Vintage bus trips with Paddington Bear

A weekend of bus adventures started with another trip to Minehead, this time in support of Paddington Bear at the West Somerset Railway.

972EHW-WSR-Minehead-Paddington-Bear

The larger than life character was visiting the station at Minehead to meet and greet young fans and, as per the usual format, a number of other attractions were on offer during the day. Vintage bus trips ran from about 10:15 in the morning, provided by yours truly in a 1959 Bristol LD6B. This time, thanks to a generous collague, I didn’t have to travel all the way up to Weston-super-Mare to collect the vehicle from the Crosville Motor Services depot as usual because it had already been brought down to a nearby stabling point the day before.

My conductor Liz was there waiting for me so, after checking the bus, we drove into Minehead to await custom. It wasn’t long before about a dozen people had boarded and we set off on the first of about 15 trips around the town and along the seafront. That’s a guess – I didn’t have time to count, we were that busy!

The weather was fine and an impressive number of people flowed through the station during the day, many of whom travelled on the bus as well. Every so often Paddington Bear and his minder would appear on the station platform to wave, shake hands or high-five his little fans. Like most other ‘celebrities’ such as Fireman Sam and Peppa Pig, the character has to follow a strict protocol and there is no conversation, just the gestures mentioned.

972EHW-loading-at-Minehead

Bus crews operate under no such restrictions and we enjoyed a bit of banter and chat with our passengers. Some were enjoying a family day out, others were transport enthusiasts and asked many questions about the ex-Bristol Omnibus Lodekka. Still others were locals like Don and Janice, who came just for a ride on the bus. Val and Mike, with camcorder in hand as usual, came along to ride on the bus and record the action in and around the station. All these folk seem to know when I’m around – following this blog helps I guess! Viewing Mike’s video will give you a flavour of our round trip:

There’s another that shows the bus passing by on the seafront section (skip ahead to 15:30).

I was glad when lunchtime arrived as I was able to give my arms a rest. Even though I’m reasonably fit having done several weeks on the heavy Sightseeing Tours PD2, carrying full top deck loads time after time had sapped my energy! Back on duty after a break, I continued in my quest to give my passengers a smooth, enjoyable ride. Driving safely in the busy town traffic demands a high level of concentration, especially when there are low branches to be wary of. Despite our bus having a roof, it would be easy to cause damage (and alarm the passengers) and for this very reason I decided to omit the harbour section after the first couple of trips.

Steam-hauled trains continued to run throughout the day but I was unable to venture onto the platform to see them in action because we were so busy and mine was the only bus rostered for this duty. The day drew to a close at about 16:30 after passenger numbers had dwindled and the station had emptied of its visitors. The Lodekka was being used for the Dunster Castle Express shuttle service the next day so once again I was spared the long drive back up to the depot this time.

Taking part in the WHOTT running day the next day would provide bus driving challenges of a different kind – look out for the next post!

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