I’ve written before about what kindled my interest in vintage transport. That should more properly be ‘who’ because it was largely my father’s interest in anything to do with all forms of transport that rubbed off on me.
He would often sit me in the saddle of his extremely loud (to me, as a 3 year old lad) single cylinder motorcycle as it sat in the back garden. He would take me down to the railway station at Salisbury to watch the fast-disappearing steam hauled expresses.
Then there were the buses. Big, red and lumbering. I loved every journey. One day we both took a ride, just for the fun of it. We took the Wilts & Dorset number 61 from Wilton Road into town and then took the number 59 ( I think) up to the end of Devizes Road. Like most of the town services in the early 1960s, it was operated by one of many Bristol Lodekkas. There the bus would lay over until it was time to return from whence it came.
The next day dawned bright and sunny in marked contrast to the gloomy weather of the previous day. I was due to conduct on a private hire job with VDV 752, one of our ex-Western National open top Bristol LDL6Gs. With steam from a nearby BR Standard 9F locomotive billowing over the yard, I helped my driver shunt buses around to release our 53 year old relic of the road.
We were to pick up a party of people in Minehead and take them to a restaurant just outside Bishops Lydeard, just a couple of miles from where I stood! I decided to set some appropriate numbers on my Setright ticket machine. The family group were celebrating a 60th birthday so I set the fare at 60p and the fare stage to 60. I wondered if they would notice my little tribute?
We set off up the road to Minehead, about an hour’s drive away. It was to be a surprise party for the lady in question so we parked a little way down the road where she lived, beside a park. While we waited, I set the rear destination numbers to 60.
Before long, members of the family party began to arrive, laden with presents, champagne and pink balloons. As the lucky lady emerged from her house she was greeted by a cacophony of shouts and a chorus of kazoos. She appeared to be almost speechless as I welcomed her aboard! Moments later we were all set to leave so I gave my customary warning about overhanging branches and low bridges.
Just to pass the time (and to prove that I’m still here), I’ve delved back into my memory to bring you another snapshot in time from the half-cab era. This one involves the shady corner of a bus garage where a mechanic was ‘treading carefully’.
There was a time when bus operators were permitted to re-tread the tyres on their vehicles when they became worn down to the minimum legal tread depth. Maybe they still can – does anyone know?
Sometime in the 1960s (I was a small boy then) my Grandfather fixed it for me to have a look around the inside of the Wilts & Dorset bus garage in Salisbury. My eyes were out on stalks as we wandered round, watching MWs, KSWs and Lodekkas in various states of disassembly. I was even allowed to go into a pit, over which a bus was parked. I had no idea what I was looking at but I felt strangely privileged to be looking at the underside of a bus.
We were shown into a dark corner by the back doors where a couple of mechanics stood surrounded by wheels. Strewn around under their feet were zig-zag strips of rubber, the waste product of a handy tool one of them was wielding. As I watched, he held the tool in his gloved hand and guided it slowly along the shallow remants of the tyre’s tread. The tool, plugged into a substantial power supply, had a V-shaped cutting blade which evidently was heated by the electricity. Beneath the mechanic’s hand there appeared a brand new groove as a new zig-zag strip of rubber fell to the floor.