Old Bus Photos

Southern Vectis – Bristol RE – KDL 885F – 301

Southern Vectis - Bristol RE - KDL 885F - 301

Southern Vectis Omnibus Company
Bristol RESH6G
Duple Northern C45F

KDL 885F is a Bristol RESH6G with Duple Northern C45F body. Fleet number 301 in the Southern Vectis fleet, she is seen at the King Alfred Running Day in Winchester on 1 January 2010. Please note that the 2015 event has moved away from New Year’s Day and will be held on Sunday evening 3rd May and Bank holiday Monday 4th May instead – and in the hope of better weather!

Photograph and Copy contributed by Pete Davies

23/02/15 – 07:50

Very clean, crisp lines and a sympathetic application of livery. Altogether a pleasing coach – and an unusual body choice for a Tilling company, although Southern Vectis always seemed to display a certain disregard for centralised purchasing policy. Perhaps it’s to do with being an off shore island!


23/02/15 – 08:50

Thank you, Petras. Sadly, the Isle of Wight isn’t far enough "off shore" to qualify as a tax haven, although I think my neighbour’s children have the right idea. They went to Cowes a couple of years ago and, when they were in the queue for coming back to Southampton, the elder one said to his brother "We’re waiting for the ferry back to England."

Pete Davies

23/02/15 – 14:34

In the mid-1970’s, I managed the telephone billing section of Portsmouth Telephone Area, based in Southsea, which covered the Isle of Wight. On one occasion, I dealt with an irate customer living on the IoW, who said she wasn’t satisfied with my reply on the telephone and was ‘coming over from the mainland’ to see me in person. I think that local authority re-org in 1973, which took the IoW out of Hampshire and gave it its own council, gave them a sense of inflated importance!

Chris Hebbron

23/02/15 – 14:34

There were nine coaches built with this body/chassis combination, four for Hants and Dorset, four for Eastern National and this one. The only other two RESH chassis had ECW bus bodies fitted out for DP, delivered to Midland General. There were also a few RELH with Duple Commander bodies, with Hants and Dorset and Eastern National again amongst the operators.

Gary T

23/02/15 – 15:50

I’ve found a photo of one of the Hants and Dorset quartet and although only a few months older it is an earlier version of the Commander and has unusual upper windows. www.flickr.com/photos/  
The Eastern National examples were similar to the Southern Vectis one.

Gary T

24/02/15 – 06:17

Sorry, Chris, but the Isle of Wight was never part of Hampshire, but people got this idea because at one time education, police, fire and ambulance services were shared. At one time, the island even had a governor, but now it has a lord lieutenant just like any other county. Check on the island websites if you want to know more.

David Wragg

25/02/15 – 06:07

When I used to work in Hampshire, I had a good relationship with my opposite number, who worked in Newport IoW. I always smiled, when he referred to us as his colleagues on the North Island.


27/02/15 – 07:05

Wasn’t this coach 6HLW-engined at first, and a 39-seater? I believe that after a "poor-showing" on an extended tour it was re-engined with a 6HLX, either the following year, or pretty soon after. Was it up-seated at the same time?

Philip Rushworth

27/02/15 – 09:13

Thx for correcting my misapprehension, David. I recall its DL vehicle registration mark and wondered if it was subsumed into Hampshire’s in 1973. Maybe not, then.
Loved the ‘North Island’ remark, Petras409.
I’ve just remembered that I looked at a wall map of Southampton/Portsmouth/IoW area when aboard the Cherbourg-Southampton ferry in its last season. The map showed ‘White Isle’ in the centre. It was a brave, but misguided attempt at using ‘possession’, but the spelling????

Chris Hebbron

27/02/15 – 13:28

The Isle of Wight was part of Hampshire until 1890. Censuses that come up in family history searches say, for example "Carisbrooke, Hampshire" and "Whippingham, Hampshire."
One of my farmer cousins at the western point of the Island admits that visiting overners are good for the economy, but reckons that there ought to be a drawbridge to keep them where they belong once they’ve gone back to the mainland.
Some time ago I asked whether anyone else could recall a single-decker with an oval back window that ran from Freshwater to Alum Bay, and I think I’ve found the answer: a Reo (not part of the Southern Vectis fleet) which ran right up till 1949. Another oval-windowed single-decker pictured on p 57 of Richard Newman’s "Southern Vectis–the first 60 years" was a Guy Chaser, DL 5277, but that was sold in 1935.
It’s gone midday: time for my nammut.

Ian T

27/02/15 – 15:49

Apparently the Wight name of the island has nothing to do with colour, but it apparently means a separate place or a separated place. Rather apt, really. How they loved their "DL" registration code, managing to keep it during the 1974 changes and after. They lost it in the major 2001 change, but still have a unique identifier as "HW". Sorry, a bit off piste as a comment, but the above contributions reminded me of this.

Michael Hampton

27/02/15 – 16:51

Michael, the ‘Oxford Names Companion’ states "Wight, Isle of (the county). Vectis c.150, Wit c.1086 (Domesday Book). A Celtic name possibly meaning ‘place of the division’, referring to its situation between the two arms of the Solent". This ties in nicely with your "separated place" explanation. I like your comment "How they loved their "DL" registration code", but as a young enthusiast I did too, even though I lived ‘up North’. Those lovely IoW registrations, the ‘Cuddles’, ‘Diddles’, ‘Fiddles’, Middles, ‘Piddles’, ‘Tiddles’ and Widdles’ – wonderful one and all.

Brendan Smith

28/02/15 – 05:54

I see that Brendan and I seem to share Benny Hill’s "lavatorial" sense of humour!

Pete Davies

28/02/15 – 05:55

On a recent holiday coach tour from East Yorkshire we had a very able driver who lived on the IoW on the round the island tour he never stopped talking on driving off the ferry at Southampton he welcomed us back to the North Island.

Ken Wragg

28/02/15 – 05:57

Philip, this coach was indeed originally fitted with the smaller Gardner 6HLW engine when new. As you comment, it was soon re-engined with the larger 6HLX unit. Apparently this followed an embarrassing incident whereby passengers on a coach tour had to disembark, in order for 301 to reach the top of a hill. As a young enthusiast, I was very fortunate in seeing this beautiful coach in Harrogate when quite new, and still have a not very good black and white photograph of it, parked on Esplanade, at the bottom of Cold Bath Road. Whether it had the more powerful 6HLX engine by then I do not know, but given the steepness of some of the hills around the area, I sincerely hope that it had!

Brendan Smith

28/02/15 – 09:48

Is that tale of the 6HLW engine being defeated by a hill verifiable? 6LW engines powered 30ft long double deckers in pretty hilly territory all over the land without trouble. I can accept that the performance of the RE with the 112 bhp 6HLW might not have been sparkling, and some gradients may have required bottom gear, but I remain a trifle suspicious of the story.

Roger Cox

28/02/15 – 12:05

Yes I know what you mean Roger, but the story is told in Duncan Roberts’ ‘Bristol RE – 40 years of service’ book, which is a well-researched publication. West Yorkshire’s Bristol MW coaches (with 6HLW engines) seemed to manage trips around the Dales without too much drama, but then they had ECW aluminium-framed bodywork. I have a suspicion that Duple like Plaxton at the time, were still using composite bodies, which were quite a bit heavier. It is interesting to note that West Yorkshire’s ECW-bodied RELH6G coaches performed well on the Yorkshire-London services, with fully rated (150bhp) Gardner 6HLX engines. However, when WY’s first Plaxton-bodied RELH6G coaches arrived, within a short space of time they were deemed to be ‘sluggish’, and were re-engined with Leyland O.680 units rated at 168bhp, to improve performance. Maybe the same fate had befallen 301 – that of heavier coachwork?

Brendan Smith

01/03/15 – 06:56

Brendan, that is quite correct about the Duple bodies being composite steel/wood construction, and therefore relatively heavy. The caption to the photo in Duncan Roberts’ book, in which he related the proverbial story about the passengers having to get out and walk up an hill in Scotland, also mentions the construction of the Duple bodies. As I understand it, Duple didn’t adopt all metal frames until the advent of the Dominant.
In practice, even the ECW-bodied RESLs with 6HLW engines were considered to be sluggish. Southern Vectis had a number of those, and they apparently gained a reputation for causing people to miss ferries!

Nigel Frampton

02/03/15 – 07:30

Thanks for the information on Duple bodies Nigel, and also that on Southern Vectis’ sluggish RESL6Gs. I’ve since reflected on Roger’s quite justifiable suspicion relating to the tale, and the comments on 301 in Duncan Roberts’ book. It is quite possible that the coach did struggle on the hill, and the driver did what he thought best under the circumstances. Conversely, the coach did actually manage the climb fully laden with passengers and their luggage, albeit very slowly in first gear, with the driver later commenting on its performance to colleagues on his return. No doubt it would not have taken long for the tale to "develop" as a consequence. Hmmm! We need Miss Marple on the case.

Brendan Smith

02/03/15 – 17:50

In the postwar years up to the end of the 1950s, the eight legger lorries of Atkinson, ERF, Foden and Guy, and the classic Scammell artics were all powered by the 112 bhp Gardner 6LW. Torque is the prime factor in a commercial vehicle engine, which is where the Gardner range excelled. It is worth remembering that the vaunted 125 bhp engines of AEC and Leyland developed around 118 bhp at the 1700 rpm governed speed of the 6LW, an advantage of just 6 bhp. As Ian T says in his comment on John Stringer’s post of the United Services Dennis Loline I on this site, "112 ghp (Gardner horsepower) was worth 125 of anyone else’s". I think that the story of the 6HLW powered RE coach being totally flummoxed by a hill, like much folklore, is probably apocryphal. Turning to the matter of Duple bodywork, I personally felt that, after the neat styling of the 1950s, the Duple designs of the 1960s – the Vegas, Vistas, Viceroys et al – were uninspired in the extreme, except in respect of frontal treatment which was garishly appalling, reminiscent of the worst aesthetic abominations emanating from the car factories of Detroit. The mass of frontal metalwork alone must have added considerably to the unladen weight. Duple only partially redeemed itself with the Plaxton clones of the 1970s; the true Plaxtons still looked better.
Donning my hard hat, I now await the impending onslaught from Duple aficionados.

Roger Cox

16/03/15 – 06:46

Roger, were you still in Halifax at the time the M62 was being constructed over Rishworth Moor/Moss Moor? For those not familiar with the area, between J23 and J22 the motorway passes under the B6114 in a deep cutting (the spoil from which was used to crate the embankment of Scammonden Reservoir, across which the motorway runs in a westbound direction immediately prior to the cutting). Creation of the cutting severed the B6114 and so, prior to the construction of the current over-bridge, a temporary road descending down the cutting, across the bed of the motorway, and up the other side was created (travelling westbound the tracks of the temporary road can still be seen clearly). The gradient of the temporary road was 1:5. Stay with me. In July 1968 Huddersfield JOC introduced its first two Countryside Tours: Tour B was designed to show the construction of the M62/Scammonden Reservoir/the B6114 over-bridge, and entailed buses climbing the temporary road. According to Cardno and Harling’s "Huddersfield – The Corporation Motor Bus Story", on the first trip "Five of the seven fully-loaded single deckers failed to negotiate ‘the big dipper’ . . . the problem was caused by the flagman at the bottom of the incline whose job it was to control the traffic to ensure that heavy motorway machinery could cross the road unimpeded. he stopped the buses too close to the bottom of the incline . . .". I remember reading, many years ago, in Julian Osborne’s "The Southdown Queen Marys", that the pneumocyclic Queen Marys could fail to start on some of Brighton’s steeper hills, and were soon transferred away to flatter territory. Now my question is this: would the fact that the RESL had a semi-automatic gearbox have affected hill-climbing ability in comparison with Rogers 6LW-engined double-deckers? I’m assuming here that Roger’s 6LW-powered double-deckers were manual, and that the Huddersfield single-deckers concerned were (semi-automatic) Swifts/RUs/Fleetlines.

Philip Rushworth

18/03/15 – 07:09

Philip, you have raised a significant point about the hill climbing capabilities inherent in different transmission types. A friction clutch allows the driver to speed the engine a bit when pulling away on a gradient, whereas a fluid flywheel/epicyclic gearbox coupling limits the ability of the engine to rev beyond a certain level. As you say, the Southdown Leyland PD3/5s with Pneumocyclic gearboxes (dare we now call any of these full fronted Southdown PD3s “Queen Marys”?) became notorious for experiencing difficulty in pulling away from rest on steep gradients. They were relegated to flatter services and Southdown reverted to the manual transmission PD3/4 for later deliveries. However, if a fluid drive bus could get a run at a hill, allowing the engine to reach a reasonable speed before attacking the gradient, then it would go up satisfactorily. During the days of the lowest ebb of the British Leyland saga, when spare parts and new buses acquired the rarity value of hens teeth, London Country got hold of some of the ex Southdown PD3/5 machines and used them on the 409 route between Croydon and East Grinstead/Forest Row. This had some stiff gradients around the Caterham Valley, particularly Church Hill in Caterham, which has a gradient of 16%, about 1 in 6, but the approach from the bottom allowed a measure of speed to be gained before the steep ascent. These PD3/5s coped without trouble. The O600 did seem to deliver poorer torque at the bottom end of the rev range than the directly comparable AEC 9.6 litre A204/A218 and AV590 engines. The London Transport RTL was distinctly inferior on hills to the directly comparable RT. Attempts were made in 1952 and again in 1959 to allocate RTLs to the Country Bus & Coach department, but the insipid gradient performance of these machines soon led to their replacement by RTs. The Gardner 6LW was the supreme engine for low speed torque until the arrival of the 6LX, and the tale of the RE failing to tackle a hill, if true, must be put down to badly chosen gearing/rear axle ratios. In Halifax, the heavy (over 8 tons unladen) Roe bodied Daimlers of 1954 had their 6LW engines replaced by Leyland O600s, but the story is rather more complicated than one of ‘inadequate Gardner power’. At that time, as an economy measure, Halifax indulged in the practice of adding one part Coalene to two parts derv to propel its bus fleet. The 112 bhp K type Gardner delivered 10 bhp more at 1700 rpm than its predecessor, but it was very particular about fuel quality, and Coalene was never part of its designed diet. To add to the problem, this batch of Daimlers had 5.4:1 rear axles, rather high for the local Alpine operating territory. HPTD’s Leyland besotted new GM, Richard Le Fevre, replaced the Gardners with Leyland engines, and, under the new Asst. Engineer, a certain G.G. Hilditch, the back axles were changed to 6.2:1. The Orion bodied Daimlers kept their Patricroft power plants throughout their lives, as did the later and lighter, very fine, Roe bodied batch of 1956 (my favourite Halifax buses). The problem had not lain with the engines. Mercifully, the dubious indulgence of adding Coalene to the fuel died out in the early 1960s. I’ve driven 6LW powered Daimlers up the Halifax hills without difficulty, so the RE problem certainly lay beyond the engine, though I accept that such a coach would have been underpowered. Modern automatic bus transmissions employ a series of torque converters enabling the engine to rev freely in the starting ratio.

Roger Cox

19/03/15 – 07:14

Coalene was a product of the Coalite company, a smelly plant I recall passing near Chesterfield whenever we visited this fine town to see friends. I have a feeling that Sheffield Corporation also used it in their buses for a while. On the whole, it was only sold ‘locally’. For cars, I always fuelled up my car in Chesterfield with ICI petrol, which I never saw elsewhere, but regretted this as it was much cheaper that other brands. I assume it was a by-product of their chemical activities.

Chris Hebbron

20/03/15 – 07:24

Chris H, quite correct, the Coalite plant was at Wingerworth near Chesterfield. It covered a vast area and closed down many years ago but work still goes on there to this day, detoxifying the land.

Chris Barker

17/01/21 – 07:21

Fascinating reading and I have just read the notes on the switchback diversionary route of the B6114 between Ringstone & Dean Head. The gradient was a true 1 in 5 (20% in the new mode) and the Halifax Leopards (231-238 batch etc) needed 1st gear on both sides. This was a thrilling ride to a teenage bus enthusiast in the 1968-1971 period. Even more exciting was in icy conditions – but the bus always made it – what a contrast to today’s buses!
On a Sunday afternoon, the 59 from Elland to Ripponden diverted in each direction vis Dean Head and displayed the number 58. The only regular passengers (besides me!) were 3 elderly ladies who attended the afternoon service at Dean Head Church. Very happy days – any other ageing bus enthusiasts remember travelling on this service?

Eric Sykes

18/01/21 – 05:48

This vehicle has just undergone an internal make over at IoW Museum including new floor covering and newly re-moquetted seats.

Roger Burdett

26/04/22 – 05:54

Very interesting to read of Coalene use in the 1960’s.
I think it may have solved a mystery that’s puzzled me for years.
As a young lad visiting relatives in Sheffield I’d always enjoy riding the buses – especially the musical AEC’s on the 75 route as they powered up to Meadowhead top.
Besides thinking Sheffield blue and cream was ‘the’ best livery, I was always intrigued why Sheffield buses had a certain smell to them? It was suggested it could emanate from the furnaces of the steelworks and it somehow ‘stuck’ to the passing buses. To be honest I think very few people I spoke with at the time had ever actually noticed!
I still remember the smell – which I found not unpleasant…..thanks to reading these posts I suspect Coalene sounds like the culprit!

Robert Wainman

01/05/22 – 07:34

I remember seeing this coach parked in Ventnor bus station on an island visit in around 1991; it was notably vintage even then but in showroom condition.
Regarding steep hill performance, in my youth I was a daily rider on Bristol City route 3, up the steep Red Lion Hill into Knowle. Always a KSW or an older K, some Gardner 6LW, some Bristol AVW. Dependent on load, and the driver’s skill in engaging non-synchromesh bottom gear when down to walking pace, it would often fail to make it, come to a stand, and then make a spectacular hill start with much vibration and noise. Now I think of it the prospect of making a hash of it and running backwards doesn’t really bear thinking about.



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Bristol Omnibus – Bristol RE – UHU 220H – C1118

Bristol Omnibus - Bristol RE - UHU 220H - 220

Bristol Omnibus
Bristol RELL6L

This bus was on display in the centre of Bristol on 21st August 1969, presumably before entering service. The notices invite the public to view the ‘New Central Exit bus. I am assuming that this was the first of this type of bus to operate in Bristol. The bright livery helps the already attractive ECW body. Note the use of alternate hopper and sliding saloon windows, quite common amongst deliveries to Tilling Group Companies (although by that time NBC had taken over).

Photograph and Copy contributed by Ian Wild

12/01/15 – 07:09

The first dual-door REs for Bristol Joint Services were nos. C1109 – 1125 (UHU 211 – 221, 323 – 328H). Illustrated is no. C1118. The first of these entered service in August 1969 in the revised livery for one-man operated buses.
All previous REs for Bristol had been delivered as B53 or 50F but those for Cheltenham District Traction, Gloucester Joint Services and certain of the Bath allocation had subsequently been rebuilt to two-door layout.

Geoff Kerr


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United Automobile – Bristol RE – 104 VHN – RE4

United Automobile - Bristol RE - 104 VHN - BRC4

United Automobile Services
Bristol RELH6G

104 VHN, was new in January 1964, with the fleet number BRC4; I am not sure when the last of the type were delivered, but the ECW bodied RELH6G’s were among the last United vehicles to carry this understated and distinctive livery. Some of the early Plaxton bodied Bristol’s did, but most had the ghastly, or should that be ghostly, all white, one size fits all NBC livery. United coaches had a well-deserved reputation for passenger comfort, obviously they were used on other duties but the primarily role for many of these was the long haul to London, and so United specified the more spacious 43 seat variants, whereas most of the Tilling group had the 47-seat version. Arguably, other vehicles of the era may have been better looking, but as far as build quality and reliability is concerned, these were as good as it gets. The level of comfort they offered, coupled with their exceptional ride quality and the ultra reliability of the Gardner H6LXB engine made them an act that was extremely hard to follow, and many would say has never been surpassed. Once in London, the crews stayed until the next day before returning, but the vehicles had a turnaround of about three hours, during which they were cleaned out and refuelled at Samuelsons. In a 24 hour period, they would do a full round trip of over 600 miles, and it was nothing unusual for them to clock up over 4,000 miles a week, most of them accumulated phenomenal mileages during their lives. I know that several from other companies have survived, but I’m not aware that any of United’s have.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Ronnie Hoye

27/03/14 – 06:58

I’ve said it before. RELH/ECW – possibly the ultimate class act.

David Oldfield

27/03/14 – 06:59

I happened on this web-site by accident searching for any books on "United" I started with the Company at the Scarborough depot in 1955 and this was intended just for the season, and I was employed as a Conductor, after two seasons being laid off in September known as Surplus to requirements I was finally given a full time job in 1957 and after a variation of jobs finally retired in 1990 having been transferred to E Y M S because of deregulation.
I have one Bus photograph of fleet no B G L 59 and it was taken when I was in the Driving school, I think it was a 5 Cylinder Gardner, I have other Memorabilia such as long service awards, safe driving awards and I still have my P S V badge BB 40875, and also lots of memories of ex staff.

Gordon England

28/03/14 – 07:11

Couldn’t agree more David, and thanks for posting Ronnie. The coach looks simply glorious.

Brendan Smith

28/03/14 – 07:11

On paper, a livery of olive green and cream sounds rather less than prepossessing, but, in practice, the United coach livery was a peerless example of dignified restraint that exuded quality. How one yearns for the return of such schemes in place of the present day ostentatious eyesores from the likes of Best Impressions. The Bristol RELH was a classic coach, and I firmly believe that, updated to meet modern requirements, it could still present a serious challenge in the present day market place.

Roger Cox

28/03/14 – 07:12

JHN 835C

Here’s one of the fine machines I captured in 1970, doing its ‘job’ on the M1 south on a wet Sunday afternoon in Derbyshire.

Berisford Jones

28/03/14 – 17:51

Couldn’t agree more on every count Roger.

David Oldfield

28/03/14 – 17:52

The ultimate quality coach; I don’t think any other coach was better looking – except perhaps similar vehicles in Royal Blue livery. These coaches were a joy to drive – some drivers complained about the manual gearbox version, but I had no trouble with them. No other type of coach had such a relaxing, subdued sound, even when travelling at high speed.

Don McKeown

28/03/14 – 17:53

Nice action photo, Berisford. Amazing to think that, on Ronnie’s calculations, this vehicle would have clocked up some 1,248,000 miles by 1970!

Chris Hebbron

29/03/14 – 07:45

Don, that relaxing subdued sound was the superbly engineered Gardner engine. Even when flat out they were revving at less that 2.000 RPM, which is only about twice what a modern car will tickover at, so a run on the motorway was just a leisurely stroll to them.
Chris, as I said, they had other duties, but 600 plus miles a day was the norm on the London run. Not every depot that had them operated that service, so in all probability they would have been periodically swapped around in an effort to even out the mileage. Nevertheless, in those days odometers returned to zero at 100,000 miles. and I know for a fact that by the time some of the first intake at Jesmond depot were a year old, most of them were nearing the end, and some had passed their second time round the clock.

Ronnie Hoye

29/03/14 – 07:47

It’s absolutely incredible to think that this superb coach was new fifty years ago! I had the pleasure of riding on a Midland General example a few times, manual gearbox, a turn of speed which was breathtaking and a ride which was almost silent. Today’s National Express offerings don’t even come close!

Chris Barker

29/03/14 – 08:19

105 VHN

A front view of sister United Autos Bristol RE 105 VHN. Seen here in Doncaster on a Service 203 to Newcastle.

Stephen Howarth

29/03/14 – 09:06

Sorry to show my ignorance but bearing in mind the plaudits given for the quiet and smooth ride of the RELH, can somebody please bring me up to speed with the engine configuration and drive train on these classic vehicles.

John Darwent

29/03/14 – 12:01

Series 1 sanctioned for the nationalised Tilling/Transport Holding Company set up. Rear engined – most Gardner 6LXB, some Leyland O.600 or O.680. Bristol 5 speed synchromesh manual gearbox. [Air suspension standard fitment.]
Series 2 on open market. Similar drive train/power source as Series 1. Gardner 6LXB/Leyland 0.680 in roughly 2:1 proportion. Menu of fittings and options for open market which also meant that the air suspension became an option rather than standard. 5 speed epicyclic (semi-automatic) gearbox became standard on Series 2.
Series 3 never saw the light of day. Further improvements were at the planning stage when BLMC pulled the plug on the RE in favour of the Leyland National but also axed the RELH in favour of an improved Leyland Leopard. A spring parking brake got as far as at least one West Yorkshire RE.

David Oldfield

29/03/14 – 18:47

Just to add a little to David’s comprehensive note, the engine in the RE was horizontally mounted, unlike the current crop of ‘modern’ rear engined single decks. The gearbox was mounted forward of the rear axle and the drive from the engine went over the axle to the gearbox and then back again to the differential. This configuration allowed the fitment of a propshaft of adequate length to allow for suspension travel in the drive train. Some other designs, notably the Seddon RU, fell lamentably short on this design requirement.

Roger Cox

29/03/14 – 18:48

Thank you for that info David. I seem to recall that RE’s had longitudinally mounted engines rather than transversely as became the fashion in service buses. Noting from a previous post that you have had the pleasure in later life of driving RE’s, you may be able to comment on the gear change of the manual models bearing in mind the lengthy linkage presumably involved. How come an academically minded O.E. as yourself came to be at the wheel of such revered vehicles? Fat Nat would spin in his grave!

John Darwent

30/03/14 – 07:45

The manual gearbox was something a driver needed to make an effort to master but once mastered it was easy and light to use although there seemed to be too big a gap between 2nd and 3rd gears which could be a problem on rising gradients. The most difficult thing to master when timing the gear changes was hearing the engine revs due to the overall quietness of the body and engine especially with a good load on. One thing to beware of was selecting reverse with the heater control in the midway position on the ECW bodies as it was easy to get a finger trapped between gearstick and the control.

Diesel Dave

30/03/14 – 07:45

John. Nat retired after my first year and Flink was acting Head until the Sharrock era. Strangely enough my (fully MOT approved) driving instructor was a master at KES. He also got me through the Advanced test (IAM) whilst I was at music college. I had been interested in buses from a babe in arms but it was my oldest friend from KES who twisted my arm to get my PSV. [He is about to retire as a Managing Director of Stagecoach Bus.] I only ever rode on Series 1s and only drove Series 2s in preservation. I write after playing for a concert in Kingston last night and about to play a morning service prior to driving RML2440 this afternoon on the new Watford running day. [So no rest for the wicked.] Roger’s addendum is, of course, correct.

David Oldfield

30/03/14 – 09:44

Thank you Diesel Dave for the interesting comments and scenario.
David O, what an amazing tale. I was a few years earlier than your goodself at KES and there was little interest in transport matters at the time. Having said that, if we go earlier still there was Terry Ellin, later to find fame with his restoration of Leyland Comet coach MHY 765. Hope you have a great day with RML 2440.

John Darwent

31/03/14 – 07:19

The layout of the Bristol RE was an absolute masterpiece in chassis design, offering a low step height and comfortable ride for passengers, yet keeping the engineering staff happy by offering easy access to all the major mechanical components. From a driver’s viewpoint the RE did not seem to show any of the tail-heavy characteristics of other rear-engined single-deckers, due to the better weight distribution of its major components, and from the traffic department perspective the RE would be suitable for PAYE operation. As David O. comments, the Series I chassis for the THC ‘Tilling’ fleets used Gardner’s 6HLX engines in the main, although a few operators did specify the smaller 6HLW. When Leyland took a 25% stake in Bristol (and ECW) in the mid-sixties this allowed the company access to the open market, and the Leyland 0.600 engine option became available, with the 0.680 following a little later. Interestingly the RE Series II was offered with AEC AH505 and AH691 engine options, but sadly none were ordered. (Bet you’d liked to have heard one of those David. The 691 would have sounded gorgeous coupled to the RE exhaust). Ulsterbus specified Gardner’s more powerful 6HLXB (Up to 180bhp available at 1850rpm compared to the HLXs 150bhp at 1700 rpm) in some of its later RELL6Gs. They must have sounded grand as well.

Brendan Smith

31/03/14 – 12:44

John. Had a very good day with RML2440, thanks. Didn’t know where I was going (but didn’t get lost) and discovered new bits of Metropolitan Hertfordshire. Didn’t realise Terry was an OE. In my time we had a informal "Bus Club" of 6th formers and met under the balcony in the hall. Two of us became musicians/music teachers, one the Stagecoach director, one an English teacher (and subsequently an operator), one a civil servant and one a research scientist – and all, as you say, academically minded graduates.
Brendan. It would take a lot to beat a ZF Reliance but I did know about the AEC option for REs. Now that would have been spectacular. [Reading documents referring to LT and the Merlin one gets the impression that, apart from the "breaking back" syndrome found in other rear engined vehicles, the other problem was cooling. Much of this centred round failing convoluted piping caused in part by the lay out in the engine compartment. Presumably, this would not be a problem the an AEC/RE either?]

David Oldfield

02/04/14 – 08:23

Berisford’s action shot of one of United’s fine RELH6Gs on the motorway reminded me of a ‘minor difficulty’ that beset West Yorkshire when it took delivery of a batch of six RELH/ECW coaches in 1970. These fine machines were to have been delivered with Gardner 6HLX engines, but due to demand for such outstripping supply at the time, Leyland 0.680 engines were substituted. (The coaches were delivered as CRG17-22, but renumbered CRL1-6: CWY498-503H). Upon entering service, it soon became apparent that an unforseen problem was causing the company some embarrassment. The Gardner engines were to have been rated at the usual 150bhp at 1700rpm, but the substituted Leyland units developed 150bhp at 2200rpm. However, as the rear axle ratios were geared for the lower engine speeds of the Gardners, the higher rpm of the Leyland engines gave the CRLs an impressive (and illegal) top speed on the motorway. After several cautions from the boys in blue regarding 85 mph West Yorkshire coaches, the fuel injection pumps were removed and recalibrated to give 150bhp at 1800 rpm. This was a much quicker, cheaper and more practical solution to the problem, rather than replacing the rear axle innards. After this modification, things settled down to a gentler pace. Drivers did report though that the Leylands were still a little faster on the flat, but that the Gardners would still pass them on the hlls.

Brendan Smith

07/04/14 – 16:06

I noticed one of the recent articles on the RE mentions action shot on the motorway well here are some more. The cab shot is a Royal Blue Bristol RE Manual gearbox being overtaken by a Crosville Semi-Automatic Bristol RE on our way to the Duxford bus ralley in 2006. Both vehicles are in preservation.

Michael Crofts






08/04/14 – 07:53

Good action shots, Michael.
I see 90mph on the speedo of the first shot, so that overtaking RE must’ve really been motoring!!!

Chris Hebbron

08/04/14 – 07:54

Brendan, it was much the same story with the NGT Group Fanfare’s. The Wakefields AEC Reliance versions were a fraction faster on the flat, but the NGT Gardner engined GUY Arabs would leave them for dead uphill.

Ronnie Hoye

08/04/14 – 11:04

Sorry to shatter the illusion Chris, but the vehicle is fitted with a tachograph, so the speed is recorded in KPH not MPH. 100 KPH is 62.5 MPH.

Ronnie Hoye

08/04/14 – 16:58

You’re right, Ronnie, I’m really shattered!

Chris Hebbron

08/04/14 – 16:58

Not that something approaching that wouldn’t have been possible when new. Did over the ton in a ZF Reliance (I wasn’t driving) on the A1M before Tachos and 70mph limits.

David Oldfield

09/04/14 – 08:18

I seem to recall that our motorways, initially, had no speed limits on them. However,coaches, in particular, were reaching speeds of 90mph (in the very late ’50’s and early ’60’s) and there were a few accidents, mainly due to tyre technology being up to the new challenges, hence the introduction of the 70mph speed limit. I can recall doing 75mph in my car on the M4 and being well-overtaken by coaches!

Chris Hebbron

09/04/14 – 13:11

Doesn’t Chris mean ‘tyre technology "NOT" being up to new challenges’?

Stephen Howarth

09/04/14 – 18:00

Yes, I did!

Chris Hebbron

12/04/14 – 08:06

Both coaches were cape able of exceeding 70 mph.

Michael Crofts

104 VHN Vehicle reminder shot for this posting

24/04/14 – 08:12

How well I remember these lovely coaches which finally saw the ECW bodied models delivered in 1970. In my younger days I often travelled to London on the dsytime service returning some days later on the overnight 206 to Middlesbrough and without doubt the real highlight of my holiday was the journey to and from London on board one of these coaches. It was sad to see them demoted in later life with headrests cut down and I seem to remember even the roof lights bolted down. Sadly none ever survived long enough of the 95 delivered to see preservation.

NHN 953E

Here is an early view of two of the examples taken at Hawes in North Yorkshire in October 1972. Fleet number 1253 was based at Redcar who in United days used to operate excursions and this outing was one of the popular six lakes ones. They also ran another E registered example. It’s one of my early views so sorry about the quality.

Ken Hoggett

27/05/14 – 15:23

Ken’s comment about their latter days is spot on. I encountered them when they were running longer stage routes such as Scarborough-Helmsley and Berwick-Seahouses in their last years. They still rode well and sounded good but they looked terribly down-at-heel internally. Some (cf the EFE model) ended up in NBC red- enough said.

Phil Drake


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