20 May 2007

Potteries Rally, Stoke-on-Trent

Decided to make use of my weekend off work and drive the 140 miles from Cleethorpes to Staffordshire for the 30th Anniversary rally of POPS - Potteries Omnibus Preservation Society. Although considerably more active than the LEYTR, we're considerably older than they are, which isn't a sleight at their Society, just continual amazement at how established the LEYTR is and how I'm continually honoured to be editing the publication.

The rally was held at the Wedgwood Pottery Centre, just south of Stoke, 10 mins from M6 J15. My friend Richard, who attended last year, claimed 108 vehicles attended - impressive statistics considering the rally appeared to me a smaller affair.

Despite taking around 30 photos before realising I had my camera set to the 'S' setting meaning they were all over-exposed, and deleting them to find the next 20 I took were all on manual focus, not automatic, I finally managed to photograph pretty much everything there as they were all located near to one another - a little too close if I'm honest. The majority were correctly positioned for the sun (south facing) and I managed to increase my tie collection by two: a First Flexi tie and a very old-style Crosville tie. I also purchased a tie I've already got, though with a plan: it was the first new-issue Stagecoach tie, with the huge 'beachball' logos on. Two people have recently asked me for this tie and I've only got the one, which is staying in my collection.

Of particular interest to me was Daimler Fleetline/Roe Park Royal O45/29D, 15513 (MBE 613R) - a vehicle I'd driven countless times when I was employed by Stagecoach Grimsby-Cleethorpes. Specifically, the highest concentration of times driven was in the summer of 1998 when I passed my PCV driving test and was given 6 continuous weeks' duties along Cleethorpes sea front as room wasn't available for me on their minibus rota. Along with sister Fleetline, BJV 103L, I've driven each around 50 times.

Now it's the Stagecoach Yorkshire publicity/event vehicle and has had its "Grimsby-Cleethorpes" fleet name removed. Yesterday it performed the task of publicity vehicle in Barnsley Town Centre when the new Barnsley Network was launched. It is now adorned with adverts promoting Barnsley to both sides, rear engine cover and front, above the destination display. This didn't sit particularly well with me - a Grimsby-based Fleetline for 30 years now promoting a service re-vamp in Barnsley? But had Stagecoach not decided to retain the vehicle following its withdrawal from service, it would probably have ended up scrapped.

Entry to the event was free and programmes were £2. They're invaluable when adding captions to photos taken. I also bought two models this time - the first models I've bought in years! One was a Mercedes-Benz Citaro on route 73 in London (a bendy-bus for the uninitiated); and the other a Docklands Transit liveried Dennis Dart. The clue here was its registration: N426 MBW - I'd driven this countless times, again while employed by Stagecoach Grimsby-Cleethorpes, on the route that passes my house (amongst others)! It is still in service and given fleet number 32426 - it was acquired with the business of East London when almost new.

Richard and I sampled a ride on the ex. GCT Fleetline at 1515hrs and the journey took around 40 minutes - far lengthier than other ad hoc free rides you can take advantage of at other rallies! We both sat upstairs (well, you have to on an open topper) and froze. It may have felt like 20C when walking around stalls but doing 45mph with the sun nowhere to be seen on the top deck with no roof, in May, is no laughing matter. The bus rode very well though and is totally unaltered inside.

I purchased a photo of one of the coaches I drive: Volvo B12M/Plaxton Paragon C49Ft, 53022 (YV03 TZN) but most importantly spotted me driving it!! It was taken very recently, in London, as I can be seen wearing my new-style glasses. 40p well spent.

A guy called Lee Roddis has preserved an ex Chesterfield Corportation Leyland Swift and brought it to the rally. I vaguely remember Lee as a chap I used to work with when living in Chesterfield during the summer of 2000. We didn't get chance to meet but I'm pretty sure he's the same guy. I managed to meet-up with other ex colleagues/acquaintances from Chesterfield - Rob Parkinson, Colin Sellars and (briefly) Shayne Howarth - who drove the Fleetline. I spotted a couple of others but didn't get chance to say hello. It's impressive the enthusiasm people in the Chesterfield-area have for buses/coaches. Very little on the same level exists in North-East Lincolnshire!

I bought the BBP Stagecoach Handbook 2007 (see how many errors I can spot!) as well as an official First Potteries fleet list; two LINCMAN stickers (from the 1980s!); two mugs and took 95 photos. Not a bad day at all.