Now that I’m working on the sightseeing tours 5 days a week and also some Saturdays for Crosville, life has become rather hectic of late. Hence the lack of new posts. So, to bring you up to date, here are some recent happenings in Busman John’s world.
A significant sighting this morning was ‘Illustrious’, a Bristol VRT acquired by Rail River Link (the bus operation run by the Dartmouth Steam Railway & Riverboat Company) in 2013 from East Yorkshire Motor Services. Originally 938 (‘Warspite’) with Western National in 1977, it finally entered service last week on the 100 service from Torquay to Totnes via Paignton. It has spent much of the last 2 years in storage awaiting and undergoing an engine transplant. It arrived from EYMS under tow, having suffered an engine seizure before withdrawal. Now, wearing RRL branding over the existing EYMS livery, 938 is active once more in Torbay where it once operated (wearing Devon General fleetnames) when new. When I was working for RRL in 2013 I had a slim chance of driving 938 in service but, as it turned out, its return to active service has been rather protracted.
If you hadn’t already heard, the Leyland Tiger PS1 which was operated by Greenway Ferry to the National Trust’s Greenway House (Agatha Christie’s former summer home), has not run at all this year and rumour has it that the ferry and bus operations are up for sale. To fill the void, Rail River Link has acquired a 2004 Dennis Dart and is now operating it to Greenway House. NT1 runs to Greenway from the railway’s Churston Station and the early morning NT5 runs from Torquay. This is where I managed a quick passing shot of it a couple of days ago. FD54FGG is especially branded for the Greenway service and carries the name ‘Miss Jane Marple’.
A week ago we finally ran the Bristol LH replica charabanc on a sightseeing tour. It was the first time I had driven this peculiar machine over the full tour route so it was a bit nerve-wracking! I’m still getting used to the driving position, set well back from the front wheels, and judging widths and distances is still a bit tricky. The bus itself performed reasonably well and I found that I didn’t need to use the hard-to-reach crawler gear. Slightly more bothersome was a tendency to jump out of gear when descending a hill. This produced a rather jerky ride as it happened several times without warning while using engine braking on the steep hill down to the harbour past the Imperial Hotel. The 15 minute stopover at Preston Sands provided a much needed breather for the driver!
But that was a mild inconvenience compared to the onset of heavy rain during the afternoon tour. Although the charabanc has a canvas roof, it has open sides and the rain cascaded all over the poor passengers when we turned a corner. The collection of umbrellas we discovered in the luggage racks suddenly came in useful!
The charabanc is due to run its own Torquay to Paignton Promenade Tour next week but that will only happen if we can find another part time driver. Anyone interested should apply ASAP!
In preparation for a very historic journey in November, the Exeter Corporation Maudslay ML3 has been booked in for an MOT test in August. Although it need not have one, the organisation which has requested the bus (none other than the BBC) has insisted on an MOT due to the high profile passengers being carried and the very public nature of the journey.
Finally, I’m due up at Crosville tomorrow to do another duty at Minehead. The West Somerset Railway is running a special ‘Days Out with Thomas‘ event this weekend and three Crosville vintage buses will be operating free bus rides from the station tomorrow and Sunday. This is the second weekend with Thomas – the first was a week ago – and I’ll post more details next week.