Why Buses?


This page looks at why I'm interested in Buses, a question that I am frequently asked, and don't really have a good answer to. I'll try to clarify things by explaining how I became interested and then try to explain what keeps me interested.

What it Involves

There are many misconceptions and stereotypes about what bus enthusiasts ("bus spotters") do. Many stem from images of train spotters in anoraks waiting with notebooks on the end of a station platform. Whilst this image can be applied to bus spotters in bus stations, it doesn't really get across the story of why people can be interested in these things. Trying to explain such a thing is the same as trying to explain why anyone is interested in anything - why for example are people interested in football, politics, or the top ten? In most cases its easiest to say that people just are.

Bus spotting is not about memorising every single bus timetable you can lay your hands on and then acting as a mobile timetable for your friends (although this is handy)! For me it is more of a general interest about anything to do with buses. I enjoy collecting photos, building up my collection of vehicles from certain fleets, I also like to keep up to date with acquisitions and disposals, various forms of bus literature and buying the odd model bus or two. There is also the social history side of bus operations that I find very interesting.

Now to look at the sequence of events that got me interested.

The Start

It all started in about 1991 when my local bus company Reading Transport underwent quite a radical image change to become the modern day Reading Buses. The livery change on the buses was the most noticeable thing, and I, about 10 years old noticed it, and wanted to see more. The colours had changed from dark maroon/white to cream/burgundy with an aquamarine stripe thrown in:

173 in Reading Transport livery (19247 bytes)179 in Reading Buses livery (29295 bytes)

Nothing really happened after this until one day when I was travelling into town and I saw an advert in the bus for the "Second Reading Buses Open Day and Rally" in September 1994. I went along with some of my family, had a look at the buses, and bought a fairly small paper back book called "Buses of Reading and Newbury". I went around and took a few photos of the buses, mostly of the modern ones which I really liked, some of these relatively eye catching vehicles had sparked my interest. The book I had bought contained details about all the different types of bus in the Reading fleet, with pictures and other stuff too. After reading it I started to recognise the types of bus in the town and started to realise that there was a whole world of things to find out about buses and their operation.

Going National

So far all the buses I knew about were local ones. This changed when I noticed the October 1995 edition "Buses" magazine in a newsagent. On the front it had a large picture of Reading Delta 513 that immediately grabbed my attention. I purchased the magazine and read the article about Reading with great interest, it being about Reading's history and fleet renewal plans, and their rape seed oil fuel experiments. The rest of the magazine was about other operators, current bus news and fleet movements, most of which I also read. I bought the magazine the following month to see whether it would be interesting without Reading Buses and from then decided to keep on buying it. It introduced me to many vehicle types found all around the country and the country's major operators. From it I also learned of a number of other things, one being the British Trolleybus Society, (originally called the Reading Trolleybus Society) which preserves old Trolleybuses, and keeps them in working order. The magazine also advertises books about buses, many very interesting, and some of which I bought. One book I bought has proven very useful when visiting other towns, it is called "Bus and Coach Recognition" and has a little information and photos of pretty much every type of bus you were likely to find in Britain at the time of publication. You can buy fleet books which list all of the buses operating in certain areas of the country, or run by certain operators. The British Trolleybus Society produce a local magazine called "Bus Fare" from which I gain a lot of up to date information about bus companies in the Reading area.

My Interest Now

I find that there is always something new in the bus world to keep my attention. Manufacturers are producing new models, operators are buying them, new operators are starting up, routes are changing and so on. I like to take photographs of buses when I go into town, I am aiming to get photographs of every bus in the Reading fleet, there are always only a few buses that I need to complete the collection, but by the time I get them something new has arrived or has been given a new livery so I am never finished. There are also strange shots to be had from time to time, buses operating routes that don't exist, buses in strange places, buses showing odd things on their blinds and buses being repaired. You just have to ready to catch it all on film. I also take an interest in other fleets when I'm out and about. I check out their fleets, take pictures and read up on them too. I also maintain this website, my hobby as a bus enthusiast has given me the subject mater for this site, almost a completely separate hobby which nicely links in to other things that I do with my life.

A Brief Interlude

In September 1999 I applied to become a part time bus conductor for Reading Mainline, a company that had been set up to compete with Reading Buses in 1994, but had since been taken over by them. They operated old London Routemaster buses which have to be crew operated with conductors as well as drivers. I got the job and worked on the back of the buses every Saturday until the buses were withdrawn in July 2000. There were many good times on the buses and a couple of bad ones too, but during the last month of operations I took the chance to work full time whilst I could. During my short time with the company I learnt many things about bus operations and had the chance to take many more interesting photographs than I would have done otherwise. I had access to the depot every day so I could get pictures of any bus I liked and instantly see any new additions to the fleet. The job really was one that suited me, it was much better than working in shops like many of my friends were doing because I was interested in doing it. I was not just there for the money, it added a complete extra dimension to my hobby for that oh so short period of time.

Leaving School

Having always done well at Maths and the Sciences, and being interested in computers, I chose to study 'Physics with Computing' at Warwick University from 2000-2003. In addition to doing the degree, it was also an opportunity to use buses in other areas of the Country on a day to day basis. Coming to the end of my time at Warwick my interest led me to consider student placements and graduate schemes with the large UK bus companies and consultants, rather than something more directly related to my degree. That strategy paid off, my problem solving skills proving invaluable to working within the industry, and my interest a constant source of motivation.