Take in the sights of glorious Whitby from our 1929 Dennis Charabanc. Trips depart daily from The Bandstand near the fish docks.
ELIZABETH - A STEAMING SUCCESS IN 2006
The world's only six-wheeled Sentinel steam bus...
Elizabeth goes live in Whitby
THE February half-term holiday provided the chance to undertake some proving runs around Whitby for the newly rebuilt Sentinel double-geared steam bus, No 8590 of 1931, Elizabeth.
The Old Glory-sponsored bus, owned by Viv and Vernon Smith of the Northern Star Motor Carriage Co, has been rebuilt on its chassis to a bus format. This entailed an amendment to the Road Traffic Act because the engine exhaust is not sited toward the rear, as well as a spin on Plaxton’s tilt-test machine in Scarborough.
The result is a beautiful creation by Dick Martin, Viv and Vernon – all from John Marshall’s ‘back of many envelopes’ design.
The Sentinel takes water at Whitby harbour on every fourth trip.
All is set for an official Easter launch as Elizabeth becomes ‘part of the furniture’ on the tourist trail around the picturesque North Yorkshire harbour town.
Based opposite Whitby’s lifeboat museum, the bus will give up to 10 tours a day for visitors, daily from Easter until the end of October.
In order for readers to fully appreciate the experience of taking fare-paying customers on real roads under real steam, we have teamed up with Viv and Vern to offer half- or full-day firing experience courses to those who are perhaps looking for something a bit different for a birthday or special anniversary gift for a steam-mad loved one.
Naturally it would be rude if the editor didn’t try firing the bus first before offering readers the opportunity to do so, and on 20 February he got the chance.
Monday morning dawned cold but bright as I passed the Pickering rally field, Sleights and down on to the Whitby road but I had already decided that it was infinitely better than a day in the office, writes Colin Tyson.
First job: The editor rakes the ashpan from the previous day’s work.
‘Newly weds’ Viv and Vernon were already at the farm base, just outside of Whitby where Elizabeth is kept under cover; it wasn’t long before I was on my knees dropping the ashpan and raking it out. This is very much a hands-on day and although we wouldn’t expect some of our older readers to hump sacks of coal up into the bunker, everything else, as they say, is possible for the physically abled.
Seven or eight shovelfuls of coal, drop in the paraffin-soaked rags through the small firehole door at the top, another seven or eight shovelfuls, check water and leave to cook…
Raising pressure takes the usual 30-40 minutes, but this wasn’t going to be a usual day.
Just as I‘d finished topping up the oil chamber at the side with some particularly green and dense lubricant I came round to the front to see what appeared to be rather a lot of steam escaping from around the top of the sight glass. Some quick flicks of the shut-off valve at the top revealed ‘no change’ as the escaping steam tried to scald Vern’s arm. Our eyes met and we knew what was coming next, ‘…drop the fire!’
A quick call via modern technology to our clippie to tell him to go inside somewhere warm for a while longer was made while Vernon effected a gauge glass repair and we started the whole process of steaming her again, although it was quicker because she was already warm.
Such are the pleasures of steam on the road, and that’s before we’d left the yard.
The first firing, which later had to be aborted.
The run into town was thankfully uneventful and we took our place alongside the lifeboat museum and offloaded around eight sacks of coal for later on. The previous day, Sunday, had been very busy but Monday seemed moderate in comparison. Before long we’d got our first complement of passengers who were being briefed on the history of both the bus and Whitby by able clippie Colin, and it was off up to the cliff top. Eight shovelfuls… then six… then four to give us what we needed to get to the top. The fireman is in charge of the shovel, a push-buttoned top damper lever, the bypass valve for the pump… and looking left at road junctions.
The last thing I’d fired was a Bulleid Pacific (with foot-controlled lever to open the firehole door; try getting that in sync with your shovel arm – it was like that patting your head while rubbing your belly trick). I did find it easier to get into my stride with the Sentinel – just don’t try to put too big a lump of coal down the hole and block it. I didn’t, but I had to smile when Vern did just that while I was watering.
Some ‘weather’ then passed over, delivering hailstones at us horizontally and as it touched the hot surfaces and made the cab steamier than it was before, we were hitting a ‘stiff’ northerly breeze up the grade. OK, it was hardly Shap summit on the ‘down postal’ but with Vernon barking ‘coal… pump… lever’ in any order and at the same time (maybe for fun perhaps, he wasn’t saying) then your mind really is on nothing else. Not least some wonderful views.
The passengers of every fourth trip enjoy their detour to the harbourside to take on water at the harbour authority’s standpipe (yes, Vern does pay an annual rent for it). Wisecracks from them about it being ‘cheaper than filling up with petrol’ are quickly dismissed when the price and weight of coal a day are quoted.
Off on the first run and it’s uphill straight away. PAUL WHITWORTH
The adults love the nostalgia; the kids love anything bright and red, giving cries of ‘Look, it’s Elizabeth’. The fact that Vernon drove the ‘Hogwarts Express’ (GWR Olton Hall on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway) in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone always goes down well.
The cold wind and the aforementioned wintry showers had done for the passing trade of the day leading to an ‘early bath’ for us. It was back out of town and to the farm to put Elizabeth to bed for the night
The world's only six-wheeled Sentinel steam bus...
Testing time for Old Glory steam bus
OLD Glory-sponsored Sentinel DG6 waggon No 8590 of 1931 has now entered the final phase of its certification process as part of a mission to become the world’s only steam-powered six-wheeler legally allowed to carry passengers on public roads.
Up she goes! Sentinel No 8590 on Plaxton’s stability tester in Scarborough on 10 October. ALL: Charlotte Park
The Sentinel underwent a stability test on 10 October at Plaxton’s Coachbuilders at Eastfield, Scarborough, which required it to be tilted at a 35-degree angle, before it can travel around Whitby, North Yorkshire, giving rides to tourists.
The owners of Elizabeth, Vernon Smith and Viv Hamilton, of The Northern Star Motor Co, already run a 1929 Dennis charabanc that has built up a huge following with locals and visitors alike.
The conversion of Elizabeth to a steam bus has already demanded an amendment to the Road Traffic Act which was only recently approved by Parliament. This was required because its engine exhaust is not sited towards the rear.
The test involved weights totalling 64kg per passenger and crew member being strapped to each seat to represent a fully loaded bus and then having to withstand the 35-degree tilt (each side), without the chains placed around the axles becoming tight.
A very pleased Viv and Vernon at the end of the successful tilt test.
Vernon Smith said: “The stability test at Plaxton’s marked the biggest milestone for us yet in what has become an extraordinary journey. We were told 18 months ago that a steam bus would never be able legally to carry passengers. Now we are reaching the final certification prior to the first trip, we are thrilled and cannot believe we are finally here.”
Enjoy the thrill of steam as you tour Whitby. For further details 01751 470184 or email: email@example.com
Our Charabanc is also available for weddings