Unique steam bus to be new attraction

PUBLISHED: 13:30 10 April 2015

The Elizabeth steam bus (picture: John King).

The Elizabeth steam bus (picture: John King).

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THE only working steam bus in Europe will be taking customers along Weston's seafront this year.

The 77-year-old Elizabeth steam bus was carefully transformed from a steam wagon to a bus by Vernon and Viv Smith in 2005.

It has been a popular tourist attraction in Whitby in Yorkshire since then – but it will now be on its way to Weston.

The one-of-a-kind vehicle has been bought by bus operator Crosville, and will be in use on select days from August.

Managing director Jon Jones-Pratt said: “It was nice for us just to be considered to own it.

“It is a big part of Vernon and Viv’s life and it’s just that they are retiring and so need to pass it on.

“It will draw a lot of people to Weston.

“It did at Whitby and I think probably become a big icon for Weston because it is so unique.

“It’s a special thing and it has a big following – more than I anticipated.”

Existing Crosville drivers will take part in a training programme so they are able to drive the 30-seat bus.

The crews will go through a vigorous test, which will be signed off by Merv Hebditch, who is chief traction inspector on the steam-powered West Somerset Railway.

Jon said he has always had a passion for steam-powered vehicles.

And if Crosville had not bought the bus, there was a possibility it would have been sold to an overseas buyer.

Jon said: “Weston is a historic town, and we are trying to think outside the box with new ideas.

“It is recreating a by-gone age of steam operation. It has the traditional smells of the coal and oil and things.

“It will be lovely to see it going up and down the promenade.”

The boiler is currently undergoing an overhaul so the bus is in pristine condition when it arrives in Weston.

When Vernon and Viv finished the bus in 2005, the Government had to change the Road Traffic Act to grant it a special licence so it could legally carry passengers.

Crosville is also planning to create a supporters group and is looking for volunteers to help to keep her going.

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