2015 looks like being a vintage year for bus running days, which seems to be the preferred format for what used to be the traditional ‘bus rally’. The chance to ride on buses that we remember from our youth is of course far more appealing than walking around them at a largely static display as in former years.
Looking through the pages of my Bus & Coach Preservation magazine (others are available from your local newsagent) I can see that there are events up and down the country virtually all through the year. Naturally I can attend only a handful of these because they are mostly on Sundays, when I’m normally busy in church. So, for your interest, here is a list of the few events (not just running days) that I plan to be at. Plus one or two in my local area which I’d love to attend, but can’t.
Lord Mayor of Exeter ~ May 2
On Saturday May 2nd Councillor ‘Percy’ Prowse is due to attend the final public engagement of his year as Lord Mayor of Exeter. He has asked the Westcountry Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust (WHOTT) to provide a suitable vehicle for the occasion, specifically Exeter Corporation No 5 (FJ6154). This 1929 Maudslay ML3 was one of the first motor buses ordered by the Corporation to replace the trams which operated the city’s public transport. It was officially launched after restoration at last year’s WHOTT rally, with yours truly behind the wheel. I’m due to take the bus out for a proving run this week, prior to driving it from its base in mid-Devon down to Exeter under its own power.
Taunton Bus Running Day ~ May 10
This is one event that I’m not able to attend, but am happy to list it here for westcountry folk who don’t yet know about it. Normally run under the auspices of Quantock Motor Services, the Taunton Bus Running Day will feature most of the Quantock Heritage fleet plus a good number of visiting vehicles (photo © Ken Jones). More details on this poster.
Wilts & Dorset Centenary ~ June 14
I’ve been invited to drive Wilts & Dorset 628 (Bristol Lodekka LD6G OHR919) at a running day to commemorate 100 years since the incorporation of Wilts & Dorset in 1915. Salisbury Reds, the present day successor of the original W&D company, is running a number of events through this year to mark the centenary but the running day is the highlight for me. As in the 2014 event which marked the closure of Salisbury Bus Station, a good number of Wilts & Dorset and Hants & Dorset buses will be giving free rides on routes which recall former days. In addition to driving 628, I may also drive Hants & Dorset 1450 (Bristol Lodekka FS6G 5677EL).
WHOTT Running Day ~ August 16
For a number of years WHOTT has held a traditional bus rally at the Westpoint showground just outside Exeter. Due to the costs involved and falling visitor numbers, WHOTT is changing its format to a running day in 2015. The bus and coach running day will operate from ther Top of Town car park in Dorchester, very close to where Bere Regis & District Motor Services had the head office. This much missed operator will be commemorated by WHOTT with the publication of an illustrated book which lists every vehicle that Bere Regis ever ran. I’m helping to prepare this book for print. Currently near the end of a protracted restoration is a 1938 Bedford WTB coach (EFJ92), once operated by Taylors of Exeter. WHOTT hopes to have this completed and on display at Dorchester. I am planning to be at this event but at this stage don’t know what my involvement will be.
Crosville Running Day
There have been rumours that Crosville will put on a running day this year, but on a much reduced scale than the 2012 and 2014 events. With additional routes and contracts having been won recently, preparing the garage for an open day is virtually impossible these days with 7-days-a-week activity at the depot. If an event takes place in 2015 it will be based entirely on the Beach Lawns on Weston-super-Mare seafront with free rides being offered on the company’s heritage fleet. Visiting vehicles and those belonging to the Bristol Omnibus Vehicle Collection may also take part. None of this is confirmed at the moment.
Kingsbridge 7’6″ Vintage Bus Running Day ~ September 19
This is another event happening on my patch which I sadly cannot attend. This is a very popular event, run annually by The Thames Valley & Great Western Omnibus Trust to great acclaim. Naturally, many of the vehicle entrants either used to operate in the South Hams area or have close links to the wider westcountry. Here’s a link to a photo album of last year’s Kingsbridge event by writer and photographer John G. Lidstone.
London to Brighton ~ November 1
Keep this under your hat, but I’ve been asked to take part in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. Not in a car but, by special dispensation, in a very old bus with which I am connected. Also involved is BBC Children in Need and three BBC presenters. Can’t say any more at this stage.