That’s the way the cookie crumbles; the luck of the draw; that’s life… these are ways to describe something that happens to you over which you have no control. So it was that I introduced a potential relief driver to the delights of the Agatha Christie vintage bus. Don’t get me wrong, everything went very well but there was a certain irony in that fact that I’m not exactly an experienced half cab driver and this was only my second day in service with this bus! But let me tell you about my first day.
I felt very apprehensive as I arrived at Greenway Quay to prepare the bus. Going solo is quite different from following in an experienced driver’s shadow! I probably took far longer doing my checks and preparing myself than necessary, mostly due to doing things in the wrong order. Thankfully it wasn’t raining or blowing a gale so it was actually quite nice to be pottering around the quay in bright sunshine.
Finally everything was ready and it was time to bite the bullet and take the old girl up the hill on my own. Soon after leaving the Quay there is a very tight bend with very unforgiving stone walls either side so I was careful to follow the advice I’d been given. I negotiated ‘the narrows’ unscathed but messed up my downchange from 2nd to 1st just beforehand. Handbrake on, start again.
I topped up the fuel tank at the filling station on the main road and set off towards Torquay. With time in hand, I waited beside the Inn On The Green pub which was once a private residence, built originally by Isaac Merritt Singer (of Singer Sewing Machine fame) for his son Mortimer.
The chilly morning air hung motionless above the River Dart as I met my new colleague, who was wiping the dewy moisture from the windows of our bus. I have joined Greenway Ferry Pleasure Cruises to drive their vintage bus from Torquay to Greenway House, Galmpton. The other driver and I had met before so we went through the walk round checks together.
I was to spend the day learning the route so I sat behind the driver as we set off up the steep hill from Greenway Quay, where the bus is stabled overnight when in service. The window behind the driver has been removed to facilitate One Person Operation so he was able to point out things along the way and give me tips and advice.
After negotiating the narrow lane from Greenway through the village of Galmpton we emerged onto the main Brixham to Paignton road and headed north towards Torquay. We had left early so we parked beside Paignton Green for a while so that we could chat to passers by and drum up business.
The bus drew many admiring glances. It is a 1947 Leyland Tiger PS1, delivered originally to H. Bullock of Featherstone, Yorkshire. It has had a long, hard life. After operating on rural bus routes in Yorkshire it was sold out of service in 1965. It’s history since then is patchy and I’m determined to find out more about it. In the 1970s it was rescued for preservation from a gliding club and it is rumoured that a well known cast member from TV’s ‘Casualty’ was once an owner. It is also rumoured to have appeared on TV’s ‘Heartbeat’ as a mobile library but, for me, its greatest claim to fame is that it is one of only two roadworthy buses to carry a Barnaby body. Unless you know different, of course.
We carried on along the seafront in the sunshine to our first stop, in Belgrave Road, Torquay. After taking some leaflets into a nearby hotel, we awaited our two pre-booked passengers. For some reason they never showed up so we carried on to the next two stops in Torquay. Still no passengers, not even passing trade. Well, it was the first journey of the 2014 season so perhaps it takes a while for word to get around.
I’m not known for running marathons but this week’s epic trip up to Yorkshire with ‘Bosworth’ the Bedford certainly felt like one.
I was offered the chance to drive Crosville SL71 (MFM39) from the present day Crosville garage in Weston-super-Mare up to Cobus, whose restoration premises are near Bridlington, Yorkshire. How could I refuse? The round trip would take 2 days so I packed a toothbrush and set off early on Monday.
I found the Bedford OB, which I had driven on wedding duties a couple of times before, parked up in the garage along with the rest of the heritage fleet. Unfortunately one of them, a Hants & Dorset FLF, was blocking the OB in so I climbed into the FLF’s cab to move it. Even more unfortunately it wouldn’t start. In fact there was no electrical power at all, the batteries having been run flat. Anyway, it took three of us leaning heavily on the front cowl to move it out of the way.
With a clear exit now, I drove the OB out of the garage where I completed my checks. The first stop of course was the filling station for petrol. I didn’t know how far I would get before needing to top up again but it was essential to leave with a full tank. I had taken the precaution of putting a handy piece of metal in the OB’s boot with which to dip the tank on the journey so I could see how much fuel was being used.
It was good to be driving the old girl (or is ‘Bosworth’ a boy?) again. I suppose it’s a bit like getting re-acquainted with an aged maiden aunt. The OB is a lot older than me and needs to be treated with plenty of respect! Together we headed out of town and onto the northbound M5.
A Bristol L5G, in tip top condition and wearing ‘Bath Services’ livery, has been photographed recently in Melbourne, Australia. But, before you all reach for your phones to call the owner of the ‘Bristol L Survivors‘ website, I had better just say that the bus in questions is 1:43 scale and has just been delivered to its owner’s model railway layout!
A regular reader of this blog kindly sent me photos of this remarkably detailed vehicle and I have sought his permission to share them here. Ray Bounsall, originally from Bristol, has lived in Australia since the early ’80s but retains a keen interest in the local road and rail transport scene with which he grew up. His railway layout, 15 years in the making and still growing, is based on ‘Woodleigh sub Mendip’, a fictitious town in the Wells, Somerset levels area. It is populated by ex-GWR locos and stock, set in the post-nationalisation era.
If you wanted me to define ‘boredom’ in a couple of words, I would suggest ‘Rail Replacement’. I was offered two more days’ work, driving a modern coach on contract to First Great Western last week. I will tell you more later in this post.
But first, my new venture will be to drive a Leyland Tiger PS1 right here in Torbay. After another short lived encounter with Local Link (formerly known as Dial-a-Bus) I have agreed to drive for Greenway Ferry Ltd. They run a fleet of pleasure boats across the Bay and up the River Dart, one of which is an historic Fairmile launch. This ex-Royal Navy Rescue Motor Launch (RML497) used to ply between Torquay and Brixham, along with its sister, under the banner of ‘Western Lady’. Keen to capitalise on the nostalgia surrounding Agatha Christie, they also run a vintage bus service to Greenway House which was once Dame Agatha’s summer residence. Now owned by the National Trust, the house and gardens are open throughout the tourist season and the PS1 links the house with Torquay, Paignton and Brixham.
Earlier this year I started working for Local Link but, after spending a few days learning two of their many routes, decided that full time Local Bus Service work was not for me so I jumped ship and headed for Greenway Quay instead. You already know that I prefer to drive half-cabs!
I will be one of two regular drivers, supplemented – if all goes well – by a relief driver who is a frequent visitor to this blog! I start this coming weekend so I will post news of this later on, with more pics.