Sightseeing Bus Summer Snippets

With the school summer holidays having kicked off, now is a good time to review the Sightseeing Bus season so far.

This my main occupation during the summer months and, with two buses in operation now, I’m doing tours Monday to Friday. The operating season started in May, with the majority of passengers at the senior end of the age spectrum.

Weather is always a major factor in passenger numbers and indeed whether we run at all. There was one day in May when foul weather – wall to wall heavy rain – was forecast so we elected to leave the open top Leyland PD2 covered up until the next day. June was much better, with improving loads as the month progressed. The last week in July brought the best day of the year so far, with 52 people on one tour. The bus has seating for 56 so we were virtually full. I’ll come back to that particular run later.

FFY403-Babbacombe-Inn

One very pleasing development this year has been the decision of the operator to invest in some more busman’s dust jackets. Normally uniform is optional, with some crews opting to wear the more informal printed sweatshirts. Ever since I started, I’ve worn a traditional bus crew uniform and last year bought myself a burgundy and tan dust jacket that matches the bus livery. I’m glad to say that my regular tour guide has decided to wear a jacket and cap so we both look as if we belong! People do appreciate it and I’m sure it helps to draw in some of our older clientele, with whom the tradtitional style of uniform resonates.

FFY403-with-crew-2016In the main photo above, the open topper has just stopped on Babbacombe Downs with a full load of primary school pupils. The bus had been hired as a Year 6 ‘Prom’ treat and we paused here to allow the children on the lower deck to swap places with those on top.

FFY403-front-adverts

You may have noticed that the bus now wears two front corner adverts. These promote two of our local attractions and have been produced in the same style as those which adorned our local Devon General buses years ago.

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Bus crew style dust jackets

I know some of you are still waiting for news of the long-awaited replica Tilling dust jackets. Thanks for being patient – it will be worth the wait. But for those who are keen to have a look-alike jacket ready for the 2015 season, there is an alternative.

JK37-Yarmo-summer-dust-jacket

This is a bus-style jacket produced by Yarmouth Stores, a workwear manufacturer on the east coast of England. They’ve been making these for several years now and they look quite convincing if you regularly play the part of a traditional bus driver or bus conductor. In fact I used to wear one of these before I found an original one online. I’m wearing a Yarmo jacket in the photo below, which was taken by Cherry Selby, a lovely lady conductor who took me under her wing when I first started conducting.

Yarmouth-Stores-jacketSold under the ‘Yarmo‘ brand, the Summer Bus Jackets (ref JK37) are available in most sizes with a choice of green or maroon trim. When their new website goes live you will be able to purchase these online but, until then, call Yarmouth Stores on 0800 1300521 and ask for Sharon, the Sales Manager. The price is a very reasonable £31.95 plus £3.50 for delivery. If you ask nicely and mention ‘Busman’s Holiday’ you might even get a small discount!

If you have your own collection of bus uniform buttons you can use them with these jackets because the black plastic buttons provided are removable and have a split-ring fastening just like the originals.

I ought to point out that these jackets are made to a freelance pattern and the fabric is polyester, rather than the cotton twill that the originals were made from.

If you are interested in uniform trousers as well – complete with coloured piping down the legs, these are available from Yarmo as well. Like the jackets, these are made from polyester fabric and come in most sizes. You can choose from yellow, red or green piping. I wear a pair of these in the summer as they are much lighter and more comfortable than the original woollen serge trousers.

In other news, it’s nearly time to blow the cobwebs off the 1947 PD2 bus in readiness for the 2015 sightseeing season and I have my first Crosville private hire duty of the year in about 10 days’ time.

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!

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!

Tilling summer jacket on Ebay

[Edit: this auction has now ended]

One of my blog readers has just spotted this Tilling summer dust jacket, ex-Eastern National, on Ebay. I can’t vouch for its quality but, looking at the photograph, its not bad!

Tilling Group Bus Driver’s Jacket

The auction ends on Saturday, June 30th 2012, at 10:53 so put your bid in if you’re interested. When it comes to acquiring one, these are becoming as rare as hen’s teeth. When I was looking for one, I resorted to having one made especially for me by a workwear company in Yarmouth before I was able to buy a genuine one.

The down side is that it is likely to go for a fair amount of money. However, in this case, it is being sold for a good cause. Apparently the money raised will be used in the restoration of a 1950s Eastern National bus (I don’t know which one, though).

Lunch break for Bristol bus crew

Here’s a photo of a bus crew in about 1969, taking a lunch break in Blackhorse, Bristol. I came across this image by chance, while my father-in-law was scanning his collection of colour transparencies onto his computer.

Bristol Tramways bus crew at Blackhorse

The subject of the photograph wasn’t the bus crew, in fact they only occupy a corner of the image. The main event (the opening of a new church building) was taking place behind them. I’ve cropped everything else out to illustrate the uniform of the time and to chuckle at the Elvis hairstyle and loud socks. Curiously, the conductor has placed the chin strap (normally an obsolete feature, just above the cap’s peak) over the top of the cap. I wonder why?

Their green and cream Bristol Omnibus steed, probably a Bristol LD or FLF, was out of shot to the left.

I’m interested to note that, although both the conductor and driver are wearing summer dust jackets, the conductor’s cap doesn’t have a white top. Some operators issued these removable fabric covers (or ‘gloves’) to crews in the summer but the practice doesn’t seem to be as widespread in Tilling group companies as I’d thought. I’ve seen another image recently of a Western National crew wearing summer jackets but not white topped caps. Words of wisdom, anyone?