Fetching A Fife Fleetline!
Let me first apologise for the lack of pictures on this page. As it happens, I didn't take any stills photographs of the events in 1997 recounted below, but instead relied on my camcorder, which I used extensively on the trip to fetch FRF63. Now normally I would have just gone to the tapes and captured a set of 'vsnaps' from that footage, but in this case I can't do that. What I didn't know at the time, and only found out in late 1997, was that my camcorder was developing a head fault and when I found out and got it repaired, it turned out that nothing recorded that year would play back! So I'm stuck! Never mind - on with the story...
In May 1997 my friends were contacted by a friend of ours who was not only a bus-driver, but was also a bus preservationist like us. (But I won't name him here without his permission in case he would rather I didn't!) It turned out that he had located an ex-Fife double-decker bus that was for sale in running order, but it wasn't in Scotland and he thus wanted our help to transport him to it, and then, if he succeeded in buying it, assist him in bringing it back to Scotland.
Well we definitely like to see ex-Fife buses reach preservation, and the prospect of a short 'holiday' trip down south sounded quite nice so we said Yes! So far, so good, but our friend was more than a bit secretive about exactly where we were going. All we were told, in fact, was that it was 'somewhere off the M6 near Chester', which didn't sound too bad.
So we set out in Alastair's van and my car on the evening of the 27th May 1997 for an overnight trip down the M74 and M6. Our friend had brought another bus-driver friend of his along to share the driving on the way back, and with three of us, plus Alistairs wife and kids for good measure, there were (I think) about 8 of us going! There isn't much to say about the trip down to a set of services off the M6 via Chester, as it was steady progress in light traffic all the way. And then we got told our ultimate destination - Holyhead! Not exactly close by, but it was still near enough the middle of the night so we restrained the impulse to strangle our friend and headed west along the north coast of Wales instead!
Breakfast time on the 28th May found us parked at Holyhead, taking a much needed break, but all too soon we had started the search to find the depot of Goodsir Coaches. Holyhead isn't huge, and someone had the wit to ask directions but it still took half an hour or so to find it! And negotiations began for what turned out to be SXA63K, the former Alexanders Fife Daimler Fleetline FRF63...
Well of course our friend was successful in buying FRF63, but not before we all got a half-hour test run in it (which you can call a joy ride if you like - I certainly enjoyed it!). And then the long trip back to Scotland began, but ran into trouble quite quickly as our friend decided to take a detour to try and find another ex-Scottish bus he thought was on Anglesay, and in the process set off up a single-track road! However faced with the possibility of getting FRF63 stuck or encountering an overhanging tree much lower than a double-decker bus he had to give up on the idea and back up!
Once back on the main road, and having fueled up, things went much better, if not much faster. For those of you who have never travelled on a Daimler Fleetline, it isn't a speed machine even by bus standards and we resigned ourselves to a much slower trip back north! In fact (and remembering that none of us other than me owned a mobile phone) we got into the habit of pre-arranging which sets of services FRF63 would stop at (most of them I seem to remember!) and then driving ahead so that we could have a short break, after which we would check that FRF63 wasn't overheating or leaking any vital fluid, which wasn't a trivial concern as it was a very warm day for May.
And at long last we got back to Scotland, then back to Fife, and finally back to Methil, since FRF63 was to be stored alongside MPE29 & MPD253. (It was later moved to Lathalmond to be worked on, but that is another story.) All in all, a long trip home, but we had succeeded in 'Fetching A Fife Fleetline'!