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News - 2011
Some of the most recent events affecting us and our fleet:
(Click on photos for full size images)
Monday, 26 December: our final event of the year has now become the annual provision of a free bus service to the residents of Torbay.
Monday, 28 November - Thursday, 1 December:
the 'glamorous' side of bus preservation, if there is one, can be
characterised by driving a shiny bus down a country road on a sunny
summer's day with a complement of happy passengers - all is sweetness
and light. The reality is, however, often very different and many
behind-the-scenes hours contribute to each one that the bus is on
display. This week saw an ample illustration of this in the form
of our Volvo B6's MOT ...
Sunday, 27 November: with November having been relatively mild throughout, it is hard
to imagine that winter is just around the corner. The onset of
colder weather must, however, arrive soon and anti-freeze levels on all
of the Group's vehicles are now being tested to ensure adequate cover.
With this done, it is obviously necessary to take the vehicles
out and ensure that the coolant is adequately 'mixed' so the
opportunity was taken for an informal close-of-season run using 3 of
Monday, 14 November: annual MOT time again for 563 and a pass was achieved without incident
Sunday, 23 October: our good friend and fellow preservationist, Phil Platt, recently took ownership of 9RDV, an AEC Reliance with Marshall bodywork dating from 1964. The vehicle had, for many years, been stored near Birmingham so its appearance at events in the West Country was relatively rare. To celebrate its return to 'home turf' it was decided to stage a running day re-creating some of the routes that '9' would have operated during its working days with Devon General. Our own Leyland National '2883' was invited to attend as it was a direct successor to the Reliances and also spent much of its working life in and around Exeter and Exmouth. Stagecoach Devon also supplied a more modern Volvo to make-up the trio. Having journeyed-down from Dorchester we met with a heavily-laden 9RDV at Exeter and the 3 buses then made their way to Exmouth for our first stop. From there our route took us to Sidmouth and then on to Seaton for lunch. During the afternoon we traveled in convoy via Axminster to Chard and called at the Stagecoach outpost depot there. It was then time to start heading home via Honiton and we arrived back in Exeter around 5pm. Many thanks go to Phil for a very enjoyable day out which was well supported by the Devon-based enthusiasts. '9' will now be off the road for a few months whilst the interior receives attention ahead of the major AEC Centenary events planned for May 2012
Sunday, 4 September: our third annual Torbay Vintage Bus Running Day. As is now customary, the event started on the Saturday evening with the usual tour around some of the former Devon General routes within Torquay and Paignton, with a stop for Fish and Chips in Paignton. It was good to see a few of our regular supporters on this outing, transport for which was provided by Leyland National, 2883 and Volvo B6, 701. The main event was held, once again, at Shedden Hill car park and, unlike this year's Weymouth Running Day, the weather was fine until around 4.30pm by which time most of the day's activity was over. Although the number of entries was down on previous years (a sign of the times, presumably), we were nonetheless pleased to welcome 23 buses and coaches, most of which had also agreed to run 'in service'. Hence, we were able to operate the full 10 routes planned and, with good numbers of enthusiasts and the general public in attendance, the day was enjoyed by many passengers, spectators and photographers alike. Our sincere thanks go to all the vehicle owners, helpers and visitors for making the day such a success. Special mention must also go to our sponsors, Stagecoach Devon and Torbay Council, without whom the event simply would not take place (photos courtesy of Carl Berry, Ben Beaver and Simon Coates)
Sunday, 7 August: the Gosport rally is organised by the Provincial Society and takes place just off the sea front at Stokes Bay, adjacent to Gosport. Woody's S23 (RHA919G) made the journey with 8 on board and ran various services during the day. A good attendance and pleasant weather made for another enjoyable day out
Sunday, 24 July: the Western National Preservation Group annual rally in Plymouth is a little too distant to take one of our vehicles from Dorset there and back in a day but we do try and support the event in any way we can. This year, newly-acquired B6 (P701BTA) ran from Torquay with a small number of interested attendees. 701 is in the midst of preparation for a complete re-paint so was presented in a mixture of current Stagecoach livery, rubbed-down paintwork and bare metal. Unsurprisingly it didn't win the 'Best Bus' award but nevertheless made the journey in an effortless fashion and completed two service runs during the day. The event is held on Plymouth Hoe which in poor weather can be none too appealing but happily this year was dry and the sun broke-through on occasions
Tuesday, 19 July: such was the success of our trip to the Luscombe Valley Railway during August of last year (see 2010 News page) that our friends in Transport of Yesteryear (TOY) decided that they would like to repeat the visit in 2011. This was duly arranged with the owner, Mr Richard Knott, and we journeyed to Sandbanks aboard Regent V, CTT518C. Most of the attractions at the LVR are mentioned on its website but the place really has to be seen to gain a full appreciation of what has been achieved. The extensive garden railway (five inch scale) is very impressive as it weaves its way in and out of various landscaped features, all controlled by a fully computerised signalling system. Perhaps even more elaborate though is the 'OO' gauge model railway inside Richard's house which takes railway modelling to a whole new level. A very enjoyable 2 hours or so was spent at the Railway and the journey back to Dorchester was completed without incident. Our thanks go to Richard and his team of helpers for what was another excellent evening. The photos show views over the garden railway as well as shots of parts of the indoor layoutSunday, 26 June: our annual visit to the Transport of Yesteryear show held at Chickerell, near Weymouth. Although TOY is essentially a club dedicated to the interests of classic car owners, we enjoy close links with the committee and various members regularly join us on our organised trips. The TOY annual show is always an enjoyable event held, as it is, in quite a small field in Chickerell. Exhibits, as well as the many other attractions, are necessarily quite tightly packed-in and this adds to the intimacy and atmosphere of the show. This year's event was, once again, blessed with a hot, sunny day and the turnout both of vehicles and visitors was excellent. We provided a member of the Devon & Dorset Group fleet in the shape of Woody's S23 (RHA919G) and, as well as creating much interest as a static display, we provided free 'mystery tour' services at 11am, 1pm and 3pm. These comprised a trip to see the 'Weymouth Lights' (the innumerable new traffic lights that is!) and then a run over to Portland Castle where we stopped briefly before returning via a different route to the show site. Nearly 100 passengers were carried across the 3 trips and the mist that had enveloped much of the bay area during the morning gradually cleared as the day went on. All in all a very enjoyable event and congratulations must go to the TOY organising committee for another successful show
Saturday, 18 June: it is said that all good things must come to an end, although the supposed rationale for this is not so often explained. In bus terms, this means bidding a fond farewell today to a longstanding member of the fleet, James's Bristol VR, LFJ862W (1215). This page records, a little over a month ago, the arrival of the new B6LE; sadly, this means that 1215 can no longer be retained and so it has today gone to an operator in the Basingstoke area. James first acquired the bus during 2003 making it the second longest-standing member of the DDG fleet. Needless to say, it was obtained in 'service' condition and so has required much work over the years to bring it up to standard. This has involved 2 full re-paints (the first into Devon General 'de-regulation' livery and then, latterly, into NBC Poppy Red) as well as countless mechanical, bodywork and cosmetic tasks. Over the past 8 years 1215 has become a regular feature on the rally scene and has made appearances as far afield as Llandudno and Penzance. It has gained a reputation for solid reliability and has provided the transport for many outings organised both by the Devon and Dorset Group, the former Inner Circle Group and various others. We will miss her but wish her well in her new life in Hampshire!
Saturday, 18 June: today saw us play hosts to the Omnibus Society, an organisation dedicated to the study and appreciation of all aspects of the bus and coach industry, past present and future. Various 'themed' weekends and outings are held during the year and the plan today was to focus on two former operators from the South Somerset area: Safeway Services and Hutchings and Cornelius. We are fortunate to have one of the few vehicles that have survived into preservation from either of these operators in the shape of our ex-Safeway Leopard, TYD911W, and this was the obvious mode of transport to use for today's outing. Some 10 members and a few of our regular supporters gathered and enjoyed trips around Yeovil, Ilminster, Crewkerne and, of course, South Petherton where both operators had their bases. We re-traced some of the old Safeway routes as far as possible, including some very narrow country lanes which don't now see buses as large as 911 on a regular basis! Several stops were made at Yeovil Bus Station (for which thanks go to First) and it was good to re-create some photographic opportunities from the 80s and 90s. A visit to South West Coaches' Yeovil depot was also arranged (again, many thanks to SWC for allowing this). The photographs show 911 posed in Crewkerne and outside the former Safeway Services yard in South Petherton (now a small residential development).
Sunday, 12 June: this year's Weymouth Vintage Bus Running Day was held a week earlier than normal due to other commitments in the town on our 'usual' weekend and, having enjoyed several years of fine weather for the event, our luck eventually ran out. The day dawned wet and rain continued relentlessly throughout, accompanied by high winds. Hardly the day for a bus rally but, despite this, every entrant that had promised a vehicle to run in service during the day attended, as did the great majority of others. Although the number of visitors was obviously down on previous events, we were delighted with comments received and it seems that those that did make the effort enjoyed the event despite the conditions. The reality is that, in their working life our buses ran whatever the weather and there is something uniquely atmospheric about traveling on a vintage vehicle with misted-up windows and rain beating on the roof, or with winds buffeting a double-decker across Portland Heights!
Many thanks must go to our dedicated team of volunteers who braved the weather as marshals, controllers, conductors or helping-out in other ways. We are also very grateful to our new sponsors, South West Coaches and Weymouth & Portland Borough Council, without whose assistance the event would not have taken place.
Wednesday, 1 June: Woody's birthday (better not say which one!), so yet another excuse for a bus outing. 1159 was again the chosen vehicle and we spent an enjoyable afternoon on a trip from Weymouth to Portland Bill, then back via the coast road to Bridport, stopping for ice cream and birthday cake along the way. The return journey was made via Dorchester where we enjoyed a meal at La Gondola, the local Italian restaurant, before returning to Weymouth. Another very enjoyable day out!
Sunday, 29 May: any new vehicle entering the fleet deserves an inaugural day out so it was entirely appropriate that we welcomed our latest addition, Volvo B6LE (P701BTA), in just this way. The day started at the Honiton Road Park & Ride site in Exeter from where we made our way into Exeter Coach Station for a quick stop before heading for Newton Abbot. The route taken was that of the current (and historic) '2', via Dawlish and Teignmouth where the first of numerous photo stops was taken. Having then picked-up a couple of passengers at Newton Abbot, we made our way along the '12' route through to Torquay Coach Station (more photos). Of course, no trip to Torquay is complete without the obligatory pilgrimage to Hesketh Crescent (surely one of the better bus photographic backdrops in South Devon) and this trip was certainly not going to buck that trend. Having worked the cameras hard once again, it was non-stop to Paignton where lunch was taken, and then on to Brixham. The Brixham Breakwater provides another scenic area for photography and the bus turning circle enables a stop to be made without inconveniencing other traffic. After this we headed back to Broadsands Viaduct and were fortunate that our visit coincided with a steam train (a 'Manor' class loco it would seem) traversing the viaduct - again, a great photo opportunity. Our final destination of the day was Kingswear where the 'Banjo' provides another superb background over the River Dart, the steam railway and Dartmouth on the opposite bank of the river. The return trip to Exeter was then made, with refreshments at Exeter Services around 5pm. Altogether an excellent day out and a great 'proving' trip for 701 which acquitted itself very well throughout
Friday, 27 May: a further trip to the MOT testing station today, this time with the Leyland Leopard, TYD911W. A clean bill of health was recorded with just a couple of minor points to be addressed over the coming weeks
Sunday, 22 May: the day of the Bristol Harbourside Rally usually means torrential rain but a welcome exception occurred this year with blue skies and no rain throughout the day (although it was very windy). The event was, once again, held adjacent to the Lloyds Amphitheatre in Canons Marsh, Bristol. There is limited space at the venue and the rally always seems to be over-subscribed ... hence there is a good selection of buses to look at and ride upon. Inevitably there is a predominance of 'green' but, as ever, many vehicles from much further afield and a wide variety of operators were represented. Our own VR, AFJ766T (1159) was in attendance and looked good parked right alongside the Inner Harbour quayside. The modernistic architecture and features in the area of the rally site also made for an interesting diversion from the bus activity. Thanks to Ben Beaver for the shot of 1159 arriving at the rally site with Woody at the wheel
Monday, 16 May: we were saddened to learn, on 3 May, of the passing of another stalwart of the bus preservation world, Keith Falconer. Keith worked for Devon General for no less than 43 years prior to his retirement during 2001 and was instrumental in saving our oldest fleet member, 913DTT, from a very uncertain future. Between 1985 and 1996 the bus was largely under Keith's care and much work was done by a dedicated team of volunteers to ensure that the bus survived into preservation. Indeed, testament to their combined efforts is the fact that the vehicle was later returned to service with an independent operator.
Keith's family asked whether it would be possible for the bus to attend his funeral, held today in Torquay. Despite 913's current mechanical problems (it needs a replacement gearbox), we felt it was important that it should participate if at all possible and it was duly 'nursed' down to Devon. Once there it took part in the funeral cortege and then provided transport for a commemorative trip around Torquay after the service.
A fitting tribute to a kind and generous gentleman who dedicated his life to the bus industry. May he rest in peace.
Wednesday, 11 May: as announced a month or so back, James was successful in securing Volvo B6LE, P701BTA for preservation and today saw its collection from Stagecoach's Wellington depot and transfer to its new home in Torbay. After some initial problems with the accelerator (the vehicle had been stood idle for several weeks) the trip was undertaken with ease (see YouTube clip) and a diversion was made into Exeter Coach Station where we happened to meet-up with John Lacey and his Ford Transit 190D (C748FFJ) which today celebrated the 25th anniversary of its introduction in to service. The B6 is in good overall repair and drives very well. James plans to run it in its present condition for the next few months and then hopes to have it repainted during the winter. Various cosmetic/minor jobs can be completed in the meantime and the aim will be to achieve the greatest degree of 'period' authenticity possible ... plans are already well advanced towards this end. Look out, there could be a VR for sale!!
Saturday, 7 May: today was the 70th birthday of our good friend and supporter, Joe Ward. Joe has been a lifelong bus enthusiast so a surreptitious outing was planned with 1159. A number of Joe's friends were briefed to gather near the Pageant Gardens in Weymouth at 11:00, along with the bus, and at the appointed time Joe was coaxed out of the local cafe for his 'surprise' bus trip. This took the form of a journey down to Swanage where the Swanage Railway was holding a diesel gala. We spent around 4 hours in Swanage before re-assembling at the bus where birthday cake was taken (and lemonade!) ahead of the return to Weymouth. Another good day out and, hopefully, a memorable birthday celebration
Thursday, 5 May: 518's turn to visit the MOT testing station today and achieve a new 'ticket' for 12 months
Thursday, 28 April - Tuesday, 3 May: the first Bank Holiday weekend in May has traditionally become the weekend over which the Llandudno Transport Festival is held and this has now become something of a permanent fixture in the DDG calendar. During recent years we have taken buses to the event (a 550 mile round trip in itself) and this year saw our most ambitious undertaking yet with 4 vehicles making the journey from Dorset and Devon to the North Wales coast. We were joined by our good friends Terry Partridge (to whom thanks go for the attached photos) and Graham Bailey who travelled-up from Exeter in Terry's ex-Southern National Series 3 VR, VDV122S. From our own fleet the VR (1159), National (2883) and S23 (5919) attended. Having made the journey up on Thursday, Friday was spent preparing the buses and removing several hundred dead insects that had accumulated the previous day ... we even missed the Royal Wedding! Saturday, Sunday and Monday then saw 3 of the 4 vehicles 'in service', providing the free bus link between Llandudno town centre and Bodafon Fields where the Transport Festival is held as well as assisting with the Saturday and Sunday evening road runs to Conwy and around the Great Orme respectively. The festival is deliberately timed to coincide with Llandudno's 'Victorian Extravaganza' and this means that the town is packed throughout the weekend. As a result, heavy loadings are always seen and the fine weather this year certainly assisted. Up to a dozen buses help out with the shuttle service, varying in age from the early 50s through to the 80s/90s and this adds an extra dimension to the event. Tuesday saw us make the return journey to the south west and all 4 vehicles behaved impeccably throughout.
Tuesday, 26 April: it was the turn of Series 3 VR, 1215 (LFJ862W) to visit the testing station today and a new MOT was achieved successfully
Friday, 9 April: it seems like quite a while since we announced a new addition to the Devon and Dorset Group fleet (actually, the last one was the Regent V, 518, during October 2009) and it's always something of an exciting moment. So, today we can reveal that Volvo B6LE, P701BTA will be joining us shortly. This is one of the first batch of low-floor vehicles to be delivered to Stagecoach South West during March 1997 and, as is often the case with bus acquisitions, there is a nostalgic connection to the new owner. James remembers seeing these vehicles parked in Exeter depot when new and spent many a 'happy' hour driving them on the '12' between Newton Abbot and Brixham. Although to some these will appear to be quite modern vehicles they nevertheless represented another milestone in the evolution of passenger transport, offering much easier access for elderly and disabled passengers as well as a return to the policy of purchasing full size single deckers after some years of minibuses - hence it is right that an example should be saved for posterity. The bus is just out of service so is fully up and running with a Class 6 MOT and can be driven away and enjoyed for a while without the need for much work. The plan, in due course, is however to restore the vehicle to Stagecoach stripes livery and the EasyRider branding - see photo (courtesy of Dave Godley). We are fortunate in that 701 retains quite a few original features and this will make the task of restoring it to near-original condition somewhat easier. In this respect we are grateful to our good friends at Stagecoach in Exeter who have assisted greatly not only in the acquisition of the vehicle but also in ensuring that it has as much originality as can be achieved. No doubt 701 will be seen at a few rallies and running events during the forthcoming season - watch our 'Future Events' section for details
Thursday, 31 March: a further trip was made to Martock for some minor remedial work required following 88's recent MOT. This was accomplished in less than 30 minutes and the bus returned to base without incident. Although Martock Commercials, as the name would imply, undertakes work on a range of commercial vehicles, Malcolm the proprietor has extensive experience with older bus types and is 'sympathetic' to the preservation movement
Sunday, 27 March: today we attended the annual pre-season gathering of all the local groups organising events in the Weymouth area during 2011. This is held at Weymouth Pavilion and the Regent V, 518 was parked on the forecourt, suitably adorned with publicity leaflets. We spoke to a good number of people during the day and hopefully some of them will visit us at the Running Day on 12 June!
Wednesday, 16 March: the Olympian (1804) had recently developed a severe list to the nearside and investigations revealed that this was caused by the leveler valve extension having broken-off due to corrosion (being a more modern vehicle, the suspension is supported on air bags and the inflation of these is regulated by sensors that control the leveler valves on either side - the objective being to keep the bus as level as possible at all times, thus providing a more comfortable ride). Whilst a temporary repair was effected to enable the bus to be moved, a more permanent fix was required so 1804 was taken to Martock Commercials where they quickly attended to the fault. Two tyres were also in need of attention so a call was made at ITS just down the road from Martock Commercials where one tyre was replaced and another re-cut. A successful day and 2 more jobs off the list!
Sunday, 6 March: this was our second trip to the Bournemouth Aviation Museum, based across the road from Bournemouth Airport. Their Vintage Vehicle Day is a mixture of buses, commercials and cars with the museum alongside for those who are interested in aviation history (http://www.aviation-museum.co.uk/). Our transport for the day was the Regent V, 518, and we provided 2 free services from the museum into the Bournemouth Travel Interchange; both of these saw full loads. A parting bonus was the award of 'Best Bus' in the show (563 having been given this accolade last year)!
one of the traditional early curtain-raisers to the main
season is the
Warminster - Gillingham Road
Run. Whilst not a large event and one more aimed at preserved
cars and commercials, one or two buses usually attend and it is quite
local for us.
Wednesday, 9 February: annual MOT inspections were due on both Series 3 VR, 1159 and the Leyland Olympian, 1804. Two consecutive appointments were booked at the testing station and two passes were achieved with no significant issues!
Sunday, 2 January: this year's Friends of King Alfred Buses (FoKAB) 'New Year's Day' running day was held on the 2nd of January and we attended with Series 2 VR, 563. With a good attendance from our regular supporters and several Wessex Transport Society members joining us in and around the Poole/Bournemouth area, we arrived at Winchester with 33 on board. 563 was booked to do two service runs to Alresford and two to Twyford Waterworks and all of these attracted virtually full loads. We returned to Dorchester around 19:30 - all in all an excellent day out. The photographs show 563 at Winchester Bus Station, Alresford Station and Twyford Waterworks
Updated 26 December 2011 E&OE. Nothing contained in this website constitutes a legal contract or guarantees availability.