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.
Alongside my coach driving duties for Bakers Dolphin, I’ve been able to keep my crash box skills up to date with some of the ex-Crosville heritage fleet.
I had made it known that I’d be happy to do a few voluntary turns, if any came up. Towards the end of the summer term, Uphill Primary School in Weston-super-Mare had requested that a vintage bus attend the School and Village Fair in the school grounds. Crosville had provided a bus for static display for several years running and I was asked to take a bus – any bus – to the Fair. Mrs Busman John was keen to come along as well so we chose to take open top Crosville DFG81 (Bristol FSF6G 891VFM) as the weather seemed once again to be wall-to-wall sunshine.
The Lodekka hadn’t seen any action since the closure of Crosville in April so we went down to the depot early to make sure that she would start. Fortunately there were no problems so we drove the short distance to Uphill. After parking on the school field we left the bus open so that people could have a look around. Many did, most heading for the top deck! We had a look round the stalls and displays but, when we got back to the bus, found that I’d left the power on and some children were taking great delight in dinging the bell. Not only was it annoying for the nearby stall-holders but it might have depleted the batteries so I turned off the isolator when no-one was looking.
At the end of the afternoon we took the scenic route back to the depot – via the seafront of course – which pleased Mrs Busman John, who was naturally riding up top. Sensing the need for a cheeky photo opportunity, I drove into Locking Road Coach Park and briefly parked the Lodekka among the Bakers Dolphin coaches!
One of the stalwarts of Crosville’s heritage fleet returned recently from an external refurbishment and its appearance is now more authentic than it’s been for many years.
The 1962 Bristol FS6G (YDL318) was driven back from Yorkshire by my friend Paul Carpenter just in time to go on display at the Crosville Bus & Steam Rally in September. It took pride of place alongside last year’s new restoration, Bristol K6A HLJ44. During the event I used it to take a group of rally visitors on a guided tour of the Crosville depot.
For many years purists have complained that 573’s appearance was spoiled by having black window rubbers (illustrated here in an earlier photo). Nothing unusual in that for a Lodekka, I hear you say. But FS types from 1962 had cream rubber when new so I’m particularly pleased that the owner has gone to the trouble of reglazing the bus using cream rubber.
The other nagging issue was the front numberplate, which has been in the square format more usually seen on the earlier LD Lodekkas. Now the front cowl has been remodelled to match its original appearance, including the fitting of a specially cast fleet number. The Gardner 6LW engine has also been completely rebuilt to as-new condition.
The finishing touch has been the application of period advertising on both sides and at the rear. I’m sure you’ll agree that this bus has been transformed by the makeover and I take my hat off to the owner, who has spent thousands of pounds on the refurbishment. Following its debut appearance at the Crosville rally, 573 made the marathon journey – at 30mph! – back to the Isle of Wight to take part in the Isle of Wight Bus Museum’s ‘Beer, Buses & Walks’ event. Quite rightly, the bus drew many admirers and compliments were plentiful.
There are a few more buses in the restoration pipeline; a Bristol LL6B, a Bristol KSW6B and a Routemaster. Exciting times ahead!
Saturday was a good day to be in the heart of Bristol. But only if you were a protestor, a police officer on overtime or gay. But not if you were going to a wedding.
I should have known things weren’t going to be easy when I arrived at the garage to collect my bus for the day. YDL318, a Southern Vectis Bristol FS6G, had been helpfully parked outside ready to go. Except that it wasn’t. As part of my walk-around checks, I dipped the fuel tank and found that it was almost empty. The folks at the garage usually make sure that the bus I’ve been allocated has been fuelled up because I don’t have a fuel card but on this occasion this hadn’t been done. Fortunately I was able to borrow a card and so, after completing my checks, I made my first visit to a petrol station in charge of a bus.
I’m glad I wasn’t paying – it cost £126 to fill the tank!
If you’ve read the previous post you’ll remember that this bus only does 30mph so it took me about an hour to drive up to Bristol. The flip side to that is that, being a low-geared bus, it climbs hills surprisingly well. To reach my pickup point I drove up Jacobs Wells Road which involves quite a long uphill haul. This bus managed to get all the way to the top in 3rd gear! OK, so being empty probably made a difference but the FLF that I sometimes drive probably would have struggled.
The Avon Gorge Hotel clings to the cliffside very close to the city end of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, part of which you can see in the photo above. I turned the bus by reversing into a nearby side street and waited for the guests to emerge into the familiar grey dampness that masquerades as summer 2012.