Central SMT

It all started at the Kelvin Hall

Contributed by Billy Nicol, November 2002. Billy abandons his camera for the keyboard to tell us about something truly remarkable that happened, erm, round the back of the Kelvin Hall! I'd best let him explain.

Did I ever tell about the time I was round the back of the Kelvin Hall and a Central Lodekka appeared? Amazingly, this was in 2000 - Monday 24 April to be precise. The Lodekka in question was BL346, which was making its first public appearance as a preserved bus. It was just a stroke of luck that I found myself able to see it, as I was only out for an Easter Monday walk in the west end of Glasgow. As the bus had turned right from Bunhouse Road towards Partick Cross, I ran round to Argyle Street in the hope of getting some pictures, and noticed the distinctive dark red shape sitting at the start of Sauchiehall Street. After further running, I eventually got level with the vehicle and got some pictures, standing next to another gentleman who was also busy doing the same.

After giving a brief explanation of my interest in buses to the driver, I asked him if I could possibly travel with the party. Much to my delight, he said "yes" and I gratefully took a seat, noticing that the black, red and white moquette seating was similar to that on some of the Alexander Y-type Leopards. The driver was of course the owner, Douglas Forbes, whom I would again like to thank for allowing a (then) complete stranger to travel on his pride and joy. After brief photo-stops at Charing Cross and John Street in Glasgow, we arrived in Lanarkshire, the spiritual home of Central SMT. Our first stop was in Hamilton, near Park's depot, where BL346 attracted the attention of local children who were told that their parents had probably travelled on similar buses, and photos were taken with the rather quaint destination display of Limetree Cottage.

I spoke to the other gentleman with the camera, who turned out to be Alan Millar, editor of Buses magazine, who explained that he was doing an article on the bus. After another photo-stop outside Bell College, Motherwell Depot was reached, with BL346 photographed in front of a contrasting line of First Glasgow single-deckers in the allover red and "Barbie" liveries. We were fortunate that the heavy showers occurred while we were travelling on the bus, but this was to our advantage, as it added a more realistic feel to the pictures taken at Bellshill, with a real industrial atmosphere gained.

After the necessary photos were taken, we then returned to Glasgow City Centre, parking in Cowcaddens Road, behind Buchanan Bus Station. Here, Douglas was photographed in his Central uniform with BL346 in the background, before everyone headed for home.

It was an enjoyable day for everyone who took part in the trip. My own personal memories of SBG Lodekkas is in their twilight years, when some were used as driver trainers. Indeed the most regular were two sister vehicles of BL346 - BL350/1, which survived until 1990. I can also recall the Stagecoach-operated HGM334/5E, formerly BL334/5, in its Glasgow-based Magicbus fleet.

Now every time I see BL346, I am immediately reminded of this special day when a combination of being in the right place at the right time, and an understanding owner, made me think that someone up there liked me after all. For those of you reading this who know me, expect to be asked "Did I ever tell about the time I was round the back of the Kelvin Hall?" again in the near future!