Heritage bus driver vacancies at Crosville

If you have read one of my blog posts that describes a private hire duty at Crosville and thought to yourself “I could do that”, now’s your chance.

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Since taking on the job of allocating drivers for upcoming driving duties I’ve realised that a bigger team of part time drivers is needed so I’m looking for suitable drivers to join the team.

When I say ‘suitable’, I mean that you’ll need to already hold a full Category D (PCV) driving licence and hold a current DCPC card. Although I can offer familiarisation sessions with our buses, you will need to be already competent with a crash gearbox vehicle. Sadly we don’t have the resources to teach double de-clutch technique from scratch.

We’re based in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset so you will need to live within reasonably easy reach of our depot. We don’t send our buses on long distances as this is quite tedious for the drivers and adds to the wear and tear of the vehicles unnecessarily.

As you will know if you’ve read my posts, driving for Crosville is very rewarding. Taking passengers to a wedding or on a special outing is great fun and I get a lot of pleasure in helping them to have a good day.

One of the best bits of course is that you get to drive some wonderful old buses, particularly if you like Bristols. Although they can be challenging at times, the feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day is immense. The standard of our heritage fleet is high and is improving all the time. For example, one of our ‘workhorse’ Lodekkas is away at the moment having a thorough refurbishment. Southern Vectis 573 (Bristol FS6G YDL318) has already had its Gardner engine rebuilt and it will come back into service looking just like new. That includes new window rubbers and period adverts.

So, if you (or someone you know) would like to join the team, please leave a comment and I’ll reply to you privately.

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Save wear and tear on your clutch: don’t use it!

In an effort to avoid ‘Greenway overload’, here’s a brief account of a wedding hire I did a few weeks ago for Crosville Motor Services. It wasn’t a particularly complicated duty so it afforded me the chance to experiment a little with my driving technique.

Sometime ago a couple of my regular readers commented that in the old days (they were obviously ‘old hands’) they used to be so proficient at changing gear with the Bristol constant mesh gearboxes that they could do it without using the clutch. Judging by comments made by other drivers from the same era, they were not alone in the habit of clutchless changes. Anyway, one of them challenged me to try it one day.

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I decided to pick up the gauntlet, so to speak, and try this for myself. But first I had to deal with a bit of stress at the depot. While doing my walk around checks on the Hants & Dorset Bristol FLF, I found that the nearside indicators weren’t working. I’ve had this once before and the fact that neither front nor rear indicators worked pointed to a failed bulb. Unfortunately, both duty mechanics were out on an emergency recovery so I had to wait until they returned before my bus could be fixed. To their credit, they both set to work straight away as they knew I had a deadline to meet. With one up a ladder at the front and the other crouching at the rear, they quickly replaced both bulbs and normal service was resumed.

Not wanting to cause any further delay, I postponed my clutch experiment until the empty return journey so I took the long-legged Lodekka from Weston to Bristol using the textbook double de-clutch technique I’ve always used. I picked up a bus load of passengers from the Arnos Vale Cemetery (strange place to have a wedding…) and took them the short distance into the city where they were due to eat and party the night away at the Rummer Hotel, which is close to the Bristol Registry Office in Corn Street/Broad Street (pictured above).

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Vintage bus driver training #2

I ran another one-day driver training course at the weekend and introduced four new candidates to the dark art of double de-clutching!

Crosville Motor Services, for whom I work as a part time heritage driver, want to expand their pool of drivers with the skills needed to successfully take a heritage bus out on a private hire duty. I agreed to act as instructor as my abilities as a half-cab bus driver seem to be appreciated.

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I’m rarely at the depot on a Sunday – I’m usually in church – and there was very little activity going on when I arrived last Sunday morning. One Lodekka was being prepared for a private hire duty in Bristol by its driver and conductor but otherwise the place was quiet. After introducing myself to my candidates I found the training bus, which was hidden behind a modern open top bus. Ex-Bristol Omnibus C7246 (FHU59D) is a Bristol FLF6B and is one of 6 Lodekkas in the garage at the moment.

With preparation done, I gave the 4 candidates – one lady and three men – a brief introduction to driving heritage buses. I also gave them some diagrams which show graphically what you do with your feet when changing gear in different scenarios, along with the text from my ‘How to drive a vintage bus’ page from this blog for them to read as their homework. I then took them out for a 10 minute demo ride while they crowded round the little window behind the cab which, on this bus, has no glass.

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Driving for Rail-River Link in South Devon

OK, so now I can spill the beans. I am now a local bus driver for Rail-River Link, the bus service arm of the Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company (formerly the Paignton & Dartmouth Steam Railway).

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While still looking for a permanent Graphic Design position, I’ve taken a seasonal job at the aforementioned company. I suppose it’s one of the unplanned benefits of having taken my PCV test – it qualifies me for a secondary profession! I was invited to an interview and assessment session on the strength of my bus driver CV, which I had sent to the bus operations manager. When I arrived it appeared that he had already appointed me and rostered me for service the following day!

After that first day my head was spinning and I asked for a few more days’ training so the roster was altered to allow me some proper preparation. I know the area very well so learning the routes was not a problem but getting to know all the ticket types, learning the timetable and using the ticket machine would take longer.

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Back to the classroom for Driver CPC Periodic Training

In order to keep my professional driving qualification current I have to undergo regular classroom training. The rules of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) state that, for newly qualified drivers such as me, I have to do 35 hours of training within 5 years of gaining my initial CPC entitlement.

I took the first module a few days ago – a day-long course on driving hours and tachographs that left my head spinning by the end! Fortunately I didn’t have to go very far to do this, in fact I booked with SRTS in Exeter, just a stone’s throw from the VOSA Test Centre where I passed my test last year. There were 4 other guys taking the same module that day, making the session very easy to contribute and ask questions during the day. Usually, when the room is full with 25 participants, interaction is difficult.

The course doesn’t have a test element, although we did do 2 simple quizzes to test our knowledge. There being no pressure to pass or fail, I found it a much better environment in which to absorb the information. I succumb very easily to nerves in a test or exam situation!

The trainer knew his subject back to front but struggled on the day with a very sore throat and a gravelly voice that threatened to break up and disappear altogether. On the feedback form at the end I gave him 10 out of 10 for persistence in the face of adversity!

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New website for Crosville Motor Services

I happen to have been involved with the development of the new website for Crosville Motor Services, which went live a few days ago. If any of you ever visited the old site you will know that it was due for a makeover. It had served the company well since its inception but it needed to better reflect the improvement and expansion that has taken place recently. I’ve written most of the text and provided some of the photographs but the design and build was carried out by IvoryRed, a creative design company based in Weston-super-Mare.

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This site has far more functionality and provides much more timetable information for people who use the local bus services that Crosville is now running. There are also pages for additional services, such as PCV training and bus storage as well as a special area for enthusiasts. I’m looking forward to adding to this area in particular as it focusses on the heritage activities of the company.

I would be interested to know what you think of it.

In other news, I was very pleased to hear from one of the chaps who took part in my Heritage Drivers’ Training Day recently. Apparently he drove one of the Lodekkas up to the Bristol Harbourside Rally and told me proudly that he didn’t miss any gears at all. Needless to say, I was quietly very satisfied to hear his news!

My next duty will be next Saturday, when I’m due to pick up a wedding party in Bristol and then trek southwards to a small village near Taunton.

Heritage bus drivers’ training day

“NOW!”

Those of you who drive heritage buses may remember having that word yelled in your ear as you learned to use a crash gearbox. It’s all to do with judging how long to wait while the engine revs die away before selecting the next gear.

Yesterday it was my turn to do the yelling. I spent the day training four guys from Crosville Motor Services how to drive a Lodekka and it turned out to be more successful than I expected.

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I was given an ex-Bristol Omnibus FLF to use as a training bus. This isn’t used in public service but shares the garage with the active fleet. It carries NBC Leaf Green livery and has a Bristol BVW engine driving through a 4-speed crash gearbox. It also has the glass missing from the little window in the corner of the cab, all of which made it an ideal vehicle to use.

I was interested to see that it displayed ‘Staple Hill’ as this was where my wife would have got off the bus on her way home from school in Bristol. It was odd to think that she might have ridden on this very bus!

My first two candidates observed me as I drove out to a nearby roundabout and back before we sat down and discussed the major differences between driving a modern coach or bus and driving a Lodekka. I had prepared some diagramatic visual aids to help explain the double-declutch technique, which is something of a dark art to most people.

Fortunately the Crosville garage is located on a sprawling trading estate which was once part of the Westland helicopter manufacturing base. We used an empty road at the far end of the site to begin our practice sessions, partly to avoid causing a hazard to other road users and partly to lessen the noise of gear teeth being torn off!

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