As has been the case the past few days, it was a cold start to my journey which began on the 0600 Connect 6 service from Skegness to Lincoln. Working this was Stagecoach Volvo B7TL/Wright Gemini 16940 (FX06 AOB). An uneventful trip, and I was to be the solitary passenger until we picked up a couple of people on he outskirts of Lincoln. This was good news as I was secretly hoping we'd arrive earlier than the timetabled 0738 so that I could connect with the Connect 1 service to Grantham at 0735. The following 0805 departure would only have given me a very tight 5 minute connection at Grantham!
I had no cause for worry as we encircled the bus station, I noticed the 0735 was not in the stand. After about 10 minutes I was getting somewhat anxious that it still hadn't appeared just as Alexander-Dennis Trident 2 / Alexander-Dennis Enviro 19121 (FX07 CLV) arrived. Passengers alighted and those at the front of the queue were ready to board as it pulled away up to the next stand! A girl in front told another that she used the bus every day and it was always late. Happily, sister vehicle 19122 (FX07 CLY) pulled up to form our service and we departed at 0748, 13 minutes late.
Travelling upstairs I had a good view of the surrounding countryside. After Waddington we passed Mike Gallagher's premises where are stored a number of vintage buses. Sadly, this suffered at the hands of a young arsonist last year, and a number of vehicles were destroyed including an ex-Lincolnshire Road Car Bristol FLF, the last LRCC example in the UK, the burnt remains of which can be seen in the photograph below.
Continuing towards Grantham, we caught our one and only glimpse of the sun and passed sister Enviro 19124 (FX07 CME) on a Grantham to Lincoln run.
Once in Grantham, we encountered Centrebus Dennis Dart SLF / Plaxton Pointer SN55 DVC on town service 1 to Alma Park.
Arrival at Grantham bus station was at 0900, just 5 minutes late leaving me with 30 minutes for my connection. For the intervening time I had a walk to the railway station. Engineering work meant that there were no train services to Skegness or Nottingham, being replaced respectively, by buses to Sleaford and Grantham.
Grand Central have been experiencing some problems with their HST fleet and, as a result, with one out of action, have hired a rake of carriages and two class 67 (020 & 026) operating in lieu of an HST set. I was fortunate enough to be at Grantham to see it pass through whilst working the 0757 London King's Cross to Sunderland with 67026 leading.
Time to return to the bus station to catch the Stagecoach service 602 to Newark. This was to be the very last day this route was operated as it was to pass to Centrebus the following Monday. Working it was one of the few MCW's still with the company, 15954 (POG 490Y), which was new to Travel West Midlands in 1982.
Fortunately, the driver had left the engine running and pulled into the stop 5 minutes early, so giving everyone a welcome break from standing in the cold. I took my place upstairs at the front as we made our way out of Grantham through Gonerby and then joined the A1 for a spirited run, until turning off to reach Long Bennington.
I alighted at the village of Claypole, and having helped an old lady board, had just enough time to take a photograph of 15954.
I had some time to spare so had a walk to the church dedicated to St Peter which dates from the 13th Century.
Time then to walk to the level crossing with the East Coast Main Line. Originally Claypole had a station at this location, although this closed to passengers on 16 September 1957. The original signal box has also long since gone, replaced by a rather unimpressive modern brick structure. One point of interest is that it still retains the original Great Northern Railway name board!
I was surprised how busy this minor road was, and the level crossing barriers came down several times in the few minutes I was there, shortly before National Express East Coast trains passed through at speed.
The Hull Trains loco-hauled set is what I was actually waiting for, and this day was its last booked working as it was on standby the following two weeks. The video below shows heritage 86101 at the rear as it passes through Claypole on the 0934 King's Cross to Doncaster.
I made two mistakes before I set off in my haste and tiredness. I'd taken the faulty camera instead of my main one. It works ok but the screen is broken, so for the day I was "shooting blind" not knowing what the results were until I got home and downloaded them. The second was forgetting to pick up my itinerary and timetables I'd printed out the day before.
I was rather concerned that I'd not seen the 602 to Grantham at 1039 (it was 1100 by then), particularly as this was working the service I was to catch to Newark and, should it have not run, I would have been stuck in Claypole. If I had my timetable, I would have realised that only services which call at Stubton go over the level crossing (one a day each way). This became apparent when I walked back to the village and saw a sign - clearly the bus turned right in the village and had gone direct down this road to Dry Doddington! Phew - what a relief!
Heading to the Wheatsheaf pub, a young lad passed me and said "Good Morning". Must admit I was somewhat aghast at such a polite child, and took the opportunity to ask him where the bus went from and he told me to wait in front of the village hall.
Unfortunately, the Wheatsheaf was closed, so I doubled back to the other pub (The Five Bells) for a pint and to sit somewhere warm.Whilst Claypole is not a big village, it does at least have a few amenities in the form of the two pubs, a small shop and a hairdresser!
It was then time to wait for the bus, 15954, on which I would travel back to Newark. Just chance to get a photograph of it outside the village hall.
Arrival at Newark was on time, and I had 30 minutes for my connection to Lincoln. 15954 went into the depot.
It was replaced by Mercedes / Optare Prisma 23952 (R201 YOR) which is seen in the depot just before it departed on the 1225 service 602 to Grantham.
Also in the depot were two withdrawn MCWs, 15983 (POG 584Y) and 15966 (POG 520Y).
Another MCW, 15949 (POG 480Y) departed on the 1230 service 29 to Southwell.
Also seen at Newark was Veolia's Transbus Enviro SJ56 GCF.
My return to Lincoln was on Optare 47463 (FX07 LJC)
The 1300 service 46 is the last through service to Lincoln of the day, and we set off exactly on time. Although the two locations are only 18 miles apart, we were not due into Lincoln until 1425, as the service spends much time away from the main road to serve Witham St Hugh's and Swinderby.
The temperature appeared to have dropped and I spent the time between buses photographing anything of interest. Amongst these were Dennis Dart SLF / Plaxton Pointer 2 34185 (W185 DNO), having recently been transferred from Skegness deopt, on a service 29 to Skellingthorpe.
Also seen was Enviro 19072 (MX56 FTE), which was new to Greater Manchester South, on a 66 to the Birchwood Estate.
One of the diminishing number of vehicles in Road Car/Superbuzz livery, Dennis Dart SLF / East Lancs Spryte 33217 (V517 XTL), departs on the 631 to Sleaford. This was also one of the last 631's as the service was renumbered 31 on the following Monday.
I had planned to travel back on the 1455 service 10 to Mablethorpe and return to Skegness from there. However, the cold and tiredness got the better of me, so I opted to take the 1500 Connect 6 back to Skegness on which was Volvo B7TL / East Lancs Gemini 16944 (FX06 AOF). Predictably, whilst most people formed a queue, the youths decided to congregate towards the front to barge on. I've found a way to combat this by keeping as close behind the person in front as possible!
I travelled in the warm seat at the back of the lower deck. Back in Skegness it was time for a pint and then write up this blog! (PW)