Bristol Lodekka outing to Clevedon

My first heritage bus duty of 2020 was a wedding in Clevedon using ex-Southern Vectis 573, a Bristol Lodekka I have driven many times before.

It was also my first duty from Crosville Vintage’s recently established storage unit just outside Weston-super-Mare which is best suited to the double deck members of the fleet. There had been a vehicle change during the previous week because a London Transport RT had originally been allocated but this vehicle was still under repair elsewhere in the UK. I didn’t mind using YDL318 instead as I am very familiar with it. Besides, I have a Tilling winter uniform but not a London Transport one!

Also during the previous week I had used a couple of spare hours between school contract runs to carry out a recce by car in Clevedon because I was not sure about access for the bus into Clevedon Hall. This is a large hotel near the sea, formerly a private residence, which is a popular wedding venue. There is a driveway up to the original main entrance but there isn’t enough room to turn a bus around so I went into the hotel reception and found out that, when they have coach parties arrive, the vehicle reverses up the drive. I walked down and visualised a Lodekka doing a reversing manoever. Satisfied that it was all do-able, I went on to St Andrew’s Church which is only about 10 minutes drive down the road. There is a narrow one-way system serving the church where low hanging branches also posed a problem but I decided that there were alternatives!

Having earlier had a guided tour of the storage unit I arrived on the Saturday morning to prepare and do my walk round checks. Since having an engine overhaul last year, the Gardner 6LW seems to be reluctant to burst into life when cold so there were a few anxious moments while I coaxed the old girl into life. In previous years I remember she would fire up after a couple of turns. The storage unit soon filled with pungent exhaust smoke so I quickly brought the FS outside into the open.

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Bringing a 1947 Leyland PD1 from Yorkshire to Somerset

Due to the unfortunate collapse of a company in Yorkshire, I had the chance to collect a Leyland PD1 and drive it all the way to Weston-super-Mare following its purchase by a local collector.

But first, an apology. If you are reading this, you are either subscribed to my blog or you are a very patient watcher! I’m aware that I haven’t posted much recently but this is due to a lack of time to write more material rather than a lack of any bus-related activity. I have several more posts up my sleeve and I’ll do my best to bring them to you as soon as I can.

The subject of this post is Wigan Corporation 34 (JP6032), a 1947 Leyland PD1 with a Leyland 53-seat lowbridge body. For many years it had been a stalwart of the Yorkshire Heritage Bus Co fleet until financial difficulties led eventually to the entire fleet being put into the hands of a receiver. As ever in these situations, there was the possibility that some of these might be sold abroad or worse, broken up for spares. Jonathan Jones-Pratt bought five of the vehicles and my friend Dave Moore and I were approached to act as ‘ferry drivers’.

We were assured that both our buses had been checked over by someone at the secure yard where they were being stored so all seemed OK for the long journey south. As per usual, I did quite a bit of route research and found that there was a low railway bridge on the most obvious route from the yard to the south-bound M1, so I planned a route that would take me via Tankersley on more suitable roads.

Armed with the address where the buses were stored, Dave and I set off early in the morning by train and arrived at Penistone station about midday. A short taxi ride took us to a remote location where the Yorkshire Heritage fleet was parked in a secure compound. A couple of staff from the facility met us and showed us the two buses we were to bring back. My first impression of the PD1 was that it was OK if a little tatty. Dust and cobwebs indicated that this bus had not been used for a while!

Dave was to bring back a smart looking London Transport RT so he began his walkaround checks while I took stock of the Wigan PD1. I had a look around the RT too, (RT2591, a 1951 AEC Regent III RT3 with Park Royal body) and although the exterior is very presentable, the interior looked a bit tired, with several seats having damage. In its favour though were several original interior adverts dating from the decimal currency change-over in February 1971.

The Wigan PD1 really was an unknown quantity as nobody there had any experience of the vehicle so I poked around for quite a while before starting it up and checking all the usual daily check items. The engine started first time and ticked over slowly with a characteristic Leyland ‘hunting’ rhythm. Apparently new batteries had been fitted in readiness for the journey. I took the bus out of the compound and drove it up and down the nearby yard, just to get a feel of the vehicle and check that I could make it stop as well as make it go!

My checks revealed that the nearside front indicator wasn’t working so, while I waited for a chap to fit a new bulb, I took the above photo. I also noticed that the charge lamp on the control box in the cab wasn’t going out, even when I revved the engine so I highlighted this as well. The two chaps spent a while fiddling about and proclaimed, after watching the headlights while the engine was revved, that the dynamo was charging, despite the red lamp not going out. I was not convinced and decided not to stop the engine until I’d reached Weston-super-Mare, just in case!

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1940s Festival on the South Devon Railway

Back in early July I took a Bristol L5G down to Buckfastleigh to take part in the South Devon Railway’s popular 1940s Festival.

The single deck bus was very familiar to me, having been a regular allocation during my time with Crosville Motor Services in Weston-super-Mare. Ex-Crosville KG131 (1950-built KFM893) still lives in Weston and is now part of the re-launched Crosville Vintage operation so my first task was to drive it down from Weston to Buckfastleigh, a distance of about 80 miles.

The Bristol L trundles along at about 42 mph on the motorway so it took about an hour and a half to complete the journey. On the way I had to face the stiff climb up Haldon Hill which, even with an empty bus, reduced my speed to about 15 mph. It’s at times like these that I feel quite vulnerable on dual carriageways and motorways due to my slow speed, relative to other traffic so I was relieved to turn off the A38 for the final few yards to the station forecourt at the South Devon Railway‘s station at Buckfastleigh.

My first departure wasn’t until 11:00 so I had time for a 45 minute break before starting service. I used that time to wander around the station and found myself in a time warp. I was surrounded by people in 1940s outfits as well as the uniformed railway staff. Visitors and re-enactors alike had gone to extraordinary lengths to enter in to the spirit of the event.

In a field adjacent to the station forecourt there was an impressive gathering of military vehicles and paraphenalia. I lost count of the number of wartime Willys Jeeps! On the station platform I passed a policeman in authentic 1940s uniform. In fact I saw him several times during the day, which turned out to be very hot and humid. To his credit (and probably his discomfort too), he kept his full uniform on all day!

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Back to The Good Life for RT935

My role as a delivery driver seems to be continuing into the Spring. Not that I’m complaining of course. The cold, dark, gloom of winter is usually a bus-less time for me so I’ve been glad to have been offered some long distance driving jobs recently.

RT935-washed-at-depot

This London Transport RT has been stored in the Crosville depot for a few months, having been acquired from a group of enthusiasts in Basingstoke but never used. It was sold on recently and I was called upon to deliver it to Cambridgeshire, where it was going to have a roof repair done before being collected by its new owner.

The photo above shows RT935 (JXN325) outside the depot just after having had a ‘wash and brush up’ a few days ago.

The 1948-built bus originally carried a Park Royal body but the present (Weymann) one was fitted during an overhaul at LT’s Aldenham works in 1964. Several manufacturers built RT bodies to a standard design so that, during overhaul, chassis and body could be refurbished separately. To speed things up, the chassis would receive another RT body – not necessarily the one it had come in with! RT935 entered preservation in 1971 and, although well cared for in the years since then, remains in largely ex-service condition.

It felt rather bizarre to turn up at the depot early one morning this week for another RT turn. It was only a few weeks ago that I had driven RTW29 back from the London Bus Museum at Brooklands! Although RT935 had been moved the day before for washing and fuelling, it was reluctant to start due to its long period of inactivity. I had to get a fitter to hook up a booster pack before I could get it going. The 9.6ltr AEC diesel coughed and spluttered into life, filling the garage with acrid, bluey-white exhaust smoke. I left it running for a bit while I did my walkaround, checking the lights and so on. I didn’t realise it then, but I would later find that the engine would also be reluctant to stop!

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RTW29 returns to Crosville

London Transport RT-type buses are not often seen out and about in the London Country area so it was with a sense of great honour that I found myself behind the wheel of KGK529 doing just that.

RTW29-London-Bus-Museum

RTW29 (KGK529) has been on loan to the London Bus Museum at Brooklands for several months and I was called upon to drive it back to its home garage in Weston-super-Mare. To give me plenty of daylight hours in which to drive, I stayed overnight with relatives in Surrey so that I could make an early, if rather chilly, start from the Museum.

Motorcycle-garage-doors

It also gave me a chance to wander around the historic site, the home of the famous Brooklands banked racing track. The bus museum is right next to the aviation and motoring museums so, being interested in graphic styles of bygone days, I couldn’t help noticing the motorcycle workshop garage doors!

The bus had been moved out of the garage the previous day so, when I arrived, it was parked outside ready to go. The chaps at the museum were very helpful, especially Simon, who owns an RT himself so was the ideal person to help check the bus over. This became immediately apparent when I came to find the dipstick. RTW29 has the same type of engine (a Leyland O.600) as the PD2 that I drive for English Riviera Sightseeing Tours but, where I expected to find a dipstick, there was just a large hollow pipe with a sprung lid on top.

RTW29-oil-top-up

I learned that these had a tendency to go missing in the old days so it became common practice for the dipstick to be kept in a safe place in the depot where the bus was based. It wasn’t long before Simon produced the correct stick for an RTW from the museum workshop, dipped the sump and topped it up with a drop of heritage oil. I later found an identical one well hidden inside the bus. Simon went back inside and came back armed with another dipstick, this one especially designed for RT fuel tanks with a curved end and graduated markings. We soon deduced that the tank was full to the brim and I wouldn’t have to worry about refuelling on the way back.

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