New batch of Tilling-style jackets: interested?

Following my previous post about surviving summer dust jackets from former Tilling Group operators, I have been in touch with one of my blog readers. Between us we have hatched a plan to have some new jackets made.

The trouble with original jackets is, as you can see, they are all at least 40 years old now and most will have had a harsh working life before that. Quite apart from the fact that they are about as rare as hen’s teeth when it comes to acquiring one these days.

A chap I know is part of a group that commissioned a new batch of London Area jackets from a workwear manufacturer. They turned out to be really rather good, being made from the correct cotton twill fabric and double-stitched as per the originals. Our plan is to investigate the costs involved in having another batch made, this time using an original (unissued and unwashed) Crosville jacket as a template.

We would have both green and red trim made so that drivers and conductors can have a jacket that is correct for the bus operator of their choice. We believe that the base ‘khaki’ colour was common to both green and red fleets, unless you know different. In which case, please say so!

The success of this project depends of course on a viable number of people being willing to place an order. I plan to publicise this in as many places as possible, directing people to this blog and the Poll that you see on the right of this page.  The cost of each jacket will of course depend on the size of the order so please use the Poll to signify your interest. To set your mind at rest, an expression of interest does not constitute an order but we would hope that it will be a firm commitment to buy, when the time for ordering comes.

Just one thing; if you email me or leave a comment expressing interest, please tell me if you’ve voted in the Poll as well, otherwise you’ll be counted twice!

A growing number of heritage buses are being returned to use, many of them for commercial operations such as private hire and weddings. The one thing that is often missing though is correctly dressed crews, which is why this new batch should be very popular.

And if anyone needs a new cap with yellow piping, I have a contact for those as well!

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Wanted: Tilling uniforms and Setright machines

The folks at Crosville like to present their heritage buses in tip top condition, whether they’re in service on a timetabled route in Weston-super-Mare or further afield on a wedding duty. Whenever I turn up, my allocated bus has always been washed and swept. It is usually decorated with ribbons too, if it is a wedding duty.

But the icing on the cake, as it were, when on duty with a heritage bus is if the crew is able to wear a proper uniform from the period when the bus was originally in service.

In my case, I’m already sorted and so is my son Peter if he is conducting with me. But few of the other crews at Crosville have genuine ‘Tilling group’ uniforms, either summer dust jackets like the one Peter is modelling above, or a full winter uniform. Just occasionally a suitable dust jacket comes up on Ebay but they are few and far between. If you are reading this and have a jacket, cap, Setright ticket machine or cash bag you would like to donate/sell to a Crosville crew, please let me know! Setright machines need to be decimal, issue tickets up to the value of at least ¬£9.99 and have a ‘concessions’ setting or a similar means of counting a particular class of ticket being issued.

If you can help, please leave a comment and I’ll get in touch with you. Thank you!

Torbay Vintage Bus Running Day 2012

When you’re used to driving a desk all week it tends to drain all your energy when you drive a vintage bus for two days in a row. But I’m not complaining. I love what I do and see it as a great privilege to sit in a hot cab and work my arms to a jelly in someone else’s historic bus!

I drove Bristol FLF DEL893C, ex-Hants & Dorset, built 1965, on a wedding duty in Bristol on Saturday and, after a suitable break, drove the bus straight down to Torquay. I had arranged with the kind people at Stagecoach to park the FLF in their Torquay depot overnight and I’m very grateful to Area Manager Gary and Depot Manager Steve for their help – it caused quite a stir!

The following morning, under the envious gaze of several fitters and older drivers, I did my checks and topped up with water before driving the short distance to the rally site at Shedden Hill, Torquay. I joined a line of other buses which were operating free services around the bay and then, as I wasn’t due out until 12:00, browsed among the stalls and visiting buses. Many of these (buses AND stalls!) I’d seen before, some of them only last weekend!

The rally organisers had given me 2 short routes, the 136 to Paignton Town Centre and the 28A to Hesketh Crescent (for Meadfoot). They had also given me a conductor for the morning’s trips, an older chap who had once conducted for real on Devon General buses. There was a long queue at our stop near the entrance to the rally site and as we pulled up to board passengers, more arrived as they saw the FLF arrive with 136 on the blinds.

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Weston-super-Mare Vintage Bus Running Day

EDIT: This page refers to the 2012 event. See this page for news of the Crosville Bus Rally 2013 or, better still, visit the rally page on the Crosville website.

The folks at Crosville Motor Services, for whom I drive quite frequently, are putting together ambitious plans for a Running Day on Sunday August 26th. It will involve putting out every roadworthy bus in their garage, if they can find enough crews of course!

That will, of course, include more than Lodekkas. Although they have been the staple diet of this blog, I’m pleased to say that other examples of the Bristol marque will be present, including¬† K, L, MW, VR and LH. Non-Bristol vehicles may even turn up as visitors to redress the Bristol-heavy bias!

The day will also include a celebration of 25 years since the local Badgerline company was established.

If all goes to plan, Crosville’s timetabled services 100, 145 and 152 will all be operated by heritage buses and a shuttle service, linking the depot to various parts of the town, will be operated by up to 6 Bristol Ks. Most of these will be supplied by the Bristol Omnibus Vehicle Collection, which shares garage space with Crosville’s own heritage fleet.

There will be static displays, a road-making demonstration and society stalls at the depot, admission to which will be by the purchase of a programme. This also allows you unlimited travel on any of the timetabled services running on the day. Also on display will be some of the modern bus and coach fleet, together with some interesting Crosville restoration projects including an AEC Matador recovery vehicle.

I’ve had great fun designing an advert for the event, which you can also download as a PDF, if you feel like printing one out. I’m sure they’d welcome any help with spreading the word!

Crosville Running Day A4 poster

If any of you are qualified PCV drivers with crash gearbox experience or have done conducting and would like to help, please call the Crosville office on 01934 635259. I’ve got my name down for this event (how could I miss it?) and I’m secretly hoping to have a go in one of the Bristol Ks. The only down side is that it’s on a Sunday, when I’m usually to be found in church, but I’m making a special exception this time!

In other news, I’m off up to Cheltenham tomorrow. No, not the races! I’m out with the Hants & Dorset Bristol FLF again, providing transport for a wedding. The forecast is appalling though, so spare a thought for yours truly as I battle through wind and weather.

Rain stops play… almost

Yesterday dawned slowly. In other words, it was barely getting light at 7am when normally it would be bright enough to set the senses jingling at the prospect of a new day. It hadn’t improved much by the time I left home for what may possibly be my last conducting turn on the Service 400 ‘Exmoor Explorer’. Arriving at the Bishops Lydeard garage of Quantock Motor Services I was rather alarmed to see Bristol LDL6G VDV752 already out on the road and ready to go. Even more worryingly, there was already a conductor inside! However, it turned out a ‘clerical error’ had been made in the office and the aforementioned conductor left soon afterwards. Home to bed again, I was told.

We proceeded up to Porlock for breakfast, about an hour’s drive with an empty bus, through several showers of rain. On the way we passed through the appropriately named village of Washford (above). Today, I decided, it should be re-named ‘Awash-ford’. Arriving at Porlock’s Doverhay car park, I decided to delay wiping down the upper deck seats until AFTER we’d had breakfast at the Lorna Doone Hotel. I needn’t have worried. There weren’t any passengers to occupy them. We departed, still empty, for Minehead and parked at the seafront stop in a huge puddle of rainwater.

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Another trainee bus conductor

I’ve started training yet another young bus conductor to join the roster at Quantock. We were out on the Service 400 “Exmoor Explorer” on Saturday and, after shadowing me on the morning trip, he donned my Setright machine and cash bag and conducted on the afternoon trip.

He did quite well for his first outing so it won’t be long before he can go solo. In fact I was quite proud of him. And so I should be, he’s my youngest son!

Eventually, once I’ve passed my PCV practical test, we’ll make a good driver/conductor team.

I was out both days this weekend and the rostered drivers were both new to me as they’re both relative newcomers to the company and have only done the 400 route a few times. One of them really struggled with the crash gearbox, mostly due to the fact that he was still unfamiliar with the route and couldn’t judge the best places to change gear. Several times he tried to change up but the bus almost rolled to a standstill on the uphill gradient while the engine revs died away. The other driver seemed to have less trouble and we had a smoother ride.

We met and passed some unusual traffic this weekend. A 1950s motorbike (one lung, put-put-put), Quantock’s brand new Dart bus on the Service 39, two enormous green tractors hauling balers, an old Alvis car on it’s way back from the WSR Steam Fayre, several cyclists and two horses.

I’ve got an interesting trip coming up in a few weeks time. It involves a 1957 Bristol Lodekka, a seaside town and an old photograph. See my next post for more details!

When is it OK for a conductor to leave the platform?

Answer: when oncoming traffic brings everything to a standstill.

Today was the final training session for my young apprentice conductor and we were confronted with some useful real-life dramas. She was in charge of the bus (under my supervision of course) and handled the platform and the passengers well. With an almost full load we had just started attacking Edgcott Hill in first gear when we were confronted by a string of cars coming down the hill. The driver of the lead car tried her best to make room to pass in the narrow lane but came to rest with the front of her car buried in the hedge and the rear sticking out at an angle, effectively blocking our way. Looking over the rail on the top deck, we (and about 30 top deck passengers) watched as the driver tried to shunt herself clear. I could see it was never going to work so I ran down the stairs and, after checking that the driver had the handbrake on, dinged the bell once and jumped off the platform. I directed the flustered lady at the wheel to turn hard right and bring the front of her car down from the hedge. The back of her car then swung in just enough for us to pass so I hopped back on board, gave the driver two bells and we were away. Still in first gear but making progress nonetheless.

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