Thursday, 24 April 2014

Holiday SnaPZ

You know that sinking feeling when friends insist on showing you their holiday snaps - a collection of photos that mean everything to them and nothing to the world outside their all-inclusive hotel?



Well, relax. I guarantee not to induce that sinking feeling here. If you've followed the exploits of 270 KTA for any length of time, these photos will surely mean something to you too, as our fifth attempt to make it to West Cornwall for the annual Penzance Running Day finally came off. 
During previous attempts, we've accumulated plenty of shots of 270 KTA in lay-bys on the A30, so this one is a particular trophy from the year of success... Here, our friend was not only running well, but had pulled over to allow friends to catch up on the journey down to West Cornwall.


Safely beyond the scene of last year's breakdown, 270 KTA beams with satisfaction at having delivered her owner to his digs in time for dinner...


... And speaking of satisfied beams, here's a man beginning his Sunday full of the joys of a successful journey down - not to mention an all-you-can-eat breakfast.

270 KTA's first task on Sunday was to join the procession of buses and coaches from First's Long Rock depot, through Penzance town centre, along the seafront and into the bus station - an original Western National site where SUL coaches worked in the 60s and 70s, but have rarely visited since.

Flanked by VR 1056 and FLF 2019 on their first runs of the day, these are the moments when old buses come to life; crammed with passengers, doing what they were built to do, social history is recreated.
  

Our first run of the day was the notoriously hilly 14-route to St Ives, via Gurnards Head and Zennor. Look at it on a map and you'll see why we carried a full load of 33 passengers, with the promise of beautiful coast and countryside views along the northern tip of the South West peninsula. But every hill has its own challenges, and for 270 KTA, most would have been best tackled in gear 2-and-a-half, should it exist...

Nonetheless, we kept to time enough to meet the incoming bus (really another coach) at the famous Gurnard's Head Hotel.


Janet writes: "Thanks so much for a great day. Very welcoming event. We loved our rides on the SUL4A" - could this be the lady who enjoyed 270 KTA (and bawdy conductor Farley, very much 'in role' as Jack Harper) so much that she and her husband stayed with us for the ride to St Buryan?...

Unlike the 14, this route (the 4/4A) was the preserve of Bristol SUs for many years, and 270 KTA was well suited to the narrow lanes through Paul and Sheffield - Cornwall's most confusingly named villages.

In all, we carried around 120 passengers ('Jack' was too busy chatting to count properly), and helped to make the day special for countless more. Western National's lost property office was to claim this personal effect at the end of the day; no doubt it had rolled out of a handbag during the steep gradient in Newlyn...


Owning an old bus is as much about friends as it is the vehicle itself, and the Penzance event especially is characterised by good company, big laughs, and lots and lots of eating. At the end of a hard day's driving, the crews were ferried out to a kind of heaven where no plate or pint glass ever empties. We learned that Bristolians could out-pun the Cornish, that pigs sometimes slipped out of the bkankets, and that white cats should always be called Tippex...

You get the idea.

The luxury of a Bank Holiday Monday afforded the crews and friends the chance to stay in West Cornwall, and do some touring. Two vehicles were selected to drive the route of First's 300 tour, Penzance - Land's End - St Ives - Marazion - Penzance.

Here's one of them...


There are no records to suggest that 270 KTA ever worked in Cornwall during its long career with Western National, so it's likely this weekend broke new territory. Certainly, we could have gone no further West, as this photo at chilly Land's End shows. This is pobably the first visit Land's End has had from a cream and green SU coach for a good 40 years, too...

A proud moment.


The ascent of Sennen Hill (our holiday snap at the top) is notorious amongst the bus fraternity, and it's probably among the most famous climbs on any British bus route. We managed most of it in 2nd, but as this video by James Margan will show, crawler gear eventually had to be deployed. In an SU, crawler (1st) cannot be selected on the move, so the vehicle must be brought to a halt and re-started, much to the delight of everyone on board...

Still, we made it to St Ives ahead of Lionel's Wilts & Dorset Bristol L (ahem... some say only because we missed out a housing estate in St Ives, but this was supposed to be a scenic tour, right?!) - and there was a chance for a photo at what has consistently been voted Britain's most scenic bus station.


It was a magical weekend - wish you were there.

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