Monday, 28 February 2011

Going Down The Pan

A little piece of Hampshire bus heritage passed into history today!

I first visited Gang Warily as a Southern Vectis Management Trainee in 1995. I had been despatched to the mainland for a week, to study the mainland operations of the Vectis group. I think the idea was that I would be so horrified at the squalid accommodation and cavalier working practices that I would rush back to the Island screaming for mercy and never ever leave. Instead it gave me an enduring fascination for Solent Blue Line that never left me.

I could write a book about that week, and at some point I might wheel out one or two of the more repeatable stories. But little did I realise, as I stood with Inspector Wally Pearce surveying the swamp that passed for a Hythe outstation, that one day I would be able to call the toilet block my own!

The story of how the portacabin that housed the Gang Warily staff toilets ended up in the Velvet yard is known only to a few people, and although there is nothing to hide it had probably better remain that way. Nevertheless, when the offer of a free portable building was made, we were more than happy to benefit from Go South Coast’s generosity. We had visions of gutting the inside and creating a controller’s office and our new prized possession was duly installed at the back of the yard.

Our enthusiasm waned fairly quickly once we realised the condition of the interior. We maybe hadn’t given enough thought to the previous use to which this unit had been put, but one Sunday Karl and I decided to begin the conversion process by demolishing the interior. As we hacked through the old toilets with axes and hammers, the sickening stench of raw human sewage burst forth from the exposed pipes.

We quickly came to the conclusion that our potential office accommodation would never amount to anything more than a health hazard!

But that was two years ago or more, and since then the disused toilet block has sat abandoned and forelorn, in a state of partial demolition, while we failed to get round to do anything about it. Plans for its removal were many, ranging from the civilised approach of lifting the whole thing intact on to the back of a low loader – the kind of plan I would espouse – through to the approach favoured by our erstwhile controller Ant among others, of pulverising the entire building into a thousand tiny pieces and then carting away the ruins. However, for one reason or another none of these plans ever came to fruition, and the Poobox (as it came to be affectionately known) stubbornly resisted the inevitable demise.

This picture shows the building looking sorry for itself but largely intact, as it approached its final days…

Finally however, our present-day controller Karl and his partner-in-crime Steve could bear it no longer and persuaded me that violence was the only option! Karl organised a giant skip and this finally arrived today. In this photo you can see Steve, flanked by Paul C and Simon, struggling to conceal their excitement at the imminent death of the Poobox! Or perhaps they think we’ve bought a new open-top bus….

Then it was down to business, and before long Steve and Karl were tearing the building limb from limb….

And finally, with our portacabin reduced to a pulp, it was time to contemplate loading the ruins into the waiting skip….

Tomorrow the skip will be collected, we will have more room to park buses, but a stalwart of the Hampshire bus scene will be gone, never to return. And with it go some deeply ingrained memories, and a few gallons of raw sewage!


  1. And I bet you all fought over who got to drive the FLT. I've done it myself; there's something very satisfying about trashing a cabin.

  2. As the old joke goes, we made several hundred pounds worth of improvements!

  3. :) I'm not a big bus fan (as you clearly are not a Portakabin fan) but my claim to fame is that I spent many, many hours circa 1975 helping scrape rust off and repainting the underside of JDN 668 for my English teacher; Tony Peart. Impressed?