Oral history workshop

Fig 1: This view of Crewe (South) shed was taken during my school trip there on 20th July 1965. Photo Credit: Malcolm Rush. Colourised version

Youthful Days – Part 12a

In Youthful Days Part 12a Malcolm Rush writes about the bus journeys to his Secondary school, his railway art there, and gives a taster of a school trip to Crewe.

Suddenly, and without warning or preparation, our class was told at Mowlands Junior School that we were going to take the 11+ exam that day. Somehow, I must have done what was required because the next part of my Education was to be at the Sherwood Hall Technical Grammer School for Boys, Forest Town, Mansfield. To travel there I had to catch two buses, along with other school friends. I had a bus pass for these journeys.

The first bus was the Trent service 63 which picked us up on Diamond Avenue, Kirkby, near the Nag’s Head. It then went via Derby Road and down Nottingham Road into Mansfield. I can remember winter times in snow when we wondered if the double decker would make it up Diamond Avenue but they always did, although there were some late arrivals at school on those days. Occasionally, one of the rostered buses was a Leyland Titan PD3. They were a longer bus than normal and to me always imparted a feeling of power. This increase in length had been brought about by the regulations being relaxed in 1956 to allow 30ft 2 axle double decker buses.

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Fig 2: This preserved Trent PD3, LRC 454, is seen at the Nottingham Heritage Vehicles Charity open day, Hucknall on 13th March 2022. Photo Credit: John Milnes, used his kind permission.

Our bus pass was only valid to Nottingham Road so we had to cross Mansfield on foot, heading to the East Midlands bus stop outside the West Notts College on Chesterfield Road. We walked through alleyways now long gone, leading to the old Granada Cinema on West Gate. Sometimes we would hear the pigs squealing as they were unloaded from lorries on their last journey to the abattoir.

Our East Midland Motor Services bus was one which appeared from the garage on Chesterfield Road (now the Kwik Fit Tyre place). Different models of double decker buses were used and gave some variety to the journey. Although I wasn’t a bus spotter, I did take an interest in the different types which could be travelled on.

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Fig 3: One of the early Trent Atlantean PDR1 buses seen, I believe, at the bus stop near the Pyes dealership on Nottingham Road, Mansfield just up from the Cattle Market. This is where we would catch the 63 bus back to Kirkby. Waiting at the bus stop you could see the signal box at the former Mansfield railway station on Great Central Road, along with glimpses of the Mansfield Brewery buildings. At that time the view looked as if it would last forever ….. how wrong that was! Photo Credit: Graham Upchurch collection, photographer unknown.

I remember the first time I saw one of the new Trent Atlantean PDR1 front entrance buses, in 1962. I was walking to Mowlands Junior School and passing the Wagon & Horses pub near to Kirkby Cross. The gleaming bus swept round the corner at the Cross and it surprised me – a radically different design where you entered the bus at the front, not the rear! On a few occasions, waiting at a bus stop, I recall telling some passengers who were walking towards where the rear of the bus would stop that they had to get on at the front! The doors on the early Trent versions were operated by a large cast red-coloured handle, situated to the left of the driver’s position, which was moved horizontally through 90 degrees – I think they might have been air-operated. It wasn’t long before I used to ask if I could open the doors – a simple pleasure, yes. A bit like on the rear platform buses when you asked the conductor if you could ring the bell. Nowadays, that function has totally passed over to passengers!

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Fig 4: A couple of pages extracted from a 1963 Trent bus timetable. The 63 bus we caught to go to school was the 8.15am from East Kirkby (Nag’s Head). The one going home was the 4.23pm from Mansfield (Nottingham Road). Photo Credit: Malcolm Rush collection.

The schools I attended did not promote interest in railways. However, at my final school Sherwood Hall, my art teacher Mr Cooke was interested in railways. Now, although we had that mutual interest that’s about as far as it went. To put it mildly, art wasn’t one of my strongest subjects. In fact, one of the best marked pieces I achieved was for a side view drawing of a coal wagon. Mr Cooke had set this task to us and he encouraged us to visit a live subject to complete the drawing. I took him at his word and, through a visit to Kirkby sheds, I found a suitable wagon subject and was well pleased with the result and my subsequent marks! I recently found my Art Book languishing in our loft – scans of my drawings are below:

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Fig 5a: A scan of one of my art efforts drawn on 14th September 1964 – turned out to be my best railway art work! Photo Credit: Malcolm Rush.

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Fig 5b: Another of my art efforts, drawn on 14th September 1964. Photo Credit: Malcolm Rush.

I wasn’t so lucky the next time when we were encouraged to go into the countryside and draw what we saw. “I know”, I thought, “I’ll go the over bridge at Lindley’s Lane and draw the cuttings and lines with Kirkby South Junction signal box as a feature”. Well, I started this with all good intentions but as the time passed it became clear to me that I had taken on something which was way beyond my capabilities. I started to look around for alternatives. I spied an electricity pylon – that’ll do I thought. So that became the subject for my homework drawing. Quite a bit of time had elapsed by now and I was feeling the need to finish my homework and move onto something more interesting.

The net result was that the finished drawing of the pylon was not particularly good – even to my untrained artistic eye. Mr Cooke agreed – “You could not be accused of trying hard” was his caustic written comment. He gave me a mark of 2/10 and added “Try again Monday 4 p.m”. That was a detention! Ah well, que sera sera.

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Fig 6: After spending much fruitless time trying to draw the Kirkby South railways (I now know I was aiming for something like a B&W version of Part 9 Fig 1, but without the Grimsby fish train) I became rather frustrated and looked around for an easy option. As it turns out the subject of my 1st April 1965 homework may, indeed, still be standing – unlike the railway scene I had intended to depict. Photo Credit: Malcolm Rush.

Even though my artistic ability was sadly lacking Mr Cooke was always aware of my interest in railways and when, in July 1965, he announced that he had arranged a school trip to the Loco Works and sheds at Crewe, myself and friend Owen Llewellyn were already top of his list of potential attendees. To allow this as a school trip great play was made on stressing that it was an educational visit and not just a loco spotting expedition. It turned out to be a great day, enjoyed by all who went. Perhaps now, looking back somewhat cynically, I would say Mr Cooke organised the trip as much for his benefit than ours but then who could blame him? – I certainly would have done the same in his position!

Malcolm Rush 

Posted by SB2K Admin – 7th March 2024