Old Bus Photos

Eastern Counties – Bristol MW – KAH 641D – LM641

Eastern Counties - Bristol MW - KAH 641D - LM641

Eastern Counties Omnibus Company
Bristol MW5G
ECW B30D+30

One of two strange versions delivered to ECOC at about the time as the first RESLs were being delivered. Who would put a centre door on an MW with its very high centre section of chassis bearing the engine, instead of waiting a few months for a Bristol RE with its unencumbered central lower frame?
The centre doors didn’t last long, I understand! I think one of them became the Kings Cliffe outstation (Northants – the furthest outstation from Norwich!) vehicle to carry higher peak loads! Thank goodness for OMO double decks very soon after!
The above photograph was taken at Cremorne Lane Works, Norwich on Feb 11, 1967 before the bus entered service. It is nice to know that ECOC buses had destinations other than "SERVICE" available!

Photograph and Copy contributed by Geoff Pullin

17/03/16 – 05:13

Strange indeed, Geoff. Thanks for posting. Why would anyone in Bristol or ECW want to produce such a beast, knowing that the RE was on its way, and why would Eastern Counties want it?

Pete Davies

19/03/16 – 17:38

Stockport had dual doorway Leopards and Manchester dual doorway Tiger Cubs, Panther Cubs and Panthers and had double decker OMO working not been made legal, would have had many more Panthers.

Phil Blinkhorn

17/03/16 – 05:13

What a different MW. Was this an Eastern Counties one off or were did other Tilling Companies have them? Strange to see the glazed roof coves, on both sides too. Also I would have expected the exit door to be in the next bay forward of where it is.

Ian Wild

17/03/16 – 05:14

Well, to answer your question about who would put a centre door on an MW, Wilts & Dorset did the same to a converted coach. I think it ran for a few years in that form, but I cannot find any photos on the web at the moment.

Nigel Frampton

17/03/16 – 07:54

Thanks for that, Nigel. Converting a down-graded coach is one thing, and I think I have a ‘bought’ slide of it somewhere – I’ll see if I can dig it out for others to see if they wish – but one straight off the factory line?

Pete Davies

17/03/16 – 09:16

This was an attempt, it seems, at a standee bus but where for, I know not. I thought there were some similar Leeds efforts on this site with steep steps and standee windows, but can’t spot them- did they try one or two types?


17/03/16 – 09:17

The centre door as placed would be the only option – the bay further forward had the engine oil sump come well over to the nearside.
The glazed roof coves look to be the ‘standard’ parts from coach MWs and presumably were added because of the standee nature of the bus (for the same reason as Reading’s REs had very tall side windows).

Peter Delaney

17/03/16 – 10:46

Joe, Leeds had saloons with centre entrance bodies all bodied by Roe and all featuring the standee windows. They were repeated on the AEC Swifts with Roe bodywork delivered in 1967.
The original standee saloons were on Guy, AEC and Leyland chassis with a later pair of Reliances entering service in the late fifties.

Chris Hough

17/03/16 – 15:22

There is a photo of this vehicle when new in MG Doggett & AA Townsin’s book ‘ECW 1965-1987’. It was one of two trial dual-door standee MW5Gs (LM640/641) delivered to ECOC in November 1966. Each was capable of carrying 60 passengers – 30 seated and 30 standing – but were of differing internal layout. The accompanying caption states "the area for standing passengers was concentrated at the rear of LM640(KAH 640D), there being single seats on each side of the gangway towards the rear to provide a standing area behind the exit doorway". An interior shot of LM640 shows this feature, together with normal double seats at each side ahead of the exit door. Relating to the second standee MW LM641(KAH 641D), the authors state that "a row of single seats were provided along the offside of the vehicle to give room for a standing area along its length". A picture of the interior shows this together with a longitudinal seat over the front offside wheelarch, plus normal double seats along the nearside from front to rear.
Regarding Geoff’s comment about the height of the steps at the central exit, dual doorway REs also had steps there as the RESL/RELL chassis sloped up gradually towards the rear in order to clear the engine. The exit steps were probably shallower on the RE, but being just ahead of the rear axle I would not have thought by very much though. A fascinating pair of vehicles indeed, and thank you very much for posting the photo of LM641 Geoff.    Wonderful.

Brendan Smith

18/03/16 – 09:03

In my response to Nigel Frampton’s comment, I said I thought I had and would try to dig out a slide of the Wilts & Dorset converted coach. It’s attached, as is a view of one of Lancaster’s trio of twin-door Leopards. BOTH are bought, and I’ve no idea who took the originals. The Wilts came via Paul Caudell and the Leopard came via Arnold Richardson’s Photobus collection.

RMR 992

102 UTF

What makes Wilts & Dorset RMR 992 look even more odd is the old coach-type forward door and its kink in the pillar. So far as I can recall, 101 to 103 UTF were the only twin door vehicles Lancaster bought (prior to the merger with Morecambe & Heysham) and I think it must have been something of a failed experiment – the centre door was hardly ever activated on the services I used. Wilts & Dorset RMR 992 is seen at what looks to be Salisbury Bus Station and Lancaster 102 UTF is inside Kingsway depot.

Pete Davies

18/03/16 – 15:52

KAH 641D_2

Never thought I would find myself contributing to a post on an Eastern Counties MW but KAH 641D was the only one of its type that I have ever driven.
This came about after ECOC took over Burwell & District Motor Services on 10th June 1979. The new regime, under a youthful Ben Colson went to great lengths to cover B&D commitments as required by the Traffic Commissioners at the time. B&D operated a contract/service (not 100% sure which) at the time to carry pupils from Burwell to Soham Village College which parents had to pay for as the free option was for Burwell pupils to go to Newmarket Upper School, for which B&D provided 3 or 4 buses daily. This bus was drafted in briefly to cover odd runs and my diary records that on Friday 15th. June 1979 I was on a rest day but came in to cover the 08:15 Burwell-Soham service 116 with LM641. This journey was made a short working of the established (and much missed) service 116 from Newmarket to ELy, via Burwell.
Fortunately I had my camera with me and stopped in a layby on the way back to Burwell to take a photo as I have always tried to keep a record of every vehicle that I have driven. I was able to wind on the correct route number but with no blind fitted it was not even possible to display the favourite ECOC destination of SERVICE!
My PM duty was 16:00 Newmarket school-Burwell with the same bus, no doubt I was paid more for those 2 short journeys as a rest day working than I would have earned from driving back and forth all day from Burwell to Cambridge with B&D.
The best thing in my memory of ECOC was the wages, as I only lasted 3 months before they gave me till the end of the week to join the union, so I gave them till the end of the week to find another driver!

Jim Neale

19/03/16 – 06:48

Another batch of two-door underfloor engined single deckers was London Transport’s RW 1-3 the experimental AEC Reliance/Willowbrook delivered in 1960 and sold to Chesterfield in 1963. The exit door on these was one bay further forward and they also glazed cove panels five on the O/S but only three on the N/S none being fitted over the centre door.

Diesel Dave

19/03/16 – 09:27

Rochdale had two batches of AEC Reliances with dual door bodies. Weymann bodied 16-20 and East Lancs bodied 21-23. The East Lancs version had the ‘centre’ door further forward, immediately behind the front wheel while the Weymanns had it just in front of the rear wheel. These buses were all introduced as opo vehicles onto routes previously worked by double deckers which at that time in the early sixties obviously had conductors. The dual door arrangement was intended to speed up boarding and alighting times to counter the delay of the driver having to collect fares.

Philip Halstead

19/03/16 – 17:41

Stockport had dual doorway Leopards and Manchester dual doorway Tiger Cubs, Panther Cubs and Panthers and had double decker OMO working not been made legal, would have had many more Panthers.

Phil Blinkhorn

20/03/16 – 06:42

Looking through the comments made me think and check out my memory and I found yet more two door underfloor single deckers in the form of Lincoln City Transport No’s 81-87 Reg No’s MFE 993-999 Tiger Cubs with Roe B41D bodies with the exit door just in front of the rear wheels new in late 1958. Also Portsmouth Corporation had a batch of Tiger Cubs No’s 16-25 Reg No’s TTP 990-999.
with Weymann B34D bodies with the exit door in a similar position new in May 1960.

Diesel Dave

20/03/16 – 08:31

This is becoming a very interesting discussion. My point was that, until the advent of the AEC Swift, Leyland Panther and Bristol RE was that twin-door single deckers were something of a rarity and, yes, even then, many fleets stayed with the single door.
All I can think of was that it may well have been an experiment to see if loading/unloading times improved, and by how much, in the early days of one-man operation. My experience is that most operators went back to single door vehicles.

Pete Davies

20/03/16 – 10:07

Although not common-place in the early 50s, more underfloor engined single deckers were built as dual door saloons by Bristol/ECW than the ones mentioned so far. Over a decade before the MW, ECW bodied one of the prototype Bristol LS (NHU 2) with dual doors – in that case with the additional doorway behind the rear axle. Hants and Dorset’s bus bodied LS were all delivered in that format, though converted to front door only in the late 1950s, and United Counties also had batches in similar style, some as DP rather than bus versions, whilst Wilts and Dorset had several batches of dual doorway DP LSs. I think Eastern National may also had an example to that layout. The structure of an LS frame was such as to dictate the position of the rear doorway.

Peter Delaney

23/03/16 – 05:43

RMR 992_2

Here we see RMR 992 again now with "Hants & Dorset". It seems to have had a rather hard time of it since it was last washed.

David Grimmett

23/03/16 – 17:17

Such damage in service is so typical of the drop in standards once NBC took over. I say this because the vehicle is clearly not in a depot. Do we know where this photo was taken, David?
And I notice that H&D has adopted the useful ECOC destination of SERVICE!

Chris Hebbron

24/03/16 – 05:57

Chris, the later photo of RMR992 looks to be in Salisbury Bus Station. W&D did also make use of "Service" in the destination displays, although not as much as some.

Nigel Frampton

24/03/16 – 05:57

Yes, RMR 992 could still have looked a handsome bus, even with its rebuild to bus use. The mid-door for exit is reasonably done, and the revised indicators are very neat. Even the metal trim below the windows has been retained. However, we sadly miss the Tilling red of Wilts & Dorset or Tilling green of Hants & Dorset, either of which would make this a bus to be proud of. Sadly, this didn’t happen here, with the side dent, and it’s need of a wash. The use of "service" as a destination is also regrettable. Hopefully passengers had a good ride, as it retains the upper windows to lighten the interior.

Michael Hampton

24/03/16 – 05:57

RMR 992 is on the stand, reversed in, in Salisbury bus station. The bus station layout was a reversed L with access from the offside of the bus. It was in the seventies that buses started driving on to this stand and reversing off,rather than reversing on.

Steve Barnett

24/03/16 – 16:56

According to BBF No 1 Portsmouth Corporation had a batch of 10 dual Door PSUC1/1 Tiger cubs Nos 16 – 25 in 1950 and 31 Leopard L1s Nos 131 – 161 in 1961/62/66.

Barrie Lee

25/03/16 – 16:09

Of course the London Reliances were based on the Grimsby Cleethorpes design of which there were 24 (the last ones to the later BET design) and both Chesterfield and Aberdare were also customers.
I wonder if it was Willowbrook’s advertisements that led to LT purchasing their three:

Stephen Allcroft

26/03/16 – 05:14

Barrie Lee has correctly identified the Tiger Cubs of Portsmouth (Nos 16-25, delivered 1959 and into service 1960), but the L1 Leopards were Nos 131-142 (1961) and 143-149 (1963). They were all dual entrance/exit, the Tiger Cubs being B34D+26 (soon altered to B32D+26 for a luggage rack), and the Leopards were all B42D+16. If I recall correctly, the main "standee" space was centrally placed opposite the exit doors. The saloons numbered 150-161 were Panther Cubs new in 1967. Portsmouth had a possibly unique arrangement for the exit doors. Some time ago, I contributed an article about it on this site, "One Small Step for a Portsmouth Passenger". This arrangement applied to these and all succeeding saloons, plus later Atlanteans until the arrival of the Leyland National.

Michael Hampton

26/03/16 – 05:14

Halifax JOC took delivery of a solitary L2 Leopard with Weymann two-door body in 1961 (231, OCP 231). It was not viewed with favour by the drivers’ union membership and I believe the centre door remained closed in service. It lived a shadowy existence in this form, being mostly banished to working the local Field Lane and Oaklands services based in Brighouse. Another sixteen similar Leopards based on the more appropriate L1 chassis and with single door layout were due in 1962, and 231 was soon sent back to Weymann to be rebuilt to match them.

John Stringer

27/03/16 – 07:30

Regarding RMR 992: did this just retain an unpowered front coach door after conversion to dual-door configuration? – both photographs suggest the door is locked open.

Philip Rushworth

27/03/16 – 09:56

I remember traveling on RMR when it found itself at Romsey outstation and I’m sure the door front door was electrically run as it was one-man operated (as we used to know it!).

Steve Barnett

28/03/16 – 11:12

I am reasonably sure that, in David Grimmett’s photo of RMR 992 (23/03/16 – 05:43), the vehicle is, in fact, still in Tilling Red. It is the same shade as the adjacent LH, which is clearly still in Tilling livery, the cream window surrounds being the determining factor. Accepting that colour reproduction can vary on different computer systems, monitors, etc, but this colour looks quite different to the rather orangey appearance of NBC red in the first couple of years.
H&D applied NBC style fleetnames to a lot of vehicles that were still in Tilling liveries, and this roughly followed the instructions of the NBC corporate image policy. However, that required the cream relief to be repainted white, even if the complete vehicle was not painted, and that white fleetnames should be applied. In practice, H&D seem only to have used a few white fleetnames in this way, and most of the temporary ones were cream, which better matched the original livery, and the cream relief was also left untouched. Presumably, since RMR 992 didn’t have any cream relief, it was deemed appropriate to use a white fleetname.
H&D and W&D purchased several single deckers with dual doors from the 1950s to the early 1970s, but there seems to have been a distinct absence of logic. The LSs all seem to have been rebuilt to single door configuration quite early in their lives, but then, from the mid 1960s, virtually all new single deck buses had two doors – the Bedfords, the RELL buses, and even the first deliveries of LHs. The RELL DPs had only one door, but soon tended to be used interchangeably with their dual door bus-seated sisters, particularly when the earlier DPs were replaced on longer distance services by newer deliveries. The passengers were no doubt simply confused, and probably found the five extra seats of the DPs more useful than the extra door. When Leyland Nationals took over from REs as standard single deck fare, the dual door policy was abandoned altogether.

Nigel Frampton

28/03/16 – 13:33

The motto of 360 Squadron, Royal Air Force, seems to apply in Nigel’s explanation of the H&D/W&D liveries under NBC – CONFUNDEMUS (We shall throw into confusion).

Pete Davies

08/04/16 – 06:09

Peter D mentions older two door ECW LS bodies. They were built in the era before OPO (if that is the PC phrase). I suspect that the management attitude was that the conductor would be at the rear to look after that door, despite being power operated. I am sure most conductors would gravitate to the front to chat to the driver. The ‘Do not speak to the driver…’ notices were a later addition required for the certification of a vehicle to operate OPO.
With regard to ECOC LM641, I was interested to see that two vehicles had different internal layouts. I was area engineer in the east then and both vehicles probably ‘went west’.
I also surmise that the vehicles were part of GM Tom Skinner’s innovations see Eastern Counties – selected memories  and that they may have been initiated before the delivery of REs was anticipated. The final MW deliveries were getting so late that many Tilling companies had their orders truncated and centrally(?) replaced by RESLs (the nearest replacement, rather than RELLs). I don’t think the 46 seater RESL caused Union problems at ECOC, being one over the more normal 45 seat maximum, but going beyond that certainly needed negotiation in all companies!
In Jim Neale’s photo of LM641 from 1979, it is interesting to see that the last nearside quarter light has been reglazed with black rubber – the cream version didn’t stay in production for very long. I would have expected the front destination to be so treated, for in the eastern area the MW destination glass was just the right height to hit a tardy pheasant that had been taken by surprise and several needed replacement on outstation based vehicles!

Geoff Pullin

13/05/16 – 06:04

The “Omnibus Magazine” of June 1967 states that LM640 and LM641 were allocated to Bury St. Edmunds and Peterborough on March 1st 1967 but had returned to store at Norwich within two weeks. Clearly they weren’t very popular!

Nigel Turner


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Eastern Counties – Bristol SC4LK – 3003 AH – LC 556

3003 AH

Eastern Counties Omnibus Company
Bristol SC4LK

I have the only fully restored red and cream Bristol SC4LK! It is ex Eastern Counties LC 556 (3003 AH). It was new to ECOC in Jan 1959 and served the company for 11 years. Following withdrawal in 1970, it passed via Ben Jordan, the famous Norfolk bus dealer, to Monk Contractors of Warrington as a staff bus. From there it passed to dealer, Martins of Middlewich, who sold the bus on to the Archbishop Sancroft RC High School in Stoke on Trent, where it served as a school bus until 1983. Whilst there, it made the long journey to Brittany in North East France, taking pupils of the school on a field trip. Upon withdrawal by the school, the bus passed to an Oxford bus enthusiast for preservation, but sadly the owner became ill and the bus sat in his garden for a number of years under trees where it slowly adopted an all over green livery! When the enthusiast passed away, his widow sold the bus to Ward Jones, a motor dealer and enthusiast in High Wycombe, together with an Eastern National example (608 JPU) which the Oxford enthusiast also had in his garden. I discovered the bus ‘through the grapevine’ in the summer of 1993 and made an offer for it, which involved salvaging usable parts from the Eastern National one to make the Eastern Counties one complete. The bus was then towed all the way back to her old operating territory and stored on a farm in south Norfolk. Serious preservation then got underway over the next eleven or so years and the restoration was finally completed in Summer 2005. This was my third preservation project, the other two being LM 452 (3014 AH) 1978-84 and LL 711 (KNG 711) 1984-88, both ex Eastern Counties and a 1958 MW5G and a 1950 L5G respectively.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Patrick Burnside

12/03/15 – 16:38

Like Patrick’s other vehicles, this is a superb restoration. It is one of only two SCs that I have ridden on, the other being an Eastern Counties one which was working a crew operated Norwich City service in 1973 at a time of extreme vehicle shortage.

Nigel Turner

12/03/15 – 16:39

Fascinating Patrick, and a creditable restoration. If you have one, could you post a ‘before’ photo?

Chris Hebbron

12/03/15 – 16:40

I used to travel to and from school between Ely and Soham on this type of bus (1960)…maybe even this one, if it ever worked from Ely depot.It would have been nearly new then…Years later, and I found myself driving one or two of them at Cambridge, just before they were withdrawn (1970). They were very noisy…lots of rattles…and that awful gearbox, plus having to turn to the left and issue tickets to passengers boarding behind you. They were referred to by all as LC’s. However, 3003 AH looks really well restored, and the picture brings back happy memories of my time at Hill’s Rd depot, Cambridge.

Norman Long

14/03/15 – 12:54

There is a shot of this bus when it was owned by the Archbishop Sancroft on www.sct61.org.uk

Chris Hough

13/10/15 – 08:48

I only drove an SC (ECOC LC) for a short movement when I was area engineer at ECOC, but the drivers used to tell me that it was the (David Brown off the shelf) gearbox ratios that caused most difficulty with a large ratio jump between 2 and 3 or was it 3 and 4 and hence the need to run the engine to high revs before the up change. Incidentally I saw the prototype SC in service with BT&CC (or was it BOC by then?) – after which they no doubt decided it was not for them. Bristol territory is hilly and I think only one back axle ratio was available for the SC. All Bristol’s Bristol buses had the lowest axle ratio available compared to other operators (In the K, L and MW days it was 6:1 rather than the 5.5:1 – didn’t do much for top speed until the 5th gear appeared on KSWs).

6565 AH

I attach a photo of LC566 – the only one with an all fibreglass body (no panel strapping!) parked at Melton Constable in Autumn 1968 on Service 401 one of the earliest rail-replacement routes that replaced the Gt Yarmouth – Kings Lynn railway.

Geoff Pullin

12/01/17 – 09:10

Responding to Geoff Pullin’s note on the SC, I think the big jump is between 2nd and 3rd. Top speed in 2nd is 15mph, but in 3rd at 15mph the engine struggles. My own reminiscences of the SC as a Bristolian are that I had never even seen one until the opening of the Severn Bridge after which I used to regularly go to such places as the Forest of Dean and Abergavenny where Red & White operated a total of 7. The cab interior is strange, particularly the partition at the rear of the cab and despite seeing them on the road quite a few times in the late 1960’s I don’t think I realised quite what the inside looked like until seeing interior shots on t’internet.

Peter Cook

12/01/17 – 13:56

There was a second fibreglass bodied SC, a "self-coloured" green one for Crosville, 237 SFM, fleet No. SSG 664.

Allan White

13/01/17 – 06:52

Lincolnshire RCC had quite a lot. Fine on the flat lands of South Holland, but contrary to popular opinion, Lincolnshire isn’t ALL flat. I remember travelling on an SC one dark damp Sunday evening about 1959, route 3 from Cleethorpes to Lincoln, and it made heavy weather, very slow and noisy, with lots of 2nd gear, over the Wolds section between Ravendale, Binbrook and Tealby.

Stephen Ford

13/01/17 – 06:53

SC inner

This is a photograph I took on board Patrick’s SC at the Old Buckenham Rally in August 2015. Patrick is at the wheel. I had never ever ridden on one of the type before.

David Slater

13/01/17 – 09:37

I drove the SC type for Tillingbourne – 2 ex ECOC (TVF 537 & 6560 AH) and 1 ex Crosville (790 EFM) – quite often, usually on the hilly Guildford – Peaslake route that had to surmount the North Downs between Merrow and Shere. The gear positions from the left were: forward for reverse gear, back for first, over and forward again in the central gate for second, back for third, then over to the right and back again in a ‘U’ movement for fourth, and forward from there to engage fifth. One normally started off in 2nd gear, but the detent spring protecting the left hand gate was pretty weak and one had to be careful that reverse wasn’t engaged in error. As I recall, the gap in ratios was between 3rd and 4th, and 5th was a feasible option only on the level and downhill. The SC was an idiosyncratic little machine, and keeping time with it was a challenge, but it was a decent enough little bus and I quite enjoyed driving the type. Yes, it was quite noisy, but nowhere near as raucous as the ear splitting Seddon Pennine IV. Those 3.8 litre 4LK engines were tough little workhorses.

Roger Cox

13/01/17 – 10:06

Lovely period interior picture: I assume that the cream colour is a proper Tilling shade as it looks like that rich homely nicotine colour of fond memory. Notice how it also looks as if the ticket machine is totally unprotected and positioned for a quick exit… and not a camera in sight! Happy days…


14/01/17 – 07:02

It may be that the ECOC ones had cream ceiling and upper interior sides. The Red & White ones had Rexine on the insides of the window pillars and luggage racks of a colour which might be charitably described as mushroom or uncharitably as sludge. I can only assume the idea was that it would not show cigarette smoke staining as it was pretty much smoke-stain colour in the first place.(I can post a picture to illustrate the colour if anyone is interested).
Ceilings were (?broken) white when they started apparently. I remember these colours also as being applied in similar places to the BOC MW saloons of the same period.

Peter Cook


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Eastern Counties – Bristol VR – NGM 157G – VR 316

Eastern Counties - Bristol VR - NGM 157G - VR 316

Eastern Counties Omnibus Company
Bristol VR/SL6G
ECW H43/34F

We don’t yet have any pictures of the Bristol VR on OBP, so here is one of the early examples that earned something of a dubious reputation. Sitting in the 1976 spring sunshine at Ely depot is Eastern Counties VR 316, NGM 157G, a VR/SL6G with ECW H43/34F body. As its typically Scottish destination aperture indicates, this was one of the first production batch of VRs that went to the Scottish Bus Group, where their unreliability became the stuff of legend. SBG took a total of 109 VRs, 25 of which were of the 33ft long VRT/LL type:- Alexander (Midland), 15 VRT/SL6G; Central SMT, 20 VRT/SL6G; Eastern Scottish, 10 VRT/SL6G; Scottish Omnibuses, 25 VRT/LL6G; Western SMT, 39 VRT/SL6G. After this early VR experience, the SBG never bought any more Bristol double deckers. The full, sad story may be found at this site:- www.svbm.org.uk/lfs288f.html
In 1971, Alexander (Midland) exchanged its fifteen VRTs for fifteen Eastern National FLF6Gs. Thus emboldened, SBG determined to get rid of the rest of its utterly unloved (and, it has to be said, uncared for) VRs in exchange for Gardner engined FLFs. Among the recipients designated by NBC was United Counties, who cannily sent a Lodekka north of the border, only to have it summarily rejected by virtue of its Bristol powerplant. UCOC thus escaped the fate of some fellow NBC operators, and had no Scottish VRs thrust upon it. Eastern Counties was not so lucky, and ultimately had a total of 33, some being of the particularly troublesome 82 seat VRT/LL6G 33ft long variety. The mechanical condition of all these machines on arrival was atrocious. NGM 157G, a VRT/SL6G, entered service with Central SMT in December 1969, but lasted there only until 1973, when it was despatched with six others of the same type to Eastern Counties. The other Central SMT VRs went to Alder Valley, Lincolnshire, Southern Vectis and United Auto. VR 316 survived to pass into the hands of Cambus in August 1984, when it gained the new number 503. It was ultimately scrapped, date unknown. Astonishingly, four of the former SBG VRs seem to have been preserved, two of them ex ECOC.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

16/10/14 – 04:34

By coincidence, yesterday I met an enthusiast who was formerly a member of United Automobile’s management. He told me about the arrival of the VRT’s transferred to United from Western SMT. They were collected from Carlisle, and found to be in appalling condition. However they were all overhauled before entering service, and afterwards led full, trouble-free lives with United.
Alexander Midland’s fifteen VRT’s were all transferred to Eastern National as part of the exchange scheme, and many of these were eventually transferred to Crosville around 1981/2 following the MAP scheme, which required more double-deckers in rural North Wales. Most of these were allocated to Bangor Depot, but we had SMS 43H at Caernarfon Depot, where it was a great favourite of mine. At first the four speed gearbox seemed an oddity, but despite this the bus performed well and I often drove it on duties which it would not normally have operated; in particular I often took this VR on the "last Llandudno" in preference to the scheduled Olympian; I also often took it on the Porthmadog route and over the Llanberis Pass on the Snowdon Sherpa.
I can’t help feeling that the Scottish Bus Group gave up too easily with these buses.

Don McKeown

16/10/14 – 14:33

Ironic. My CAPTCHA code for this response is 3DMS! Nevertheless, as one of Bristol’s biggest fans the VR was one of my least favourites. I know the LH probably was worse and I’m no lover of any of the 5 cylinder models but the VR suffered from the same disease as many buses which came before and after. It was rushed onto the market with insufficient R & D so it neither had the character of its predecessors nor the good manners and reliability of the RE. One could say, however that the Series IV got it right. Series IV? Well what was the Olympian? A successor which started out as a Bristol and a development of the VR. Not only that. It became a classic and one of the best deckers ever built.

David Oldfield

16/10/14 – 14:33

What a very interesting link, thanks for posting it.

Roger Broughton

17/10/14 – 05:20

This photo brings back happy memories of Cambridge Rd., ELY, where I grew up, and the depot where my uncle, Walter Long worked for E.C.O.C. as a conductor up until retirement, finishing up at Hills Rd., Cambridge depot.
I also worked for them, first as a crew driver, then OMO at Cambridge. One Saturday, a rest day…two of us were sent to Norwich with two LKDs which would barely reach 35 mph in the pouring rain to bring back two Scottish VRs. It was terribly slow progress, but on our return journey, the sun came out, and I for one really enjoyed the drive back.
The two VRs were the subject of great interest amongst the drivers, being slightly larger than the ones we already had with a higher seating capacity, and the triangular destination panel. I remember that their livery was yellow, but cannot recall where they were from exactly. It was a very nice piece of overtime, and we all thought that we had got the best of the bargain in the exchange that day.

Norman Long

17/10/14 – 05:21

That’s a fascinating article on the SVBM website. Could SBG have persevered with its VRTs and resolved the problems? or was SBG determined to revert to a sort of technological dark-age?? (witness the subsequent preponderance of high-floor/manual gearbox/non-power-assisted SDs … even on Central’s largely urban network).
Is Ely depot still open? (presumably it would be Stagecoach now).

Philip Rushworth

19/10/14 – 05:49

Roger- this tale and the link are fascinating. The bus we thought was blameless wasn’t: Wulfrunian, Atlantean, VR: can anyone dish the dirt on the Fleetline or did Daimler get it so right when the Roadliner got it so wrong? Then of course Hilditch’s (was it?) Dominator of which we do not speak on this site?
SBG did not seem to trust new technology, even if it worked and when it didn’t, well… it also seemed to distrust its drivers. There were of course engineers like this, even perhaps including Donald Stokes whose Triumph Herald could only be described as primitive- a sort of third world concept of basic, accessible engineering: the irony being that these VR’s ended up with Herald bonnet latches. The VR’s I knew had exhaust sounds that any boy-racer would be proud of…and every time one comes up I ask here about those hatches which could have been rear engine Cave Brown Caves but through which you sucked the top-deck fag ends: is that so? did they work? What an essay in political interference, swinging first one way, then the other- and the futility and waste of command economies applied through the grant. The locals think they are in charge, and take the rap for failure… but we pull the financial strings. NHS, Buses, Rail, Education… what else?


20/10/14 – 06:58

I was given a Triumph Herald 13/60 by my company on the pretext that the small printing machines we had to demonstrate could be easily slid in and out of the lip-less boot (not to mention the fact that the company was too mean to buy estate cars). When it had to be replaced we ended up with Vauxhall Viva Estates. I know which I preferred, and it wasn’t built in Luton or Ellesmere Port.

Phil Blinkhorn

20/10/14 – 06:59

The Ely garage closed quite many years ago. After closing as an operational garage the forecourt (where the VR in the photo is parked) was used as an outstation location for a while.
I only live about 14 miles from Ely but when I do visit I don’t travel along the road where the garage was. I seem to recall the site was where the cluster of newish houses now is to the north of Samuels Way.
I can’t recall if the Ely garage site ever got into Stagecoach ownership – it may have been sold under the pre-Stagecoach owned Cambus.

David Slater

20/10/14 – 17:07

Words like Devil and Deep Blue Sea or Frying Pan and Fire spring to mind over your car choice, Phil. At least a heavy printing machine might stop the rear wheels folding up too often, but if I recall the boot floor wasn’t flat? The Herald had more character than a soulless Viva, at least…


20/10/14 – 17:08

When the organisation, I worked for was privatised, company car were instituted for those who travelled a fair amount. It started with Talbot Horizons, with the Tagora for more senior staff. I managed to reject the Tagora because I discovered that they would not allow towing bars to be fitted – it lowered the value, they said, not realising that there was no second-hand value in them to start with! In point of fact, I had no caravan! The next, middle-manager cars were Montegos and I did the same again. Eventually late-model Ford Sierras came along and the excuse of a caravan enabled me to get a 2.0 litre GLX. I never fitted a towbar, though! The seats in it were the most comfortable I’ve ever known, enabling me to drive all day with never an ache! With cars like Talbots and Maestro/Mondeos, it’s no wonder we have no indigenous car industry nowadays!

Chris Hebbron

20/10/14 – 17:09

For those who may wish to check out the location, the garage was on the A10- Cambridge Rd., ELY, on the left as you head north, just before the right hand bend where the road becomes St Mary’s St.

Norman Long

21/10/14 – 06:14

Norman has given the location of the Ely depot as I remember it. Back in time, the A10 went right through Ely centre, along Cambridge Road, St Mary’s Street and then Lynn Road, and the bus depot faced directly on to it. I believe that the place did pass into Cambus ownership, but I don’t know when it was pulled down. Sadly, the typical Tilling garage of which Ely was an example, is a rarity nowadays.
Turning to Chris’s point, I have to disagree. I’ve driven company cars of several origins, including Ford, Chrysler/Talbot and Vauxhall, and had a 2 litre Montego for my daily 100 mile round journey to/from work whilst at Kentish Bus. In performance, roadholding, reliability and interior space, it beat the Sierra and Cavalier of the Chief Engineer and Company Secretary respectively hands down. When I left, thanks to privatisation, I bought a Maestro. The BL knocking game was utterly childish, and yes, I once had an Allegro, a model that received stupid criticism from people who had never even sat in one. The quartic steering wheel that petrolheads waffle on about disappeared within the first year, and all could be replaced under warranty. The much derided styling foreshadowed the almost universal blobby shapes of present day saloon cars. Our first (1981) Metro lasted 19 years and still passed its MoT when I decided to replace it.

Roger Cox

21/10/14 – 15:05

Joe, the Herald 13/60 had a flat boot floor. The printing machines weighed 112lbs with more than half the weight on a less than a third of the machine platform so a flat, lip-less boot was essential. As for performance, the car was nippy, had a great turning circle and great visibility with narrow pillars. It also had height adjustable seats.

Phil Blinkhorn

22/10/14 – 07:14

Thanks for the information about Ely depot: as I get progressively less interested in current operations its the relics of times past that increasingly interest me.
I used to aspire to owning a new Montego, being a quality (well in my opinion – and a step up from the Triumph Dolomite/Van den Plas 1750 I was then driving) British-built and British-owned car that I could afford. Now, I’m running Audi and Skoda as there isn’t any British owned and built car within a reasonable price bracket.

Philip Rushworth

21/04/15 – 06:18

This picture brings back memories, I used to spend a lot of time here as a bus mad school boy and remember the Eastern Counties staff there being very tolerant and patient towards a young enthusiast like myself.
Behind the garage on a patch of land they used to park up withdrawn vehicles from Cambridge garage, I remember their last two Bristol RESL being there for ages and also a pair of ex Cambridge FLFs.
I remember the ex SBG long VRLLs but by the time I was interested they were all allocated to Norwich depot, never realised how special they were, being more interested in the Bristol Lodekka LFS, FLF and LFL that were still running about at the time.

Brian Kay

28/07/17 – 16:37

We were unlucky to receive some of the SBG VR,s at Alder Valley in Reading, the union blacked them for a while because of their 4 speed gearboxes claiming they were too slow on the longer routes. When we started receiving mk 2 VR’s some non power assisted ones were fitted with Alder Valley’s own air assisted steering, these were terrible as the steering used to go solid at low speed which did not feel safe.
The Mk.3 was a big improvement, nice steering and gearbox especially the very last batch we had with good heaters by your feet at last!

Ray Hunt


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Old Bus Photos from Saturday 25th April 2009 to Monday 9th December 2019