Having been involved in bus preservation for nearly 15 years, I'm always looking at ways to attract others into this weird and wonderful hobby. As someone who is genuinely passionate about seeing vehicles saved, fresh faces will definitely be needed one day when I'm too old to get under a bus (that'll be about two years time!) to ensure the continued preservation of the vehicles. After all, I would be gutted to know that once I shuffle off this mortal coil that they would be scrapped... It would also be a waste of my time and resources preserving buses that one day I know would be scrapped. So how do we attract new people into bus preservation? Well, each generation seems to have their own 'favourite' vehicles, many of the older generation would've liked the half cabs, whilst many my age like the NBC era and the 1990's. To younger enthusiasts it'll be Dennis Darts and Volvo B7s! Sometimes there does seem to be a certain amount of 'snobbery' in the preservation movement and potential new members can find doors (literally) shut in their faces. On top of that, there seems to be certain enthusiasts who pooh pooh the ideas of modern buses being preserved, in some cases, by modern I mean anything built after 1968! "Who'd want to preserve a Volvo Olympian?" Well I would for starters, but then if an AEC Regent needed a home and I had the time and resources I'd take that too! To attract younger faces, I think a lot of us will have to start accepting that bus preservation in a rolling thing. As buses leave service, they attract attention and people (hopefully) want to see examples saved. 'Pooh poohing' those who choose to preserve Darts, minibuses and Vollys could long term see the end of this hobby, which, would probably see the end of our buses.
It always amazes me, as a bus driver, how technology takes three steps forwards and quite often two back! Having just come back from a walk around Margate, I was amazed to hear some of the more modern buses struggling up certain hills in the area. No reflection on the operators at all, this is purely down- it seems - to the automatic gearbox deciding to change up a gear halfway up the hill. Most modern buses have just three gear selector buttons, D = Drive : N = Neutral : R = Reverse. No holding gears or nothing to help a loaded Dart struggle up a hill. It wasn't always like this of course, once upon a time ago, the driver had more control. As with our buses in the collection, all buses had gears. Even the London Titans that were fully automatic in top gear had holding gears you could put the thing in to help in up a hill - or more importantly DOWN a hill in icy weather. The early Darts even gave the driver the ability to select gears but over the years, this has been taken out of the cab. True, there will always be drivers who abuse a gearbox, changing gears too quickly and not pausing between each change correctly, but taking this level of control away from the driver turns them into little more than a steering wheel attendant! Negotiating a tight corner in snow is always best done in a low gear, but as I've found out many time, the automatic gearbox on the bus changes up at a critical moment making it harder to control. Maybe we should step back to the days of at least five buttons in the cab D1, D2, D, N, R....?
Not so much fleet news this time but have you ever looked at more modern buses and wondered who would take them on in the future? I can't help but think this sometimes as I'm driving around in my Volvo B7, B9 or Enviro at work. You see, at one time, people would've said the same of the buses that currently are in our collection. Compared to working on an AEC Regent V, a Bristol VR must've seen totally high tech! How many times were the words 'I can't see anyone want wanting to preserve one of these things' uttered when a nice shiny National turned up instead of an old beloved PD3? Of course we need to conserve the past and look after the Guy Arabs, Titans, and Lodekkas but at the same time we must not forget the future. This kind of happened in the 1980's with halfcabs coming out of service left right and centre. Think how many halfcabs there are in preservation compared to early Atlanteans and Fleetlines. The DMS was a hated bus but as they were withdrawn at the same time as RMs (the first time around) everyone wanted an RM and not a DMS.
Where are the early Ford Transits and Sherpas that reformed the industry and helped win many deregulation bus wars? There are a few around but compared to how many were built, it must be under 3% have survived. So what you're travelling on today, as you read this on your smart phone, will be what graces the rally fields of tomorrow. Volvo Olympians are still modern vehicles to me but time and finances available, I'd not think twice about buying one from service. Will YOU be dragging a rotting Enviro 200 out of a hedge in 2055 and rejoicing with delight because it's the last surviving Stagecoach one?
Sometimes in the bus preservation movement there can be a lot of unfounded criticism of peoples preference of vehicle. The end of the day, we are all out to do the same thing, maybe for different reasons, but we all want a vehicle we can be proud of and show off. People who take on the DMS' , Transits and Enviros in the future will certainly have my respect, after all, they could've gone out and bought a RML or GS (not that there's anything wrong with either) instead and left a huge gap in the story of public transport.
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