The folks at Crosville like to present their heritage buses in tip top condition, whether they’re in service on a timetabled route in Weston-super-Mare or further afield on a wedding duty. Whenever I turn up, my allocated bus has always been washed and swept. It is usually decorated with ribbons too, if it is a wedding duty.
But the icing on the cake, as it were, when on duty with a heritage bus is if the crew is able to wear a proper uniform from the period when the bus was originally in service.
In my case, I’m already sorted and so is my son Peter if he is conducting with me. But few of the other crews at Crosville have genuine ‘Tilling group’ uniforms, either summer dust jackets like the one Peter is modelling above, or a full winter uniform. Just occasionally a suitable dust jacket comes up on Ebay but they are few and far between. If you are reading this and have a jacket, cap, Setright ticket machine or cash bag you would like to donate/sell to a Crosville crew, please let me know! Setright machines need to be decimal, issue tickets up to the value of at least £9.99 and have a ‘concessions’ setting or a similar means of counting a particular class of ticket being issued.
If you can help, please leave a comment and I’ll get in touch with you. Thank you!
I’m struggling to hold my arms above the keyboard as I write this, having had two strenous days at the wheel. On Saturday I took Bristol FLF DEL893C to Priston Mill, near Keynsham, on a private hire trip.
Priston Mill is at the end of a long, single track lane and I had visions of having to manoever around oncoming traffic in the confined space. As it happened, I only met a handful of cars coming the other way and only had to reverse once. Several people at the venue showed great interest in the bus and I gave out details to potential hirers.
After a break in Bristol I had another private hire job in the evening, collecting a wedding party from the Merchants Hall, Clifton, Bristol and taking them to their evening venue, a restaurant in the centre of Bristol. It was dark by that time so I didn’t take photographs, although the wedding photographer did. With a virtually full load, we took the road down to the Avon Gorge and turned up into Park Street. In the old days Bristol’s buses would often be down to 1st gear by the time they got to the top of this hill and, as my heavily-laden bus struggled up on Saturday I was soon down to 2nd gear. The revs continued to fall away and I was just reaching for the gear stick when Goldbrick House, the party venue, hove into view. I decided to plod on in 2nd and, by the time we drew level with the restaurant, the engine was down to idling speed and I quickly de-clutched and hauled on the handbrake. Just made it!
Now empty, the FLF almost flew up the remainder of the hill. Well, not really. Having to start off in 1st gear I had to wait until I got to the top before changing up and gaining speed. I’m not confident enough with my snatch changes to attempt one at anything above walking pace. The journey back to the depot in Weston-super-Mare was easy. The only hard bit was parking in the dimly-lit yard next to a Bristol Tramways L5G. With nobody about I had to get out and check in case I reversed into the garage wall!
With another 80th birthday to celebrate this year (my mother’s), we decided to take my side of the family for a day out at Bicton Park, East Devon. We had booked H&D Bristol FLF DEL893C for the day and my son Peter and I arrived at the Crosville depot early on Saturday to collect the bus. One of my colleagues had just very helpfully brought the bus out of the garage for us. Or perhaps he just wanted it out of the way in order to get to another one!
I also found that, although it was my responsibility to check fluid levels myself, I found that the garage staff had already done it for me. Oh well, it doesn’t hurt to check again! I used the Displacement method to check how much fuel was in the tank… a wooden pole and a Mark One Eyeball! We had one brake light go u/s so we waited while the chief mechanic brought it back to life. We took our fully fit Lodekka out to the motorway via the filling station to top up the tank and then set off southwards to collect members of my family from various places near the M5.
We left the M5 at Exeter and took the A376 to Exmouth, a road I know very well, having grown up there. My parents had no idea we were bringing a bus, we’d all kept it a secret. My Dad was speechless when he saw us – he is the one from whom I’ve inherited my interest in buses and all things heritage! Not only was the bus a Bristol, a manufacturer he is very familiar with, but also Hants & Dorset. H&D operated near to (and sometimes into) Salisbury, where he grew up.
When you’re used to driving a desk all week it tends to drain all your energy when you drive a vintage bus for two days in a row. But I’m not complaining. I love what I do and see it as a great privilege to sit in a hot cab and work my arms to a jelly in someone else’s historic bus!
I drove Bristol FLF DEL893C, ex-Hants & Dorset, built 1965, on a wedding duty in Bristol on Saturday and, after a suitable break, drove the bus straight down to Torquay. I had arranged with the kind people at Stagecoach to park the FLF in their Torquay depot overnight and I’m very grateful to Area Manager Gary and Depot Manager Steve for their help – it caused quite a stir!
The following morning, under the envious gaze of several fitters and older drivers, I did my checks and topped up with water before driving the short distance to the rally site at Shedden Hill, Torquay. I joined a line of other buses which were operating free services around the bay and then, as I wasn’t due out until 12:00, browsed among the stalls and visiting buses. Many of these (buses AND stalls!) I’d seen before, some of them only last weekend!
The rally organisers had given me 2 short routes, the 136 to Paignton Town Centre and the 28A to Hesketh Crescent (for Meadfoot). They had also given me a conductor for the morning’s trips, an older chap who had once conducted for real on Devon General buses. There was a long queue at our stop near the entrance to the rally site and as we pulled up to board passengers, more arrived as they saw the FLF arrive with 136 on the blinds.