Steve SD goes to Wells and Glastonbury with a Leyland PD2

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. 

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Introducing a new Guest Writer: more vintage variety in the Westcountry

I’m very pleased to be able to introduce to you a fellow busman who, like me, enjoys being out and about on board heritage buses and coaches. I’ve invited Steve SD (pictured below, left) to contribute some of his more recent adventures.

But before I share the first of these, here is some background info on his journey so far.

Steve served in HM Armed Forces from the age of 15-22 and then took a career in Public Service until 2002. A year later Steve qualified as a DVSA (Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency) Approved Driving Instructor (cars), teaching young (and not so young) people to pass their car test.  

In 2007, a major highlight for Steve was being accepted for a contract in the Middle East as a Fleet Driver Trainer in Qatar, where he was engaged in the assessment and training of multi-national employees who needed to drive utility vehicles and large buses at the oil refineries (and within city environments) across the State.  

2008 saw Steve re-engage in the training of people in the UK to drive cars and buses.  In 2009, Somerset County Council engaged Steve’s qualifications and skills in the training to test standard, and the triennial assessment, of Local Authority minibus drivers.  Because of his position as an independent Fleet Driver Trainer, Steve was happily engaged by a smattering of bus and coach operators across Somerset to train employees to pass their Category D bus/coach driving test. 

Finally, this year (2021) Steve decided to hang up his hi-vis jacket and relax into calm retirement.  That is, until he discovered the delights of the heritage bus and coach world.  Putting his trainer qualifications aside…  Steve will unashamedly tell anybody and everybody that he has found it very difficult to learn the dark art of driving a heritage bus – and appreciates any help offered by ‘those who know’!

*Since passing his PSV driving test all those years ago, Steve has driven a variety of buses coaches countless times on an ‘ad hoc’ basis for many different operators across Somerset (including National Express Bristol – London).  Whether for morning/afternoon school runs, swimmers, private hire to the sea-side, theatre and adventure parks, Steve has absorbed a lot of experience of the bus/coach industry.

I am looking forward to reading about some of Steve’s exploits on the platform and perhaps in the cab too. Please join with me in welcoming Steve to ‘Busman’s Holiday’!

You won’t have long to wait for Steve’s first blog post – it’s already in preparation.

Busman John’s Virtual Bus Rally

Of the many casualties of the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020, the one that I have missed most this year is the opportunity to drive at various bus rallies and running days. Some organisations have run a virtual event instead, so here’s mine!

There are many buses I have driven or have seen that I would like to invite to my Virtual Bus Rally but I’ve narrowed it down to this selection. The captions describe my reasons for inviting them to my event.

Lodekka battles with low branches in Lullington Lane

Yesterday’s private hire duty was notable for taking me to some places with very limited clearance. It was a good test of my spacial awareness skills.

The allocated bus was open top Lodekka DGF81 (FSF6G 891VFM), a genuine Crosville bus dating from 1961. I had spent most of the previous day in the office at Crosville and had time to check and fuel the bus so that I didn’t have to spend too much time early the next day in preparation. The pickup time was 10:30 at Orchardleigh House, near Frome so I allowed myself a generous 2 hours to make the empty journey. The most direct route was nevertheless a tortuous, rural one and my speed would rarely get above 30mph.

In fact ‘limited clearance’ could apply to the outward journey quite easily as I trundled through the villages of Banwell, Sandford and Blagdon. There was plenty of hedge-hugging, double-declutching and wheel-heaving! Reaching West Harptree, I set off along the B3114 to eventually join up with the A39 at Chewton Mendip towards Bath. Briefly reaching 45mph, I soon went back down the box for the turning to Farrington Gurney, Midsomer Norton and Radstock. Somerset seems to have more than its fair share of double-barrelled place names and today I seemed to be visiting most of them!

Finally, after passing through Buckland Dinham, I reached the imposing entrance to Orchardleigh House. I’ve been here before with a heritage bus and I recognised the twin stone-built lodges which stand guard over the gated entrance to the vast estate. The drive up to the house is almost a mile long and passes through a golf course on the way.

I parked the bus near the Walled Garden and the complex of cottages in which most of the wedding guests had spent the previous night. I caught up with some of them on the lawn and learned that the celebrations had started the previous evening!

Our buses are not decorated with ribbons as standard (although I plan to change that eventually) so some family members set to work with cream ribbons, bows and streamers of their own.

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Crosville Bus & Steam Rally – a date for your 2017 diary

Following a reasonably successful Bus & Steam Rally in September, the team at Crosville Motor Services has pledged to run a similar event next year and the date will be Sunday September 10th, 2017 from 10:00 until 16:30.

crosville-rally-2014-general-view

Once again, I’m looking forward to taking part in this rally. Not only does it give me the chance to browse among the many visiting vehicles, it also allows me to drive several of Crosville’s own heritage buses as well as those belonging to the Bristol Omnibus Vehicle Collection. Those who know me well will probably know that the Bristol marque is my favourite!

This time the rally will return to the seafront at Weston-super-Mare, the static displays and vintage bus rides all being based at the Beach Lawns. The biggest benefit for everyone of course is that now the whole event will be free to enter. Understandably, there were moans this year that “…we shouldn’t have to pay!” as entry to the Helicopter Museum rally site this year was £10 per adult. Although admission tickets were sold by the Museum, Crosville received a proportion of the gate takings. Most (but not all) vintage bus running days and rallies don’t levy an entry charge and enthusiasts have been used to this format for years. Also, and this is neither new nor even confined to the bus world, enthusiasts are notoriously ‘thrifty’ and many resent having to part with cash in order to enjoy a rally. What they perhaps fail to realise is that rallies and running days don’t just happen by themselves. Much time, effort and expense is needed to put these events on and operators like Crosville like to cover their costs if at all possible. As I mentioned, the 2017 event will be free so, if you attend and see a programme for sale, please buy one as this will help to offset costs.

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