And then 40 turn up at once!
This Sunday was the third Peterborough Bus Rally, an event that is rapidly establishing itself on the heritage transport events calendar. Held at the delightful Sacrewell Farm complex in Cambridgeshire – worth a visit in its own right – this year’s rally saw a record 40 buses and coaches appear along with a display of fire engines and several trucks from local hauliers. The weather was glorious, and the vehicles were set up to take advantage of this. At some rallies the exhibits are tightly jammed together making photography difficult; at Sacrewell everything was nicely spaced out and lined up to make shooting individual vehicles and collections easy and pleasant. It didn’t stop some individuals from peering intently at fuel cap fillers for 20 minutes whilst I was trying to get a shot before a baby buggy was wheeled past, but that’s an occupational hazard at such occasions.
The highlight of the event was that many vehicles were actually in use carrying passengers on a shuttle service to and from the Nene Valley Railway where a vintage vehicles display was being held alongside the train services. Buses and coaches took turns to operate the shuttle, allowing travel on a fantastic range of vehicles that were once everyday sights on our roads. I was particularly pleased to see a London Routemaster assigned to route 73 as I spent many hours commuting between Stamford Hill and Oxford Street in 1987 - 88 on these buses. They were comfortable enough to sleep in on my way home, unlike the modern Metrobuses that were used on the service on Sundays. Invariably my inbuilt radar would wake me up at Stoke Newington, thus giving me enough time to come round and check that my wallet hadn’t been nicked before descending the spiral staircase and jumping off the platform at Craven Park Road – those were the days prior to the obsession with elf n’ safety. If you fell whilst jumping and went under the wheels, then tough. Deal with it.
On one occasion I was a little more tired than usual – perhaps related to attending a staff leaving do in town – and my radar packed up around Kings Cross. Instead of waking up at Stoke I eventually came round in stygian gloom and complete silence. I thought I’d woken up dead. Close – I’d woken up in Tottenham Bus Garage.
Due to commitments at the NVR I was a bit tight for time and jumped on the most convenient bus to get me to and from the venue. I travelled up on a delightful Welsh Bristol from 1966, and returned on a more modern Plaxton bodied coach from the early 80’s. I was surprised that the coach, despite being quite modern, didn’t have power steering and the driver really had to fight it around the lanes linking Sacrewell with the A1.
The rally is well worth attending for any transport enthusiast, and is now gaining a reputation on the circuit ensuring a larger turnout of vehicles every year. Sacrewell Farm is an established visitor centre, with many attractions and activities for families – during the summer a Routemaster bus connects with the Nene Valley Railway on selected operating days, thus creating an ideal day out. Sometimes you even get two coming at once!