This was my second visit to BusFest, my first being as a visitor back in 2015, when asked by an acquaintance to watch him back his single-decker into position, then doing the same for a couple more, was subsequently thanked by one of the harassed-looking organisers, and rashly offered to help them out in the future if they needed it! Having been out with the lads (and lasses) from the organising Eastern Bus Enthusiasts'' group several times over the last few years to events such as Show Bus, North Norfolk Railway's vintage day and the annual bus running days at the Lincolnshire Road Transport Museum, this year was the first opportunity I had to honour that offer due to the NICE Society's annual vintage fayre moving both date and venue in 2019.
It was a foggy start back at EBE HQ early on Sunday morning, with 7 resident and 2 visiting vehicles leaving the yard to travel to Whittlesey. On arrival, it was a case of moving the heavy planters usually in position on the market square beside the Buttercross to give us a departure point for the bus-services, whilst others set-up the road-closure barriers and signage once the appointed hour of 8am came along. Once done, it was over to The George for a Wetherspoon's breakfast where the boss handed out our pre-advised duty rosters for the day.
Centred on the Fenland town of Whittlesey, there were services laid on to Ramsey, Yaxley, Peterborough, Thorney and Turves. The idea was to support local public houses along the route, but it would appear some passengers forgot to press the "Next stop" buttons to inform the driver and conductor/route guide that they wanted to alight and visit the pubs. There was also a planned deviation to the Fenland Light Railway on a few of the Ramsey trips, Some people also asked about routes to March or Holme, which had been ran in previous years, but the Ramsey route was the most popular no doubt due to the car show held in the town centre and also at the Rural Museum as well.
Other than the EBE owned vehicles, most of the others only started to arrive around 9.30am when other volunteers popped up to start parking the vehicles along the now-closed Broad Street. This was really the only opportunity I had to get photos as the rest of my day was spent on route-guiding/conducting duties on 5 trips, firstly anti-clockwise to Yaxley on the 1977 Leyland Fleetline open-topper in Grimsby & Cleethorpes livery. Second was to Turves on Alex's 1982 Volvo Plaxton Supreme coach, which is ex Whippet Coaches. Third trip was to Ramsey on the 1999 Volvo Olympian double-decker from Rushden Diamonds coaches. Fourth trip was in the surprisingly nippy 1973 Leyland Atlantean from Delaine's of Bourne to Queensgate, then lastly back to Ramsey in the newly preserved 2002 Scania L94UB in Go Whippet livery, all journeys being there and back to Whittlesey.
In-between arriving back at the Bus Station terminus just up the road from the Market Square to discharge the passengers, and accompanying the bus back to see it safely parked up, there was just enough time to walk back to the Buttercross, check the board for any vehicle substitutions before grabbing a quick few minutes' break and loading up for the next trip. Once the last trip was done, I did have a bit of time to check the model stalls and expand my new collecting theme of Corgi 1:50 scale buses. I guess it's in the blood as Dad worked for Eastern Counties, later Cambus & Ambassador Travel, before retiring under Viscount ownership.
The EBE group have come along way since the first Fenland event around 2012, and the collective is ever expanding with a host of buses which have either carried or are sister vehicles to those that have had local liveries, including Cambus, Viscount, Delaine, Judd's, Whippet, Dew's of Somersham, First Eastern Counties, Lincolnshire Road Car, Morley's of Whittlesey, etc etc. When I first got acquainted with the group, Fowler's of Holbeach Drove had a G-reg Leyland Tiger Plaxton Paramount for sale at around £3k but the VAT on top was a bit of a killer of dreams, as well as not being able to drive it at the time.
Unlike most of the EBE crew I don't have a PSV licence, but did learn over the weekend, that one can drive a bus or coach over 30 years old on a category B (71/2 tonne) licence as long as the maximum laden weight does not exceed 7500kg and there are no more than 7 passengers, subject to suitable insurance being in place of course. Thus, some people can drive their own preserved vehicle to the shows but then have to hand over to a suitably qualified driver for the free scheduled routes often on offer at such running days as BusFest.
The event was undoubtably another success and planning is already in hand for next year's event to be held on 17 May 2020, subject to approval of the necessary road closure etc. I'll see you there.