Many of you will have followed my driving adventures since I was a lowly conductor and will know that the subject of railways has cropped up more than once. In fact it’s curious how often the buses I’ve conducted on – or have driven – have crossed paths with trains of one sort or another. Naturally, those hauled by steam locomotives grab my attention more than any others!
This was the scene a couple of weeks ago when the Sightseeing Tours bus was parked at Preston Sands halfway through the afternoon tour. The coastal road passes over the railway line by Hollicombe Beach and I’d spotted a plume of steam rising from the stationary loco as it waited for a path into Paignton station. Fortunately I had plenty of time to position myself for a photo before the train passed by. The loco was GWR 4-6-0 No 5029 ‘Nunney Castle’ which was hauling the Cathedrals Express into Paignton from Westbury.
Several years ago I was a conductor for Quantock Motor Services (sadly no longer trading) which had its depot right next to Bishop’s Lydeard station on the West Somerset Railway. I was able to see, hear and smell many steam-hauled trains while preparing buses.
Quantock used to provide a fleet of buses for a Christmas Park and Ride service into Taunton town centre and it was while conducting on one of these services that the bus I was on passed over the new Silk Mills bridge just as Gresley Pacific ‘Sir Nigel Gresley‘ passed directly underneath!
More recently, last year in fact, I was employed by the Dartmouth Steam Railway & Riverboat Company as a bus driver. Its fleet of buses, which included open top Bristol VRTs and Volvo Olympians, was stabled right beside Churston Railway station which again gave me many opportunities to observe all of its steam locos in action. My usual duty included a lunch break in Paignton which, naturally, I took at Paignton Railway Station!
Even today (and every day that the Sightseeing Bus operates) we passed by Paignton Railway Station and we often see a steam loco in the station, especially on the morning tour.
Working for Crosville doesn’t often bring me into contact with railways but earlier this year I did manage to capture a Peckett 0-6-0T loco hauling a short train along the Bristol Harbour Railway after I had taken a wedding party to the SS Great Britain on Bristol L5G KFM893.
A tenuous link to railways right at the beginning of this year was a series of Rail Replacement coach duties I did for Crosville which involved travelling between Bristol, Taunton and Exeter when the main railway line was flooded.
Earlier this year, while driving the Leyland Tiger PS1 single decker to Greenway House, I would sometimes pass one of the Dartmouth Steam Railway trains as it forged up the gradient towards Churston, just like a scene from ‘The Titfield Thunderbolt‘!
In other news, yesterday was officially the last day of the season for the English Riviera Sightseeing Tours bus although we did run again today as the sun was shining. It was still amazingly warm and, as this photo shows, I was driving in shirtsleeves with the front cab window wide open!
We may be out and about tomorrow for one final fling with the open top Leyland PD2 before she goes into winter storage.
My next bus duty will be a local heritage duty on Saturday for Crosville with a Southern Vectis FS6G which is currently for sale.