Exeter Corporation No 5 shakedown run #1

Exeter Corporation No 5 (FJ6154) was already obsolete when Conductor Wooldridge climbed into its cab to take a driving lesson. The year was 1938 and within 12 months the bus would be withdrawn from service and sold to a local scrap merchant.

Conductor-Wooldridge-1938,-Driver-Dawkins-2015

We can only wonder what Conductor Wooldridge thought of the primitive controls in the cab. Fortunately I can tell you what they’re like because the bus survived its visit to the scrapyard and is still with us today, thanks to the efforts of Mr Arden (a local farmer), the late Colin Shears, York’s Coaches (Northampton) and the Westcountry Historic Omnibus & Transport Trust (WHOTT).

I mentioned in my last post that this 1929-built Maudslay ML3 bus is due to convey the Lord Mayor of Exeter to one of his final public engagements on Saturday May 2nd and, in preparation for this, we took the bus out for the first of two shakedown runs. She had not moved from the spot where I had parked her last September at the conclusion of her debut appearance at the WHOTT Rally at Westpoint. By the time I arrived on Tuesday last week the Maudslay’s battery had been charged. WHOTT’s chairman Robert Crawley prepared to start the engine by turning on the fuel supply tap beneath the autovac and setting the choke. This is done by pulling a rod which is sited underneath the radiator. After ‘tickling’ the carburretor to make sure the float chamber was full, he climbed into the tiny cab and turned the electric starter switch. Amazingly, the original 4-cylinder Maudslay petrol engine sprang into life after only a couple of revolutions. Nick, a WHOTT member who was to share the driving with me, closed the choke once the engine was running normally.

FJ6154-seized-clutch

The bus was gently eased out into the April sunshine and driven around the side of the storage shed. There was a pause in proceedings at this point because a van and two Devon General AEC Regents were partly blocking our exit. It was while we waited that the Maudslay’s clutch decided to seize. Although our exit was now clear the octogenarian No 5 couldn’t be moved because none of the gears could be engaged. There followed some strenuous efforts involving blocks of wood, a crowbar and a hydraulic jack.

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Wilts & Dorset photo archive, part 3

I’ve dipped into my Wilts & Dorset photo collection again and have pulled out one or two unusual vehicles.

Like many other operators at the time, Wilts & Dorset acquired ex-military recovery vehicles to rescue broken down or accident-damaged members of the fleet. This one is an AEC Matador recovering what could be a Bristol LS saloon from Romsey town centre. Like most of the ex-military recovery vehicles in bus fleets, this one has been re-bodied, probably in the company’s own workshops, to re-fit it for it’s new task.

Before the standardisation of the nationalised Wilts & Dorset fleet, a wide variety of vehicles were operated. Some, like this AEC Regent II, were absorbed from Venture. Before that, it ran in the Cheltenham & District fleet and before that, Newbury & District.

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