I am at Heathrow, recovering from my five-mile walk from the near part of Terminal 2 to the far part of Terminal 2. I think I've just walked to Hounslow.
Where was I? Oh yes - I had just survived Noah's Flood (Birmingham Edition) in a Nissan Qui Quae Quod. Or Cash Cow. Or whatever you call it. I noticed two things about this car:
1. 0 to 60. Yes, in a while. Whatever engine was in the car they rented me would be better suited to a skateboard. I would get on the motorway and floor it (yes I was changing gears at the appropriate times), reaching 70 MPH after about a minute. No exaggeration.
2. It doesn't have a handbrake. Instead it has a stall button. When I am trying to back up a hill, I can press the stall button and - TA DA! - I stall. There is a little P in a circle on the button. It must mean PREVARICATE, which is sort of a synonym for stall.
Seriously, how anyone thought these electronic parking brakes were a good idea astounds me. You can't ease off the brake. It just goes off - BOOM - and if you are trying to back up a hill you either stall or get the lovely smell of melting clutch or... BOTH!
Back to Brum. I stayed at a beautiful place in Alvechurch called Alcott Farm. Really gorgeous, comfortable and highly recommended.
On bank holiday Monday, the Transport Museum Wythall hosted a big open day and included a Model Bus Federation show. There were vendors everywhere, models on display, cottage manufacturers - the whole lot. And I can say that I did not hear a single negative comment on our first Brummie bus sample. Here's our booth. Phil Parker stopped in to say hi, joining me and Rapido's UK office, otherwise known as Terry Wynne. The guy on the left is Mark Ellis. Beside him is Robin Neil, who used to work for Guy Motors. He taught us that our bus is not a Guy Arab IV but a Guy Birmingham, which is far cooler.
So the sample that was sent from China two weeks ago got lost in Coventry. Thanks, FedEx. Luckily we foresaw this and Josh prepared a couple of samples, even though they were missing the decorated moquette and all the metal bits.
The better sample did show up on Tuesday. The guy drove up while I was standing in the forecourt at Wythall. He says "Package for Dave Taylor. Who are you?" "Dave Taylor," I reply. Photos of the new sample at the bottom of this message....
There were loads of colourful buses on display, and don't for a moment think that Wythall only has Brummie buses....
The miniature railway was in operation, and once again I missed my chance to ride it. I also missed my chance to ride on any buses that day. Grumble. But just look at those happy people!
Tuesday was without a doubt the highlight of my entire trip. A few months ago I sent an email to Dave Taylor and Malcolm Keeley at Wythall suggesting we ride the #11 Outer Circle route using 2976, the 1953-built Guy Arab that is the basis of our new model. They were immediately on board and the trip sold out within a couple of days. The #11 follows (broadly) the A4040, which is Birmingham's outer ring road. The thing is, there is no outer ring road. For those of you familiar with London, it's less of a North Circular and more of a South Circular. It's a collection of random bits of road all joined together to make a coherent route, sort of.
Our driver was Kevin Hill, owner of MOF9 (sister bus to 2976) and Wolverhampton 4413, a 1974 Bristol VR. The conductress was his wife, Renate.
Here I'm ready to depart Wythall.
As is this bus crank, trainspotting nerd.
But really, this was - erm - work. We had a meeting on the bus. That's Peter Crichton from Omnibus and Chris Tipping from TTC Diecast. We're "working."
Check out this wonderfully atmospheric photo - passing a 2018 #11 in a 1953 #11...
We pulled up to a rather picturesque bus stop...
And everyone got off to take a photo.
This is what they were photographing:
Here's the upper saloon passengers having a blast.
At one point we were driving through a neighbourhood that Dave thought might not be that safe. He came out to stand on the platform with Renate. I came out too. It was really unsafe. People were waving, smiling, cheering and taking our photo. Grownups and kids. It was lovely to see the smiles on everyone's faces - people would turn, catch sight of us, smile, and instinctively start waving. Mums, dads, teenagers - everyone.
We stopped by the King's Head on Hagley Road. Many BCT services terminated here back in the day. Here's a photo of a 2018 #11 overtaking us, kindly emailed to me by Tony Summerton.
Throughout the trip some suspicious weirdo was following us with a camera on his car. Freaky.
That night I headed to the metropolis of Surrey. Unfortunately to get there I had to get around the real metropolis of London. I was stuck on the M25 between the M40 and Junction 9 for ALMOST TWO HOURS. How do you Londoners handle the M25 on a regular basis without going completely insane? I went completely insane. I was ready to climb up one of those $%#^#@ speed camera bridge thingies and do the watusi.
The next day I headed further south to the Kent & East Sussex Railway for a meeting I can't tell you about yet. I don't know why the guy wanted to meet there. I would have been perfectly happy to stay in the West Midlands and avoid the M25, which will give me nightmares for weeks.
Andy Harding was nice enough to toss me onto the footplate...
This was what I was riding:
After I asked "Can we drive an HST now?" for the seventh time, I was thrown from the train.
Here's a neat shot of a meet with the DMU:
I stayed at a gorgeous B&B called Alkham Court. Really wonderful service, comfort and views. This was the view from my room.
My plane is boarding now, and I haven't proofread this post. So I apologize for any typos. Here are photos of the sample that finally arrived from China.
Talk to you soon,