As the end of the road approaches for one of Whitby’s most popular attractions, the owners of Elizabeth the Steam Bus say they are dreading taking the unique vehicle on its final journey.
Vernon and Viv Smith will bring to an end 12 years operating the 83-year-old vintage bus in the town on Sunday following a series of wrangles with the borough council
“We are gutted, I can’t bear the thought of the last trip on Sunday afternoon,” said Vernon.
“We both feel very emotional, and there have been tears from some of our customers this week too.”
People from all over the UK and as far away as Holland have visted Elizabeth in recent days for one last ride on what is believed to be the world’s only licensed steam bus.
“We feel humbled by this, it’s nice to know that our customers care,” Vernon added.
“We’d like to say a big thank you all the people and businesses who have supported us over the years.”
The couple said that the “straw that broke the camel’s back” and persuaded them to cease operating Elizabeth concerned the refilling of the vehicle’s 300-gallon water tank.
The steam bus must be refilled once each day, a process that takes just five minutes.
The refilling usually takes place at Whitby Town FC’s Turnbull Ground, but the bus cannot be accommodated on the 12 days a year when matches take place at the stadium.
The Smiths asked the council for help in finding an alternative location within town where they could fill Elizabeth up with water.
The percieved lack of co-operation from the local authority and the prospect of having to pay to park their 11-tonne vehicle inside a designated parking space in order to re-fill it saw the Smiths decide to call it quits.
“We couldn’t find any positives in any of the council’s correspondence, they seemed to have no interest in finding a resolution,” Vernon said.
“Their attitude told us everything that we needed to know about their feelings towards us.
“I just feel it is a shame because Elizabeth attracts so many tourists and so much positive media attention to Whitby.
“How the council can be happy to lose these benefits is beyond me.”
Elizabeth’s last weekend in Whitby will see her involved in the centenary commemoration of the sinking of HMHS Rohilla and also providing the transport to a goth wedding.
But, what next for the steam bus and her owners?
Elizabeth is currently up for sale, but thus far no firm bids have been received.
The couple said that Charlotte the Charabanc, their smaller motorised coach, will continue to operate “for the time being”.
“The future is very uncertain for us at the moment, we don’t know what is going to happen,” Vernon continued.
“Not including time maintaining her, we’ve been spending 285 days per year working on Elizabeth. We’re ready for a break and some time away.”