The Brooklands School Bus

The Brooklands School Bus

In 1954 when I was 5, we moved from Nottingham to Long Eaton, about 7 miles to south west. At the age of 8 I transferred from the infants school which was about 2 minutes walk from home to Brooklands junior school, which was about a mile away. In those days it was very common for kids to go home for lunch, and with car ownership still quite rare, this meant a bus ride.

Now, Long Eaton was served exclusively by Bartons (if you ignore the hourly Midland Red X99 plying between Nottingham and Birmingham, which was a sort of exotic interloper, not available for local journeys anyway). The school journey lay on the regular bus routes southwards from Long Eaton (3, 3C, 10, 11 and 15). However, I guess Bartons didn’t want their regular clientele to be invaded by a marauding crowd of 8-11 year olds, who had just been let out of school. So they provided an additional service, which started at the Lord Nelson on Tamworth Road (nearest stop to school) and ran via Tamworth Road to Sawley Junction (now Long Eaton) railway station, where it turned right into Wilsthorpe Road continuing to the regular route 15 terminus at Thoresby Road.

It never appeared in the timetable, and had no official route number, although the indicator often showed 5A or 5C – which might just have been the last proper service it had operated. As far as I know the public were welcome to use it (though few ever did, and I can’t say that I blame them!) Because it did not pass under the low arched railway bridge at Sawley Junction, it was invariably operated by double-deckers, and Bartons, bless them, turned out a variety of museum pieces for our delight and entertainment. And, of course, they specialised in museum pieces, oddballs and home-made rebuilds.

Some were ancient second hand Leyland TD something-or-others from distant municipalities. I recall that one had an Eastern Coach Works body. Occasionally we were favoured with one of the famous Duple-bodied low-bridge, front entrance PD1s which were actually quite modern. But the normal offering was one of the decrepit Utility Guy Arabs, that normally snoozed quietly at the back of Long Eaton garage between peak periods.

There were three that were regular performers – GNN 705 (444), GNN 709 (448) and GAL 506 (running number unknown). All were “lowbridge” with sunken gangway upstairs on the offside, and of course, the typical long protruding Guy radiator (“Here’s my nose, and the rest of me is following some distance behind!”) The Guys always looked as if they had been chopped carelessly out of a slab of granite, and they drove like it too – agonisingly slow acceleration, furious vibration, deafeningly noisy, with a harsh rattling growl that rose to a screaming crescendo before each gear-change, which was executed with much grinding, clanking, double de-clutching and perhaps bad language from the driver.

We soon discovered that by giving the seats a few hearty wacks, you could produce a dense choking fog of dust upstairs, to the fury of the conductor – oh yes, we had to pay – 1½d each to Sawley Junction, 2d beyond there. There was one conductor who ruled with a rod of iron. The bus would draw up with him standing glowering on the open platform. As the horde surged forward he would yell, “Now, you can all get in a single line.” Anybody who tried to swarm on was firmly ejected and we were warned that no-one was getting on, and the bus was going nowhere until we sorted ourselves out in an orderly way. Then he insisted that we all sat down and stayed sat down. That meant three to a seat downstairs.

I seem to remember that the bell on the Guys was actually a buzzer, and the buttons were not the usual red “PUSH ONCE” variety, but black knobs in raised metal mountings that stood out about 2 inches from the framework above the right hand windows.

Of course the journey was over in a very short time (but the conductor usually managed to collect a full set of fairs – woe betide anyone who wanted change for a half crown!) The first stop, Wyvern Avenue, was always ignored – no-one bothered catching the bus to travel 300 yards. Then it was the Royal Oak, then Sawley Junction (and in the interests of road safety this was the only double decker that stopped both before and after turning into Wilsthorpe Road). Next it was Blandford Avenue, and on to Thoresby Road, after which, as far as I know, the bus returned empty to Long Eaton garage. There was never a corresponding service back to school after lunch – but then, there wasn’t the same concentration of kids going back. Some walked, others caught any one of the regular service buses in the half hour between 1 o’clock and half past.

Stephen. Ford



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