Michael Wadman recalls
thirty years service to the people of North Dorset, and the end of an
era in 2002
Please note - this is a site of historical record and does not contain current service information
The end of two eras, actually. At Yeovil bus station on Saturday 31st August 2002 at a little after the booked 17:30, GCL 349N duly departed for Sturminster Newton on Ray Cuff's last journey as an operator, marking the end of thirty years' service to the people of north Dorset and bits of Somerset, and also the end of regular use of the Bristol RE on bus services in the south-west.
Ray’s operations had their origins in a service operated by Somervale Coaches from Glastonbury to Blandford Forum which was introduced on 7th March 1966 as a replacement for the Somerset & Dorset railway and withdrawn on 5th February 1972 when the subsidy from the British Railways Board was discontinued. Ray drove on this service and upon its withdrawal he purchased two of the Tiger Cubs used on it (KDB696 and JBO124) and commenced his own operation which was oriented towards providing shopping links for communities in the area rather than as a replacement for the trains.
From early 1973 Ray’s services were marketed as part of the Chris Knubley’s Brutonian network, using a common route numbering system. A connection at Gillingham with Brutonian service 12 provided a facility to Shaftesbury off service 6, and a similar connection provided a facility from Shaftesbury and Motcombe into service 13. On Tuesdays, service 4 provided a connection at Evercreech (outward) or Bruton (return) into Service 8 to Salisbury.
New service 1 OKEFORD FITZPAINE - Shillingstone - Child Okeford - Manston - Rixon - Sturminster Newton - Lydlinch - Stourton Caundle - Bishops Caundle - Sherborne - YEOVIL F; also one Yeovil - Sturminster Newton journey at 12:00 S
Service 4 withdrawn between Sturminster Newton and Bruton. The section between Bruton and Glastonbury passed to Smiths of Pylle.
Service 5 renumbered 4.
Service 7 extended from Sturminster Newton to Rixon, increased to TuS, and renumbered 3.
Service 13 renumbered 2.
Service 1 Friday service renumbered 241.
Service 2 (previously service 13) renumbered 242.
Service 3 (previously service 7) and the S journey on service 1 renumbered 243.
Service 4 (previously service 5) renumbered 244.Service 6 renumbered 245.
21st December 1988 - Service 244 (previously 4, originally 5) W SDO journeys withdrawn.
13th February 1989 - Service 245 (previously 6) withdrawn between Gillingham and Todber. One journey from Sturminster Newton diverted from Marnhull via Stalbridge to HENSTRIDGE. (Note that the last day of the Gillingham section was actually 24th October 1988 as there were no operational Mondays during the Christmas school holidays.)
23rd October 1989 - Service 245 (previously service 6) Henstridge journey withdrawn.
19th February 1990 - Service 244 (previously 4, originally 5) diversion via Stourton Caundle increased from M SDO to M.
23rd July 1990 - Service 245 (previously service 6) increased from M NSD to M replacing Bere Regis & District 117 on schooldays.
20th August 1990 - Service 245 (previously service 6) withdrawn.
23rd November 1998 - Service 244 (previously 4, originally 5) withdrawn, and replaced by Cudlipp Coaches.
31st August 2002 - All services withdrawn. Passed to Cudlipp Coaches (Linco Travel)
From 3rd September 2002 Linco operated:
241 Shillingstone - Child Okeford - Sturminster Newton - Bishops Caundle - Sherborne - Yeovil F
242 Gillingham - East Stour - Kington Magna - Stalbridge - Bishops Caundle - Sherborne - Yeovil S
243 Sturminster Newton - Hazelbury Bryan - Pulham - (Stourton Caundle Tu only) - Bishops Caundle - Sherborne - Yeovil TuS
244 Templecombe - Stalbridge - Sturminster Newton M
JBO 124 Leyland PSUC1/1
AOR 379C Bedford VAL14
URO 928F Bedford VAL70
NUF 438G Bristol RELL6G
NCN 813L Bristol RELH6G
SJB 113M Bristol RELH6G
GCL 349N Bristol RELH6L (6LX)
GCL 348N Bristol RELH6L (6LX)
SAH 851M Bristol RELH6G
YDC 24Y Dennis Falcon
Stringer 9487/83 B50F
LHT 171L Bristol RELL6L
YAZ 6393 AEC Reliance
Plaxton 8011AC006/S C53F
The two former Eastern Counties RELHs were built with Leyland engines but were fitted with Gardner 6LXs by Eastern Counties. The Dennis Falcon was purchased mainly because it had a Gardner engine but despite considerable effort and expense it could never be persuaded to run properly – the climb out of Yeovil on the A30 was painfully slow – and eventually was given up on. Fortunately the sale of GCL 349N had fallen through and it was still available, so it was reinstated for further use and lasted to the end of services in August 2002.
At first little obvious change was apparent to the unknowing passenger. Ray continued to drive “his” services, but as an employee of Linco Travel and using Linco vehicles. The double run from Bishops Caundle to Stourton Caundle was withdrawn from the Saturday 243, and TuF journeys into Yeovil extended to the ASDA store on request. Ray did his best to discourage such requests!
Mr Cudlipp of Linco gradually reduced his operations over the next few years – the 244 which he had taken over from Ray in November 1998 was withdrawn in December 2003 and he retired in March 2004. He sold what was left of his business to Mr Cargill t/a Frontera Travel, although by then the only bus services that he operated were the 241, 242, and 243. Frontera continued to operate these until the middle of August when they suddenly ceased without notice; for which Frontera subsequently lost their operating licence.
Dorset County Council arranged replacement services, but they didn’t start until November. Shaftesbury & District ran service 42 which followed the route of the 242 but confusingly on Tuesdays instead of Saturdays. Damory Coaches ran the 241 temporarily for a month to assess demand, and then diverted their existing 190 Blandford – Yeovil Friday service over the route of the 241 instead of the main roads it had used previously. South West Coaches took over the 42 from Shaftesbury & District in April 2008.
An aside - with Ray himself most often the driver, holidays could present a problem - Geoff Toomer of Stanbridge and Crichel
the routes in the summer of 1985 to cover Ray's week away on holiday.
I was pleased to bump into Ray again at several running days this year
2016 and last year 2015.
As well as the photographs below, a fully detailed and illustrated fleet list of Ray Cuff's vehicles
by Paul Welling (a former Brutonian employee 1980-82) can be found here
|A fully detailed and illustrated fleet list of Ray Cuff's vehicles by Paul Welling (a former Brutonian employee 1980-82) can be found here|