Exmoor Explorer – a shadow of its former self

This past weekend was spent conducting on the Service 400 ‘Exmoor Explorer’, running two trips from Minehead seafront each day.

As regular readers will know, this service lost its County Council subsidy earlier this year and the operator, Quantock Motor Services, decided to continue with a shortened season on a commercial basis. The service has been running at weekends, Tuesdays and Thursdays during the school holidays. The adult return fare went up from £7.00 to £10.00, which is a huge increase on last year but I presume this was done in order to at least break even.

The loadings so far have been disappointingly low, by all accounts. This weekend was no exception. The weather of course is a significant factor but even so, we only carried 5 people on the first trip on Saturday and one of those got off at Exford!

VDV752 high on Exmoor with an empty lower deck

The sun came out at lunchtime and drew in a few more passing punters but even so, we only carried 26 on the afternoon trip. In previous years we would be almost full on a day like that. The round trip is still great fun, even though my driver gave us quite a rough ride. He tended to lift the clutch very sharply and banged the gears in noisily when he couldn’t be bothered to wait for the engine revs to fall away. Such a shame, when I know how much more smoothly it can be done.

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Where have all the passengers gone?

Just a short post today, to ask the question: where have all the passengers gone? Last weekend on the Service 400 ‘Exmoor Explorer’ we enjoyed reasonable weather but very poor loadings on Saturday.

OK, so it drizzled a bit in the morning while the crew sat eating breakfast in the Lorna Doone Hotel, Porlock but by the time we reached Minehead it was dry, if a little cloudy. As we approached the seafront bus stop I could see a little knot of people waiting for us and, as we waited for departure time, a few more joined them. We left with about 20 on board, all of them on the top deck. Who could blame them? That’s where the best views are to be had! We picked up a couple more at Butlins and again at Bancks Street but that was it for the rest of the journey.

The journey itself was mostly uneventful. No horseboxes on Edgcott Hill, no sheep in the road, no coaches to pass on Porlock Hill, no punctures and no bolshie passengers to beat about the head with my ticket machine (only joking!). Arriving back at Minehead at lunchtime, the town seemed to be much busier, with plenty of people milling about on the seafront. During my lunchbreak I think I discovered the reason why we were so out of favour that day. Tornado was in town.

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Back of a bus, just to be different

Today I was on duty again for the West Somerset Railway Spring Steam Gala. No, not on the railway but on the heritage bus that was helping to run a shuttle service between Taunton Railway Station, the Silk Mills Park & Ride car park and Bishops Lydeard station. The photo shows LFM 302 waiting to pick up passengers at the stop beneath the railway bridge at Taunton Station. Taken from the back for a change and showing off the shapely lines of the 1950 Weymann bodywork.

On one of the morning trips I had a very interesting conversation with a chap who does fund-raising lectures for the A1 Steam Trust, the group that built LNER A1 Pacific 60163 “Tornado”. Watch out, he may be coming to a society meeting near you!

Another passenger introduced himself, having read a post of mine on the National Preservation forum. Nice to put a face to a familiar name!

Well, that had better be all, it’s nearly Saturday already!