The writing was on the wall for a long time but Saturday April 21st marked the end of another chapter in the long-running Crosville Motor Services story. Although this is now old news, it deserves an airing here because of my involvement with the latter-day company.
To recap, a combination of falling revenue and some difficulties with the Traffic Commissioner made it inevitable that the company would have to cease trading.
The management of the Weston-super-Mare company decided to go out with a flourish, so organised a running day on the last day of operation. Based at the Beach Lawns on Weston’s seafront, heritage vehicles were either lined up on display or used in service on the 100 route to Sand Bay. With Crosville’s Sentinel steam bus ‘Elizabeth’ joining in the action as well, that meant that the road to Sand Bay got very busy at times! (Photo copyright Paul Jones, used with permission).
Sadly I was committed elsewhere on that day so missed most of the action but did have a couple of hours to spare in the morning so I was able to help ferry some of the heritage buses out to the seafront site, including recently restored Bristol K6A HLJ44 and Bristol FS6G YDL318.
Then it was time to put all the toys away in the box and go home. With local bus routes and private hire bookings unable to run due to the lack of an Operators Licence, the next few weeks were rather sad as the once-busy depot was gradually cleared out. Most of the service buses and coaches were sold off, either for further use or for scrap. I drove two ex-school contract vehicles, Leyland Tiger CRZ9853 and a yellow Dennis Javelin coach (whose number I have already forgotten), up to a coach trimmer near Banbury. In a final twist, each had only been bought for its seats. With most of the ‘modern’ vehicles sold, the vast hangar which served as the Crosville depot looked forlorn.
There was a plan to continue running the heritage fleet, which had a healthy order book for 2018, under the auspices of Southern National (another JJP Holdings company) but this failed to materialise due to licencing issues. All bookings were cancelled and refunded. This had a direct impact on me because I had been, up to this point, managing the bookings and crew rosters for the heritage fleet.
Taking part in Crosville’s Bus & Steam Rally this year gave me a variety of jobs, including possibly my last chance to drive a vintage bus on a regular bus route.
During the run-up to the rally I found myself more involved in the planning stages than I had envisaged so it was quite a relief to watch the day unfold successfully. In a new – but possibly one-off – joint venture with the Helicopter Museum in Weston-super-Mare, Crosville sited its Bus & Steam Rally at the Museum. The company’s bus depot was also open, of which more later.
My main concern, having planned the layout of the static exhibits, was whether we would be able to fit all the resident and visiting buses along two sides of the rectangular site. Thankfully, due to the fact that a certain number of vehicles were always out in service, there was just about enough room.
I helped with setting up early on the previous day and began by touring the site with the Crosville Safety Officer, who also acted as Chief Marshal. The rest of the morning was spent ferrying various buses over from the Crosville garage to the Museum site, with Southern National 2700 (HDV626E) acting as shuttle bus for the drivers.
The Museum staff did a great job setting up tables for the Trade Stalls within the Museum buildings. We’d had so many stall entries that several more were allocated spaces outside with the buses. Thank goodness we had dry weather!
The day of the rally itself brought ideal weather – mild, mostly sunny. I began by helping in the garage where, a few days previously, the mortal remains of GWR 4-6-0 ‘Thornbury Castle’ had been placed on display. Some of the modern bus and coach fleet were also tastefully arranged nearby.
Plans are coming together for the Crosville Bus & Steam Rally 2016, at which I plan to be very active! The date is Sunday September 11th.
Back in 2014 there was a rally and running day based at the seafront at Weston-super-Mare but this year’s event is centred on the Helicopter Museum in Locking Moor Road. Since the 2014 rally Crosville has expanded further, adding fresh vehicles to its heritage fleet and many others to its modern fleet of local service buses and coaches.
For this reason Crosville has struck up a partnership with the Helicopter Museum which – like Crosville – is based on what used to be RAF Weston-super-Mare, albeit on opposite sides of the airfield site. It seems quite appropriate to team up with a museum which celebrates another form of transport history. There is ample room for static displays, indoor areas for society and trade stalls as well as the added attraction of the museum itself. I’ve never been there myself and am looking forward to seeing what’s there.
New for this year is the addition of a steam section. It was originally planned to have Crosville’s own Sentinel DG6P Steam Bus ‘Elizabeth’ in action, fresh from restoration. However, as is often the way with these projects, work is behind schedule and the steam bus won’t be ready in time for the Rally. There will still be plenty of steam power present though as several entries have already been received from traction engine and steam roller owners.
After being away from base for almost exactly a year, I had the honour of bringing a refurbished Bristol RE back to Weston-super-Mare.
1967-built Southern National 2700 (HDV626E) has been receiving the attentions of restorers at Reliance Bus Works in Stoke-on-Trent since January 2015 and I was happy to be offered the chance to bring it back to the Crosville Motor Services depot again.
This particular vehicle is very significant as it is the earliest surviving Bristol RELL3 chassis. In fact, it was only the 12th example off the production line at Brislington.
I arrived by train and the proprietor kindly offered to pick me up from the station. The only trouble was, my train was diverted to Crewe at the last minute due to a faulty set of points just south of Stoke. After a hasty phone call, I jumped on a train again and we finally met up at Kidsgrove.
2700 had been parked facing the road, ready for my departure. She looked magnificent inside and out. Maybe not ‘concours’ condition but that doesn’t matter. The folks at Crosville just wanted her to be brought up to spec for private hire mechanically and to have some bodywork issues sorted out. A fresh application of Tilling Green and Cream was the finishing touch, together with some repainting inside.
With 2015 safely under way, I am now looking forward to more adventures with classic buses so I thought I’d share with you some of my hopes and dreams. Some are almost certain to happen, others may just be pipe dreams!
I will be continuing my work with Crosville Motor Services, a fairly new company which has successfully revived the old Crosville name and seems to have a very bright future. It has an enviable collection of heritage buses of mostly Bristol manufacture and I have driven many of them since joining them as a part time driver in 2012. My private hire duties for Crosville will continue in 2015, mostly weddings. The first of these isn’t until March but, as the year progresses, I hope to drive some new additions to the heritage fleet. If you’re a regular blog follower (and, if you’re a new one, welcome aboard!) you will have read that I took two buses north for refurbishment a few weeks ago. I may be offered the chance to bring them back when they’re finished but, more excitingly, they are being added to the active fleet for this year.