The end-of-season Transport Festival, organised by the Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Society (LVVS) and based at the Lincolnshire Road Transport Museum, is the first event that GCT 113 has attended twice, in her new lease of life with me in private preservation. The event is also very popular, drawing in visiting vehicles from far and wide as well as the ever-growing collection of locally preserved buses and coaches.
Last year, GCT 113 attended while she wore Stagecoach Swoops livery. The event was both the first at which she carried passengers since her previous Chesterfield-based custodianship and the last at which she would feature in a livery that she'd worn since 2003.
Today would see GCT 113 head out for the first time since Showbus in September. Similar to that day, the forecast was for a 50% chance of showers during the middle of the day. In fact, as I went to start her up, there was very light drizzle ('that fine stuff that gets you really wet') and as I headed through rural Lincolnshire towards the County Town, I even had to use the windscreen wipers!
Noting that 2018 had been an exceptionally fortunate year for GCT 113 (I'd only ever taken her to events where scorching temperatures were forecast or any possible showers hadn't come to pass), I was now sampling what was likely to be life as the owner of an open-top bus. That said, as I've often had to remind myself that GCT 113 would have gone the way of every single other closed-top Grimsby Fleetline had she not had her roof removed in 1994.
Similar to last year's set up, GCT 113 would operate a special open-top tour, departing Pyke Road bus terminus (opposite the Road Transport Museum) at 1202, 1232, 1432 & 1502. She'd then operate an addition service to Lincoln City Centre at 1535. Last year, GCT 113 ran in between sister Grimsby open-topper, Bridgemaster GCT 133 (NJV 995). This year the only open-topper attending was GCT 113 and the tour had been revised to take into account limitations of drop-off points.
The private yard used on previous events to drop passengers off was not available and so bus lay-bys on the main road were utilised. Sadly, the lay-bys would only accommodate one vehicle at a time, so serious consideration had been given to 'bunching'. This meant a new open-top tour had been devised so that GCT 113 balanced bus lay-by usage and would need to arrive from the west. The route was a figure of eight around Birchwood. Yes, it wasn't very imaginative and the sights weren't as impressive as heading out of Lincoln and up to Waddington, but it would mean I'd be able to work successive departures just 30 minutes apart, which had been scheduled to ensure evenly-spaced departures from Pyke Road.
On the second open-top tour, I did break ranks and recreated last year's route as I was scheduled a break upon my return. It was exceptionally chilly on the top deck and rain started to fall as I arrived back.
Having found somewhere to park GCT 113 during her brief break from work, I headed into the Museum where I discovered an article I'd penned for Bus & Coach Preservation magazine had been published in the latest edition. Some welcome publicity for this Grimsby-Cleethorpes Transport stalwart (in addition to the blog and website!).
The light rain hadn't abated during my meal break and upon return to the bus I saw a wet lower saloon floor at the foot of the stairs. This brought it back to me, driving the bus along Cleethorpes seafront during showers. I chose not to operate the 1432 departure but did manage to run the 1502 as the rain had finally stopped. A few who boarded did attempt to go upstairs, but without a towel to wipe the vinyl seats, they all returned to the lower saloon for a trip round Birchwood!
My trip to the City Centre at 1535 was particularly enjoyable as I was able to photograph GCT 113 opposite the railway station, outside the now closed Barbican Hotel. Last year, the City Centre stop was on the new inner relief road and not a particularly historic location. Upon our return to the Museum, I turned her saloon lights off and drove GCT 113 back home.
The day was very enjoyable and coincided not only with my article about the bus in Bus & Coach Preservation, but also with the 25th anniversary of the sale of GCT to Stagecoach Holdings (on 19 November 1993). While GCT 113 was parked up between runs she wore a historically inaccurate '25 Grimsby Cleethorpes' display, though this was to give a nod to the anniversary.
I met with some people who'd assisted me with the preservation of GCT 113 (notably Andy Reeve-Smith and Tony Wilson) and bumped into a number of friends who've previously assisted me (Nigel Rhodes, Gary Nolan) as well as a number of railway colleagues who are a rare breed in enjoying the bus industry!
The Transport Festival is GCT 113's final event of 2018. Depending on quotes, I may have a number of her seats retrimmed over the winter. Virtually all have decent cushions, but I would like to recreate the original, pleated dark blue vinyl seating throughout. She also has her MOT to pass by the end of March. I've also confirmed GCT 113's attendance at the Fenland BusFest, based at Whittlesey on 19 May 2019. This may be the bus's first outing next year, though checking the Rallies Visiting page will be the place to see the latest details.