Bristol Commercial Vehicles Enthusiasts

OPERATOR FOCUS - ARCHIVE

Last Updated : June 7th 2014 (Thames Valley Lodekkas added)


Thames Valley Lodekkas ABL117B at Victoria Coach Station

Thames Valley operated a varied fleet of Lodekkas over the years, ranging from highly specified coach FLFs (such as ABL117B seen here at London's Victoria Coach Station) to a very dowdy selection of secondhand LDs acquired from various other former Tilling group companies in the mid 1970s when scarcity of spares parts meant that it was difficult to put out enough buses to meet the peak vehicle requirement. The completion of this operator's list of Lodekkas finishes this section of the website although I am still missing disposal data for a number of operators. My attention will now turn to the RE model which inevitably introduces an additional level of complexity due to the wider range of original owners, chassis variations and body types. You can follow my progress building out this new section here.

May 17th 2014
Western S.M.T. Lodekkas

Western S.M.T. featured a very attractive livery, exemplified here by SHN253F which arrived from United Auto via Northern General in 1974 during the great NBC/SBC Lodekka/VR exchange. A particularly high proportion of WSMT Lodekkas ended up being exported in the late 1970s/early 1980s which means that the survivors list is long, but in many cases the vehicles have gone long unreported. Any updated information or sightings would, as always, be very much appreciated. This evocative view with a native example pulling out behind was taken by Stephen Dowle in May 1978. The slipboard covering a worrying amount of the windscreen reads "via Clyde Tunnel"! November 20th 2013
Midland General Lodekkas Coverage on this website of Lodekka fleets throughout the country continues to grow. Recently added are complete lists for both Midland General and Mansfield District. Many of the former passed in October 1976 to Trent while many of the latter went to East Midlands in July of the same year when both companies were absorbed by their neighbouring NBC fleets. This photo shows 53JAL, a short-wheelbase FSF6G, in the beautiful MGOC colours which sadly gave way to NBC "red wash" later in life. The photo was acquired some years ago from the excellent Bristol Vintage Bus Group sales stand (which is also available online here) November 3rd 2013
Eastern National Lodekkas After a lengthy gestation period the list of Eastern National Lodekkas is now complete. It was a complicated fleet due to a large renumbering scheme as well as a number of coach versions which were later converted to normal buses, so it provides plenty of interest. Many of the early disposal details are taken from PSV Circle Fleet History (which organisation I am always pleased to credit and also to recommend for membership), but my volume only starts with the 1960 delivery year - if anyone has access to the earlier history for the period 1954-1959 I would be really grateful to borrow it for a short time. The above photo of LD5G 1481 (33ENO) was taken by Cliff Essex in 1968 and beautifully captures the Tilling calm before the storm of the NBC years which were soon to arrive. September 5th 2013
Eastern Counties Lodekkas Eastern Counties was not a typical Lodekka operator. For much of the delivery run it specified Gardner 5LW engines - much less powerful than the more normal six cylinder engines but perfectly suited to the mostly flat operating area of the company. When the flat-floor variant became available it continued to specify rear-entrance examples in the shape of FSs (and a handful of longer and rarer FLs), only finally converting to the more standard FLF for the last three years of deliveries. All in all this has been a fascinating fleet to research. The photo shows LWC665C, an FLF acquired from Eastern National - which will be the next fleet to be covered! July 30th 2013
Badgerline REs

Badgerline was synonymous with its fleet of REs from the creation of its livery in 1985 to the withdrawn of the final examples in 1995. Many of the fleet had previously been dual-door examples rebuilt to single door in the early 1980s including 1182 (YHU502J) seen here. This had previously been a City vehicle but owes its survival to the simple fact of its transfer to country depots where it ran until 1991 and subsequent use as a mobile home. Several others survive in varying degrees of preservation today, although sadly none of the half-dozen wonderful ECW RELH dual-purpose vehicles made it.

May 30th 2013
Rosssendale

Rossendale Transport was one of those Lancashire municipals on Leyland's doorstep which took a liking to Bristol products but had to dress them up in East Lancs clothing to minimise embarrassment to their (once) mighty neighbours. Showing that the East Lancs product displayed absolutely none of the classic lines of the ECW equivalent is their final RE, JDK914P. If you think this looks bad just take a look at the LHs they bought new! They did operate one ECW-bodied LHS but that was very much the black sheep of the family. SND550X passed for preservation in 1998 after withdrawal but has not been heard of since and any news of this one would be much appreciated.

May 14th 2013
Crosville Lodekkas The latest fleet of Lodekkas to get the full treatment on this website is Crosville which had the largest allocation of all operators from new. It took no fewer than 23 pages to document every Lodekka owned along with numerous subsequent owners, but it was a very interesting task to undertake. A number of livery variants were carried over the years - that carried by EFM634C in the photo above was short-lived between full Tilling colours and the imposition of NBC green in 1973. The bus is still very much in use today as the "Lodekka" dress boutique in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A. April 15th 2013
Pennine Blue of Denton Deregulation of UK bus services in October 1986 caused a host of new operators to try their hand at making money from stage carriage work and many of these found the Bristol RE to be a reliable and cost-effective workhorse and this website stands testament to this phenomenon. It is a matter of regret that this monumental change came too late for the droves of REs that had been withdrawn and scrapped prematurely in the early 1980s because of the dramatic decline in patronage and retrenchment of services across the country. Such was the demand for REs the supply started to dry up and by the early 1990s it was left to a small number of diehard operators to concentrate on the model as the backbone of their fleet. One such operator was Pennine Blue of Denton in South Manchester who ran many different combinations of chassis type (RELL, RESL, RELH) and body type (ECW, East Lancs, Alexander) until the business was sold to P.M.T. (then part of the Badgerline group) whereupon the RE was ousted, mostly replaced by VRs from within the group. Seen here is a classic RE/ECW combination on the short RESL chassis in the shape of former Ribble (via Citybus in Belfast) OCK363K from the prolific camera of Clive Brown. April 15th 2013
Bristol Omnibus Lodekka Continuing my ongoing task to document all 5217 Lodekkas built I have now completed the lists of Bristol Omnibus Lodekkas. Bristol was a prolific operator of the type, operating well in excess of 500 in total including the very first (the prototype LDX) and amongst the last in regular passenger-carrying service with the National Bus Company. No fewer than 108 are list on the Survivor's page, to be found in ever corner of the planet but especially in North America and on Continental Europe where a ready market was found in the late 1970s and early 1980s for "genuine London Transport" double deckers. Erm. Not. January 27th 2013
London Country VR The VR was not exactly successful with London Country! Delivered in 1977, their only batch (of 15) were highbridge-bodied and Leyland-engined - never a particularly popular varient. Allocated to Grays depot in Essex they went almost un-noticed until premature withdrawal in 1980 and sale to Bristol Omnibus who were keen to get their hands on any VRs they could. Despite being non-standard in the fleet they were much more successful in the West Country they all went on to operate for Badgerline and then to a succession of further owners, most notably Western National, East Yorkshire and Crown Coaches (forerunner to the present-day Abus operation). All bar two (PPH473R and PPH474R) received replacement Gardner 6LXB engines during their lives. Nearly all of them survived in use quite late on, but recent events have left only two surviving examples, both in the hands of preservationist Mike Smith in Bristol. Here we see PPH472R, captured by Grahame Wareham at the Eastern Coach Works factory in Lowestoft in May 1977, alongside another unidentified member of the same batch, prior to their delivery run. November 23rd 2012
Hastings & District VR
Although possibly more famous for its very late RE fleet, Hastings & District also had a healthy complement of VRs which was unusual in sporting no fewer than three different fleet liveries concurrently. Two are shown here, both on highbridge ECW bodies inherited from the Maidstone & District fleet when the company was created in 1983. The third livery was a reversed version of the cream and red; I am unclear as to how the version to be applied was chosen - by route operated, garage allocation or some other method, but it represented a welcome period of colourful variety before Stagecoach stripes arrived and whitewashed them all away. August 9th 2012
Rapson of Brora

An interesting operator of VRs was Rapson of Brora in northern Scotland. Their smart livery was applied to several vehicles including this unusual Series 2 MGP226L which was new to the Department of Transport in London. Cliff Essex is thanked for this and a great many other very interesting views.

July 30th 2012
Fok-Lei of Macau Donald Hudson has supplied many fascinating historical views for use on this website and the latest includes this view of Mansfield District/West Riding LD6G SNN77 during its overseas career in the Chinese territory of Macau. The operator was Companhia de Autocarros Fok-Lei (or simply Fok Lei for short) and they had an interesting trio of early LDs which lasted until at least the early 1980s. April 20th 2012
Wilts & Dorset LHs (pre-1972) Prior to 1972 Wilts & Dorset was a separate Tilling company with its own red and cream livery as seen here on LH6L UEL568J photographed by Steve Thoroughgood. They had an interesting selection of early LHs including several rare dual-door examples, all of which passed to Hants & Dorset when the two companies merged in October 1972. This photo was taken in 1975, long after the merger and the LH can be seen to be carrying Hants & Dorset fleetnames alongside the original style of NBC logo. December 6th 2011
Happy Als of Birkenhead Happy Als of Birkenhead operated VRs from 1987 right the way through to 2002. Noted for its colourful liveries the company ran school services in and around Liverpool. It eventually painted its remaining VRs in school bus yellow livery around 1998. Here we see AHW205V in an earlier livery, having been rebuilt after service with Bristol Omnibus, losing its centre door like many of its counterparts in the Happy Als fleet. November 6th 2011
Hulley/Silver Service of Baslow Silver Service was a long-established operator of commercial services in the Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire area which took a liking to the RE in the early 1980s and operated many examples right up to 1993. They also had a batch of Scottish Bus Group FLF Lodekkas and a solitary VR. This photo shows unusual dual-door GVO555K, formerly of East Midlands Motor Services. September 20th 2011
Wilson & Silver Cross of Guiseley A very unusual operator of Bristol LHs was Wilson & Silver Cross of Guiseley, West Yorkshire who ran a fleet of up to 14 LH-based pantechnicon lorries used for deliveries across the country. I have been very lucky to have been sent a number of photos of these fascinating vehicles over the years, most recently by Donald Hudson who has provided a wealth of interesting photos which are slowly being added to this website (the view of HED709N above was supplied by Donald). It seems these lorries mostly had long lives, many of them being the subject of body swaps and some even receiving brand new bodies for new purposes such as UTD163M which is believed to still exist in the Leominster area, indicating that the Bristol-built chassis were highly valued. May 2nd 2011

Peake of Pontypool

Peake ran quite a varied fleet of Bristol single deckers at its...err... peak! Regular viewers might have noticed that starting with the previous operator, Top Deck Travel, I am trying a new format of page layout whereby the user can click to reveal any photos included on the page. I hope that this will make the photos more accessible than the old format whereby they were hidden at the foot of the page without losing any of the clarity of information provided by the lists. I am very interested in your opinion as to the success or otherwise of the new format so do please get in touch. I am very grateful to a number of contributors for helping to illustrate this page - the above photo shows distinctive former Reading Corporation Pennine-bodied RELL6G NDP294G. April 1st 2011

Top Deck Travel

One of my biggest regrets is that I never found either the time (or truth be told the nerve) to take a Top Deck tour from London to Kathmandu (ten weeks overland or thirteen if you did the "India Loop"!). To run this service Top Deck had a legendary fleet of Lodekkas converted into "Decker Homes" which provided sleeping quarters, cooking facilities and, of course, incredibly reliable transport. In this view we see five such conversions side-by-side - quite a common sight around Europe in the 1980s and early 1990s as their tours were extremely popular. It was only the deteriorating political climate and increasing Health & Safety culture of the time which led to the withdrawal of the unique fleet and Top Deck became a "clone" of all the other coach-camping companies, albeit with a fantastically different and pioneering heritage! I am very grateful to Trevor Carroll of the Top Deck Reunion website for his assistance with information and photos. January 21st 2011

Aberdare/Cynon Valley REs

It is always such a pleasure when someone approaches me with comprehensive photographic coverage of an operator. This week it was Alan Jones who has kindly contributed to the Aberdare and Cynon Valley pages. This photo shows LTG40L in the original deep red Aberdare livery - subsequent batches were delivered in a far less attractive shade more akin to NBC poppy red after it had faded! December 30th 2010
Crosville Motor Services RE It has taken the best part of two years to complete, but I have now finished the section on Crosville REs. The last ones added were a set of PTF-L RELHs acquired secondhand from Ribble. If anyone has information about when these were acquired I would be grateful to hear from you, or if you have any other additions/corrections to the lists at rob@robsly.com November 18th 2010
Hartlepool Borough Council RE Hartlepool Borough Transport was by far the most loyal municipal customer for the Bristol RE, buying 58 examples new between 1967 and 1975 in regular small batches. Seen above is an early flat screen example, 58 (JEF658G) which is carrying an overall livery celebrating the centenary of the Borough Council. November 1st 2010
MacEwan Coach Services of Dumfries The latest person to almost single-handedly cover a fleet is Stuart Dobie who has provided a wide variety of photos of the LHs which were operated by MacEwan Coach Services. As ever, if you can fill in any of the gaps I would be delighted to hear from you. August 5th 2010
Red Bus Services of Aylesbeare I was delighted to hear from Richard Holladay recently, proprietor of this enthusiastic Bristol operator in the late 1980s/early 1990s, wondering if I would like photos to complete the photo archive for his fleet. Would I? Not half! You will see that Richard kept comprehensive photographic records which I am pleased to share with you here. June 24th 2010
Crosville RE After taking four months to complete the West Riding VR operator focus (due to the volume of current updates in the world of Bristol buses) I have now moved on to Crosville REs. This gives me a chance to showcase the photographic collection of Graham Senior, already used extensively for Crosville LHs, which includes views of nearly every RE that ever ran for the great company. Above is SRG165 (EFM165H), one of the last flat-screened RELLs. May 24th 2010
West Riding VR

I am continuing to draw on the photos supplied by H John Black of VRs taken in Yorkshire in the 1970s and 1980s. This time it is the turn of West Riding, also incorporating Yorkshire Woollen and Selby & District. This lengthy project is now finished and I will soon be moving on to Crosville REs. Meantime this photo is of TWR462W, one of several similar schemes this VR carried for Appleyard car dealership.

December 26th 2008
Isle of Man Road Services RE Isle of Man Road Services only ever operated four REs, bought new, and they only lasted a couple of years before being returned to the mainland, but they were interesting examples and deserve further scrutiny here. Seen here is Duple-bodied RELH6L 37 (37UMN) seen in Douglas in May 1970 courtesy of the camera of Dave Mant. November 14th 2008
Cheltenham & Gloucester RE When Cheltenham & Gloucester was formed out of the Northern Area of Bristol Omnibus Company in September 1983 a couple of dozen REs remained in service, mostly based at Stroud depot. None lasted beyond 1986, but GHY132K seen here was unique in receiving City of Gloucester blue and white dual-purpose livery in 1984. October 26th 2008
Yorkshire Traction VR I have been lucky to be sent a great many photos of Yorkshire Traction VRs recently by H John Black, so what better than to add them all to the website? This photo shows HWJ932W, one of only two to have carried this version of fleet livery. September 4th 2008
Chicago Motor Coach Company A surprising number of Bristols were operated by Chicago Motor Coach, including some of the rare Standerwick VRL coaches. The VR seen here is Series 2 VRT NUD108L which retains its coach seating carried from new with City of Oxford. I am building out a number of US operator lists at the moment - an index can be found here. August 24th 2008
Midland Red South

No VRs were delivered new to the Midland Red company, but post deregulation all four demerged corners (South, West, North and....err...Fox) operated at least some VRs. Midland Red (South) had a particularly rag-tag collection which were operated in all sorts of liveries, later some receiving Stagecoach stripes following takeover. Here we see recently-rediscovered NHU671R operating a schools service in former Cheltenham/Swindon colours (Photo : Dave Beardmore)

August 6th 2008

Johnson of Hodthorpe

Things have been quiet at Johnsons for quite some time now, but their immaculate fleet of VRs continue to run services for the lucky schoolchildren of the East Midlands. A few have been repainted into their new blue livery (as shown by KKY835P above) and a couple have so far received the new green Redferns livery. I have taken the opportunity to update their page format to the standard operator history layout showing all VRs that have been owned as well as previous owners and photos of all liveries carried. July 18th 2008

Bristol Omnibus Bristol RE

 

Bristol Omnibus amassed the second largest fleet of Bristol RE saloons and coaches in Britain (United Auto had the largest) so listing them all with photos has been a big job (over a number of years). I am now completing this task and would appreciate any contributions to fill in the blanks. The first batch to be completed with all available photos is the famous "THU-G" batch of RESL6Ls, known as the "Thugs". These carried three liveries with Bristol - Tilling green, "OMO" green and cream and NBC green, and many also had an Indian Summer in South Wales, so lots of ground to cover here.

May 31st 2008

Royal Blue Line of British Columbia, Canada

  British Columbia has been home to many Bristol double deckers since the 1970s. You might think that activity would now be winding down, but not a bit of it - Royal Blue Line have recently received two of the fine fleet of flat screen VRs from Gray Line of Vancouver and have now begun repainting them into their smart blue and white livery. The Gray Line franchise in Victoria has also been home to many Lodekkas over the years, although the information for this fleet is incomplete and I would be very grateful for any additional vehicle details, dates or photos for this operator or its predecessor, Marguerite Line. May 16th 2008

Wilts & Dorset VR

 

In recognition of the impending end of VR operation by Wilts & Dorset I am putting together a history page for all 102 VRs owned by this operator since it was created in April 1983 by the separation of Hants & Dorset into four units. All of those remaining in service into 2008 were current then, precisely a quarter of a century ago!! The lists of Series 2 VRs, Early Series 3 VRs, Late Series 3 and Secondhand are now complete with all photos and information to hand - all additional contributions are very welcome.

April 30th 2008

Crosville LH

 

Crosville took delivery of all sorts of LHs from new as well as a selection of secondhand examples. Particular thanks go to Graham Senior for his help in providing extensive coverage of this fleet.

March 3rd 2008

Widnes Corporation

  Widnes is another municipal which operated a number of East Lancs bodied REs this time becoming Halton Borough in 1974 who also went on to buy further new REs, including the very last RELL chassis for mainland Britain (MCK213P). February 14th 2008

Accrington Corporation

 

Accrington operated a number of East Lancs bodied REs before becoming Hyndburn Borough in 1974 who went on to buy further new REs. I do not intend to describe the operators further here - Peter Gould does that much better than I could ever do on his website at http://www.petergould.co.uk/local_transport_history/index.html - but do take a look and get in touch if you can add any details and/or photos. I will maintain an Operator Focus Archive page here.

February 5th 2008

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