Looking back to the autumn, one of my last outings with a vintage bus was at the ‘Coaches to the Seaside’ event at Weston-super-Mare. This took place on Sunday September 1st and was based at Weston seafront, with a static display at the Helicopter Museum.
Yes, I know that was a long time ago but I’ve been mega busy at work and we’ve also had a bereavement in the family which has taken my attention for a while so please accept my apologies for such a long gap between blog posts.
‘Coaches to the Seaside’ was organised by a number of local enthusiasts in collaboration with Crosville Vintage and the Helicopter Museum. I was offered the chance to take Crosville SL71 (1951-built Bedford OB MFM39) from the Crosville Vintage base to the static display area at the Helicopter Museum, an offer which I could hardly refuse! So, after going to church in the morning, Mrs Busman John and I prepared the OB and drove it to the site on Locking Moor Road.
It was lovely to step aboard the old girl, not having driven her for about a year. There’s something about the slightly musty aroma, the odd driving position and the beautifully tuneful gearbox that is unmistakeably OB. However, the one annoying tendency was that the petrol engine didn’t idle very well and was prone to stalling when pulling up at a junction or traffic lights.
I had been promised a few driving turns during the event but no details had arrived beforehand so I presented myself to one of the marshals after a picnic lunch. Apparently there were a number of heritage vehicles running a shuttle service between the Helicopter Museum and the seafront so I was invited to crack on and take the next load of passengers, who were waiting at a bus stop just outside the museum, down to the seafront as soon as I was ready.
With a full load on board, we made our stately way down the main road and through the town centre, where we were snapped by a roadside photographer. As I’ve mentioned before, this OB has heavy steering so I was glad to wait for a bit at the Tropicana while our passengers alighted.
On the way back, the engine died a couple of times as we drew to a halt at traffic lights. This was very embarrassing and thereafter I tried to keep the revs up whenever I stopped. This involved a fair amount of tap-dancing between the brake and accelerator pedals! I suspect that the culprit under the bonnet may be the ignition timing, leading to uneven idling and stalling. Some time spent tuning the carburettor would be worth doing as well.
From time to time we passed other heritage coaches and buses, most of which were visiting from further afield. A good number of preserved vehicles representing the Badgerline fleet were present, both static and running on the shuttle service. Badgerline was the operator of local services from 1985 until 2003. More recently the Badgerline name has been revived by First, to re-brand its bus services in and around Weston-super-Mare.
At 4pm all available buses and coaches were to gather on the seafront road and perform a ‘mass departure’ so I did my best to be heading in the right direction in good time. We nearly didn’t make it because there had been an accident on the main road into Weston, which we were due to join. Fortunately I saw the queueing traffic and took a diversion through Haywood Village and past the golf course to reach the seafront.
Once we had parked the OB back at its base I returned to the Helicopter Museum by van to collect the last remaining vehicle from the static display, an AEC Renown recently acquired by Crosville Vintage from Yorkshire along with several others. I hadn’t seen the bus before, let alone driven it, so I had a good look around first and then drove it tentatively around the site before venturing out onto the road. The cab area was very scruffy, despite the bus looking quite presentable on the outside.
1975TJ is an open-platform Renown, originally from the Leigh Corporation fleet but more recently part of the Yorkshire Heritage Bus Company operation which has now ceased trading. The bus drove quite well, actually, despite being quite worn out. The familiar AEC gearbox whine was still there though!
Thus ended my most recent adventure with heritage buses. I expect it will be well into 2020 before I climb into the cab of another. In the meantime, my next post will be a round-up of outings of a more modern kind – up and down the country with Bakers Dolphin.
In a previously published version of this blog post I made some comments which were not well received by the organisers. I am happy to retract them and this post has now been amended. The event was run entirely by volunteers, giving freely of their time and, despite having to cope with some significant no-shows, put on a very entertaining event. This is a personal blog but perhaps in hindsight I was unfair to compare this event with those in the past which had the benefit of paid staff and other resources.