It may have been a last minute substitution for a vintage double deck bus, but ‘Bosworth’ the Bedford OB coach was the perfect replacement.
Saturday was a glorious day and I eagerly stepped aboard ex-Crosville SL71 (MFM39). This was the first time I had experienced an OB, either as a driver or a passenger, so I prepared myself for a steep learning curve. My first problem was that everything appeared to be dead so, having checked all the fluid levels, I started looking for the master switch. Nobody I spoke to knew where it was but I found it eventually, lurking underneath one of the seats. Back in the driving seat, I turned the ignition key and the engine burst into life with a little bit of choke. It soon settled down to the wonderful 6-in-a-bar burble that only a straight-6 petrol engine can make.
Armed with a fuel card I edged out of the depot, gathering mental data all the time. I topped up the fuel tank and headed out of Weston-super-Mare towards the village of Banwell. This delightful coach is actually owned by Trevor Smallwood but was hired on this occasion to Crosville Motor Services. It shares the garage with the Crosville fleet full time and is looked after by their staff. Like the majority of its brethren, this 1950-built OB wears the elegant bodywork of Duple. The rounded body and sweeping curves of the detailing are typical of this pre-war design. Many years earlier, when it was first restored, Bosworth was owned by Terry Jones who, at the time, was only 20 and didn’t have a driving licence! Coincidentally, I photographed Bosworth in 1988 in Torquay when Terry had first licenced it for commercial service. I didn’t know then that I would be driving it in service 25 years later!
The sun shone down and warmed up the interior as I drove on towards Wells so I opened the windscreen, which is hinged at the top on the driver’s side. The cooling breeze felt good! I didn’t seem to be having much trouble with the crash gearbox but my position on the road was a problem. I knew that the driving seat was positioned more towards the centre of the vehicle than most of the buses I’d driven before but I was surprised at the difference it made to one’s perception of the width of the bus. Using my mirrors often, I noticed that the offside wheels were often running on the white line in the centre of the road while I had a clear 2ft gap on the nearside! It actually took me most of the day to really get used to this.