Any reader of this blog will know that many of my duties with vintage buses have moments of drama or unexpected problems. Most of these make the day ‘interesting’ and most problems are soon overcome. Just now and then a job comes along which is completely problem free. My latest job for Crosville was one of these – it went like clockwork throughout.
The Work Ticket required me to turn up at Haselbury Mill at 13:20 with Bedford OB coach MFM39 (Crosville SL71). Having had a few problems with fuelling before with this delightful vehicle I was pleased to find that it had been fuelled for me a few days previously.
Arriving at the depot in Weston-super-Mare in good time, I had my first sight of the newly expanded garage. Now all the company’s heritage fleet is all together, along with a number of others from the Bristol Omnibus Vehicle Collection. One end of the garage was a sea of Bristol/ECW products! My photo shows just one end of the line-up.
With walk round checks complete, I took the 29-seater coach out of the depot and down the A38/M5 towards Taunton. The Art Deco interior had been decorated with bows and ribbons in preparation for this wedding duty. With plenty of time in hand, I was able to enjoy the journey and work on my gearchange technique with the OB’s crash ‘box. Although I’m quite proficient with a Bristol Lodekka, the double de-clutch technique has to be varied to suit the Bedford’s peculiarities. Changing down had previously been a rather clumsy affair, often going into the lower gear with a noticeable crunch. I experimented with the revs and timing to ensure that the gears went in smoothly and, by the time I was driving down the country lane towards Haselbury Mill, things had improved.
Having done a ‘dry run’ wth Google Maps a few days earlier I had been confronted by a narrow bridge just before the main entrance to the venue so I’d called the Mill up and was advised to use the rear entrance which took me directly to the Medieval Tithe Barn where the reception was to take place later. With a bit time to kill before the guests arrived, I set the tacho to ‘rest’ and ate lunch and then took a wander in the grounds. I came across two cars from the same era as the Bedford, an Austin A35 and an earlier Austin 10.
‘Bosworth’ the Bedford OB was not the bus originally allocated to this job, which was to have been Crosville Bristol L KG131 (KFM893). As the OB has fewer seats than the Bristol L the customer had been informed and cleverly organised a ‘ticket’ for each passenger, showing whether they were entitled to a single or return journey by vintage coach! One of the ushers stood by the door ticking names off a list to ensure that we weren’t overloaded. I have never seen the journeys to and from a wedding controlled so strictly!
The forward planning of the groom and his family didn’t end there. The wedding ceremony took place at the church in the centre of the pretty village of South Petherton and I was planning to drop the guests at the church before driving out of the village to turn and park the coach. But I found that someone had helpfully put out road cones to reserve a parking space for me so, after turning, I waited there while the wedding took place inside.
As usual, the bells rang out as the newlyweds emerged, followed by a stream of well dressed guests. They were herded into position for photographs by a shouty lady wearing a red coat and waving a long shotlist. The ticket police, in the form of the usher from earlier, permitted the required number of passengers to board the OB and we set off back to the Tithe Barn at Haselbury Mill. I had to assure the front seat passengers, a small bridesmaid and her Dad (the ticket enforcer) that I wasn’t looking at them but past them at the nearside rearview mirror!
My spacial awareness skills were tested again as we drove carefully down the lane on the approach to the Mill as we met the inevitable tractor. Has anyone else noticed that they are getting bigger these days or is it just me being paranoid? After our safe arrival at the reception venue, I was asked to wait while some photographs were taken in a nearby wooden pavilion as the coach was listed as a location on the shouty lady’s shotlist. I was happy to oblige and afterwards took my own arty shot of the elegant ‘swoosh’ down the side of the OB. Then it was time to head back to the garage. The traffic on the A358 up to Taunton was being held up by an artic lorry correctly observing the 40mph speed limit for Large Goods Vehicles on a single carriageway road. This meant that I was able to travel at the same speed as the surrounding traffic for a change rather than be the one holding them all up!