Vintage buses beat the gales and rain
IT was the worst weather of the year – ceaseless, lashing rain propelled by 60mph gales from dawn to dusk. And it was also the Exmouth heritage Bus Running Day.
With such dire conditions last Sunday you could have forgiven the organisers it they called it off. But members of the Devon General Society are made of sterner stuff, and the event went ahead with a few minor adjustments.
"We didn't think it would have been practical not to be there because we would have let a lot of people down," said Nick Craig who organised the event with support from fellow members. Also, because Stagecoach was good enough to let us use the Exmouth bus station people could shelter out of the rain and wait under cover."
And so, for the day, time turned back with a preserved fleet of maroon and cream liveried Devon General vehicles revisiting their old routes. Just under a dozen single and double deckers leant a dash of novelty and nostalgia as they "swished" along the rain-swept streets of this seaside town.
While everything ran to a timetable some outings had to be altered.
With plenty of advance warning of bad weather, the organisers had worked out a Plan B. Trips around the seafront were cancelled and a visit from an open-top "Seadog" double decker was also called off.
Despite atrocious weather Nick said it didn't dampen the enthusiasm of those that attended.
"Every passenger who travelled on the free services was issued with a ticket from the conductors. The ticket machines have a counter. I think we carried about 670 people which on such a shocking day was very pleasing," said Nick. "The other pleasing thing was the number of families that came along. The anoraks will turn out in all sorts of conditions, but it was pleasing to see parents and grandparents coming down for a ride. They wanted to share something of the past with their children."
The oldest heritage bus running was Ron Greet's 1946 AEC Regal. The half-cab single decker was one of the first post World War Two buses to enter service with Devon General.
The vehicle made a number of trips out of Exmouth and visited Budleigh Salterton and the village of Woodbury. Other destinations were Littleham for the World of Country Life, and a town circular. Such vintage public transport is a far cry from the comforts of today's buses.
"The worst thing is that they don't have cab heaters," said Nick, who spent the day behind the wheel of the AEC Regal. "You were expected to wear an overcoat in those days. Also you got a lot of condensation because there was no de-mister."
For all the volunteer drivers behind the wheel on Sunday such road conditions "certainly concentrated the mind. You had to drive carefully and remember that you had a lot of people on board," said Nick.
One thing the organisers learned for future reference is that a Plan B is always a good idea at such an event so that all situations can be coped with.
"Another thing we learned was to have confidence that people will turn out," said Nick.
"We did have some fairly vigorous discussions on Saturday as to whether we went ahead – but we felt people would expect to see us there."