Thursday, 22 October 2015

Playing Catch Up: Part 2

Changing head gaskets one month; tying sheep bends the next. That's the beauty of bus preservation.

Remember our pre-Penzance rush to get 270 KTA's interior back together? One of the troublesome tasks I faced was the hanging of the luggage nets, a tangled mess since long before I bought the coach. On examining the nets I had, it was clear they were not the originals but some that had been cut to length and then abandoned during fitting. The reason was quite clear: whilst they had been cut to measure, the wielder of rule and scissors hadn't accounted for the fact that, when stretched across their width... the nets would reduce in length. Hence, they were too short.

It is, it genuinely is, sheer coincidence that on the very night I discovered this irritation, members of The Braid Society were gathering in Devon for a conference. 

Quite literally on 270 KTA's doorstep, I arrived with my enquiry trailing behind me, and was instantly welcomed by the party. All fingers pointed to Edna, a member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers (follow the link if you don't believe me), who immediately recognised the 'sheep bend' technique and demonstrated the art at lightning speed to her new apprentice...

Together (well, I tied a couple) we managed to join two sections of net for the offside, and I defy you to spot the join...

May was, for me, an insanely busy month when every engagement crashed uncomfortably into the next. Having been hosting the Stagecoach South West Awards until the wee small hours of Sunday morning, I leapt at the offer from our pal Mel Williams to drive 270 KTA to the Taunton Running Day, picking me up en route. Seldom do I get the chance for a ride, or to take videos like this...

Having caught up on some sleep (just as well we had a smooth driver), I resumed my usual seat for four round trips on Service 270 to Corfe via Trull. This is certainly a route worked by 270 KTA during its time at Taunton depot, and was almost always operated by an SU throughout the 60s and early-70s, for reasons that became obvious! Working alongside 286 KTA, there were several single-track stretches where the SUs had to play hide and seek in the hedges to enable one another to turn and pass.

As the day went on, our friend began to serenade passengers with an orchestra of unwanted sounds, the first being a mystery tinkle when the engine was left to idle, the second being something much easier to identify...

This is the front section of 270 KTA's exhaust, leading from the manifold to the the silencer - or, at least, it was. No doubt affronted by its disturbance during Gasket-gate, the ailing flexi-pipe decided to flex no more. We barked and tinkled our way home from Taunton.

Our good friend Malcolm offered to source some pipe which, true to form, turned out to be an unusual size. He saved not only the day, but the rest of the month, by doing the necessary welding too. We owe Malcolm and Nora a trip on a non-tinkling 270 KTA now that the season has quietened down (and so has the coach!) - I haven't forgotten. The tinkle turned out to be a loose stud in an alternator bracket, by the way, which I solved during yet another of my nocturnal surgeries.

Thanks to Malcolm's help we were running again in time for Teignmouth Running Day, a first for 270 KTA but a return to some of the territory familiar from its Devon General days - and, indeed, from our outing last year. We'll be there again no doubt.

After last year's Royal Blue Run, which concluded with our friend being driven home using a piece of string for a throttle control, there was a pressure to return to good form in June. This year's run took the coaches from Windsor to Exeter on Day 1, Exeter to Penzance (via North Cornwall) on Day 2, and Penzance back to Exeter (via inland Cornwall and Tavistock) on Day 3. 270 KTA joined the convoy of seventeen vintage coaches for days two and three; day one had been a chance for me to catch up with the Senior Sheps and of course 275 KTA, who was trusted with the entire 750 mile round trip.

For this year's run I was joined by a new co-driver, who looks an awful lot like our faithful Conductor Farley, newly red-badged, specially insured and type-trained on 270 KTA for the occasion. Luke showed exceptional flare for the task, even on the most challenging of terrain, and is seen in the video above pursuing 275 KTA through the relatively straightforward streets of St. Ives. He certainly took better to his new role than 270 KTA's new navigator. Nuff said...

The chance to get coaches of the same type together is always a welcome feature of the Royal Blue run, and the joys of being a 'two SU' family (so far...) are clear for all to see. Unlike last year, the string stayed in the boot throughout, and 270 KTA completed this year's run without let or hindrance. 

After that long journey, I'll wrap up shortly and save our July adventures for Part 3 of our catch-up. I'll let you retire to Annabelle's with Andrew Neil, but for me, time for a good night's sleep. 

To be continued...


  1. Fantastic picture of 270 on the 270, David - brought back lots of memories

    1. Glad you liked it Paul - hoping to do Taunton again in 2016 if you fancy a ride? Keep you posted on here!

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