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PICTURES: Celebration of the grand old days of vintage buses

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 26, 2013

  • Above, a 1949 Crossley double decker at Slapton Sands; above right, a star attraction was this 1927 Guy bus in GWR livery which created much interest as a static exhibit at Kingsbridge bus station; and left, emerging from the Tally Ho! depot for its first duty of the day is this 1956 AEC Regal half cab resplendent in Devon General colours

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It was "hold tight, please" as bus trips took transport enthusiasts and nostalgists back in time at an event celebrating the grand old days of vintage bus travel.

With a record number of passengers enjoying free rides around the South Hams, the 6th Kingsbridge Vintage Bus Running Day on Saturday was a resounding success.

The oldest vehicle was a 1927 Guy bus in GWR livery, typical of the GWR Road Motors vehicles which provided services between Kingsbridge and Salcombe in that era. This venerable piece of transport history spent 40 years as a caravan near Perranporth after being withdrawn in 1931.

While it remained as a static exhibit at Kingsbridge bus station, a total of 36 double decker and single decker vehicles busied themselves covering 20 diverse coastal and inland routes.

"Some owners brought vehicles from as far as Sussex, Coventry, South Wales, Cheltenham and Penzance," said Colin Billington who organised the event on behalf of the Thames Valley and Great Western Omnibus Trust.

"People like taking their vehicles back to the sort of places they used to run. The majority of these buses were Westcountry vehicles, and there aren't many opportunities for owners to take part in something like this. Driving a bus full of passengers is all part of the enjoyment."

While double deckers handled main routes such as Bigbury, Totnes and Slapton the smaller single deckers negotiated their way to narrow-laned destinations like South Pool, Loddiswell and Hope Cove.

New additions to this year's programme included some lesser known school bus routes.

"Driving a modern bus is nothing like driving older vehicles," says Colin, who had 11 of his own collection of vintage buses running on the day.

"Modern buses have power assisted steering and fully automatic gears. Driving an old bus is much more of a manual effort."

Colin and like-minded enthusiasts are great believers that preserved buses are better enjoyed out on the road that as permanent static exhibits in museums.

A record 3,554 passenger journeys were recorded – and 11 dogs. The Slapton route was most popular with 654 passenger journeys.

Elderly buses, a number being of pre-war vintage, acquitted themselves well on the undulating and often demanding South Hams hills.

These included a 1945 Bristol K6A Western National double decker which returned to Totnes where it had been based for most of its working life.

Of similar vintage was a Daimler CWA6 double decker – built to 'relaxed' utility standards in 1945.

Originally based at Huddersfield it entered preservation in 1967. Owned by Stephen Morris of Wiveliscombe it has appeared in TV's Last of the Summer Wine and was painted in the London Transport livery it currently sports, for a film.

A Bristol H5G single decker new to Western National in 1933 had been a South Devon area vehicle all its working life. Until withdrawal in 1957 it worked from Dartmouth, Kingsbridge and Plymouth depots.

Another fascinating veteran was Ron Greet of Ipplepen's 1946 AEC Regal. Representative of Devon General's single deck fleet of half-cabs it was the bus most passengers wanted to travel on.

"The annual running day is popular with the town and we get a lot of support from local businesses, the council, the Kingsbridge information centre and our lead sponsor Tally Ho!," says Colin.

"We bring about 800 to 1,000 people to the town and that's lots of people who want cups of tea and lunch.

"What is so good about Kingsbridge is the bus station is right in the middle of town and by the quayside," he says.

"You couldn't ask for a better location – the only down side is that every road out of Kingsbridge is about one-in-five!"

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