musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Tag: Bus

Counting down the days

Having left South Africa we are almost at our destination… sort of.

En route to London

My post for 02/03/2013 has the following to say:

“It was time to put my new visa to the test, and surprisingly enough passing through immigration was easy. Now I had to find my way to Kennington in South London which was where I was staying until 8 Feb. There were 3 options: Heathrow Express, Tube, or Coach. I suspect I am sucker for a train so chose the Tube. I had to change trains at 3 different places but surprisingly that in itself was a breeze.  I do remember sitting on that tube from Heathrow with my luggage and heavy eyes from the lack of sleep; with people all around tied up in their own world of cell phones, headsets or books. They were on their way to work, I was on my way to a new life.” 

I have never forgotten that tube ride, it was my first time riding the tube too, but I think at that point I was feeling very uncertain of what I was doing. Fortunately finding your way on the tube is reasonably simple, assuming you know how to read a tube map  you can get almost anywhere in London. The only tube line that runs to Heathrow is the Piccadilly Line, and I rode it to Leicester Square where I changed to the Northern Line and bailed out at Kennington, and then did a short hop to Oval Station for some or other odd reason.

When I exited Oval Station I was very disorientated and I had been hoping to find a taxi to take me to my destination, but contrary to my expectations there were no taxis at Oval. I re-orientated myself, grabbed my suitcase by the hand and headed down the road. My suitcase was not one of the wheelie bags, it was a suitcase with a set of wheels on one corner and a handle on the other. It rolled easily enough assuming that the pavement was level. By the time I got to where I would be staying I was exhausted. But I had arrived. 

Camberwell New Road

The owner of the flat had cooked me breakfast although she was not at home at the time and a friend of hers showed me the ins and outs of where the loo was and how the shower worked and all that sort of stuff. I seem to recall I only met the owner the next morning. While I had not really crossed too many time zones I was still tired after being on the go from the afternoon of the 28th up till the afternoon of the 1st. I did not have a sim card for my phone yet and that was something I needed to do and I seem to recall that afternoon heading down to Camberwell after having a shower to buy myself a watch and a sim for my phone. The shenanigans of my watch having finally cheesed me off enough! Strangely enough I still wear that replacement Timex that I bought at Argos for $19.99.  

I spotted a cellphone shop somewhere and did some enquires about airtime packages. The person on the other side of the counter was a South African and she recommended I rather go try a place up the road because the people she worked for were overpriced. It was quite an odd encounter but I did appreciate her honesty so ended up going elsewhere and was connected probably an hour later. That cell phone package would come back and bite me in the rear end as we got to the end of the month, and my time in London. 


Opening a bank account was easy as it had been pre-arranged, all I had to do was sign on the dotted line and bob was my uncle! However, the banking worked slightly differently to how we do things in South Africa and it took me a long time to get used to it. It too would bite me in the rear end when I left London in March. 

St Mark’s Church, Kennington

My immediate need for accommodation was solved when my landlady (another South African), let me stay for another month while I sorted myself out. She was very helpful and weaned me off the tube and showed me how to use buses! I had not travelled on one of those in years either and the bus service is London is amazingly efficient although it can be very crowded at peak times. Do not expect to see any smiles either because nobody seemed to smile on the buses. If only they had experienced the poor public transport back in SA they would have jumped for joy at what they had in this incredible city. 

I will admit I did a lot of the touristy things in that month, but it was very clear that there were a few snag in my job search. For starters I had to get my qualifications assessed and that would take at least 3 weeks. I was a tad too old to work in the customer service industry and I was really struggling with my hearing. There was a lot of competition for some of the jobs and I was at somewhat of a disadvantage. I was however prepared to relocate, although did not find any jobs outside of London at the time. The usual lack of feedback or responses by agencies also happened in the UK, and of course I also sat with that almost 2 year gap in my CV after my retrenchment. I did know one thing though, I had to get out of London and Southampton was really my city of choice. With hindsight it was a bad choice, if anything I should have headed to Reading or Basingstoke, but purposely avoided the latter  because it supposedly had a lot of South Africans in it. I wanted to avoid those if I could. It is not that I dislike my countrymen, its just that I tend to see things differently to how many of them see it.   

Kennington Park

My time in London spanned from 01 March till I left on 7 April. I saw a lot of things in that month and literally walked myself into exhaustion. The one issue that had plagued me in London was what I suspect may have been shin splints, although it may have been as a result of the extended cramped conditions on the 2 flights. Irrespective of what it was I was in pain for quite a lot of the time. Unfortunately I am allergic to ibuprofen and almost everything that I saw had Ibuprofen in it!  I also discovered that many of the pharmacists are really poor compared to what I was used to in SA. I battled for quite a long time to rid myself of the problem, but it was not fun at the time. 

I won’t even try to explain all I saw or all I did in London, there was just so much. My London folder has over 13000 images in it, and it is doubtful whether there are 2000 of them on this blog.  I started blogging halfheartedly in January 2011 and it really took off when I hit London. All of my travels are in here, and I often go back and reread what my thoughts were back then. I recall that I was at Lewisham one day and while I was there I found the old military hospital, and it was at that hospital where my grandfather was treated after being wounded at Delville Wood. It was a strange encounter, and I could not help but wonder what he thought of the place. I had a love/hate relationship with Lewisham for some unfathomable reason, and yet it turned out to be a very handy location for some of the places I visited. 


A lot of the places that I visited were “cities of the dead”;  when I left South Africa I thought that I would not be doing any war grave photography in the UK. I was very wrong and have photographed twice as many war graves here than I photographed in South Africa.  

At this point I will stop my waffling and draw your attention to the London galleries that I have added to the blog. They can be found under the old Photo-Essay pages.  My London Memorials page is at allatsea

It is also worth looking at the index for March 2013 and the many links inside it. Theoretically they all open in a new tab/page

Finally  I would like to thank my landlady in Kennington, we lost touch in 2014, and I hope that she is still well and has managed to sort herself out with a decent job. Thank you for everything you did for me. 

DRW © 2013-2018. Initially created around about 01/03/2013 but still adding bits as I go along. 

Updated: 18/03/2018 — 16:13

James Hall Museum Of Transport

One of the better museums in Johannesburg is the James Hall  Museum of Transport in La Rochelle in Southern Johannesburg. It is the sort of place that is always worth visiting even if you have been there many times before. The museum was founded in 1964 by the late James “Jimmie” Hall and in conjunction with the Johannesburg City Council. The oldest motorcar on display is a 1900 Clement Panhard, but there are other items that are much older.

I have spent many hours there, meandering through the exhibits and I really enjoy seeing so many vehicles from my past. However, it is very difficult to present a balanced view of the museum because it has so many exhibits, and they are really a feast for the eyes. The museum consists of a number of exhibition spaces. Entry is at the doorway on the image above. This part of the museum does not really interest me because it is really about the days when the petrol engine was but a dream.

From this hall you move into the open courtyard area where many of the vehicles are stored or displayed. This is also where the majority of the traction engines are housed behind a fence. Many exhibits move around within the museum so some of my images show the exhibit where it was at the time and it may no longer be in that position at the time of writing or reading.

This is supposedly the largest collection of traction engine and steam powered vehicles in the country. However, I do not know how many of them can actually run. Many of the exhibits are related to transport in Johannesburg, so you will find the Christmas Bus, travelling Library and a number of ex-council vehicles in this space 

This is also where you can find the toilets and a small refreshment concession. The entrance to the next hall can be found in this courtyard and it leads into the hall where the majority of the exhibits are fire engines. 

This space leads into the blue tinted hall that houses the classic cars and motor cycles from many eras. It is a fascinating space and I remember many of those vehicles from my own childhood.

The door to the outside shed is to the right in this hall, and to the bus hall in the corner on the left of this image. The outside shed is where the agricultural machinery and steam engines are stored. I photographed the steam engines many years ago and their history may be found at old Steam Locomotives in South Africa (4 pages)

You get to the last exhibition space through the motor vehicle space and this hall is used to exhibit buses from various places in three lines. It also has the last tram that ran in Johannesburg. Unfortunately, the nature of the hall precludes effective photography because it is a very narrow space.

The exit to the museum is through this hall (image below)


That is the museum in a nutshell.  Do not take my word for it though, it is an awesome museum and well worth a visit. The museum does not charge for entry but a donation is always helpful, and always check the opening times so that you are not disappointed.

Many years ago the Transvaal Branch of the World Ship Society was given an area to exhibit nauticalia in when they held an open day. There are almost no aircraft or ship related exhibits. All the images in this post were taken at the museum over 4 different visits. 

© DRW 2017-2018. 03/04/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:50

Cool sighting of the day

The advent of cameras that are not tied down to film is a godsend for someone like me who tends to photograph anything. Unfortunately I do not always carry my camera around with me, but tend to rely on my cellphone that has a pretty respectable camera built into it for times when I need to take a quick pic.

Today was such a day. Wobbling my way out of the gate at work I nearly fell over, because lo and behold, right in front of my eye was this oldie from an era long gone.

Naturally because I wanted pics every car and truck in town decided to pass by, leaving me on the other side of the road. Fortunately the driver climbed out and so I was able to wobble over and get more pics. 

This old beauty is a Bristol FS6G, and if I read it right is means “FS: Flat-floor, Short length, Gardner 6LW or 6LX engine”. I am not a bus boffin though, so may be reading it wrong. The vehicle was wearing the Carters Coach Services Livery and was en route for somewhere (Sea Front perhaps?) 

According to the driver the vehicle was built in 1960 (so it is the oldest of the pair of us).

The platform at the rear is not open sided but does have a folding door fitted to it, although whether this was standard or not I cannot say, but I did get a peak inside the bus and it was great.

What I did find strange was that the seats were upholstered in fabric and not leather like they were in South Africa when I was riding on buses as a child, it could be the weather may have made it a bit warmer to use fabric than leather. However, that is pure conjecture on my part.

And then it was time for me to wobble off home. A last pic and away i went, although as you can see I was kind of out of focus, but then I was never a fan of standing in the middle of the street trying to take pics.

Strangely enough this is not my first encounter with a Bristol bus, I spotted this 1961 built beauty in Bristol in 2015

Now that was a great way to end my day, and this month too. Unless something else happens before next week.
© DRW 2016-2018. Created 27/10/206
Updated: 01/01/2018 — 16:35

The London Bus Museum

The London Bus Museum is housed at Cobham Hall in the Brooklands Museum, and I paid it a flying visit during my trip to Brooklands. As a child I was slightly infatuated with buses, or rather with toy buses, but I shall deny everything. My own experience with buses in Johannesburg I posted about in October 2012, and I expect it is rather different from the experience that people in the UK had. Still, old buses are great to see because they do not have that sleek self important look of todays eco-friendly wi-fi enabled people carriers.

The first buses I saw (apart from one which I messed the pic of) was this pair, and the blue BOAC liveried one was really quite odd, I would have liked to have had a better look at her, after all, when last did you see something with BOAC on it?. 

The museum is next to the field where the aircraft are housed, and a line up of three generations was waiting for passengers (or munchkins?). 


The museum itself is in a very good condition (and free), and you just follow the arrows to discover the history behind the ubiquitous red London bus, or rather, the London bus, because not all of the London buses are red.

And some were not powered by diesel either. This one was marked Camberwell, and I lived very close to Camberwell when I was living in London in 2013, and the bus service there was excellent.
Fortunately the horse driven bus was replaced by the motor bus and things have never been the same since, although the pollution is very different between a horse and an engine. 
I suspect this one started its career as a single decker, and was modified into a double sometime in its life.  
I really liked the 1968 Bedford Ambulance they had on display, it carries a London Transport logo and was used as a staff ambulance at the Aldenham Bus Works. 
and of course this 1959 mushy pea green Ford 300E general purpose van
Although this interesting minimalist bus below does seem to take cost-cutting a bit too far. I expect it is some sort of driver training vehicle, or maybe some sort of big boys toy? 
And yes, if you are not careful they will gang up on you.
It is not my intention to show every bus in the museum, that is what the museum is for, but my one gripe was that very few of the buses was open so that you could have a look at their interiors, although most buses probably look very similar on the inside. 
And those that I did get on board were very similar to what we had back in South Africa when I was a child. The modern London bus is a different beastie altogether, with a lot of the lower deck taken up by areas for prams and wheelchairs and lots of scowling women or people talking loudly on their cellphones.  
In fact I was looking through my pics and could find very few images of new buses that I took in London, although I do recall doing walking speed one rush hour on board one, and there were more buses in that street than I had ever seen at any one point in my life.
What of the future? the “Borisbus” seems to be the new face of buses in London, although it does lack a certain charm and businesslike appearance. If anything it looks politically correct.
I was only able to get up close to one in Salisbury and I asked at the museum whether there were any plans for acquiring one, but the reply was in the negative. It takes many years for an object to become a classic, and the red Routemaster buses in London have been classics for many years. In fact, when you think of London you think of red Routemasters rounding Trafalgar Square.  Its not a bad museum, but not the sort of place to spend a lot of time in. Kinda like a bus, in peak hour traffic.
© DRW 2015-2018. Images migrated 25/04/2016
Updated: 22/06/2018 — 12:45

Southampton Maritime Festival. Day 1

I was very happy when I saw them advertising the Maritime Festival for 5 and 6 May in Southampton. Not only did it give me a chance to see a lot of interesting vessels, but also portions of the port that are generally closed to people not going on a cruise or physically working there. I also was hoping to get a trip out on board Shieldhall before I left Southampton, and this was my opportunity. 
The festival was held at the Ocean Terminal and the area surrounding what is left of the old Trafalgar dry dock, and it was expected that we would have visits from some of the Dunkirk little ships as well as traction engines and vintage/exotic motor vehicles. Being held over two days I have split the festival into 3 pieces. The first being Day 1, then Day 2, then the trip on Shieldhall. The posts will be very graphics heavy so a cup of tea may help pass the time while the images are loading. However, watch this space.
My first inkling of things to come was the appearance of buses from a different era at the bus stop nearby. I am used to the look of the Southampton buses by now, so anything different catches my eye. I cannot ID any though because I am not too familiar with buses. 
Of course being stopped by the Red Caps just inside the harbour gates made me feel right at home. I believe the Military Police here were called “Pebble Bashers”, although we preferred to call them  “Meat Pies”. 
While this nice VAD Nurse was quick to point out that she had an enema kit and knew how to use it.  There were  a number of people wearing period uniforms and displaying World War 2 related equipment, and they really helped to generate interest.

Of course no festival is complete without at least one pipe band. And we had one of them, although they did not seem to play enough for my liking.

Just past the Calshot Spit Lightship was where the “little ships” were to berth. I found a nice empty spot and decided I would hang around there to see what happened. It turns out it was one of the best spots to be because the ships would come around Shieldhall’s bow and come alongside more or less where I was standing. The first major arrival was the preserved Thames steam tug Challenge which is going to be based in Southampton from now on. 

She has a real oldtime look about her, although I was missing the roiling clouds of smoke that should have been coming from her traditional funnel.  Still, she is a pretty one and I enjoyed looking over her later that day. She is a Dunkirk survivor, and was launched in 1931. 
Then there were the “little ships”, the most menacing being the harbour defence launch ML1387 “Medusa”
Also attending was RAF Rescue Launch 102, that I had recently seen in Portsmouth. The motto of the RAF Air Sea Rescue Service was “The Sea Shall Not Have Them”, and many aircrew owed their lives to these vessels and their crew.
MTB 102 was also present. She too served at Dunkirk, and holds the distinction of being the fastest wartime British Naval vessel (48 knots). The Abdiel Class minelayers could reach 39.75 knots, so they would not be able to outrun this MTB.
But as far as I am concerned one of the real beauties was the Victorian steam yacht Amazon, a true timeless classic that just draws the eye. She dates from 1885 and was probably the oldest vessel in the flotilla of ships attending the festival.
Of course there were other things to see/do on the day.  For starters there were some traction engines (in lieu of real steam engines I guess). An extremely shiney Sentinel Steam Wagon caught my eye, and I could not help but mentally compare it to the neglected steam traction that we have back home.

A very nice Aveling & Porter that reminded me a lot of the steam roller “Judy” that was in steam at the James Hall Museum of Transport during the late 80’s.

And finally there was a very nice Fowler traction engine that had lots of moving bits and turning flywheels and an active whistle too. Sadly though none really went anywhere, but then I suppose H&S would have had to do a risk assessment and issue guidelines and generate reams of paperwork.
And while on the subject of Whistles. There was supposed to be a steam whistle challenge between Shieldhall and Challenge that did not really happen. I suspect one or both did not quite have enough puff left. But once they rectified that it was a different story. Shieldhall has a very “strange” siren, and I did manage to capture it on video. 

The bell mouthed object is the siren, and makes the odd noises, while the long pipe is the proper ships whistle which is beautiful to hear but not really preferred it seems. 

Even the Navy was present, although they did seem a bit lost without a ship. There were members of HMS Collingwood helping out at the festival wearing their best outfits and I was almost green with envy.
There was one highlight that everybody was waiting for, eyes glued to the sky, cameras at the ready. The last remaining flying Lancaster PA474 from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was scheduled to do a flyover at rough;y 16H00. It was a long wait because we did not know if the weather would keep her down, or if she was coming at all, or which direction she was coming from. However, I soon heard an unfamiliar noise and saw a speck tracking across the sky. She had arrived!

It was one of those oooh moments. And I could not decide whether to film it, photograph it, or watch it. I finally decided on a combination of all three. The noise is so unfamiliar, and I could not but help think that if you multiplied it by 1000 then you may have known what a 1000 bomber raid must have sounded like during World War 2.

The one area where I did spend a lot of time was at the “army” display. And it was quite nostalgic too, especially when I ended up comparing notes about being a conscript with somebody that had been a conscript in the UK. Strangely enough a lot of their experiences were the same as mine, except mine were in Afrikaans.

I did get to try out a Sten which was probably one of those guns from my childhood that I really wanted to try out (thank you Battle Picture Library
And of course there was a Thompson Machine Gun (aka Tommy Gun) which is another weapon I drooled about as a youngster, except it did require a violin case to carry it in.
Neither could I assist with their broken staff car….

And, the army had brought along a searchlight, and I could not help remember the old Rand East Show when they SADF used to shine the searchlights from the Milner Park Showgrounds. I suppose these are all obsolete now, and would not conform to some obscure EU directive anyway.
Of course much of this is out of sequence, because I ended the day on board SS Shieldhall, and after spending quite a lot of time on board her departed with a ticket in my grubby hands for a cruise on board on the next day.  

She is a magnificent vessel, with no pretensions about being anything but a working vessel. She has all the required shiplike appurtenances and tiddly bits. She is well maintained and well loved too, and is probably one of the most loved preserved vessels in the United Kingdom. I will cover her in a separate blogpost  because there is so much to say and see about her.

Inside the Ocean terminal there were a lot of organisations touting for business, and I had lots of chats with some of the stall holders, you just can’t help reminiscing about the “good ole’ days when the QE2 was ‘ere”. Southampton has a rich passenger ship heritage that is part of the history of the port. And while the Titanic does seem to attract most of the attention most ship buffs do recall the many other ships that called Southampton their home.
Then it was time to go home. It had been an awesome day. I cannot even begin to cover most of what I saw, I believe there were over 5000 people on that day, and the warm weather meant that many shed their drab winter gear.

So, to close off the first day I will leave you with an image of a child in a gas mask. Now wasn’t that a great idea? I am sure his mum will come and fetch him eventually. But until she does, continue onwards to Day 2 of the Maritime Festival

© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 04/04/2016
Updated: 29/12/2017 — 07:12

Lets go by bus!

Reading a blogpost about buses a few minutes ago got me thinking about my own experiences with bus travel as a child.
Our family did not own a car, and living in Mayfair (Johannesburg), we were very fortunate that we had a variety of buses to choose from when we made an excursion “into town”. Originally we lived in Robinson Road and would catch the Homestead Park bus, but once we moved to Hanover Street our local bus stop was shared by buses on the Homestead Park, Crosby, Langlaagte and Mayfair routes which all turned around at the terminus in Loveday Street. (Bus numbers were 60, 60a, 61 and possibly 61a). Trolley bus lines ran up to Homestead Park where the bus turned around for its return journey, I seem to recall the terminus was in Van Ryneveld Road. 

In primary school I used to catch the Crosby bus up to EP Baumann Primary, getting off a block away from the school in 3rd Avenue. My early trips were on platform style JMT diesel buses with a conductor ensuring that the correct fares were paid and that we behaved ourselves.
I do not recall when the platform style buses were removed from service but at some point the conductor was made redundant by a ticketing machine by the driver, and he also handled cash for people who did not have tickets.
The original platform style buses had the driver in a separate compartment, but single deckers and the newer double deckers had the driver accessible to passengers, and when you travelled the same bus everyday we all got to know the individual drivers on our routes, and eventually we would gravitate to sitting on the ledge by the front window next to the driver.  I do recall the one driver that I travelled with went on pension in my last year in primary school and I was quite sad that I would no longer see him on the route. 
My morning trips were usually in a very empty bus, but in the afternoons the Crosby bus would be full of the children from EP Baumann as well as other schools in the area. I used to bail out at the stop in Central Ave between Hanover and Langerman Streets, stopping at the Greek cafe to buy the afternoon paper for my mother before heading off for home.  This was the same bus stop we would use to travel into town,  the west bound stop being close to the corner of Hanover Street and Central Ave.
The bus terminus in Johannesburg was in Loveday Street, between Commissioner and Market Streets. None of our west bound buses used Van Der Bijl Square (today Ghandi Square) as a terminus. The terminus was also next to the Union-Castle Building where I could ogle the ship models in the window while waiting for the bus to take me home. Today the terminus is still there, but is used as a taxi rank. Union-Castle Line is long gone and so are the ship models. And, for that matter, so are the buses.
The former Mayfair/Crosby/Homestead Park Bus terminus

The former Mayfair/Crosby/Homestead Park Bus terminus

Once I went to high school in Langlaagte, my daily commute changed slightly. I would now catch a  dedicated Langlaagte school bus that would turn around outside our school, and in the afternoons there was a dedicated school bus that used to collect us at 14H05 and drive into town on the Homestead Park route. If you missed it the next Langlaagte bus would leave an hour later and it was usually easier to walk up to the Homestead Park terminus instead. 
The buses on this route were converted from the platform diesel buses, the platform being removed and replaced with a bench seat with the access stairs behind the driver. There was an unofficial pecking order on these buses. The smokers sat upstairs, the more senior the boys the further back they sat. Non smokers sat downstairs and the seniors would occupy the bench seat at the back. Our school was a single sexed school so no girls were on the bus (Goudveld Hoer up the road had their own bus).  Unfortunately I do not have a picture of the inside of these diesel buses, but they were very similar to the converted trolley buses that had their platforms removed. 

Downstairs looking towards the back of the bus

By Std 10 I too had graduated to the back bench, and some other Std 6 had to fight the gauntlet of bigger boys trying to board without getting squashed. The ticket machine had changed too, as tickets now had 10 rides per ticket instead of a single ticket per ride. 

Upstairs looking towards the front of the bus

Johannesburg also started to use buses for advertising when I was in primary school, and we were always eager to travel on a bus that had something new advertised on it, sadly though it meant the demise of the familiar red and cream livery, which leant a certain professionalism to the bus service.  The much loved trolley bus was also withdrawn,  and an articulated singled decker trolley bus was tried but it was never adopted throughout the fleet. Eventually even the trolley bus lines were removed, and they too have passed into history. By the time I came out of the army my transportation had moved to trains as I worked in Braamfontein and Johannesburg, and apart from the occasional trip  from where I lived in Hillbrow I stopped using buses altogether. I know when I was young the ever rising fares meant fewer people used buses so they they had to raise fares to increase revenue and it became a spiral that saw the bus service cut until it was shade of its former self.  Today the Metrobus service is abysmal. 
I have travelled in buses elsewhere in the world but they don’t really compare to the childhood experience of going to school in a big red and cream diesel bus, safe in the hands of an experienced driver.  I miss the experience though, especially hurtling down the hill in Fordsburg in a trolley bus, secretly hoping that the pickup would jump off the lines, bringing us to a grinding halt. It was all part of the fun when growing up. The James Hall Museum of Transport has a beautiful collection of old buses and trams to explore, and is well worth visiting to see them once again.    All the photographs in this blog entry were taken at the museum.
© DRW 2012-2018. Images recreated 25/03/2016
Updated: 09/05/2018 — 12:56
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