Behind the Christmas Lights Tours
If you went on one of our Christmas Lights Tours, you would have met our hosts and driver at Scott Road Station. The hosts keep track of our passenger roster, collect fares if people haven’t pre-paid and answer the phone if any of our passengers is delayed and wants us to hold the bus. One host goes along with the tour and acts as the tour guide and makes sure we don’t leave anyone behind at one of our stops. What you don’t realize is that there are a few other Transit Museum volunteers involved before and after the tour.
(Host Matthew at Scott Rd Station awaiting our passengers. All photos except where indicated otherwise: L. Walker)
Before the tour becomes a reality, much research is involved to design a route. It starts with the memory of past tours and the great lights displays from last year. We only have a couple of weeks as most people start building their displays in early December. Some of the past displays are gone so we have to adjust the tour and see if there are new displays to discover. After some mapping and test driving, a route is determined. We try to be flexible and in fact we added a couple of houses at the last minute this year. Every year 3 or 4 people are involved in the final design of the route.
(Chris checks the brakes as part of his pre-trip. Photo Brian Larrabee)
Members of the shop crew decorate the bus under the supervision of our electrician. In past years the bus became “Rudolph” with antlers, eyes and a big nose but this year with the big move to Langley we decided just to decorate the interior.
We realized a few years ago that we needed a reservation system and a way for our riders to contact us with questions or concerns. A fairly simple (and free!) software system developed for a small airline was adopted by our webmaster. People can reserve and prepay for a seat or have the option of making a reservation and paying in person at Scott Road Station. Our hosts are emailed a passenger roster before the tour and know who to collect fares from and if there are any seats available for walk on customers. A phone system is activated for last minute problems. We like the bus to be at Scott Road Station at 6:30pm so that people can spot it and know where to go, and our first step is to meet at the Langley Shop an hour early. Someone gets the bus started and aired up and backs it out of the shop. The driver arrives and does the pre-trip inspection which consists of an air brake check, fluids and lights are checked and they make sure that a fire extinguisher, first aid kit and emergency reflective road kit are on board. They walk around the bus and do a visual inspection of the wheels and tires. The driver fills out and signs the pre-trip form and completes a driver log to track the hours that they have driven in the past week. Just before leaving, the driver calls our recorded phone service confirming that the bus is on its way to Scott Rd.
It’s about a half hour drive to Scott Road Station, so the bus departs at 6pm and the shop is locked up. At around 10:30 the shop crew returns to meet the bus as it arrives after the tour. The driver hands in the paperwork and lets us know how the tour went and if there were any problems with the bus. The fuel level is checked and the bus floor is swept and washed. Wheels and tires are inspected. Bus batteries are turned off and the bus is ready for the next trip.
Everyone involved is a volunteer and just as you support the Transit Museum by purchasing a ticket, our planners, hosts, drivers and shop crew are contributing their time to help with this valuable fundraiser. Thank you everyone for keeping the Museum alive and active.
Bryan Larrabee, President, Transit Museum Society
On the Road
Our Christmas Lights Tour organizer also has a few words to say about what makes them possible. “I have had one of the best CLTs in years!” says Lawrence Walker, especially that of Saturday December 17th…
“With Stephan Goodman checking off names, now a TMS host in training, Chris driving superbly, always a character, lamenting on how much he missed driving bus. Andrew and Chris working well together with Andrew Joyce directing. The roads looked wet but we’re a lovely sheet of ice. The owner of the “Inflatable House” in North Delta coming out and greeting us, (he also emailed us before we even had a route plan), Chris asking Andrew if he had a few different places that he didn’t , and taking us past them including Alex Jager’s house!”
In closing, we must also mention our other hosts (Sue & Matthew), drivers (Evan, Michael H. & Alan), service personnel getting 9753 ready, (Milan, Matthew, Jason S., Jason B., Richard, Sean, and of course, Bryan who stood by ready to drive our ‘rescue’ bus (4612) if it was needed – which it wasn’t! My apologies to anyone I’ve missed. A pat on the back to you all…