My role as a delivery driver seems to be continuing into the Spring. Not that I’m complaining of course. The cold, dark, gloom of winter is usually a bus-less time for me so I’ve been glad to have been offered some long distance driving jobs recently.
This London Transport RT has been stored in the Crosville depot for a few months, having been acquired from a group of enthusiasts in Basingstoke but never used. It was sold on recently and I was called upon to deliver it to Cambridgeshire, where it was going to have a roof repair done before being collected by its new owner.
The photo above shows RT935 (JXN325) outside the depot just after having had a ‘wash and brush up’ a few days ago.
The 1948-built bus originally carried a Park Royal body but the present (Weymann) one was fitted during an overhaul at LT’s Aldenham works in 1964. Several manufacturers built RT bodies to a standard design so that, during overhaul, chassis and body could be refurbished separately. To speed things up, the chassis would receive another RT body – not necessarily the one it had come in with! RT935 entered preservation in 1971 and, although well cared for in the years since then, remains in largely ex-service condition.
It felt rather bizarre to turn up at the depot early one morning this week for another RT turn. It was only a few weeks ago that I had driven RTW29 back from the London Bus Museum at Brooklands! Although RT935 had been moved the day before for washing and fuelling, it was reluctant to start due to its long period of inactivity. I had to get a fitter to hook up a booster pack before I could get it going. The 9.6ltr AEC diesel coughed and spluttered into life, filling the garage with acrid, bluey-white exhaust smoke. I left it running for a bit while I did my walkaround, checking the lights and so on. I didn’t realise it then, but I would later find that the engine would also be reluctant to stop!
In the good old days, or so I’m told, bus conductors used to call out “Terminus!” when their bus reached its destination whereupon any remaining passengers would alight.
These days, it would seem, Mr Progress is shouting “Terminus!” at terminii up and down the country, signifying the closure of once-busy transport hubs in our town centres. So, just for old times’ sake, here is a photograph of a bus station in its heyday. This is Salisbury Bus Station, taken by my father in about 1954 from his office window. Just like me when I worked for the Express & Echo newspaper in Exeter, my Dad enjoyed a fine view while supposedly at work! In his case he was learning the ropes as an architectural technician at Rawlence & Squarey.
The notes accompanying this photo state that the two buses in the foreground were at the time being used as a canteen and staff restroom. The double deck bus is Wilts & Dorset no 20 (ex-Southdown 920), a Leyland TD1 with a Willowbrook body. It originally carried a Short Bros body.
Fast forward 60 years and Salisbury Bus Station closed in January 2014. I was there, regular readers will recall. With a tear in my eye, I led a cavalcade of historic Wilts & Dorset buses on the last ever scheduled departure. In this rather shaky clip (fast forward to 14:15) I’m driving the leading Lodekka.
On the same day Amesbury Bus Station closed. Salisbury Reds, the present-day operator of bus services in the area, could no longer justify the cost of maintaining the crumbling and outdated structures. Services now arrive and depart from various stops around the city centre. How times have changed.
London Transport RT-type buses are not often seen out and about in the London Country area so it was with a sense of great honour that I found myself behind the wheel of KGK529 doing just that.
RTW29 (KGK529) has been on loan to the London Bus Museum at Brooklands for several months and I was called upon to drive it back to its home garage in Weston-super-Mare. To give me plenty of daylight hours in which to drive, I stayed overnight with relatives in Surrey so that I could make an early, if rather chilly, start from the Museum.
It also gave me a chance to wander around the historic site, the home of the famous Brooklands banked racing track. The bus museum is right next to the aviation and motoring museums so, being interested in graphic styles of bygone days, I couldn’t help noticing the motorcycle workshop garage doors!
The bus had been moved out of the garage the previous day so, when I arrived, it was parked outside ready to go. The chaps at the museum were very helpful, especially Simon, who owns an RT himself so was the ideal person to help check the bus over. This became immediately apparent when I came to find the dipstick. RTW29 has the same type of engine (a Leyland O.600) as the PD2 that I drive for English Riviera Sightseeing Tours but, where I expected to find a dipstick, there was just a large hollow pipe with a sprung lid on top.
I learned that these had a tendency to go missing in the old days so it became common practice for the dipstick to be kept in a safe place in the depot where the bus was based. It wasn’t long before Simon produced the correct stick for an RTW from the museum workshop, dipped the sump and topped it up with a drop of heritage oil. I later found an identical one well hidden inside the bus. Simon went back inside and came back armed with another dipstick, this one especially designed for RT fuel tanks with a curved end and graduated markings. We soon deduced that the tank was full to the brim and I wouldn’t have to worry about refuelling on the way back.