Torquay’s Sightseeing Tours open top bus

To supplement my part time driving to Greenway House I have recently started doing a few days’ work with the English Riviera Sightseeing Tours bus. This is a Leyland Titan PD2/3 with Leyland body, converted to open top in 1962.


The operation of this bus is quite different to the Leyland Tiger PS1 that I drive for Greenway Ferry & Pleasure Cruises. The sightseeing bus is not running a registered service but pay-on-the-day tours and only runs when the weather is fine and there are enough passengers to make it worthwhile! The Greenway House bus runs to a timetable, from three different parts of the Bay. Bizarrely, both of these Leyland buses were built in 1947!

As you would expect, both buses are similar to drive. The biggest difference is that the open top PD2 is fitted with a 4-speed synchromesh gearbox whereas the Greenway PS1 has a crash box. This makes the PD2 easier to drive in terms of changing gear and I can perform quicker changes (helpful when climbing a hill) without crunching the gears.

The tour starts from Torquay Strand, beside the harbour (pictured above) and starts climbing immediately. Passing well-to-do Wellswood, we pause briefly on Babbacombe Downs to take in the stunning views. If the air is clear, we can see right round to Portland Bill, on the other side of Lyme Bay! After passing the famous Babbacombe Model Village, we retrace our steps towards the harbour but make a detour past the Hotel Gleneagles which provided much of the inspiration for the classic TV series Fawlty Towers, starring John Cleese. Then past Kents Cavern and down the Ilsham Valley to Meadfoot Beach. A stiff climb over the Lincombes comes next, followed immediately by a steep drop in 2nd gear to Torwood Street and back to the harbour.

FFY403-Preston-Seafront-2We carry on along Torquay sea front and into Preston, passing carefully under the low railway bridge and parking up next to Preston Green for a comfort break, teas, ice creams and photos. Suitably refreshed, we carry on along Paignton sea front, across the level crossing and through the town centre before turning back to Torquay. We pass Oldway Mansion, once the opulent home of the Singer family (yes, the Sewing machine manufacturer).

A tour guide is carried and some of the commentary is similar to the one I give on the Agatha Christie bus and is very entertaining to listen to!

The pace is very leisurely, as you would expect from a sightseeing tour, and we arrive back at Torquay harbour after about 1.5 hours. There are two tours per day, one leaves at 10:45 and the other at 13:30. A day on the Greenway bus is much longer, not finishing until about 18:30. That’s a full day’s work and has certainly made me physically fitter than when I started in March!

FFY403-Preston-SeafrontThis is just an overview of the Sightseeing Tours operation and I’ll post some more interesting stuff about what it’s like to be a vintage tour bus driver later. I sometimes have to pinch myself as I now find myself in virtually full time employment, driving nothing but half-cab buses! However, I mustn’t get carried away because it’s only seasonal work and I still need to find something for the winter months.

5 comments on “Torquay’s Sightseeing Tours open top bus

  1. William Spencer says:

    Noticed you driving at the weekend I think it was. Is a fine route around Meadfoot and the only bus to photograph along that stretch of road now! The tour used to run to Brixham I believe, but from what you say it now terminates at Paignton. It may have easier gearing, but I think the change down at the bottom of Falkland Road, Abbey Gates, this morning could have been cleaner. lol!

  2. busmanjohn says:

    Haha! Yes, that is a tricky hairpin turn and I should have changed down earlier. Shame you had to witness it! The Brixham part of the route was dropped due to the stiff climb up Overgang and the long slog up to Strawberry Bends. They’re trying to be kinder to the 67 year old bus this year.

  3. Paul Quest says:

    I have a home in Dartmouth and a boat on the river Dart and regularly see the bus parked at Greenway. May say hello one day

  4. […] this time I’d already started working for English Riviera Sightseeing Tours for a few days a week. The usual bus on this job was another Leyland (a PD2/3, also built in 1947). […]

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