Old Bus Photos

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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Eastern Counties – Bristol SC4LK – VVF 540 – LC540

Eastern Counties - Bristol SC4LK - VVF 540 - LC540

Eastern Counties Omnibus Company
Bristol SC4LK

Before researching the facts about the Bristol SC for this caption, I had somehow presumed that Crosville would have been the largest customer for the type. In fact I was surprised to find that they were only the third largest, having bought a total of 79. 323 were built altogether between 1954 and 1961, being supplied to nine BTC operators. Lincolnshire Road Car had the most with an amazing 113, and Eastern Counties was in second place having bought 88.
One of the latter’s examples is shown here preparing to depart the former Drummer Street Bus Station in Cambridge on 11th July 1970. LC540 (VVF 540) was an SC4LK with E.C.W. B35F body, new in 1957 and withdrawn in 1971.

Photograph and Copy contributed by John Stringer

06/10/13 – 08:10

Memories of childhood visits to Skeggie, Ingoldmills and Cleethorpes. I think they were pretty little rural buses – but the puny 4 cylinder engines did nothing for me.

David Oldfield

06/10/13 – 11:35

Geographically, United must have been one of the biggest of the Tilling group companies, and I imagine the fleet went well into four figures. Several rural depots would only have two or three vehicles, but I don’t ever remember seeing one of this type in the Newcastle area. But that’s not to say they didn’t have any, can anyone enlighten us?

Ronnie Hoye

06/10/13 – 14:31

As David says, the SC’s were bonny looking little buses, but their looks betrayed the reality !
Despite serving many and widespread rural areas United sensibly stayed well clear of the model – imagine an SC with a full load of happy holidaymakers climbing Lythe Bank out of Sandsend. They wouldn’t have been so happy for long, nor been able to hold much of a conversation !

John Stringer

06/10/13 – 17:44

Another trip to the best served destination in East Anglia, the mythical town of SERVICE!

Nigel Turner

06/10/13 – 18:01

I recall trying one of Lincolnshire Road Car’s SC4LKs on the town service during my time working in Goole between 1966 and 1969. It is a long time ago now but I remember thinking they did not bear comparison with the "proper" buses I had become used to in Sheffield!

Stan Zapiec

06/10/13 – 18:23

"Service" may well have been the best served destination in East Anglia but "Duplicate" was equally well served in Crosville’s bailiwick during the 1950s – and often without a route number!
Whilst on the subject of "helpful" destinations. Can anyone enlighten me on the difference between "Reserved", "Special" and "Private", all three of which appeared together on the blinds of many North West municipality vehicles. I can see reasons for each but a vehicle reserved for a special trip for a private party would probably cause some head scratching for the crew as to which blind to set!

Phil Blinkhorn

06/10/13 – 18:24

I don’t think I’ve ever before seen a picture of one of these buses in red and cream, and they appear even prettier when dressed thus. This is no reflection of course on their many sisters who seemed to prefer green frocks.

Chris Youhill

07/10/13 – 08:25

I have many happy memories of rides on SC4LK’s, mostly with Crosville, but also Cumberland, Vaggs of Knockin Heath and Silver Star of Caernarfon. They were incredibly characterful, with enjoyable sounds and at times a lively performance, although they struggled on hills. The only down side was the lack of forward vision, with partitions and handrails round the forward entrance.
United didn’t have any SC’s, but if they had it is unlikely that they would have been used to climb Lythe Bank the SC4LK was a "niche model" used on minor, lightly loaded rural routes, usually on narrow lanes.
The SC4LK was reputed to do 20 – 25 mpg in service. This is probably the main reason they were so popular among the North Wales independent operators.

Don McKeown

07/10/13 – 08:26

Apart from the 88 which went to Eastern Counties, only 15 SCs were built for "red" operators. So just under a third of the total built were red.
Three Eastern Counties SCs are preserved, but the other 17 known survivors are all green.

Geoff Kerr

07/10/13 – 09:32

Thanks Geoff, I’ve never actually travelled on one of these buses and would like to do so sometime – maybe I’ll come across one at a rally, and red or green wouldn’t matter for a "test ride."

Chris Youhill

07/10/13 – 13:58

…..but at least they were lighter, and therefore better, than the other Eastern Counties specials; 4LW powered Ls, let alone the LS4LW!

David Oldfield

07/10/13 – 13:59

Don’t think I ever rode on one. Of course, the SC was the only Bristol type never to have been operated by Bristol Tramways/Omnibus!

Geoff Kerr

07/10/13 – 14:00

They were quite adequate for many parts of Lincolnshire, where gradients are unknown, and spot-heights on old ordnance survey maps only occasionally rose to the dizzy height of 20 feet above sea level! Lincolnshire RCC had a network of rather infrequent routes serving these fenlands, where, no doubt, they served adequately and economically. However I remember encountering one on a Winter Sunday evening about 1958, on route 3 from Cleethorpes to Lincoln. This service crossed the ridge of the Lincolnshire wolds, and in the region of Binbrook where there were gradients as steep as 1 in 6. The almost full SC4LK made very heavy weather of it – walking pace, and a deafening scream in first gear.

Stephen Ford

07/10/13 – 14:01

The best served ‘place’ these days is surely
A lady passenger once complaining to me about the lack of service said she was going to move there, as all the buses seemed to go to it.

Stephen Howarth

07/10/13 – 17:42

Was it the SC that was known as the Tilling Bedford? The niche in the market and engine output were similar to the SB but, more to the point, the axles were supplied by Bedford.

David Oldfield

07/10/13 – 17:44

The bus in this photo should be showing "WATERBEACH" for service 150, from Drummer St., it travelled along Newmarket Rd., and via Clayhithe.
I used to ride home on these vehicles from school at Soham to Ely service 116, and only nine years later I was driving them. They were OK in the fens, but I didn’t like them as they were noisy and rattled a lot, plus having to twist round in one’s seat to issue tickets. The gear positions were different as well and it was a real disappointment to get one allocated for a duty, usually as a replacement bus after a breakdown.

Norman Long

08/10/13 – 07:44

The figures in the caption are interesting; 323 built of which a total of 280 were purchased by the three mentioned companies, only leaving 43 for the rest!
In the 1960s my sister lived in various locations in the Barmouth area and I’m fairly sure I will have had one or two trips on these. From recollection the services north of Barmouth were in the hands of firstly Bristol Ks and later a Lodekka (for many years DLB 911) but an SC could sometimes be found on the S34 to Dolgellau.

Dave Towers

09/10/13 – 08:25

Ever plagued by if-only-osis, I can’t help wishing that Gardner had been able to offer a 4LK with an extra half inch on the bores, ie 4.25" instead of 3.75", which would have boosted the capacity from 3.8 to nearly 4.9 litres. The extra torque would have improved acceleration and hill-climbing enormously, and with the engine running at lower revs for much of the time things would have been quieter too. The SC4LK’s excellent fuel consumption probably wouldn’t have suffered either. Even more exciting: there’s a YouTube of a turbo-charged 4LK (definitely NOT a Gardner option) in some vehicle or other. Considering the difficulty of fitting an off-the-peg turbocharger to any engine not designed to take one, it would be interesting to hear how this owner’s engine fares over the long term.
All that aside, an "official" 4LKTC would have transformed the Bristol SC.
A question to Norman Long, with his SC driving experience:
Was the steering as nice as on heavyweight Bristols, or did it all feel a bit Bedfordish?

Ian Thompson

09/10/13 – 17:41

Reply to Ian…
I seem to remember that SC’s, which we all referred to as LC’s, were not at all heavy to drive, certainly not when compared with MW’s (to us LM’s). I have driven a few Bedford Coaches (again, to us CB’s), and I think they were heavier. I didn’t like the thinness of the steering wheels on the early Bedfords (same as the TK lorry) and much preferred a nice fat wheel that one can haul round on a slow corner much more comfortably, especially if there is no power steering fitted. Another thing about the SC’s was that they were very draughty in the winter and you really would need an overcoat!!!

Norman Long

11/10/13 – 06:59

TVF 533

Here are two more photos of Eastern Counties Bristol SC4LKs. TVF 533 (ECOC LC533) is seen in Cambridge, Drummer Street Bus Station on 26 August 1959 on yet another timetabled journey to the intensely bussed destination of "Service". It is, in fact, on one of the rural routes out towards Ely. This bus was delivered to the operator in January 1957.

6559 AH

6559 AH (LC 559), dating from September 1959, is pictured (if my recollections are correct) near RAF Watton in August 1960. Remarkably, it is displaying its correct destination ‘Norwich’. Much of the old Watton airfield has now been obliterated by new housing development.

Tillingbourne had three SCs in 1971, two of which (TVF 537 and 6560 AH) began life with ECOC, whilst the third (790 EFM) came from Crosville. As other contributors have pointed out, the David Brown gearbox had a curious selector sequence. R/1/2&3 were in the logical positions popularised by the AEC Reliance, with R&1 protected by a detente spring from accidental engagement. Sadly, this spring became very weak over time, and one had to watch out not to pull away in reverse rather than second gear. From third gear, the stick had to be manoeuvred in an inverted ‘U’ fashion back again to engage fourth, and fifth lay immediately forward of fourth. The Tillingbourne SCs were often used on the hilly Guildford – Peaslake service which included a long climb up the scarp face of the North Downs from Shere to Newlands Corner, and, in the opposite direction, the lengthy drag up the dip slope from Merrow to Newlands Corner. This topography was very different from the flat lands of East Anglia and Lincolnshire, though the Crosville examples would probably have met some hills in their lives. The 3.8 litre Gardner 4LK developed 57 bhp at 2100 rpm, and it certainly spent much of its life at those revs in the SC, with deleterious effects upon one’s hearing. Later production 4LKs were rated at 60 bhp, though I cannot believe that this would have made any material difference. The gaps between the gears meant that the engine had to be taken to high revs to change up, but, on the rare occasions when fifth could be engaged (downhill or with a following wind on the flat) this little bus could fly. The 4LK certainly had to work hard in the SC, but its reputation for reliability was always exemplary. I believe that only the axles for the SC were sourced from Bedford. As far as I can now recall, the steering was entirely positive in action.

Roger Cox

11/10/13 – 16:05

By the time I started working for E.C.O.C. in 1970, the Bristol SC’s were on their last legs, and we were enjoying the comparative luxury of driving RLE’s etc.. although a town duty was almost always a Bristol LKH or LKD/LFS; the North Arbury route (130) was allocated the more powerful 6cyl FLF’s with more seats available. The LKH’s were withdrawn around 1971 I think…such a long time ago!
A very nice photo of TVF 533 leaving Drummer Street, Cambridge. It’s correct destination should read— 120 Gt Eversden, travelling through Grantchester and Barton which is to the south west of the city.

Norman Long

12/10/13 – 07:52

Thanks for your correction about route 120, Norman. I was working from memory (a decidedly risky procedure at my time of life) and did not check my recollections with Paul Carter’s comprehensive volume "Cambridge 2".

Roger Cox

13/10/13 – 08:01

The suggestion made by Ian Thompson of a 4LK with the increased 4¼ bore of the LW is, in fact, more than a pipedream. Latil in France were Gardner agents, and they did make such an engine, which proved to be powerful and reliable. Quite what became of the project later is lost in the mists of time, but one can imagine the response of the somewhat megalomaniac Hugh Gardner towards an engine that he could not claim as his own entire creation.

Roger Cox

13/10/13 – 08:02

Can "Cambridge 2" still be obtained Roger?…and is it a book about Cambridge in general, or about the city buses…If so, I would very much like to own a copy.

Norman Long

13/10/13 – 09:56

Norman, There are two books on this subject by Paul Carter. ‘Cambridge 1’ covers the period up to around 1950, and ‘Cambridge 2’ from that time up to deregulation. They are published by Venture Publications of 128 Pike’s Lane, Glossop, Derbyshire SK13 8EH (tel. 01457 861508) who should be able to help you find copies. This publisher does not have a web page. Paul Carter has also written a comprehensive history of Premier Travel.

Roger Cox

P.S. The Premier Travel book is published by Capital Transport:- www.capitaltransport.com/

13/10/13 – 11:53

Venture Publications may not have a website, but the associated MDS Books at the same address has a very extensive one at www.mdsbooks.co.uk Presently both Venture’s ‘Cambridge 1’ and ‘Cambridge 2’ are on special offer at £8 each.

John Stringer

13/10/13 – 12:08

The Cambridge 2 book is currently available as a clearance item at reduced price in the Ian Allan bookshop in Manchester, or at least it was on Friday.

David Beilby

13/10/13 – 16:37

Thank you all very much…I have now ordered a copy of Cambridge 2, as it covers the time I worked for Eastern Counties,…very much looking forward to it’s arrival.

Norman Long

15/10/13 – 07:10

Norman: many thanks for your comments on the steering, and I agree all the way about steering wheels and controls in general: a decently-equipped cab inspires confidence. I’ve never driven an SC or an SU, but the very look of the controls on both suggests that what lies beneath is also solidly made. At Warminster yesterday (Sun 13 Oct) I thoroughly enjoyed a ride on 270 KTA, a lively ex-Western National coach-seated SUL4A, driven with great verve and understanding, but that little engine makes no secret of the hard work it has to do.
Congratulations and thanks, by the way, to everyone responsible for the Warminster event, especially on such a soggy day.
Roger: I was so interested to hear from you that my fictitious bored-out 4LK had actually been tried that I found a "moteurs Latil" site that lists (almost) all the engines fitted to Latil timber tractors. It seems that the company was a great user of the 4LW (as Unipower was for similar work in Britain) and later also of the 6LW.
I couldn’t find the doctored 4LK in question, but I did discover a tractor model H12 of 1949 with a 9.3-litre engine of 114mm (4.488") bore and 6" stroke, which must surely have been a modified 6LW—otherwise why the imperial-dimensioned stroke?
They also did a model M14 between 1949 and 1955, which had a PETROL version of the 4LW!
I realise that I’m way off the bus route, but I greatly enjoyed Chris Y’s Onibury/Stokesay diversion and all those other fascinating spin-offs that have appeared on OBP, just as the background in old photos is often no less interesting than the subject.

Ian Thompson

16/10/13 – 06:47

Ian, the reference to the "big bore 4LK" appears in the book ‘Gardner’ by Graham Edge. This book is now out of print, but I understand that it is to be reprinted by Old Pond Publishing to whom Graham Edge has sold his publishing business. Incidentally, Graham Edge (aka Gingerfold) is a contributor to a discussion forum on Gardner engines, mainly lorry orientated, that runs to no less than 52 pages. www.trucknetuk.com/phpBB/  The differing views of contributors become heated to the point of vitriolic personal abuse in places, but some facts do emerge. For example, the well known external oiliness of Gardners lay with Hugh Gardner’s aversion to the use of gaskets on many external mating surfaces. When rebuilt by operators with jointing compound, much of the problem was resolved. (I wouldn’t recommend trawling through the whole 52 pages in one go; the thing gets very, very repetitive.)

Roger Cox

16/10/13 – 06:48

Ian, with regard to Roger’s comments, the French Latil and Bernard concerns built Gardner engines under licence, paying royalties to Gardner in the process. Both vehicle builders increased the bore size (and in some cases the rpm) of the Gardners in pursuit of more power, and Latil carried out this modification on ‘le 4LK’ as well as ‘les 4LW et 6LW’ engines. This could explain the 114mm (4.488") bore and 9.3 litres capacity you mentioned, which I presume would have been a Latil modification of the 6LW design. What the top brass at Patricroft thought of this can only be imagined, but no doubt ‘Mr Hugh’ may well have thrown his hands up in the air, spun around three times and locked himself in the nearest cupboard.

Brendan Smith

16/10/13 – 12:02

Thanks for the information about Gardner Roger. I have always had the utmost respect for Gardner products, but must admit they did, as you say, have an external oiliness about them in certain areas. The castings were of excellent quality, but many of us couldn’t understand why joints/gaskets were fitted to some components and not others. Sumps for example did not have gaskets, and tended to be one of the areas prone to oiliness. At West Yorkshire, engineering staff used jointing compounds which usually did the trick. In the main we used Good Year gasket shellac (which was a rich brown colour and smelled pleasantly sweet) or ‘Hylomar’ jointing compound (apparently formulated for Rolls-Royce. This was dark blue and didn’t smell as nice!) Quite why Gardner did not fit even simple cardboard sump joints in the first place is a good question, but I’m sure Hugh Gardner would have given an equally good answer…. They were still fine engines though and no mistake.

Brendan Smith

10/04/14 – 07:25

I remember the SC’S well as a few for Eastern Counties ran around the Yarmouth area during the 60’s and one in particular LC553 a resident at Yarmouth Depot for a number of years.They operated to my knowledge the 6A to Martham, with a few journeys to Hickling, Stalham and Thurne (village no longer served at all by any Company). Also the 19A to Belton, Haddiscoe and Loddon and probably other lightly loaded routes. Only managed to catch one once. Felt sorry for the driver who had to twist round in his seat every stop to collect fares. One example preserved by the Eastern Transport Collection near Norwich.


26/05/14 – 17:31

ECOC also operated a small number of 33str coach versions of the LC (LSC). In 1968 I bought WAH 875 (LSC 875) from Victoria Coaches, S’end for use in the Bickers of Coddenham fleet. It gave several years of good service. Ipswich Transport Society used it for the last day of Bradford trolleys. Flat out from Ipswich up the A1 overnight – filled up in Bradford with 7 gals! Axles were Austin / BMC, not Bedford.

Eric Mouser

22/03/18 – 06:39

I well remember the SC4LK operating for a while when I went up to Cambridge as my girlfriend at the time was at Girton College and if I felt lazy or drank too much the 129 route proved useful in getting back to my digs in central Cambridge, I used to love these vehicles and eventually made a model of the bus from an Anbrico white metal kit which I still have in my model bus collection! Oh those really were the days!

David Kerr

24/03/18 – 08:33

XAO 610

A reminder that Cumberland also had some SC buses for use on lightly loaded country services. Taken in 1970 I think the location is Carlisle – I know I was about to board 202 for a scenic ride to somewhere but I no longer have any maps for the area.

Ken Newton

13/12/18 – 06:18

6560 AH

Tillingbourne of Chilworth bought this former Eastern Counties SC4LK of 1959, 6560 AH, former fleet number LC 560, in February 1971 and it is seen here ascending the bottom of Guildford High Street on Saturday 29 May 1971 en route to Warren Road. I drove this bus several times myself over the taxing route across the North Downs (at high decibels) to Peaslake until its disposal to Sykes (dealer) at Barnsley after May 1972. There is no further record of it being used as a psv, and by February 1974 it appears to have been sold to another dealer, Carlton, for scrap.

Roger Cox

14/12/18 – 06:16

Roger; I can’t remember any buses climbing the High St other than the short length up as far as Quarry St before turning right towards Shalford. But that wouldn’t lead towards Warren Rd.
I suspect that this has just turned right out of Farnham Rd bus station and will then turn right again before going round the loop to Bridge St- Onslow St and North St, in order to get to the top of the town.

John Lomas

14/12/18 – 09:17

John, yes, you are right. The Old Town Bridge is behind the bus in the right hand top corner. I was (totally unaccountably – my wife comes from Guildford) thinking of the Farley Green route that that I often worked on Saturdays; this did follow High Street/Quarry Street on the way to Shalford. The Warren Road service lasted only a few months longer after this picture was taken as it was withdrawn on 16 October 1971.

Roger Cox

23/09/19 – 05:56

I attach a link to a page I created, with a hope to get one dearly named Elise transported from one end of Ireland to other… as a temporary living space. It has been converted inside. She does not drive anymore but it all kitted out. I did not get any support unfortunately… mostly people do not seem to care for these types of campaigns… oh well. I have not given up. She needs a low loader to do the 400KM journey. I need to give the potential driver the tonnage.
Can anyone help with that? She is a 1957 model, Bristol SC reg no. VVF 551 fleet no. LC551, LC is where she got her nickname from ELSIE.
Be grateful for advise on the weight.
I will keep putting the pennies in the savings pot.
The attached link:- is here

Tanya Bryan

26/09/19 – 05:47

I don’t know the answer but I suggest that you contact Patrick Burnside who can definitely answer. His e-mail address can be obtained from his web site www.easterncountiesomnibusco.com

Nigel Turner

VVF 540 Vehicle reminder shot for this posting

02/11/19 – 05:50

In response to Tanya Brian’s request for the weight, I can give an indication of the weight as built because the SC was designed as a lightweight vehicle and clocked in at just under 4 tons – that’s British Imperial tons by the way; not metric tonnes. Of course, that may not be Elsie’s current weight as, looking at the picture on the website in the link there looks to be a lot of stuff in there which wasn’t part of the original bus.
The lengths they went to in order to save every last ounce was quite incredible. Instead of the usual pressed steel channels shaped to clear the rear axle, on the SC the main chassis members are simply two lengths of straight channel which I think is aluminium. Most bus floors are longitudinal floorboards on transverse joists. On the SC there are no joists and the boards are fitted across the chassis members. In addition, the boards are 5/8" instead of ECW’s usual 7/8". The seat cushions are an inch thinner than normal service bus seats. Restoring ONV 425 in recent years, I wondered who was apparently damaging the side of the roof. It turned out that another way they saved weight was in the thickness of the aluminium used to sheet the vehicle up. When a ladder was rested against it it produced quite sizeable dents!


I have attached a picture of ONV 425 taken in May this year in Usk, having just driven from Winkleigh (Devon), not I hasten to add, on the motorway.

Peter Cook

11/11/19 – 07:04

Without going to the SC4LK’s lengths in the quest for lightness, I wish the buses and especially coaches of today could shed a ton or two. I do accept that today’s disappointing fuel consumption is due largely to traffic congestion, the need for right-boot-down driving to make up lost time and the use of automatic transmissions, but vehicle unladen weight must also play a part. Of course, the lighter the vehicle itself gets while still carrying the same human tonnage, the cleverer the suspension needs to be to deal with the difference between fully-laden and empty, but I’m sure that cunning technology can brush away that little problem.

Ian Thompson

17/11/19 – 08:49

Having ridden on most Wright products technology does not yet seem to have found a way to eliminate rattles caused by weight saving

Roger Burdett

18/11/19 – 05:43

Roger, when I started my driver training at NGT’s Percy Main Depot in January 1967, the oldest buses still in service were the 1954 H32/26R Weymann Orion bodied G5LW GUY Arab III’s. They were withdrawn later that year.
Mechanically, apart from only having a G5LW, they were hard to fault, but far too many corners had been cut to save weight, and the build quality of the bodies was terrible, they were known as rattle traps.
To be fair, the later Orion bodies on the 1958 Leyland PD3’s was superb, but as I said, these were terrible.
For my money, the best buses we ever had were the Alexander ‘A’ type CRG6LX Daimler Fleetlines, they had it all as far as I’m concerned.
I left P/M in 1975, and went to Armstrong Galley, the coaching division of T&W PTE, and only on rare occasions did I ever drive a bus.
In 1982, I left buses altogether, and only ride on them as a passenger, but as you say, the rattles seemed to have returned big time.

Ronnie Hoye

23/11/19 – 06:53

Here in Oxford the 4-cylinder Wright double-deckers (whose performance seems perfectly good despite the modest engine size) seem to suffer from sway rather than rattles. The outright winners in the rattlestakes are the awful Mercedes Citaros, with their grabby brakes, inadequate and inconvenient seating and frequent breakdowns. Admittedly the ADL 400Hs do get electrical problems, but in every other way they’re superb—but then they can boast that distinguished Dennis ancestry!

Ian Thompson


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Eastern Counties – Bristol K5G – LKH 255 – KNG 255

Eastern Counties - Bristol K5G - LKH 255 - KNG 255

Eastern Counties Omnibus Company
Bristol K5G

This is a picture taken in my teen-age years of one of my favourite K5G’s which used to regularly run the route 92A to my home council estate in Norwich. Taken in Surrey Street garage on 23rd August 1969 it rests for the night.
The bus was withdrawn at the end of March 1970.
Surrey Street Bus Station was built on a rising gradient between Surrey Street and Queens Road, and opened in 1936. The garage was huge (able to store 180 buses I believe). The area is still the bus station, but in its place now is a modern bus terminus right on the spot where the garage was.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Graham W

15/08/13 – 17:40

Nice "atmospheric" shot, Graham. Thanks for posting.

Pete Davies

16/08/13 – 06:36

Yes and amazingly the first Eastern Counties bus on the site – just as I was preparing to send one myself to redress the deficiency.

John Stringer

16/08/13 – 14:51

Interesting that the ECOC Ks lasted until 1970. All the Bristol Omnibus ones had gone by 1966. More hills there of course but most were K6A or 6B.

Geoff Kerr

17/08/13 – 16:37

What a great photograph, which brings the memories flooding back from the days when I drove for E.C.O.C at Cambridge (1970-1975). It could easily be mistaken for Hills Road garage, in the late evening when all the buses are back in and cleaned, refuelled etc., ready for the run out. In my day they would have been LKH’s and LKD’s. On freezing winter mornings the exhaust smoke would billow out from the garage as the buses were on cold start, and I can still feel the icy cold steering wheel almost sticking to my hands… gloves were essential for an early start. What would I now give for an opportunity to drive one of these on the 106 up to Girton Corner and back through the city centre and on to Red Cross (now Addenbrooke’s Hospital)

Norman Long

17/08/13 – 16:39


In the submission by Graham W on the ECOC Bristol K5G, he makes mention of the Surrey Street Bus Station built in 1936.
Attached is a copy of the ECOC Timetable commencing 25th March 1936 for Norwich Services.
ECOC have not wasted a second in advertising the new facility to its passengers by putting it on the front of the latest Timetable.
How much more interesting is that cover than the modern day stuff.

Stephen Howarth

02/07/14 – 06:30

I remember the SC with ECOC. Lowestoft had TVF 520 which was deployed on the 20A to Rock Estate. Noisy and slow! Attractive little bus though. Yes, the back axle was a BMC one.
The K? attractive bus but with a 5LW decidedly sluggish. Seats were a darn sight more comfortable than the nasty plastic things too many operators are fond of now. The interior was also more welcoming, I think, not having that awful dark grey ceiling you see too often now. LKH 173, OVF 173 was at Lowestoft into the 1970s. As regards driving them, one of the inspectors at Lowestoft described them as "..horrible things to drive.."

Brian Moore

02/07/14 – 11:00

Two lovely pictures above from the days of "real" bus operation. I shall never forget my first encounter with beautiful Cambridge, when I worked for Wallace Arnold and was on my very first tour feeder from Leeds to Southend Airport – no route learning of any kind in those days, and only an inadequate "Roneo stencilled" A4 sheet with scant information for the 207 mile journey. Lunch was at the University Arms – unloading and parking nigh on impossible – after which the sheet advised "via A10/A130 Trumpington High Street" etc etc. By now I was well over an hour late and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the sign "A10." I couldn’t help noticing lovely red ECOC Bristols coming the other way showing "Trumpington" and began to worry – surely more than one driver wouldn’t have forgotten to change the destination blind ?? I pulled up and asked a friendly constable about the route and his kindly face looked sorry for me as he said "Oh no, you’re on the A10 to Ely, you should be on the A10 for Royston."
I was now ready to abandon ship and run away but carried on, somehow. I think the only thing that saved my sanity that scorching hot summer day was when I descended a long hill lined with lovely trees into a beautiful unspoilt market town, "Saffron Walden." Older readers may remember the comedy radio weekly show "Much Binding in the Marsh" in which Richard Murdoch and Kenneth Horne were RAF officers who always asked each other "Are you going to Saffron Walden for the weekend Sir?" I’d always thought that like the title of the show Saffron Walden was an invented "spoof" name !! Eventually arriving at Southend Airport at 7.00pm (two hours late) the rampaging courier, a Spanish man who should have been with me from Leeds but helped himself to two unauthorised days off, cried out "Veeere ‘av you been – ve have dinner in Ostende at 7.30pm." By now completely drained I asked him where had HE been as it was part of his job to show me the route. I managed to smile to myself with relief at the thought of the Channel Airways Dakota being spectacularly unable to reach Belgium in time for the soup !! After that, the Southend run became one of my favourite jobs which I did often, and during our evenings there I fell in love with the town and the Essex area. The cherry on the cake was the arrangement whereby the coaches were cleaned and refuelled at Prittlewell depot by Eastern National.

Chris Youhill

28/07/14 – 07:49

Like Norman Long, I was also a driver with ECOC at Cambridge. I later moved to St Ives outstation and then Peterborough, by which time the area had become Cambus. At Peterborough I became the regular driver of the by-then-semi-preserved FLF453 with, usually, Ken Johnson on the back. FLF453 was one of the class I also drove regularly whilst it was based at Cambridge. One ‘pig’ of an FLF was 465 which during its last years had only a four speed gearbox fitted. Nobody told unfamiliar drivers about this and they found out the embarrassing way – as I did one day on Victoria Avenue.
Regarding the LKH class, the last 7′ 6" example in Cambridge was 135(HPW 135)and I believe this became the final 7′ 6" K in the ECOC fleet. Of the 8′ versions, the final pair in Cambridge were 168 (OVF 168) and 269 (LNG 269). The honour of being the final example in Cambridge fell to 269 which I believe just made it into 1971. One of the FAH registered examples, FAH 106, also lingered on in Cambridge almost to the end. It was still running in 1969 anyway.
On that very well served destination ‘Service’, I believe the habit of displaying this originated back in ‘tin bible’ days when changing destinations involved a rummage through a hut in Drummer Street. But in later ECOC years ‘Service’ was displayed sometimes out of laziness but sometimes because the bus concerned had come from another depot. The practice of displaying ‘Service’ was officially prohibited if the proper display was available but the inspectors and management never really bothered to enforce it. The practice continued into Cambus days. Displaying ‘Service’ wasn’t really a problem as local people knew the routes and tourists didn’t know the difference between Service, Red Cross, Keynes Road, Foster Road or Fen Estate anyway!
The SC4LK (LC) was a horrid, noisy little thing. The back axle was indeed a BMC product (usually quoted as being from Austin) and I think the gearbox was a David Brown effort. The Gardner 4LK engine was essentially the same unit as used in the midget submarines of WWII. On thing I remember the LC for was the enormous reversing lamp on its rear. Also, if memory serves me correctly, there was a bell cord along the saloon ceiling similar to that used by London Transport instead of bell pushes.
Cambridge depot had LKH256-260 and possibly 261. Of those 256-8 spent just about all their lives at Cambridge.
The KNG (and onwards) registered examples always seemed modern in their day due to having stainless steel (or chrome plated) grab poles and seat grabs. Earlier K’s (HPW, GPW, FAH, FNG etc registrations) usually had wooden seat grabs and grab poles covered in some sort of black plastic. Another difference, not visible on the picture of 255, was the upper deck front grabrails. KNG reg. onwards had two separate grabrails mounted on top of the destination box, whereas earlier K’s had a black rail mounted midway up the front windows and passing right across. From memory the lowbridge LK types similarly differed according to age.

Darren Kitson


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