Wednesday, 9 May 2012

On The Ribble

"The Ribble", or Ribble Motor Services to give it its full name, was once one of the largest bus companies in the country with over 1,000 buses. Its operating area stretched from Liverpool and Manchester in the south to beyond Carlisle in the north - and that was just the "local" buses: the coaches could been seen anywhere. It survived nationalisation and retained its identity as part of the National Bus Company, but after privatisation it was swiftly swallowed up by the Stagecoach group.

But its memory lives on and a band of enthusiasts - the Ribble Vehicle Preservation Trust - maintains a fleet of former Ribble vehicles and cares for them in much the same way as working boat enthusiasts care for their charges.  It's a bit easier for bus enthusiasts when it comes to re-creating the past. For a start the "cargo" loads itself(!) and the legislation surrounding old bus operation is surprisingly liberal - as long as you don't charge fares. This has given rise to the concept of "running days", when old buses operate in public service, much as they would have done years ago, except of course that travel is free, and a recent addition to these events is the Morecambe Running Day, which is where I was last weekend.

There was a "static" display of vehicles on the promenade. Seen here are one of the revolutionary double-deck motorway expresses of the 1960s with a touring coach and, on the right, a "Yelloway" express coach that would have run between Lancashire and London in competition with National Express.
But the highlight of the day is the opportunity to ride on the vehicles themselves - either along the prom between Heysham and Carnforth (where you can call in at the railway station for a "Brief Encounter") or on the town service around Morecambe.
We left the car at Heysham, strolled along the promenade to the Winter Gardens and caught a bus to Carnforth. After a look round the station we returned to Morecambe and had a cup of tea on the "stone jetty" - the nearest Morecambe has to a pier after one burned down and the other was washed away in a storm!. Then a last bus ride back to Heysham and a final walk around Heysham Head before heading for home.
The ruins of the 8th-Century chapel on Heysham Head

Back at Heysham with Hilary and our friend and sometime Starcross crew member, Duncan

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