The Railway Connection

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!

Churston-depotMore 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.

4 comments on “The Railway Connection

  1. Paul Quest says:

    Sad to see YDL for sale especially as the pictures being used are those that I recently took of her when I took her to the Lodekka pub in Bristol.
    Surprised to hear that Quantock motors have ceased trading. I drove for then a couple of times although I did not find the owner the easiest of man to communicate with.
    My wife and I spent a fabulous day last Sunday on the Quantock Belle Dining train at West Somerset Railway.

    • busmanjohn says:

      I shall be sad to see her go too Paul. I’ve lost count of the number of duties I’ve done with her and she’s always been a delight to drive and, in all that time, only broke down once. Even then I managed to nurse her back to the depot.

      Looking back, Quantock has had quite a turbulent history and the glory days are long gone now.

      I’ve never done the Quantock Belle but glad you’ve enjoyed it. Maybe one day…

    • Paul Quest says:

      Hi John. Did you know that I have a home in Dartmouth and have sailed past the quay where the old bus for Greenway was frequently parked up. We frequently travel down by train using different routes. Living in Yatton I also go down to the station to watch the Torbay express charge through the station. I was in Dartmouth when Bittern made her journey to Kingswear.

  2. John Wye says:

    Having spoken to Jon the other day, he is still unsure if he will actually sell them, he is seeing what people will offer him and if the price is right he will, I think also with the shift and expansion in the business as a whole its all part of a master plan, so watch this space I think more than anything.

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