Old Bus Photos

Southern National – Bristol LS – OTT 98 – 1299

Southern National - Bristol LS - OTT 98 - 1299

Southern National Omnibus Company
Bristol LS6G

Seen heading along York Place, Harrogate at the end of a Trans-Pennine run is Southern National 1299 (OTT 98), a 1953 Bristol LS6G with ECW C41F coachwork. Resplendent in iconic Royal Blue livery, this coach was part of the last batch to be built with the traditional Royal Blue roof-mounted luggage rack, which was accessed by a set of foldaway steps at the rear of the vehicle. It is a fine example of the underfloor-engined Royal Blue fleet operational in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and it is good to see 1299 wearing its original ‘dark roof’ version of the livery once again. (In 1958, with the arrival of the MW coaches, the livery was altered to a half blue/half cream layout, with dark blue up to waist rail level, and cream above). The 1953 batch of coaches for operation on Royal Blue services were also the last to display ‘Royal Blue Coach Service’ illuminated panels above the side windows. Subsequent deliveries of LS and MW coaches sported the more usual curved roof glasses in the cant rail panels instead.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Brendan Smith

12/01/14 – 07:47

Despite the registration there was nothing OTT about this. Rather understated luxury and quality with the 6LW offering a long legged, relaxed, lope in the pre motorway era.

David Oldfield

12/01/14 – 11:12

Thanks for posting, Brendan. I have read in different places of the shape caused by the presence of the rooftop luggage rack as being "Camel Back". Rather flattering to a camel, perhaps!

Pete Davies

12/01/14 – 13:04

There was always something special about Royal Blue coaches and these last-gasp versions of the traditional style are no exception. One point, were the roof racks ever used?

Chris Hebbron

13/01/14 – 08:44

OTT 43

I thought you might like to add this picture to the current OTT 98 thread as it shows a similar preserved vehicle but in the cream roof colours.

Ken Jones

13/01/14 – 08:44

The roof luggage carriers were used – I have a copy of a picture (not my copyright though!) of the driver loading luggage on LS car 1292 – in the ‘cream roof’ era, so post 1958.
The reason for the livery change was not ‘cosmetic’ but a practical one – I will look out the exact details in next day or two !

Peter Delaney

13/01/14 – 09:46

I’m wondering whether this is 1297, OTT 96. Both 1297 and 1299 are preserved but 1297 went to the Netherlands at some stage.

Geoff Kerr

OTT 98_2

Close up of registration and fleet number of posted shot.

13/01/14 – 11:25

OTT 98_3

I thought this photo may be of interest. It is OTT 98 after sale to the dealer W. North, Sherburn-in-Elmet, seen at their premises during the Summer of 1970.
It was quite a shock to see this here, as I had shortly before been on holiday in North Devon and seen these LS’s still working hard for a living. It was still in splendid condition here and I remember hoping that it would find a suitable. sympathetic new owner. At the time it seemed far too modern to be considered for preservation. Fortunately OTT 96 is still with us.

John Stringer

13/01/14 – 13:45

Thanks – it does look a bit like 96 though!

Geoff Kerr

I must admit I did have to go back to the original shot to be sure.

13/01/14 – 15:17

Both 1297 (OTT 96) and 1299 (OTT 98) are still with us. The former is in The Netherlands as part of the Leek collection at Monickendam, and OTT 98 is now part of the West Country Historic Omnibus and Transport Trust collection, having had a complete engine rebuild in 2007 and was hand painted back into original 1953 livery in 2009. I am delighted to be 1299’s current custodian and sponsor.
I look forward to reading Peter’s explanation as to the reasons for the change in roof colour in 1957.
Incidentally all this 1953 batch, 1293-9 and 2200-2, were down-seated to C39F following mid-life refurbishment at ECW Lowestoft, in 1961, and 1299 remains so.

John Grigg

13/01/14 – 16:42

Just a reminder you can see a picture of OTT 98 and one of OTT 43 from 2012 on this site at the Royal Blue Run gallery.

Ken Jones

13/01/14 – 17:40

OTT 98_4

I attach a photo of 1299 taken in the early 70’s which was taken on Madeira Drive Brighton following a HCVC London-Brighton run. This shows it with a blue roof as it is now preserved so it seems that the roof has changed colour a number of times over the years, I agree that the blue roof looks better but this is purely a personal preference I know.

Diesel Dave

14/01/14 – 08:22

The ‘incident’ which led to the change in colour of the roof of Royal Blue cars was as below:-
On August 2nd 1957, the 2.35 pm summer only service from Plymouth to Bournemouth, was a Bristol L coach – probably car 1239 – being driven John Whitlock when its roof was grazed by a plane landing at Exeter Airport. The undercarriage hit the top of the coach, breaking both skylights. He drove to the control tower, with the somewhat shaken passengers on board, and reported the incident. The pilot apparently had not seen a coach, and following his reporting the incident, there was an official enquiry, which John was asked to attend.
The incident was reported in the local Exeter newspaper, the ‘Express and Echo’, on 3rd August 1957, under the heading "Bus roof ‘skimmed’ by plane" and "Observers ‘saw nothing unusual’". From the newspaper account we learn that the coach was going along the Exeter – Honiton road, when the roof was "’skimmed’ by a twin engined Mosquito going in to land at Exeter Airport. The plane landed without a mark on it and the coach had a slight dent in the roof. The bus driver felt a slight bump. As there were no other cars on the road at the time he assumed it must have something to do with a plane that had passed low over him. Wing Cmdr. R J B Pearse, manager of the airport, said that a slight dent was found in the roof of the bus, but when an inspection was made of the Mosquito there was not a mark to be found, either on the tyres or the paintwork. The pilot said he had felt nothing at all. ‘We can only assume that the plane did touch the bus’ said Wing Cmdr Pearse. The pilot’s name was withheld".
The subsequent enquiry resulted in an accident report card being filed with the RAF, and that adds further information. The aircraft was a Mosquito Mk 35, number TA724, of the 3/4 CAACU, part of 61 Group, Home Command. The accident occurred at 16.55 on 2nd August 1957, at the end of a 2 hour 10 minute flight out and back from Exeter. This particular flight had been for Army firing practice. The pilot, 35 year old Flt Lt K Munson, was experienced, with 195 flying hours on Mosquitos, and 1567 flying hours overall. The lighting conditions were described as ‘dull’. At the end of the exercise, the pilot had joined the circuit and landed, but he was totally "unaware that his aircraft had struck the single decker bus (sic) travelling on the A30 road which runs adjacent to the airport". The report also records that "damage was caused to the roof of the bus. No damage was sustained to the aircraft."
It was considered that the organisation ‘at station level’ was at fault, as they knew of the danger of a collision between aircraft and vehicles, but had "made inadequate efforts to have remedial action taken." The A30 passed across the approach to runway 13, at a distance of 50 yards. There were no traffic signals or warning notices on the road, and there was a tall hedge bounding the road which "would effectively prevent the pilot seeing the bus and vice versa". No blame was attached to the pilot (who was making a low approach in order to touch down early on a short runway) or the driver.
As a result, 150 yards of the runway 13/31 were ‘sterilized’, and a local flying order issued to warn pilots of the dangers likely to be met on the approach to runway 13, whilst the roof of Royal Blue coaches was changed from dark blue to cream, to make them more conspicuous from the air.

Peter Delaney

14/01/14 – 11:48

I’ve just checked my original his-res image, and it definitely is OTT 98, confirmed by my notes taken at the time I wasn’t aware that it was also preserved – that’s nice to know.

John Stringer

14/01/14 – 12:27

OTT 98_5

The give away in the photo that it can only be OTT 98 is that the words "Dorset Transport Circle" are shown in the "via" part of the destination display. DTC owned this coach for well over 30 years and rallied it extensively for most of that time before generously donating it to WHOTT in 2006.

John Grigg


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Southern National – Dennis Ace – YD 9533 – 3650

 Southern National – Dennis Ace – YD 9533 – 3650
Copyright Roger Cox

Southern National
Dennis Ace
Dennis B20F

Few of us realise just how major the task of bus preservation can be in terms of effort and expense. Back in the late 1960s I was a member of a group that bought 1934 ex Southern National Dennis Ace YD 9533 with Dennis B20F body, which had by then suffered the indignity of serving as a mobile fish and chip shop. The work and costs became increasingly prohibitive, even for this small vehicle, and, as Brian Lunn with his South Yorkshire Titan also discovered, those prepared to roll up their sleeves for hard graft became conspicuous by their absence. Ultimately, we sold YD 9533 to another owner, and, happily, this delightful little vehicle is now a regular on the rally scene in superbly restored condition. Here it is, as it was when bought in 1969, on the forecourt of Reigate LT (CB&C) garage, alongside face lifted Green Line RF 61, LYF 412.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

22/06/12 – 07:06

Roger, did you take this bus on the HCVC London Brighton run about 1970? I used to go every year with Geoff Lumb and his 1938 Llandudno Guy Wolf JC5313 and one year we were parked next to a Dennis Ace. All I can remember is that I think it was painted all over white and had large pieces of plastic sticky tape over a rust hole on the rear offside corner.
Or am I thinking of something else? It comes to my mind, as I type this posting, that perhaps it was a forward control half cab version of the Ace. (Mace perhaps)?
If this isn’t going too far off topic (grin), can anybody confirm what is a fading file in my "memory banks"?

Eric Bawden

22/06/12 – 07:07

Perhaps a little more refined and not so open to the elements, but this Dennis seems to have a bit of a French influence about it, i.e. the driver is behind the engine but the wheels are set back from the front, not exactly the norm for UK vehicles

Ronnie Hoye

22/06/12 – 11:19

I think the idea was to shorten the wheelbase as much as possible to make them more manoeuvrable in tight country lanes. The Ace was as a result absolutely ideal for these situations.
The set back front axle on commercial vehicles was quite the fashion in Britain for a while in the 1930’s, even heavyweights like AEC, Leyland and Albion joining in. Often almost the entire bonnet was ahead of the front axle, protruding like a long snout and looking really odd. Then the reason was to provide better engine accessibility and removal/installation, but it was short lived, though Dennis persisted with the idea well into the postwar period on the Pax model (of which I seem to recall Jersey Motor Transport had a few as buses). But that’s another topic really.

John Stringer

22/06/12 – 11:20

I wasn’t at the event, but this sounds like the Dennis Mace that returned to the UK for preservation after service with Joe’s Bus Service on Jersey. Memory is failing me here, and I can’t find a published source, but I think that it was a former ENOC machine and ended up being scrapped after the restoration task proved to be too much for amateur enthusiasts to handle. Another loss of a significant asset while hundreds of thousands of pounds are lavished on scores of identical London Transport types. Even for the pleasanter LT types such as the RT and the GS (yes, I hate Routemasters!) their ridiculous over-representation in the ranks of preserved vehicles is little short of a self-indulgent disgrace. Are there any Maces left??

Neville Mercer

22/06/12 – 15:08

That does make sense, John, on the subject of manoeuvrability on narrow roads, some years ago I seem to remember reading an article somewhere about some second hand buses being sold to an operator on the Channel Islands, but before he could use them they had to be split lengthways and made narrower, can anyone confirm if that’s right, or is my memory playing tricks?

Ronnie Hoye

22/06/12 – 15:08

There is a photo of a preserved Southern National Mace BTA 59, taken in 2007, at this site: http://www.bus-and-coach-photos.com

John Stringer

23/06/12 – 05:41

Ronnie, I seem to remember reading the same report, but I can’t quote chapter and verse on it.

YD 9533 appears in the new PSV Circle listing of preserved buses.

Pete Davies

23/06/12 – 05:44

Eric, whilst the Ace was in our care, it was never repainted, so I think that Neville has hit upon the answer. Dennis specialised to some degree in small buses for one person operation (formerly known as OMO) during the twenties and thirties, introducing a bewildering array of models – G, GL, Dart, Ace, Mace, Pike, Arrow Minor, and (ultimately) Falcon, which superseded all the earlier designs and re-emerged post war. John is right about the reason for the set back front axle on the Ace/Mace, but this feature did not appear on the other small Dennis buses, though it did on the post war Pax goods model, a few of which were bodied as buses. Post war the maximum capacity for an OMO vehicle was raised from 20 to 26 seats, but, with the eventual legalisation of OMO operation on standard sized single deckers, the market for small buses withered away, and with it the Falcon. The standard power train for the "Flying Pig" Ace was the 3.77 litre side valve petrol engine coupled with a four speed gearbox, which, in usual Dennis style for the period, worked upwards from right to left. To further increase the fun, the Ace had a centre accelerator. A very few Aces were fitted with the early Perkins "Wolf" diesel, and it was also offered with a Dorman diesel option. I am glad that I played a small part in saving this little gem for posterity. Today it is immaculate:-

Roger Cox

23/06/12 – 05:45

I think that the vehicles Ronnie Hoye refers to were a number of Bristol LH’s which came from Western National or associated fleets. As they started out as 8ft wide they were indeed split down the centre and reduced to 7ft 6in width, I think in fact they went to Guernsey.

Diesel Dave

PS. The LH’s I commented about were in fact fitted with Plaxton Elite coach bodies.

23/06/12 – 05:47

Ronnie, I too seem to have a hint of this long ago, and Guernsey springs to mind – or what’s left of the old mind !!

Chris Youhill

23/06/12 – 05:48

Following on from Neville’s question, Eric B’s memories and John S’s link, I seem to recall that this Mace was rescued from its life as a caravan, painted white. I believe it’s the only survivor. From some front angles, the Mace looked decidedly odd, with the radiator seemingly off-centre, which I’m sure it wasn’t. However, I do recall two wartime RAF Dennis military lorries, mouldering with snow ploughs on their fronts, having their metal grill radiator covers definitely off-centre. There was also Dennis military lorry, with a snout like the post-war Falcon, seen here: http://miliblog.co.uk/?cat=441

Chris Hebbron

23/06/12 – 05:50

BTA 59_lr

This photograph shows BTA 59 as it looked about 1970 so you can see if it rings any bells. It’s fair to say it looks a lot better now, although I haven’t seen it in the flesh!
If I can dig out my early rally programmes I’ll see if I can confirm whether it was likely to be this or another one.

David Beilby

23/06/12 – 10:17

David B, your photo of BTA 59 almost certainly confirms in my memory that this was the one we were parked next to in Brighton around 1970

Eric Bawden

23/06/12 – 14:26

Whilst I agree with Neville that there seems to be a disproportioned number of RM’s and RML’s in preservation, that’s hardly surprising ‘with the possible exception of some Bristol/ECW’s’ that particular chassis/body combination was probably built in far greater numbers than any other half cab, it should also be remembered that by the time the Routemaster was finally withdrawn from service half cabs of any type had become a distant memory in most area’s, consequently you have a whole generation of youngsters living outside London who’ve never been close to a half cab, much less ridden on one. We can all think of examples of things that were once produced in vast numbers that we just took for granted and sadly no longer exist, that’s why places such as Beamish in this area, Chric, Sandtoft, Bealieu and many others too numerous to mention, should all be looked upon as educational assets rather than curiosities. I apologise if that seemed to be a bit like a sermon rather than a comment.

Ronnie Hoye

23/06/12 – 21:14

Yes, well Ronnie, I’m glad you made that point. I’m a fan of Neville but I’m also a big fan of the RM – having driven many and regularly still driving a preserved RML. I do have to agree with Neville, in one sense. I am actually more of a coach fan and lament the fact the are not half so many preserved coaches as buses. I am, however, painfully aware why. Until recently, composite construction was the norm and many have/had frames that had rotted away. Because of the minority interest, not so many people are/were willing to put in the painstaking work that has gone into so many superb bus restorations. I always felt, as a kid, that the standard of build and finish of LT buses was above the norm – cf 1966 RM/RMLs and Sheffield Park Royal bodies could have come from totally different origins, so different was the finish. Add to that, as Ronnie says, the size of the gene pool and it is quite understandable, if regrettable, that there are so many LT vehicles in preservation.

David Oldfield

23/06/12 – 21:16

Chris H, the Dennis Lancet II and III, and the utility Max lorry, all had the radiator slightly offset to the nearside. The slightly eccentric appearance of the forward control Ace, and the slightly heavier Mace that superseded it, is an optical trick that results from the effect of the standard normal control radiator that marries up rather incongruously with the front dash panel. The forward control Falcon has a similar odd appearance.
Stepping (cautiously) off subject on the question of preserved London buses, Ronnie has hit upon a matter that continues to influence certain opinions today. Many times I have come across the view that the Routemaster was "the best bus ever built". In part, this (almost exclusively Metropolitan) opinion derives from the fact that, as Ronnie points out, the RM was for many years the sole representative of the half cab double decker, and was thus, in the eyes of many, a unique type of vehicle. Those holding this view have no knowledge of Titans, Regents, Arabs, Lodekkas et al. To my mind, the RM was simply a competent half cab that was designed to be dismantled like Meccano to suit the Aldenham overhaul system. The London Routemasters were rebuilt regularly to achieve their long service lives. The Northern General RMFs, which were notably purchased to match the passenger acceptance standards of the United Lodekkas, and which did not receive the expensive cosseting from Aldenham, achieved a service life of some 15 years, consistent with other types of half cabs.

Roger Cox

24/06/12 – 05:20

I don’t begrudge the preservation of any number of the RM family. Obviously it was the last of the half-cab breed and was therefore eminently worthy of all the preservation efforts that have taken place. I only regret that we didn’t all wake up a bit earlier and preserve some other stuff too – vehicles that were perhaps more nationally representative, rather than almost exclusively London. Having said that, I remain amazed and delighted at the number and variety of buses that do survive.

Stephen Ford

24/06/12 – 11:01

My real concern – and one that makes me a bit unenthusiastic and despondent about the bus preservation movement generally nowadays – is who is going to keep on preserving them all in future years?
It seems to me that with only a few exceptions, Bus Enthusiasts are a disappearing breed. It was a generation thing, most that I have ever known were born between the 1930’s and the 1950’s and those who are still around are, let’s face it, getting on a bit. We have often beeg seen by others as maybe a bit oddball, but we were tolerated. Later generations increasingly see the transport enthusiast – whether bus, train or plane – as ‘sad’, definitely having something wrong with them and probably in need of treatment. Just try pointing a camera at a bus nowadays in any public place and note the looks and hear the rude comments I used to feel a great sense of relief when I read in ‘Buses’ or the PSV Circle newsheets that a bus had been secured for preservation. One somehow imagined naively that its future was automatically assured for ever more.
Lots of vehicles have had many years of hard work and tremendous expense lavished on them, but will there be similar dedicated people in the future to keep up to them? People who are too young to remember them running.
The thing about ‘our’ generation of enthusiast was I believe that although they obviously revered the buses of their youth first and foremost, they had a broad interest in the periods before and after also.
The younger enthusiasts that do exist tend, as with most other aspects of life, only to be interested in things that they can ‘relate’ to, and shun everything else.
(A bit of a rant starting now – another generation thing – I’d better stop !)

John Stringer

25/06/12 – 07:43

Not a rant: a very sound point, well made.
Only this afternoon, I went to the Stroud RE Meet and Running Day and pondered the average age of the men (and some wives) who populated the event, not to mention the rides. And like those who keep old rail locos/aircraft going, their ‘intimate’ skills with their charges are dying off, as they do. Most of the children were children/grandchildren up to about twelve.
And, unlike cars and the like, the ‘charges’ are big beasts not easily accommodated under cover and ever subject to constantly encroaching ‘elf’ & safety demands. And even museums are having problems, like the RAF one and other military ones, where the younger generation don’t have that connexion with WWI or WWII and have not served in the Forces as National Service and have an affinity. True, road transport museums/meets are working ones, which keeps more of an interest going with youngsters, but will not make them give of their time, the vital ingredient.

Chris Hebbron

25/06/12 – 07:43

John. Rant? Generation thing? Yes of course, but sadly you make very pertinent points.

David Oldfield

25/06/12 – 07:44

John, I can relate to everything you say, I’m in complete agreement. It’s a bit like many of the bus pioneers who were young at the time of the 1930 Transport Act, when their businesses became firmly established. When the 1970’s arrived, many of them simply wanted to retire and many didn’t have anyone to pass the business on to. The majority of vehicles in preservation today are owned by and restored by people who remember them, travelled on them, drove them, but who will they be passed on to? As you say, the younger enthusiasts will have no knowledge, memories or experience of such vehicles so will they be able to relate to them at all.
When I visit rallies now, it’s wonderful to be able to travel on vehicles I remember as a lad, but will future generations have the same enthusiasm for something which will mean nothing to them. It will be a sad day when no one appreciates anymore, that we used to make lovely buses in Britain!
Oh dear, I didn’t set out to spread gloom and despondency!

Chris Barker

25/06/12 – 17:02

Gentlemen..you have all said exactly what I have feared in recent times. Young people will never relate to "old things" except via a computer screen.
Here in Bristol we have the recently opened "M Shed" which is an original dockside warehouse that has housed museum exhibits, mainly transport based for many years. It was old, dusty, atmospheric and filled with the aroma of the dockside steam railway which still runs, old oil and the originality of the building and it’s long past. Then came the decision to "restore it" using Lottery money and after a staggering £27 million pounds was splurged it opened with much noise and showmanship. However, it is now a big set of cardboard display cards, a few cleaned exhibits and a host of LCD information screens. It looks like something constructed by infant school teachers and set up in a shopping Mall. Filled with holidaying, screaming children and "yummy mummy’s" because entrance is free, the place is nothing like it was as regards history just a theme park…and in the middle is a rather tired Bristol Lodekka that was still running but now ensconced in a cardboard display jungle. It made me heart sink to hear someone telling a group of barely interested children.."It’s an old bus that really old people used to ride on..i’ts like a London bus but green like you see in pictures"..they then moved on.
I do hope that there will be better places and many transport museum are wonderful but the message of what the exhibits meant, how and where they were made, who used them, what they are like to ride on and why they feel different must be passed on in some way. Sadly with modern Health & Safety and litigation fears, few children have ever picked up a hammer, nails, spanner, painted anything or been involved in manual work. We old grey hairs grew up in a different world and now tap these keys as a new skill but 10 year old Johnny will only seek a museum full of I-pods in 2060 and a surviving Lodekka will be of very little interest as it sits dust covered and seized.
I don’t have any family but if you do..spread the word to them AND to their friends..please.

Richard Leaman

26/06/12 – 06:33

About four years ago, I took my grandson to the Natural History Museum in West Ken., to see dinosaurs, which was quite good, mainly through the moving, realistic, models. After, I suggested we went to the adjacent Science Museum, where I’d gone as a child – all sorts of things for boys and model locomotives and other things in glass cases with handles you could turn to see how they worked. About ten years ago, it was still quite good with an excellent ‘steam’ section, both reciprocating and turbine engines doing their stuff, amongst other things. At this last visit, it was as Richard said, all trendy stuff, dark lighting and shallow content. The car section comprised five cars on shelves above each other, that gave you neck strain to survey. Most kids just flitted and my g’son was very disappointed, after my bigging it up! All very sad. I’m waiting for the British Museum to update, with floating fossils and artefacts, amid flashing lasers and fireworks! That’ll grab their attention and educate them!

Chris Hebbron

29/06/12 – 11:23

I have an undated press cutting showing YD 9533 in Southern National livery at the Bristol Bus Rally. Standing with it is Mr Bernard Davies the Assistant Commercial Manager of LCBS who is described as a part owner. Does this add to the history of the vehicle?


29/06/12 – 17:10

All may not be lost my 24 year old daughter is a keen observer of the transport scene often texting me with the latest nonsense by our local operator. She also enjoys riding on old vehicles especially the Crich trams indeed she even follows the tramway blog! She also is happy to photograph interesting vehicles for me on her phone.

Chris Hough

30/06/12 – 05:25

In response to Paragon, Bernard Davis (no"e") was one of the group, of which I was another, that saved the Ace in the state as shown. He and I were the only two that put any real work into restoration before it was sold on.

Roger Cox

24/09/12 – 17:33

Pleased to say that there is another ‘Ace’ alive, if not well at present. Ex ECOC/Bickers Ace CAH 923/ECW B20F is in the Ipswich Transport Museum – and started the collection in 1965. Re-restoration has recently commenced with a view to getting the bus on the road for 2015 – its 50th year in preservation…….. Some parts have gone missing over the years and any info on bits and pieces welcome.

Eric Mouser

25/09/12 – 07:07

What Eric Mouser omitted to say in his comment was that the pioneering preservationist who acquired CAH 923 from Bickers of Coddenham in 1965 was a Mr. E. Mouser. I’m sure we all look forward to seeing it on the road in 2015 whether in Bickers green or Eastern Counties red.

Nigel Turrner

25/05/14 – 11:08

The sale and cannibilisation of these buses didn’t finish with their journey to the ECOC graveyard of Ben Jordan, Coltishall.
A. C. Bickers of Coddenham, Suffolk bought 5 of the remnants and the complete wooden framework of what would have been D20, DVF 520, subsequently completed as a service lorry.
Alfred Bickers then purchased withdrawn Dennis Ace dustcarts from Ipswich Borough Council and used the mechanicals to rebuild 4 of the Aces as petrol engined 20 strs.
The later DVF XXX registered buses were about a foot longer, and were 22 strs.
I first met G. C. Bickers, son of Alfred, in 1965 and bought CAH 923. The body was in poor condition, so I also acquired the body of DVF 519, which had been bought, but never used by Bickers. The body was stripped off D3 and the body of D19 re-fitted – which is when we found out the difference in body lengths!
Initially the restoration went well, but then the Ipswich Transport Preservation Group had been formed, and a 1939 Leyland Cub Fire Engine, a 1914 R. S. & J battery electric truck, an Ipswich tramcar body to name but a few came onto the scene.
The collection moved around various sites before becoming the Ipswich Transport Museum and many other projects took priority over the Ace. The moves and changes of personnel over the years has taken its toll on the Ace and a number of vital parts have been lost.
However the 50th anniversary of the Ace in preservation is rapidly approaching and work to return the Ace to the road has begun in earnest.
It will be something of a mongrel – long body, short chassis with petrol engine – but it will be painted in ECOC livery so that we can demonstrate our collection of ‘tin bibles’ PSV Circle records show pre-war livery as ‘Foochow Red and off white’ as opposed to postwar Tilling red and cream. Any info or colour pictures welcome!

Eric Mouser

27/05/14 – 06:39

In the 1960’s there was a well known motor cycle scrambler from East Anglia called Dave Bickers. Was he connected with Bickers of Coddenham?


28/05/14 – 07:57

Yes, Dave Bickers is a member of the eponymous Coddenham family. Dave’s exploits took place at a time when we still had a motorcycle industry, when names like Dot and Greeves were ascendant in the competitive world of motocross/scrambles. As one time Scott and Velocette owner, I find the present day offerings of the almost wholly foreign motorbike industry as mind numbingly tedious as ‘modern’ buses.

Roger Cox

28/05/14 – 07:58

Paragon. You must be as old as me! My dad took me to motorcycle scrambles in the 1960s where Dave Bickers was a leading rider. He was and is David G. Bickers of Coddenham, son of Geoffrey C. Bickers of Coddenham and grandson of Alfred C. Bickers of Coddenham.

Nigel Turner

28/05/14 – 15:59

Roger and Nigel-thanks for your replies.Yes, I am three score years and ten and more!
Roger-I have owned a number of Velos over the years and still have a water cooled LE on which I purr round the Wiltshire lanes when the sun shines. When much younger I considered buying a Scott but then sanity prevailed (no offence).
I am not totally against modern buses.There are some interesting developments with people like GKN and BAE endeavouring to make more efficient transmission systems.Like you modern motorcycles leave me cold.


29/05/14 – 07:49

Among a clutch of motorbikes I owned, when young, was a post-war Velo KSS which was rather fast! It served me well on my longest ever run, from Portsmouth to Morpeth!
I agree that, like so many things, character is missing so much from modern things. However, I found that girls were more attracted to cars than motorbikes and cars were more romantic!

Chris Hebbron

29/05/14 – 09:35

Chris, I had a KSS engine for some years, but never found a frame etc for it. The KSS and KTT were overhead cam machines which, as you say, were fast for the times, but notoriously difficult to keep in tune. Paragon, I envy you. The LE was a superbly engineered sophisticated machine, incredibly quiet and stable, with very good weather protection. The master at my last primary school had one, and sometimes used to run me home on the pillion seat. The Police took a large number, the "Noddy" bikes of fond memory, but Velocette never really recovered the development costs. Having burnt their fingers a bit with that, they then went on to pour funds into the Viceroy scooter, again, well in advance of anything else, but too late and too big for the market. They never got their money back. The story is a bit like Guy with the Wulfrunian, except that the Velocette machines were utterly reliable. When the Goodman family (originally Gutgemann from Germany) decided to stop making motorbikes in the early ’70s, they paid off all their creditors in full. On Chris’s final point, their was once a bus photographer who always endeavoured to include a member of the fair sex in his bus pictures, but his name now escapes me (like at lot else these days!).

Roger Cox

29/05/14 – 11:33

Roger, are you thinking of Robert Jowitt?

Eric Bawden

29/05/14 – 17:45

That’s him, Eric. He must have had rather more charisma than I ever did to entice those attractive "extras" into his bus pictures.

Roger Cox

05/07/14 – 07:17

I am using this thread as a flimsy excuse to return to a more recent one, the use of megabuses around our streets when bus use is meant to be declining- but yet they carry 50 per cent more passengers than the old 55 seaters which fitted better into the urban scene.
Arriva Yorkshire (aka Deutsche Bahn) have just launched what I think are some Dennis Darts with obviously short wheelbases for presumably town use- in a new livery. One is reminded, you could say, of the principle behind Ace and Mace? It all comes around…


08/07/14 – 14:54

Further to earlier comments, I sadly have to report that Dave Bickers of Coddenham passed away on Sunday July 6th 2014 aged 76. His passing was covered in a full page spread in the East Anglian Daily Times and I believe that it also made the local television news.

Nigel Turner

09/07/14 – 07:50

A tribute to Dave Bickers may be found here:-

Roger Cox

YD 9533_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting

24/07/14 – 06:05

The Dennis Mace refered to above appears to have been preserved. it is listed by the Dennis Society with a photo and another photo link on Google shows it at a show in 2007.

John Lomas


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Southern National – Bristol Lodekka – AUO 523B – 2053

Southern National - Bristol Lodekka - AUD 523D - 2053
Copyright Roger Cox

Southern National
Bristol Lodekka FLF6B
ECW H38/32F

Stephen Ford asked, "Was Westward Ho! (Southern National) the only one that included an exclamation mark?"

I don’t know the answer to that, but here is a picture of a Bristol Lodekka displaying that very destination.

Westward Ho

The bus is an FLF6B with ECW H38/32F body delivered to Southern National as their number 2053 in December 1964. It is seen here in the summer of 1970 carrying the Western National identity following the NBC decision to phase out the Southern National company name.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

A full list of Bristol codes can be seen here.

11/12/11 – 11:14

Would a D registration make it 1966? … and when did the NBC come into being….?


Thanks for that Joe pressed the wrong key there I think

11/12/11 – 20:05

Joe, the National Bus Company was formed in November 1968, but did not actually come into being until 1st January 1969, when the assets of the state-owned Transport Holding Company (THC) were transferred to it. On 1st March 1968, the British Electric Traction (BET) group’s British bus subsidiaries became wholly owned by the THC, thus becoming fully state-controlled at this point. It’s interesting to note that the THC’s forerunner, the British Transport Commission (BTC) also took over the railway shareholdings of BET’s bus operating subsidiaries in 1948, following nationalisation of the railways. Although BET remained in overall control and in the private sector, some of the BET shares held later by the BTC/THC were quite large. For example it held 50% ordinary share capital in Midland Red, City of Oxford , East Midlands, Hebble, Western Welsh and Yorkshire Woollen District, and nearly as much in East Yorkshire, North Western and Yorkshire Traction. All fascinating stuff as to who owns what, and doubtless no less complex today!
Regarding the age of the FLF Joe, if it had been a ‘D-Reg’ model, it would most likely have had only one cream band to its livery, as ECW omitted the upper deck one from 1966. What a handsome beast it is though, and that Westward Ho! destination surely demands to be shouted out loud!

Brendan Smith

12/12/11 – 06:40

And for the first two or three years, it was, to a large extent, pretty much ‘business as usual’ but then the corporate image brigade were brought in and, well you know the rest! However, enough of that, this post reminds me of a journey I once made on a similar vehicle of my local operator Midland General, but with a Gardner engine. I was bound for Nottingham but the FLF failed at Kimberley (a VERY unusual occurrence for MGO!) Because the frequency was good at this point, we only had to wait five minutes or so for the next bus to come along which was another FLF but with a Bristol engine. I could recognise the sound but I knew nothing about the performance or merits of the different engines and I always remember how much faster the Bristol engined one was. A driver told me later that the Bristol was a faster revving engine and although I’d always been a Gardner fan, I had to concede that the Bristol was the livelier performer!

Chris Barker

12/12/11 – 06:41

Prior to the Lodekka/FLF era, the services in the North Devon area were operated by fairly elderly K’s. Many of these had one-piece blinds combining the three digit route number and the "via" display. Towards the end of their lives, the route numbers were changed from the 100 to the 300 series. Rather than buying new (non-standard) blinds, SN simply pasted a permanent 3 inside the glass where it would obscure the 1.

Stephen Ford

13/12/11 – 08:52

The resort of Westward Ho! was named after the book of the same name by Charles Kingsley who also wrote the Water Babies
The action of the book took place in the same area of Devon and a group of speculators decided to cash in on the name

Chris Hough

13/12/11 – 08:53

After having some of the clearest and most informative destination displays in the early 1950’s, the BTC/THC companies generally fell from grace in later years and the above photo is a good example. The taped over aperture with minute lettering for ‘Westward Ho!’ is typical of where things ended up. It made the destination very difficult to read at any distance. Crosville was particularly bad with not only a very small ‘slot’ for the destination but they used a very light font as well. The ‘T’ shaped format which some of the group companies used seemed to give a clearer display.

Philip Halstead

13/12/11 – 08:54

Many of us thought it a shame that the various BET and THC liveries vanished in the early seventies. As Chris says, it appeared to be ‘business as usual’ for a while – new owners of businesses generally seem to leave things outwardly unchanged for about two years, before making what is now termed ‘a bold statement’. Some of the simplified liveries and fleet names applied to NBC coaches in the formative years were quite attractive – those adopted by Northern, Ribble and Greenslades spring to mind. When I heard that West Yorkshire Road Car had placed an order for Plaxton-bodied Bristol RELH coaches in the early 1970’s, I visualised them arriving in rich cream, with a deep waistband of maroon and large fleet names a la Ribble. Alas, this was not to be. They were delivered in the new corporate all over white livery with large NATIONAL red and blue lettering, and a very discreet (ie: tiny) West Yorkshire fleet name over each front wheel arch. To many of us this signalled that the era of quality and refinement had been replaced by the age of circus wagon-style ‘impact’. Relating to the FLF photo, Western and Southern National lost more than most with the whitewashing of it’s fine Royal Blue fleet.

Brendan Smith

13/12/11 – 11:19

But it wasn’t just the liveries that were third class, it was the quality of the paint itself. The rich, shiny finish of Tilling Green or Red would have been far superior to NBC Leaf Green and Poppy Red (which rapidly faded). [Typed Poopy Red. I think that was a Freudian slip!] The less said about National White the better!!!

David Oldfield

13/12/11 – 12:54

One of the worst companies for poor blind information was Eastern Counties who often showed a route number and the word service which did nothing to help the intending passenger Thec SBG companies were notorious for the extensive use of paper stickers a practice that still exists in the First Edinburgh fleet

Chris Hough

13/12/11 – 12:55

The green wasn’t too bad, but Poppy Red was a pathetic colour, even before it faded! Fortunately, in Gloucester, anyway, it only appeared on the few Cymru Genedlaethol/National Welsh buses from the Forest of Dean/Monmouthshire direction. And they couldn’t even get the Welsh right, either, since the above means National Wales! Being quirky, I quite liked having buses with Welsh on one side, but, my, it caused a stir among the local populace! Never, mind, the two colours didn’t last long and the ill-fated company not that much longer, into bankruptcy.

Chris Hebbron

17/12/11 – 07:41

I agree the NBC corporate colours were a terrible choice. The colours all looked ‘washed out’ and insipid when newly applied and none of them wore well, fading to a matt hue, particularly the poppy red. I thought the light grey wheels looked tacky and the grey/silver fleet numbers were virtually illegible.
The National white was passable on the modern coaches of the time such as the Plaxton Panorama or Duple Dominant but looked awful on the more shapely older designs. Not one of the best periods for the industry.

Philip Halstead

17/12/11 – 08:29

Thinking about those NBC colours, it is odd how such a dreadful set was chosen so was the choice down to one individual or group because I remember everybody hating them from the day they appeared? Surely the marketing men must have had some comments from the public which might have had some impact? Why did they stay in use so long?
Similarly, the current First Bus white, pink and purple is something that only looks passable on brand new vehicles but soon gets to look shabby and on the remaining old Dennis Darts, now rather battered and careworn, it looks dreadful.
Where and why have all of the interesting, vibrant and carefully chosen liveries gone…it cannot be cost just a lack of corporate interest or understanding that image is a very important part of building a successful Company.

Richard Leaman

17/12/11 – 16:24

Well I’ve heard it said that when you are a public company which is quoted on the London Stock Exchange, then the market expects a ‘corporate image’ to be applied, although the Go Ahead group seems to disprove this. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of cost reduction and expediency with good measures of misguidance and indifference also!
Regarding the NBC colours, I remember that when the first white coaches appeared, the ones which had glass panels at the rear incorporating the registration and fleet name had these altered to display N A T I O N A L in alternate red and blue letters. Apparently, this had to be quickly altered because it raised objections from the Police as only they are allowed to display illuminated blue signage on the rear of vehicles in darkness.

Chris Barker

17/12/11 – 16:25

When it was first set up, NBC tended to allow companies to follow their traditional paths. Then, in 1972, Freddie Wood was appointed Chairman, and from that point began the fixation with grandiose self importance as befitted "The Biggest Bus Company In The World". Thereafter, uniformity, standardisation and direction from the centre became the established order. Not only did the liveries descend to a nadir of mediocrity, but the standard font adopted for the group was unparalleled in its clumsy ugliness.
Now, with the dominant groups of today, we are back to much the same thing, with over tight constraints on budgets (particularly in the matter of maintenance) and minimal delegation of initiative to the local management. And as for some of the liveries……….

Roger Cox

18/12/11 – 07:59

…..and it’s all the swooping lines up, down and across the bodywork which look so out of place on what is essentially an oblong box with straight lines. Full marks to those few independents who have liveries which, although of varied hue, still have the dignity of style of the above vehicle and eschew purples and pinks!

Chris Hebbron

19/12/11 – 06:15

…..Epsom Coaches, the other Richmond, the Delaine – to name but three.

David Oldfield

27/01/12 – 06:25

I wholehearted agree with the adverse comments regarding the NBC liveries which replaced so many attractive colour schemes developed over many years which were instantly recognised by passengers and enthusiasts alike, it seemed to me to be corporate vandalism. I once asked a junior NBC manager why they chose to paint the coaches white he replied that it was a colour no one else was using at the time, when I asked had it not occurred to anyone that there was a good reason for that, maybe it was because other people realised that it showed dirt very badly and faded to a dull grey all to quickly, to which I didn’t get a proper answer.

Diesel Dave

25/02/12 – 07:18

Enjoying the various posts on the subject of NBC liveries. Perhaps the most ignominious change was in the North East, where the glorious rich ruby red of Northern General was repainted in awful pale, fading poppy pink! What was the name of the NGT red paint, anyone able to tell me? It really seemed redder to me when I was a kid!
Even worse, now – I’m surrounded by FirstBarbie!


25/03/12 – 09:03

I heartily agree with the adverse comments about the poppy red and the peculiar green colour but my understanding is that they were a response to a Ministry circular of 10/71 which basically said that there were too many accidents at night caused by people running into buses painted in dark colours so buses should be painted in lighter colours. I recall that this was based on research in Scandinavia which showed that lighter coloured vehicles had less accidents and the Ministry also encouraged UK car owners to buy lighter coloured vehicles at much the same time.

Peter Cook

23/02/13 – 13:30

Whilst I agree with the posts that the NBC corporate colours could have been better it is noticeable that at bus rallies there is a growing number of vehicles appearing in NBC livery – including some that pre-date the formation of the NBC and could carry earlier company liveries. I cant help thinking that this shows that NBC corporate livery is actually liked by many – it was certainly better by far than the disgusting liveries of some of todays group, particularly First and Stagecoach. In answer to the writer who asked about the old Northern colour – this was officially know as BET Dark Red and was one of several colours specified by the BET Group for use within the BET companies – although of course many BET group companies used their own livery that did not incorporate a group standard colour. BET Dark Red was common to Northern General, East Midland, South Wales, City of Oxford and several smaller companies. It should be noted that although being a standard colour within BET the shade did vary slightly between companies due to different paint manufacturers.
In the early 1970’s I was involved in collecting many samples from all around the country and its very interesting to see just what a colour looked like even where a supposed ‘standard’ existed – I have in my possession several different shades of Tilling Green for example.
For a real mystery how about the so called ‘Ribble Red’ used for a few months by the new Alder Valley company prior to NBC Poppy Red – the colour is NOTHING like true Ribble Motor Services red !!. I’ve recently resprayed an EFE Bristol FLF in this colour which was matched from the original sample in my possession – it does look good.


23/02/13 – 18:04

Can we see a photo of it, then, please, Dorsetbus?

Chris Hebbron

26/02/13 – 12:32

I wonder if the preservation of buses in non-authentic NBC liveries indicates the age of the preservationists concerned? I suspect that nostalgia grips us all in connection with a particular period of our lives. For me, the bus scene was from about age 3 (1952) to 15 (1964) and from there on it was downhill all the way! (Now I am a grumpy old man who can remember how much better it was then). But in 40-50 years those who are now in the 3-15 age range may well remember purple and pink Barbie Lockheads, or blue red and orange Souter Stagecoaches [or even, perish the thought, washed-out green and white Arriva Departures] with an equally warm and wistful glow.

Stephen Ford

26/02/13 – 13:32

Just as an aside to the colour scheme debate, does anyone agree that the Stagecoach hybrid double decker green scheme is probably the strongest and most appealing of the corporate identities around at the moment?

Phil Blinkhorn

26/02/13 – 13:33

As a grumpy old man born in 1952, I agree with you Stephen. My golden age is 1947 (Regent III/PD2) to 1969 (end of RegentV/PD3/FLF). There have been bright spots (both Leyland – the AN68 version of the Atlantean and the Olympian are worthy classics) in later times, but not many. As a coach man, the heavy Reliances, REs and later Leopards, as well as modern Tigers as well. The old liveries were aesthetically far better than modern and I prefer original to later. Even Sheffield had two alternative liveries and the Roes moved from to another with repaints under different General Managers. Authentic liveries to the vehicle are therefore correct – if not acceptable. [I think RTs and RMs in National Leaf Green are HORRIBLE!

David Oldfield

26/02/13 – 15:27

I know that there are still many on this forum who buy into the bad press of Stagecoach – most of which was press fabrication or exaggeration. [If you don’t believe me, consult OFFICIAL history, and I don’t mean just Stagecoach archives.] Their new corporate livery is fairly restrained but things like Gold and the "Green" liveries are lessons in restraint. Mind you, I think I would still put Go-Ahead ahead!

David Oldfield

26/02/13 – 17:25

I want to respond to two points in this thread. Firstly not everyone born in 1952 is grumpy, I’m actually quite nice [at times]. Secondly choice and memories of colour depends where you grew up. In Taunton it was green WN/SN buses and green/two tone greens of various WR diesel hydraulic locomotives plus green DMUs and a reminder "to eat your greens" which ultimately leads to that famous bus photographer’s quote – the other side is always greener.

Ken Jones

27/02/13 – 05:48

Well Ken. Somebody has to be nice, so it might as well be you. Congratulations. You have the job!

David Oldfield

27/02/13 – 05:49

Colour Schemes, Stephen: the other day I saw an Arriva repaint in cream, with the dark blue skirt but a turquoise (instead of cream) curl behind the door. Are we returning to normality?


04/04/13 – 06:19

Thank you to the person who asked about seeing a picture of my respray in Alder Valley Dark Red on an EFE FLF. Yes I’ll be only too happy to put a picture up once its finished – I’m now also doing a Bristol RE in the same livery having got the required info together so I’ll add a photo of this as well. Please give me a while though as I’m re-organising my workshop and with two upcoming model railway shows to attend with my layouts it may be later in the summer before I can finish the buses. Then its on to several other repaints such as a City of Gloucester (blue) VRT / Leyland National and RE in NBC style and then the first of the next steps – scratch built West Riding Guy Wulfrunians – more on that project later if anyone is interested.


AUD 523D_lr Vehicle reminder shot for this posting

17/07/13 – 07:09

Just picked up on this thread with regards to NBC livery. When I first took an interest in buses in the 70s our school buses were Cumberland FLFs which were gradually being turned out in poppy red. At the time they seemed fresh and modern and the old livery seemed dark and past its sell by date. Not sure I would still agree though! Towards the end of the decade I went on a tour of the Leyland National factory. Apart from a pair of buses for McGill at Barrhead it seemed to be a sea of poppy red and leaf green. However, the shades of these so-called standard colours varied significantly from operator to operator. When I asked about this I was advised that each operator specified a different mix. The other NBC shade that I was very familiar with at that time was the yellow used by Northern on vehicles in the Tyne and Wear area. This was a shade of cadmium yellow as used by TWPTE (the British Standard was called Goldcup) and it worked much better than poppy red in an urban environment. What I don’t understand is why EFE keep churning out models in this livery but of a shade that is considerably paler and therefore very insipid. It is too light to even be excused as colour scaling!

Mike Morton

17/07/13 – 09:09

In response to Phil Blinkhorn’s ‘aside’ on this subject I agree the Stagecoach hybrid green livery is by far the best I have seen on a double decker for many years and is closely matched by the current Newport Buses livery on their single deck Scanias now operating the Park and Ride service in Cardiff (no doubt much to the ire of that City’s transport dept).
As a further aside, even the temptation of free Wi-Fi on Stagecoach hybrid operated route 50 in Manchester wasn’t sufficient to prevent me from route testing the new Metroline trams from East Didsbury to the Media City.

Orla Nutting

18/07/13 – 07:26

By coincidence, for the first time in around 10 years i was in the Newport and Cardiff areas 3 weeks ago and totally agree with Orla’s comments.

Phil Blinkhorn


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