To Burtle and back

It’s always the same with buses. You wait ages for one and then several turn up all at once. And so it is with these blog posts. Here come two vintage posts but, so that I don’t tax your little grey cells too much, the next one will be along shortly.

I recently had the pleasure of driving another Leyland PD2 belonging to Quantock Heritage, for a wedding duty on my own patch.

It’s one of a handful of wedding hire duties I’ve agreed to do for the company just to stay current with vintage buses, if that’s not too much of an oxymoron. It came during a spell of very wet and squally weather we’d been enduring in June 2019, supposedly the height of summer! It also gave me a chance to work again with my conductress friend Cherry Selby.

My allocated bus was Stockport Corporation No 65 (HJA965E), a 1967 Leyland PD2/40 with East Lancs double deck bodywork. Although a late model (rear engined buses had already been around for about 6 years by the time No 65 entered service), the Corporation still favoured the traditional layout with an open rear platform. I’ve worked with this bus before, notably in 2007 when I was a conductor during the Quantock ‘Taunton Christmas Park and Ride’ operation, when I nearly froze to the platform in the bitterly cold weather!

I prepared the bus outside the small depot near Wiveliscombe with a little help from Steve, the boss. He was due to go out later with newly-restored Birmingham City Transport Leyland PS2 No.2257 (JOJ 257). If I play my cards right, I might get a turn later in the year!

When I started the Leyland O.600 engine it idled so slowly that I had to keep my foot on the gas a little for fear of it stopping altogether. It didn’t, and even when warmed up, it still ticked over slowly. In a funny sort of way it was quite pleasing because the injector pump had been set up so well (Steve favours Leylands and knows how to look after them) that there was no trace of hunting either. A very far cry from the similar Leyland PD2/3 that I used to drive in Torbay, which idled very fast due to a split diaphragm in the pump. This was only cured after I’d moved away!

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Christmas Park and Ride duties

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!

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