Bringing a 1947 Leyland PD1 from Yorkshire to Somerset

Due to the unfortunate collapse of a company in Yorkshire, I had the chance to collect a Leyland PD1 and drive it all the way to Weston-super-Mare following its purchase by a local collector.

But first, an apology. If you are reading this, you are either subscribed to my blog or you are a very patient watcher! I’m aware that I haven’t posted much recently but this is due to a lack of time to write more material rather than a lack of any bus-related activity. I have several more posts up my sleeve and I’ll do my best to bring them to you as soon as I can.

The subject of this post is Wigan Corporation 34 (JP6032), a 1947 Leyland PD1 with a Leyland 53-seat lowbridge body. For many years it had been a stalwart of the Yorkshire Heritage Bus Co fleet until financial difficulties led eventually to the entire fleet being put into the hands of a receiver. As ever in these situations, there was the possibility that some of these might be sold abroad or worse, broken up for spares. Jonathan Jones-Pratt bought five of the vehicles and my friend Dave Moore and I were approached to act as ‘ferry drivers’.

We were assured that both our buses had been checked over by someone at the secure yard where they were being stored so all seemed OK for the long journey south. As per usual, I did quite a bit of route research and found that there was a low railway bridge on the most obvious route from the yard to the south-bound M1, so I planned a route that would take me via Tankersley on more suitable roads.

Armed with the address where the buses were stored, Dave and I set off early in the morning by train and arrived at Penistone station about midday. A short taxi ride took us to a remote location where the Yorkshire Heritage fleet was parked in a secure compound. A couple of staff from the facility met us and showed us the two buses we were to bring back. My first impression of the PD1 was that it was OK if a little tatty. Dust and cobwebs indicated that this bus had not been used for a while!

Dave was to bring back a smart looking London Transport RT so he began his walkaround checks while I took stock of the Wigan PD1. I had a look around the RT too, (RT2591, a 1951 AEC Regent III RT3 with Park Royal body) and although the exterior is very presentable, the interior looked a bit tired, with several seats having damage. In its favour though were several original interior adverts dating from the decimal currency change-over in February 1971.

The Wigan PD1 really was an unknown quantity as nobody there had any experience of the vehicle so I poked around for quite a while before starting it up and checking all the usual daily check items. The engine started first time and ticked over slowly with a characteristic Leyland ‘hunting’ rhythm. Apparently new batteries had been fitted in readiness for the journey. I took the bus out of the compound and drove it up and down the nearby yard, just to get a feel of the vehicle and check that I could make it stop as well as make it go!

My checks revealed that the nearside front indicator wasn’t working so, while I waited for a chap to fit a new bulb, I took the above photo. I also noticed that the charge lamp on the control box in the cab wasn’t going out, even when I revved the engine so I highlighted this as well. The two chaps spent a while fiddling about and proclaimed, after watching the headlights while the engine was revved, that the dynamo was charging, despite the red lamp not going out. I was not convinced and decided not to stop the engine until I’d reached Weston-super-Mare, just in case!

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WHOTT Running Day 2015, Dorchester

Sunday August 16th was the date of the Westcountry Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust (WHOTT) Running Day. Set in the ancient market town of Dorchester, this new format proved to be much more successful than the traditional static bus rallies of previous years.

Dorchester-Lewis-OBs

Although I’d had the date in my diary for some time, no particular task had been assigned to me so I was pretty much free to help out on the day whenever the need arose. As it turned out, I ended up with a couple of very interesting driving turns.

The venue was the Top o’ Town car park in Dorchester, chosen because the erstwhile Dorset bus and coach operator Bere Regis Motor Services once had its offices on the site. The day also saw the launch of a new book by Stuart Shelton, a comprehensive fleet history documenting every vehicle that Bere Regis ever owned. The book runs to 96 pages and I had the privilege of preparing the artwork for this WHOTT publication. This complements a similar book on the history of the company by Andrew Waller.

Dorchester-CLJ413Y

My first task was to help move some vehicles which had been stabled overnight in the Damory yard just round the corner from the event venue. I elected to drive Bristol LHS coach CLJ413Y, which is the sole surviving ex-Bere Regis coach still wearing its original livery. It also happens to be the very last LH chassis built by Bristol Commercial Vehicles. As some of you might know, the Bristol LH is not my favourite vehicle of all time but I was happy to drive this particularly historic coach the short distance to the static display area.

I pottered about after that, watching other vehicles arriving and society stalls being laid out. Of particular interest was a scale model of a Harrington-bodied Commer Avenger coach. This had for many years been on display above the doorway of the old Bere Regis offices that used to stand just a few yards away. In the static display area was an immaculate pair of Bedford OBs in the livery of Lewis Coaches, as seen in the photo at the top of this post.

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AEC Regent V at Morris Centenary Rally

I took my 1967 Morris Minor along to the Morris Centenary Rally at Cornbury Park, Oxfordshire last weekend. I was very pleased to see this very smartly presented AEC Regent V being used as the rally control point and commentary position.

Southampton 373FCR

Sadly it didn’t move during the weekend, nor was I able to see inside as it was in continuous use by orgainsers, marshals and commentators. Now in the care of the Southampton & District Transport Heritage Trust, 373FCR was operated by City of Southampton. It has East Lancs bodywork and is fitted with an AEC AV590 9.6 litre engine.

busmanjohns-morris-minor

The main purpose of the weekend was to celebrate 100 years since Morris Motors was established. Strongly represented, as you would expect, was the Morris Minor model in all its forms. Some people have estimated that there were about 1,000 of these iconic cars on the rally field and I can well believe it. There were Morris Minors for as far as the eye could see!

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Conducting turn to Canonteign Estate

This afternoon I had a surprise conducting turn to Canonteign Estate, Devon. Fortunately I didn’t have to drive all the way up to Somerset first, I’d arranged to meet my driver at Exeter Services. In fact we arrived at almost the same moment! As I drew up to the lights beside the motorway, so did 2 double deck buses from Quantock Motor Services.

The job was to pick up a large wedding party (hence the two vehicles) from St David’s Church, Exeter and take them to Canonteign Estate, a splendid Georgian mansion deep in the stunningly beautiful Teign Valley near Chudleigh. My driver was also the boss and we had an ex-Ipswich Corporation AEC Regent V. The other bus was an ex-Stockport Corporation Leyland PD3. Strangely enough they both had the same bodywork – by Neepsend (East Lancs) so, apart from the liveries and engines, they looked quite similar.

We drove in convoy through the centre of Exeter, drawing glances from the Saturday shoppers, in plenty of time to meet the wedding party. Almost as soon as we arrived the church bells began to ring. Were they for us or the happy couple?!

Two ushers hurried out of the church, both bearing large metal vases containing spectacular flower arrangements. Worryingly, they headed towards the buses. Apparently the flowers needed to accompany the guests to the reception venue but the only place on the bus they could travel was on the platform! The other conductor and I both agreed to prop up the flowers on the journey, lest they topple over. Which was a pity because I was then unable to issue any souvenir tickets after we set off!

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Regent V delivery for Devon General

Devon General is an operator that I remember well, having grown up in a town which was served by its attractive maroon and cream buses. In the 1960s and early 70s they were mostly AECs, both single and double deckers.

For a relatively small operator, a large number of Devon General’s former vehicles have survived into preservation and no less than 5 of them attended the Torbay Vintage Bus Running Day last September. Regular readers (some of whom I met at the event) will remember that I brought an ex-Western National Bristol LDL6G to the Running Day.

This photo was taken by my friend Bob Brimley and shows two examples from a batch of AEC Regent Vs that was new to Devon General in 1965. This is of particular interest to me because I remember the Regent on the right (CTT518C) being delivered! The bus on the left (CTT513C) was delivered at much the same time but is fitted with the longer (and uglier, in my view) Park Royal bodywork.

CTT518C is one of 6 similar vehicles with Willowbrook bodywork and two of them, including this one, were destined for the DG depot at Exmouth, where I lived at the time. However, I happened to be staying with relatives in Salisbury, Wiltshire during the Easter Holiday in 1965 when I saw this bus being delivered when new.

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AEC Regent GTi

When I was growing up in Exmouth, Devon our local bus services were operated by Devon General. A varied collection of maroon and cream AEC Reliance single deckers and AEC Regent double deckers used to congregate at the bus station in Imperial Road, now long gone. I used to love riding on the superbly melodious Regents, mostly from the CTT5XXC batch. A couple of these still exist and often turn up at bus events in Devon. [Edit – since writing this I’ve driven one of them]

But on occasional visits to Exeter I remember seeing older DG Regents running on city routes which they shared with the City of Exeter green fleet. As a small boy I couldn’t help but be mesmerised by the 1956 batch of open platform AEC Regent V double deckers. It was not so much the sight of them that drew my attention but the sound they made. With registrations beginning with ROD, TTT or VDV, they were unusual beasts in that they were fitted with straight-through exhaust systems. My dad told me this at the time and it turns out to be true. I presume they had no silencers. And boy, what a noise they made!

When accelerating away from a stop or hauling a full load up Fore Street Hill they would, at certain engine revs, emit an ear-splitting rasp from the exhaust. It made them sound really sporty and I’m sure the drivers of the day treated them accordingly!

At least one of these is still with us and someone has posted a video of it, taken during a WHOTT rally in Exeter. Watch this with your speakers turned up!

I sometimes wondered if the distinctive, deafening racket was a threat to the plate glass windows of the shops in the High Street. Why were they fitted with such noisy exhaust systems? Why were they not retro-fitted with quieter systems? With all the fuss nowadays about noise pollution, how can ROD765 continue to run in the 21st century with such a system fitted as standard? Personally, I love the sound. It’s what gives the bus it’s unique character.

Finally, a question. Does any AEC afficionado know of other UK operators of this type that received examples with the same straight-through system?