IT was a transport of delight for Robert Forsythe when he celebrated his 50th birthday at the weekend.
Over the years Robert and wife Fiona collected more than 125,000 items on rail, air, bus and coach and water transport, including timetables, brochures, booklets, hand bills, and other paper ephemera. The collection was acquired earlier this year by the National Railway Museum in York.
So naturally it was a bit of a busman’s birthday bash on Saturday for Robert and Fiona, who live in Prudhoe, Northumberland.
They hired a Leyland Titan 1952 double decker bus for a day-long tour of the North Pennines.
A total of 57 invited guests piled on to the bus, with Robert and Fiona’s daughter Clare, aged nine, on duty in original bus conductress’s cap and ticket machine.
The bus set off from Newcastle Central Station for Stanhope in Weardale and then on to Killhope and Alston. At Alston, guests switched from bus to rail for a ride on the South Tynedale steam railway.
Then it was back on the double decker to Stocksfield Institute in Northumberland for a traditional North Pennines tea, laid on by the ladies of the Snods Edge Church Hall Sunday Afternoon Teas group. The day also raised funds for Tiny Lives, the Newcastle charity for premature births and Sarnelli House orphanage in Thailand, which Robert and Fiona’s neighbour supports. The Snods Edge ladies donated their proceeds to Tynedale Hospice.
Robert chose the North Pennines because it has a special place in his memories as a regular destination when he joined an industrial archaeology society while studying at Durham University.
The double decker was hired from Alnwick’s Dreadnought Coaches.
Set up as a family-run enterprise by Claire Gilroy, the company now operates the largest fleet of vintage buses in the North East.
The Leyland Titan 1952 double decker bus was virtually identical to the vehicles used by the Weardale Motors company, and turned heads as it drove through the area and parked in Stanhope Market Place for an hour.
Another stop was at Killhope Cross where a reading was held of a WH Auden poem which describes the location.
Robert said yesterday: “The bus crew took us successfully over some of the most challenging roads in England. The sun shone and Weardale put on its autumn best.
“It was a fabulous day and everyone enjoyed it.”
Robert, a former museum curator, now works freelance in the cultural sector, as does Fiona who was previously head of library services at Newcastle College.