Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Chapter 3 Edgware Garage
Early on the morning of Thursday 20th July 1967 I presented myself to the Depot Inspector at Edgware Garage to commence route learning.
Edgware Garage had five bus routes. They were the 142 Watford Junction to Kilburn Park Station. The 292 Borehamwood, Rossington Avenue to Colindale, Annesley Avenue. The 240 from Edgware Station to Golders Green Station. The 114 from Edgware Station to Ruislip Station- extended to Ruislip Lido on Sundays, and finally the 251 from Edgware to Arnos Grove Station.
All of these routes I had to learn with the exception of the 251 which was a ‘one man’ operated route, (political correctness had not crept into the English language in 1967). As the 251 was driven only by the elite of the garage, the most senior drivers, there was very little chance of junior drivers ever working that route so route learning was considered a waste of time. All the routes at Edgware were operated by RT and RTL double deck buses except the 251 which was operated by the RF type single deck vehicle.
I spent my time route learning standing on the platform at the rear of the bus chatting to the various conductors and conductresses, a bad place to be if one wanted to see where the bus was going.
Conductresses were always known as clippies most probably because of the fact that they would punch or clip your ticket when issuing it to you.
Having finished route learning I reported yet again to another depot inspector to be told in a stern voice “Hey didn’t you use to go out with my daughter.” Oops who me, I can’t remember my youth being misspent. It turned out that Depot Inspector Banham had a daughter Mary, we were friends in the Junior school, even went to her birthday parties and then I recalled that young Mary had at one time told me her dad was a bus driver. There was one time when Mary and I were walking pass my elder brothers house and I waved to him. The next day when I saw my brother he asked me what on earth I was doing, he was fourteen years older than me and married so I thought he meant what was I doing walking out with a girl at my young age, no what he meant was why was I walking on the inside of her instead of on the right of her. See a different world then, short hair cuts and the correct way to accompany a young lady.
Inspector Banham allocated me my first duty for the next day, 292s to Borehamwood. The Rotas at Edgware were divided into three. The 251 comprised of one rota whilst the 292 and 142 were on a second rota and the 114 and 240 were on a third. This practice of having groups of routes on separate rotas was common practice in all London Transport garages and the only exception as far as I am aware was at Uxbridge garage where all routes were on one common rota.
Next morning I set of for Edgware, a fifteen minute walk from our house. I was really excited, my first day on my own without an instructor looking over my shoulder. Having signed on I went in search of my bus with my conductor. Both the conductor and driver have a duty plate and a vehicle variation plate, (running plate). The duty plate tells the crew the starting and finishing times of their duty and the time and place of their meal break, it stays with you. The vehicle running plate details the days complete working of the bus, its time and place of departure, passing points and all of its journeys until it arrives back at the garage at the end of the day. This plate stays with the vehicle. I understood the duty plate but the running plate was a complete mystery to me, as my conductor was soon to find out. He had told me before I had got in the cab that we were going to Borehamwood via the Green Man. Fine, off I went, along Hale Lane to the Green Man, left into Selvage Lane and then up the A1 Barnet Way. So far so good. Left into Shenley Road but from then on my ears were assailed by a series of rapid bells, with the conductor beckoning me to reverse as I’d sailed pass the turning. I told you route learning from the back of the bus was not a good idea. Eventually I found my way to Rossington Avenue. Next it was a short journey back to Manor Way. Having arrived there more by luck than judgment I asked the conductor how long we had here, non was his reply we were already running late, and I thought I was running to time, I guess reversing at every intersection takes a few minutes out of the schedule. The rest of that first day soon passed. One scene does however remain with me. I had happened to look back into the saloon to see the bus full of women with all their shopping, all chatting away to each other completely oblivious of me. Hey I thought, they don’t realise this is my first day and they have complete faith in my ability to get them home. I had by this time of the day finally realised where I was supposed to be going.
Within a few days I was called over by a depot inspector to be allocated a permanent place on a rota with a regular conductor. I was on the 142/292 rota with conductor Brian Huckle. Hence started a year of pure fun and chaos.
Brian was a bit younger than me and hailed from South London. Conductors had a special harness which was fitted over their shoulders to hold the Gibson ticket machine in place. Brian wore his around his waist, I was to find out how handy this was later on. Although most of the time he was a happy friendly type of person he did have a quick temper. The first time I knew of this was when I was in the canteen and one of the drivers rushed in and told me to go and get my conductor out of the sports hut, he had lost his temper with another snooker player and had hit him over the head with his billiard cue. Brian could certainly look after himself.
Night time journeys on the 142 to Kilburn could be a bit of a trial for the young conductresses having to cope with the many drunks encountered between Cricklewood and Kilburn so most of the conductresses would swap duties with those of their male colleagues. I had no such worries with Brian on the back.
One Saturday afternoon I was sitting at Bushey Station on the 142 waiting t0 depart when a passenger came up to the cab window and said some men were attacking my conductor and I ought to go and help him. I looked in my nearside mirror to see the sight of a number of male passengers go flying off the platform onto the path. No Brian was ok. A quick two bells and off we went. When we got back to Edgware he explained that as soon as the passengers tried to have a go at him he quickly released his ticket machine harness from his waist and swung it around like a sling shot, chased them down stairs and literally threw them off the bus. Brian was a very handy guy to have as your conductor, we remained as a crew until I left Edgware.
My best friend Robert Malyons’ father was a bus driver. Roberts father always had a dry sense of humour which was often lost on me as a young teenager. When ever I think of my eyesight test at London Transport Headquarters I remember a remark Robert senior said to me one day in the canteen at Edgware. I had commented to Bob that I had waved to him when we were passing each other on the 142s in Cricklewood Broadway and he hadn’t acknowledge me. “David I can’t see across he road, as long as I can see the bus in front I’m ok, I just follow that and as long as its not a 16 going to Victoria I’ll be fine”
Let me tell you about those running plates. As long as you read them correctly you were ok. Now the 292 terminated at Borehamwood opposite ‘The Shooting Star’ public house. Remember in 1967 nobody had heard of drink driving laws and so each evenings run to Borehamwood also meant a swift half in ‘The Shooting Star’. The quicker we got there the longer drinking time we had. Now like all drivers I left the running of the bus to the conductor or conductress, especially conductresses, woe betide any driver who tried to tell his conductress what to do, they ruled their bus like they ran their homes, you came and went when they said so.
So when Brian said it was time to go we upped and went out to the bus, saying a good evening to the Inspector who must in retrospect been half asleep. I went at full speed to Borehamwood, never picking any one up all the way. When we got to the terminus at Rossington Avenue there was Driver Micky Cambell having just arrived with the bus in front of us. “Blimey you must be early, we’re ten minutes early.” There was a fifteen minute headway between us so that made us nearly twenty five minutes early. Brian had misread our departure time. We were now the proud owners of the record for early running on the 292s.
It was assumed by London Transport that both driver and conductor would have an accurate watch and both have copies of the bus running plate. One morning we arrived early in Elstree and an Inspector boarded the bus. A few minutes later he came around to my cab. “Your conductor hasn’t got a watch so what is your excuse for running early driver?” I told him I hadn’t got a copy of the running plate. “Well perhaps you two idiots could sort yourselves out!” Brian duly came around to the front of the bus where I handed him my watch and he gave me his copy of the duty plate. It’s quite amusing to see a London Transport official jump up and down in rage.
The first time I drove to the terminus at Borehamwood I was greeted by this very fierce looking Bulldog called Patch who insisted on sitting below my cab and barking at me. Being new to this experience I was frightened to get down from the safety of the cab. Brian came to my rescue. “Just call out chocolate and he’ll stop barking” This I did and Patch stopped barking, but when I got out of the cab he started at me again. “Well go on then, go and get him some chocolate.” On the wall by the pub was a chocolate machine into which I put sixpence and got a bar of chocolate for Patch. Patch would then join us on the bus and consume his reward. This he did to all drivers. Was Patch harmful? No the poor old dog had hardly any teeth due to eating all that chocolate. Some days in the summer Patch would come and sit with Brian and me upstairs at the front of the bus. With the warm sun and a stomach full of chocolate Patch would soon nod off and often fall off the seat onto the floor.
During my time at Edgware I met my future wife Annette, who at the time was staying with her grandparents in Bath. Annette and her family had emigrated to Australia in 1958 and Annette like most Australians had decided to return to the UK for a working holiday. I thought it would be a good idea if I were to work near her and so I applied for a position as a driver on Western National buses at Calne depot in Wiltshire. Unfortunately after waiting some time for an interview with the depot manager it transpired that I was too young to be a bus driver. The minimum age for bus drivers nationally was twenty five. Because London Transport had problem recruiting staff a special dispensation from the Traffic Commissioners allowed London transport to recruit drivers at twenty one. There I was driving buses in London yet unable to drive anywhere else. So it was to be train rides to Bath or even hitchhiking some days to see Annette.
My mother was now talking to me again, in fact she was continually going on at me for being a bus driver, now things got even worse when she found out I was going out with my cousin Annette. Rather than send letters to our house, where my mother would open them given the chance, Annette would send them to the Garage. These letters I would read through in a dream whilst sitting at Watford Junction until Brian would awake me from my fantasies and tell me to get a move on.
I said earlier Brian was a happy sort of guy, but all of us have off days and woe betide the passengers when our off days coincided. One such morning occurred when we were on route 142 Watford Junction to Colindale. Normally when the conductor was on the upper deck he would stand at the rear of the saloon to have a clear view in the mirror at the top of the stairs. He would be able to see when the rear platform was clear and then give the driver a bell signal to move off. However some conductors would remain at the front upstairs and tap on the floor above the driver to signal to move off. On this morning the tapping became more pronounced as the journey progressed until a point was reached where I was getting a headache from his continual thumping. I retaliated by accelerating badly and braking harshly, and so we continued to annoy each other whilst the poor unfortunate passengers bore the brunt of our ill temper until we reached Colindale. Over a nice fried breakfast in a hot and smoky café, which was filled by bus drivers from both Edgware and Cricklewood depots, Brian and I quickly sorted out our problems and the rest of the shift returned to normal.
Remember earlier I had said about way the conductresses ran the buses, well these two instances stand out in my memory.
One evening in the summer we were on our way to Golders Green on route 240. When we reached West Hendon my clippie came around to the cab and asked me if I wanted some fish and chips.
“Wait a few minutes then and I’ll pop in and get some”
After a while she came out from the fish and chip shop and I was expecting her to hand me mine so I could eat them on the way to Golders Green, not so,
“Come on driver, get your foot down the sooner we get to Golders Green the sooner you get your fish and chips”
And that’s what I did arriving about ten minutes early. There we were, sitting in the evening sun on a bench in Golders Green bus station enjoying our fish and chips when over strolls an Inspector.
“Leave this to me” said my clippie.
“What are you doing here ten minutes early driver?”
“If he hadn’t got here early his chips would have got cold, wouldn’t they, would you like a few chips inspector?
With that we all sat in the sun eating chips and nothing more was said about early running.
On another occasion the same clippie had told me at Golders Green she had dropped some change off the back of the bus on the previous trip from Golders Green to Edgware. If she spotted the change she would give me a few rapid bells and could I stop. What she didn’t tell me was where she’d dropped the change and how much.
Going up the long steep Bittacy Hill I got the rapid bells. Now even in the best of conditions you did not want to stop on this steep hill, but I did and managed to get going again, which says a lot for those old RTs. Arriving back at Edgware I asked her if she’d retrieved her money.
“Oh yes, it was only a shilling (5p) but I told the passengers it was half a crown (12.5p) to make it look good.”
If I’d known what she was up to, no way would I have stopped, but as I said they ruled the bus.
Have you tried tobogganing on a ticket machine box? No, well it’s good fun. One winters evening near Christmas it had been snowing and instead of staying in the canteen on our meal break it was decided that a group of us would adjourn to The Railway Tavern in Edgware High Street for our break. The ticket machines in use by London Transport at that time were manufactured by Gibson’s. They were contained in an oblong box approximately 12 inches by 9 inches and about 6 inches deep. As I said the clippies ruled the roost so we drivers were often seen carrying the ticket machine boxes. It was thick snow so what better way to get from the garage to the ‘Railway Tavern’ than by tobogganing on the ticket machine boxes, how on earth the travelling public could have faith in us drivers I never knew.
Meanwhile back at home things were reaching a head and I decided the best thing was to leave home. A search for lodgings far away from Edgware led me to Elmers End in South London, but the one room accommodation on offer in South London put me off. I approached my own Garage Manager with a request to transfer to the Country Area Windsor Garage. He being a lot wiser than me said, “ you don’t want to go out that far, try Uxbridge, that’s far enough away”. He of course had still retained a driver for the Central Buses.
So one sunny morning I travelled out to Uxbridge to the furthest reaches of the Metropolitan Railway, and Piccadilly Line. I soon found a very pleasant one room flat in nearby Hillingdon and paid a five guinea (£5:05 new money) deposit to a Mrs Connie Quinn. Within the week my good friend Ken Smith had transported me and all my worldly possessions to Hercies Road Hillingdon and I reported to Uxbridge Garage.