A few days ago I posted a review of 2014 which was in fact generated by WordPress. It served up a number of stats relating to the performance of my ‘Busman’s Holiday’ blog but takes no account of my personal highlights of the year. So here they are.
First of all, in early January, was the special running day to mark the closure of Salisbury Bus Station. I had the pleasure of driving Wilts & Dorset 628 (Bristol LD6G OHR919) during the day and, on the first journey of the day, called at Salisbury General Hospital where I was born umpty-something years ago. At the end of the day there was the unforgettable moment when I led a convoy of four Wilts & Dorset buses out of the bus station on the last departure ever. Such an honour.
I did several months work with a 1947 Leyland PS1, taking visitors from Torquay, Paignton and Brixham to Greenway House, the summer residence of the late Dame Agatha Christie. One highlight was a day of filming with Richard Wilson, who rode on the bus to Greenway as part of a new travel documentary.
With a cameraman in the saloon behind me with Richard, a fixed camera in the cab and a camera car in front of the bus, I was filmed driving from Torquay to Greenway. On the way there Richard interviewed me, which was the most difficult part of the journey. Mostly because I was still driving at the time! The series is being screened on ITV at the moment – it’s on Monday evenings at 8pm. Look out for the Greenway episode! Although driving to Greenway was mostly good fun, the condition of the bus and the operation of the service left a lot to be desired and so I bade farewell in June.
By this time I’d already started working for English Riviera Sightseeing Tours for a few days a week. The usual bus on this job was another Leyland (a PD2/3, also built in 1947). Fortunately I didn’t have to deliver a commentary while driving, unlike the Greenway bus. I had a Tour Guide on the back who did the talking.
Torbay seemed to be full of heritage buses some days, all in commercial service. On one sunny day in August, in addition to the three buses seen in this photo, there was also a 1952 open top PD2 running on Stagecoach Route 22 and a 1950 Albion Victor coach on a private hire job with Carmel Coaches.
The sightseeing tours depend on turn-up-and-pay trade rather than pre-booked passengers so there’s always pressure to entice as many people on board as possible before we depart. One highlight in that regard was one fine day in September when we carried 52 passengers on one journey – a record for the year.
Private hire work for Crosville Motor Services has continued throughout the year using mostly Bristol Lodekkas and occasionally a Bristol L5G. These jobs are mostly weddings and, unlike previous years, have been confined to the Somerset and Bristol areas which means the empty journeys are less of a strain. A 60-mile trek in a 30mph bus can be a bit tedious! One of the highlights this year was an occasion when I had my son Peter with me as conductor. We make a great team!
Without a doubt the most memorable driving job this year was the launch of a 1929 Maudslay bus at a rally near Exeter. The bus is a remarkable survivor from the first batch of motor buses that Exeter Corporation ever owned and has spent 2 years under restoration with the Westcountry Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust (WHOTT). As is often the case with these things, the deadline for completion really came down to the wire and the engine (original Maudslay 4-cylinder petrol) ran successfully only a few days before the launch date. I was invited to take it on its first road run and then on a series of passenger trips around the Westpoint site on the day of the rally. I felt very privileged to be asked to drive such an historic vehicle for its debut runs. I’m looking forward to some more runs with this old lady this year.
As well as using a 1950 ex-Crosville Bristol L on a few wedding jobs this year, I also took it to the popular Warminster Vintage Bus Running Day in October. With Conductor Kemble on the platform, we trundled around the Wiltshire lanes revisiting some of the villages I’d last seen in my youth. On one journey we were duplicated by another Bristol L. I was secretly proud to be driving the Crosville bus as it seemed to be in much better condition. For a start, the other one had a distinct list to port! After being rostered with this bus several times already this year, I felt really at home behind the wheel and took great delight in giving my passengers a near-perfect ride. Just as well, because the Crosville boss turned up and sat in the front seat for one of our journeys.
I had the same bus for most of the day for Crosville’s own Running Day, held on a sunny day in July on Weston-super-Mare seafront. With full loads almost every time, we took visitors and enthusiasts on half-hourly tours around the town. A highlight of the day was one journey when another Crosville Bristol L joined me as a duplicate. Both are owned by the present-day Crosville and both are maintained in mint condition. Beautiful!
A very long but fun-filled day in November found me acting as Pudsey Bear’s chauffeur on BBC Children in Need day. BBC Radio Bristol requested a double deck vintage bus from Crosville and they got Southern Vectis 573, a 1962 Bristol FS6G with yours truly at the wheel. This was the job that got me out of bed at 2.30 in the morning in order to get the bus to Keynsham (near Bath) by 6.30am. During the day two BBC Radio Bristol presenters and Pudsey Bear visited a number of primary schools in Bristol and in Weston-super-Mare. Each visit was a surprise for the children and their screams of delight were deafening!
Earlier in the year I undertook a marathon journey north to deliver ex-Crosville SL71 (Bedford OB MFM39) to Cobus, near Bridlington, Yorkshire. The journey was rather stressful due to the engine developing a misfire. One of the spark plugs had failed but I had to nurse it along on five cylinders all the way to Cobus before it could be fixed. After several weeks there, during which time the 1950-built coach had some bodywork repairs done plus a full repaint, I returned to collect it. This time running on all six cylinders, the journey home was much more fun!
Incidentally, just this week I went back up to Cobus. This time I delivered a 1949 Bristol K6A for refurbishment but that story will have to wait until my next post. Mostly because it doesn’t belong in a review of 2014!
So there you have it, some of the best bits from 2014. I must say it’s been the best yet for bus adventures. I am amazed at the variety of heritage vehicles I’ve managed to drive this year and am under no illusions about my good fortune in being allowed to indulge my passion in this way. If I have any regrets it’s that my Dad and Grandpa aren’t around anymore. They would both have been tickled pink to see me drive the last bus out of Salisbury Bus Station! As ever, my grateful thanks go to Crosville Motor Services, Allan and Kevin Lewis, Greenway Ferry, English Riviera Sightseeing Tours and WHOTT for allowing me to have so much fun with their cherished and historic vehicles. Here’s to 2015!