Open top buses in Torbay
Devon General first operated open top buses in Torbay in 1919 but reintroduced open top buses on tourist routes in 1955. New buses were introduced in 1961 which were known as 'Sea Dogs' because of the names they were given, but these were later replaced by those of 'Warships'.
A service of open top trams was introduced by the Torquay Tramways in 1907 on a network around Torquay that included Beacon Quay, St Marychurch and Babbacombe. The following year saw an additional route along Torbay Road which terminated near Torquay railway station, then in 1911 it was extended to Paignton. The Devon General Omnibus and Touring Company started operations in south Devon in 1919 with two bus routes from Exeter to Torquay. These were operated with the usual open top buses of the era. In 1922 Torquay Tramways bought Devon General, although it was operated as a subsidiary and the motor buses already owned by the tramway company were transferred to the omnibus company. The tram network was closed in January 1934.
In the 1930s a few seaside resorts started to see open top buses operated as tourist attractions on their seaside roads. More resorts started such services in the years following World War II. In 1955 five old buses had their roofs removed for services in Torbay and one more was converted for Exmouth, another resort served by Devon General. They entered service on 19 June and a new sea front route was started on 19 July. These proved a success and so a larger fleet of new buses were delivered for service in 1961. They were launched at a naming ceremony on 11 May 1961. These were 'convertible' buses that could operated as open tops during the summer and with roofs during the remainder of the year, although after the first winter they were usually stored during the winter as putting the roofs on caused some damage. It took half an hour to fit or remove a roof using the mechanism that had worked a bus washing machine which had recently been superseded. When not in use the roofs were stored on three mobile racks made from old bus chassis from which the bodies had been removed.
Devon General was privatised in 1986 and became a part of Transit Holdings. This company preferred to operate minibuses and the open top fleet was reduced to just one vehicle. This was transferred to a new Bayline operation, which covered services in Torbay and Newton Abbot, in 1992.
Bayline was sold to the Stagecoach Group in 1996, and became part of the new Stagecoach in Devon operation in 2003. Stagecoach brought a revival of large buses instead of minibuses, and a larger fleet of open top buses was established.
The first route to be introduced in 1955 was the 12A from St Marychurch through Babbacombe, Torquay, Paignton and Goodrington to Broadsands. To reach Paignton's sea front at Preston the bus had to pass under a very low railway bridge. A licence for the route was only granted on condition that buses would come to a stop before passing under the bridge, the conductor would then have to instruct passengers on the top deck to remain in their seats and then stand at the top of the stairs to see that they did.
From 1959 a second route was operated. The 12C followed the same route as the 12A from St Marychurch to Goodrington but then continued to Churston and Kingswear instead of turning down to the sea front at Broadsands. The larger fleet of "Sea Dogs" available for the 1961 season allowed two further routes to be added. One was the 12B, which was already operating with conventional buses between Brixham and Kingswear. The second was a new 12D which followed the usual route from Babbacombe to Goodrington then continued through Churston to Brixham. Devon General routes were renumbered in 1975 which saw the sea front services numbered from 120, and additional buses allowed a Torquay to Dawlish Warren service to be offered the following year.
Two seasonal services are currently operated by different operators and a third offers a scenic tour from Torquay.
|22||Paignton to St Marychurch||Stagecoach South West|
|100||Paignton to Totnes||Dart Pleasure Craft|
|–||Sightseeing tour||English Riviera Tours|
Devon General's first buses were AEC YC type with roofless double-deck bodies typical at the time. A second-hand AEC B-type was bought from the London General Omnibus Company in 1920 but was rebuilt after a few months. The Torquay Tramways purchased six AEC K-type double deck buses in 1921 which were transferred to the Devon General fleet the following year. Double deck buses delivered from 1929 were fitted with roofs and by 1932 the open top buses had been sold or rebuilt as single deck vehicles.
|1||T 6942||AEC YC||Sir Francis Drake||1919– ca.1928||Devon General|
|2||T 6944||AEC YC||Sir Walter Raleigh||1919– ca.1927||Devon General|
|3||T 6946||AEC YC||Sir John Hawkins||1919–1926||Devon General|
|11||LF 8399||AEC B||1920–1921||Devon General|
|13||TA 1004||AEC K||1921–1926||Torquay Tramways|
|14||TA 1005||AEC K||1921–1926||Torquay Tramways|
|15||TA 1006||AEC K||1921–1926||Torquay Tramways|
|16||TA 1168||AEC K||1921–1926||Torquay Tramways|
|17||TA 1169||AEC K||1921–1926||Torquay Tramways|
|18||TA 1170||AEC K||1921–1926||Torquay Tramways|
|71||T 8328||AEC B||1926–1932||Devon General|
|72||T 6946||AEC YC||1926–1932||Devon General|
The six old buses rebuilt to open top form in 1955 were 21-year-old AEC Regent Is with bodies by Short Brothers. These were replaced by nine Leyland Atlanteans with convertible Weymann bodies in 1961. These were all given the names of historic sailors and known as "Sea Dogs". In 1976 two AEC Regent Vs with Willowbrook bodies had their roofs removed and were added to the open top fleet.
The Sea Dogs were replaced in 1978 by nine new Bristol VRTs with 74 seat Eastern Coach Works convertible bodies. Two of the VRTs were allocated to Southern National when Western National's Somerset and Dorset operations were divested in 1983 but five continued to operate at Torbay until the end of the 1990 season. After this a limited open top service was operated with just one bus.
|203||OD 7490||AEC Regent||1955–1961|
|205||OD 7492||AEC Regent||1955–1961|
|210||OD 7497||AEC Regent||1955–1961||Operating for Nostalgic Travel in Newton Abbot.|
|218||OD 7505||AEC Regent||1955–1961||Initially based at Exmouth.|
|219||OD 7506||AEC Regent||1955–1961|
|224||AUO 90||AEC Regent||1955–1961|
|507||507 RUO||AEC Regent V||Prince Regent||1976–1978||Operating with Chepstow Classic Buses|
|508||508 RUO||AEC Regent V||Regent Princess||1976–1978||Preserved|
|925||925 GTA||Leyland Atlantean||Admiral Blake||1961–1977||To Western National Admiral Hardy in 1977 (see below).|
|926||926 GTA||Leyland Atlantean||Sir Francis Drake||1961–1975||To Western National (see below).|
|927||927 GTA||Leyland Atlantean||Sir Martin Frobisher||1961–1978||To Southern National as Admiral Hardy, now operating with by Chepstow Classic Buses.|
|928||928 GTA||Leyland Atlantean||Sir Humphrey Gilbert||1961–1983|
|929||929 GTA||Leyland Atlantean||Sir Richard Grenville||1961–1983|
|930||930 GTA||Leyland Atlantean||Sir John Hawkins||1961–1983|
|931||931 GTA||Leyland Atlantean||Sir Thomas Howard||1961–1983||Preserved by Rubicon Classic Travel, Bristol|
|932||932 GTA||Leyland Atlantean||Earl Howe||1961–1983|
|933||933 GTA||Leyland Atlantean||Sir Walter Raleigh||1961–1982|
|934||VDV 134S||Bristol VRT||Golden Hind||1978–1983||Became Southern National Thomas Hardy in 1983 now preserved in Saltash.|
|935||VDV 135S||Bristol VRT||Triumph||1978–2001||Renamed Exeter in 1987, now used by a catering company in Leicestershire.|
|936||VDV 136S||Bristol VRT||Revenge||1978–1991||Renamed Torbay in 1987, it is now used for cutting trees by East Yorkshire Motor Services.|
|937||VDV 137S||Bristol VRT||Victory||1978–1983||Transferred to Western National, now preserved by West Country Historic Omnibus and Transport Trust.|
|938||VDV 138S||Bristol VRT||Warspite||1978–1992||Renamed Illustrious in 1987, now in service with East Yorkshire Motor Services.|
|939||VDV 139S||Bristol VRT||Renown||1978–1992||Renamed Ark Royal in 1987. Sold to East Yorkshire Motor Services but exported to Italy in 2009.|
|940||VDV 140S||Bristol VRT||Invincible||1978–1992||Sold to East Yorkshire Motor Services but exported to Italy in 2009.|
|941||VDV 141S||Bristol VRT||Illustrious||1978–1983||Transferred to Western National, now preserved by Cornwall Bus Group.|
|942||VDV 142S||Bristol VRT||Hermes||1978–1983||Became Southern National Lawrence of Arabia in 1983, now operating with Chepstow Classic Buses.|
From 1971 Devon General became part of Western National but services around Torbay continued to operate in the old name and buses were sometimes moved between the fleets for short term loans or on a more permanent basis. Two rare Bristol LDLs in the Western National fleet had their tops removed from 1972/3 for operation at Penzance and one of these was swapped in 1975 for Sir Francis Drake, and the other in 1977 for Admiral Blake. When the nine "Warship" VRTs were ordered for Devon General, two more were ordered for Western National. Both Atlanteans and VRTs also operated seasonal services at Weymouth. Western National's usual livery for open top buses was white and green, although Sir Francis Drake retained its red and white scheme.
|925||925 GTA||Leyland Atlantean||Admiral Blake||Now operating with Devonian Motor Services.|
|926||926 GTA||Leyland Atlantean||Sir Francis Drake||Preserved in Eastleigh.|
|1935||VDV 752||Bristol LDL||Admiral Boscawen||1975–1978||Now with Quantock Motor Services.|
|1936||VDV 753||Bristol LDL||Sir Humphry Davy||1977–1978||Now with Quantock Motor Services.|
|943||VDV 143S||Bristol VRT||Ark Royal||Sold to Badgerline in 1993, exported to Italy in 2010.|
|944||VDV 144S||Bristol VRT||Vanguard||Sold for scrap in 2001.|
By 1996, when Devon General was sold to the Stagecoach Group, the open top fleet at Torbay had been reduced to just one vehicle, but the new owners quickly boosted this by drafting in additional Bristol VRs from other parts of the group. The first two (936 and 937) came from Sussex Coastline in 1996 and three more (932 to 934) arrived in 1998 from Bluebird in Scotland but came without their roofs. A heritage vehicle, in the shape of Leyland Titan PD1 LRV 992 was also sent from Portsmouth to Torbay and was often used on scheduled services alongside the Bristol VRs.
Most of the Bristol VRs were withdrawn after the 1999 season, although 936 and 937 were sold to Dart Pleasure Craft to operate services in connection with their boats on the River Dart. Eight Scania N113s were then transferred from London. Their roofs were removed on arrival but five (numbers 15322 – 15326) were done in such a way as to be convertible back to roofed buses. and they generally operate in this form, open top services being in the main provided by 15327–15329. They are all named and, like the Leyland Atlanteans of 1961, are named after British sailors. The Scania's were withdrawn from use on 3 November 2013 (The closing day of Devon Cliffs holiday park), 15329 being the last in service. They were replaced by an Alexander ALX400-bodied Dennis Trident 2.
|932||UWV 605S||Bristol VRT||1998–1999|||
|933||UWV 608S||Bristol VRT||1998–1999||Exported to USA in 2000.|
|934||UWV 609S||Bristol VRT||1998–1999|||
|935||VDV 135S||Bristol VRT||Ark Royal||1978–2001||Now used by a catering company in Leicestershire.|
|936||UWV 604S||Bristol VRT||Illustrious||1996–2000||Now operated by Dart Pleasure Craft|
|937||UWV 614S||Bristol VRT||Invincible||1996–2000||Now operated by Dart Pleasure Craft|
|992||LRV 992||Leyland Titan||–||2014, July - September||Used on Route 22 St Marychurch to Paignton, Summer Season 2014|
|15322||J822 HMC||Scania N113||Sir Alexander Cochrane||2000–2010||Now a Mobile Play Barn|
|15323||J823 HMC||Scania N113||Sir James Saumarez||2000–2011||Sold to City Sightseeing Paphos, Cyprus|
|15324||J824 HMC||Scania N113||Sir John Borlase Warren||2000–2011||Withdrawn|
|15325||J825 HMC||Scania N113||Sir Philip Bowes Vere Brook||2000–2012||Now with 2-way travel, Scunthorpe|
|15326||J826 HMC||Scania N113||Edward Pellow||2000–2012||Transferred to Farm Bus of Staffordshire|
|15327||J827 HMC||Scania N113||Sir Home Popham||2000–2011||Withdrawn|
|15328||J828 HMC||Scania N113||Sir Sidney Smith||2000–2012||Scrapped in June 2014|
|15329||J829 HMC||Scania N113||John Hayes||2000– 2013||Name removed in July 2013. Withdrawn and has since been scrapped|
|17701||ML02 RWO||Dennis Trident/Alexander ALX400||2014-current||Converted to open top to replace J829 HMC|
Wallace Arnold kept an open top Leyland PD3 at Torquay for many years. It was used on local tours and shuttle services in connection with its longer distance operations. It even travelled to Lisbon on one occasion. Dart Pleasure Craft started services in 2000 using Bristol VRTs (two of which were obtained from Stagecoach Devon). More recently Devonian Motor Services and English Riviera Tours have introduced a wider variety of bus types on new routes. One of Devon General's former "Sea Dogs" is in the Devonian fleet.
|Dart Pleasure Craft||1||UWV 614S||Bristol VRT||Frankie||Ex-Stagecoach|
|Dart Pleasure Craft||2||UWV 604S||Bristol VRT||Ex-Stagecoach|
|Dart Pleasure Craft||3||WTU 467W||Bristol VRT|
|Devonian Motor Services||925||MSJ 499||Leyland Atlantean||Admiral Blake||Former Devon General "Sea Dog"|
|Devonian Motor Services||934||GJZ 9571||Leyland Atlantean||Black Prince|
|Devonian Motor Services||935||A146 OFR||Leyland Atlantean||White Lady|
|English Riviera Tours||–||BYX 304V||MCW Metrobus|
|English Riviera Tours||–||JTD 395P||Daimler Fleetline|
|Wallace Arnold||–||BUF 425C||Leyland PD3||Uncle Wally||No longer at Torbay.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Buses in Torbay.|
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