Monday 31 October 2016

Young Mr Grace Is Impressed (3) ...

Minutiae Glee for fbb!
fbb had forgotten that West Wight Motors ran bus routes.
But in the Isle of Wight Bus Museum, not well explained, was an old bus stop timetable board showing the service between Freshwater and Yarmouth.
A real blast from the past.

Hung around one of the "back rooms" were examples of all sorts of uniform tops.
And there are many racks of photographs, some showing Southern Vectis senior staff but in the bloom of youth; but pictures like that would be too embarrassing to republish here.

But what are these?
Back n the year when, most buses belonging to the Tilling group of companies used metal fleet numbers. Then the fashion changed to transfer printing, presumably this being cheaper that casting little metal plaques. But this is not a complete set, some are missing.

Where, for example is 563?
The bus that bore that number definitely had transfers fixed; its "number" plate was removed. But hang on a tick. 563 is a bus in the museum; owned by enthusiast Richard Newman. And here it is ....
... complete with cast plate. Richard, stickler for accuracy that he is, has restored the original (?) to its rightful place!

Coach Tours were, for a long time, a massive feature of the Island's public transport business. "Round the Island" was the most popular, but "Carisbooke and Godshill" and "Evenng Mystery Tours" were also run at various times plus many many more.

This era is illustrated by Southern Vectis advertising boards a-plenty, but also by recreated bppkong office displays; here for Moss Motors ...
... and Paul's Tours.
These little cameos are  a delightful accompaniment for the coaches on display.

fbb's fondest memories are for Seaview Services based near his former Island home.
The company also ran a bus service between Seaview and Ryde and, post deregulation, expanded to operate to Sandown and locally in Ryde to Haylands. There are unconfirmed reports that this incursion into Southern Vectis "territory" led to physical violence between the two bosses at a coach owners social event.

The bus stops along the Seaview sea front changed from unadorned green to branded red.
And green and red livery gave way to all over red.
Peace was ultimately restored when the company retreated to its core service and bought two second hand Vectis buses to run it.
The bus service eventually passed to "The Vectis" but, with the closure of holiday camps, Seaview's old route is no longer served.


But fbb does remember a hand-turned departure clock on the Seafield Road depot; and ...
... there it is in the museum. Wonderful! The company moved to Sandown and the old depot was demolished and flats replaced it. here it is in the throes of its disappearing act.
And here is what it is now.
The coaching business, however, still trades.
And so to Paris!

Robert Jowett's Paris bus is enhanced by a display of route boards, the predecessor of destination blinds.
there is also an ancient Paris bus stop.
A similar style was maintained for many years and can still be seen around the city.
Stops with electronic displays are now "de rigueur" but it is good to be reminded of days gone by.

Chatting to the (volunteer) staff was a revelation; they expressed great delight at the number of families visiting for enjoyment and not just because dad was a bus nut. Little (?) fbb would have been even more excited if he had been able to climb into the cab of a huuuge bus when he was nobbut a lad!

As with the buses, there is much, much more to see.

The Museum has a "committee room" but it serves a double purpose. When the museum is open it provides an activity space for younger children ...
... and during fbb's transient visit, there were some using it!

On the table in the foreground was a cardboard road layout kit along which could be driven model buses. A simple but effective toy which could be developed further. Beyond the play tables were two other cameo reconstructions. An inspectors' office and a good old-fashioned travel office are there.
heritage (a k a "old") leaflets, phone and mysterious machine
plus shelves for lost property (far right)

But visitors might not know this as these office representations are not labelled. If fbb did have a concern about this excellent museum, it would be the inadequate labelling of many of the exhibits. An FLF is a fine bus beast, but what does FLF mean? The wonderful selection of "stuff" could be lifted to the level of "superb" if the clientele had better information.

But fbb has left the best until last. Three publications found their way into the old man's clammy and shaking hands over the weekend and they can only be described by one word ...


More tomorrow!

 Next museum blog : Tuesday 1st November 

Sunday 30 October 2016

Young Mr Grace Is Impressed (2) ...

And So Is fbb; Because It's Free
Not the most imposing of entrances, but ...

What greets you at the Isle of Wight Bus museum, now coming to the end of its second season in the former Southern Vectis depot at Ryde, is NOT a pay desk with lists of charges, persuasive signs asking you to Gift Aid your admission and charging extra for the process! There is none of this because it is FREE.
Melly Rudman's 3 year old nearly burst with excitement; as did fbb.

There is, however, an opportunity to make donations and to buy "stuff" (including a cuppa and a snack).
Of course, for most, the highlight is the buses themselves and there is a lot packed into a space much larger than the old premises, but still cosy and close to. And, subject to some restrictions, you and your 3 year old of any age, may get on the buses and even sit in the driver's cab.

The oldest vehicle on show is the Dennis Ace dating from 1934 ...
... but whispered rumours are suggesting that an even older 4 hp vehicle with be joining the display from 2017. Intriguing?

The Island has always been famous for its open top buses and two such stand regally next to each other.
Fleet number 908 (on the right) was a regular perfromer on the service 42 to Alum Bay ...
... and has recently gained new specially made red destination blinds. Sorry but roof-light reflections obliterated this bit of detail from fbb's crude piccy!

It is a worrying sign of old age when stuff familiar to fbb is now appearing in museums. Here is a bread-van minibus, recently acquired ...
... but will it be repainted in Medinalinx, Wanderer or Hydrobus livery?
B259 MDL was a (red) Hydrobus.

Also in place as a "modern" museum piece is this beauty ...
... generously donated by Southern Vectis. K743 ODL once bore the "Route Rouge" livery for routes 2 and 3 which ran from Cowes via Newport to Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor. It is seen here off piste en route to Totland Bay.
It was subsequently rebuilt as an open top bus for the "Breezers" a more recent brand for the topless tours.

One bus is something of an oddity for a bus museum on and of the Isle of Wight. Author Robert Jowett bought an archetypical 1935 back loader (literally back loader!) Paris bus.
For many years the only way on to un autobus parisien was through a gap in the open "back end".
So popular was this verandah that, for a few years, it was retained for buses with conventional doors!
No back entry or exit was then permitted, but you were allowed to stand in the wind and the rain and enjoy the Parisian scenery retreating backwards. A dubious privilege!

But fbb will not reveal the full delights of all the vehicles on show in the hope that his readers will pay the Museum a visit.

Only they can't!

At least not until Easter 2017 as the attraction closes today for the winter season. When fbb  queried the wisdom of this decision, he was informed that the bus depot gets very cold and damp and many of the smaller displays would deteriorate significantly.

The depot has no heating!

fbb suggested a Winter Opening to include a mug of hot cocoa/soup!

So, dear reader, make a note in your diary to take a few days' break on the Island allowing half a day to explore the delights of the Bus and Coach Museum. You will not regret it.

But, whilst enjoying the buses, fbb is just as interested in the bits and pieces, the artefacts that have always been a part, often unsung, of the bus industry.

fbb will look at some of these displays in the museum tomorrow.

 Next museum blog : Monday 31st October 

Saturday 29 October 2016

Young Mr Grace Is Impressed (1) ...

... And So Is fbb
Whilst visiting the Isle of Wight, fbb had the opportunity to see the new-ish home of the Bus Museum with all its displays in place. There was a also chance, yesterday morning, to spend half an hour or so at Ryde Bus Station and nearby.

Hovercraft watching from the footbridge over the railway line is still a popular pastime, especially now as two new Hovercraft have recently entered service.
Solent Flyer and Portsmouth Flyer have much improved loading and unloading ramps, power controlled and with one ramp accessible to wheelchairs.
Both were on view to the footbridge gallery, with one parked and the other just arriving from Southsea.
There have been problems with these vessels., leading to cancellations and a revised timetable. "Bedding In" says Hovertravel's boss.

Also modified is Wightlink's vessel St Clare. 

The refurbished car ferry now includes the first floating "Greggs" sandwich shop with sausage rolls at only 90p!
But, more importantly, the boat has had its upper car deck extended.
This is in preparation for two-level loading via a new double linkspan. Below is an artists' impression of the new two level structure at the Fishbourne terminal.
The illustrated ship is also new; construction has just started.

Meanwhile, at Ryde, the Ice Skating Rink has closed. The "open all year bar" isn't.
Apparently a dispute between the new trustees and the owners of the property led to bailiffs arriving with the inevitable terminal consequences.

Other more positive developments at Ryde would suggest that the bus enquiry office has re-opened, although the opening times do not seem to be advertised.
fbb was, however, able to obtain a copy of the Winter timetable.
Not much has changed; there are a few winter timetable trims but Route 1 is very different. A few years ago, when the whole Island network was "simplified", route 1 ran between Newport and Cowes performing a loop round the latter town. All buses ran to the red funnel timetable.
Then the management had a spiffing idea. Because, particularly at peaks, loadings were high, it was decided to split the route into two. The Red 1 (colour coded red) ...
... would run to the ferry terminal and remain single deck; whilst a double deck service would run to the the old terminus outside the Co-op, now M & S Food.
Both would follow different wiggles.
It was very confusing.

So from October this year, guess what? Southern Vectis have come up with another spiffing idea.
All buses will run to the Red Funnel terminal and follow a large loop round Cowes. fbb wonders where that idea came from?

Outside the enquiry office at Ryde is a very helpful big map. It shows route 4, 5 and 25 running between Newport and East Cowes.
The 25 was withdrawn in 2013!

Never mind, eh?

After a splendid lunch, ...
... fbb was accompanied by Museum Treasurer and Isle of Wight correspondent Alan. The buses are located in the former Southern Vectis depot at Ryde. The fascia has been replastered and a dignified new sign added.
But the inside has been totally transformed. From a simple accumulation of buses, the Museum has become a fascination collection of all that makes bus travel in the past so interesting. Well it does for fbb!

Who will take a more detailed look tomorrow.

After enjoying a stunning offer on the back of his parking ticket ...
... an offer which expired back at the end of April.

 Next museum blog : Sunday 30th October