Old Bus Photos

Grayline Bicester – Bristol LHL6L – UBW 625H

UBW 625H

Grayline Bicester
Bristol LHL6L
Plaxton C53F

Photographed during the British Coach Rally of 1970, UBW 625H was one of two Bristol LHL6L coaches bought by Grayline of Bicester. According to BLOTW, 174 examples were constructed of the LHL6L, the extended version of the LH for 36ft long bodywork, though eleven were fitted with specialist van bodies. Of the remaining 163, all received Plaxton coach bodies except for two that were bodied by Duple. The LH6L was powered by the Leyland O400 engine which was fitted to the majority of LH and LHS orders, the alternative being the Perkins H6.354. No examples of the LHL had the raucous (I speak from experience) Perkins engine, but the Leyland power unit was no paragon of quietness either. Apart from the London Transport deliveries that had either six speed manual or automatic gearboxes, the standard fitment was the Turner Clarke five speed synchromesh. At least one, KRE 345K, had a semi auto gearbox, but this might have been retro fitted. The O400 engine proved to be of suspect reliability and was supplanted by the O401 in the last production LH variants. The LH, and the short LHS in particular, soon gained reputations for bad riding, which might well have been ameliorated in the longer LHL, though no variants of the LH model were regarded as being among Bristol’s most reliable or inspired engineering achievements. UBW 625H was delivered to Grayline in August 1969, its stablemate UBW 626H arriving in the following month. Both had Plaxton C53F bodywork. UBW 625H passed from Bicester to the Gosport arm of Grayline, formerly Hutfields, in December1970 and was sold by Grayline in September 1974 to Eagle Coaches of Bristol.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

31/01/22 – 06:19

According to the PSV Circle Bristol LH chassis list, there was one LHL fitted with a Perkins engine – YMD990H supplied to Wilder, Feltham (chassis LHL-143). Whether that is correct, I am not sure – Wilder purchased several LH models, with a mix of Leyland and Prerkins engines.
Chassis LHL-168 had a Leyland engine and a Plaxton body, but it was a Derwent bus body, B55F, for Coity Motors (ATG459H).
Chassis LHL-206 is shown as having a Plaxton DP49F body, for the Irish Army, but I have never seen a photograph of this vehicle, so I am not sure of the body style.
Roger also says: "Apart from the London Transport deliveries that had either six speed manual or automatic gearboxes, the standard fitment was the Turner Clarke five speed synchromesh." London Transport did not have any LHL chassis, only LH and LHS models. As I understand it some LH models for NBC subsidiaries were fitted with semi-automatic gearboxes – Midland General and United Counties, as far as I am aware. I believe that the first 6 vehicles supplied to Bristol OC were also fitted with semi-automatic boxes. However, the PSV Circle book only mentions the LT vehicles, as per Roger’s comment.

Nigel Frampton

01/02/22 – 09:21

Sorry if my text was unclear, Nigel, but my comment about transmissions was meant to cover all the LH variants, not just the long version. I did not know that some of the LH/LHS deliveries to NBC had semi auto boxes. Certainly London Country for whom I worked in an admin capacity had synchromesh boxes in their LH buses, though I think that they were four speeders, and one might have expected LCBS to have taken semi auto if that option had been available. I do recall the engineering department expressing general dissatisfaction with the LH model, and particularly with the synchro boxes, though the latter may well have arisen from the unfamiliarity of most LCBS drivers with manual transmissions. As for some LHL coach operators specifying the Perkins engine, what on earth were they thinking about?

Roger Cox

02/02/22 – 06:09

Taking up the points mentioned by Nigel:-
LHL-206 for the Irish Army can be identified by the body number, 733170, as being a Plaxton Panorama Elite II coach body.
Wilder, Feltham:- From P.S.V. Circle News Sheets
364-EDIT-27:- Brighton Rally entries:
Wilder, Feltham YMD 990H Bl LHL6P  LHL-143, and YLY 594H Bl LHL6L   LHL-144
365-MET-59:- YMD 990H new 4/70 – Bl LHL6L LHL143
380-MET-128:- YMD 990H quoted variously as LHL6L and LHL6P, is LHL6P.
Since the data in the Rally Report pre-dated its appearance in the News Sheet, there can be no doubt that the LHL6P and LHL6L for the Rally entrants was taken from the relevant chassis plates.

John Kaye

04/02/22 – 05:48

Just picked this up. This livery is one of my favourites. This stems back to Gliderways Smethwick in my youth, the first company I wrote to and asked for a fleet list, only to be told they did not issue fleet lists. However I did receive a letter beautifully embossed with the crimson Gliderways fleet name. I suppose the element which made the presentation of the coaches stand out was that the grey/crimson colours were the only colours used, including any lettering and the fleet name. A great look in the 60’s. Grey also weathered well in service, not looking too shabby even when dirty

John Rentell

04/02/22 – 05:50

United had quite a number of the short wheelbase versions with Leyland engines.
They were known as ‘Stotty Boxes’
Stott being a Geordie word meaning ‘bounce’ and my word, they certainly did.

Ronnie Hoye

08/02/22 – 06:17

A little surprised that the O.400 was suspect in reliability. Noisy and underpowered it most certainly was, but I thought that otherwise it had quite a good reputation. I would certainly agree with Ronnie about the shorties. I cannot remember the history of the vehicle – but I believe that it had been with ABC Guildford before reaching the operator for whom I drove it. Possibly the worst, and certainly the most bouncy bus or coach that I have ever driven. How can something as dire as an LH come from the same factory, and at the same time, as an RE?

David Oldfield

09/02/22 – 05:57

I recall that the prevailing view after Leyland bought shares in Bristol was that the Transport Holding Company allowed Leyland to take control from a technical standpoint. The THC wanted a successor to the SU, but Leyland wanted a successor to the Tiger Cub. I see from Wikipedia that the LH’s front and rear axles came from Leyland’s Bathgate plant, which suggests to me that it was designed and developed under Leyland’s thumb.

Peter Williamson


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Hants & Dorset – Bristol LL5G – KRU 993 – 787

Hants & Dorset - Bristol LL5G - KRU 993 - 787

Hants & Dorset Motor Services
Bristol LL5G

KRU 993 came to Hants & Dorset in February 1952 as a standard half cab LL6B with an ECW B39R body, one of a batch of seven similar vehicles, KRU 988-994, fleet nos. 782-788, delivered between September 1951 and February 1952. In June 1955 the Bristol AVW engine in KRU 993 was replaced by a Gardner 5LW, making the vehicle an LL5G, a conversion that had happened surprisingly earlier in October 1952 to KRU 990, and to KRU 991 in February 1953. It would seem that the other four retained their Bristol engines. Between September 1959 and July 1960 six of these buses were rebuilt by the operator to full fronted FB39F configuration for OPO operation, with KRU 992 being the last to be so treated in January 1962, but this had the lesser capacity of FB37F. All the others had their seating reduced to 37 in the years 1961 to 1966. The frontal treatment of the conversions ranged considerably from the plain appearance illustrated by KRU 993 through a variety of front panel designs, some bearing the more flamboyant ECW ‘coach’ style radiator grille. KRU 993 is pictured in Southampton in 1962 when it was still a 39 seater, the reduction by two seats occurring in November 1964. 787 was was the first of the batch to be withdrawn in January 1967 when it passed to a dealer. The rest were sold out of service in the following year. I acknowledge the //www.bristolsu.co.uk and the Local Transport History Library websites as sources for much of this history.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

03/05/21 – 07:11

I assume the motive behind these engine swaps was to obtain 6-cylinder units for use in 5LW-engined K-types. The problem which BT&CC and presumably H&D found with the arrival of the KSWs with their higher power was that where older lower powered vehicles were mixed in with them they had difficulty keeping to time – hence taking 6-cylinder engines out of single deckers to use in the double deckers.
Various other interesting features on H&D 787; the kerb view window similar to the SC type, the usual H&D sun-visor. This would also have had the pedestal type drivers seat with a catch released by a foot pedal allowing the seat to rotate so the driver could face the passengers to issue tickets. I always wondered about the safety aspects of these; what was to stop the seat going walkabout while on the move if it failed to catch when returned to the driving position?

Peter Cook

29/05/21 – 07:39

Far better looking than the leering toothy-grin radiator grille that marred so many other L rebuilds.

Ian Thompson


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R & R Coaches t/a Beeline – Bristol SC4 – NFW 655

NFW 655

R & R Coaches t/a Beeline
Bristol Bristol SC4LK

The lightweight SC (small capacity) vehicle emerged in 1954 and was the Bristol/ECW offering for BTC lightly trafficked rural bus routes. Every opportunity was taken to save weight. The chassis longitudinal members were simple straight lengths of channel lacking intermediate transverse sections, and the body was sheeted in fairly thin aluminium. The axles were reputedly sourced from Bedford, and the five speed gearbox, with its idiosyncratic selector positioning between third and fourth, came from the David Brown company. Three prototypes were constructed, the first, 724 APU, fitted with the Gardner 4LK engine and classified SCX4G, was delivered to Eastern National in November 1954. This was followed by 725 APU in December 1954, but this had the Perkins P6 engine and was called the SCX6P. This bus later received a 4LK engine in 1958. The third prototype, another 4LK powered SCX4G, went to Eastern Counties in December 1955, and as all subsequent SCs were powered by the 4LK engine, the classification thereafter was amended to the familiar SC4LK. Production, including the prototypes, totalled 323, Lincolnshire being the greatest user with 113 examples, followed by Eastern Counties with 88, Crosville 79, and Eastern National 22. The other BTC companies took the SC in penny numbers only – United Counties 6, Cumberland and Thames Valley 5 each, Red & White 4, and United Welsh just 1. The little 3.8 litre 57 bhp 4LK had to work hard in the SC, a duty not helped by the curious ratios of the David Brown gearbox. The gap between second and third has been noted by a number of commentators, but, in my experience of driving the type, it was the gap between third and fourth that truly restricted progress. This necessitated the revving of the engine to its absolute maximum before attempting to change up, a move that frequently proved abortive so that a change back down again was immediately required. Thus the engine spent much of its time at its 2100 maximum revolutions with a deleterious effect upon the eardrums of driver and passengers alike. The gearbox offered a fifth gear that was only of feasible use downhill or on the level with a following wind. The SC remained in production until 1961, during which time Dennis had been collaborating with Bristol in respect of the Loline, and one wonders if the Guildford company could not have offered the Falcon gearbox, available in four and five speed versions, for the SC instead of the impractical David Brown unit. The picture shows former Lincolnshire Road Car No. 2414 NFW 655, delivered new in May 1956 and sold on in 1969. I photographed it in service in July 1970 with R & R Coaches, Bishopstrowe, Wilts, trading as Beeline. The location is New Canal, Salisbury, formerly a section of the long defunct Salisbury and Southampton Canal which was closed in 1806. This bus was withdrawn by Beeline in May 1972 and its subsequent fate is not recorded. R & R Coaches still exists but it would seem that the company was reconstituted in 1971.
I acknowledge the detailed Bristol Vehicles Website as the source of much information:- //www.bristolsu.co.uk

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

08/02/21 – 06:41

I once rode on a Lincolnshire SC4LK from Goole town centre to my lodgings in the town and my abiding memory is that I was glad it was only a short ride on such a noisy and uncomfortable bus.

Stan Zapiec

08/02/21 – 11:57

I’m a dinosaur, Stan, and still think that there is no substitute for cc. Many BTC/THC companies thought the same and, where possible, used an LS5 or MW5 in preference. SC and SU only made sense in the flat lands of Lincolnshire and the Fens – and yet Crosville, United and Western National used them in the Hill Country. There is sometimes no accounting.

David Oldfield

09/02/21 – 06:08

I think it must have been about 1958/59 that I travelled on an SC4LK on Lincolnshire’s route 3 from Cleethorpes to Lincoln on a cold wet January Sunday evening. (No train service on Sundays). The wolds section Ravendale, Binbrook, Kirmond-le-Mire, Tealby is seriously hilly – not your typical Lincolnshire flat lands. The whole trip was a growling/ screaming assault on the ears – about an hour and 40 minutes of it if I remember rightly.

Stephen Ford

09/02/21 – 13:36

We hated these on Eastern Counties. They were very noisy, and rattled everywhere. Plus, to take fares the driver had to swivel right round to the left, and work through the central gap behind. As luck would have it, I joined the Cambridge depot in 1970, and they were soon to be withdrawn.

Norman Long

10/02/21 – 06:19

I’m struggling to visualise how the chassis would work without any intermediate transverse sections, does that mean there were some but only at the front and rear? Presumably the bodywork played some part in keeping the whole thing together but I don’t think these were semi-integral were they?
How would the completed chassis be sent from Bristol to Lowestoft? Would some temporary spacers be inserted?

Chris Barker

14/02/21 – 07:04

Chris, I cannot now recall where I first learned of the simple layout of the SC chassis, but the body structure definitely contributed to the integrity of the entire vehicle. My long held belief was endorsed by Peter Cook’s comment of 02/11/2019 under Eastern Counties – Bristol SC4LK – VVF 540 – 540, and Peter owns one of the type.

Roger Cox

28/03/21 – 07:57

Further to David Oldfield (8/2/21) Western National’s SC lookalikes were actually rebuilt and rebodied L6Bs, which should explain their hill-climbing ability. United didn’t have any SCs, but they did have five SUs.

David Call

29/11/21 – 06:27

Interesting to read the comments here, and mine are similar. We moved to the county of Merioneth in 1971 when I was 9, and our Crosville service was Dolgellau – Machynlleth and return three times a day and none on Sundays. Usual fayre was MW5s which as a young boy I liked. SC4LKs were occasional visitors and I assume one was kept as a standby bus at Machynlleth.
The journey to school was on the Aberllefenni – Tywyn school bus which was contracted to Crosville until probably 1975. Out of season we were treated to a coach, mostly CMG 523 as I remember, but come the summer we had whatever was available at Machynlleth garage – an MW5 or an SC4.The latter were awful particularly when climbing. The return from school involved a hill climb between Abergynolwyn and Talyllyn, then the main climb from the Cader Idris junction up to Upper Corris. Noisy, rattley and generally lacking in stamina are three attributes, but the informative piece explains it all.
I have recently bought an Anbrico whitemetal model and intend to repaint it in Crosville livery as a childhood reminder.

Phil Bartlett


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