Bath Services bus crew in miniature

Some time ago I featured a few photographs of a very well researched model of a Bath Services Bristol L5G. Now, to complete the scene, a colleague and I have joined the bus on the fine scale model railway.


The detailed layout, along with its skilled owner, is located in far-away Melbourne, Australia and the bus crew is of course represented in miniature form! The layout is described in more detail in this post from March 2014.


The addition of the driver and conductor was the finishing touch to this wayside station cameo and Ray, always keen to get the details right, asked for some help with the bus crew uniforms. Although I’m a relative newcomer to the world of vintage buses I did have some photographic reference, including a shot of a colleague and me wearing authentic ‘Tilling’ uniforms beside a Bath Services Lodekka.


Ray used these photos as reference material for the professional model makers who painted the cast resin bus crew. I hope you’ll agree that the finished scene is remarkable. I also approve of the early Morris Minor in the background, complete with split screen and clap-hand wipers!

In other news, I’m ‘between jobs’ as they say in the acting profession. Driving for the local sightseeing tours has come to an end now and, although I have a couple of wedding duties with Crosville coming up in November, I’m driving a desk and catching up with jobs at home before the next bus-related project comes along. Also on the horizon is a new book, based on the early part of this blog and covering the trials and tribulations of a bus conductor who is looking for promotion up to the noisy end! Good fireside reading – anyone interested in buying a copy one day?

English Riviera Sightseeing, rain or shine

We’re just coming to the end of our first three weeks on the sightseeing bus and the popularity of our tours has been, rather like the weather of late, mixed. But there have been some highlights, such as the one pictured below.


This was a couple of days ago when the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines kindly turned up to provide some musical entertainment while I collected the fares. I jest, of course. They were leading a parade of Royal Navy personnel, the crew of HMS Torbay. I’m quite a fan of military band music, especially the Royal Marines, so this was a rather exciting addition to our morning. The relaxed pace of their marching music brought me back to my youth when I was a member of a Boys’ Brigade marching band. For a number of years we had an instructor who was also a member of the Royal Marines band, based at Lympstone on the banks of the River Exe. He insisted that we march at the same pace as the Marines band! Compared to other regimental bands (and indeed most other civilian bands) their marching tempo was marginally slower and hearing the band this week brought back some marching memories!

We went on to include HMS Torbay in our commentary that day. It went a bit like this: “We have HMS Torbay visiting us today, folks. But don’t bother looking across the bay to see her, HMS Torbay is a submarine!”


As I mentioned, the weather has been mixed and this affects the popularity of English Riviera Sightseeing Tours. After all, who wants to sit on a wet seat for an hour and a half? We’ve had a few days like this and sometimes we’ve had to admit defeat and park the bus up. We need eight people on board to make a tour viable and on a few occasions our tour guide, whose job it is to sell each tour to passers by, had to take shelter on the platform and shout from there. Unfortunately there were very few people at the harbourside to shout at!

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Bus crew style dust jackets

I know some of you are still waiting for news of the long-awaited replica Tilling dust jackets. Thanks for being patient – it will be worth the wait. But for those who are keen to have a look-alike jacket ready for the 2015 season, there is an alternative.


This is a bus-style jacket produced by Yarmouth Stores, a workwear manufacturer on the east coast of England. They’ve been making these for several years now and they look quite convincing if you regularly play the part of a traditional bus driver or bus conductor. In fact I used to wear one of these before I found an original one online. I’m wearing a Yarmo jacket in the photo below, which was taken by Cherry Selby, a lovely lady conductor who took me under her wing when I first started conducting.

Yarmouth-Stores-jacketSold under the ‘Yarmo‘ brand, the Summer Bus Jackets (ref JK37) are available in most sizes with a choice of green or maroon trim. When their new website goes live you will be able to purchase these online but, until then, call Yarmouth Stores on 0800 1300521 and ask for Sharon, the Sales Manager. The price is a very reasonable £31.95 plus £3.50 for delivery. If you ask nicely and mention ‘Busman’s Holiday’ you might even get a small discount!

If you have your own collection of bus uniform buttons you can use them with these jackets because the black plastic buttons provided are removable and have a split-ring fastening just like the originals.

I ought to point out that these jackets are made to a freelance pattern and the fabric is polyester, rather than the cotton twill that the originals were made from.

If you are interested in uniform trousers as well – complete with coloured piping down the legs, these are available from Yarmo as well. Like the jackets, these are made from polyester fabric and come in most sizes. You can choose from yellow, red or green piping. I wear a pair of these in the summer as they are much lighter and more comfortable than the original woollen serge trousers.

In other news, it’s nearly time to blow the cobwebs off the 1947 PD2 bus in readiness for the 2015 sightseeing season and I have my first Crosville private hire duty of the year in about 10 days’ time.

A new batch of bus crew caps: anyone interested?

More and more historic buses and coaches seem to be returning to roadworthy condition these days. Full marks to those who have worked hard and dug deep to do so. Opportunities to offer rides in them are on the up as well, with many bus-related events turning from mainly static displays into quite comprehensive running days. Full marks also go to those who organise these events and give a flavour of what it was like to ride these classics in service.


But the icing on the cake for me is to see these buses turned out with a properly dressed crew (click this link and scroll down to see a great crew line-up). I know that for most people this is a voluntary exercise and those who wear an authentic uniform have usually sourced or made it themselves. A few examples of genuine bus crew uniform can be obtained from online auction sites but these are often overpriced and frequently life-expired. While it is possible to buy new peaked caps – sold as chauffeur or airline caps – that resemble genuine bus crew headgear, few really look the part.

Some times ago a friend and I set up a project to manufacture a new batch of authentic Tilling style summer dust jackets. This is still making progress, but more on that later. While gathering support on this blog for these new jackets I found that there was a lot of interest in caps as well so we have decided to actively drum up support for a new batch of these too.

Perhaps due to the fact that the ‘Tilling Group’ – the rather generic name for the company and its later incarnations which was started by Thomas Tilling in 1846 – latterly had a very standardised style of uniform right across the UK, we have decided to model our new caps on those issued to Tilling fleet crews but of course they will probably suit many other operators’ uniforms as well. These are plain black peaked caps, made with the same heavy serge fabric used in winter uniforms. They had coloured piping bands around the brim too, but there were many variations between the different operators within the group. Some had yellow piping, some had red, green or blue. Sometimes there was a second ring of piping, either below the brim or at the base of the cap.

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Finishing with a flourish

My time with the Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boat Company as a seasonal bus driver came to an end last week and, as I have an interest in the historical aspect of the business, I decided to pay tribute to the former days of the Totnes-Paignton bus route that I have been driving.


Long before the days of Stagecoach, First and the Dartmouth Steam Railway, Western National used to operate over the Totnes to Paignton route so, on my last day, I decided to wear an authentic Western National uniform. Although to some I may have looked a little out of place driving the No 100 bus (a Volvo Olympian dating from 1996) looking like the ghost of 1970, many of my passengers appreciated my parting shot. Comments such as “That takes me back to my childhood” and “Your drivers should all wear uniforms like that!” were made as I took their fares and clipped their Round Robin tickets.

Some time ago I came across an excellent set of photos on Flickr taken by a chap called Norman Craig, who spent a couple of summer seasons as a conductor for Western National, based at Paignton. With Norman’s permission I created a couple of posters to stick up inside my bus so that those passengers who were to shy to ask could read about why their driver was in fancy dress.

The uniform came from a Western National driver based in Plymouth and included a mint condition winter greatcoat. If the weather is cold on Sunday I will need to wear it at the Exeter Twilight Running Day!

Although my time with Dartmouth Steam Railway has ended for the time being, I may return next season as they have asked me back but that won’t be until May so it depends what employment I can find in the meantime!

Turning the clock back with a Morris Minor

Those who know me well realise that a lot of the time I live with one foot in the past. So I had the perfect opportunity to do just that last weekend.

Dawkins family and Morris Minor

The occasion was the 150th anniversary of Upton Vale Baptist Church, of which we are members. The large building, opposite Torquay’s Town Hall, was first opened in April 1832 and our celebrations are spanning three weekends. Taking the theme from a Bible verse: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), last Sunday we celebrated the ‘yesterday’ part of our history and everyone was encouraged to dress up in costume, representing some part of the building’s timeline.

We tried to create the ‘Mr & Mrs 1967’ look, to suit the age of our Morris Minor, but actually we look more like ‘Mr & Mrs 1940’, particularly the spiv on the right with his trilby set at a jaunty angle.

As you can imagine, we thoroughly enjoyed getting into the yesteryear mood and a few cheap ebay purchases (such as fake NHS glasses for me and a repro antique handbag for Mrs Busmanjohn) completed the illusion. Many other folk joined the fun, with all sorts of excellent costumes worn. In other departures from the norm, we dispensed with our usual worship band, in which we sing and play, and formed a traditional choir instead.

If you’re on Facebook, there’s a great set of photos taken by photographer Paul Eaton which sum up the day very well.

My next outing with a bus, correctly attired in a Tilling bus uniform of course, will be next Saturday when I’m off to Bath with (very appropriately) a Bath Services Bristol Lodekka.

Tilling jacket project update

Just a quick update for all those who have kindly expressed an interest in ordering from a new batch of Tilling-style summer dust jackets.

I’ve added together the ‘votes’ from the poll on this page, along with those which came via email or in person. If all those expressions of interest are eventually converted into firm orders, we’ll be looking at a batch of more than 50 jackets!

Most of these favour a jacket with green trim but a handful have chosen red trim. All being well, we should be able to cater for both. There have also been enquiries for the white coaching variant but I’m not sure if that’s do-able yet.

So, there’s more than enough interest to plan the next stage. We are approaching a few suitable workwear manufacturers for quotes and timescales at the moment.

Does anyone out there have a red-trimmed jacket in good condition that they would be prepared to lend to this project as a sample? It will of course be returned to you undamaged. If you can help, please leave a comment and I will contact you direct.

Summer seems to be a long way off. Especially as I’m writing this on the top deck of a Bristol FLF on a freezing cold Saturday afternoon! However, I came prepared. Thermal long-johns, a winter uniform AND a heavy Tilling overcoat are keeping me nice and toasty.

I’m waiting for the wedding ceremony to finish before giving the guests a short tour of the Christmas lights on the way to the reception.

But the story of the double-decker bus and the 200 Santas will have to wait until the next blog post!