THE "BUS" SCHOOL
DRIVING THE ALBION ‘VENTURER’ B92
THE LEYAND ROYAL TIGER 'WORLDMASTER' SINGLE DECKERS
AN ESSAY ON DRIVING GLASGOW CORPORATION TRANSPORT DEPARTMENT SERVICE BUSES BETWEEN 1960 AND 1974
by George Rountree
DRIVING THE ALBION ‘VENTURER’ B92
How fortunate it was that I had persevered with that request. On a warm sunny June afternoon during the third week at Newlands Garage, walking up Newlandsfield Road to the relief point known as Corrour Road to take over a number 38 bound for Millerston, I met the driver I was relieving. When he found I was his relief he looked at me with an evil grin, obviously thinking 'Ah, a new driver, he’ll no’ be able to drive it! He said 'It's an Albion you've got up there, d'ye think you can handle it?', and seemed disappointed on being assured I could. Previously after driving around on buses while learning, seldom with more than half-dozen people on board, it was quite a surprise when handle one carrying a load for the first time.
As I at first had found this to be very evident with the other buses, it was the same for the Albion but with one very important difference. When starting off going up a hill from a dead stand, with a pre-select or semi-automatic bus the gear is engaged first, so that when the brake is released and the throttle pedal depressed, the vehicle will move off smoothly. When the engine was running at 'tick-over', it almost always fed enough power to the wheels to prevent what was regarded as a serious crime in most buses with the brakes off, roll-back. A few did tend to roll back but depressing the throttle pedal instantly overcame it.
The manual gearbox on the Albion was quite different in that it required fine clutch control, a driving skill that was fast disappearing with new bus drivers coming in and the almost complete take-over of semi-automatics. The job itself was stressful with a high turnover of staff, so new recruits had all been trained on semi automatics, which meant few individuals recognised the significance of the Albions and what it was like if they were landed with one. In the event I managed quite well with B92, the bus now in the transport museum.
On that memorable trip, by the time I got to Renfield Street which was still two-way at this time, and started on the uphill stretch where the congested state of the road initially gave me my only spasm of worry, I soon felt completely confident. At a stop half way up the hill, with a full load I was able momentarily to 'play' with the clutch and throttle, releasing hand and foot brake and holding it steady by manipulating the clutch, then making a smooth take off. What enhanced the enjoyment of having handled B92 was the number of ex-tram drivers who had changed to the buses, some with long service and not long qualified on buses, who said it was fortunate they hadn't got it because they would have been unable to handle it.
Something I learned very quickly about driving up to four different vehicles each day, was that they all had features that built up into a character, a personality almost, that most had faults and good points which made them either easy to drive or difficult and tiring. A few were absolute pigs, with stiff steering or throttle pedal, or both, which tended to tire drivers and encourage them look for a defect of any kind which would allow them to request a changeover. Others were easy to drive, and very occasionally there was an experience so enjoyable it was memorable.
During the visit to Ibrox Garage there was an additional treat. At that time LA1 was the first and only Atlantean possessed by the transport department. It was based at Ibrox and was standing in the yard between duties. So, having to seek the superintendent's permission to take out the old bus, Chris asked about allowing us to have a go with LA1, which should have been confined to drivers who were to be posted to Ibrox. But being a decent and obliging chap, and as there was one or two with our group who qualified because they were going to Ibrox, this excuse was used. After finishing with the older vehicle, with us on board Chris drove us out on the Atlantean to Shieldhall Road. While it was then of the very latest design, LA1 was then two years old, and had by that time developed a ‘used’ look. All six of us had a go with it and it was a great thrill for me to drive it out past the Luma lamp factory for a brief couple of hundred yards or so, but I don't think any of us were given long enough to get it into top gear. LA1 was one of the exhibits in the old Transport Museum in Kelvin Hall but currently it has not been included in the new one at Yorkhill.
It might seem odd how someone of my years and with memory problems can remember the numbers of buses I drove all those years ago, but it can be partly explained as follows. Train spotting and railway modelling had been latent interests of mine when young, and at the time being written about I took them up seriously and concentrated on the railway scene as it was at that time. Steam railway engines were being scrapped in large numbers, and this meant that most model producing companies were nostalgically concentrating on them, as were the individual makers known as ‘scratch builders which I was about to join in a different medium.
It was the comparatively new diesel and electric locomotives that fascinated me, although the frustration was that there were only two or three of the dozen or so types working in Scotland then that were available to buy as models. So I set to and over the next ten years built over a dozen different types, most of which over this time were the only ones around in model form. As a member of the Glasgow & West of Scotland Model Railway Club, which was involved in founding the annual Model Rail exhibitions in 1967, it was very gratifying to be able to display these unique examples on the club layout, to the amazement of other enthusiasts of what was then known as ‘modern image’.
It soon became apparent that this aspect of the bus scene might be of similar interest. Because I was so intimately involved with them, much of that information about individual vehicles came to lodge automatically in my mind, and much of it is still there! It didn't need to be worked on. In other words it became fixed in much the same way as music does! Orchestral music and reading are my only interests in the arts. As I became acquainted with all of the approximately 120 vehicles then based at Newlands, when getting to drive a particular bus, because of the actual numbers I began to have difficulty remembering their good/bad points from the previous time. So a pocket chart was made out having sections listing all of them, with boxes for coded references to things like engine power (good/poor), steering (stiff/easy), brakes (noisy/weak/pulling to left/right/good) a practice which lasted for a few years. Each year all members of the green staff were issued with a pocket diary by the union (TGWU), which was used to keep a note of the times of shifts, and although barely legible, each book with these charts are still extant.
A good example of how strong an influence this bus mania (the correct term is interest) had on me, would be to state that even today it might be possible to set down from memory the fleet numbers of all the Daimlers based at Newlands in the 1960s. Details such as whether they had older 7' 6" type or the latest 8' wide bodies and the different seating arrangements. Fleet numbers of the rear platform Daimlers owned by the Corporation ran from D1 to D267. The oldest, D1 to 66, were based at Larkfield, and the others were divided between Newlands and Langside garages during early 1960s. It might be possible to log a few of the changes, somewhat hazily, up to about the time of the introduction of the Leyland Atlanteans to the garage two or three years later.
The sole Daimler version of the latest, Fleetline D268, arrived in 1963. It went to Maryhill Garage and was the only Daimler based on the north side of the city. As most of the Newlands vehicles were then relatively new, a few years were to pass before any became due for replacement, so there was a delay of a year or two before the first two Atlanteans, 168 & 9, arrived there. About 1963 a significant re-distribution of the older/newer Daimlers was carried out which will be set down later.