devon. It may still be there – does anyone know? At some point it was repainted into Hants & Dorset NBC Poppy Red livery as seen here.