I'd always planned on taking GCT 113 home at some point, though what with having a life and family outside the bus preservation scene, not to mention a full-time job, committing myself to a specific date was never something I'd got round to doing. Then a chance conversation with two others who own preserved GCT vehicles saw us plan something in September and we received support from North East Lincolnshire Council. In fact, an event was to be held - organised and promoted by NELC - at which three preserved GCT buses would be 'stars', providing a shuttle service between two attractions in Grimsby that would put on a special open day each.
Sadly this initial date of 16 September was put back to 28 October and now put back again until Christmas. However, with 16 September being put aside in my diary, I felt I really ought to do something and so came up with GCT 113's Return Home Tour.
The day would see GCT 113 recreate routes she would have worked in times past. Rather than recreate whole routes, a mis-mash of different routes would be amalgamated, which would reduce duplication and enable multiple photo opportunities at locations where the routes would change. A rough Tour Timetable was produced and I uploaded it to this website, as well as a couple of other locations, and that was that.
Keeping a weather eye on the forecast (and having to amend the Tour Timetable as King's Road in Cleethorpes would be closed on 16 September to make way for the Humber Half Marathon), all was set fair for the Big Day, which entailed a 5am alarm call for me as I had a fair amount of preparation to undertake to GCT 113 before driving her to Grimsby as work had been 'full on' and I'd been unable to devote the necessary 'prep time' to clean the bus and do the necessary checks.
I had thought that a saunter through the leafy lanes of Lincolnshire at silly o'clock on a Sunday morning would see me reach Grimsby in record time; however, when your top speed is 40mph, very little slows you down and a journey time for the slowest thing on the road is pretty much the same be it 5pm on a Friday or 8am on a Sunday.
However, I did manage to call into Louth and take a photo in the town's bus station, that sees 0 bus departures on Sundays and 4 coach departures (the 339 to Grimsby/Westward Ho! and the 448 to Hull/London). I applied an appropriate service number and destination, when GCT ran in between RoadCar's Service 51 during the late-1980s and upon arrival in Louth undertook two circuits of the 'town service' before heading back to Grimsby. Whether a Fleetline ever operated on the 24 or not, I do not know, though it was my first attempt to recreate a little bit of history today - and it wouldn't be my last!
From Louth I'd decided to head into Grimsby via Barnoldby-le-Beck. The Tour Timetable didn't cover this small village and Fleetlines definitely worked here on the infrequent extension to Service 9X beyond Waltham's Bradley Road terminus.
With some time to go until I was due to be at the pick-up point, I took GCT 113 to my parents' house and snuck the bus down the side of their driveway.
By 0915 I was at the Cleethorpes High Street bus stop for the 0930 departure time. Historically, there were always two bus stops here, in the direction of Grimsby. The first was used by Services 12 & 45, with the second used by Services 3F & 9X (and 8X off-peak/Sundays). Today, only the 'second' stop exists, which is served by all routes. As we were starting off operating Service 45, I parked where the first stop was.
The rest of the day ran very well. Click here to view the Tour Timetable. Timings were a little slack during the first half of of the day, and we started to lose time in the Immingham area, but caught it up again by Nunsthorpe, only to lose it again by Waltham but then had time to wait at Brian Avenue. Overall, I think the timings conformed to the Traffic Commissioner's 'window of tolerance'.
The 2018 Gallery section of this website showcases over 30 images of the day, taken either at terminus points or at specific photo locations along the route. Nineteen fellow enthusiasts joined me to travel on GCT 113 again, with the majority joining/alighting en route. Just four 'hardcore' travelled for the full 6.5 hours.
Perhaps the most iconic images were taken at the end of the day, at Sea Road, a location that GCT 113 operated from between July 1994 and June 2005 and latterly during 2014 in open-top guise. For this was the terminus of Service 17 to Thorpe Park and the Fitties Chalet Park. While the route taken has changed over the years, we recreated the first part of the original, terminating at The Oval on the Fitties, which hasn't seen a bus for around a decade.
The Fitties was also the starting point for a short-lived Sunday & Bank Holiday Service 25 to Skegness, which commenced in the late 1980s. Generally operated by a Leyland Tiger or Dennis Dominator, depending on potential loadings, the route operated through Cleethorpes and onto Grimsby then via Service 24 to Louth and then the main roads to Skegness. A number of shuttle services between Skegness Richmond Drive Bus Station and Chapel St. Leonards were made, before the return journey later that afternoon. Statistically, the chances of this service ever being operated by a Fleetline are very low (and no-one has said they recall such an occasion happening), yet we attempted to recreate times past with a suitable destination while at The Oval.
We returned to Cleethorpes High Street for just after the scheduled arrival time and after goodbyes, I drove GCT 113 back to her Lincolnshire home until the next event in two weeks' time, when she will visit Donington Park for Showbus.
Regarding another visit to Grimsby, "same time, same place next year" was the general consensus. It's something I definitely plan on repeating, though possibly with a twist or two on today's Tour Timetable, to take in other areas, such as Aylesby/Laceby/Irby, Caistor/Nettleton and Louth as well as other urban areas omitted, such as Pyewipe, Yarborough Road/Spark Street/Central Parade and Louth Road and the Grange Estate. I will keep you informed via this website!