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?!”

Torbay Vintage Bus Running Day 2012

When you’re used to driving a desk all week it tends to drain all your energy when you drive a vintage bus for two days in a row. But I’m not complaining. I love what I do and see it as a great privilege to sit in a hot cab and work my arms to a jelly in someone else’s historic bus!

I drove Bristol FLF DEL893C, ex-Hants & Dorset, built 1965, on a wedding duty in Bristol on Saturday and, after a suitable break, drove the bus straight down to Torquay. I had arranged with the kind people at Stagecoach to park the FLF in their Torquay depot overnight and I’m very grateful to Area Manager Gary and Depot Manager Steve for their help – it caused quite a stir!

The following morning, under the envious gaze of several fitters and older drivers, I did my checks and topped up with water before driving the short distance to the rally site at Shedden Hill, Torquay. I joined a line of other buses which were operating free services around the bay and then, as I wasn’t due out until 12:00, browsed among the stalls and visiting buses. Many of these (buses AND stalls!) I’d seen before, some of them only last weekend!

The rally organisers had given me 2 short routes, the 136 to Paignton Town Centre and the 28A to Hesketh Crescent (for Meadfoot). They had also given me a conductor for the morning’s trips, an older chap who had once conducted for real on Devon General buses. There was a long queue at our stop near the entrance to the rally site and as we pulled up to board passengers, more arrived as they saw the FLF arrive with 136 on the blinds.

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Stagecoach passenger

I was a fare-paying passenger on a  regular Stagecoach bus today. Yes, I know. I wouldn’t normally choose to ride on one of these modern contraptions (a Dennis Trident, I think) but I’d just dropped my wife’s car off for its MOT and had to get to work pronto. So I caught the number 12 from town.

It’s not that bad really, but it just doesn’t cut the mustard for me. Yes, it’s clean and bright. Yes, it’s a comfortable ride. Yes, it’s packed with modern gadgetry. But, as I sat with a screaming automatic transmission behind me and having passed or seen half a dozen identical buses already, I thought to myself no, give me an open-platform halfcab every time.

Who cares if you can feel every ridge and knobble in the road? What does it matter if you can feel a draught around your ankles from the open platform? So what if the noise of the engine and gears drowns out all attempts at conversation? I want to ride on a bus with Character, Style and Charm. There’s more fun to be had on the journey than just getting to your destination!