“On the buses”

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  • 3rd May 2024 at 8:52 am #598712

    A first hand account of life on the buses by JohnP

    3rd May 2024 at 8:56 am #598713

    I do have some great memories from my years on the buses. The first 6 years were by far the best during the last throws of the National bus company. If anyone watched the on the buses series on TV it was quite remarkable how some of it was true to life. I worked at a small depot in East Devon for the Western National Omnibus Company. It was like a big family, most of the staff were old hands who had been there for years, all the senior staff had worked from the ground upwards and knew the job inside out. The general Manager who payed a visit every so often was treated like royalty, a respected man probably in his sixties who started as a parcel boy at 15 and worked his way all the way to the top; He had earned every bit of the respect he commanded. I remember starting my training on the first day, myself and two others were picked up in a rear platform double decker by the instructor, a jovial grey haired chap who took as through the basic controls of what seemed a huge vehicle to a 21 year old. 8 tons unladen, a crash gearbox, no power steering and vacuum brakes 13′ 6″ high and 8′ wide. The window behind the driver had been removed and the instructor sat on a special seat behind where he had a lever to apply the brakes if necessary. So off we went, first stop the local news agent where one of the trainees was dispatched to buy the sun newspaper for the instructor to peruse before using it to smack you round the back of the head the rest of the day if you missed a gear, crossed your hands on the steering wheel or couldn’t tell him what the last road sign we just passed was. We all took turns at the wheel and stopped off at various depots during the day for cups of tea and a sandwich. It wasn’t a long day but you were pretty tired at the end and your arms ached wrestling with the manual steering and your leg ached from the double de-clutching up and down the crash gearbox. After 3 weeks you would be expected to be test ready. You only got two chances normally so the training was quite intensive. The day before my test we were returning to the depot and I was following a lorry. I ran over what I thought was a small branch in the road but it turned out to be a metal re-enforcing bar and it was flipped up by the front wheel and pierced the fuel tank. We managed to remove the bar and plug the hole with some rags to get us back to the depot. Next day I arrived to find the bus I had done all my training on was still being repaired so I had a different bus and everyone is a bit different especially the gearbox which can be faster or slower when changing gear and I had one hour to get used to it before my test as if I wasn’t nervous enough. well I am pleased to say it was all OK and I passed my PSV test. Next day I was sent to Taunton depot where I was trained on the different types of bus in the fleet I would be driving then a few days route learning before I got my badge and would carry my first passengers.

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    3rd May 2024 at 9:01 am #598715

    Coincidence FV I have just this minute posted that I am looking forward to this thread! :good:

    3rd May 2024 at 9:05 am #598717

    I do have some great memories from my years on the buses. The first 6 years were by far the best during the last throws of the National bus company. If anyone watched the on the buses series on TV it was quite remarkable how some of it was true to life. I worked at a small depot in East Devon for the Western National Omnibus Company. It was like a big family, most of the staff were old hands who had been there for years, all the senior staff had worked from the ground upwards and knew the job inside out. The general Manager who payed a visit every so often was treated like royalty, a respected man probably in his sixties who started as a parcel boy at 15 and worked his way all the way to the top; He had earned every bit of the respect he commanded. I remember starting my training on the first day, myself and two others were picked up in a rear platform double decker by the instructor, a jovial grey haired chap who took as through the basic controls of what seemed a huge vehicle to a 21 year old. 8 tons unladen, a crash gearbox, no power steering and vacuum brakes 13′ 6″ high and 8′ wide. The window behind the driver had been removed and the instructor sat on a special seat behind where he had a lever to apply the brakes if necessary. So off we went, first stop the local news agent where one of the trainees was dispatched to buy the sun newspaper for the instructor to peruse before using it to smack you round the back of the head the rest of the day if you missed a gear, crossed your hands on the steering wheel or couldn’t tell him what the last road sign we just passed was. We all took turns at the wheel and stopped off at various depots during the day for cups of tea and a sandwich. It wasn’t a long day but you were pretty tired at the end and your arms ached wrestling with the manual steering and your leg ached from the double de-clutching up and down the crash gearbox. After 3 weeks you would be expected to be test ready. You only got two chances normally so the training was quite intensive. The day before my test we were returning to the depot and I was following a lorry. I ran over what I thought was a small branch in the road but it turned out to be a metal re-enforcing bar and it was flipped up by the front wheel and pierced the fuel tank. We managed to remove the bar and plug the hole with some rags to get us back to the depot. Next day I arrived to find the bus I had done all my training on was still being repaired so I had a different bus and everyone is a bit different especially the gearbox which can be faster or slower when changing gear and I had one hour to get used to it before my test as if I wasn’t nervous enough. well I am pleased to say it was all OK and I passed my PSV test. Next day I was sent to Taunton depot where I was trained on the different types of bus in the fleet I would be driving then a few days route learning before I got my badge and would carry my first passengers.

    3rd May 2024 at 9:54 am #598723

    I worked for the Bristol Bus Company in the 1970’s and can remember the guy who used to drive the bare chassis to the coach works, sat on a temporary seat, with a leather greatcoat and helmet with goggles

    always turned heads when he went past, he was a funny guy with a wicked sense of humor

    SF-801-Ind

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    3rd May 2024 at 10:27 am #598725

    Yes a vision from the past. Looks like a Bristol VR chassis probably destined for Lowestoft to receive it’s body at Eastern Coach Works.

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    3rd May 2024 at 11:10 am #598729

    Hi

    Did you do the Wells to Bath route in 1976 because I may have been one of your passengers

    3rd May 2024 at 11:44 am #598730

    WCB, that is a great picture. How far did he have to drive it?

    Is that the engine in the back?

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    3rd May 2024 at 4:29 pm #598738

    @Bonjour

    yes that is the engine in the rear, an as far as I can recall it was a Bristol “VR” double decker chassis

    mostly he drove them to a coach works that was Bristol side of Birmingham, but he also took a lot out on shorter “test drives” before they were then sent  further afield

    I worked  in the procurement department scheduling and sourcing electrical items like wiring looms and lighting units for the “CKD” department

    CKD means “complete kit dispatch”  and was for buses destined to go all over the world, they were packed in crates as kits, along with the chassis and motor and shipped via sea freight from Avonmouth, and assembled locally in the country of arrival

    all done on paper, before computers and the manifest for a single bus could run into hundreds of pages

    4th May 2024 at 1:02 pm #598746

    IN THE BEGINNING

    I will start with a little background. I was born in London. My earliest memories come from the age of 4. Even at that age I was showing a keen interest in anything mechanical and music. On my forth birthday I was given a second-hand wind up gramophone and some 78 records which I spent hours listening to. Every so often I would be treated to a new record, names like Perry Como, Tommy Steele and Mario Lanza spring to mind. If I sat on the window sill in my bedroom I could overlook the local railway station and watch the steam trains arriving and shunting backwards and forwards. My mother and I would often catch a trolly bus into the local high street. I remember the conductor shouting “hold tightly please” as he rang the bell, You needed to, those things used to accelerate like a sports car. We moved within a year out of London but I had firm memories of trolley buses, steam trains, police boxes(pre Dr Who) and AA bikes with sidecars whose rider would salute anyone dislpaying an AA badge. Now in East Grinstead after a few months in Pevensey,  I was in the territory of London transport green fleet, Maidstone and district, and Southdown had a coach depot in the town. On Saturday mornings I would stay in the car while my parents went shopping. From the car park I could watch drivers washing and fuelling their coaches ready for the next weeks hires and excursions. I went to school in Lingfield which involved two bus rides and later in Purley. That was a 40 minute ride on the Greenline 708 service and cost 1/11d but coming home I often caught the normal 409 service which took longer but was 2d cheaper which could be spent on some sweets for the journey. Who remembers fruit salad chews, bubble gum, sherbet fountains and gobstoppers?

    1965 saw another move to just outside Newbury in Berkshire near Highclere castle, better known nowadays as Downton abbey. Again bus journeys featured daily in my commute to school. A coach in the morning usually an old Bedford OB and returning in the afternoon on the 115 service operated by Thames Valley using Bristol K series deckers.

    in 1969 I left school(hurray) and we moved again to Devon. like many youngsters I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life but having shown an interest in electronics my Father encouraged me to take an apprenticeship as an industrial electrician in a local factory paying £8.00 per week. Once again I was travelling on buses to and from my workplace but little did I know that a few years later I would be driving this very route. After 3 years I decided that the world of electrical engineering was not what I wanted to do and I resigned and worked for a small electrical company, wiring houses and doing general re-wiring jobs. That wasn’t what I wanted either and I then had a number of jobs including labouring on a building site for a new reservoir barrowing concrete all day, that was hard work although the money was quite good. I got lucky, the van driver resigned and as the only new recruit with a driving licence I was offered the job which involved fetching supplies locally and a weekly trip to the company headquarters in Northampton. At the end of the contract I was in the job market again but I had decided that I enjoyed the freedom that driving offered and I took a job with a local family run transport company doing general haulage. At 20 I was not old enough to drive an HGV but at that time you could drive a small lorry of up to 3 tons unladen (the equivalent today of the 7.5ton laden restriction) My lorry was a flat bed BMC of 2 ton 19cwt with no power steering and a crash gearbox and I drove all over the country carrying all sorts of cargo. This was the days before tachographs and mobile phones, very few pallets and nearly everything had to be loaded and unloaded by hand then roped and sheeted. Hard work but I loved the freedom, apart from a phone call once a day to base I was on my own and usually away for a week at a time. The company had a number of lorries of which mine was the smallest so when I turned 21 I asked the boss if there was any chance of being put through my HGV. The answer was not unless someone leaves so somewhat disappointed I caught the bus home for the weekend. The bus was being driven by a friend of mine and we chatted about work and I told him I was disappointed that I couldn’t train for bigger lorries at the moment. He said come and work on the buses, they are recruiting at the moment for the local depot. And that is where it all started.

    To be continued………………… :mail:

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    4th May 2024 at 1:36 pm #598747

    Wonderful JP! It’s strange how a chance encounter can change the rest of our lives but the stepping stones up to that point are all important too.

    Looking forward to the next installment :good:

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    4th May 2024 at 6:26 pm #598752

    Two vehicles mentioned in my last post. A Thames Valley Bristol K series decker and a Bedford OB coach

    3F60FA9A-B915-4B5C-BD2E-4A32DC0BC87A_1_105_c4DBCF54C-A5A2-47E8-BB52-479A3A0B780A_1_105_c

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    4th May 2024 at 8:29 pm #598753

    Magnificent vehicles.

    I know I will be proven dim, but why was there only half the cab when the engine was at the back?

    4th May 2024 at 11:15 pm #598754

    These vehicles were front engined hence the half-cab layout. Rear engined buses appeared later as routes were converted to OPO (one person operation) where having the entrance right at the front allowed the driver to take the fares as well as drive.

    The VR chassis in WCB’s photo would look like this once the body was fitted.

    EB61198B-14AF-4192-84AE-6E704288A5FF_1_105_c

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    5th May 2024 at 9:15 am #598755

    The Roscoff bus.

    This is to be seen in the car park of the Wine warehouse in Roscoff.

    Perhaps JP or WCB can tell us a bit about it?

    IMG_1065

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    5th May 2024 at 11:06 am #598758

    This is an AEC Routemaster. These buses were designed by London Transport specifically to cope with London traffic and operations. They were built by the Associated Equipment Company at Southall and entered service in 1959 replacing the trolley buses and also the ageing RT type buses. In a production run of 10 years, 2786 examples were built most bodied by Park Royal. The early RM’s were 27’6″ long carrying 56 seated passengers and later the RML was increased to 30 feet with a capacity of 72. There were also Coach seated versions for Greenline services RMC, and a front entrance version for airport runs RMA. The last RM’s were withdrawn from regular routes in late 2005 although some were still used on heritage routes. It is believed around 1200 of these buses still survive around the world and many are in preservation. The engine originally was the AEC AV590, a 9.8 litre 6cyl diesel engine. After the demise of AEC as the RM’s were refurbished to extend their life they were fitted with alternative engines mostly Cummins and Iveco units. Probably the most iconic bus ever built and served London for over 50 years.

    The bus in the picture is an RM so an earlier example, the RML had an extra half size window half way along the bus because it was 2’6″ longer.

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    5th May 2024 at 12:45 pm #598757

    3) SO MUCH TO LEARN

    I now have my PSV licence, my badge and a dust coat, my uniform will follow.

    C2AB5F08-DCCB-40AD-8E90-CBF735FE9AAD_1_105_cAt the time both drivers and conductors had a badge which had to be worn at all times when in service. The letters denoted the traffic area. HH was Western traffic area, Bristol and the west country. N was London area etc. This system was disbanded in the mid eighties and badges were no longer issued but most drivers continued to wear them as it identified you and you did have some authority when in charge of your bus. The first thing you had to do when arriving at work was to sign in for the appropriate duty. Duty 1 was early spare at most garages. It would be the earliest duty signing in at 05.15 at my depot. This driver’s job was to check the signing on sheet to make sure everyone turned up on time and to cover their shift if they didn’t. Each duty had a duty board

    DF431985-E3F5-46E8-A49C-A8A7FDA6AE52_1_105_cThis shows exactly what your duty covers. It is fairly self explanatory but CW= car working. There is a sheet posted each day called the allocation sheet, this identifies which vehicle you have ie; CW 14 would have a fleet number beside it, say 1704. Every vehicle would have a fleet number on a small metal plaque usually on the front and rear. This number identifies the type of vehicle and its individual number. Where “dead” appears it means this part of the journey is out of service, normally between the depot and start or end of the route. Before leaving the depot, if you are taking a vehicle out for the first time that day it is your responsibility to do a daily check. Top up the water, check the lights and walk around looking for any damage or defects. You must also have a vehicle running sheet to register any delays or incidents or minor defects, a fare chart, a duty board and a timetable.

    In larger depots there was still some crew duties with deckers on busy routes or in large towns or cities. The driver is then responsible for driving the bus and the conductor takes the fares and keeps the bus on time holding at timing points if running early. My depot was an OPO depot(one person operated) which means no conductors. The driver is responsible for everything, driving, taking fares, issuing tickets timekeeping, parcel collecting etc and when you are new that is pretty daunting. Approximately every other stop has a fair stage number and a name;

    007106EB-C206-4992-B36C-ED756C2BF3FF_1_105_cOn longer routes this can be eight pages long and have between 80-100 fare stages. Between each and every fare stage there is a single fare and a separate chart for return fares, child fares, multi journey tickets etc and also multiple timing points along each route. Tickets were issued on a mechanical ticket machine called a setright. You record a set of numbers from the ticket machine on a waybill at the start of the day and at the end of each journey. At the end of the day you subtract the numbers to give you the money taken, how many tickets issued and how much you have to pay in. The machine prints a ticket showing a serial number, the date, the fare stage, the price, whether single or return and child, dog or adult, all of which has to be inputted by the driver or conductor.

    Thankfully for the first week new drivers are accompanied by an experienced driver who helps you issue tickets and takes over if you start getting late and gives you tips of the trade. Then after that you are on your own :wacko:

    To be continued…………………….. :mail:

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    5th May 2024 at 1:03 pm #598763

    It sounds as if driving the bus was the easy bit.

    Must have been nice though to have been paid two lots of wages. Drivers and conductors?

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    5th May 2024 at 1:24 pm #598764

    The change from crew buses to one person operated was a money saving exercise. In the company I worked for there was a 15% bonus for single deckers and 20% for double deckers. This varied slightly from one company to another but was around that figure. I believe it was higher in London but central London routes remained crew operated for much longer because of the sheer numbers of passengers carried. One person operated buses were much slower during peak times and on busy central routes hence there use was restricted to evenings and Sundays.

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    5th May 2024 at 1:32 pm #598765

    John, how comfortable or otherwise was the seat / driving position of the old buses. Were the seats adjustable, how did taller or shorter drivers manage. I remember on the wagons pre power steering having to stand and brace oneself to get the purchase to haul the steering wheel about when manoeuvring and i am guessing a fully loaded double decker must have been equally challenging.

    You mention parcels. Not heard of buses doing parcels before. How did that work?

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