164        LCT crest        164


How it was done .. at least, by me.
A treatise on conducting a bus for LCT in the late 1960s
Or in other words, a ramble around the job.

Over recent years, because of the numbers of photos of old Leicester buses that have appeared online, some of them my own, I have oocasionally been asked about some of the more detailed aspects of what a conductor did. Or more to the point, not so much what he did - because all passengers with an inquisitive eye could see what he did - but how he did it. And why he was doing it.

How did a conductor manage to write so neatly whilst standing up on a bouncing bus? How many tickets were on a roll, and did he have to pay for them? Where did he put his money - did he get to keep it? And what happened to him if someone did fall off the platform of his bus?

So many questions, and many more no doubt. This page will attempt to answer some of them, and maybe some others you hadn't even thought of asking. I can only imagine it will be of interest either to the younger bus enthusiasts of today, or older passengers of days of yore - my own age and older - who may also have the vaguest interest in reading this. Along with perhaps the occasional ex-conductor chancing on this online and either howling in delight at the memories, or guffawing and blowing raspberries at my odd methods because his way of working had been so different. It goes into quite some detail, perhaps obsessively so in parts, but I don't recall seeing this amount of fine detail of a conductor's duties and his working day anywhere else.

I was fortunate enough to have been on the job at a time that was a sort of 'meeting of the ages', as old ways of working were just giving way to the new. The men who trained me and oversaw my work had been on buses, and trams, before the war and were just coming up to retirement. Most had served during the war, and had experiences most were loath to discuss, before they returned to their old jobs as drivers and conductors. They were largely the inspectors, chiefs and driving instructors that put me right when I was wrong. Both the conductor that trained me on the road, and the driving instructor who later got me through my test, retired shortly after I started both jobs, after many years loyal service to the folk of Leicester, I might add. I remember both with fondness.

There are articles around that sum up the work of a bus conductor, mostly in other towns, particularly London, but this one goes into some of the minutiae of his work. In particular, this describes my work at LCT for the four years I did this, from aged 18 to 22 when I went on to driving duties. I've tried to recall, and record, all that I did on a daily basis from signing on to signing off. Be warned, this article is over 16,000 words, in nearly 200 paragraphs, so this is the point to alight this bus now if you will, if that is more information than you are seeking or can stand. If printed onto A5 format, it makes nearly 40 pages, a veritable small booklet.

You need to be a real enthusiast to finish it and will almost certainly need refreshment as you go. By the end, you may well feel you have done 4 years on the buses yourself.

For those with better memories of towns and cities other than Leicester, you may well recognise some of the methodology described in here, even if the terminology is somewhat alien. Bradford, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Coventry, and many more, all worked in much the same way, using what became almost universal methods for corporations everywhere. Connys, duckies, clippies, all were correct terms in various places. Likewise shifts, duties, early turns and late turns, split shifts and spreadovers. Plus running board, running card, timeboard, waybill, defect card; all these terms described similar items that often amounted to much the same thing. There were notable differences though, in the terminology as used by corporations, and those of more rural operators like the Midland Red. In the same way that I've have drawn comparisons here in Leicester between LCT and BMMO, I imagine it was also just as different say, between Plymouth City Transport and Devon General, or Newcastle City Transport and Northern General. Most of the terminology in all cases was historic, inherited from the days of tramways several decades before my time. Some terms are generic to transport all over the nation; haulage firms had waybills and report cards in days of yore long before bus services were devised.

I got the distinct impression over the years that as a general rule, training for work on corporation buses anywhere was very intense and quite strict. Perhaps the sheer busyness of the urban routes, the wider possibility for mishaps and accidents being so much more prevalent in busy city streets, dictated a very strict way of working born out of the sad experience of horrendous accident figures in the days before proper regulation. On the other hand, rural working companies seem to be so much more relaxed, a lot more laid back and though there were obviously rules that went with the job, the training seemed to be, shall we say, less intense.

I was to find that out much later, long after I walked into the Leicester Transport offices in Humberstone Gate on that fateful day I chanced to be looking for a job and espying their large dusty advert card on an easel in the window bearing the legend, "CONDUCTORS WANTED." Unbeknown to me, they were always wanted. I was amazed when they wanted me. It turned out later that advert card had been there since 1945, and was last dusted in 1950.

As already hinted at, by 1968, there were essentially two systems of working in place, the municipal or corporation run bus services in towns and cities, and the mainly rural private operators that by then had mostly been absorbed into the National Bus Company, of which the Midland Red was by far the largest single operator. There were exceptions to that, some very small towns had surprisingly well developed municipal operations, whereas cities like York and Exeter had long since lost theirs and were totally served by West Yorkshire and Devon General respectively, by then NBC companies – nationalised and effectively owned by the government.

By the time I went to work for Leicester Corporation on their buses in the late 1960s, they had already been using the five-bar Ultimate ticket machine for some time. The old Bell-Punch machines from the days of the trams were obsolete and most large concerns had converted to more modern equipment. An Ultimate may look old-hat now, compared to modern digital displays with their keypad inputs, but in 1968, they were the machine of choice for most large city bus services and even some parts of the London Transport operation used them. But Bell-Punch were still the dominant manufacturer in the ticket machine market for municipal operators and the Ultimate was their latest device.

I got the impression the five-bar machine we used was the standard, but I once went to Northampton for a day and was astonished to see seven-bar machines, a quarter as long again. By crikey, I bet they were heavy. Even later, I would see tiddly little two bar machines for car park attendants and the like. Other main players were Gibson and T.I.M, who provided London Transport with their thousands of main machines, and the Setright favoured by country bus services because they had dials that could issue fares at that time from a penny right up to a £1. Most NBC companies were using Setrights, and a few using the sliding lever Almex, by the late 60s.

Passengers of the time will recall with fondness the little square piece of coloured ticket that was issued from an Ultimate with a firm press down of one of the levers. There was a hole between each ticket, which located the ticket roll onto a sprocket like a filmstrip to pull the ticket through ready to be smartly ripped off against a serrated edge. When the machine was hanging on its strap over his right shoulder, it was held just about at waist level on a conductor's left side. It was not a light item of kit, weighing around 3 or 4 pounds … 3-4 lbs.

I suppose if a conductor were right handed, he could just as easily have hung it over his other shoulder, and wore his cash bag on his left. But I don't ever recall seeing it done that way, although we must have had left-handed conductors on the job. My brother was one such, and I don't recall him wearing his machine any differently to the rest of us.

The straps were widely adjustable, and I've seen machines wore almost down at the knee, and as high as on the chest. Neither extreme seemed comfortable nor practical to me, but it's a square world. Mine sat at a level with my left jacket lower pocket, about on a level with my hip. This website has an image of a conductor on his platform wearing an Ultimate in typical fashion, about the same height as I used to wear mine. There's another image of the machine further down the page too. For those of you that were trying to recall, now you recognise it, don't you ....
"The Ticket Machine Website".
Press your 'Backspace' button to return here. You'll note that I hadn't spent quite so long in the sun as this fine chap.

The Ultimate machine did several things. Not only did it issue a ticket to a set value, but it also printed on the ticket the fare stage applicable to the fare. The conductor turned a little dialled lever as each fare stage was passed on the route, and each ticket issued thereafter would be stamped with that number until the next turn of the dial. For Leicester residents of old, I will remind them of one particular number, fare stage 4. On Aylestone Rd or Saffron Lane, stage 4 was Grace Rd. On Melton Rd or Loughborough, it was Checketts Rd. Uppingham Rd had stage 4 at Overton Rd, and Hinckley Rd at Westcotes Drive. Narborough Rd stage 4 was at Imperial Avenue.

This was how an inspector, on checking passenger tickets, could tell at which point a passenger had boarded the bus, and whether the fare on the ticket was the correct one up to that point. In 1968, the fare from the city centre to any stage 4 was 6d - so six old pence, or 2½p now. If a conductor failed to change his stages at the right point as he went along, it made an inspector's job a lot harder to check tickets. If other lapses of the rules also came into play, say not changing the destination blinds in a timely fashion, or booking ticket numbers down on his waybill too early, and the inspector be so minded, it could easily mean being put on report to answer for his lapses later. This could be expensive, leading to the loss of his weekly bonus.

The ticket machine also added up the total of all the tickets sold from each roll, by keeping a running tally on tiny numbered wheels visible through very tiny 'windows' just below each lever slot. A conductor had to record each of the five numbers visible in those windows on the top of his waybill before starting duty, then record them again at the very end of his shift at the bottom of the sheet. Those numbers, one substracted from the other, gave him the total sold of each value, even if he had to reload with fresh ticket rolls during his day. Adding together the total cash amounts of the five rolls gave him the final total cash figure he had sold, so he must pay in that amount that day. The waybill recorded all these sales, so was the most important document a conductor had, and the misuse of one could lead to instant dismissal from the job. More on that later.

LCT waybills were pale green in colour, and were divided into several columns. It was a record sheet of each journey and an accounting document all rolled into one. A fresh waybill was started for each day, recording the obvious things at the top like his/her name, number, date, and the number of his shift, or duty worked. There were hundreds of shifts that covered every single service of every single day, including school runs, specials and extra services over the whole city. Odd numbers were early shifts, and evens were lates.

Each bus worked to the times laid out on a running board, which was a typed sheet that a crew obtained each day when they signed on. It was called a board because the sheet was mounted in a metal sleeve with carefully turned and smoothed edges and corners, which in the days of the trams had formerly been on a wooden board. The name simply stuck, as did many other terms. The metal sleeves came into being simply because they were far more hard wearing and took a lot of knocks. The actual sheet of paper was covered and protected by a clear plastic sheet. An idea of how hard wearing they were can be gained by the fact that in winter, we regularly used the reverse side as mini-shovels to gather and spread road grit on our icy platforms. The board had all the running instructions of which routes and at which times that bus would operate, with extra instructions about diversions or particular items or hazards to watch out for, during it's whole time on the road. That would be whether it was for as short a time as a school run plus a couple of peak hour service runs, or if it was out all day long from start of service at 6am to last service at 11pm. Again, all boards had numbers that were referenced back to the duty, and there were hundreds of those too, stored in the paying-in office in vertical slots in huge racks. Your shift number would tell you which board to take.

As well as the board, the conductor also had to pick up the board plate, and give it to his driver. This was a black, metal plate, about the size of a small notebook which had the board number painted in white. This would be dropped into a slot on the outside of the cab just under the offside cab window, in front of the cab door but over the front wheelarch. That was for the benefit of inspectors at city centre control points, who could then see at a glance from the other side of the road if need be which running board your bus was working to. He could then tell instantly what your next departure time was, if you were on time or late, indeed, if you were on the right route.

TURNS / DUTIES / SHIFTS – or whatever you want to call them
Below is a fictious layout to what a conductor, and his driver, would copy down from the many printed duty sheets posted up in glass cases in the depots. One such shift was their work for each day. Often, you would do the same duty for four or five days in a row, and so just write it all out in your diary once, thereafter just the duty number in each respective day. Some weeks, you would do the same duty for two days, and the other three could all be different. In Leicester, our shifts/duties were actually called 'turns'. We had early turns, middle turns and late turns, each of roughly 8 hours, plus a break. The actual term may well have been inherited from the Victorian railway industry.

turn no.


route    :   times on and off



LD     0610  -  1030



88     1120  -  1545

327 denotes an early shift, followed by the signing on time. LD is 'Leave Depot'. The times here suggest the 6am sign on for the shift, as you were allowed just 10 minutes to find your bus, get it ready for service, and be out of the gate onto the road. The running board 270 would tell you where to, which route you would be working, here perhaps to run straight out to a terminus to start an inbound run to the city at around 0630, say an inbound 67 from Evington. You would be relieved by another crew and come off the road at 1030. All times were in 24hr clock in four figure format.

After your break, you would take over another bus on the 88 barrier at 1120 to do what looks like three or four runs to Eyres Monsell, and finish your shift when you came off at 1545. That is an example of a bus that looks like it stays out all day, and may well work the 2300 to Eyres Monsell, or last bus.

PREPARING YOUR BUS .. or finding it first
On signing on, as his driver got the bus ready at the front, a conductor's first duty was not administrative, but somewhat aquatic. It was his job to fill the bus radiator with water, or to make sure it was full already. As his conductor got the interior lights on, stowed his kit and coat in the locker, the driver would move the bus from where it was parked in the depot down to the depot doors, where there were taps and water cans. If you were lucky, there may be a hose with a trigger nozzle on it. If not, the radiator was filled from a watering can, as the driver gently revved the engine to encourage water flow around to prevent air locks. If a bus were to run out of water, and the engine sieze up or be damaged as a result, it was the conductor that took the rap, not the driver. This was another part of the inescapable fact that the conductor was in charge of his bus. If you were both lucky and careful, you could fill a radiator just right and not get a massive fountain of back-squirted dirty radiator water that soaked your uniform and ruined your shoes and moreover tasted foul.

His next job was to get the bus report card from the driver and fill in both their details, numbers, date and turn number. Then he had to fill in his waybill, which meant copying out all the individual runs, and their times, of the particular spell of duty he had to complete. Having written down the times, he would pass the running board back for the driver to keep in his cab for his reference.

Usually, the spells of duty for driver and conductor were the same, they would usually be paired up for a full shift. In effect at LCT, you had a regular mate, a driver who you would get to know and as a rule, be friendly with and get on together and would work through the same lines of duties, month by month. All the duties for a week were posted on lines on the sheet, Sunday to Saturday, as five turn numbers, and two marked "R" for rest days, your days off.






























































You dropped to the next line below every week, and thereby worked through most of the duty lines in a two or three year period. One of those marked "R" would be in green ink, which was a guaranteed rest day duty for that day if you wanted it. If not, you signed it away three days in advance and kept your day off. If you accepted it, you would find out which turn number you would be working the night before via a note left for you in the letter rack, signified by a white disc on your key. On the above example, you can see I have a weekend off on line 55/56, and my following week will start on the Monday with a late turn.

Conductors were allowed to work a seven-day week if they wished, and the overtime was available. Drivers had to have one day off a fortnight, by a law that came in whilst I was conducting. Prior to that, some drivers didn't have a day off all summer when overtime was plentiful and staff shortages at epidemic levels. I've worked with drivers that regularly double-shifted, who worked the first service bus in the morning, and could be seen working the 2300 departures, last buses, at night. They often got both rest days in as well. Heaven only knows how they kept it up, but most seem to burn out by the end of the summer and had time off as 'sickness'.

But then, just as now, the basic wage would not buy a house, not even the cheapest. You had to get at least the equivalent of a 6-day week in, every week, to manage that, plus other odd bits of overtime too, say stopping on to do another two or three runs after as shift, and so on. Hours are much more regulated now, but I daresay there are still 'ways and means' when staff shortages demand it, though with relatively full employment in today's age, that may be rare.

Drivers today will not be as familiar as I was of the sight of a sad-faced inspector hawking sheafs of overtime sheets around the canteen almost pleading with men to stop on a run or two. I've turned up at my bus and been taken off the road by an inspector because I had no driver, and similarly when I was driving, I've driven my own bus back to the depot leaving standing loads on the barriers for want of a conductor. Not just once, but many, many times. Hell, one night, we were so short staffed no less than the Traffic Superintendant, who himself held a PSV, came and conducted four trips with me on 88s one night, not long after I went driving.

As a paired crew, you would help each other in various subtle ways. You would be quick on the bell at bus stops and not keep your driver's left leg holding the clutch down a second longer than necessary. A shift with a slow conductor was a leg breaker, believe me. In return, your driver would endeavour to keep time, and not fall too far behind so that you ended up with more than your fair share of passengers by carrying those meant for the bus behind you as well. He would also not be slow himself, and also try his best to get to the terminus with at least five minutes in hand to give you both chance to have a fag and for you to do some cashing up if needed.

You would keep a watchful eye on your passengers for early warning of those intending to alight. You had sold them their ticket, they had told you where they were going, so you were expected to remember who was getting off at which stops, if only to know who had not paid enough and could be charged again. Those who paid short were 'over-riders' and cheating the public purse. The strict rule was that you didn't demand the odd 2d or so they should have paid, you charged them as a fresh fare from that stop; always more expensive, sometimes nearly double. Arguments about that were legion. Late bells not only irritated drivers, they made for very sharp and quick braking and not the smoothest of rides for anyone, least of all yourself. A too-late bell meant your driver didn't even attempt to stop and so your dismayed passenger was carried to the next stop several hundred yards further up the road. It was often the passenger's own fault, but you took rap from their sharp tongues just the same. Some deliberately got up late to trick you into taking them to the next stop, a crafty way of getting past a fare stage at which they should have paid more but without coughing up a penny. You had to work out what to do about that for yourself.

Stopping between stops was strictly forbidden – Verbotten! Not just against LCT rules, it was against Road Traffic Act rules as well. It was a prosecutable offence for which any police constable could report you, let alone your own inspectors. In the event of a mishap, it was also an insurance issue, which was LCT's main worry. It was always the financial side that was their main worry, not the passenger's mishap, injured or otherwise. So if a passenger missed a stop, it was the next one Madam. Or Sir, as the case may be. By and large, we enforced it strictly. Apart from the law, and our badge been at stake, had we not done so, our thoughtful and ever-grateful public would have had us stopping and starting at every shop, lamp-post and street end along the route. Journeys would have been interminable, let alone time-tableable.

To the best of my knowledge, setting down or picking up between stops still is an offence under road traffic law, but you don't see it enforced these days. Bus companies aren't regulated anything like as much, and most police officers today wouldn't know an offence under PCV law if it bit them up the bum. And nor could they be bothered.

After the main headings, the waybill was divided into columns, the first for the route number, thence five columns, one for each value of ticket in the machine. The very top row was for the five starting numbers displayed in the tiny ticket machine windows under the sliders.

After that, on each separate journey line would be recorded the actual next ticket number from the roll, displayed as the ticket roll itself emerged out of the top of the machine. And for this purpose, although 'a run' was a complete journey out to the terminus and then back to town, for ticketing purposes, outward and inward journeys were recorded separately. Hence each normal run would have two lines, one for out, one for in. By the way, the printing of the fare stage on the ticket showed 'out' or 'in' too. By moving the dialled lever in or out, it shifted the printing to the left side of the ticket or the right.

Another trick the machine had, and very useful it was too, was the ability to issue a double ticket, still conjoined together. Under each slide slot was a little button, and pressing that whilst at the same time pushing the lever right down caused the roll to revolve two sprockets and spit out two tickets. So although we didn't have an 8p ticket, that was easily remedied by issuing two x 4d ones. The fare to some of the further out termini, on the newer estates, like Eyres Monsell and Nether Hall, if I recall right, was 8d. If perchance you were to run out of 6d tickets, you could get away with it by issuing two 3d ones. But you would have some explaining to do if an inspector boarded to check your bus, as it skewed the numbers and gave false return of actual passenger numbers carried.

Having started a run with a row of numbers already filled in, they would be filled in at the terminus, and then again on reaching the city centre after the return journey back to town, ready for the next run. Theoretically, a conductor could add the totals up and know exactly how much cash he had taken on the whole run, and check it against the contents of his cashbag. In practice, that was not how we did it, as that would take too long and on busy runs, you would never have enough time to do that anyway. Your totals were worked out at the end of your shift, that is both parts of your shift as they were generally in two halves to allow for a break mid way. Most shifts were on or around the 8hr mark. A 5-day week gave a guaranteed 40hrs work, that being a guaranteed wage at a fixed rate per hour. I started on about £14 a week, or around 3/6d per hour – or 17½d.

At the end of the shift, a conductor would work out his ticket totals as they ran back to the depot if empty, say after a very late run at night where the last bus often returned 'out of service', or running light as it was called. That's when he would also record the final numbers in the Ultimate's window displays. The conductor would be seen sitting on the back seat, half in the dark, totting up his totals and putting his money into paper cash bags, filling in his paying-in slip, so as to be all ready to pay in on returning to the depot. All his separate paper cash bags, plus the paying in slip and his waybill duly completed and signed, would be placed into a large cloth bag with a rope-like tie and firmly tied up at the top. The whole would go into a safe at the depot, and a receipt obtained for safekeeping. If his return run was a service run, thus carrying passengers and taking fares, he may not have chance to do it on the road, and would then take his ticket box and all his cash back to the office and work it all out there.

Inside the cash office at both Abbey Park Rd and in Central (Humberstone Gate and later Rutland St) large, crude cashing in tables with metal tops and large dividers were provided so a conductor could tip out the whole contents of his cash bag to sort the lot out, copper, bronze, silver, etc. If you had been really busy, and hadn't had a chance to do much on your last run, cashing up in the office could take quite some time and be a real pain, often taking you well past the official finishing time of your shift, and your pay! If you were too dilitory, it could even mean missing the staff bus on late shifts. Staff buses left at midnight, come what may, and holding your mates up was very bad form. The last one to be dropped on a staff bus may not get home until 1am.

In practice, you did small amounts of 'cashing up' as you went along. Assuming you were on a steady run, say between the peak hours, you could get all your fares in on both decks by stage 4 on most routes. After that, it was collect the fares of new passengers as and when they got on. You generally did not just stand on the platform ringing the bell with nothing else to do, you emptied your leather bag a bit and relieved the weight around your neck. At any rate, your leather cash bag would never hold all the cash you took in a shift, sometimes it barely held all you took on one return run.

At this juncture, it is time to point out that a conductor had several different bags, some already referred to above, and all used for different purposes but all collectively called 'cash bags'. To understand a conductor's working routine, we need to know the differences between them. Firstly there was his leather cash bag, or large pouch, worn on a long strap round his neck, for which the use was obvious. Then he had a daily refreshed stock of paper cash bags, banking bags if you will, made of thick paper, in which he cashed up set amounts of coin to values of 5/-, 10/-, a £1, or £5. Finally, he had a large white cloth bag, also bearing the bank's name, in which all his takings in their paper bags, plus his associated paperwork, would be placed for final depositing in the safe, just as a shopkeeper would have back then in a bank's nightsafe. Thus when referring to a 'cash bag', the meaning of exactly which type has to be taken in context of the sentence I am using in describing his action at the time.

So a conductor would be seen working his bus, stopping and starting it on the bell, supervising folk boarding or alighting, and at the same time counting what seemed to small boys endless pennies, thruppenny bits, tanners, shillings, florins and half-crowns into paper cash bags provided by the corporation's bankers. I seem to recall our bags were from the Midland Bank.

Blue bags were for copper. Each bag had to contain exactly five shillings, not a penny more nor a penny less. That was 60 pennies, and if you counted them into the bag carefully, into two columns of 30, you'd find they were almost square in shape and would pack away into your black ticket box very neatly and save space. You would have four of those bags to every pound in value, and two or three pounds sterling of copper, say 700-800 pennies, were a good weight to cart around.

The cash weighing machines in the cash offices at the depots were extremely accurate, just the same as those used at the bank, and could tell if they were as much as a ha'penny or tanner over in weight, or short. Nonetheless, all bags were emptied and counted manually, if only to check for foreign coins. You got those back weekly, and were duty bound to replace them with valid coin out of your own pocket. If your 'shorts' amounted to an excess of owings, your wages were witheld in the cash office until you paid up, when you would have to open your wage packet and pay up out of its contents there and then.

As you went round the bus issuing tickets, most folks would have the correct fare. They were asked to, by bus companies, as correct fares sped the job up and reduced delays. Almost every bus stop and every advert for LCT had the appealing slogan, "please tender the exact fare." It was really in all our interests, but by golly, it did mean you had to deal with tremendous amounts of loose cash.

This is how it all worked. By and large, you gave out pennies in change rather than thruppenny bits - 3d bits. Likewise, you'd give out 3d bits rather than shillings and so on. If you bought something in a shop for a shilling, and tendered a pound note, you would apologise for not having anything smaller, and in return, you could reasonably expect the shop keeper to give you a ten shilling note, maybe a couple of half-crowns .. making 15/-, and a couple of florins – that's 2/- each, that would make the 19/- you were owed in change for your paltry 1/- purchase of maybe bar of chocolate. If you were unlucky, and the shop keeper hadn't any notes, you may well get it all back in silver, being several half-crowns - 2/6d - at best, and a good weight for your purse or pocket. A pound's worth of loose change back then wore holes in your pockets, believe me, double fast, and made running quietly after a girl innordinately difficult.

But if you gave a bus conductor a pound note for a 6d fare, he might frown, but also realise it was his chance to offload a considerable bit of weight from his shoulders. If he could see you were genuine and really were sorry you had nothing less, had been caught out as it were - and we all were at some time - he also would give you a 10/- note if he had one. If not, you would get it in silver and a fair bit of small change too, what we called shrapnel, that being pennies, half-pennies and thruppenny bits. And you would have to be happy with that, no point in arguing the toss about it. But if he thought you were trying it on, hoping for a free ride in the event he didn't have enough change, you left yourself open to a veritable deluge of small coin. He would count it quickly into both your hands - yes, you'd need to hold both out - and leave you bemused as he went back down the bus with a smile on his face knowing that was you sorted out. 120 pennies made only half of it, and you were lucky if you got the rest in thruppenny bits, let alone tanners or shillings.

Talking of tanners, some of you many recall the little stainless steel coin dispenser conductors had, clipped onto the top of their cash bag. It kept tanners - 6d pieces - on one side in a column, and shillings, 1/- in the other column. If you tendered a 10/- note for a 6d fare, and were lucky if the conductor was reasonably kindly, you would get a fusilade of 9 x 1/- pieces shot out of the dispenser in rapid fire with mere flicks of his thumb, plus a single tanner out of the other. I bet that brought back memories! If he thought you were taking the mick, you'd get two bags of pennies fetched from his locker, with 6 pennies taken out. Take it or leave it sir. Don't come the acid with me.

Your leather cash bag had three compartments. A front compartment was just for pennies and ha'pennies – ½d. In the middle compartment you kept 3d bits, and the rear and largest compartment was for silver, generally being florins and half-crowns and all the tanners and shillings that wouldn't fit into your dispenser. As you tried to give back in change as many pennies as you took in fares, along with 3d bits, it would be the rear compartment that would quickly fill up with a lot of weight in silver and be most in need of bagging up at the terminus.

Green paper bags were for 3d bits. Just 10/- worth per bag, or 40 coins. Again, packed in two columns, 20 to a side, and nice and square. Packing your cash bags away in your ticket box was an art, and you packed them in and around your ticket machine as you would blocks of hard cheese. These paper cash bags had little round punched holes in them by the way, which I always liked to think was to facilitate airflow to allow the little darlings to breath. The back of your ticket box had a rack, shaped to hold about six spare rolls of tickets. If you were neat, you could get three or four flattened bags of 3d bits stowed under there.

Larger white paper cash bags were for silver, five pound's worth at a time. You tried to put the same value coins in any one bag, so a bag for shillings, another for florins, another for half-crowns. If you were careful, you could pack 120 tanners away in four columns of 30, nice and neat. Or 60 shillings. Or 50 florins, those 2/- pieces. There were 8 half-crowns .. 2/6d .. to a pound, and 40 of those in two columns took some packing in. Your final bag of silver would be a mixed bag of whatever was left.

What we did on buses was really no different to what they did in shops. They used the same coin, had much the same proceedures, except we did it largely standing up on a bouncing, moving vehicle and without a counter to spread it out or count it on.

Talking of bouncing and moving, cashing up was mostly done on the platform, and as former Leicester residents will know, unlike the Midland Red, our buses were open platforms - no doors. I've lost many a coin that accidentally slipped through my fingers as we rattled down some poorly surfaced or maintained road. And that was on straight roads. When on a route that had lots of sharp corners as well, centrifugal force was a science to be reckoned with for a new conductor as he valiantly tried to count his coins as he carefully and hopefully dropped them into the bag and not onto the platform. It was time wasted to get halfway and lose count, perhaps distracted at a stop or by a passenger's question, and have to tip the lot out and start again.

You were effectively doing several things at once, what today is called multi-tasking, a feat for men not thought possible by most women back then, but then again, that may account for why females did make extraordinarily good conductors - or conductresses we called them in the days before PC, the EU, and WL. The most I lost in one go off the platform was a half-crown, which clipped the edge of the bag and hit the platform, thence rolled off into the road as we took the repeated left and right sharp bends going out through Humberstone village. For that I did hit the bell and stop the bus, and went back for it. And I found it too, where it had almost rolled under some high gates. Well, 2/6 was five tanners, and that was five cups of tea forsooth!

So how much cash could we take on a run. Well, in 1968, the fare from the city to Southfields terminus, indeed, many termini, was 6d. If you had a full bus of 82 - that being a full-seated load and 8 standing - and they mostly went past stage 4, that would be about 40/- , or £2. On the way, some would get off, and others board, short-riders only going a few stops, so maybe another five bob or so that way - 5/-. On a busy half shift, when it had been all go and no notion on a run like East Park Rd with its joined through services to Narborough and Melton Rds, it was easy to take nearly £10. That could be made up as 1 x £5 bag of silver, 4 x 10/- bags of 3d bits, and the rest in pennies, perhaps 8 bags or so of those being another couple of quid. Sometimes, it all took some carrying, and explains why many older conductors had shorter legs than us young'uns, as they had been weighed down more over the years and had already lost a lot of height in worn out bone.

The one consolation was that a busy run out usually meant a lighter and quicker run back. Or vice versa in a morning, when most runs into the city after about 6.30 were packed to the gunnells. The signal for a full bus was three rapid bells for 'full up', and three-bell loads were commonplace. We used those leather straps hanging on the side of the platform so frequently that they used to wear out.

At lunchtimes, when large factories and big offices clocked out for an hour, it could be frantic both ways. On certain journeys, you just caught it unlucky. A 13.15 departure from the Clock Tower on a 42 to Melton Rd would see you heaving with BUSMC staff on leaving the barrier, mostly women that had dashed into town at 12.30 to do a bit of shopping before dashing back again for 13.30. You had two decks of 30 people each to get round (actually, it was a bit more upstairs) and collect their fares before Melton Turn. For those not familiar with Leicester, that was just a little over a mile from the city centre starting barrier on the Clock Tower, to Melton Turn, where the A6 and A46 part their ways. Around 5 bus stops, if I recall right. It took some doing and your hands were clipping tickets and taking fares so fast they were almost a blurr. In summer, you expired salt and needed copious quantities of sweet tea to replace it.

In practice, you had to have got all the lower deck fares in before you got to Abbey Park Rd so it really did mean getting a move on. If you were slow and still at the front of the bus when you reached the BUSMC stop, the top deck would be streaming off down the stairs and up the street with their fares jubilantly still clutched in their hands. You had failed. If an inspector were to witness that failure, you'd be in big trouble. Even a passenger, disgruntled at having to pay at all, may write in and complain you had your favourites that were regularly being let off their fares. Oh yes, we were being watched, constantly. Being a conductor kept you fit, mentally as much as physically. You learnt a lot about people psychology.

So, if wise, you started collecting fares before you even left the barrier, on any route. Which meant an early return from your previous trip around The Park. It took a good minute or two for 70-something people to load and settle down before you could even start getting fares in, and they were quick in those days. Those folks were in a hurry too, would lose money themselves if they were late back to work and wouldn't dream of holding the bus up by being laggardly at finding a seat and settling down. At any rate, you needed to be back on the platform to ring the bus away, as there was always some late fool who would literally chase you down Belgrave Gate. If traffic slowed you to less than 15mph, they'd have a chance to catch you up and make a massive dive for the platform.

We had some real athletes around in those days, believe me, Olympic standard for long jumps at least. If they made it, albeit breathless and almost having a coronary, you had another fare if they survived. If they missed the pole and fell flat on their face, and you saw that with your own eyes, you hit the emergency bell and had a White Report to write out, as that had been merely "An Occurrence". If they caught hold of the pole but hadn't the energy to leap aboard, nor the wit to let go, and then lost their footing, you dragged them, toecaps down, along the road until you condescended to hit the emergency bell – that being repeated bells until your driver got the message - and you came to a rapid stop. At which point you could finally help the poor man aboard – it usually was a man – or cover him with your coat and call an ambulance.

If you were very unlucky, they lost their grip with one hand, then other physical forces came into play that often made them spin over so you dragged them now on their back, heels down and losing shoes. It could be a bloody business, losing passengers. Now it was an Accident Report to write out, much more involved and a real pain in the rump. As well as now being a good five minutes late, and the bus behind now catching you up, you almost certainly would have to go to see the Chief. A lot of writing to do, and frequently in your own time at that! As if that weren't enough to cope with, then there might be that ambulance to call for. Yes, very messy all round, and not good for one's morale at all. Open platforms were such good fun on a nice day.

All bus companies that had buses with open platforms actually benefitted financially, which helped to offset the unfortunate costs of platform accidents when they occurred. With passengers being able to hop on and off at will, we did have a tremendous number of 'short riders', those who only wanted to go perhaps three or four stops because they were in a hurry. The smallest fare then being 2d, to the first fare stage, positively encouraged this, and the ride up Granby St to London Road Station was a classic example, though most routes from town had short riders. Naturally, they didn't want to get too comfortable inside the bus, and apart from smokers that nipped upstairs, they generally would contrive to sit at the back on the long seats over the rear wheelarches. You got those fares in first, for once you were up the bus and your back was turned, they were off. We carried enormous numbers of folk to the station, and not just visitors or tourists, such as we had. Business folk bound for London for meetings, or very wealthy folk who had a car, but in another city and we were cheaper and more convenient than a taxi for such a short journey. You could leave the Clock Tower area on a 33 or 29 and be up at the station easily in less than 5 minutes, whereas walking along crowded city streets could easily take 15.

The railway station is a good example of the same thing in reverse, as we carried just as many back into town. You could come back from Stoneygate or Evington on a relatively quiet run, say at lunchtime, and the queue opposite the station on the over-bridge could leave you astonished. Easily a dozen folk or more, several with cases or shopping bags, mostly wanting to hitch a ride to the Clock Tower in order to walk, or more often run, down Churchgate to St Margaret's Bus Station and other buses bound county-wide. I did that myself as a lad with my mum and dad, many a time.

It was nothing ususual to leave Granby St on a 33, or Rutland St on a 67, nearly empty downstairs, nip up top to get a few fares, only to come down and find you'd gained a dozen or so of assorted genders just in short riders that had hopped on in slow moving traffic. Accidents, dangerous or not, the corporation actually encouraged it. THE BALANCE OF THINGS AND WELL-SPRUNG SPRINGS
One question, as often as not an unspoken one by curious and observant little boys and girls, was, how did you manage to write on your board whilst the bus was moving and not fall of the platform yourself. Sometimes, adult passengers asked you this too. Elderly ladies, sitting on the back seat, could be seen to almost have the question on their lips as they intently watched you springing up and down on your knees. You would look up, and see their narrowed eyes in deep ponderation, so you would smile, and that would invite the opening of the conversation.

The answer, dear ladies, was springs! Your own springs. In your legs and your arms and wrists. You stood with legs slight apart and your knees slightly relaxed, but that was only part of the story. Your arms were springs too, and your wrists. So, in the case of myself being right-handed, my left arm was sprung mostly at the elbow, whilst firmly holding my writing board horizontally in my left hand, but also still allowing some springiness in my wrist. At the same time, my other arm was also relaxed down to the wrist, but the fingers had to grip the pen firmly or you'd lose it. In very cold and freezing weather, just holding onto the pen, let alone writing anything intelligable with it, well now, that was another trick. Your legs and arms, and to some extent your own spine, absorbed most of the continuous shocks of riding along the road.

Of course, the bus was sprung too, particularly at the back, and some better than others. We had one type that was so well sprung it was a real sensation to stand at the back, more akin to riding along in a small boat in a moderate swell at sea. When buses were new, they were generally reasonably sprung, and as they got older, less so. A 12-year-old Leyland was a very different ride to a brand-new Bridgemaster – though I didn't know those as new when I started. AEC Bridgemasters, the best sprung of them all, were already some 10 years old when I got to work them, but could still make very sensitive passengers somewhat seasick. Their successor, the AEC Renown, was almost as equally well sprung, and both types would talk to you via the vocal chords fitted in their airbags in the quiet of the terminus with the engine off. Real groaners, some of them. If you listened carefully, they would tell you loads of gossip they'd heard from lady shoppers as they all related their own little secrets about what their neighbours had been observed getting up to. Much better than the Soaps, it was too.

So, that was the secret, making your own springs work in harmony with the bus springs. A bit like riding a horse, where your rhythm would be in time with your horse's rhythm. And that meant paying attention as you went along. Concentrating on your writing you may have been, but you were also keenly aware of exactly where you were on the route, whether slowing down or speeding up, listening to the engine and all the gear changes at the same time. Your body was in harmony with your bus, and if you had a good, considerate driver, you were in harmony with him too. Sometimes, the harmony between a driver and conductor led to them getting married, but I must confess, I never felt such leanings to any of my drivers. Today, it might even have been encouraged, so I'm glad I'm out of it.

There were things to remember though, sometimes learnt by listening carefully to timely tips from the old hands in the canteen, but more often learnt by bitter experience. Like – never even dream of cashing up when coming down Tennis Court Drive back from Nether Hall on a 62. Deadly - you needed both hands to hang on! Likewise, when returning from New Parks on a 14, you didn't want to be putting money into paper bags or doing anything that required a modicum of delicacy as you reached the bottom of Aikman Ave where the concrete sections of the road didn't match and there was an almighty heave in the road that tried to launch the bus into orbital space. I've lost small coin there too.

That was made worse because of a few other factors. Firstly, it was near the bottom of a long drawn out hill. Secondly, the road was generally wide with few parked cars and good vision ahead, and even in a lagardly Daimler, it was easy for your driver to get over 40mph out of it by the time you were nearing the bottom. Thirdly, the bus stops were fairly widely spaced, and your driver could see from way off if there was anyone at the bottom of the hill where you might need to slow to a stop. Lastly, and not least, you might just have a driver that had a bit of the devil in him. He didn't often get the chance to make the bus leave the road with all four wheels in the air, and if he fancied himself as a bit of an Evel Knievel, you would certainly bounce a bit. It tested the springs and removed copious amounts of mud and dust from the wheelarches if nothing else, making the bus lighter and more economical to run. Right.

Practical jokes and larks were de rigeur of most jobs like that in those days, and I was as bad as the rest. Occasionally, the joke was on me. You could count your cash coming down that hill, up to a point, but you put your cash back into your leather bag and held on as you approached that point at speed, indeed, anything above 20mph. A white silver bag half full of florins and tanners make quite a tinkle hitting the platform when the bus is about to be airborne at full speed, believe me.

There were lots of other places where an unattentive conductor could be caught napping, literally. At the bottom of Wigston Lane there was, and still is, a set of traffic lights at the centre of Aylestone village. Not so long before I started, it was a 'Give-Way' junction, and a bus would be required to come to almost a stop before emerging in a right-turn onto Aylestone Road towards the city. This brought you almost immediately onto the layby of the old Aylestone tram terminus. There was a Gledhill clock there too, a compulsory stop if only to 'punch the card'. More on running cards later.

By 1968, there were traffic lights at Aylestone old terminus, and they were long-winded too. If you just caught them at red, you were there for a good couple of minutes or so. Plus it was also at the bottom of a fairly long and steep slope, so 35-40mph down there on a bus with good brakes was nothing unusual when you knew it would pull up quick if asked. Of course, safety dictated that a driver approached all lights with caution, particularly if they were already green. They could easily switch back to red in a jiffy and drop you right in it.

But if they had been on red as you came down the hill, and then just 50 yards away, they changed miraculously to green, then it was Thunderbirds Are Go, and the only thing that governed the speed of the bus as it took the corner was the heaviness of the steering and/or the driver's brute strength at hauling it round said corner. Just before heaving the wheel round, the driver would give the engine a mighty rev in order to select second gear at speed, which helpfully added to the braking effect whilst also making the engine and gearbox give a nice little scream, like of protest, but I think they liked it really. I say select – that suggests it was gentle. The gears might have been synchro-mesh but were usually also well worn. The driver's left hand would literally ram the gearstick backwards into the second-gear slot with a mighty sounding crunch as it forced the syncho-mesh apart, and quickly re-grab the wheel at the last second to heave it round the corner. The bus would lean heavily to the left, seated passengers would lean obligingly to the right in a forlorn attempt to rebalance the thing. They did this, by the way, without interupting their many conversations or stopping for breath. The rear nearside tyres almost rubbed on the wheel arches as the springs groaned with unexpected strain, and as it took the corner and then straightened up, you would come to a neat and firm stop with the platform right by the timeclock, outside what is now the old Co-op. I think it was the old bakery window that we nearly fetched up in more than once.

You knew, whatever else you were doing, you had to punch the card, and so would be ready at the edge of the platform, card in hand as you approached the lights, intently watching their colour for the first sign of an emergency stop. It was easy for a conductor to show off slightly and do a slight acrobatic swing around the central platform pole, centrifugal force again coming into play as his leather cash bag reached the almost horizontal, left foot already in mid-air as he prepared to do a min-leap onto the kerb by the clock even before the wheels stopped rolling. You did this by habit, even if you were not in a hurry or running late. If you were late, you just did it even more smartly and even quicker.

As you 'punched the clock' and reboarded the bus, you would smell either burning rubber or burning asbestos, or both. That would be possibly the tyres if they did squeal a bit on the corner, or more likely the brakes and/or the clutch. The smell was quite acrid, but also somewhat satisfying in a way. It confirmed you were 'working your bus', and confirmed to passengers you were getting a move on, were not dilitory or delaying their journey into town unnecessarily. They liked a slight whiff of burnt clutch or brakes. It went with the nostalgic smell of fresh leather seats and new paintwork, and if old men could smell it now, it would send them into a frenzy of bus preservation support, almost on a par with railway locomotive steam.

Most folk considered the fares far too expensive, compared to the recently disbanded trams of beloved memory, and so at least expected a quick and efficient ride for their money if they really had to pay such extortionate sums. I never, ever had a passenger report us for speeding. If the occasion demanded it, say, running late or if someone gave you the nod that they had a train or connecting bus to catch, it was expected that you would co-operate and get a wiggle on. What did rile them above all was a rough ride, and that was certainly down to the driver. Rough gear work, letting the clutch out too sharply, sharp or juddering braking, they were the factors that annoyed passengers the most. If your driver was a good driver and normally well capable of driving a bus smoothly, he could still introduce a little roughness if he was annoyed or peeved at something.

That something could be, and often was, a slow or laggardly conductor. Having waited 5 seconds longer than he thought he should for the starting bell, he would often let the clutch out a tad too sharply to jolt his conductor and make the point. He may even ride the clutch impatiently, revving the engine a bit and making the bus give little jolts in order to wake his conductor from his perceived slumbers. A little more nose-wrinkling aroma would emerge from a burning clutch. Then the following gear changes may be a little rough too, especially if starting from first gear, which was a disciplinary requirement anyway. In practice, if not heavily loaded and not in a hurry, a standing start would often be done in second gear, saving the driver a gear change. On a bus with a heavy clutch, saving one change in four or five at every stop was a considerable relief to the left leg over a whole shift. Second gear starts were not official however, and a driver could be reported by an on-board inspector or driving instructor for mistreating his engine. My first regular driver, a fairly hot tempered man of Balkan origins, made such points to me fairly regularly and would later confess that I did take some training and I was mostly the reason much of his hair had fallen out and what did remain had turned white.

Another thing that also annoyed drivers greatly was having to stop for no reason. Time was the thing, and our timings were tight and frequently not really enough to do the job properly without the annoyance of stopping the bus for sweet fresh air. LCT still worked a system of compulsory stops – those being red stops, and request stops, those being white stops. Another hangover from the days of the trams, it had also been a less than subtle way of preventing trams, and then buses, from running too early and getting ahead of themselves. The rule was you stopped at a red stop anyway, whether requested or otherwise, whether or not there was anyone waiting to board or get off.

Older conductors worked this rule assiduously, and they did have a point. For by so doing, they avoided the pitfalls of passenger complaints that us rookies regularly landed ourselves with. If you were working the bus to the rules, any passenger that missed your bus could generally put it down to his own fault. Not that they did. They would still write or ring in that they had been left, but the senior inspectors knew which conductors were 'steady' and worked the reds. In which case, the report was, as often as not, binned in file 13.

In practice, increasing traffic levels and frequent late running, combined with natural tendencies to make any job easier, meant that we often worked 'all request'. That did not mean we ignored red stops, hell no, that was the quickest way to the labour exchange. We 'observed' them, and to do that, we essentially didn't stop the bus entirely, or at all if you were being careful. The driver had to keep a look out on approach for even the vaguest possibility of an intending passenger, for they expected you to stop anyway, no hand signal required. You had to read minds, and a useful addition to cab equipment would have been a crystal ball, which in most cases, would have been more valuable than a horn.

The conductor equally had to keep a sharp eye on both decks for passengers preparing to alight, for they likewise knew that a bell signal to stop was not really required either. We still carried some rather well-off people back then who had never learnt to drive, nor had access to a car. A lot of them were titled folk, especially some of the ladies, who were, they would remind you sharply, really were Ladies, married to a real Sir. Many felt it was beneath them to have to speak to you at all, and if they could avoid it, would do so. They were often the ones that would test your system and see if you would stop at a red stop without asking, because you should know that Lady Whatserface always got off at that stop every Tuesday morning at that time. They thought of it as a bit like still having servants, you understand, and as you were in livery and wore a peaked cap, you were their personal porter, your driver their personal chauffeur. It reminded them of when they had their own staff, before that nasty Mr Hitler messed it all up.

So you had a working agreement with your driver from the start. You regular driver knew what was what, and you got on with whichever system was your poison, but if working with a spare driver or one not known to you, passengers would often hear crews ask each other as they took the bus over in town, "Reds – or all Request?" The driver left it up to you, but you were not a popular bunny in the canteen if you stuck to Reds and by the rules.

Choosing to work 'Reds' worked like this. On approaching a red stop, say from full speed, ie 30mph, the driver would start to slow, may even take a lower gear. At about a 100 yards away, you could see there was no one to alight, so would give him a smart double bell, the same as the bell to go. And that is what it meant - Go! But with reservations. If your driver could see there was no one waiting at the stop, or even near the stop, he would give it the gas and change back up to top gear and you were on your way and soon back up to speed. On the other hand, when no bell was sounded, he knew to stop anyway as someone was getting off. Red stops were often fare stages too, another hangover from the days of the trams. As a rule, there could be three or four normal white request stops in between each red on.

Choosing to work 'All Request', that was exactly what you did; you treated every stop as a request stop, with the proviso always at the back of your mind that you were breaking the rules. But effectively, you gave a normal signal to stop at a red stop just as you would for a white. That was easiest for a conductor, particularly a new one, as he didn't have to remember what colour the next stop was. If he was upstairs collecting fares, and he saw someone get up out of the corner of his eye to descend the stairs, he just reached up and pressed the bell.

In return for this lattitude, his driver would watch carefully at red stops, and still pull up if he was in any doubt. The driver had a 'budgie mirror' in the cab, so he could keep a watchful eye on some of the lower saloon down to the platform. If his conductor was upstairs, approaching a red stop, and the bell failed to sound, it was in the driver's interests to stop anyway. It helped his conductor, and once fully trained, a conductor would do all he reasonably could to make sure his driver had as easy a day as possible and he didn't allow the bus to stop without just cause.

But, some drivers did acknowledge that, though working to Reds was a pain, it did make for an easier time on the ears, particularly on a bus with a very noisy bell. The bell was right behind the driver's ears. Some bells were small and gave a reasonably audible tinkle. They had to be heard from anywhere in the bus, as we didn't use repeater buzzers, as on the Midland Red. But some bells were as large as teaplates, and made a clang that sounded like it came from the depths of hades. Bus drivers at home who still had a ringing in their ears on rest days could testify it wasn't always down to tinitus.

There were minor variations to this way of working, with frequent misunderstandings by all parties, and not just between crews but passengers also. For they also knew that working to 'reds' was a slower way of working and made journeys take longer and so most didn't mind when we sharpened the job up a bit to keep it moving. It made sense in a modern day and age for all bus stops to be request, to make a clear signal either way by bell or by hand in order to stop your bus.

For both of the crew, you lived your shift by the bell, and until you got used to it – particular the driver – it could be very wearing indeed. A great novelty at first, to give a double bell to start, as all small boys at the time would have testified. It was an offence for anyone but the conductor, or at least a licensed conductor, to give the starting signal. Rules were very strict on that. It was also illegal to give a starting signal by any other means but the bell. To be seen by a Traffic Commissioner, they who issued you your badge from their office in Nottingham in the first place, allowing a passenger to ring the bus to start was guaranteed to have them ask for your badge. There and then. No argument. I did say they were strict.

But as with a lot of rules, they were frequently moulded and broken at will to suit the occasion. A good example was after 'clocking the card' when the conductor re-boarded his bus. If several passengers were boarding, the conductor would naturally be the last aboard, awaiting the pleasure of his crush of passengers as they cleared the plaform. Unable to immediately reach the bell, the conductor would wave the clock card (report card) so it could be seen in the driver's nearside mirror. That was what the driver was watching for, and a waved clock card was as good as a bell, so off came the brake and out came the clutch and they were away, the conductor often still clinging on to the very edge of the platform.

This system sometimes went wrong, as when a gent passenger with a folded newspaper might use it to wave to a friend as he boarded, or even just had it in his left hand, when said conductor was still at the time clock. In a tiny and dusty nearside mirror, a white newspaper could easily be mistaken for a waved report card. I think that is what happened to me, though I didn't see the guy with the paper, and my bus disappeared down Narborough Rd faster than I could blink leaving me standing hesitantly and a bit subdued at the Roxy. First instinct was to run after it. Fortunately for me, we were working reds, and my driver stopped two stops down at Imperial Avenue and wouldn't move until he got the bell to go. Also luckily for me, just as I was about to take to my heels for a sprint, another bus appeared less than a minute behind and I caught my own bus up a few minutes later just as my driver twigged that I was not aboard but in fact missing, presumed dead. Seriously, that could have cost me my job, as technically, my bus was not fully crewed and operated for a couple of stops without a legal conductor – again, a serious traffic offence that could require a conductor to surrender his badge on the spot. No badge, no job.

CLOCKING THE CARD and other misdemeanours
These time clocks were mounted on a concrete plinth and mounted usually right alongside a bus stop – always by its nature a red one. They were rugged, stood the rigours of all weathers in their tall, metal cases that enclosed the actual clock, the dial of which was viewed through a wire-mesh reinforced glass panel, with the workings of the time clock mechanism under the hinged lid. They were all painted dark green and generally kept in good order. Basically, the time clock did as it said on the tin, it recorded the exact time a bus left that stop and it was a serious disciplinary time-keeping device. Most clocks were situated on inbound routes just a few stops down from the terminus.

The punch mechanism was operated by a large lever on the right hand side of the card slot. The running card, that long and stiff oblong card about the about the size of a large but long envelope, was placed into the slot, the lever pulled forward firmly so that the mechanism punched the recorded time onto the card which at the same time rang a small bell. That told the conductor that the punch was successful, and could also be heard by passengers, and also any inspector nearby. The importance of this card is more apparent when it is understood what role that card played.

It really had dual names, both known as a 'Running Card' and a 'Report Card'. The first because it recorded the running of the bus, trip by trip, in the recorded time on each pass of a timeclock. The second because the reverse side was for reporting any defect details of the bus. On taking a bus fresh from the depot, which was all of them first thing in the morning, the driver would find a fresh card in the cab, and pass it to his conductor. The conductor filled the card in with his and his driver's name, duty number, and date. The driver filled in the report side with his noted defects on taking over, such as a bent mudguard or damaged panel. Later, he would add any further observations regarding the engine, exterior bodwork, wheels and running parts of the bus. The conductor filled in any defects regarding the interior saloons, such as seat damage, faulty interior lights, including any defect that caused inconvenience or damage to a passenger's attire. Thus dirty seats, faulty bell pushes, instances of vomit under the seats, whether human or canine, all had to be written down.

For instances such as the latter, not really a fault as such, the bus would be taken straight off the road once back in the city centre. It wasn't often that the crew would take it to the depot themselves for cleaning, instead, they would be offered a spare bus already parked up ready and waiting for just such an eventuality. That was called a 'change-over'. If they had a 'radio bus' fitted with the new two-way PYE radios, they would radio ahead asking for the changeover and save a great deal of time. Technically, the conductor was in charge of the bus, all aspects of stopping and starting it, making sure it kept time, kept to the right route, and most aspects concerning it except the actual driving of it.

For this reason, the report/running/clock card was kept by the conductor in the same wooden slot by the platform where he kept his waybill board until the end of his shift, whereupon he passed it back to his driver, who duly filled in whatever was necessary and then left it in a similar boxed slot in the cab. It was also with the conductor for examination of the time clock records by any inspector that boarded. After running the bus in to the depot after its duty, the cards were collected by the depot staff and then sorted in order of urgency of the repair or cleaning jobs reported by the crew.

The number of different things a bus could be 'carded' for were so numerous it would be impossible to list them here. But obvious ones would be poor or defective brakes, faulty steering, exterior light bulbs out, and obvious damage such as a panel hanging loose. Well down the list of urgency would be faulty destination gear winding mechanisms, or merely a heavy clutch or heavy steering. Even steering that wobbled slightly, with a lot of play on the wheel either way, wasn't taken too seriously. A driver just had to concentrate more to keep it in a straight line. But poor brakes were another thing, depot staff had to deal with any such report seriously. Any incident, or accident, that involved a bus after being reported for poor brakes would bounce most definitely back upon them.

SIGNING ON .. more detail if you can stand it
At the start of each shift, as part of the 'signing on' process, a conductor would retrieve his ticket box from the racks. His box number would be the same as his uniform number, and mine was number 12. He would open his box to be sure all was well, had enough tickets for the day, a stock of cash bags and another cloth bag for the safe, a fresh waybill and a few paying in slips. By 1968, we were allowed to keep a couple of spare waybills in our box, but until fairly recently it had been a disciplinary offence to be caught with two waybills. If we made any error in writing anything down, we were to neatly cross it out and enter the correct detail underneath. If a waybill had so many errors it was getting unreadable, or torn, it had to be given to an inspector, who would supervise you writing it all out again, errors corrected, whereupon he would sign off the old one and take it himself back to the office. The opportunity for fraud being uppermost in the corporation's mind, in the same way an accountant may keep two sets of books – one for the firm, and one for himself. Believe me, a conductor would not go through that routine more than once without serious consequences to his future.

If more tickets were needed, you went to the cash office counter and drew some from stock from the clerk at the window. That by they way, was the same window you drew your wages at. You signed for all tickets, roll by roll, with your name and number. Once they were yours, the total value of the whole roll would have to be eventually paid in by cash. Every roll had a cash face value from the start, just like stamps. Ours were 2d, 3d, 4d, 5d and 6d, and each roll contained a 1,000 tickets. Each ticket on the roll had a double serial letter, with a five digit number. It was this number you booked down on your waybill, for each ticket roll, trip by trip.

A thousand 2d tickets gives you the value of the total roll – 2,000d, or 2,000 / 240 = £8.33 a roll. This is the amount the conductor would have to reimburse the corporation transport department should he lose a 2d roll. A 6d roll was in effect 500 shillings, and at 20 shillings to the pound, a roll was worth £50. This was at a time when a 6d roll was worth more than triple what my wages were weekly. I don't know how I didn't have nightmares about the risks involved, but somehow, we accepted it and got by. At any one time, you could have a £100 worth of tickets in your box, a lot more than you would earn in a month. The only saving factor was that technically, no single ticket was worth even a cent if it wasn't in the right number sequence with the conductor's machine on the bus on which it was used, and moreover, stamped with an inked and valid stage number. So they were still pretty worthless to anyone else, and I suppose that if a conductor could show he had lost the tickets genuinely and had a good reason – an example of which even now I totally fail to even dream up – then maybe the department would show a certain leniency regarding reimbursement.

The only near-miss incident I can recall to mind was one that didn't actually happen to me. But I was there, as they say, and so can tell the story with authority. I was going home, early one very wet and dark evening, after a middle shift, finishing around 8pm. As we conductors often did, we sat at the back by the platform, and if the actual conductor was busy, we'd help out by minding the platform, or seeing to the bell if he was upstairs. The conductor on my bus was a young Indian chap, and I think a bit new at the time. I didn't know him. We rattled off on a 49 down Welford and Aylestone Rds this particular wet night, lightly loaded and making good speed on our Leyland PD3/A.

The conductor was on the platform as we passed Granby Halls, and things being quiet, he decided to reload a roll of tickets – a 6d roll. Just as we sped past the top of Saffron Lane, his fingers fumbled just as he was presenting the roll to the top of the open machine, and even though he had hold of the loose end of the roll, the roll itself slipped out of his hand, bounced on the platform, and neatly rolled off the bus and out into the wet night. I was sitting there, minding my own business, half in a trance, as it happened before my eyes. The conductor himself seemed to go in to a trance himself, wide-eyed with shock, and seemingly unable to bring himself to do anything immediately. He still had hold of the loose end, and in a flash, I jumped up and rang the emergency bell. It was an emergency too, £50 quids worth, and more than well worth stopping for. It must have given his driver bit of a shock, looking back, middle of the evening, mind in neutral dreaming about his supper, when all hell let loose like that. We came to a rapid stop just underneath the railway bridge by the gasworks.

I jumped off with him, and helped him work his way back along the road in the rain and recover, arm over arm like a string of rope, the whole roll that wended a snake-like path along the wet gutter. They were unsellable now, soaking wet and a lot were ripped, and he would have to sign them in and explain what had happened. I was sure he would be credited with them for none were lost, but even so, I assured him that next day I would fill in a White Report explaining what had happened. A happy end to what could have been an expensive drama for him.

We were allowed just 10 minutes for signing on, so when starting at the depot, you would be on your bus and actually going out the gate if all went to plan. It usually did, but was dependant on several other factors. Such as finding your bus. Most of the time, your allocated bus would be shown on a large blackboard marked out as a plan of the depot, the position of every bus marked with its number in chalk. That blackboard was mounted on a wall in the middle of the depot, some way from the cash office. It was nothing unusual to walk through a pack of buses, including the one that would be yours, only to then see the board plan and realise you had just walked right past it. So, retrace your steps; more time wasted. If your bus was where it should be, all was fine. If you had to hunt for it, sometimes in amongst a pack of other buses, not so fine. Did it need water. Could you find a can to fill it with. Above all, having found your bus, would it start. And if it did, was it really fit for service, all lights and bells working, etc. Time and more time. It all made work for a working man to do.

Another job before leaving the depot was setting the blinds up. That could take a few minutes as well, especially if the destination you required was right at the other end of those very long blinds and the damned winding mechanism was stiff. Sometimes, you had to physically force the handle round. Then there were the two number blinds as well. Whenever you see it done on film for TV or a drama, the conductor always seems to just step on the stairs and three quick winds and it's done.

I started just as we saw the end days of the old PD2s, smaller, 56-seat double deckers whose rear blinds, instead of being viewed through a little plastic perspex window halfway up the stairs like newer buses, were behind two large hinged flaps, almost like small vertical doors that hung down. You had balance on the third step to lift the flap right up, and rest it on your cap while you turned the handles to set the blinds. I once forgot to change mine to 'City Centre' on a PD2 when returning from Belgrave on a 43. I was still trying to hold the flaps up as we entered Melton Turn at speed, turning right towards the city. I'd never do that again. I lost my grip, lost my footing on the stairs, and damned near rolled off the bus. I estimate I would have ended up in North's model railway shop of late memory had I really rolled off the bus, so that wouldn't have been so bad. I tell you, as a conductor, centrifugal force played a big role in our working lives and probably explains why my head is always in a spin now. It's all down to physics, I was told, and I do wish I'd paid more attention in science when at school.

One benefit of those old fashioned large flaps was that the winding handles were well hidden, each flap retained by two sliding clips. So out of temptation's way to small and not so small mischevious boys who would each give the later exposed handles half a turn as 30 of them shot down the stairs and vacated the bus at once. You started off showing 21 Hallam Crescent and ended up with 79 Wigston Lane. Leicester folk will know how stupid that looks. Yes, you know who you were, you little critters, getting poor conductors into bother for showing the incorrect destination and numbers. More happy memories excavated there, I suspect.

Your driver set his own blind up, and at times it was even harder for him. He had to rise out of his seat, lean right over the steering wheel, supporting himself with one arm as he laboriously wound the handles with the other whilst peering through rediculously small appertures behind hinged flaps to see the numbers printed in ink on the reverse of the blind. That made accurate setting more problematic, so his conductor was expected to assist by standing at the front and advising whether the blinds wanted to be up a bit, or down a bit, until level. Again, it could all take quite a while. As with most jobs, it took as long as it took. It all made work for yet another working man to do.

10 minutes bus preparation time was a nonsense in most cases. On busy mornings, especially in winter on freezing cold ones, there could be a queue for the water pumps for instance. Or perhaps your bus would start, but the bus in front wouldn't, leaving you trapped until a sleepy fitter who had been up all night reluctantly turned up with a battery trolley. Sometimes, several other similarly delayed conductors would gang together to give the offending bus a push, if only to get it out of the way. By that time, you were not only frantic, but also half choked to death on beautifully layered diesel fumes as several buses nearby, all getting warmed up at once, filled the garage with smoke. When your eyes are running, it's not easy to see your waybill, let alone fill it in. It was even worse if the bus on your immediate nearside hadn't already left, and still had his exhaust pipe lined up right opposite your platform as its driver gently warmed the engine. In a few short minutes, your top deck would be full of fumes, and your eyebrows starting to curl as you slowly asphyxiated.

Signing on in town, in Humberstone Gate or later, Rutland St, usually meant you would be taking your bus over on a barrier, already in service, from a crew coming off for their break. These barriers were scattered all over the city centre, Leicester not having a central bus station at that time. Humberstone Gate, The Clock Tower and much of Charles St effectively were the bus station. You were allowed a fixed amount of 'walking time' to get to your barrier, board your bus, prepare yourself and get away on time. When the office was in Humberstone Gate, a lot of the barriers were right outside, or on the opposite side outside Lewis', and I don't recall any allowance for those, maybe 3 minutes at best. We were allowed 10 minutes to walk to Bowling Green St, and 15 minutes to York Rd bus station. What on earth was up there, I hear you ask. Services 26 to Welford Rd and 87 to Eyres Monsell left from there for many years, along with the Midland Red L7, L8 and L10 services.

When later the office moved to Rutland St, one of the longest walks, again 15 minutes I think, was to the far side of St Margaret's bus station, on Burleys Way itself, for the 79 Braunstone Frith service. If you were lucky, you could time it to hop on a 72 from near C&As which went past that way on its way to Sanvey Gate and thence Mowmacre Hill. If not, you did the long trek down the jitty past the ABC. Coming back was a bind too, with your ticket box full of coin, and sometimes bags of coin in your pockets too. You needed your tea by the time you got back to the canteen, I can tell you. By God, we were fit, I say, fit! You didn't see any fat conductors, and very rarely an overweight driver. If they were too tubby, they'd not get into the cab of a Bridgemaster for a start, which was almost a shoe-horn job for the thin ones anyway.

I myself was not the most successful of conductors, the cash side of it all being my downfall. I couldn't add up for toffee, and how I passed the simple entrance test I've no idea. Totting up separate amounts of cash, column and figure work, was never my fortι. But I got the job, and so set to making the best of it. For much of my service, I was as often as not 'short' on a weekly basis, rather than over. It was rare they gave me any money back; it was me that usually paid them, generally anything from a few pennies to a few shillings a week.

SHORTS AND OVERS .. mostly shorts
One week, I had a note on my key to go and see the Chief Inspector. I had to see him to get my wages, not the usual practice. It turned out I was 30/- bob short, that's £1.50 now, at a time when I was earning about £16 a week. It was a massive amount then, equal to exactly half the board I gave my mother each week. A few coppers were one thing, but 30 bob something else. I had to sign for the packet, open it, count that the contents were correct, then shamefully hand over a one pound and a ten shilling note.

But in most other respects other than bad accounting and losing money, I was generally good at my job. Oh, there was the bad time-keeping I forgot to mention. Not on the road, at work itself, that generally was as good as anyone else. No, it was the early rising for early shifts that were my failing. Let's say I was a lot livelier and more awake on late shifts, a veritable night owl. But yes, apart from those, as a conductor, I wasn't so bad, and certainly not given to some of the daft antics a few others I knew at various times got up to. I didn't gamble away the contents of my bag in the bookie shop, as I knew one lad to do; didn't go in for card schools in the canteen and likewise lose the contents of my bag as many men did before my time. I generally did not swear at passengers or call them names, and really did try to be part of a good service. I knew the rules, which I could break and which were sacrosanct, what I could say and what I couldn't say to passengers. I stood it for 4 years, and they willingly took me on for driving.

I was more than pleased to hang my ticket box up, slide it into the rack for the very last time. Conducting was fine, it was the cash handling I was glad to let go. Anyway, it wasn't a matter of whether I liked being on the back or not, largely, it was okay and had been a lot of fun at times. But it only ever was a means to an end, to go driving myself, to be sat up front, and in winter, be in a warm cab. I spent a year as a crew driver, with my own regular conductor, getting to know the fleet from the other end of the vehicle. I already knew the routes, the stops, and all the rules, and very pleased to forget all about blessed fare stages. I enjoyed that year, which became the foundation for the rest of my time as a bus driver.

I eventually did go one-manning, but not for LCT. I left before that ignominy could be forced upon me, for an operator in East Yorkshire, effectively their equivalent of the Midland Red. After just two months once again as a crew driver, mostly working Bridgemasters and Renowns, they forced me to go one-mannning, and that was my bus driving role sorted for the rest of my time on buses – thereafter, Atlanteans, Bristol VRs, Daimler Fleetlines, Leyland Nationals, and eventually Metro-Scanias, MCWs and Scanias – and not forgetting the abominable Dennis Dominator. Whilst at EYMS on local services, town and country, I did have long episodes as a spare coach driver on Yorkshire Services, the EYMS contribution to National Express. So I had a good fill of Leyland Leopards, of several types, both powered and non-powered steering, mainly on London and Cheltenham services.

Even later would find me back on corporation buses, spending twice as long at Hull City Transport (KHCT) as I'd ever spent at LCT. The beauty of that job was that there was no cash handling, for KHCT had pioneered the Johnson farebox, and exact fare system where the closest the driver got to the money was to view handfuls of loose coin through a glass window and take an educated guess.

But that 4 years as a conductor laid the real ground work, a valuable experience bar none, for a lifetime of later involvement with buses. When you've spent some time on the back of a jolting, bouncing, jumping metal box of shivering tin in all weathers, it makes you appreciate a good driver, and hopefully turns you into a relatively smooth driver yourself. Being thrown the length of the lower saloon with your ticket machine round your neck and the contents of your cash bag all over the floor is a very good teaching method, one I heartily recommend. But modern health & safety regs don't make allowances for that any more. Buses!? Odd machines really, can't see what folks see in them.

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