Ding Ding – Hold Tight Please!
More room upstairs!
I was interested to hear some local news recently that Route Master buses are to return to Nottinghamshire in the near future. This style of buses are what most of us know as ‘London Buses’ with the old rear open platform, separate driver’s cab and conductor taking the fares. The last time that similar vehicles operated in Nottinghamshire was in 1977 (though I am informed these were not ‘Route Master’ models but rather something very similar, as far as the layman is concerned at least.
Interestingly for me, the single route these buses will take is from the Nottingham city centre to the suburb nearest me, Arnold, just four miles north of the city. The buses will run from 7am to 7pm every day, every twenty minutes in the week and every half hour on Saturdays. This unusual service will be run by a local coach company and is seen as something that will draw enthusiasts and curious types to the area. Indeed the journey is being described as a ‘heritage route’. I’m sure the local Iceland, Wilko’s and ASDA stores will appreciate that description! It will be interesting to note if it takes new visitors to Arnold’s main shopping area and what they make of the place…
I recall these buses long ago. The ones I travelled on as a youngster were in the Nottingham City Transport (or whatever it was called in those days) livery of green and gold. They were still around in the Old Market Square in Nottingham when I was at senior school and I well remember the fact that if you were a bit sprightly, no bad-tempered or cussed driver having a bad day/month/year could drive off leaving you doing the ‘idiot-running-for-bus’ sketch. You could simply ‘leg-it’ after the bus and dive headlong on to the open rear platform – usually to the disdain of the conductor or ‘clippie’. It all added to the excitement in those days, especially when it was the last bus home at night.
Similarly I remember (but only rarely) the leather strap that the conductor would occasionally string across the back of the open rear platform to stop the seething mass of humanity crammed onto the bus from spilling out on to the tarmac. Simple but effective. ‘Strap-hanging’ was another feature as the more fortunate amongst the 4,756 passengers wedged onto the bottom deck clung for dear life onto leather loops hanging from the ceiling to keep them upright/alive.
Of course most of my rides on these buses were as a laddie at school. You can be sure that my favoured position was just behind the driver’s cab, looking over his shoulder and ‘changing’ his whining and protesting gears for him. This was real rough magic to me as a lad.
Upstairs was a different matter though. In fact I don’t think I ever actually saw the upstairs due to the solid blue fog of Park Drive cigarettes filling the upper deck like a solid, smoky impenetrable mass. I lost three relatives in pea-soupers over the years by venturing upstairs in that way, never to be seen again. Luckily there were windows that opened at least to the tune of at least one eighth of an inch – not that anybody ever opened them. Everybody smoked upstairs. I think I actually saw a Labrador smoking a pipe up there once.
The buses themselves never seemed in my long-distant memory to reach the heady heights of thirty miles per hour. This was offset though by the conductors taking your hard-earned from you in return for a ticket – non of this stationary buses waiting whilst the hard-of-thinking getting on suddenly realise that (gasp) one needs some bus fare to take the journey.
Ah, the chrome rails, the battered and flaking leatherette seats, the unfathomably complicated ticket machines with a roll of a hundred free tickets trailing out of the back of the bus along the road as the conductor gamely but helplessly tried to seamlessly change his roll of tickets in the gleaming, clicking and whirring machine hanging from his neck. These are some of the memories I have of the old Route Master buses and of that era.
Welcome back – hold yer tight!