The 1997 Running Day at Aldershot was a great success. Care will be needed in future years as, with 11 buses available and over 70 return journeys worked, we were stretched to capacity. Although full loads are to be welcomed and represent the way buses are best remembered, some Owners felt that an occasional journey with, say, half a load, would ease the strain on the machinery! A lesson here is that any future running day needs to be as well, if not better, provided with vehicles.
Links with Rushmoor Council and the publicity gained through the Local Arts and History Festival have helped to establish the credibility of the A&D group. This was demonstrated by our performance on the day. If Council representatives were sceptical before-the event, they were converted by the end of the day. Mike Stephens writes: One officer "waited at Farnborough Town Hall to see if the bus due at 2.04pm would turn up (his tone displayed a note of doubt) but at 2.03 a green double decker was seen approaching and arrived exactly on time. He boarded to find the top deck full and only three spare seats on the lower deck. On arrival at Aldershot, he was astounded at the number of people in attendance!" (Well done the crew of Loline 357 - Ed)
Some impressions of the day.
A Conductor's View - by John Sherwin
Training day arrived at last! Eagerly, we met to discover our schedules for the running day. As usual, there was an introductory talk by Ray Foster who reminded us about the procedures for operation. I tried to take account of all the requirements. Then, to my surprise, route learning was taken in a P reg Dennis' Lance with Bill Tutty at the helm. In my case, we went over the single' deck routes 3, 44 and 76.
Fully trained and ready for action, I arrived at Aldershot in time to collect a ticket machine at 9.30am. For the first run, I was given 370 with driver Tony Waller. We left Aldershot with about a dozen passengers - not surprising, I suppose because the event is advertised to start at l0am. We had a good run although timing points were difficult to sustain. After a brief photo - opportunity session and change of blinds, we left a sunny Farnborough station with the same dozen enthusiasts.
As we rejoined the gathering at Aldershot, there were many more people around. Much attention was given to the arrival of 370, because this was the first journey operated at an A&D running day. With blinds changed ready for the 76 to Cove Supply Stores, Tony and I disembarked for a short break.
We left on time with a nearly full load. For the first time in my experience as a conductor, we left some disappointed passengers behind at Farnborough Station on the outward journey. 370 purred along well with a full load to the terminus at Cove West Heath Bridge. Timing was not so good here, because loading and photo stops delayed us. However it was good news for the patient group at Farnborough. A few passengers disembarked and they were quickly replaced ready for the direct run to Aldershot.
The same bus, but a very different driver, were to be with me for my last duty on route 44 to Frimley Green. With James Freeman at the wheel, we left with few spare seats. Memories of training day flooded back to me when Ray Foster had assured us that the conductor is in charge of the vehicle at all times. Try telling that to drivers who make slight route deviations, I thought! No passengers complained and on the return journey, we did follow the 44 route through North Camp!
All in all, it was an exciting experience for me. As a part owner of 370, 1 was thrilled to see her back in Aldershot with real passengers. As usual, there were many questions about the bus and various aspects of the running day. Some enthusiasts asked for the journeys of specific vehicles. My day didn't finish at 12.40. because there was a spell of gate duty for 1 1/2 hours. Again, it was busy because anxious' enthusiasts required information about routes and timings. For the rest of the day, I became a passenger and enjoyed a ride on 220. What a marvellous day! Good weather and large crowds with a fine selection of "Aldershot & District" - what more could anyone want?
A Drivers View - by Ian Thompson
Before all else let me sincerely thank the owners for trusting me on Dennis Lances 145 and 220.
For Aldershot Running Day we again had fine weather, not as warm - thank goodness - as Woking last year. In both cabs, however, you can be as warm or as cool as you wish: with the engine right by you there is central heating for winter, while the sliding cab windows and the ram effect of the canopy provide a stiff breeze even on the stillest summer day. Here is not the place to enumerate all the virtues of the traditional 'British double-decker but-that is two of them.
As predicted, early trips were lightly loaded but things soon got busy: on at least two Farnham to Farnborough directs we were full with seven standing. Despite the excellent replacement engine fitted eighteen months ago 145 felt the load, and we were in second gear for quite a stretch climbing north through Heath End. Sunday car traffic has multiplied to an extent unimaginable in 145's service days, so we sometimes dropped into bus stops to let the traffic fume past. That meant first-gear starts and -I regret to admit - a crunch into second, as 145's clutch stop is much less easy to use than 220's, so instant upward changes are best avoided. On the other hand 145's Dennis 06 engine has a lighter flywheel than that of 220's Gardner 5LW, so timed upward changes incur less speed loss uphill. A fairly detailed comparison of the performance of the two Lances reveals that in passenger service. they were closely matched. 145 is 2cwt heavier than the foot-longer, six inch-wider 220, which seats four more. 145's engine is of 7.38 litres, a little larger than 220's 6.97 litres. Final drive ratio and gearbox ratios are the same. What most strikes the driver is the very different character of the two engines: the Dennis 06 is satin smooth - almost vibration-less -and combustion noise is very .light, though the induction is quite throaty. The 06 is happiest when it is spinning fast; those four valves per pot give good breathing at higher revs rather than low-speed slog. The 5LW, by contrast, seems un-stallable; you can let the clutch in when the engine is barely. turning and off she goes, but the vibration of the steering column at tickover is a warning of that wonderful thudding crescendo as you reach 1,700.revs. Recent straightening and balancing of the prop-shaft, though, reveals that the vibration formerly noticeable to 220's passengers at speed was not the Gardner's fault at all!
The steering on both vehicles is a delight, though 145 gets heavy with-a good load aboard. As with the ex-Leeds PD1s and the handful of Dennis Lancets at Smith's Coaches of Reading in the mid-50s, the steering is dead steady. Another Lancet feature was the odd position of controls in the high-floored cab. You got used to it in time and then found the coaches very satisfying to drive. The same is true of the Lance K3 and K4: not at first sight an ergonomic dream; but it grows on you!
Most crews found the schedules fairly tight. The gratifying abundance of passengers meant lower stop-to-stop speeds, not only because of. the extra weight (80 people of all ages come to about 4 tons) but also loading and disgorging can take time, especially when members of the true public (though assured that the bus will. whisk them free to the very destination shown on the blinds) sometimes hesitate as though it must all be part of some elaborate kidnap plot. Another factor that can dent your running times yet makes the whole event doubly worthwhile is photography. The only real traffic problem we ran into with the two Lances was at Farnham in the morning, where congestion from road works at Frensham had spilt back into the town But the presence of two conductors on some journeys on open platform double-deckers, a necessary safety measure, also saved valuable time at stops. If all our passengers, onlookers and photographers enjoyed the day as much as we, the crews did then the day was a very great success.
This article previously appeared in the August 1997 edition of the Newsletter.