WHITBY’S steam bus hit the open road on Wednesday as they departed on the first leg of their epic journey, which will eventually see them take part in London’s Lord Mayor’s Show.
A crowd of well-wishers waved off Elizabeth and her four-strong crew as they left Cross Butts Stable.
A nervous Vernon Smith said: “It’s a step into the unknown.
“It’s been in the planning for a year and it’s all very well and good when it’s a year off, but it’s another thing when it’s actually happening.
“I’m hoping she’s raring to go but she’s 80 years old and she has a personality bigger than the rest of us put together.
“You should see her when we’re on the road, the attention she gets, I swear she loves it.”
Prior to her departure this diva of steam has received a full makeover, receiving everything from new tyres and a fresh lick of paint to a complete mechanical check-up.
“She’s as ready as she can be,” added Vernon.
“She’s been in the salon and mechanically we’ve been through everything we reasonably can.
“On this first day there’s Blue Bank and Saltersgate to get up but then it’s pretty much flat all the way to London so in theory this journey ought to be less arduous than her daily trip.”
Whitby town mayor John Freeman was among the crowd to wave off the steam bus and said: “It’s one of those wonderful things that have come to represent Whitby.
“The steam bus is a must for everyone who visits Whitby and so to see her going to the capital again to represent the town is a marvellous thing.”
The popularity of Elizabeth is such that the bus was invited to the opening of Manchester Airport’s new visitor centre recently and last weekend Whitby residents were invited to ride her free of charge.
Vernon hailed that day as a huge success, and added that they had received a huge amount of support from the town for this coming journey.
“Including children we carried nearly 300 people,” he said. “We had our regulars and some people that you wouldn’t think of as fans of steam, but every one of them went away feeling fantastic.”
Setting off 10 days before the show itself, Elizabeth is set to stay overnight at the National Railway Museum in York, as well as nights in Leeds, Bradford, Burton-upon-Trent and Rugby.