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Enthusiasts flock to see vintage buses

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 17, 2012

  • people enjoy a ride the open top 1956 Leyland Titan named 'Sir Francis Drake'. Below from left, a 1929 Leyland Lioness and a 1947 Leyland Harrington PICTURES: ROGER MALONE

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There was a crowd-pulling fusion of past and present at Kingsbridge on Saturday when a fleet of vintage buses and a swarm of racing cyclists – accompanied by siren-wailing out-riders – converged on the town.

But, while the Tour of Britain Cycle Race involved much waiting then a blur of lycra and whirr of wheels, the 5th Kingsbridge Bus Running Day entertained the public all day.

Open-top vehicles gave free trips to Slapton and Thurlestone, while other buses ran regular services to a variety of inland and coastal South Hams destinations. Colin Billington, who organised the event on behalf of the Thames Valley and Great Western Omnibus Trust, said: "Our schedules, based on original timetables, use traditional vehicles on original routes to recreate the local transport scene as it would have been decades ago."

Last year's running day totalled an impressive 3,500 passenger journeys.

It is expected that, even with services halted for the cycle race, figures will show an increased number this year.

"We ran more buses than previously, as well as putting on a couple of extra routes which did very well," said Colin. While similar events increasingly rely on a younger generation of preserved vehicles from the 60s and 70s, the Kingsbridge running day turn the clock back further.

"Our oldest entry was from the 1920s and we had four pre-war vehicles. Of the 33 buses running 14 were traditional half-cab single deckers and double deckers," said Colin.

Taking pride and place at the event was Peter Stanier's 1929 Leyland Lioness, a spectacular all-weather convertible charabanc, originally from North Wales.

Another first-time visitor was a former Plymouth City Transport open top 1956 Leyland Titan named 'Sir Francis Drake'.

The day's fleet featured 26 vehicles of 7ft 6in width – the size of buses designed to cope with the narrow lanes around Kingsbridge.

"We are working in a different era but on some side roads you can go at the same pace they did 50 years ago," said Colin. "We are learning more about the old timetables and have adapted them more. That's not to go faster, but to give more time to go around the routes because there is more traffic congestion these days. It was a good event. The weather was brilliant and everybody was happy," said Colin.

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