Hundreds of people used the courtesy shuttle bus running from Reading town centre to the Great Knollys Street depot for the Reading Buses open day. Each bus route is served by buses painted in distinctive coloured livery and on entrance to the depot yard I could see a rainbow of all the different coloured buses as they were all lined up in a large semi-circle.
All the buses were open any you could climb aboard and sit in the driver seat. It made me jump when the bus panic alarm button was set off. This was a loud siren and an automated voice saying, “Emergency please call 999”.
Reading has always been a leader in tram, trolleybus, and bus transport. I went to a talk with a vintage cine film show about the trolleybus system in Reading from the 1940s to the 1960s. A trolleybus is a cross between a tram and a bus. Like a tram it is electric powered using overhead power cables, but it does not run on rails and can be driven around obstacles provided it does not move too far from the overhead power.
It was interesting spotting the familiar landmarks that you can see today as well as buildings which are no longer in existence. It was explained that because they were electric powered that they were very quiet except for the clack-clack-clack as the ends of the power poles crossed the cable support wires.
One piece of film showed a driver taking down the electric power poles so that another trolleybus could pass. This was required because they only had one passing place in the whole of the system. Something which I was quite surprised by considering they had so much electrical infrastructure.
Rather strangely I bumped into Kylo Ren and some rather confused Scout Troupers from Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens wandering around trying to find the lift to get out of the building. Their helmets were very neat as they had voice changers inside them.
I then went on a tour to look at the control room where they have four large TV monitors and can monitor the traffic cameras from Reading Council, keep track of any bus radio communications, and watch their Twitter feed. You could see a list of all the buses with the late buses shown in red. It was also possible to show Google Maps with each bus stop and every bus along a route. Their radio system is now completely digital using the mobile network and much more reliable because they used to have black spots where they would lose radio communication.
They explained that they have their own driver training academy and like to train their own drivers. They won’t take anybody on as a driver who has previously held a bus license because it is too difficult to break old habits and to work to the Reading Bus standard. They have 300 people currently on a driver training waiting list.
After that I went on a bus that took me through the bus wash, this is like a car wash but much bigger with tall brushes to wash the sides of the buses from the top to the wheels.
There was also a vintage section comprising of some old buses, this included a purple and white bus that my dad used to use when he was at University. Just saying dad 😊. Oddly amongst all the buses there was a gleaming red and chrome vintage Dennis fire engine.
From the stalls I bought a DVD from the Reading Trolleybus Society. This gives a brief history of Readings Trolleybuses and shows you an event at the Trolleybus Museum at Sandtoft where five of Reading trolleybuses have been preserved.