They say that ‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd’ but I beg to differ. Sharing a wedding duty with two other colleagues brings with it much cameraderie and banter, not to mention practical assistance in tight spots.
Last weekend’s duty called for two Lodekkas to transport a large group of wedding guests from a church near Taunton to a reception venue on the other side of town. It gave me the chance to meet up again with one of my former colleagues from ‘Exmoor Explorer’ days, Conductress Cherry Selby. Our pickup point was All Saints Church in the strangely named village of Trull, just outside Taunton and we arrived at the nearby Community Hall car park to find that there was a large section coned off for the wedding buses. How very organised!
Two white vintage cars awaited the bridal party while the rest of the guests were grouped together beside the churchyard for photographs before boarding the buses. With Driver Wilkins leading in Bristol Omnibus LD6B LC8518 (972EHW), we drove in convoy across Taunton to Roughmoor Farm which is near the new Park & Ride site on Silk Mills Road. Both buses were almost full and the steering on Southern Vectis FS6G 573 (YDL318) was noticably heavy. Or maybe I’m still shaking off my winter lethargy…
After our passengers had departed for the reception, we drove across town and parked up near a big Sainsburys store for 5 hours before returning to the farm. In the bright sunlight both buses looked splendid, having enjoyed the attentions of the cleaners back at the depot. 573 is still very presentable, despite being due for a repaint this year. The Bristol Omnibus Lodekka rarely gets an outing these days so we swapped buses and I drove it for the return journey.
While we waited, Driver Wilkins regaled us with scary tales of coach tours to Alpine ski resorts while Cherry and I reminisced about our adventures on the Service 400 ‘Exmoor Explorer’.
Soon after 18:00hrs we set off again to pick up our passengers. We turned the buses at a nearby print works and awaited the agreed pickup time. This had to be precisely timed because the entrance to the farm was on a narrow lane and the buses blocked the lane completely while the guests boarded. I took the opportunity to photograph the buses, both displaying ‘831’ (photo at the top of this page). This was Driver Wilkins’ idea and very appropriate it was too. ‘8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning’, apparently.*
Some guests were noticably merry, after enjoying plenty of liquid refreshment at the reception. Conductress Selby gave me two bells and we set off in the evening light for Trull. The Bristol AVW-engined bus was quite different to drive than the Gardner-powered FS that I had driven earlier. The AVW engine has what I can only describe as a ‘lazy throttle’. When you demand more power with the accelerator pedal there is a noticeable delay before the engine delivers more HP so I have to allow for this when in traffic. It sounds quite different as well, developing a very throaty roar when opened up. The most crucial difference is that the engine revs drop a lot more quickly than a Gardner 6LW which means that faster gearchanges are possible.
After the guests had dispersed we bade farewell to our conductress and set off back to Weston. I soon got left behind in traffic but, as I had a faster bus, I caught up with SV 573 on the northbound M5. Of course, when I say ‘faster’, that’s almost a misnomer. SV 573 can only do 30mph but BOC LC8518 can do a breathtaking 33mph!
In other news, today I took WHOTT’s 1929 Maudslay ML3 bus out for another test run before our marathon journey down to Exeter on May 1st. Read the next post for more details.
*‘I Love You’ in case you still haven’t guessed.