WHOTT running day at Coldharbour Mill

At 36 feet long, the Bristol RELL is not exactly tailor made for narrow, country lanes. In a perverse sort of way, I quite enjoyed having my bus driving skills put to the test in the lanes around Uffculme recently.

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The last weekend in May 2016 was blessed with warm, summery weather. A modest collection of heritage buses sparkled in the sun as they loaded passengers in the car park of Coldharbour Mill Museum (hereinafter referred to as ‘The Mill’) in deepest Devon.

The Westcountry Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust (WHOTT) had chosen May 29th to put on a heritage bus running day as it coincided with one of the regular Steam Days held at the Mill. I had been invited to take part, but only if I brought a bus with me. I do actually own a few buses but they are 1:76 scale and sit on a shelf in my lounge! So, thanks to the generous boss of Crosville Motor Services, I brought a full sized bus.

Southern National 2700 (HDV626E) has featured quite often on this blog recently and it was my pleasure to be its custodian for the day on Crosville’s behalf. However, I was keenly aware that 2700 had only recently returned from Reliance Bus Works after having repairs done to some nearside panels. I needed to be sure that I didn’t put another dink in them! Full marks to the folks at Crosville – in the few days between me bringing 2700 back from Stoke-on-Trent and the WHOTT event, they had found the time to re-apply the nearside fleetname which meant that the RE was fully dressed for the occasion!

The first surprise of the day, as I arrived from Weston-super-Mare, was to be met by my own sister-in-law at the gates of the Langlands Industrial Estate (this is where buses were stabled until they were required for service). She is one of the Trustees at the Mill and was keen to check that things were being run efficiently and safely. Being the first bus-related event at the Mill, much feedback was gathered during the day which will be used to decide if another event should be held in the future.

Mrs Busman John and I had decided to make it a family day out so we were joined by several other members of our family, including our son Peter who has featured on these pages before as a conductor. He arrived in his 1967 Morris Minor (formerly mine) and was promptly invited to park alongside 2 Austin 7 vans in the vintage vehicle display area. He was rather chuffed!

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Vintage bus trips with Paddington Bear

A weekend of bus adventures started with another trip to Minehead, this time in support of Paddington Bear at the West Somerset Railway.

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The larger than life character was visiting the station at Minehead to meet and greet young fans and, as per the usual format, a number of other attractions were on offer during the day. Vintage bus trips ran from about 10:15 in the morning, provided by yours truly in a 1959 Bristol LD6B. This time, thanks to a generous collague, I didn’t have to travel all the way up to Weston-super-Mare to collect the vehicle from the Crosville Motor Services depot as usual because it had already been brought down to a nearby stabling point the day before.

My conductor Liz was there waiting for me so, after checking the bus, we drove into Minehead to await custom. It wasn’t long before about a dozen people had boarded and we set off on the first of about 15 trips around the town and along the seafront. That’s a guess – I didn’t have time to count, we were that busy!

The weather was fine and an impressive number of people flowed through the station during the day, many of whom travelled on the bus as well. Every so often Paddington Bear and his minder would appear on the station platform to wave, shake hands or high-five his little fans. Like most other ‘celebrities’ such as Fireman Sam and Peppa Pig, the character has to follow a strict protocol and there is no conversation, just the gestures mentioned.

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