A double decker birthday surprise for a bus-loving grandmother

Planning a special treat for a family member’s birthday can be awkward at any age. Some might prefer a birthday party in a local pub, others fancy a quiet night in and a cheapo birthday cake from your favourite supermarket.

Some people, like the creator of East of the M60, might prefer a transport-themed celebration. Retired nursery nurse Margaret Swallow, from Stalybridge, celebrated her 80th birthday by driving a double decker bus.

Margaret celebrated her birthday on the 18 September and made no secret of wanting to drive a double decker bus. When Margaret was born, most of Stalybridge’s buses were operated by the legendary SHMD Joint Board. The 4 service terminated at Mossley Brookbottom which forms part of today’s 340 and 343 routes.

Instead of the usual flowers/chocolates/posh meal, her son Adrian Trudgeon had another idea. He called Stagecoach Manchester and organised her six-wheeled surprise. This took place at their Ashton depot, only a few hundred yards from the former SHMD bus depot on Tame Street, Stalybridge.

Aided by Stagecoach Manchester’s training manager Peter Reid, Margaret successfully drove the 51-reg Dennis Trident 2/ALX400 bus. She passed and completed the depot’s training circuit.

Speaking about the occasion, Margaret said: “Naturally, I was apprehensive when I first found out what Adrian had arranged. I’ve been driving for most of my life but until today, I have never been behind the wheel of a bus.

“It was a really exhilarating experience and once the nerves had worn off, I had a real adrenaline rush – it was a lot of fun. I must say thanks to the team at Stagecoach for making this possible.”

To celebrate her accomplishment, Margaret was presented with a medal and certificate by the Stagecoach Manchester team. Elisabeth Tasker, Stagecoach Manchester’s managing director said:

“When we received the request from Adrian, we immediately knew we wanted to help make this happen. It’s such an unusual request – not many 80-year-olds can say that they have driven a double decker bus for their birthday. Hats off to Margaret and Happy Birthday from everyone at Stagecoach!”

Had I been in Margaret’s position, I would have preferred that to the usual flowers/chocolates/posh meal approach for birthday presents. As the photos show below, she really did enjoy herself.

Dennis Trident 2/ALX400 Pulling into the depot of Whitelands Road and Clarence Street.
Ashton Depot’s training bus, pulling into the depot of Whitelands Road and Clarence Street.
Happy 80th Birthday Mum
“Happy 80th Birthday Mum”: a good use of a front indicator.
Margaret Swallow seen behind the wheel.
Your next driver on the 346 route? Margaret Swallow seen behind the wheel.
A contented Margaret seen from the driver's window.
The drive of her life: a contented Margaret seen looking through the driver’s window.
Mission accomplished: Margaret and her driving experience certificate.
Mission accomplished: Margaret Swallow seen with her Driving Experience certificate.
Another image of Margaret Swallow and her certificate.
Another image of Margaret Swallow and her certificate…
Yet another image of Margaret Swallow and her certificate.
…and another one. With a better shot of Ashton Depot’s training bus.
A happy Margaret Swallow, holding her Driving Experience certificate.
Today, Ashton depot, tomorrow, Transport for London’s 73 route.

An EM60 Presentation, 21 September 2018.

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