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.
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!
January 5th 2014 dawned with a sharp frost and bright sunshine, which later turned to cloud and persistent drizzle. Perhaps this summed up the mood of those who attended a special event to mark the closure of Salisbury Bus Station.
Wiltshire’s capital city has had a central bus station for 75 years but now, due to the ageing buildings and the changing nature of the company which has inherited them, the city has decided that it can do without the familiar starting point for most of its bus services.
Thanks to a remarkably timed contact with the owners of a surviving Wilts & Dorset Bristol Lodekka, I had the privilege of driving this bus during the running day. The photo below, taken by Dave Mant, shows me leaving the bus station with the first departure of the day to Nunton and Bodenham.
Note the similarity between this and my shot of the same location which I took in 1973. Fleet no 628, an LD6G which was new in December 1956, has been owned since it was taken out of service as a driver trainer, by two delightful brothers. They also own a Hants & Dorset FS6G. I met up with them at the bus station and before I knew it, was climbing into the cab just before departure time. Allan and Kevin were happy for me to take the bus out on the first trip because I knew my way round the route, thanks to my customary homework (and a dry run in the car the night before!)
The bus station was rapidly filling with heritage buses, most of which had a local connection. Also adding to the general busyness was a good number of enthusiasts, local residents and bus industry management. As soon as I drove the Lodekka onto the departure stand, people flocked to board our bus. I had a few moments to compose myself. It was both emotional and nerve-wracking, sitting behind the wheel of a bus I had seen and ridden on as a boy while also focussing on the task of driving as faultlessly as possible.
Posted today by Tom Edwards on the BBC web site is a first look at London’s new ‘son of Routemaster’. The bus is currently at pre-production mock-up stage and looks more like a film set prop than a bus fit for 21st century London.
I haven’t been following the project particularly, I’m more interested in the real Routemasters and other buses of that era. But the new ‘Boris Bus’ is fascinating because, like the reborn Mini, VW Beetle and Fiat 500, it attempts to capture some of the features that made the Routemaster such an icon. The most obvious one is the open rear platform but, as a conductor myself, I fail to see how Transport for London (TfL) is going to make any money out of this when the driver and his till are at the front. I must admit that I haven’t looked into how they plan to operate it but I presume they’ve looked into this obvious loophole.
I certainly hope so. After all, Boris Johnson (a.k.a. the government) has committed to spend £7.8 million on it!