Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Gestation Jubilee

If you’re bad at remembering birthdays, think yourself lucky you don’t own a bus.

270 KTA has three tangible ‘birth’ days, the first of which – if perhaps the least tangible – is today. 50 years ago, on 15th February 1962, chassis number 190033 left the Bristol Commercial Vehicles factory in Brislington and embarked on the 250-plus mile journey to Eastern Coach Works in Lowestoft, where it would become a coach.

It wouldn’t have been recognisable as our friend. This tiny portion of a photo from 1962 is the only shot I’ve seen of an SU chassis – possibly you know who – and it’s in this unlikely form that, fifty years ago, mine would have been driven under its own power for the first time.

Yes, driven! For the best part of a century, the helmeted drivers who’d take these skeletons on a windy journey across the breadth of the country were a daily sight leaving Bristol. It must have been a dreadful job, cold and terrifying; I’d have loved every minute…

The other two dates are perhaps more significant for our friend as we know it. The finished coach was collected by Western National, running on trade-plates, on 20th June 1962. Eleven days later it was officially registered with the DVLA as 270 KTA; a coach was born.

So I’ve decided that June will be the month of cake.

I’m planning to mark the delivery ‘birthday’ with a tour of the depots 270 KTA served, starting at the conveniently timed Weymouth bus rally on 17th June, and continuing to Trowbridge, Bridgwater, Taunton, Newton Abbot, Plymouth and crucially, arriving in Kingsbridge on 20th June.

The official ‘birthday’ weekend will be enjoyed in fine company on the annual Royal Blue Run, which will take us from High Wycombe to Exeter and Salcombe on 29th/30th June, and back up country on 1st July, the day in question to... Bristol. Ideal!

Neither the Bristol Commercial Vehicles factory, nor the ECW works – where the building and finishing of the body would have commenced fifty years ago tomorrow – survives today. Both were closed before I could ride a bike, and have been obliterated to make way for retail parks.

And yet, 50 years on, our friend travels on…

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