Thursday, 29 September 2011

A Joyous Bundle

An exciting parcel has arrived which will warm the hearts of 270 KTA fans everywhere...

The OO-gauge Bristol SU coach models are here in quantity. Specially comissioned by 270 KTA's scribe, 30 of the little things will soon be heading to new owners as far flung as Scotland and the Channel Islands (real life SU coaches ended up in both places, incidentally).

As you can see, they come unbuilt in raw kit form, allowing their owners to recreate their favourite coach in a livery of their choice. One of the demonstration models was recently exhibited at the Model Bus Federation AGM, finished in poppy red and white as 270 KTA in her Devon General guise; let's hope this satisfies the desires of the growing army of 'red fleet' fans who are intent on persuading me to follow suit with the real thing...

I'm having four of the things. Watch this space to see how they turn out.

Alas, for those who missed out, the production run was a sell-out with even the samples being snapped up...

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

achievement [uh-cheev-muhnt]

- noun
1. something accomplished, esp. by exertion, practice, perseverance, etc.

Here I present some photographs which tell the story of a truly memorable weekend for our friend and her owner.

This tranquil scene by the sea belies the racing pulse and flushed cheeks that lead up to it. Thursday was to be my time for quietly getting re-acquainted with the routes 270 KTA and I were to tackle at Saturday’s Running Day; some chance! Armed with a dozen friends (many of them highly practised in the art of bus driving), we embarked on what was my first ever passenger carrying trip. In the spirit of deep-end learning, our tour took us along the narrowest single-track lanes of Beeson, around double-hairpin bends into Beesands, between stone parapets in South Pool and up many first-gear hills in between.

It’s hard to decide whether driving a bus load of people you know makes it better or worse when you mess-up a gear change, but I was ready for anything by the time we paused for Chinese in Kingsbridge on the way home. For the record, we even ordered some of the dishes using bus numbers…

I slept well that night, as did 270 KTA I suspect. Thanks to Helen Billington for allocating me a room with a view…

Among the preparations for Saturday’s outing were a good wash (thanks, Lee), a good mopping out (thanks, Mel), and a modest amount of ‘bullshit’ for the cameras. One thing that’s annoyed and puzzled me for a long time is an arrow shape which appears on the radiator grille when viewed from a distance, but like a magic-eye puzzle seems to disappear when you get up close. The only way to get rid of it was to paint the entire grille using a 3mm brush… and three hours later, get rid of it I had.

After some early fuelling-up on Saturday morning, our first trip was the 0932 feeder service from Loddiswell to Kingsbridge. To add to the nerves of driving an SU in front of my Dad for the first time, I also had Nick Helliker and Mike Ellis on board – between us we own roughly a quarter of the surviving SU population! Other riders of note in front of whom I’d hoped to retain crash-gearbox dignity include well-known preservationists Graham Thorogood and Neil Markwick, Graham Bailey who made it possible for me to drive in the first place, and photographer in chief Ken Jones, who is almost as much of an avid follower of 270 KTA as his dog.

Here I am at the ironically named South Pool, checking to see how much water had boiled out of the overflow during the long climb up from Sherford. By normal SU standards it wasn’t much – ‘finding its own level’ as I euphemistically say whenever it sprays boiling water through the driver’s cab window into my face.

It turns out 270 KTA wasn’t the only one boiling up on this trip. On arrival in Sherford, a furious lady resident accosted Conductor Farley and insisted that the area outside her cottage was not to be used for the turning of buses. We resisted the temptation to point out that it had, in fact, been used for that very purpose when buses used to run the route in the 1960s, and instead encouraged a full load of passengers to wave cheerily as she flew off on her broomstick…

Here’s a very significant moment in our weekend: 270 KTA outside her original home, the former Western National depot in Derby Road, Kingsbridge, now Jades’ electronics factory. Again, the smile carried by our friend somewhat contradicts the mood of her driver, who had just discovered why things had felt a little sluggish on the way home from South Pool… A fractured injector pipe.

Were it not for the brilliance of David Sheppard Senior, that’s where the day would have ended. With the engine running on three cylinders (it’s sluggish enough with the full four!), and fuel spraying onto the manifold, we limped home to enable the Engineer in Chief to begin the task of making an injector pipe from thin air. With just an hour to go before our next run, and two other buses already broken down, the pressure was on to make it work somehow.

Fifteen minutes before we were due at the bus station, my instruction came from under the bus: “Go and wash your hands – we’re off”. He’d quite literally saved the day…

(Photograph Courtesy of Laurence Mayhew.)

Off we went with a full load, 33 passengers plus driver and conductor, bound for East Portlemouth. This is the route which takes us through the aforementioned Beeson and Beesands, both even more tricky to negotiate with extra weight on board. After what seemed like a fifteen-point turn in East Prawle (thanks, parked cars), we eventually rolled down the hill into East Portlemouth some 61 minutes late…

We made up some of the time on the return journey, but not much, and we eventually arrived back at Kingsbridge bus station to find Colin Billington tapping his watch! We’d won the prize for the last bus back…

Strangely, we all managed a good drink that evening - tired, muscles aching, but happy. Really, really happy.

Sunday’s weather made me question whether I really fancied subjecting 270 KTA to the drive up to WHOTT’s annual rally at Westpoint, near Exeter, but peer pressure (and threat of being made to take a Bristol LH with no clutch) made me see sense. I was instantly glad I did, as our friend performed impeccably, and it was good to rediscover fifth gear again – the South Hams certainly had no use for it on Saturday!

And it was worth the drive just to enjoy this fine sight…

A tranquil end to a busy weekend with 270 KTA. I can’t wait for the next one.

Further photographs from the weekend are now beginning to emerge on Flickr and other sites. In particular, Laurence Mayhew’s collection is worth a look, together with PTOTPA. Thanks also to Graham from Plymothian Transit, for his kind words about the blog.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Grand Day Out 1

An eventful but ultimately successful day out at Kingsbridge Running Day for our friend, who carried nearly 200 passengers...

Full details in due course.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

A Day At Home

On Saturday, 270 KTA will be having a day out - at home.

The (now annual) Kingsbridge Bus Running Day is a recreation of the town's bus network in the 1960s, and as Western National's Kingsbridge-based coach between 1962 and 1968, 270 KTA will be an essential visitor.

I've taken the rest of the week off to make sure we're ready. Having returned from finishing the steering wheel project last night (I don't want to talk about that), I attempted something more creative into the wee small hours of the morning; being correct for her later life in Somerset, 270 KTA's destination blind doesn't feature Kingsbridge - or, rather, didn't, until I set forth with eleven sheets of tracing paper, a pair of nail scissors and two sticks of glue. Look okay?

One particular highlight will be between duties, when we'll be using the overflow parking at Jades Electronics factory - the old Western National Kingsbridge depot until 1971, and the very building to which 270 KTA was delivered new in 1962.

The journeys themselves promise to be a lot of fun. Our runs to South Pool and East Portlemouth are typical of the terrain which meant that the Kingsbridge fleet consisted of narrow vehicles, often single track with hard Devon banks on either side. And they're a twisty test of the driver's navigational skills...

Good job 270 KTA's a native; let's hope her memory's better than mine...

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Where There's A Wheel...

It's back on.

Because it's late and I'm tired, I won't reveal now how this magic has been done.

What's important at this stage is that now the steering wheel and (proper) nut are both back on, so too are plans for 270 KTA and her driver to give some rides at Kingsbridge Running Day on Saturday week...

Having tantalised, I'll save that for later, too...