Tuesday, 1 March 2022

Towers, Tow-ers and Tree-Loppers (1)

The Unsung Heroes Of Bus Operation

When fbb ran the Crusaders' holiday centre near Ryde Isle of Wight his remit was to increase custom which meant attracting more parties, all of whom needed to get themselves from the mainland via ferry. Back in the good old days it was via train and ferry and a Seaview Services coach for the short hop from Ryde.

Increasingly, parties eschewed the train and came all the way by coach. Initially coaches were not welcome on site, meaning a complicated manoeuvre across an increasingly busy junction ...
... and a reverse down a narrow lane to the gate of the site.
It wasn't too bad when coaches were small ...
... but, as coaches got longer, wider and taller, the access became less safe and a bigger challenge for the driver, especially for arrivals for the weekend in the dark on a Friday night.

It was possible for fbb to create a simple reversing bay in the back yard of the main building but trees on the drive and at the gate were a problem.
They became an even bigger problem when fbb started hiring double decks from Southern Vectis.

So, one fine day, fbb espied the Southern Vectis tree-lopper at work nearby.
Would the lads be able, for a suitable fee, to nip down the drive and do a bit of trimming. 

Not only did the lads do a whole morning's trimming, taking away two big loads, but, "as it's you we wouldn't dream of charging!" The Island was like that.

Fleet number 622, NDL 490G, eventually regained a roof and went off to the mainland ...
... for preservation.
The bus is now owned by Adam and John Bryant, and lives at Blandford Forum. Its replacement roof was originally on bus 684 (DPX 684W) seen below at Ryde.
684 was scrapped in year 2000 after an accident on ice at Bembridge.

fbb's second, and less happy, interaction with the Vectis Service fleet was one dark night near Merstone.
fbb was giving a group of young people a night-time open top bus ride "over the downs". The views were not that easy to enjoy, it being night!
The open topper whizzed happily over the downs and, performing a turning round route, continued towards Newport. 
At the end of Merstone Lane it stopped and slowly but inevitably the lights all went out. With no electrics, the bus would not re-start.

Having no lights on a fast road is very scary. This was before the days of mobile phones, so fbb had to sprint down Merstone Lane to the phone box in the village ...
... which has gone! Despite the Ordnance Survey, only a small square of concrete in the verge marks the one-time location of the telephonic route to rescue!
Chum Alan (our correspondent) was awoken from his slumber and came to rescue the kiddies while fbb was towed to Newport bus depot by this ...
... which used to look like this.
Alan explains:-

The tow truck was purchased by me with National Bus money before we privatised ourselves. It was bought from a bit of a rogue in Northampton who created the vehicle from two scrap ERFs written off on M1 crashes, one an artic tractor unit and a longer wheel base tipper. It had an 8-cylinder Gardner engine and an expensive hydraulic lift.
The huge front bumper was a counterweight to keep the front end down during rear lifts. As we did not have capital approval for the purchase it was invoiced (with no bill more than £500) as repairs to our existing tow truck - when I asked for this the 'rogue' was instantly easier to deal with as he realised, I was also a rogue! 

A rogue, Alan, surely not. You were just practising "creative accountancy" for the ultimate benefit of the Island's bus passengers; noble indeed!

This "beast" was designed to be capable of one man operation and fbb remembers being terrified as he sat in the open topper with an instruction that all he had to do was steer. The truck then towed him and it at terrifying speeds through a dark and deserted Newport until fbb's poorly bus was deposited at the Nelson Road depot (back entrance) in the "early hours"!

More "Service Vehicles" tomorrow and fbb will begin his review of this book, promise.
Thanks to Alan for appropriate pictures and supportive information.

 Next Towers, Tow-ers & Tree-loppers blog : Weds 2nd March 

1 comment:

  1. Fleet number 622, NDL 490G, eventually regained a roof and went off to the mainland ...The doner roof was from FDL 681V (681) not DPX 684W (684) as stated!