Whitby Steam Bus
Take a ride with Elizabeth

A ride on Elizabeth the Steam Bus is a truly unique experience!


The family that is Vernon, Viv, Vern Junior and, not forgetting Buster their endearing fifteen year old red dog, is one that has really found its niche in life. With tender, loving care they operate the only steam bus in the world. Vernon has recently stepped down from driver to fireman - giving Vern Junior a chance to hone his driving skills. Young Vern has just gained his driving licence (they didn’t say what kind of licence is required to drive such a unique vehicle as a steam bus – but you can bet your life it takes more than driving a family saloon!). Viv looks after Buster (who has the only cushioned seat, in deference to his advancing years) and Elizabeth’s passengers. She has a wealth of knowledge - enthusiastically passed on in her role as Tour Guide.

Picture of Elizabeth's family - Vernon, Viv and Vernon Junior. Reproduced by kind permission of Vernon and Viv

Vernon's passion for steam goes way back to his childhood days. For many years he worked on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, driving some of of the legends of steam. The superbly restored A4 Pacific proudly bearing its designer's name - "Sir Nigel Gresley" and the "Hogwarts Express" are just two. Vernon says that driving in the Harry Potter films was a "once in a lifetime chance".

Each year from mid February to Bonfire Night in November Elizabeth carries excited passengers on an unforgettable journey around the town of Whitby. In November this year (2010) my wife Rene and I were among them. Here is my version of events that sunny day.

Picture of Elizabeth the Steam Bus as she leaves the bandstand in Whitby to climb the Khyber Pass

With a full head of steam young Vern slips Elizabeth into gear ready to storm the Khyber Pass. Zigzagging up to the cliff top, we leave the bandstand on the harbour side. Gears screaming with the hard work Elizabeth’s wooden seats tickle your bottom with good vibrations. Well, Viv, our knowledgeable and friendly tour guide did promise us a noisy ride - and did indeed hint of the tickles. Steaming along East Terrace affords tremendous views over the harbour to old St Mary’s church and the even more ancient abbey ruins, both sitting proudly above the old town. Then the road turns sharp left by the famous Whitby whale bone arch next to the statue of Captain Cook – “local lad made good”.

A gentle incline along North Terrace hardly taxes Elizabeth’s considerable power and we enjoy the extensive sea views along the coast to Sandsend and the headland of Sandsend Ness. Turning away from the sea front we slow down to join the main road down into town. All the way along folks wave cheerfully as we pass by. And we all wave back. It’s all very friendly and makes us feel special – as we are, for no one else in the world is lucky enough to be enjoying a thrilling ride in such a unique vehicle. Negotiating a roundabout Elizabeth the steam bus slows whilst approaching a steep downhill gradient. All of a sudden we hear a whooshing sound and flames leap to the roof top in the drivers cab. Viv had explained why they do that – but in the excitement I can’t remember what she said! At the bottom of the hill we wait for traffic going into town before heading towards the railway station and harbour front once more. Through narrow streets and round tight corners Elizabeth once again has the bandstand in sight and, all too soon our ride is over. Time seems to have flown by - but the ride has taken about twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of exciting, truly unique experience!

Picture of Elizabeth the steam bus alongside Endeavour at Whitby. Reproduced by kind permission of Vernon and Viv

This year (2010) Elizabeth is representing the whole of Yorkshire in the Lord Mayor’s Show in London. She is being taken there on a low loader. But next year she is to make the journey by road under her own steam (quite literally).

Trips around Whitby depart from the Bandstand on Pier Road by the Lifeboat Museum and run on request from 10.30 until 3pm and up to 5pm during July and August. Sister Charlotte (a 1929 charabanc who we’ve not met here. Meet her on the web site) works in the summer working a similar route, but finishing with some lovely narrow streets.

Elizabeth works from February Half Term until the first weekend of November. Also from Boxing Day until New Years Day and many weekends in January and February if the weather is suitable.

Prices are £4.00 adult, £3.00 senior, £2.00 child, with under fives and dogs travelling free, so long as you come with them!

There's lots more to learn about Elizabeth the Steam Bus and her sister Charlotte on their web site. And you can add comments to Vernon’s blog from there.

Visit Elizabeth the Steam Bus and her friends


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