Bristol Commercial Vehicles Enthusiasts

PHOTO OF THE MONTH - ARCHIVE

Last Updated : June 11th 2017 (SWC24K added)


SWC24K in 2010 SWC24K seen in happier times, just after repaint by Dreadnought Coaches following its acquisition from Wootton's Coaches of Chesham in 2010. I am using this photo again in tribute to Paul Gilroy, Dreadnought's proprietor, who sadly died aged 57 this week. The RE which is currently in my care suffered a seized Leyland 680 engine while in service with Mendip Mule last summer (I am still looking for a replacement unit if anyone has any leads?) but this sad news encourages me to redouble my efforts to return the bus to its former glory (Photo : Paul Fuller). May 8th 2017
266SFM in 2017 Following on from the last Photo of the Month another Caribbean Lodekka is former Crosville DFB53 (266SFM) which is on the tiny island of Aruba off the Florida coast. It is in use as a boutique for "Spicy Threads" selling men's and women's fashion. This one remained unidentified for quite some time before being visited twice by enthusiasts in the last year, most recently by prolific UK bus tracker Paul Bateson (and also editor of British Buses Abroad magazine) to whom I am grateful for this photo. April 2nd 2017
Lodekkas in St Lucia in 1979 A long-standing mystery has been the identity of some early Lodekkas that were converted to a very unusual "toast rack" open-sided configuration for use on the Caribbean island of St Lucia for hotel transfer work in the early 1970s. John Scragg visited  the island in June 1979 where the vehicles were still hard at work. Unfortunately their ids were not recorded, so still remain a mystery, but the photo above shows all four together at the garage. I would be delighted to hear from anybody who can shed light on the identity of these LDs. More information and photos can be found here. December 29th 2016
TNH864R in 2016 Former United Counties 864 (TNH864R) has been in South Africa since 1996 when it was converted for use as a mobile classroom in Pretoria. In recent years it has been owned by Nic Nel in Cathcart towards the south east of the country. He has slowly converted it into a shop which he drives every day and tells me it "runs like a dream" which is great to hear! September 30th 2016
AAX21B in Moscow In an amazing co-incidence two ex-Red & White FS-type Lodekkas from the same batch turned up this week completely independently, one in Switzerland (AAX24B) and the one seen here (AAX21B) in Moscow with an impressive structure behind it. August 4th 2016
Movil Bus fleet 2014 This juicy line-up of ten Bristol Lodekkas was taken in 2014 by Movil Bus of Vigo, Spain. The six nearest the camera retain their roofs while the furthest four are all open-toppers. There is a strong presence of ex-Top Deck Travel vehicles here with at least six of them having been acquired directly from them in th 1990s. Two of the FLFs are unidentified and could possibly have come from the same source - if anyone knows any more about them I would be really grateful to hear from you. June 29th 2016
LMW915 in 2015LMW915 in 2015
Bristol double deckers continue to criss-cross the North American continent as new owners find new uses for these amazing workhorses. Many such stories are reported here. A recent example is former Wilts & Dorset/Hants & Dorset LMW915 which has ended its long rest in Ontario, Canada and made the journey all the way west to Fort McMurray in Alberta in November 2015 where we hope it escaped theis year's horrendous forest fires. This bus has had a long and varied history already, but its new owner Nigel Clydsdale hopes to restore it to running order for onward transit to.... Australia! A lot of work will be required as it has sat outside for a very long time indeed, but if anything can be brought back to life like this it is a classic 1950s LD! We wish Nigel good luck with his venture. May 29th 2016
JHW61E in 1988
Jonathan Walton was kind enough to send me this photo of a Lodekka use of which I had no previous knowledge. It shows former Bristol Omnibus FLF6B (re-engined with a Gardner 6LW in 1975) JHW61E with P & D Training of Plymouth in April 1988. This had previously been used for several years by the well-known operator Dack (Rosemary Coaches) of Terrington St Clement in Norfolk and had passed to Norths (dealer) in 1987. I had thought that this was the end of the story, but a quick check of the DVLA website shows that it was in fact licensed right up to October 1993. Presumably it was then scrapped (there is no "export" marker on the DVLA record) but perhaps it escaped again? March 4th 2016
NTW944C in Montagnac in 2003 One of the advantages of having a database of Bristol buses is that I can turn to it when a photo comes in of an unknown vehicle and its identity can be narrowed down. Such was the case with this photo on Flickr of a Lodekka in the French town of Montagnac taken in June 2003. Paul Harrison spotted it, recognising it as a former Eastern National FLF from certain identifying features (destination/route number layout and window ventilator pattern) and kindly sent me the link. The CBC radiators (either side of the destination blinds) and the beading for the upper cream band further narrow down the candidates. Finally the French registration (6603-SJ-34) indicate that it was registered locally in 1982 in the Herault departement. All of this information leads to the conclusion that it can only be former 2851 (NTW944C), exported in 1981 and unreported since then. It would be great if anybody can identify the exact location and check whether or not the bus is still there. It seems unlikely after a further 13 years, but you never know! January 11th 2016
CUT730K in 2015CUT730K in 2015 A fantastic survivor has come to light in Germany in the shape of Duple-bodied LH6L car transporter CUT730K. It is unusual in having been built to this specification rather than being a conversion later in life. It is incredibly well cared for, although the reason the owner has been in touch was because of some accident damage which needs fixing. Hopefully it will be back on the road again before too long. October 14th 2015
WTU494W in 2015 Travlon Coachlines of Christchurch, New Zealand have recently placed WTU494W in service with this radical change to the front end styling, including a Volvo grille! It had spent many years operating the City Tour in Dunedin but since 2009 had been a static caravan at Waitati, so this refurbishment and return to service really is most welcome. Thanks to Anthony Holladay for the continued supply of news and photos from New Zealand and to Dylan Roberts for taking this photo. August 9th 2015
Glastonbury 2015 Glastonbury has been one of the best places to view VRs doing a full day's work for several years now, and the 2015 festival didn't disappoint! All twelve of Chepstow Classic's active VRs are seen here, including very rare Leyland-engined JMB401T, and on the end is the odd thirteenth - AYG941H - which performed its usual role as driver's mess room. Thanks to Alfone deux Chevaux for snapping this line up and a full list of the VRs in use can be seen here. June 30th 2015
BRX142B in 2014 While the last Photo of the Month showed a Lodekka returning home, plenty of others continue in use in America and elsewhere around the World. A very welcome article appeared on the Internet back in May 2014, recently spotted by Southern Vectis fan John Haines, which shows that former Thames Valley (later converted to open-top by Southern Vectis) BRX142B continues in use in Arizona having last been reported previously in 1999. May 10th 2015
534VRB in 2015534VRB in 2015
Great news is that 534VRB has been repatriated from Canada almost 36 years after it was originally exported. The full story can be read here. These photos from Richard Waterhouse show the FLF as a small dot ahead of the container ship as it is driven off at Southampton, and then as it is hooked up to the recovery vehicle for the - relatively - short trip up to Derbyshire and its permanent home. April 18th 2015
NHU670R in 2014NHU670R in 2014
I am always pleased when a former Cheltenham District vehicle turns up, especially when it is so obviously well cared for as 5087 (NHU670R) which is owned by John Bowden and Marleen Schelvis in Bristol. It has been converted to a high standard as a mobile home. The door on the offside upper deck leads out onto a trailer which is usually parked alongside the VR during trips. February 25th 2015
ORU534M in preservation Is this the strangest double deck Bristol you've ever seen? Well, no it isn't - in fact it is ex-Hants & Dorset LH ORU532M which was converted for use as a tree lopper by the company way back in 1982 and was used as such for many years until it was saved for preservation. The stairs to the new top deck can be seen through the back window. The red roof is of course from the convertible VR parked next to it which is in fact UFX858S. Many thanks to Peter Cook for taking the photo. November 25th 2014

XDV605S in TulsaXDV605S in Tulsa

There is a very interesting new operation in the city of Tulsa in Oklahoma, U.S.A. called Cheyenne Bus Company which operates two VRs which previously ran for Classic Auto Limousine Service in Minneapolis. Both have been extensively refurbished internally and externally at great expense and have also been fitted with air conditioning "pods" attached to their rear ends! The first is former Burnley & Pendle FFR174S - identified by the larger-than-normal front destination aperture - which is in an unusual green livery. The other one is in red and white livery and solves a long-standing mystery around the identity of a former Western National VR in Minneapolis. It is in fact XDV605S - the confusion around its identity arose from the fact that the UK nearside door which was removed by Bristol Bus & Coach prior to export has actually been reinstated during its time in the U.S.A.! September 24th 2014

866NHT in August 2014

Exiles from the Dreadnought Coaches fleet have been finding new homes, but none more welcome than convertible XSL228A (ex-866NHT) which has been acquired by East Yorkshire for use on seafront services in summer and private hire all year round (with roof fitted for winter working). It replaced an open-top Routemaster due to the flexibility of its layout. Just this week it has been repainted in this highly attractive livery and has received fleet number 645 - I am very grateful to Neil Wise for getting the first photo of it to me and I am happy to feature it here. August 31st 2014

BEP978V in 2014

It is always great to be able to report a newly-restored vehicle, even more so on a personal level when it is another Leyland 501-engined VR like my own JOU161P. Owners John Adams and David Bemmer have been ably supported by members of the Swansea Bus Museum in returning former South Wales/First Cymru 978 (BEP978V) to its post-deregulation condition. As can be seen in this photo they have done a fine job. July 30th 2014

418PTA in the mountains418PTA under tow418PTA in 2014

Steve Walker was minding his own business earlier this year walking through the mountains above his home town of Brinnon, Washington state, when he came across none other than former Western National 2038 (418PTA) mouldering away in a clearing in the woods. It had formerly been part of the Gray Line operation on the island of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada but disappeared in 1994 when its sightseeing services were wound up. Now we know where it disappeared to - it has been in this remote location all that time, used initially as living accommodation but abandoned since at least 1997. Steve simply couldn't leave the Lodekka to rot away until it collapsed into a heap, so he arranged to buy the bus and the photos above show the recovery effort and finally 2038 sitting back on the highway once again, where it rightfully belongs. There are no firm plans just yet for what to do with it, but great news is that 2038 lives to fight another day! May 17th 2014

KHW306E in May 2009

I just had to use this view of two preserved Cheltenham District/Bristol Omnibus RELLs from my youth - 1000 (KHW306E on the left) and 1003 (KHW309E) taken in Cheltenham by Dave Russell & Deric Pemberton on the site of the old Black & White coach station in May 2009. I travelled to school on both of these during the period 1979 to 1981 and have very clear recollection of a final journey on 1003 with its depot allocation plates already removed. Little did I know that I would still be able to ride on both more than 30 years later. 1000 is resident at Wythall (where it has been since withdrawal in 1981) and has been rebuilt to its original single door configuration, while 1003 is currently undergoing major rebuild having had many preservationist owners and liveries also since its 1981 withdrawal. It retains the centre door fitted at the ECW factory in 1969. April 16th 2014

PPH471R

Viv Carter took this view of brand new London Country BT11 (PPH471R) outside the Eastern Coach Works factory in Lowestoft in 1977. Highbridge (14'6'') VRs fitted with Leyland O501 engines did not have a particularly long life expectancy, but this one led a long and productive service life and ultimately retirement in preservation. Admittedly this did involve the transplant of a Gardner 6LXB engine whilst with Bristol Omnibus, but it remained a popular vehicle for the whole of its 21-year stint on the streets of Bristol. Owned by local Abus driver Mike Smith since 2001, BT11 is now receiving attention with a view to returning it to the road. March 19th 2014

Always having a nose for an ex-Eastern National bus, Paul Harrison has found this photo of AVW398F online. It is in Germany as it has been for many years now, but changed hands in 2011 and is owned by the Krefeld horseracing course. I chose this view for two reasons - first because it shows one of the One-Man-Operation conversions in which the driver could swivel around to deal with passengers without the need for a conductor (note the illuminated sign next to the entrance), and secondly because it gives me a chance to recommend the On The Buses fan website. Although this FLF is not thought to have featured in the series, sister bus AVW399F was a regular (and also still exists somewhere on the Continent). January 8th 2014
Craig Schofield took this photo today at the Lincolnshire Vintage Vehicle Society gathering showing the only two fully restored surviving Alexander Y-type bodied REs in existence! They could hardly be two more different REs apart from their body manufacturer - EWS168D is a motorway coach Series 1 RELH (with stick shift) which spent its career with Eastern Scottish pounding between Scotland and London while UVL873M pootled around town with Lincoln City Transport for many years! I think that fans of this website will agree that they make a fine sight together. November 3rd 2013
Former South Wales/Western National VR VTH942T has made its debut in this scheme, instantly recognisable to enthusiasts as Western National's privatisation livery carried by many VRs in the late 1980s. It is a particularly welcome addition to the ranks of preserved VR liveries and its owner Mike Kidwell is to be congratulated. The photo was taken today by Neil Jones. September 9th 2013
Phil Sposito is better known for his drawings which adorned the front of the Bristol Passenger magazine for several decades, but he took this photo a few years ago of former Western National 2103 (EDV515D) which now resides inside Sidelines Bar & Grill in Marietta, Georgia, U.S.A. It forms the centrepiece of the restaurant and has seating inside for diners. Sadly the engine and transmission have gone, but at least it continues to carry "passengers" of a sort! June 27th 2013

It isn't very often that a VR believed to have been long since scrapped is featured on here, but that is the case with ex-East Midlands 134 (JNU134N) which was last reported withdrawn by Marshall of Baillieston in Scotland in 1996 but which is now happily sunning itself in Spain on the island of Tenerife at the Playa de las Americas. The bus was discovered by Ben Fosker (former proprietor of The Running Footman) and from enquiries it seems the bus may have been used as a playbus in the U.K. prior to shipping to Spain - if anyone has any further details do please let me know. It was unusual in remaining with East Midlands in the early 1980s when all the rest of the batch was cascaded to other NBC fleets (Bristol Omnibus and West Yorkshire). May 14th 2013
A beautiful repaint is of Stagecoach East heritage FLF453 (JAH553D) in an approximation of its original livery when it was new to Eastern Counties in 1966. The vehicle rather incongruously has legal lettering for United Counties Omnibus Company Ltd. and is to be involved in the centenary celebrations for that operator. Many thanks to David Pike for his involvement and for giving kind permission for the reproduction of his photo here. March 16th 2013
MCW-bodied VRs are a rare breed indeed in 2013, but in the early years of privatisation and deregulation of the industry many of the 200 delivered new to West Midlands P.T.E. became spread far and wide as they found new owners. One such quartet found their way to the Isle of Wight for use by long-established operator Island Travel of Newport. Sadly though, like many other small independents, their expansion into commercial services ended in the firm going bust and operations closing down in June 1987. One of the VRs (NOB418M) was lost earlier that year in a head-on collsion, but the remaining trio found their way back onto the mainland to run for Maybury's of Cranbourne. Here we see NOB417M on Westover Street, Bournemouth, running a service to Turlin Moor (a destination also served by Badger Vectis). The livery is interesting, being the aquamarine and silver of Island Travel, but bearing a striking similarity to Ensign of Purfleet's livery - coincidentally the dealer who repainted them in the first place! Just visible behind is one of Wilts & Dorset's ex-London DMS Fleetlines, making this a pair of unusual buses for the South Coast. Thanks to Paul Webber for supplying the photograph. February 2nd 2013
As we approach and enter 2013 it is an inescapable fact that the operational days of the VR are past and that in terms of news this website is now mainly occupied with vehicles still in use overseas or in non-PCV use here in the UK. I personally find these later-in-life uses fascinating and as long as a good cross-section of VRs are safe in preservation and restoration I don't mind seeing vehicles cut about and modified to prolong their existence. One such example is KTL28V, seen here in 2008 with the most amazing window conversions (the Bristol Interest Circle Windows Sub-Committee will not have come across this particular configuration before). It was used as a static home and presumably the changes were an attempt to reduce the heat loss in winter. Clearly this was unsuccessful as KTL's luck ran out the following year and it was scrapped in this very spot (as can be seen from its history page). Thanks are due to regular correspondent Traveller Dave for this view - his website Traveller Homes is an absolute must for Bristol fans with a number of absolutely gold-plated views on there. December 26th 2012
Philadelphia is currently home to the second-largest fleet of VRs used in regular passenger service anywhere in the World in the shape of the Big Bus operation there. They were not, however, the first VRs in that city - that honour went to former South Wales 952 (WTH952T) which received funding at the Thomas Jefferson University for conversion to a mobile exhibition unit to raise awareness of the threat of asthma. As a rare Leyland 501-engined VR to make it over to North America I can imagine that cases of asthma rose dramatically with the plumes of smoke that engine will have made on starting up! And I should know! November 13th 2012
This is an interesting view from Mark Pitman's fantastic photographic collection. It shows Series 2 flat front ex-Southdown 522 (WCD522K) with Paul Burton Coaches of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk in an extavagant livery. It carries registration 5227DD and went on to run for one of the first generation of London sightseeing operators, London Tour of Colney Heath. The registration was later transferred to an MCW Metroliner which ended up with New York Apple Tours alongside many VRs. If anyone has a photo of 522 in London or can fill in the details of its early career after leaving Southdown I would be very pleased to hear from you. September 11th 2012

When Doctor Who featured a flying VR I thought there was no chance that there would ever be a higher-profile Bristol vehicle on our TV screens - but now I think I was wrong! Take a close look at the strangest bus conversion you have ever seen on this LD Lodekka (you can click the thumbnails above to get full-size high resolution views). It was spotted in Essex yesterday by Ian Hardie being unloaded from a Czech lowloader and is rumoured to be due to play an important part in next week's Olympic Opening Ceremony extravaganza. Certainly you cannot imagine anyone going to the sort of time and trouble that has gone into this conversion for any other reason (plus look at the rear destination blinds). Everything is speculation at this stage, but it looks like it has been converted to be some sort of enormous blower with huge vents on both sides and one can only imagine what part this prop might play in the show! Very exciting as far as I am concerned! ***Update - a report is on Sky News showing the true nature of this conversion here. It is former Southern Vectis 555 (ODL15) and does push ups! Some people will no doubt be up in arms about the bus being butchered, but I think it is a marvellous piece of art and I am so pleased that it proudly displays a Bristol scroll badge on the front - I'm not sure what the 1950s engineers at BCV would have made of it though.....***
**Cue massive complaints from our London Transport enthusiast friends about it not being a "real" London bus**
21st July 2012
OCD771G is an amazingly long-lived flat-screen Series 1 VR which has continued to work in revenue-earning service throughout its 43 years. Seen here welcoming cruise liners working for Horizon Coach Lines on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada it has received yet another new livery to go with the many it has carried previously. It was neatly converted to offside entrance by Gray Line in Vancouver and was one of a quartet of similar vehicles operated by them for 15 years - all still survive but not all are currently operational. This picture is courtesy of Paul Bateson who has been a great friend of this website over the years, providing much of the material carried from Canada and North America. June 4th 2012

Fans of Eastern National are very fortunate to have such good representation of the fleet in preservation and the very active Castle Point Museum at Canvey Island. The company is very unusual in having a number of surviving "firsts" and "lasts", mostly down to the efforts of Paul Harrison over the years. Paul has the last Lodekka (beautifully restored FLF coach AVX975G) and is also safely storing the last VR (XHK234X). He also saved a favourite of mine - the very first ENOC VR, 3000 (CPU979G) - which is seen here in the first photo through the camera of Chris Stewart last weekend at a very well-organised running day based on the 251 service between Southend and Wood Green in London. The VR was new in a special livery for these interurban services but currently carries standard NBC green with Eastern National fleetnames in the care of the Blackwater Preservation Group. It is showing off its rear "inverted T" destination and number blinds very well in this view. I am quite partial to a rear blind having reinstated the aperture at the rear of my own VR (JOU161P) during its 2008 restoration as captured in the second photo by Peter Cook at the 2010 Harbourside rally in Bristol. These blinds on 5031 were never used in service however, having been panelled over soon after delivery to Cheltenham District. I wonder how many other VRs actually feature blinds at the rear these days? May 2nd 2012
It isn't often that I receive a photo of an operator of VRs that I have never seen before, but Chris Finch sent me this view of GUD749N, new to City of Oxford, later cascaded to Western National, and the only VR run by Alan Smith & Son Coaches of Market Harborough which they owned for a number of years in the late 1990s. It is smartly turned out and is notable for having non-standard indicators on the front dash. I am always very grateful for historical photo contributions to this website and would like to take this chance to thank the very many different people who continue to provide new material for publication towards the ultimate aim stated above under "Mission Statement". April 7th 2012
Views from the Eastern Coach Works factory in Lowestoft are always interesting in themselves, but this photo taken by David Allen is particularly fascinating because it shows a VR on the production line surrounded by green and red Leyland Olympians. In fact the photo was taken during a visit in 1983 and shows South Wales 959 (WTH959T) which was completely rebuilt after the original body was severely fire damaged. Of particular note are the larger Widney-style vents (very rare on a T-reg VR) and the Transign electronic destination equipment which was terribly fragile and proved so unreliable that conventional roller blinds were once again fitted in June 1990. February 4th 2012

Some 20 years ago West Sussex County Council ran a fleet of REs and VRs on some of their non-commercial routes rather than tendering them out to other operators. On researching the fleet I was surprised to discover that they owned no fewer than 19 very varied REs (RELLs, RELHs with both bus and coach shell bodies and a RESL) as well as four VRs. Representing the ECW coach body in this view is YCH891M while the bus-bodied RELL is LRC347K. The photo is from Paul Green's excellent Flickr site.

January 13th 2012
Two reports from New Zealand have reached my inbox just this weekend about VRs still very much in service at either end of that country. Former Eastern Counties OPW183P continues to operate the Dunedin City Tour in the far south, whilst here we see former Trent WRC832S which has recently received the very bright Auckland Explorer fleet livery for the first time in its lengthy career there. Note that it has been fitted with a wheelchair lift at the front (I hope drivers are careful not to ground it!) and the owner is known to want to hang on to this VR for the long term. Mike Cornwall is thanked for sending this view. For the first time you can now click on the image above to view the full size image - I will do this for every Photo of the Month feature from now on - look out for further clickable images across this website in future. December 5th 2011

Former Southern National/Western National LD6B 1902 (TUO503) has claimed the record for the longest period for a Lodekka to go unreported before showing up somewhere around the World! It was reported to have been sold to an owner in Linz, Austria in May 1977 with no subsequent sightings to the best of my knowledge. The great news is that it passed to Wolfram Niedermayer (still within five miles of Linz!) in January 2011 (in the silver livery shown above) and he has now turned it into a rather smart party bus (also seen above in its new black and red livery). Not only has Wolfram supplied the photos, but he has also supplied a comprehensive history of the bus during the intervening 34 years! November 15th 2011
Great news is that at least one LH is still being used commercially on the island of Malta. Pictured here it is former Hants & Dorset GLJ482N which spent roughly 25 years pounding the streets of neighbouring island Gozo before being bought by Peppin Garage on Malta in July of this year. It is fitting that this should be one of the survivors of the great bus cull on Malta this summer as it underwent complete renovation between 2005 and 2008 and must be one of the soundest LHs anywhere. This photo was posted to Facebook earlier today by Michael Clarkson. November 2nd 2011
Grahame Wareham has been posting gem after gem on his Flickr photostream and I am very happy to recommend it to my viewers here. This particular view was taken in Oxford in July 1972 and shows Bristol Omnibus RELL 1012 (LAE347E) in One Man Operated livery having just arrived on service 466 from Swindon. September 21st 2011
Every now and again a real gem of a photo turns up and this one most certainly qualifies. Thanks to the foresight of Viv Carter (owner and proprietor of Carters Coach Services in Essex and long-standing fan of Bristol vehicles) in taking a camera loaded with colour film along to the Eastern Coach Works factory in Lowestoft, we see here GLJ748D fresh off the production line and being prepared for delivery to its new owner Hants & Dorset Motor Services. The attention to detail which was a hallmark of ECW can be seen here with even the chrome grille surround and badges still masked by paper to keep them in pristine condition. Another unidentified green Lodekka can also be seen in the foreground whilst a chassis lurks in the background, probably newly delivered from the Brislington factory. What a fantastically evocative sight, made all the more wonderful by the fact that this FLF remains in preservation to this day with David Sheppard whose son (also called David) was moved almost to tears to see what he termed this "dream" photo of the vehicle which has been part of his family since 1989 (when he was only seven years old!). August 5th 2011
At the start of 2011 no fewer than sixteen Bristol LHs in various states of rebuilding remained in every day service on the island of Malta, some 15 years after the last major LH operation finished in the UK (Trimdon/Tyne & Wear/Busways) - and that was more than a decade after the majority of LHs finished their service lives with the major operators. All good things come to an end though, and July 2nd will mark the last day in service for not just the LHs but the amazingly wide variety of traditional buses running on the island. Of course this website will be closely following the fate of the LHs and two have already been prepared for their new roles, although sadly they are expected to be destroyed during the filming of Brad Pitt's new "zombie" movie World War Z which is currently filming on the island. Seen here, thanks to the camera of David Smith, is NFJ596M which has been dressed to look desert-worn, while the other (OCA635P) has been left clean which suggests the pair are to take a significant role in the film. June 28th 2011
Captured here is the very moment when the UK once again became host to a United Automobile Lodekka, having been devoid of the marque for some years. Former L263 (THN263F) has been repatriated from Belgium and arrived at Teesport on Friday having travelled via Zeebrugge. It is owned by the North East Bus Preservation Trust and is now safely tucked away in storage near Gateshead for eventual restoration. Thanks to Keith Lee for the latest news and photographic coverage. May 15th 2011
Now that the rally season is upon us I was only too happy to oblige Jason Rayner's suggestion that I use this lovely study of his Southern Vectis LHS 202 (KDL202W) on here. It is being closely followed by Western National 1563 (FDV793V) which provides quite a contrast with the otherwise mostly green scene. I plan to be at the Bristol Harbourside rally with JOU161P on May 22nd - do feel free to come up and say hi or come along for a ride on one of the free services we'll be providing. May 4th 2011
Whilst searching for a different bus on the Internet I came across this photo of a VR in Holland in an unusual combination of overall white livery with London Transport fleetnames. Close inspection shows this to be none other than former Cheltenham District/Bristol Omnibus 5087 (NHU671R), one of the seven dual-door VRs that used to take me to school in the early 1980s. Of these no fewer than five survive, the others being JOU160P, JOU161P, LEU269P and NHU670R - not a bad result for my favourite set of VRs! March 21st 2011
The Stroud Carol Bus was a local institution for a great many years and raised some serious money for charity. I believe it was initially operated by a KSW, but duties were taken over by this former Bristol city-based FLF C7246 (FHU59D). It was converted for use in 1984 and lasted until 1997, passing into preservation. It has now been fully restored and is a regular at Bristol-based rallies and running days. I am grateful to Rob Arkell for posting this excellent view on this website's associated Facebook page. January 9th 2011
One of the most enjoyable parts of this hobby for me is when a vehicle turns up - usually a Lodekka in a far-flung corner of the World - and there is just a picture from which we need to identify the bus. Surprisingly this is possible more often than you might think, because operators in the 1950s and 1960s specified very many detail differences which were changed from one year to the next, so it is often possible to narrow a bus down to a relatively small batch. That's where my records come in because from a number of sources - and I publicly acknowledge the PSV Circle as a major contributor in the early years - I have built up a huge database of the last known whereabouts of a great many Bristols both in the UK and around the World. It is this combination which has allowed us to identify the FS pictured above in Vienna, Austria earlier this year which first came to our attention through David Beilby on the Ceased Bus Operators Google Group (which is highly recommended). Chris Stewart used his powers of deduction as follows - it is definitely a 1960-1962 FS; the format of the window vents point us towards either Midland General/Mansfield District or Hants & Dorset/Wilts & Dorset; the former operators did not have the beading for the upper Tilling cream band on their FSs, so it has to either H&D or W&D (despite the Vienna Lodekka not having the windscreen "visor" usually associated with Lodekkas from those operators). Wilts & Dorset FSs of this period had cream window rubbers whereas this one has black, plus Hants & Dorset had a few FSs with this type of powered rear door (as opposed to the hand-operated version). This narrows it right down to the 4380-7LJ batch and - sure enough - my database reveals that 4384LJ was exported in 1994 to Der Blickfang, a German dealer who sold many Lodekkas throughout Germany, Switzerland and Austria for a wide variety of uses. The final piece of the jigsaw comes with a photo of 4384LJ as a driver trainer with Western National which shows it to have had the windscreen visor removed during its time in this role. As can be seen from the "unidentified" photos on this website's Facebook page it can be a lot harder to perform this trick with VRs following the immense standardisation thrust upon operators during the NBC period of the 1970s. November 9th 2010
Matt Reynolds has had his Hants & Dorset/Wilts & Dorset VR 3455 (KRU855W) renovated and repainted in this facsimile of the overall advertising livery carried by 3437 (GEL687V) for Goadsby & Harding Estate Agents during its service days. The lettering applied is for Matt's employers, QBE Insurance who have sponsored some of the work. 3437 was known as "The Hearse" during its time in this livery and Matt likes 3455 to be known as "The Hearse Rides Again"! He is very keen to hear your feedback on this restoration so if you do have any comments for him please feel free to send them, via me at rob@robsly.com September 7th 2010
I came across a very relevant photo collection on Flickr called The Bristol VR Bus recently which sees a great many interesting VR photos gathered together in one large album. In there was this view of City of Oxford/South Midland 603 (NUD103L) taken in September 1986 having just been outshopped in this experimental fleet livery. Perhaps not surprisingly it remained a one-off, although I personally find it not unattractive. I am grateful to Steve Vallance for permission to use his photo. This batch of VRs was of particular interest being both ultra low height (13'5'') and coach seated, often being seen on the London service where no doubt their capacity was appreciated. I have received several updates from Dave Clements recently as his painstaking restoration of NUD105L continues. July 29th 2010
I couldn't resist this one - and I promise there is no photo trickery going on here! This is former Hants & Dorset RELL6G RLJ347H which was converted for use as a mobile home after sale by Provincial. It was fitted with an empty Leyland National air conditioning pod in order to increase the ceiling height so that a motorcycle could be accommodated underneath the rear bed platform. Very grateful thanks to Traveller Dave for this and a great many other photos of Bristols in use as mobile homes - his website is highly recommended June 22nd 2010
SWC24K in 2010

Dreadnought Coaches of Alnwick have just repainted their RELL6L former Colchester Borough Corporation 24 (SWC24K) in fleet colours to join their excellent fleet of Lodekkas and other classic vehicles. Many thanks to Phil Logie for this view, the first to reach me.

June 12th 2010
Here's something I didn't expect to see in 2010 - a Willowbrook-bodied VR beginning a new career having had a small fortune spent on it! Java Dawg of Sarasota, Florida, U.S.A. acquired former East Kent 7988 (TFN988T) in late 2008 and converted it as a mobile coffee shop with its maiden outing in August 2009. It is now a regular at events in and around South West Florida. May 11th 2010

Most unexpectedly Arriva's very last VR has been repainted into a new open-top scheme for the 2010 season - and very smart it looks too! YMB512W is a remarkable survivor and looks set to enjoy at least one more summer in North Wales. Many thanks to Richard Hughes for sending these great photos. March 28th 2010
This photo taken by James Denny yesterday captures the moment that HJB455W leaves the BBC Wales storage unit under suspended tow for the long journey to Suffolk and a new life in preservation with James. He has also acquired the other VR, GGM84W, which will be rescued later for spares usage. Both VRs were used during the filming of the Doctor Who episode Planet of the Dead last year which also featured the only flying VR, RUA461W which ended up in the desert in Dubai. February 16th 2010
This flat-front VR has been a mystery to me for many years, having been used in Denmark since at least the mid 1990s extolling the virtues of various brands of condom. I am therefore very grateful to Mick Bruce for this 2001 view which clearly identifies it as an early Series 1 (G or H suffix registration). Julian Patterson (of Konectbus fame) knows his VRs and reckons Lincolnshire Road Car modified the front cowl on a few of theirs as shown in the photo, as well as the slight modification to the rear offside engine grille, and we are pretty certain this is 1901 (JFE537G) which was exported in 1985 - reportedly to the USA but perhaps it went to Denmark instead.....in fact Julian has bet me a tenner and that's good enough for me!! December 26th 2009

I am always delighted to hear from fellow preservationists about the progress (or indeed lack of progress) on their VRs. Dave Clements bought this ultra-lowheight coach-seated ex-City of Oxford Series 2 (NUD105L) around the same time as I bought my own VR and their restorations progressed at about the same speed for the first decade! Dave has recently completed the major mechanical work and washed off ten years of accumulated grime from the bodywork. The result is a tidy bus which drives nicely around the yard. It will be a pleasure to see this rare example back on the road in due course.

November 23rd 2009


These views of the very last FLF (numerically) restored to its original condition as a coach have been twenty years in the making. Paul Harrison has now completed the extensive rebuild of former Eastern National 2614 (AVX975G) and it made its debut on a run to London Victoria on September 26th, then at Duxford for Showbus the following day.  September 27th 2009

This shot from Ray Smith's Flickr collection is of interest because I didn't know that any of Ensign's VRs had been withdrawn with accident damage. These vehicles were used on London Transport contracted services in the late 1980s/early 1990s and Ross Newman recalls this one having its smash at Uxbridge. Some sleuthing has revealed its identity as former City of Oxford 473 (CJO473R)

September 17th 2009
Glyn Buttery is never short of a photo or two of PMT REs, but this one really caught my eye, showing as it does the two ex-Bristol Omnibus RELLs which lasted long enough with PMT in the mid-1980s to receive red livery. On the right is 175 (OHW535F) whilst on the left is 173 (OHU766F) which even lasted long enough to receive their post-deregulation yellow and red livery. Both were finally sold for scrap in 1988 after enjoying a most unlikely Indian Summer. August 17th 2009
As Neil Walding (whose son Dan took this lovely photo) asks: was this taken in 1969 or 2009? Well, the answer is that it was taken this Sunday (June 28th 2009) at Minchinhampton during the excellent Stroud Running Day. All three subjects are early curved-screen REs - the two green ones being Southern Vectis sisters 808 and 810, while the Royal Blue coach is actually the oldest surviving RE of all, Steve Graham's RELH6G 837SUO (July 3rd update - actually the second oldest - I was forgetting 375GWN - thanks Carl for reminding me - do visit his website here) (July 26th update - it's now the third oldest - Nigel Adams points out that United Counties ABD252B was built earlier too - and this is currently for sale). Sadly my VR (JOU161P) was not present as it is currently off the road with a defective windscreen wiper, but I personally sampled Bristol KSW 8336 and the excellent open-top FLF KPM91E which was much appreciated on what was a very hot and sunny day. July 28th 2009
This month sees former East Midlands 216 (KWA216W) captured by the camera of Stephen Cho in the rain of Auckland, New Zealand. It is operated by Party Bus Company, who also run scheduled services as PBC. It carries the name "Purple Lightning 108" as its fleet designation/number. June 30th 2009
Photos of the VRLs that were sold new to South African municipalities (Johannesburg and Pretoria) are few and far between, so when a lovely colour view like this comes to light it is an easy choice for this feature! The subject is Johannesburg 326 (TJ-279-826) carrying maroon and cream fleet livery in July 1971 and I am grateful to Julian Osborne for sending it. These wonderful monsters seated 85, but sadly it is very unlikely that any saw more than just a few years in service before being scrapped. May 23rd 2009

This photo is a celebration of survival. Last night, at their storage depot in Dorset, James Pratt's VR 1215 (LFJ862W) and Terry Bennett's 1159 (AFJ766T) had a lucky escape when they were driven out of a fire, stared by arsonists, which would surely have destroyed them and two other vehicles had it not been for the swift action of the fire brigade. 1159 was undamaged, whilst 1215 has superficial damage to its paintwork as shown and will hopefully be out and about again this summer. Thanks to Robin Woodcock for supplying the photo.

March 28th 2009

Regular viewers will be well aware that there is great excitement on this website that Doctor Who is to star in a Bristol VR in the Easter Special episode "Planet of the Dead" in which the VR will play a starring role. The first VR shipped out to Dubai was RUA461W and was severely damaged in transit as can be seen. GGM84W is now on its way out there as RUA's replacement - I hope they take more care of this one!

March 7th 2009

Followers of my News page will know that reports of Lodekkas arrive regularly from around the World. These are usually individual vehicles, but this week Andy McClelland spotted two FLFs running a private hire for Royal London Bus (because of course they all came from London!) in Leipzig, Germany. At the front (showing its UK number on its destination) is former Eastern Counties FLF461 (KAH461D) while behind is one-time Cheltenham District (hence my excitement!) 7221 (EHT110C).

January 31st 2009
I couldn't resist this one! Here we see XJJ668V virtually in mid air on the edge of a sand dune in the middle of the desert in Sudan! It is one of a series of incredible photos from the "38 Bus" road trip which has just arrived at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. It really is a credit to the VR and also to the Gardner engine that both survived such an arduous journey. December 14th 2008

The blue skies in this recent photo of NUD106L should provide a clue that this VR is no longer garaged in Surrey! It is in fact one of a pair that have found their way to Malta for tourist services with Oasis Travel. The other is TNJ998S, both having last run in service for City Tour in Bath. It is great to see the VR make an appearance there so many years after the LHs (which are mostly still current) went over. Many thanks to Marco Zammit for permission to publish his photo (his Fotopic site is worth a visit)

November 8th 2008
<notes lost> The photo shows CBV2S prepared for service in Cyprus November 3rd 2008


I have been sworn to secrecy over this one since March, but it is making its rally debut today in Norwich and I am now allowed to publish these photos. The VR in question is Eastern Counties VR268 (RAH268W) which has been acquired for preservation by Julian Patterson. It came from Hedingham & District and has been returned to its express livery as applied after conversion to coach seating in 1984. 268 is the latest highly professional restoration to emerge from Busworks in Blackpool (indeed it arrived on the same morning that I collected 5031 so I was able finally to meet Julian after a number of years of correspondence). The interior view shows what a fabulous job has been done throughout, and this one will look great next to Julian's other completed project, LFS303F. August 31st 2008
I believe a little opportunism may have taken place here in order to have a bit of a joke with enthusiasts! This is none other than former Bristol Omnibus/First Devon & Cornwall VR JHW107P painted in the City of Gloucester post-deregulation livery on its rally debut at Kemble today. I think I'm pretty safe in saying that Gloucester has never hosted an open-top service, and that 5033 was never allocated any further north than Bristol during its BOC days. I believe that Mike Ede and our friends at the Stroud RE Group have taken advantage of the allover blue coat of paint applied earlier this year by Chepstow Classic Buses and have added fleetnumbers, fleetnames and big yellow swoops to the livery to create a fairly cheap pseudo-Gloucester dual-to-single-door VR conversion - and very fine it looks too. Nice one chaps! August 2nd 2008
Western Greyhound have repainted their remaining closed-top VR into latest livery and very smart it looks too! The VR in question is JWV259W which has also received a new floor downstairs as well as some new panels. Very many thanks to Managing Director Mark Howarth for the news and photo. June 28th 2008

I make no apology for making this month's photo one of my own VR, JOU161P which has just emerged from a two-month visit to Busworks at Blackpool in its original livery of NBC green with Cheltenham fleetnames. Many other jobs were also undertaken at the same time, including new window rubbers and the rectification of a major chassis fault. The day after the drive down from Blackpool 5031 attended the Bristol Centenary rally where it is seen lined up next to another pristine VR, UFX858S which carries Hants & Dorset NBC red livery. Many thanks to Peter Cook for the photo.

 

May 20th 2008

Possibly the most ambitious use of a VR ever is the tour being undertaken by Daniel Spokes and Matt Lumber overland to India, China and back via Russia. The VR being used for this mammoth journey is former Bristol Omnibus 5534 (EWS742W). A very interesting photo montage/commentary is available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2008/apr/13/roadtrips.adventure whilst the pair's progress can be followed at http://letyourselfgo.expedia.co.uk/doubledecker/. There is also a site describing how the dream came to become reality at http://doubledeckeradventure.com/index.php. Very many thanks go to Allan Macfarlane for providing this rear view taken at the very start of the tour on April 20th at the Downs in Bristol. 

April 26th 2008

Very pleasing to record is that Abus have repainted one of their two remaining serviceable VRs in a special livery to celebrate the centenary of Bristol Commercial Vehicles. The VR in question is XHK221X and I am indebted to Mike Smith for snapping it on his mobile phone as it emerged from the paintshops today. I thought that the blue area was to recall the blue livery carried for decades by Bristol Tramways vehicles, but Allan Macfarlane informs me that it is in deference to the first three Abus vehicles which were all blue liveried. Several events are planned to celebrate the BCV Centenary this year, and I intend to be at the Bristol Harbourside Rally on May 18th with my own VR (JOU161P) - I look forward to seeing lots of readers there.

March 3rd 2008
This one surprised me. City of Oxford 106 (NUD106L) became one of the last Series 2 VRs in service in the UK as an open-topper in the fleet of Ryan (City Tour) of Bath. However I didn't know that it had previously run as a closed-top tour bus on the Sights of Oxford Tour with South Midland. It was well suited to this role being coach seated and indeed it retains this seating to this day on the lower deck in ownership with Mike Nash. Thanks to Cliff Essex for this and many recent contributions to the website. February 9th 2008

One of the most amazing and enjoyable aspects of maintaining this website is the sheer variety of locations I hear from where Bristol vehicles have migrated after finishing service in the UK. Quite literally every corner of the World houses a Bristol of some type or other. In recent months I have heard of Lodekkas in Argentina, Alaska and Russia, LHs in the Caribbean, REs in New Zealand and VRs on Hawaii and in South Africa. It should come as no surprise then to hear that Glyn Bowen has today sent this photo (taken by Liz Penrose last month) of former Crosville LH6L SLL617 (MCA617P) which was exported to the Falkland Islands back in 1992. It was used to transport tourists to a penguin colony, although it has clearly not run for some time. It retains Crosville NBC green livery and still partially shows that fleetname on the cove panels. Apparently it was transported to the island by helicopter - presumably from the ship that carried it to the southern Atlantic and not from Middlewich where it was supplied by dealer Martins!

January 6th 2008

Glyn Buttery has recently acquired Potteries 207 (PVT207L) and he is pictured here with his bus alongside fellow Potteries RESL6L 198 (JEH198K), both of which have been excellently restored into NBC red livery. Why is it Photo of the Month? Well, I'm thrilled to see two of my favourite single decker type looking so well, but the real reason is because Glyn wanted to see himself on the website. Who am I to disappoint him?

December 3rd 2007

This is former Western National 1132 (AFJ697T) which has just been superbly restored with Cornwall Busways fleetnames on NBC green livery. It is owned by Matt Powell and the Kirk brothers (Russell & Nigel). I am very pleased that, after a chance meeting in Bristol recently, the Kirks have agreed to share their extensive records to improve accuracy on this website and that can only be good news for readers - I would like to extend my sincere thanks to them for this. 1132 is a very welcome addition to the ranks of restored preserved VRs, and detailed touches like the blue background on the destination linens really do add to the authenticity. I have noticed a trend recently whereby the number of VRs in preservation has thinned out slightly - inevitably some are being scrapped, some have re-entered operational service, but also a good number are thankfully being fully restored like 1132.

October 25th 2007

Fred Lawrance kindly sent me this photo of his recently-repainted former Eastern National LH 1103 (UVX7S). Fred is well aware that the colour scheme is non-authentic, but in his own words he has an "affliction" for NBC livery and believes the LH looks good in these colours - I most certainly would not disagree with him - it would have been wonderful to see fleets of NBC LHs running in such a scheme rather than the unrelieved bland green livery many of them carried in their latter years. This is the last survivor of the long-lasting quartet of vehicles, UVX4S, UVX5S and UVX6S all having been scrapped in recent years. If anyone has views of any of these in service with Eastern National I'd be pleased to see them.

September 20th 2007

The PPH-R batch of VRs (the only ones that were new to London Country) are a particular favourite of mine, and it is great to see the last one numerically (PPH475R) still in use. This photo was taken by Ian Roberts during an afternoon stroll on July 30th and shows that this VR, even as it passes its thirtieth birthday, is in use on a free nightclub service in Manchester - strong echos of the use of my own VR in a black livery on a nightclub service in Derby back in the 1990s. I hope one day this one might enter the preservation ranks, meantime I wonder if the revellers of Manchester appreciate their transport on a Saturday night/Sunday morning?

August 1st 2007
With the very kind assistance of Cliff Beeton I have put together a detailed review of the REs operated by Potteries Motor Traction (or P.M.T. as it was also known) here. Cliff has sent me many photos and negatives for scanning, but this one was a real surprise due to the livery carried. It is PCH418L which was new to Trent and was one of a pair acquired from Berresford of Cheddleton along with their stage carriage services in 1987. The other was an ex-Eastern Counties Plaxton RE coach which was soon sold for scrap, but this ECW-bodied coach lasted long enough to be repainted in fleet livery. Cliff and I plan to follow up the RE page with a review of P.M.T. VRs - this is currently a work in progress here. I am always keen to produce such fleet lists with anyone who wishes to help with photos of their favourite operator, large or small. Do please get in touch at rob@robsly.com if you are interested in helping. Thank you. June 14th 2007

KRM431W (now reregistered PHH149W) found fame as the last surviving VR with Stagecoach North West (Ribble/Cumberland), even receiving Stagecoach "rolling ball" livery, from which it has now been repainted into Cumberland's post-deregulation livery having passed into preservation last October. It is a credit to new owners Brian Pritchard and John Burrow (the latter having performed the repaint himself).

April 17th 2007
I'm very pleased to be able to show this newly-repainted FLF, photographed by its new owner, Chris Byart of Erin, Ontario, Canada. It is one of surprisingly few former United Automobile Lodekkas to survive - L260 (THN260F) which has now been in Canada twice as long as it was in service in the UK. I have recently been adding operator histories for some of the North American owners of Lodekkas and VRs, and this particular FLF was one of many owned by River Rouge of Winnipeg. Good luck to Chris with his new venture - let's hope he can bring himself to remove that ridiculous contraption masquerading as a rear view mirror!! March 9th 2007

Abus of Bristol have owned REs on and off throughout their existence, even in the earlier days when they were associated with Crown Coaches as their fleet history will testify, so I am pleased to be able to report that OAE954M has recently been renovated and returned to service in latest fleet livery of cream with maroon skirt and rear end. It is being operated in revenue-earning service over the Christmas break, when double deckers are not required for certain journeys. There is no better sounding bus than a RELL with a Leyland O680 livery so do take the opportunity to ride this one through the Somerset countryside if you possibly can.

December 24th 2006

The REMH coaches (the M is variously believed to stand for Maximum or Motorway) with Alexander bodies were impressive vehicles in their own right, but nearly forty years ago they must have turned heads up and down the country. There were two Scottish operators of the type, and I have been busy putting together fleet histories for each which can be found by following the links to Eastern Scottish and Western SMT. The REMH shown above is LFS276F of Eastern Scottish (preceding the VRTLLs with of the same registration block) - it carries the original yellow and black livery of that operator. You will see that I am missing a great many photos of these magnificent coaches - if you're able to fill in any of the gaps I'd love to hear from you at rob@robsly.com

November 22nd 2006
Back in June 2001 I was thrilled to feature 1197 (LFJ841W) as the first repaint in the then-new Barbie 2 livery (still viewable below). At the time there were eighty-plus VRs still in the First Devon & Cornwall fleet and hopes were high that many would follow. In the event few did, but I don't think anyone would have believed that more than five years later I would now be featuring the first repaint into Barbie 3 livery, but amazingly 1226 (LFJ873W - now 38873 of course) has emerged in these latest colours and appeared at the Plymouth Rally on July 23rd before travelling back down to Cornwall for what will hopefully be considerable further service. It has been fully refurbished with a retrim in the latest First purple and aqua moquette plus First-style modern decals. At least one more is to follow, already in the Camborne workshops as I type this and believed to be 38749 (AFJ749T). My thanks go to Jon Gulliver for supplying the first photo of this immaculate vehicle and James Pratt and Allan Macfarlane for providing additional information. August 21st 2006
Daniel Stazicker has been a major contributor to this website for quite a few years now, and has recently tracked down a number of repainted VRs, including PKE807M, MFN41R and this rare surviving dual-door example in the smart new livery of Farleigh Coaches of Wouldham in Kent, HUD479S. This one was of course new to City of Oxford who were loyal to the two-door layout for urban operation right to the end of VR production. July 24th 2006

Carl Berry kindly sent me this photo of XAN431T which has recently received the current fleet livery of Westward Travel of Bristol. This is one of seven VRs delivered new to the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Oxfordshire of which five are still very much alive and well and still running in service around Britain. I would be really grateful if anyone has any scans of these with AERE that they could send to me at rob@robsly.com as such views are extremely hard to come by and have so far completely eluded me.

June 24th 2006

Rob Ryder of Summercourt Travel in Newquay has been a regular contributor to the website during the time he has operated VRs. Recently UWV617S has been disposed of to a non-PCV owner, but UWV613S is to be retained and Rob has sourced a new roof for it after the original was lost somewhere between Sussex and Fife ownership, making it convertible open-top again. Presentation of the VR is excellent, as is that of the Street Safe exhibition unit XHK220X which is also maintained by Summercourt, although it is actually operated by a consortium of local police, ambulance and council. It is to be hoped that VRs will continue to ply the streets of Newquay for many more summers.

May 22nd 2006

I don't often feature types other than VRs in here, but the news of a fifty-year-old Lodekka turning up in Denmark nearly thirty years after it was exported is surely worthy of celebration. The bus in question is former Western SMT B1168 (GCS254) and it was spotted and captured on camera by John Blakey (now there's a good name for a busman) in North Jutland on November 29th in use in connection with a Christmas fair. It appears to be owned by Connex Denmark, but that is unclear at this point. B1168 was quite a survivor even in 1975, having given a full twenty years of service to its original owner - a very rare event at the time. Interesting to note it was exported by none other than a fledgling Ensign organisation (then based in Benfleet) - one of the first of a very long line of half cabs to journey from Essex to the many far-flung corners of the World!! 

March 9th 2006
The new school year is now upon us, but far from seeing all VRs being replaced by newer stock, several have received new coats of paint (see Alpine, Embling, Bri-Jan) and at least one VR has been given a whole new lease of life. FRP907T has already had a long service history, originally with United Counties and more lately with Mulley, but it has now received a full internal refresh and repaint into these striking colours by The Running Footman of Martlesham in Suffolk. This photo was kindly sent by Oliver Fosker who drives for this small operation (formerly known as Wish You Were Here) which just happens to be run by his brother! December 6th 2005

Bristol VRs can still be seen operating in everyday service at both ends of Great Britain - the Cornish operations of First are well documented, but Highland Country also run services in the northern-most towns of Scotland, including right the way up to John O'Groats. Former Eastern Counties KVF246V is seen here in Thurso, on the service to Wick. It is rumoured that Highland may be about to sell out to Stagecoach, with whom surely the VRs will not survive long - so take the chance to sample these remote services while you still can.

 

September 6th 2005

This month's study is an interesting view from Neil Halliday depicted the three VRs of the West Yorkshire Road Car Company Limited Preservation Group. The Group now has one of each VR series, all of which were new to the West Yorkshire company. Closest to the camera is Series 1 VR4 (XWW474G) which has been in preservation for twenty years now and might - one day - receive a repaint out of its NBC red livery as carried while still in service with the company. In the middle is Series 2 (curved windscreen) 1968 (JWW227N) which has had a partial repaint back into NBC red from its Grayscroft of Mablethorpe livery. Furthest away is newest recruit, 1746 (PUM149W) which was recently acquired from a member at Keighley Bus Museum. More can be learned about these preserved VRs by following the links from their registration numbers in this text.

 

August 1st 2005
Daniel Stazicker is making a name for himself tracking down interesting British buses around the World. I remember looking in wonder at his photos of Leyland National 2s in Trinidad a year or two back. He has also been to Australia and found several Bristol double deckers there. This month he has been to Belgium where he found the Bus Prophils fleet based near Brussels. He has sent photos of all six VRs they operate, including DNG232T which has been rebuilt with the nearside door filled in and a new entrance on the offside. One of their Routemasters can just be seen on the right. A list of all VRs known to be in Belgium can be found by following this link. May 13th 2005

This month's pair of photos are an exclusive, courtesy of Richard Waterhouse who has just completed this impressive and extensive restoration of Midland General 801 (LRA801P) back to its original condition (although I assume it still carries a Gardner engine having been repowered by Trent from its original Leyland O501?). We see 801 on its maiden journey in suitable rural surroundings, the rear view showing the original flaps for the powerful vacuum cleaner that was used to clean out the upper deck from the outside. The idea was that the inlet blew air in whilst the outlet sucked any loose items out. However, I believe the system was less than successful, with most of the dirt and rubbish simply being blown to the front of the deck where it had to be manually collected. Many congratulations are due to Richard and thanks for the photos.

March 5th 2005
Dave Bartlett scores Photo of the Month for the second consecutive month with this view of the three surviving VRs still in service with Arriva. It was taken at Luton depot from which all three continue to operate school services. From right to left they are 5033 (SNV933W), 5866 (FKM866V) and 5000 (BKE847T). 5033 is the last surviving native United Counties example, whilst 5000 and 5866 came from Maidstone & District in 1997. The survival of this trio is all the more surprising given how many early Olympians have already left the fleet - clearly someone appreciates the charms of a quality bus in Bedfordshire! February 6th 2005
Paul Gilroy sent me this photo (taken by Dave Bartlett) of his former Southdown convertible open-top VR, UWV620S which runs in his Dreadnought Coaches fleet, based in Alnwick in the remote North East of England. Last season it ran with the upper half in Dreadnought livery and the lower half in former Lakeland Experience green livery, but it has now been superbly repainted in full fleet livery. Paul also runs two Lodekka open-toppers, both ex-Mac Tours in Glasgow. Do go and have a ride on his tour if you get the chance!  October 7th 2004
Malcolm Redpath came across this long-surviving Series 2 VR in Budapest in July and kindly sent me the print for scanning. I thought it would be a shame not to share this lovely vision with my readers, not to mention the attractive payload who are setting up their promotional stand for Dove Soap!! This is former West Riding JHL775L which has been in Hungary since 1989 - has anyone else come across it during the previous 15 years in Eastern Europe? Other VRs known to be in this region can be found here. September 5th 2004
Former Lincolnshire 1943 and latterly with Marchant of Cheltenham KTL26V has now been converted into this elegant non-PCV unit which is kept in the car park of a pub in Lye near Stourbridge. The dark blue and gold livery is impressive enough, but what is really striking is the shine on that paint job - talk about seeing your own face in it!! The current use of this VR is unknown but it is likely to be a caravan of some description. Many thanks to Stuart Turner for sending in this photo. July 12th 2004
At first glance this is just another ordinary Series 3 VR in use with a small operator. However, this picture was taken in the town of Mosgiel, New Zealand is of no less a historic bus than the prototype Series 3, former Western National 1078 (ODV78M). It was the first bus to carry a number of the features which mark out the Series 3, including remodelled front cowl. It was also the first VR to carry a Leyland O510 engine and I will be interested to find out whether this unit is still carried. This remarkable survivor is still with the King's Coach organisation who bought it way back in 1986 and ran it in the UK until they exported  it to New Zealand in 1991. It has been in Mosgiel ever since and was tracked down by Darren Frazer this week, looking in excellent condition in the King's Coach livery familiar in the UK and even with very nice polished wheeltrim. Darren has a very keen interest in buying this bus and we wish him well. May 30th 2004

Ian Wilson took this view of Alpine's former Crosville Wales DVG520 (BMA520W) this very afternoon while it dries after a repaint into their new yellow school bus livery. Ian understands that this one was chosen because it has been fitted with CCTV equipment and Alpine wanted to see what a VR looked like in this livery. If considered a success it is likely that others will receive the same treatment. It's always great to see VRs receiving new colours for further service and this is no exception.

March 29th 2004

Former Alder Valley driver Hans Retallick was most surprised to come across former Alder Valley VR 969 (WJM829T) during a recent trip to Rome. It has been converted to open-top for an unknown use, presumably some for of exhibition work, and was exported back in 1999 after withdrawal from Aldershot by Stagecoach Hants & Surrey (the spiritual successor to Alder Valley). 

13th February 2004

Well, Photos of the Month really. These two photos show the conversion undertaken by The Ink Station on former Burnley & Pendle/GHA Coaches FFR172S to turn it into a mobile tattoo studio. Pennywise (the owner - you can meet him on his website) has had a little trouble with the council over where to park his "bus", but as he has pointed out to them it's only got two seats so how can it be a bus!! How anyone could object to having the wonderful ECW shape outside their house I just don't know, but seriously we wish Pennywise well with his new venture. 11th January 2004
MOU739R becomes the first bus to star in our Photo of the Month feature for the second time. Being a former Cheltenham vehicle I was really pleased when it passed on for further service in Devon after withdrawal by Cheltenham & Gloucester a couple of years ago. Now it has been withdrawn again by Duchy Travel I feared the worst, but it has now turned up in the Winchester area running for a company with a familiar name and an even more familiar livery - Black & White Motorways! Of course the original company of this name was based at Cheltenham, so MOU is a particularly appropriate vehicle to carry their version of the classic livery - and mighty fine it looks too! It is seen here fresh from the paintshop in mid October as captured by my regular contributor who likes to go by the name of "Nelson". It often rubs shoulders on schools services with the VRs of Pikes of Andover which also operate in a mostly white livery. 2nd November 2003
The last in a long line of VRs with major operators in Scotland is UWV611S which is still with the Western Scottish operation of Stagecoach as fleetnumber 15711. The VR has had a distinctly chequered career in Scotland, so perhaps the livery carried by 15711 is particularly appropriate!! It is kept as a special events vehicle and carries the latest Stagecoach "rolling ball" logo, although I'm not sure how the interior copes with the Scottish weather with no windows fitted, even downstairs? This former Southdown bus was captured (like so many others) by the camera of Dave Beardmore during his travels, this time at the Scottish Vintage Bus Museum in Lathalmond during August. 1st October 2003
Warrington & District is a new operation with a variety of secondhand buses, but its two VRs are certainly taking a high profile with former Crosville DCA530X, seen here, having been outshopped in the very smart two-tone blue fleet livery with silvered wheels. Thanks are due to Gareth Hughes for the supply of information and also for this photo. 5th August 2003
Devon is famous for the ex-London Transport LH fleet of Tally Ho! Coaches which still numbered fifteen operational examples at the last count, some of which have clocked up more than twenty years with this operator. However, this view is of another ex-London LH also running in Devon in June 2003, this time former London Country LHS6L BN42 (GPD310N) which is still operated by Wood Brothers of Buckfastleigh. This one too is due to record twenty years with its second owner in August, making a mockery of NBC policy back in the early 1980s which decreed that the LH was only fit for seven years of service before companies were forced to sell them off - sometimes even to each other!! Very many thanks to Jon Gulliver for the photo, and let's hope that the LH continues to bounce around the country lanes of Devon for a good few years to come. 25th June 2003
A VR in a familiar livery, but this is no member of the fantastic Hedingham & District fleet, but is instead former Southern National 574 (VOD594S) on its way to export to Classic Bus West Nederland in Amsterdam, Holland. Prepared by Simon Munden in Bristol, this VR's new owner was so taken by the Hedingham livery that he asked to have VOD painted in the same colours. Here 574 awaits the final touches in Bristol, including the offside main headlamp and surround. VOD590S actually ran for the real Hedingham in these colours for more than a decade, but was sadly scrapped in 2001. Many thanks to Allan Macfarlane for this and many other excellent contributions to the website. 31st May 2003
Gavin Rowney feels that the new Southern Vectis open-top tour livery deserves to be Photo of the Month - and who am I to argue? It is certainly a complete change of direction from the previous livery, based on the traditional colours of green and cream, and which can still be seen carried by 683 on the Southern Vectis page of this website. This view is of 682 (VDL744) which was previously registered FDL682V and was converted to permanent open-top layout in 2001 having spent the previous twenty years in normal passenger service on the island. It carries lettering for The Needles Tour alongside 681 (ODL447, previously FDL681V). Interestingly, sisters 503 (XDL872) and 504 (WDL655), both formerly convertible open-toppers (UFX855/6S) have been converted to permanent open-top for this season (albeit with dome and two front bays intact) and carry a similar livery but lettered for Sandown Bay Tour. A visit to the island is an absolute must for VR fans this summer. Thanks for the wonderful photos Gav!! 22nd April 2003
This month's photo really couldn't be anything other than First Bristol's 8600 (RTH931S) in the newly-introduced First Tour livery. Steve White captured this photo on 8600's first day in service in this livery, on March 28th. I like the way the text "Bath Open Tour" blends into the "Barbie" colours below the windows, but I am far from convinced that bright green is the best colour to offset the livery! You can make your own minds up from this view outside the Bus Station and opposite the Royal Hotel, where I stayed for a night last week before heading down to Cornwall for one last bash on the VRs running trunk commercial services. Still an amazing experience in 2003, but one soon to become just a fond memory. Returning to Bath, all the other VRs remain in Guide Friday livery for now, but with all traces of the GF name removed. 1st April 2003

It is very pleasing to note that VRs continue to operate in Solent Blue Line colours into 2003, despite SBL having sold their last examples at the end of 2001. This can happen of course through the use of franchise operators to run some of their services. One such operator is Bri-Jan Coaches of Bishop Waltham who run three VRs including one-time Bristol Omnibus C5104 (PHY698S). You will find further details of this opereator by following the above link because I have recently been extending the scope of the website to include ALL operators of VRs, not just those with four or more examples in service. This work will be completed in the next few weeks. C5104 was sold by BOC in 1993 to be replaced by Volvo Olympians. It continued to operate in Bristol though, neatly converted to single door (as seen here) by Bob Buglar. It was exchanged in September 2001 for YDL673T which remains in Bristol, and found its way into the Bri-Jan fleet in December of that year. My sincere thanks are extended to Gerry Tormey for supplying this photo (see the amended link to his own Bristol SU site below) and to all the other kind contributors who help to keep this site as up-to-date as possible.

9th March 2003

This month we depict another First "Barbie 2" liveried VR, but this time it is First Western National permanent trainer, 1259 (URF668S). The lettering on the side reads "Your Bus Driving Career Starts Here". It is a shame that the pink fades have not been added to the livery to provide a splash of colour on what is an otherwise quite bland layout.1259 is an exceptional survivor, particularly when you consider that it started as an unusual ultra-lowheight Leyland O501-engined VR in the fleet of Potteries Motor Traction. Although PMT later became part of Firstgroup, it was not by inter-company transfer that it found its way to the South West. In 1992 it was sold to the independent Orange Bus Company in Bristol (later to become the Durbin operation) which was taken over by Bristol Omnibus in 1996. URF passed to Bristol in allover orange livery and its future was very uncertain, particularly when it passed to Western National for use for spares to keep the indigenous fleet going. However it was in good condition, too good to break, and it was fitted with the Gardner 6LX engine from scrap WDM341R. This engine was described as "gutless" by drivers around Plymouth and a 6LXB unit was substituted in 1997 and it remained in service in standard fleet livery until July 2002 when it received the livery shown above and settled into its new role. Many thanks to Richard Stedall for posting this picture which was taken last October.

9th February 2003
Nick Doolan made the surprise discovery of this VR near London Bridge Station during December 2002. It is former Eastern Counties JAH243V, and it is a surprise because it was thought that this had been scrapped by Stephenson, Rochford during 2000. However it looks like this is the real thing as it has the correct destination display, front cowl and distinctive non-standard windows (this one has short hoppers while most V-registered VRs had the longer Widney hoppers). It appears to have been converted to a mobile canteen for use by a Film/TV location company in a style that is becoming increasingly common as can be seen from the Non-PCV page of this website. 2st January 2003

Ken Larking has kindly sent me this photo of a real survivor. KOU796P was new to Bristol Omnibus as their fleetnumber 5510 and passed to Badgerline when that company was formed out of BOC in 1986. It passed to Western National as their 1085 in 1988 and was withdrawn in 1993, passing straight to the short-lived Nottingham Omnibus operation until it ceased in June 1994. Next stop was Stephenson of Rochford in Essex before finally arriving with the associated M&E Coaches of Shoeburyness where it remains to this day running schools services in the Southend area. To the left can be seen FKM875V which is clearly still in Maidstone & District's final pre-Arriva livery.

17th November 2002

This photo has been kindly submitted by Ivor Bufton, who has also been a regular contributor to the news of VRs in North Wales over the last year. It shows NUD104L in use with (appropriately) the North Wales Weekly News during the late 1980s. This was a former City of Oxford coach-seated Series 2 VR of the ultra-low 13'5'' variety which was once used on the intensive Oxford to London express services. This VR is the latest to be treated to a full Illustrated History on the website and you can find the NUD104L page by clicking on the link. If anyone else has any more views of this VR to submit for publishing or requests for me to create any further Illustrated Histories then please feel free to contact me at rob@robsly.com

15th October 2002
A remarkable repaint into full Barbie 2 livery is PMT 709 (now 30018 in the First national fleet renumbering). This photo was taken this very morning by the intrepid Dave Henderson and he reports that the advert had been fitted not ten minutes earlier - and on still-wet paint no less!! It is great to see a VR in normal service with the full treatment - black window surrounds and grille, pink vinyl fade-out; all of Western National's similar repaints (thirteen at the last count) lack one or more of these features. 709 is also rare in retaining its Leyland O501 engine and is one of the very last VRs in regular service anywhere with this feature. Thanks to all my regular correspondents in PMT (sorry, First!) land for keeping me up-to-date with the very interesting events there. 1st September 2002
An old photograph this time, but one with a very topical subject. Here we see Standerwick VRL coach LRN55J on a short working to Birmingham (most services made it all the way through to London) from the wonderful Photobus collection (I can put you in touch with Arnold Richardson if you want to buy similarly excellent photos from him). This VRL has been with London Export Company for many years now and has been hired out as an exhibition unit for Rabbit Telephones and UK Alarms amongst others. It has now been bought by Visibuzz of Belgium and is undergoing a thorough refurbishment before continued use as an exhibition vehicle. I have added an Illustrated History page for LRN55J which includes many photos of it during former lives. Let's hope Olivier Caeymaex and his crew will get years more work out of her. As if this news wasn't amazing enough, I have just today heard from Craig Coxe of Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.A. that he has acquired the two VRLs known to still exist over there, having sat derelict with Rochester Coach Lines in Minnesota for many years, and having been owned by them for over twenty years!! These two are sisters LRN53J and LRN57J and Craig intends to return them to their former glory for further service. He is well aware of their mechanical shortcomings and is determined to overcome them through sympathetic engineering. Craig has promised to send regular photos of progress of  his new charges and they will undoubtedly be future subjects for our Photo of the Month feature. 5th August 2002

My sincere appreciation goes to Neville Tobin of Christchurch, New Zealand for posting this photo half way across the World for scanning for this feature. This VR was new to Crosville in 1978 as DVL368 (BTU368S), later re-engined with a Gardner unit and continued in service with Crosville Wales (as their DVG598) until 1996. It was exported to New Zealand in 1997 following a brief spell as a non-PCV in London and was used by Scenic Coachlines in Auckland repainted as an overall advert for Japan Travel Bureau. It is now with Redbus in Christchurch where Neville photographed it on sightseeing duties earlier in 2002. Redbus is the modern trading name for the former Christchurch Transport Board which of course took delivery of a great many Bristol RE single deckers and although all the REs have now been sold it is great to see that the traditional operation of Bristol vehicles in the city is being maintained.

8th June 2002
Steve King and Lee Garrett have recently repatriated this rare highbridge coach-seated VR back to the North East. This is most definitely a VR with a history! JPT906T was new to Northern General 3406 as part of a large batch comprising 3392-3434 (JPT892-9y34T) of which only this and 3401 still survive (see Preservation Focus). It passed to Sunderland & District when Northern was split, and was withdrawn in August 1992. In January 1993 it passed to Blue Triangle of Bootle and was reregistered 449CLT (from Routemaster RM1449), receiving the mark LDS190A later that year when RM1449 was reunited with 449CLT. In July 1994 it passed to Mercury Passenger Services in Kent which operation was bought by Maidstone & District in September 1996. It lasted another six months with Mercury then made the trip across to Bristol for yet further service with Eastville Coaches where it was painted allover white with black window surrounds and was used in the associated Leisure Travel fleet. It passed to South Gloucestershire (Durbin) in February 2000 and received yet another reregistration when it temporarily carried LHT728P, swapped from another of Durbin's VRs. The blue and white fleet livery pictured here was applied in August 2000 and it ran in service right until acquisition by Steve and Lee in February of this year. They have quite a selection of liveries to choose from in which to restore 3406! 14th March 2002
Here we see former United Counties 778 (CBD778K) at its current home, the BaMMOT museum at Wythall in the Midlands. All K-suffix VRs were delivered with flat windscreens, but United Counties saw fit to convert a number of their early VRs to Series 3 format, including some very early G-registered Series 1s. Three such conversions have recently come to my attention in various different ways; TBD754G has lain engineless in the yard of Spa Motors, Strathpeffer for more than ten years and is still in the livery of its last operator, Blue Triangle of Liverpool. ANV775J has only just been retired from passenger carrying service, by Loch Lann Coaches and is now safely in preservation, while 778 herself is also now for sale in good condition, having been used in public service by the museum as recently as last summer. The asking price is in the region of 3000 and interested parties should contact Paul Gray on 01527 876968. It is pictured next to East Lancs-bodied VR OWE271K which has since been restored to its magnificent Sheffield Corporation original livery (photo by Gareth Crowther). BaMMOT also have former Eastern Counties VR247 (KVF247V) in need of some work available in the region of 1200. Please give a bus a good home! 27th January 2002
Where in the year 2001 can you still find a Series 2 VR in regular service in the UK still carrying the original National Bus Company red livery applied to it in the mid 1980s? Strathpeffer in Scotland - that's where!! Here we see ATA563L running for Spa Motors this summer just as it has done for the last twelve years. The paintwork is certainly looking a little worse for wear, but other than that it is in as-withdrawn condition. This VR was new to the Devon General part of Western National as their fleetnumber 563, and passed to the separate DG company when WN was split in January 1983. Displaced by Ford Transit breadvans of the Harry Blundred empire it was sold to East Yorkshire (who were buying any double decker that moved!) in September 1986 just prior to deregulation. It was probably at this time that the current layer of NBC red was applied (does anybody know for sure the last repaint date for this bus?). It was withdrawn in 1989 by EY being unusual in never having received their post-deregulation red and white livery. Another interesting Series 2 can just be seen parked behind; this is MGP226L which was new to the Department of Transport as a non-PCV in June 1973. It performed this role until sale to Rapson's Coaches in 1987; they ran the VR in passenger service for the first time and it passed with their bus operations to Highland Scottish (as their D326) before being sold on to Spa Motors in July 1997. It hardly needs saying that it is still in the livery of its former owner in this view. Further details of the fascinating fleets of both Spa Motors and Highland can be found by clicking these links. Many thanks to Mark Telfer for sending this and several other views from his recent trip to Scotland. 25th November 2001
It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of the VRs that are being exported, both to the Continent of Europe and to North America. The job of tracing and identifying them is not aided by the number of reregistrations that take place before export, and this Series 3 example takes the biscuit in carrying the registration from a 1970 RE single decker (former Wilts & Dorset RLJ345H)! This as-yet unidentified VR is operating in Montreal, Canada in a livery that rather enigmatically promotes the Biosphere - presumably a local tourist attraction. It was tracked down and photographed by my brother-in-law John Cleminson and his son Joseph during a recent trip - I am very pleased to have my Bristol double decker spies travelling all over the globe!!

Updated October 15th 2009 : This VR is now in the U.S.A. with Philadelphia Trolley Works, numbered 340 and converted to open-top. It has been identified as former East Midlands/Midland Red South AET181T.

11th October 2001
I recently received a very interesting selection of photos from Karl van Camp showing this quartet of VRs in a very smart livery for Bacardi Breezer during a promotional tour of Belgium. From the left these are SKL682X, XJJ655V, BKR859T and BJG671V. These buses have no doubt been supplied by David Hoare of Chepstow who runs the Chepstow Classic Bus operation with a heavy emphasis on former Stagecoach Group vehicles and the VR in particular. If anyone can confirm the identities I would appreciate it, but in the meantime thanks very much to Karl for sending this interesting photo. 4th September 2001
It's always a pleasant surprise when a vehicle you thought was long-since scrapped turns up, but for a Leyland O501-engined VR that was sent to Barnsley back in 1994 to turn up after seven years, in 2001, really is a big surprise. The VR in question is former Crosville DVL348 (WDM348R) and this photo arrived on my doorstep this week, very kindly sent by Jan van der Stelt of Amsterdam, Holland. It was taken by Jan in 1999 and shows DVL348 to be in excellent condition, being run by the College voor Logistiek in Purmerend which is a college for transport education (they could learn a thing or two from the VR!!!). It is garaged on the premises of a company now called Connexxion (formerly NZH). This was one of the vehicles that passed from Crosville to PMT in February 1990 along with a large area of the former's English service network. It was withdrawn in September 1994 and was soon despatched to Hardwick's yard in Carlton, we presumed never to be seen again. Many thanks indeed to Jan for taking the trouble to prove us all wrong! 10th August 2001
Astonishingly, and hot on the heels of the Barbie 2 VR with Western National, Stagecoach in Bedford (otherwise known as United Counties to you and me) have repainted twenty-five year old 849 (OVV849R) in the new Stagecoach Corporate livery. This is a remarkable event, particularly when you consider that the livery is only intended to be applied to vehicles up to eight years old - older vehicles are supposed to receive a re-application of the "traditional" Stagecoach livery! 849 is not intended for service however, and will take up a promotional role having already been earmarked for being pulled by a strongman with his teeth later in the year! This now means that there has been exactly one VR in each of the "Big 3" groups' most recent corporate liveries - one Arriva Kent & Sussex example (now sold), the Barbie 2 in Plymouth and now 849 in Bedford. 849 had previously been withdrawn from service by UC in 1999 and has since been on hire to Kettering Borough Council in an allover white livery as "The Freedom Bus". This picture was kindly taken and supplied by Grahame Bessey at the North Weald Rally where 849 made her debut appearance along with a more mainstream Olympian in the same livery. Unfortunately she disgraced herself on the way home and broke down - not exactly the kind of "promotion" Stagecoach were looking for one suspects! 11th July 2001
Our latest featured VR really couldn't be any other than the first (and so far only) repaint into Firstgroup's "Barbie 2" livery, Western National's 1197 (LFJ841W). This really is a monumental event in VR terms and shows that at least some of the eighty-plus examples left with First Western National still have a bright future. I read that FWN's routes that are suitable for highbridge 'deckers are now saturated with Atlanteans (centred on Barnstaple and Plymouth) and so further of these iniquitous replacements from Aberdeen (which have come along with the new MD) are unlikely. Almost none of Cornwall's service can be operated with anything higher than a 13'8'' vehicle, so the VR looks set to reign there for some time to come. 1197 is another hard-to-replace VR since it is one of the batch that has been converted for use on the Torpoint ferry; you can just make out from the photo that the front is slightly raised ahead of the wheelarches. Although 1197 is lacking the fade-out vinyls which I believe really do enhance the look of this livery, am I the only person who thinks that Barbie 2 is particularly smart and modern-looking? It certainly suits the lines of the VR. Let's hope that this is the First of many such repaints and that 1197 does not join WKO125S (an earlier Photo of the Week) as a one-off in its parent group's corporate livery (Arriva in that instance). Many thanks to Dale Tringham for supplying this photo specifically for this feature, taken on May 31st 2001 at Plymouth Bus Station. 15th June 2001
We continue our review of Mark Telfer's recent Scottish VR photo acquisitions with this view of Midland Scottish Omnibuses MRT7, SMS37H. It was new in 1970 but soon passed to Eastern National as their fleetnumber 3011 - certainly some of these ran in the blue livery before receiving EN's green, perhaps 3011 was one of them? It led a full service life until 1987 when it was sold to dealer Martin of Middlewich. This was not the end of its service history though, Trent experiencing a shortage of double deckers in the post-deregulation melee, so it became 760 in that fleet running for just over a year before finally being sold to dealer North of Sherburn-in-Elmet in February 1989 and finally on to Barnsley for scrap later that summer. 25th April 2001

It had been thought that the operations of Viking Tours of York had finished in the summer of 2000 and that the company was in liquidation. It therefore comes as something of a surprise that WTH962T has turned up back in service, repainted in a new livery but still sporting Viking signwriting on the rear as seen here. It would appear to be sponsored by Aston Villa Football Club judging by the choice of colours!! This VR was new to South Wales Transport as their 962 in 1979 and was sold to Battrick & Brown of Manchester in 1989. After two years it moved across to Viking in York whereupon it was converted to open-top and placed in service in May 1991, and it has been a regular sight ever since. 962 was delivered with a Leyland O501 engine like most South Wales VRs, and I have no record of it ever having lost this motor - can any local members confirm whether or not it has been re-engined with a Gardner please? Many thanks to Adrian Brown for supplying the photo which was taken on March 12th 2001.

20th March 2001

This week we go right back to the beginning for the VR. GGM431D was the very first to enter service, being one of the two VRX longitudinally-engined long-wheelbase prototypes. This vehicle was demonstrated at the 1966 Commercial Motor Show before travelling north of the border for an extended period with the Scottish Bus Group. It is seen here soon after entry into service with Central SMT as their BN331 pounding the streets of Glasgow. You can find a detailed history of this vehicle on the VRX-1 Illustrated History page. This photo was kindly supplied by Mark Telfer, although he bought it from an anonymous dealer at a rally so if it's your copyright please let me know and I'll happily add a credit for you.

17th February 2001
Like the Lodekka before it, the VR has found a ready secondhand (and third and fourth and...) market in Holland and it is actually quite easy to spot red-liveried London Transport lookalikes hiding away in yards or running on private hires over there. Nobody is more dedicated to keeping the Bristol marque running in Holland than Bart Prins of Prins Classic Transport, Opijnen. Details of Bart's fleet can be found on this very website on our very own Dutch page, but as a taster here is former Cumberland 423 (FAO423V) painted in a livery which Bart himself confesses is unashamedly based on the old Devon General livery - and splendid it looks too complete with black lining-out. January 2001 has seen there arrival of yet another former Cumberland example, 437 (KRM437W), undoubtedly this being a popular choice due to the ultra-lowheight 13'5'' ECW bodies of these vehicles which meet European requirements. This is becoming a very widely-dispersed batch these days, of which more in our next Photo of the Week feature! 27th January 2001
Courtesy of Operations Manager Michael Wootten here we see Woottens Luxury Travel's very own VR, JWV273W waiting for a turn in service on December 27th 2000. Woottens are based in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. This VR looks very different now from a year ago when it was one of the final survivors with Brighton & Hove, having received this overall white livery (with racy logo) and having been reregistered WJI2849. Reregistrations seem to be the "thing" in this part of the world, Taylors of Aylesbury (almost the next town) having reregistered sister bus JWV272W to 90RFX. Michael informs me that '273 is an excellent vehicle, having passed her MoT first time last month and she starts instantly without a hint of smoke. Unfortunately the future is not safe for the VR for, as with many school services, the re-tender next year may require seatbelt-fitted coaches, and 68-seat Leyland Tigers may be acquired in replacement. Let's hope not! 2nd January 2001
A new user of the Bristol VR is City Central in Hull who have acquired two of those recently withdrawn by Arriva The Shires. The two are URP946W and UDM448V, both of which have been quickly repainted into their smart fleet livery and pressed into service. URP was new to United Counties and still carried the old Luton & District red and cream livery on acquisition while UDM, originally a Crosville vehicle, was in the Shires yellow and blue scheme. This photo, kindly taken and submitted by Dave Longbottom (who runs an excellent approval service for bus photos), shows UDM proudly displaying its new fleetname. Behind is North Bank Travel Leyland National TAE639S which used to be a Gloucester bus during my schooldays in Cheltenham. 2nd December 2000
A dig into the archives this week to find one of my photos of an old friend, Cheltenham District 5087 (NHU670R). I have just heard that it is under conversion to offside entrance for export to Apple Tours in New York for a new life having spent no fewer than twenty-three years pounding the genteel streets of Cheltenham - not quite a recipe for a quiet retirement! 5087 was delivered in 1977 as a dual-door vehicle in NBC green livery. It later received poppy red NBC livery when Cheltenham switched colour in 1984, being rebuilt to single-door by Hants & Dorset Engineering in 1987 at which time it received the truck red and ivory "Starsky & Hutch" livery depicted here. Fleetnumber 205 was allocated in 1994 when the Bristol Omnibus numbering series was finally abandoned by the former Northern Area depots, by now under Stagecoach ownership. In 1996 it was demoted to contract duties and repainted again, this time in overall aircraft blue. It was finally withdrawn in March of this year and is undergoing conversion for export at Munden's in Bristol - I look forward to catching up with it again on the streets of New York. 11th November 2000
The Welsh bias of this feature continues this week with a view of YCU961T (formerly OBR774T) an open-topper with Arriva Cymru's Shoreline operation. It is seen in September in company with the entire fleet of sighteeing VRs at Rhyl depot where they will presumably spend the winter months in storage. Now OVG961 with Arriva Cymru, this VR started its career as a standard closed-top VR with United Automobile as their number 774, passing to Northumbria as their 555 in 1986. It passed to Crosville Wales in 1994 and received this yellow and blue colour scheme in May 1998. Thanks go to Paul Forbes for supplying this photo and for the many other interesting views he has supplied from the prinicipality. 27th October 2000
Yet another ex-Stagecoach VR with its stripes overpainted! Here we see a photo of ex-Ribble 2042 (RRP858R) at Showbus 2000 beautifully presented with polished wheeltrims and in the colours of Norfolk Green, who have recently acquired no fewer than four of the type. RRP was new to United Counties (as number 858), passing to Ribble as long ago as January 1990. Thanks go to Chris Bowles for this photo, and for his continued supply of news from the Cambridge area. 16th October 2000

I make no apologies for posting this picture of recent ABus of Bristol acquisition MOU739R even though it has already appeared on the excellent ECWBristol egroup. This bus holds fond personal memories for me of journeys to school across Cheltenham in the early 1980s and I am really pleased to see that it has found a good new home having only earlier this year retired from mainline service with Stagecoach Cheltenham & Gloucester. It was new to Bristol Omnibus in 1976 as G5065 (the G denoted being a member of the Gloucester City Services fleet) in NBC green livery and with dual doors. It was transferred in about 1981 to Cheltenham and duly received NBC red livery in 1984 after the split from BOC. A spell in overall advertising livery for the Gloucestershire Echo was followed by a rebuild to single door layout in 1988. It was later transferred to Stroud Depot where, now renumbered 204, she received green and yellow "Starsky and Hutch" livery. The final transfer was to Stagecoach Cirencester where allover aircraft blue was applied for contract work, although 204 was also often to be found on stage carriage services. Hastily withdrawn early in 2000 under the new management regime which sees fit to cascade not much younger Limpalongs to the Stagecoach West fleets, 204 was sold along with most of her siblings to Simon Munden in Bristol. This view at the Munden/ABus yard at St Phillips was taken by John Hammond on September 11th, resplendent in a shiny new coat of white paint. One wonders what the future holds for this excellent machine.

6th October 2000

A real surprise is the repaint of one of Road Car's few remaining VRs into a new livery, especially considering how quickly the fleet has been disappearing over recent years. The livery is dedicated for school buses, following a recent national trend of US-style yellow school buses, and the first example into the scheme is 1957 (PFE541V) seen here on September 4th at the Road Car garage in Lincoln. Many thanks go to Michael Hill for supplying this photo and also for the wealth of other interesting photos he has supplied from this region recently. More of Michael's work will appear on this site soon.

22nd September 2000

Yet another photo from the prolific camera of William Blower who seems to have single-handedly photographed every VR in Wales this summer! Here we see former East Midlands 211 (JAK211W) which is now part of the East End Motors fleet in Clydach. It has had two of its Stagecoach stripes overpainted in the green of East End's fleet livery; it is unusual for them not to apply full fleet livery before service, but this and HUP763T (which also Carlton Coaches livery) were replacements for fire-damaged vehicles and were pressed into service in the condition in which they were acquired. 16th September 2000

This week's photo comes from the camera of Bob Tarling, owner of former Bristol Omnibus Company dual-door RELL C1330 (OHU38M). It is of another dual-door vehicle, 5209 (WUF537K), the only such vehicle of its batch to run for Badgerline (the batch was new to Southdown, passing to Bristol for City service in 1982). It is seen entering Marlborough Street Bus Station in Bristol on August 7th 1985 and was finally withdrawn from service in July 1986. The rest of the batch was scrapped after withdrawal from Bristol, but again 5209 ploughed its own furrow and found its way to Scotland running for Riddler, Arbroath from 1986 to 1992 when it passed to a berry picking farm. It was rescued for preservation earlier this year and happily is now safely back in its native Southdown territory. 1st September 2000
Another view from the camera of William Blower shows former West Yorkshire LWU466V at the depot of Gemini, Birchgrove in the company of STW24W and another unknown VR. The smart blue and white livery is slightly let down by the remnants of the previously-carried Stagecoach stripes at roof level to the rear (these can just be made out), but it is good to see the VR flourishing in South Wales at least. 24th August 2000

Eastern Counties 294 (VEX294X) is famous as the last VR delivered to the National Bus Company and it has been withdrawn this week by First Eastern Counties and lies disused at Lowestoft depot. Moves are afoot to preserve this important vehicle and we hope to have good news soon. In happier times earlier this year (on April 6th to be precise) is 294 captured by Keith Mizen in Lowestoft Bus Station. 12th August 2000

The one and only VR ever to have received Arriva corporate livery passed to Burrows, Ogmore Vale in South Wales in April and still retains the livery, albeit with a strange dark blue patch underneath the destination box. Once again we have William Blower to thank for this view which was taken only last week. 5th August 2000
Millington (GM Coaches) of Cefn Cribbwr in South Wales have taken delivery of three of the recently-retired VRs from Arriva Kent & Sussex subsidiary New Enterprise of Tonbridge. They join former Cardiff Alexander-bodied WTG330T in the fleet and FKM869V is seen here in the extremely smart fleet livery of red and cream. FKM863V is in a little trouble at the moment as it requires a replacement 17-toothed pinion and Mr Millington is only able to find 16-toothed examples to buy - if anyone can help please drop us a line at BVRES and we'll pass on the information. The last of the trio is FKM868V, still in Maidstone & District colours at the moment. My grateful thanks go to William Blower for this and many other topical photos he has mailed to me recently of VRs surviving with South Wales operators. These will all go onto the site in the Still in Service lists in the next few weeks. 28th July 2000

Some thirty years after it was discarded by the Scottish Bus Group as "hopelessly unreliable and poorly built" LFS296F has finally finished in revenue-earning service and is now enjoying a well-deserved retirement in preservation, having recently been repatriated to the UK from its final stamping grounds around Galway on the west coast of Ireland. This photo was taken in 1997 by Richard Stumpf, soon after it had been reregistered 68G811 in the Eire series. 21st July 2000
Stagecoach West sold coach-seated EWS743W earlier this year to Yeomans Canyon Travel of Hereford. Here it is seen in Hereford Bus Station with the blue stripe of its livery repainted in the green of Yeoman's usual fleet colours. It joins several other VRs in this interesting fleet. Heartfelt gratitude to Paul Williamson for providing this photo. 7th July 2000
Have you seen a photo of the new corporate Guide Friday livery as applied to a VR before? I know I hadn't until regular contributor Alistair Friar sent me this view of WWR417S on the York Tour. 29th June 2000

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