All change for Busman John

Have you missed me? Yes, there has been a shortage of posts on this blog for quite a while, for which I apologise. So here’s why.

Some of you already know that Mrs Busman John and I have forsaken the delights of the English Riviera for the rather flatter surroundings of Weston-super-Mud, otherwise known as Weston-super-Mare. The reasons are two-fold: to be nearer our family and because I’m now working full time for Crosville Motor Services.

As you can imagine, moving house causes a great deal of upheaval. Even now – six weeks after moving – we are still unpacking boxes! This, together with working full time once more, has meant that ‘Busman’s Holiday’ has had to take a holiday itself. But fear not, I intend to restart my scribblings and bring you some updates including the Crosville Bus & Steam Rally, the return of a Southern Vectis Bristol Lodekka, school runs, private hires and much more.

Just as a taster, here’s a photo of the aforementioned Lodekka on the day it returned from an extensive refurbishment:

I’ll be back shortly with news in more detail.

Vintage bus driving – a photo potpourri

There have been so many vintage bus duties this summer that I haven’t had time to share each one individually so here’s a potpourri of recent activities.

YDL317-bath-coach-park

A private hire for Crosville that was unusual – it wasn’t a wedding or a school prom! Global Design Solutions had hired Southern Vectis 573 (YDL317) to take its staff from Bristol to Bath, where they were celebrating 10 years in business. While the party and presentations were going on in the Salamander restaurant, I parked the bus in the Riverside Coach Park where it contrasted starkly with much more modern machinery!

FFY403-Babbacombe-Downs

Another private hire involved the English Riviera Sightseeing Tours bus, Southport Corporation 86 (FFY403). Directly after the afternoon sightseeing tour we picked up a load of enthusiasts from the Merseyside Bus Club. On this occasion I acted as Tour Guide, wielding a microphone instead of a steering wheel. The latter was in the care of Glyn, with whom I share the regular driving duties on this bus. We took our passengers around the Torquay segment of our normal tour route, stopping on Babbacombe Downs (seen above) for photos and also Meadfoot Beach.

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New Metrobus joins English Riviera Sightseeing Tours

KYV633V-Preston-Sands

I got back from my holiday yesterday to find that two of the Sightseeing buses had been sold and this replacement MCW Metrobus was already in service! The open top Metrobus known as ‘Big Bertha’ (BYX304V) and a closed top Volvo Olympian (P915RYO) have moved on to pastures new.

The 1947 Leyland PD2/3 will remain for the forseeable future but was unserviceable yesterday morning so I had to jump straight into this machine and take it on the two tours of the day. Fortunately the cab layout is very similar to the previous Metrobus so it all felt very familiar.

Previously used by Harrods in London for a City Sightseeing Tour, this bus is fitted with tables and comes complete with a kitchen at the back of the lower saloon!

Our tour route takes us ‘off piste’, away from normal bus routes, including the pretty Ilsham Green and Meadfoot Beach. Having a full height roof at the front means that we have to pass under low branches very carefully. Behind the bus in the photo is a low railway bridge at Preston Sands and clearance is down to the proverbial ‘fag paper’! Only joking, it’s a few inches but still quite tight.

In other news, I’ve been invited to drive a VERY historic bus soon. It dates from between the wars and is just coming to the end of a thorough restoration. Watch this space!

Vintage bus wars in Torbay

A few weeks ago I heard a rumour that a Leyland PD2, similar to the one operated by the English Riviera Sightseeing Tours, was being prepared by Stagecoach to run in Torbay. Well that turned out to be true because former Portsmouth Corporation PD2/12 LRV992 has started running on the 22 route around the Bay.

LRV992-TQ-Strand

Stagecoach (and its predecessors) has run open top buses on its seafront routes before but their choice of vehicle this time can only be an attempt to steal our thunder, or so it seems. In practice though it doesn’t seem to have affected our loadings in fact yesterday afternoon we carried our highest loading ever since our PD2 came to Torbay, with 51 passengers onboard.

Actually the Stagecoach PD2 is not in direct competition as theirs runs in normal service, following the timetable and route normally operated by modern deckers. It stops frequently to pick up and set down passengers and is probably being thrashed to keep to time whereas ours is a much more leisurely journey. We also have an informative commentary, delivered by an entertaining Tour Guide, which Stagecoach passengers won’t get.

So we’ve concluded that the PD2’s appearance has merely added to the appeal of Torbay as a tourist destination. It seems that ‘retro’ is cool these days! It’s quite bizarre at times, especially in Belgrave Road at about 10 in the morning when we park the sightseeing bus to promote our tours. A Bristol VRT from Rail River Link will pull up behind us and then the Greenway House Leyland PS1 trundles by as well! One day the 3 Leylands were joined by the old Carmel Coaches Dennis coach, in town on a private hire job.

Just a short post today. I’m off on my hols tomorrow so no more new posts until later in the month. Oh, and greetings to the gentleman from Somerset who rode on the sightseeing bus yesterday. He reads this blog and stepped onto the platform saying “How’s your back, Busman John?!”

English Riviera Sightseeing Bus roundup

For the time being, as my back injury seems to be improving, I am continuing to drive the English Riviera Sightseeing Tours bus. This occupies me for a few days each week and has given me some interesting adventures over the months since I started.

FFY403-Torquay-Strand-2

The weather plays a big part in determining how many people travel as the vast majority of travellers make their decision on the day and pay on the bus. A handful buy their tickets from the Tourist Information Centre but they too are bought on the same day as travel. As you know, if you’re a UK resident, our weather is not always best suited for an open top bus ride so we’ve had some very poor days. If it’s very dull, cold and wet we are likely not to run the tour at all as so few people (if any) want to pay to travel in these conditions.

However, there have also been some superb days which means we’ve had some good loads as well. One day last week on the PD2 we had a full load on the top deck and a dozen downstairs as well and, as the school holidays are now upon us, this can only improve.

Although I drive the same tour route every day, there are still some interesting variations. These are mostly prompted by roadworks. For quite a while one of the roads near Babbacombe Downs was being dug up in several places which meant we could only just squeeze past the coned off bits. Add to that some contractors’ vehicles and oncoming traffic and progress was often slow. My spacial awareness skills went into overdrive! Only yesterday I was confronted by an unexpected set of roadworks in Wellswood. There’s a very tight, full-lock left turn at a junction near Kents Cavern and, to make it round in one go, I have to take it very wide, borrowing a bit of the opposite carriageway to give myself a chance.

But yesterday I found roadworks in the middle of the main road which only came into view after I’d started the turn. I hauled on the wheel faster still to make the turn as tight as possible and I began to think I’d have to reverse and give it another go. But I crept forward on full lefthand lock and, with the offside front tyre about an inch from the road cones, just made it round. On the afternoon tour there were parked cars which made it more difficult and I did have to do it in two bites. Grrrr.

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