Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Pony goes Completely Dotto ...

... And then Dot lets off Steam?

Has fbb finally flipped? We shall see.

Enter "Shanklin Steamer" into a search engine and you might find a pic of the old paddle steamer, "Shanklin" ...
or you might find the more recent "Shanklin" that also plied the waves between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier Head.
You might even find a small seafront pub in that same town, called "The Steamer Inn" ...
... but you wouldn't find a bus. That's because Southern Vectis [SV] have kept it a closely guarded secret!  The company has had a reputation for doing strange things with their vehicles, the oddest of which was the celebrated Shanklin's Pony.
This was (is, actually, it is privately preserved) a Bristol RE single decker converted to open top and used for a number of years on a service between Shanklin Town and the Esplanade. SV also converted one of their Ford Transit minibuses to Open Top for the short-lived M-Travel company. 
Most of Shanklin is atop the cliffs, but the esplanade was built in Victorian times to give access to a rather splendid beach. Also part of the town's appurtenances is a splendid cliff lift, seen here in original form. Rather scary then, fully enclosed now.
Either the bus, or the lift, provides a useful means of climbing back into the town for many of the Island's more "mature" residents. In recent years, instead of a bus service, SV has been running the lovely orange (?) Dotto train ...
... under contract the the Isle of Wight Council.

Ever anxious to pay its way and discourage tourism and leisure, the Council is busily closing toilets, closing libraries, increasing parking charges etc. etc. As part of this suicidal mission, our political representatives have flogged all the Dotto trains; best not to provide much for the visitors, they might come back again.

So last week SV unveiled this amazing vehicle ...
... "The Shanklin Steamer". The back windows are unglazed and there is a sliding panel behind the odd-looking "wind-breaker" tin box on the roof. I suppose it might be described as a "semi-convertible open sided open top". Unique, you know.

It would be nice to tell you that all details, times, prices etc. are on the "Island Buses" web site. But they aren't. Maybe one day, when the company gets around to it ...
... the public might just be told about this potentially useful and entertaining transport facility.

But running buses is so much easier without the untold problems caused by those awkward characters called "customers". Our Island correspondent reports low loadings.

Thanks to chum, Alan, for pictures of the "steaming bus", the Pony and the Ventnor Buggy!

And ... Shanklin's Pony was a much better name.

And ... As part of its cost-cutting anti-visitor policy the IoW Council has closed all its Tourist Information Offices. These have been taken over by Southern Vectis. But they are staffed by (e.g.) school bus drivers, so they close at arbitrary times, even at non school times if the chappie is needed to provide "cover" on a daytime route. In Cowes the "office" is a man with a table and a few leaflets. It is disgraceful.

So there may be Shanklin Steamer leaflets, IF you can find them!

Next blog : due Monday July 18th  


  1. Up to your usual high standard - posted under cover of the Isle of Wight Morris Minor Owners club but you know who I am!

  2. "As part of its cost-cutting anti-visitor policy the IoW Council has closed all its Tourist Information Offices. These have been taken over by Southern Vectis."

    Sort of, but the phrase "taken over" isn't quite true really is it? They are doing what they can, we all know that they aren't going to take on all the Tourist Information Centres (TICs) fully staffed all hours commercially are they - otherwise why would the council have closed them? They're doing their best. It was the council's fault for the bloody stupid decision to close them in the first place.

    As for the Shanklin Steamer - nice idea, but it does just duplicate the open top tour really doesn't it? I do hope it lasts. A shame it doesn't have an LED destination display, as it would be fantastic to put it out on a normal service!!

    P.S. where is the TIT (Tourist Information Table) in Cowes?

  3. I understand that the roof of a single decker is quite important structurally, even on the non-integral types, and I believe that the open top REs experienced 'bodywork movement' not generally seen on the usually solid ECW bodies. A double decker is by nature more rigid in that respect. Somehow, I rather doubt that the 'Shanklin Steamer' will offer passengers quite the same experience as a genuine open topper. On the other hand, I guess credit is due to Southern Vectis for at least trying to provide some form of facility for tourists - it is also no doubt in their commercial interest to do so.

  4. RC169 : too right, sir! The Pony flexed in a frightening fashion over some of the Island's bumpy roads. It's a credit to the body that it didn't snap!

  5. Anonymous : last week "the man" borrowed a table and a chair from the coffee shop next door and set up his TIT outside the closed Tourist Information Office. Very professional!

  6. Certainly when I was in Shanklin the Sunday before last - which was a nice sunny day - the Steamer was going round and round completely empty. The Breezer was being worked by a solo too!

  7. The Pony was designed to flex, if 'we' made it too rigid it would have cracked and it has not!