And a busy three days on the buses!
Good Friday found me at The South Devon Railway’s Buckfastleigh Station. As per last time, I’d agreed to meet John Keohane at the yard where RM 1872 is stored. Also there was Ex Grey Cars No.1, a 1963 AEC Harrington coach. The railway acquired this coach last year and it’s just had a class 6 MOT. Today would be its first day in revenue earning service.
John and I carried out our respective walk round checks then headed off to Buckfastleigh Station.
For Good Friday, the buses would be operating five trips along the route, a figure of eight that goes from the station, up to Buckfast Abbey then north along the A38 where it turns south, through Ashburton town, along what was the old A38 back to Buckfast Abbey and over the hill into Buckfastleigh village before making the return to the station. Departures are at 11:35, 13:10, 14:10, 15:10 and 16:10 with each trip taking 30 minutes, provided you don’t get held up by inconsiderate drivers parking in Buckfastleigh! The plan was for me to take the first journey in the Routemaster and John to do the 13: & 15:10 trips in the coach. No problem for me, I’d get an extended lunch break! The station cafe does an excellent selection of hot food.
Being Easter, the railway was busy and the local cadet force had been drafted in to control the car parking. The car park is quite large but access involves a 90 degree turn under an 8′ high low bridge with a single track roadway under the rails. Thus, for busy days like today, the cadets manned the checkpoint.
And, boringly (!), there were no untoward incidents whilst I was driving the bus! Day over, I headed up to Weston-super-Mare for my next driving stint.
Easter Saturday saw me doing a wedding hire for Crosville Motor Services. This was my first drive for Crosville, and my first drive of a crash-box bus, this year. The driving job was a heritage equivalent of a spread-over. Collect a party from an address in Worle, transport them to The Grand Pier, go back to the depot, return after the wedding and carry the guests back to the starting point. A relatively easy assignment but it involved travelling to the north eastern suburbs of Weston, somewhere I’d not been before. So, taking advantage of the fact that I would be in Weston fairly early on the Friday evening, I had a brief drive around the area checking out a route.
Saturday morning, and I had a bit of a lie-in! But time soon came to find my bus and get going. The bus was 972 EHW, a Bristol Lodekka new to Bristol Omnibus in 1959. Usual walk round checks done, collect my conductor, James, then head out. First drive of a crash box this year but soon discovered that I hadn’t forgotten how to drive this type. All gear changes went smoothly, some more smooth than others!
First pick up point was a private house in Worle but on a bus route so no problem getting to it. Wedding hires rarely go to time, and this was no exception! I arrived on time but had to wait for all the guests to get themselves ready. Photographer was there of course, and I found myself being asked to pose in front of the bus. http://www.emmabatemanphotography.com/ Trust I didn’t damage her camera too much. https://www.facebook.com/EmmaBatemanPhotography
Then finally everyone was onboard and I could take them down to The Grand Pier.
No problems along the route, and an empty bus stop by the pier for me to stop and disembark my passengers. Then the spread-over. Four hours to wait back at Crosville’s depot. Chance for a bite to eat, and a book to read.
My job ticket asked me to pick up the guests after the ceremony at 16:45. I arrived just before then and waited. As I said, wedding hires rarely go to time. It was gone five before anyone came off the pier and walked towards my bus. Once all were safely onboard, I could transport them back to the house in Worle. Finally, I got the bus, and James, back to the Crosville depot. Fill out all the paperwork and head off to my next job. Back at Buckfastleigh!
Again, I met John Keohane at the yard where RM 1872 is stabled. Plan was as per Friday, to take both vehicles and use in service. I kept the RM, John had the coach. Weather back at Buckfastleigh wasn’t too bad, no rain, or snow! Thus the railway was proving popular. The station has a large car park but on good days, it can fill up. Today was a good day! Operation Park & Ride kicked in. The plan for today was for me to do the 11:35 departure on the normal route then John would take over whilst I went to Park & Ride. The cadets were controlling everything, and doing a great job. If I needed to contact them, they had provided me with a radio and told me my handle was “Playtime!” They assured me that this was a military term for anything related to transport, but as it was also April Fool’s Day, I wasn’t totally convinced!
So, once back from the first service journey, the bus blinds were set to Special, and I drove over to the park & ride site where a small queue of intending passengers had gathered.
Load up and make for the station. Shortest route would have been through Buckfastleigh village but not wanting to get stuck behind yet another badly parked car, I headed back the way I had come via Buckfast Abbey. There’s a wonderful view of The Abbey as you drive over the hill, something I miss on the regular journeys as I’m looking the other way. Two more trips on the park & ride then time for a break.
John seemed to be having good loads on his coach but I was concentrating on park & ride. By the middle of the afternoon, I thought I might chance a return from the park & ride site to the station via Buckfastleigh village. I thought I was in a parallel universe! No badly parked cars in the village, in fact, no parked cars at all! I never had such an easy run through the village.
The normal last service run from Buckfastleigh Station is 16:10 but on park & ride, we wait for the last train to come in from Totnes at 18:10 unless the car park has emptied. Today, we had to wait for the last train. But not a problem, just told my wife that I’d be a bit late home!
Easter Monday? Back home and some time with my long suffering wife! Not a bus in sight.