When it comes to buses, Burwell’s Jim Neale is something of a fanatic and he has just written a book about his favourite.
It tells the story of 9 DER, a unique Daimler double-deck bus which first arrived in Burwell in 1963 almost a year after the chassis had first left the Coventry factory where it was built. The bus had been bought by the Burwell and District Bus (B and D) Company for £6,800 and would spend the next 16 years running between the village and Cambridge.
Retired bus and coach driver Jim, who lives in Chestnut Rise, said: “It was my favourite bus from an early age, in fact I was still at school in 1963 and can clearly recall travelling on it to Cambridge on a school visit to the Fitzwilliam Museum.”
However, as Jim recalled, the quietness of the approach of the rear-engined Daimler did have drawbacks and actually caused the death of a pedestrian who stepped in front of it in Cambridge while it was on an out of service run in 1964.
After he turned 18, Jim got his PSV (public service vehicle) conductor’s badge, which meant he was being paid to ride on the bus. He later became a full-time employee and at 21 was able to drive it.
In 1979, the Burwell bus company was taken over by Eastern Counties and the end of an era also dawned for 9DER whose certificate of fitness expired in May of that year.
“My diary recorded that I drove her in service on May 14 and three more times,” said Jim. “She was parked at the back of the garage and I arranged for special last day tickets to be printed as souvenirs.”
The bus was eventually scrapped and the sale of spare parts and scrap metal enabled the B and D Bus Preservation Society to make a substantial donation towards the new building at Burwell Museum to house the surviving B and D Coach in 2008. A further donation to the village day centre paid for its mini-bus to be re-painted brown and cream the original livery of the bus company.
Today all that remains of Jim’s favourite bus is the cab which he re-constructed in the museum in 1995.
My Favourite Bus is £9 and available post free from Jim at 2 Chestnut Rise, Burwell CB25 0BX. It is also stocked by Tindalls in Newmarket, Heffers in Cambridge and Burrow’s Book Shop in Ely.