So I’ve decided to postpone Part 2 of my round-up of 2019 day trips with Bakers Dolphin to bring you something more recent instead. I’ve had a rather testing time of late, but in the best possible sense!
I was asked a couple of months ago whether I’d be interested in doing some driver assessments at work, as part of an ongoing programme to improve the standard of driving. I really wasn’t sure whether I wanted an extra role so I beat around the bush a little before saying that I didn’t feel qualified. In response, some rather nice things were said about the standard of my driving and reference was made to some feedback that had been received over recent months from customers. I was also told that I would be enrolled in a week’s training to equip me for the proposed role which would culminate in an Advanced Driving Test.
After thinking about it for a few days I reckoned that, if my own standard of driving had been recognised and the company was willing to invest in me by putting me through a course, I should take the opportunity to improve my situation. So I said yes, I would go ahead. I had decided that, if I failed any part of the test, I would drop out and continue as a coach driver as before.
Just after the Christmas/New Year break, I sat down with two of my colleagues and prepared for a week of intensive training with Steve, a very experienced driving instructor and examiner from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). The week alternated between classroom-based study and practical sessions out on the road in our training coach.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.