In Steve’s first contribution to my ‘Busman’s Holiday’ blog, he takes us along with him on the platform – and the cab – of ex-Stockport Corporation Leyland PD2 HJA965E.
‘Twas the night before my second (ever) Crosville Vintage ‘heritage bus’ job as a conductor, that I prepared my uniform. Black shoes with parade gloss kiwi, grey trousers, respectable shirt and tie – with my best blazer! Well, it was somebody’s wedding so I had to do my bit. I wore my grandfather’s FF conductor’s badge (most probably issued in Norwich, because he once worked as a driver and conductor in Norwich and North Norfolk).
The 19th June 2021 arrived. With (dare I say) ‘child-like’ excitement I stood at the side of the Wellington Road in Taunton, waiting to be collected by the designated driver for the day… the very ‘dapper’ Andrew. Resisting the temptation to use my best ‘hail and ride’ signalling, I saw this beautiful looking 1967 Leyland Titan PD2 (HJA 965E) approaching from the direction of Silk Mills Road. Resplendent in its red/cream paint, with the obligatory ‘Number 9’ route displayed in the blind, I greeted Andrew as he pulled up at my imaginary bus stop. We chatted briefly about the day ahead, before proceeding to Glastonbury and The City of Wells – in our ‘Transport of Delight’. We proceeded through the bustling Taunton Town Centre, with shoppers gazing in awe as we passed by. Happily standing on the platform (I hasten to add, with both hands lightly gripping the handrails) I smiled at shoppers as we trundled towards the outskirts. I am now well acquainted with the words “ I used to go to school on one of those” from many people of a certain age, as I travel to a growing number of events and venues – and I confess it makes me chuckle.
The wedding, and all its omnibus arrangements, went exceedingly well. Hundreds (possibly thousands) of people witnessed the passage of our handsome Titan through Wells and Glastonbury on a very warm and sunny day. Many waving hands, lots of photographs being taken, plenty of gawping, quite a lot of ‘ooh-ing and aah-ing’, much waving and an abundance of smiling – from young and old on the pavements as we passed by!
The ‘Master Driver’ (Andrew) allowed me to drive on the return journey to Taunton (reassuringly devoid of passengers). The feat of climbing into the cab was, of itself, reminiscent of those days as a boy, when I used to watch drivers climbing into the cab(s) of their double deckers, readying for a day’s duty at Cromer Bus Station, in Norfolk. Having failed to find the air-conditioning switch, CD player or intercom system, I familiarised myself with the (pleasurably nostalgic) 54 year-old cab layout. With second gear to pull away, we then travelled at a break-neck 40mph along the A39/A361, returning to Taunton. I somehow got on very well with the fearbox (oops, sorry I meant gearbox). I took Andrew’s advice and wore ear plugs!
I can only describe driving across the Somerset Levels as ‘bumpy’, and was trying to work out whether the bouncing up and down could be seen as the equivalent of 1 hour of exercise in the gym. All I can say is that I enjoyed the whole day (I don’t think Andrew was too ashen).
My all-time favourite bus is the Bristol Lodekka (childhood memories, of course). Maybe I will get to drive one when I am deemed competent enough.
Next thing is to find, and then don, a dust jacket I suppose – but I am not yet ready to wear a cap! A few days after this wedding event, the Transport Manager at Crosville received a glowing, complimentary email from the Bride and Groom’s family regarding our service to them. I felt an emanating smile.