Bristol FLF DEL893C with Double Two Shirts, 1990…

…but where is it now?

Many of the classic buses and coaches which we enjoy today owe their survival to non-PSV use after withdrawal. One such bus is a Bristol FLF which has featured heavily on these pages in the past.

The photo above shows Hants & Dorset’s 1220 (FLF6G DEL893C) in gleaming H&D livery a couple of years ago but long before that it entered service, still wearing faded Poppy Red, with Double Two Shirts in about 1981. This large Wakefield-based manufacturer used to run quite an extensive fleet of ex-service vehicles, mostly Bristol FLFs and VRTs, to convey staff to and from the factory. I recently came across a YouTube clip of some of these vehicles in action:

Staff Bus (Double Two, Wakefield)

DEL893-in-Porlock

After passing through the hands of several owners, including Quantock Motor Services (left, seen entering Porlock), it reached Weston-super-Mare in the ownership of the fledgling Crosville Motor Services. It became a mainstay of the heritage hire fleet and was the first bus I drove in service after passing my PCV test in 2012.

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A new batch of bus crew caps: anyone interested?

More and more historic buses and coaches seem to be returning to roadworthy condition these days. Full marks to those who have worked hard and dug deep to do so. Opportunities to offer rides in them are on the up as well, with many bus-related events turning from mainly static displays into quite comprehensive running days. Full marks also go to those who organise these events and give a flavour of what it was like to ride these classics in service.

Conductor-cap

But the icing on the cake for me is to see these buses turned out with a properly dressed crew (click this link and scroll down to see a great crew line-up). I know that for most people this is a voluntary exercise and those who wear an authentic uniform have usually sourced or made it themselves. A few examples of genuine bus crew uniform can be obtained from online auction sites but these are often overpriced and frequently life-expired. While it is possible to buy new peaked caps – sold as chauffeur or airline caps – that resemble genuine bus crew headgear, few really look the part.

Some times ago a friend and I set up a project to manufacture a new batch of authentic Tilling style summer dust jackets. This is still making progress, but more on that later. While gathering support on this blog for these new jackets I found that there was a lot of interest in caps as well so we have decided to actively drum up support for a new batch of these too.

Perhaps due to the fact that the ‘Tilling Group’ – the rather generic name for the company and its later incarnations which was started by Thomas Tilling in 1846 – latterly had a very standardised style of uniform right across the UK, we have decided to model our new caps on those issued to Tilling fleet crews but of course they will probably suit many other operators’ uniforms as well. These are plain black peaked caps, made with the same heavy serge fabric used in winter uniforms. They had coloured piping bands around the brim too, but there were many variations between the different operators within the group. Some had yellow piping, some had red, green or blue. Sometimes there was a second ring of piping, either below the brim or at the base of the cap.

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Wilts & Dorset single deck survivor

2015 is a special year for those who remember the buses and operations of Wilts & Dorset Motor Services Ltd. The company was incorporated in 1915 and various events will take place throughout this year to commemorate the W&D Centenary. For my part, in addition to attending a vintage bus running day in Salisbury in June, I’m going to post some archive photos from my collection. ‘Wilts & Dorset through the years’, you could say. Except that the photos won’t be in any particular order, just selected randomly as the mood takes me. Well, it’s my blog isn’t it?

Wilts-&-Dorset-GAM216-as-built So here we go, with a Wilts & Dorset Bristol L6B single deck dual purpose bus. GAM216 was delivered in 1949 as fleet no 297 wearing the pre-war W&D coaching livery (seen here in colour on sister vehicle EMW284). It was powered by Bristol’s own AVW 6-cylinder diesel engine. No 297 operated in this form until early in 1958, when the Portsmouth Aviation 32-seat body was rebuilt in Wilts & Dorset’s own workshops in Salisbury. It re-appeared in May of that year. The gently sloping waist-rail had gone, along with the elegant swooping trim which was such a familiar feature on single deckers of this era.

Wilts-&-Dorset-GAM216In this form, now wearing the simpler Tilling Red and Cream livery, 297 continued to run in W&D service until withdrawal in 1962.

Fortunately it became one of five W&D Bristol Ls to survive and happily retains its Bristol AVW engine. It is currently owned by Yesteryear Vintage Vehicle Hire and is gradually working its way to the front of the restoration queue.

Portsmouth Aviation, as the name suggests, was (and still is) a supplier of equipment to the military aviation industry. However, it made a brief foray into bus bodywork and supplied several operators in the south of England for a short time.

Busman John on the TV

If any of you happened to be watching ITV yesterday evening you might have spotted me in action with the Agatha Christie vintage bus. It was one of several segments in the ‘Richard Wilson on the Road’ programme in which he has been touring Great Britain using 1930s Shell Guides as reference.

AHL694 still from ITV trailer

As you may have read before, Richard and his TV crew spent a day about 9 months ago riding on the Leyland PS1 (AHL694) and visiting Greenway House. As per usual with these things, they shot much more footage than was actually used in the programme. In some ways I’m quite happy about that, particularly as some of the footage would have come from a camera mounted in the cab, focussed on me! Oo-er, a bit too close for comfort!

You can read the post I wrote at the time here and you can watch the episode again here (until March 4th 2015).