This afternoon I had a surprise conducting turn to Canonteign Estate, Devon. Fortunately I didn’t have to drive all the way up to Somerset first, I’d arranged to meet my driver at Exeter Services. In fact we arrived at almost the same moment! As I drew up to the lights beside the motorway, so did 2 double deck buses from Quantock Motor Services.
The job was to pick up a large wedding party (hence the two vehicles) from St David’s Church, Exeter and take them to Canonteign Estate, a splendid Georgian mansion deep in the stunningly beautiful Teign Valley near Chudleigh. My driver was also the boss and we had an ex-Ipswich Corporation AEC Regent V. The other bus was an ex-Stockport Corporation Leyland PD3. Strangely enough they both had the same bodywork – by Neepsend (East Lancs) so, apart from the liveries and engines, they looked quite similar.
We drove in convoy through the centre of Exeter, drawing glances from the Saturday shoppers, in plenty of time to meet the wedding party. Almost as soon as we arrived the church bells began to ring. Were they for us or the happy couple?!
Two ushers hurried out of the church, both bearing large metal vases containing spectacular flower arrangements. Worryingly, they headed towards the buses. Apparently the flowers needed to accompany the guests to the reception venue but the only place on the bus they could travel was on the platform! The other conductor and I both agreed to prop up the flowers on the journey, lest they topple over. Which was a pity because I was then unable to issue any souvenir tickets after we set off!
OK, so Christmas was several weeks ago but I think I can just about get away with a Christmas-related post!
For people like me, who only work on buses part time (and then only during the tourist season) the winter months are like a drought. No heritage bus activity and, apart from the annual Christmas meal, no contact with my bus colleagues.
So you can imagine that a regular winter duty helps to break up the long wait before the new season begins. This was the case until a couple of years ago. Quantock Motor Services were contracted by the local Council to run a park and ride service for Christmas shoppers, using heritage buses. The route went from the Blackbrook estate (near the motorway junction) into the centre of Taunton and ran annually until 2008, when a purpose-built Park and Ride Car Park was completed. A year-round bus service was tendered and Quantock’s fleet was no longer needed.
Those of us that crewed the vehicles (usually 6 ran all day) really enjoyed the challenge of running a ‘proper’ bus service, with 10 minutes separation, throughout the day. We ran this service on the five Saturdays leading up to Christmas, although I didn’t ever do all five due to other committments. Fares were only 50p – a bargain – but no bus passes were valid. You’d be surprised how many older folk begrudged having to part with 50p when they found they couldn’t use their passes!
We used a variety of vintage vehicles on the service. Open platform as well as front entrance double deckers, single deck buses and coaches but definitely no open toppers! I’m pictured above on the platform of an ex-Stockport Corporation Leyland PD2 during the first occasion I conducted on this service. This was before I managed to find a genuine Tilling Group winter uniform and, dressed in a lightweight jacket, I sometimes f-f-froze on that open platform!
And so another seasons ends. The final weekend of services on the ‘Exmoor Explorer’ route was operated under clear skies and brilliant sunshine. A bonus for bus enthusiasts on Sunday was the addition of a Leyland PD3 parked behind our Bristol Lodekka during the lunchtime break between services.
XTF98D is a Leyland PD3, built in 1966 for the Haslingden (Lancashire) corporation as their Fleet No 1 but renumbered 45 when that company’s fleet merged with that of Rawtenstall to form ‘Rossendale’, whose livery it wears today. It had just dropped off a private party outside the railway station at Minehead.