While many traditionally celebrate 5 November as the day the plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament was foiled, this year I'd be getting all excited not for the associated fireworks, but because today would be the day that GCT 113 would operate its first 'in service' tours emanating from the Road Transport Museum (RTM) at Whisby, near Lincoln.
The RTM is home to the Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Society (LVVS) and twice a year a traditional rally is operated, seeing a mix of visiting vehicles and plenty operating free services to the nearby park-and-ride site (to accommodate people travelling to the day), to Lincoln city centre, special mystery tours and special open-top excursions.
This year GCT 113 would accompany sister GCT 133 - an AEC Bridgemaster which dates from 1960 and which lost its roof to operate seafront services in Cleethorpes - for the first open-top excursion of the day. Both buses were booked to operate the 1045 departure. GCT 113 would then operate a further three before a short break, then a fourth and finally the fifth would be as a duplicate to GCT 133, if required.
With the weather forecast for the day showing no sign of rain, I headed to Lincoln with GCT 113 in good time for the first departure at 1045. Less space than usual had been made available by the neighbouring businesses to the RTM and so finding somewhere to park in between excursions would prove challenging at times. The area where visiting vehicles would traditionally exhibit was to be used by operational vehicles, and space had been made at the Lindum site on the road towards North Hykeham, for visiting vehicles to be parked. This would add an additional focal point in its own right and so all services to Lincoln city centre were routed this way to convey visitors and visiting vehicle crews.
I followed GCT 133 out from the pick-up point opposite the RTM at precisely 1045 and we headed into Lincoln via Skellingthorpe Road. Railway diversions away from the East Coast Main Line today would see additional trains operating through Lincoln and thus the level crossings which seem to surround the RTM would be closed considerably more than usual. Our first excursion was effectively a trip along Tritton Road into the City Centre and to return via the outward route.
My next trip was at 1125 and I opted on this occasion to follow the loose map that had been given to me which showed the open-top excursions to run an effective 'half-City' journey and return. For this journey I was accompanied by a former GCT colleague who'd made the trip to the RTM today to see GCT 113 and others and the journey was spent discussing technical details and how best to recreate them. The large '113' sticker, applied to the front of the bus, above the windscreen and facing down the interior was a foreign body, as I'd suspected. and will be removed when I get round to applying new-look vinyl to the outside.
The third trip was at 1205 and due to excessive traffic on my return from the second trip, we left a couple of minutes late. On this occasion, I went feral and chose to do a trip beyond the limits of the suggested open-top excursion, heading out via North Hykeham then across to Waddington and up the drag to the village centre, then left towards Lincoln via the A607 and through Bracebridge Heath, down the hill to South Park and then back to the RTM via Newark Road etc. It was a good trip - quiet roads, good scenery (which improved as we climbed the hill into central Waddington) and there were sections what the bus's speed could be maxed to its dizzying 40mph.
I did the same trip for my fourth journey, departing at 1245. I found space at the lay-over area to leave GCT 113 for a short time while I went to get something to eat and bumped into a number of my colleagues who work on the railway, all there with cameras. These people have never shown any interest in talking about the bus industry while I've known them and they all know my background, which is exactly that.
1425 was the time of my next and final open-top excursion and I followed the same route as the last two. My duplicate duties for the next journey, at 1525, weren't required, so instead I operated an additional journey to Lincoln city centre. Departing from the RTM on this journey showed how unprepared I was for the bus's zero power steering. I hadn't thought that I'd pulled too close to the bus in front, but it took me an embarrassing FOUR shunts to pull out past it. Ugh. While I'd driven GCT 113 quite a few times since acquiring her, today was the first time I'd driven her with passengers on since 2003.
We headed to the City Centre via the authorised route and I'd acquired a conductor by this stage who showed me the new set-up for pick-ups and drop-offs in the reconstructed City Centre. A number of photographers took photos of GCT 113 at the stop on the new inner relief road in Lincoln city centre and I've not managed to find any online. If anyone is able to supply me with one, please make contact using the form on the homepage.
Back at the RTM, the passenger tally was totalled and GCT 113 had carried 122 passengers all day, as part of a very large, end-of-season rally in which the bus was a mere pawn in the overall operation. A great start to preservation in private ownership and the last time the bus will be seen in its Stagecoach Swoops guise, for in December significant exterior changes will be made to GCT 113...
In total, 101 miles were covered and while I winced a bit at the actual cost of this in fuel, I quickly realised that had someone said to me a year ago that I could own a little piece of GCT history for the sum of £64.64 per LVVS rally, I'd snap their hand off!