Dennis toastrack bus in Torquay

Way back in sunny May I paid a return visit to Torbay and met up with my friends at English Riviera Sightseeing Tours. I spent the day driving their open top Leyland PD2 and also met their newest acquisition, a Dennis Toastrack Bus.

Needless to say, the folks there were delighted to have me back, if only for a day. Apparently my gentle driving style has been sorely missed! It was great to be in the driving seat of FFY403 once again and to hear the banter and gags of my tour guide ‘Wayne Champagne’ as we trundled around the tour route.

Since I last drove it, the PD2 had undergone some engine repairs, the fuel pump and injectors getting particular attention. Those with long memories will remember that my only disppointment with driving the PD2 was its excessively high idle speed. Usually a Leyland O.600 engine will tick over very slowly without doing any harm, sometimes with a little ‘hunting’ too. But on FFY the idle speed used to be so high that I had to de-clutch far sooner than normal when rolling to a stop. I seemed to have to coast for ages with my foot on the clutch before stopping.

Anyway, having refurbished the pump and replaced a split rubber diaphragm, the idle speed could be brought right down so driving it again this year brought great satisfaction. At long last I was able to hear the engine idling normally. Why couldn’t this work have been done when I was a regular driver?!

Wayne couldn’t resist bringing out one of his favourite gags in my honour as we passed through Paignton during the afternoon tour. As we approached Manor Corner on the return to Torquay, we were about to pass the Paignton Spiritualist Church. “I have some late breaking news for you, folks,” piped up Wayne. “This evening’s clairvoyance meeting at the Spiritualist Church has been cancelled,” he continued with barely suppressed giggles, “due to unforeseen circumstances!” Gales of laughter from the saloon behind me followed by “It’s not my fault, ladies and gentlemen, that one was especially for our driver John!” from Wayne. He knows that I’m a churchgoer (though not a Spiritualist) and likes to trot that one out for my benefit, although I doubt that Spiritualists can look into the future any more than I can.

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Sentinel Steam Bus joins Crosville Heritage Fleet

An unusual bus has joined the Crosville Motor Services Heritage Fleet and is being prepared for public service.

GT2827-in-Crosville-depotThis is ‘Elizabeth’, a 1931 Sentinel DG6P steam waggon which was converted to carry passengers in 2006 by the addition of a specially built body. Until last year she was running in regular tourist service in the Yorkshire town of Whitby.

Elizabeth was delivered on a low loader (still in steam) in July and has since been tidied up cosmetically. This includes the application of Crosville fleetnames. I took a few photos of her in the Crosville garage when I was up there recently. I have to admit she looked rather incongruous, parked among all the regular service buses!

GT2827-front-detailIf all goes well, the steam bus will operate in Weston-super-Mare on a number of dates in August and September on a special 40-minute tour route, starting from Princess Royal Square. See the Crosville website for details and updates.

The 30-seat body was constructed for the previous operator in Whitby and has wooden slatted seats. The passenger saloon is separate from the cab so that soot and smells are kept to a minimum.

GT2827-interiorI was invited to be a conductor on this bus for a few of its running dates but, much as I would have loved it, had to decline as I was already committed. Maybe next year…

Here’s a link to a YouTube video of Elizabeth at work in Whitby.