Back in early July I took a Bristol L5G down to Buckfastleigh to take part in the South Devon Railway’s popular 1940s Festival.
The single deck bus was very familiar to me, having been a regular allocation during my time with Crosville Motor Services in Weston-super-Mare. Ex-Crosville KG131 (1950-built KFM893) still lives in Weston and is now part of the re-launched Crosville Vintage operation so my first task was to drive it down from Weston to Buckfastleigh, a distance of about 80 miles.
The Bristol L trundles along at about 42 mph on the motorway so it took about an hour and a half to complete the journey. On the way I had to face the stiff climb up Haldon Hill which, even with an empty bus, reduced my speed to about 15 mph. It’s at times like these that I feel quite vulnerable on dual carriageways and motorways due to my slow speed, relative to other traffic so I was relieved to turn off the A38 for the final few yards to the station forecourt at the South Devon Railway‘s station at Buckfastleigh.
My first departure wasn’t until 11:00 so I had time for a 45 minute break before starting service. I used that time to wander around the station and found myself in a time warp. I was surrounded by people in 1940s outfits as well as the uniformed railway staff. Visitors and re-enactors alike had gone to extraordinary lengths to enter in to the spirit of the event.
In a field adjacent to the station forecourt there was an impressive gathering of military vehicles and paraphenalia. I lost count of the number of wartime Willys Jeeps! On the station platform I passed a policeman in authentic 1940s uniform. In fact I saw him several times during the day, which turned out to be very hot and humid. To his credit (and probably his discomfort too), he kept his full uniform on all day!
One of my blog readers sent me a couple of photos of a mystery bus, now operating in New Zealand.
Ray Bounsall emigrated to Australia many years ago but originally hailed from Somerset. He and his wife were on holiday in New Zealand recently and were amazed to see this RML in Christchurch. Ray managed to fire off a couple of photos as the bus passed by and has given me permission to post them here. The bus retains its London blinds but has lost its UK registration number. Any fleet number it may have carried is also missing so, which bus is it?
Some quick net research reveals that the mystery bus is in fact 1967-built RML2724 (originally registered SMK724F) and was exported to New Zealand in 2005. It is now operated by Hassle-Free Tours in Christchurch and is one of three ex-London Transport Routemasters in their fleet.
During their visit to Christchurch, Mr & Mrs Bounsall saw much evidence of the terrible earthquake that rocked the city a few years ago. “By the way, whatever you may have seen on the telly when Christchurch was hit by the massive earthquake in 2011 is only a shadow of the real damage done. The centre of this beautiful city has had its heart ripped out and 4 years on, there is still a lot of rebuilding to be undertaken. If the LT AEC had been driving around 4 years earlier it could have been mistaken for a post WW2 war era. It was like it had been blitzed.”
Ray also says that he thought he recognised the driver of the Routemaster. “Looks like you driving, were you having a busman’s holiday?”
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.
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.
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!
I just had to post this photo of an elephant trying to board the No 31 to Earls Court Station. You may have seen it before: it appears on popular greetings cards and was scanned from one that my wife received last year.