A couple of days ago I took the unique Bristol LH charabanc on a trip to Exeter for some attention to its new paint job.
Some minor work needed to be done to the paintwork to bring it back up to pristine standard in readiness for the 2016 tour season. The bus has lain idle in Torquay since the end of September but seemed eager to go again, starting on the button. As per usual it was rather smoky to start with but that soon cleared once the engine warmed up.
After completing the usual walk round checks it was time to pick up some fuel and head off to Exeter. Everything was fine except for braking, which took a while to settle down. Anything more than gentle pressure brought the brakes full on with a bang, stopping the bus with a shudder! Fortunately this eased after a few brake applications and normal performance returned.
As you can imagine, passing motorists and car passengers gawped and pointed as we passed by. The charabanc is now so familiar to me that I tend to forget how unusual it must appear to other people!
The last time I did this journey with TR6147 was earlier this year when I took it to Exeter for the new livery to be applied. On that occasion I drove it rather too hard (it will do 50mph if you let it) and it boiled over at one point. This time I was much more gentle and kept the speed below 40mph. My only concern was the climb up to Haldon Hill, a long and relentless gradient. By the time we reached the top the coolant temperature gauge was nearly off the scale but there was no overheating evident. However, I thought a boil-up was inevitable just after we breasted the summit. Suddenly the traffic ahead ground to a halt in both lanes of the dual carriageway. Fearing that an almighty cloud of steam would soon erupt from the radiator, I kept the engine revs up as we stood in the traffic to keep the coolant circulating. I couldn’t help thinking of the occasions when the open top Bristol LDLs we used for the ‘Exmoor Explorer’ service boiled over. This happened regularly when the engine revs fell on reaching Wheddon Cross after the long slow climb up Cutcombe Hill.
To my relief the charabanc behaved itself and incontinence was avoided. The traffic started crawling forward eventually and we passed a 4×4 by the side of the road which, judging by the fire applicances nearby, must have caught fire. The rest of the journey was straightforward, with no further dramas or hazards. We left the bus in the capable hands of the commercial bodyshop and returned by car.
Peter Cook, one of the prime movers of the Wilts & Dorset and Hants & Dorset preservation group, has sent me this photo of the charabanc at the Barton Park works of Hants & Dorset, Eastleigh when it was part way through its conversion. The quality may be a bit poor but I’ve included it here as it is an historic shot.
In other news, work on FFY403 (the open top Leyland PD2) has been progressing well with a charging fault now fixed and some other maintenance tasks carried out. I shall bring it back from Plymouth in due course, I expect.
My next trip out will be a private hire duty for Crosville Motor Services in a few days time.