The chilly morning air hung motionless above the River Dart as I met my new colleague, who was wiping the dewy moisture from the windows of our bus. I have joined Greenway Ferry Pleasure Cruises to drive their vintage bus from Torquay to Greenway House, Galmpton. The other driver and I had met before so we went through the walk round checks together.
I was to spend the day learning the route so I sat behind the driver as we set off up the steep hill from Greenway Quay, where the bus is stabled overnight when in service. The window behind the driver has been removed to facilitate One Person Operation so he was able to point out things along the way and give me tips and advice.
After negotiating the narrow lane from Greenway through the village of Galmpton we emerged onto the main Brixham to Paignton road and headed north towards Torquay. We had left early so we parked beside Paignton Green for a while so that we could chat to passers by and drum up business.
The bus drew many admiring glances. It is a 1947 Leyland Tiger PS1, delivered originally to H. Bullock of Featherstone, Yorkshire. It has had a long, hard life. After operating on rural bus routes in Yorkshire it was sold out of service in 1965. It’s history since then is patchy and I’m determined to find out more about it. In the 1970s it was rescued for preservation from a gliding club and it is rumoured that a well known cast member from TV’s ‘Casualty’ was once an owner. It is also rumoured to have appeared on TV’s ‘Heartbeat’ as a mobile library but, for me, its greatest claim to fame is that it is one of only two roadworthy buses to carry a Barnaby body. Unless you know different, of course.
We carried on along the seafront in the sunshine to our first stop, in Belgrave Road, Torquay. After taking some leaflets into a nearby hotel, we awaited our two pre-booked passengers. For some reason they never showed up so we carried on to the next two stops in Torquay. Still no passengers, not even passing trade. Well, it was the first journey of the 2014 season so perhaps it takes a while for word to get around.
A few days ago I was able to add 2 more buses to my list of those driven. City of Exeter Guy Arab IV TFJ808 and Bournemouth Corporation Leyland PS2/3 JLJ403 had been on loan to Crosville Motor Services from a private collection and I was given the chance to help drive them back to their home depot.
My driving partner for the day was a chap called Paul, a regular visitor to this blog and at one time a driver for Hants & Dorset. We decided that, as we wanted to experience driving both vehicles, we would swap over part way to Devon. These 2 buses come from the West of England Transport Collection at Winkleigh, so we had quite a long drive ahead of us. This shot of the Guy at the depot might appear to show repairs in progress but actually shows the ever resourceful workshop manager estimating how full the cylindrical fuel tank was before we set out!
I elected to drive the Leyland single decker first so, after all checks had been done, we set off for the filling station. The PS2 is a relatively easy bus to drive, having a gearbox with synchromesh on all but first gear. While at Crosville it had never been used in service as quite a number of restoration and repair jobs needed to be done to bring it up to service standards so it appeared to be rather ‘tired’ in places. On this very hot day, I might have benefitted from more ventilation in the cab but the front window hinges were seized solid! The full-front body not only seals the driver into the same confined space as the engine, it also gives him the full aural benefit of it too! I would not have liked to have been cooped up in that cab all day when the coach (as it was configured then) was operating the Town Circular Tour for Bournemouth Corporation.
We had decided that, as neither bus was suited to motorway driving, we would stick to A-roads as much as we could. So, having topped up the fuel tanks, we set off southwards in stately convoy. We paused on the outskirts of Highbridge to check that we hadn’t sprung any leaks or lost any wheels. Despite its rather run-down appearance, the PS2 drove beautifully. The steering is light (for a bus of this era), with no wobble or play. The synchromesh works as advertised, meaning that I didn’t need to double-declutch as I would do in a Bristol Lodekka. In fact the experience was very similar to driving the Southport PD2 in Torquay recently (see previous post). And so it should, they were built within 2 years of each other and feature the same engine/gearbox combination.