My second test run with the Exeter Corporation Maudslay bus took me much further afield than the first one and provided some very useful experiences.
We’re currently only using the autovac’s gravity tank for fuel. This holds a couple of gallons of petrol which is sufficient for a short run such as this. We’re not planning to use the main tank until the weekend due to the tendency of modern petrol to go stale if not used. So, with the autovac (whose real purpose is to suck petrol up from the main tank using vacuum created in the engine’s intake manifold) topped up, we prepared to move the bus out of the shed. Unfortunately the removable trailer board, which contains auxilliary signalling lights and is fixed to the back of the bus for road runs, refused to work properly. This should have been rectified by the WHOTT electrician by Friday.
Climbing the steep track away from the farm, I tried a snatch change up to 2nd gear. It didn’t go well. The 4-cylinder Maudslay engine, even when cold, takes even longer to spool down than a Gardner 6LW so I need to adapt my technique some more.
Out in the quiet lanes I went up and down the gearbox, refining my changes. As in most things, practice makes perfect but this bus is so unique that perfection will take some time to achieve! I drove the bus on a big circular route which included some stiff gradients, which meant changing down to lower gears both to climb and descend. Unusually for the era, the Maudslay ML3 has drum brakes on all four wheels (rather than just the rear wheels) but even so, braking on downhill gradients still has to be assisted by engine braking. Additional braking assistance is also available via the parking brake which on this bus takes the form of a transmission brake, rather than operating the rear drum brakes as is usually the case. It’s really useful sometimes to supplement the footbrake with a partial application of the parking brake which is effectively a mechanical retarder.
Once or twice we started off with a bit of a lurch and some of my gearchanges were rather jerky. I’m still trying to improve my clutch technique! There were no mishaps and, apart from the troublesome auxilliary signalling lights I mentioned earlier, the bus performed as expected.
I am sure that the long journey on Friday, together with a warm-up drive through Exeter from our stabling point on Saturday, will give me enough practice to enable me to give the Lord Mayor and his entourage a reasonably smooth ride to the Guildhall. I’m also sure that they will make allowances. After all, dear old ‘Maud’ is 86 years old!
As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, I’ll be too busy to take many photographs on Saturday so, if you’re in Exeter in the morning, be sure to have your camera or camcorder ready! We’re due to leave the Coach Station in Paris Street soon after 10am, arriving at the Guildhall in High Street by 1030am via Western Way, South Street, Market Street and Fore Street. The bus will then be on static display outside the Russell & Bromley shoe shop in Bedford Street until late afternoon. After overnight storage, we’ll be making the journey back to mid Devon on Sunday.
In other news, I took Southern Vectis 573 (Bristol FS6G YDL318) to Bruton and Shepton Mallet on Saturday for a wedding at Kilver Court Designer Village. In the photo you can just about see what remains of Charlton Viaduct, whose 27 spans used to carry the Somerset & Dorset Railway across the River Sheppey valley.
Finally and unusually, I have a mid-week private hire duty for Crosville this week as well. On Wednesday I’m taking a Bristol L down to Bishops Lydeard, the southern terminus of the West Somerset Railway, to provide a vintage bus link to Hestercombe Gardens.