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Last weekend at the annual Great Dorset Steam Fair, two Routemasters were in all day service over the five days of the event which this year was fifty years old. To mark that anniversary, the special bus service from the nearest town, Blandford, to the show site was operated by five heritage vehicles. The local operator, Damory Coaches, is part of the Go-Ahead group who have a London operation and thus from them RM 9 and RML 2604 were borrowed.
RM 9 was collected from Bexleyheath on 17 August to be used first at ImberBus
Posed during a break on the A31 at Ropley.
On arrival at Pimperne Depot near Blandford. Damory`s heritage VR was one of the buses used in service over the weekend.
RML 2604 was collected from Croydon (Beddington Farm) Garage on 21 August.
The same lay-by at Ropley
At Pimperne Depot
The sheer size of the Steam Fair is staggering. It goes way beyond the observation wheel in the background and spreads to the left and right well out of shot. It`s almost like a small town that has sprung up in many consecutive fields.
A makeshift bus terminus was made within the show site. Several modern `deckers provided the park and ride service and the scheduled service from Salisbury came in.
It got a bit busy at times and the loadings on all services ranged from steady to full through each day apart from Sunday when heavy rain came
The heritage vehicles were very popular and generated many positive comments. Four out of the five were needed for the Blandford service which used the main town centre car park. At some point each day the spare bus came out to play thus resting one of the others.
It is usual for heavy traffic to bring the A354 to a crawl in the mornings as visitors arrive but on Saturday the traffic management failed when far more people than expected arrived to enjoy a sunny day rather than commit to the Sunday and the accurately forecast heavy rain. This is the sort of view ahead that I was used to often in central London. It`s a bit surreal to be in this in rural Dorset. Much recovery time was built in to the schedule along with `stepping back` to achieve timetable reliability but buses were still running late well into Saturday evening.
Blandford Market Place. The Swindon Daimler is quite nice to drive but I`ve never struggled as much to get in and out of a half cab. Dealing with this really brings home how much care went into the design of a Routemaster from a driver`s point of view.
The foot holds are not where needed and the handbrake has to be climbed over. It really is difficult to get safely into and out of the cab. Abandonment of comfort and dignity too. This bus was made as Routemaster production ended but in terms of sophistication it could have been from twenty years before RM`s were built. The design team at Chiswick really were at the top of their game.
Sunday was a washout in relentless rain. visitor numbers plummeted and bus loadings likewise. It was estimated that over 1500 motorhomes were on site plus thousands of cars and caravans - many left on Sunday to avoid being stuck in the inevitable mud which proved to be a wise move.
The heritage vehicles were appreciated by the public and contributed much to the overall ethos of the event. Considering the mileage covered by RM 9 and RML 2604, they performed without issues. RM 9 worked very hard all day at Imber too staying until the end of play. Both Routemasters went back to London on 28 August.
Comsidering that the Routemaster was a collaboration between AEC/Park Royal and LT one would have expected the Park Royal bodied Regent V to have a decent means of access to the drivers cab, but no... it is just like the Swindon Daimler.
Left foot in bottom step, step rings are usually too slippery so instead right foot on top of tyre - don't do this if the front wheel is jacked up!!! left foot either in cab or top step followed by right foot into cab. Turn round and sit down while shuffling left leg in and then swing right leg over the top of the hand brake.
Only someone who has had to do this could sum it up so well! It is an incredibly poor arrangement that comes with the near certainty of the right foot being placed on the tyre or on the wheel nut guard - which was absolutely forbidden in the LT driver training school. Not that a tyre needed to be used but some drivers did put a right foot on the wheel nut guard.
If seen by an Instructor it would most likely be mentioned - not just within the Training School but to a long qualified driver if such an observation was made. If seen by a DMI (Divisional Mechanical Inspector who had disciplinary powers either on the spot or at a subsequent hearing) it would never go unchallenged on the basis that if slippery through grease or wet, falling off the wheel trim had the potential to cause an injury.
Rm9 looks terrible now a no guts dartmaster engine it couldn't knock a skin off a rice pudding. Also the blinds are not good on both buses as well what a let down their are. Rm9 looked 10 times better in the 1990s and up to 2003. Then she went down hill
RM9 is my wife’s 2nd favourite Routemaster. Our wedding bus 20th September 2003
My bus number (if any): M1001 RML2276 T806
I have to agree with roy regarding cab access on "provincial" buses. The Bristol Lodekka is as bad as the Regent V and Leylands. I find it impossible to get into Regent Vs these days! Despite being designg and made by PRV, the East Kent versions I've worked on are years behind the RM.
My bus number (if any): RML2532