In the last few weeks of the English Riviera Sightseeing Tours season a new tour guide joined the replica charabanc crew. He has been seen at various times on this blog already – it’s my youngest son Peter!
Peter was filling in for a crew member who was off sick but, even though I’m biased, he actually made a jolly good job of it. The Bristol LH6L (TR6147) has been running regular tours from Paignton, along the seafront to Torquay and back. It runs two tours in the morning and one in the afternoon from the Strand, Torquay where the tour route is run in reverse.
Filling the seats has been hard because the charabanc started operating part way through the season and hasn’t benefitted from any marketing or promotion, apart from flyers handed out by the crew to passers by on operating days. The weather plays a part too, as it does for the open top Leyland PD2 tours. If wet weather prevents the tours from running, any momentum is lost and it’s like starting from scratch when they re-start.
Even so, on the days that Peter worked he managed reasonable loads which always makes delivering the commentary more rewarding. He’s no stranger to a microphone, fortunately. As a worship leader in our church (and at the Bible College where he is studying) he is used to addressing much larger gatherings!
The best part of this arrangement was that Peter and I would often work together. “This is our driver, John. Fun fact number one folks; he’s my Dad!” Regular readers will know that Peter has often acted as conductor for me at Running Days but working as a father-and-son crew regularly was rather special.
One of our first attractions on the Paignton tour was the impressive Oldway Mansion, once the home of the Singer family. Isaac Merritt Singer, the American inventor and founder of the Singer Sewing Machine company, had the Mansion built in the 19th century but it was extensively re-modelled by his son Paris Singer in the early years of the 20th century. He took much of his inspiration from the Palace of Versailles and the interior is lavishly flamboyant with marble floors and staircases, gilded mouldings and painted ceilings.
We take the charabanc right up to the Mansion so that passengers can get a good view. It’s not visible from the road, except in the distance. Owned by Torbay Council since 1946, Oldway Mansion is sadly closed to the public as the Council searches for a buyer for the unoccupied building.
I managed to capture an unusual scene in early September as we loaded the charabanc on the Strand, Torquay for its afternoon tour. The open top PD2 pulled in just behind us after its 1.5 hour tour around Torquay and Paignton. Following closely on its heels was a London Transport Routemaster (RM1872) on a wedding duty. It briefly stopped in front of the charabanc to unload passengers and the moment was all the more remarkable because there weren’t any of the usual Stagecoach or Local Link buses at any of the stands!
I couldn’t help thinking that, had this been a week earlier, Stagecoach’s own open top Leyland PD2 (LRV992) may have been loading where the Stagecoach Trident is seen in this photo!
After Peter went back to college the charabanc didn’t run again, except for one occasion when I took it on a solo run for a wedding which may be the subject of another post. The open top PD2 (FFY403) runs its final tours of the season tomorrow (Saturday) after which it will retire to winter storage and a programme of much needed maintenance.