Bristol SUL

Bristol SUL

I am new to this site and thought you may be interested in seeing a few shots of the Bristol SUL4A.

The much missed Tillingbourne Bus Company. 417 HDV was very smart when first repainted into the Danube blue and light grey livery with a yellow stripe. These two shots were taken in 1972 in Peaslake, the then terminus of the Guildford service.

Somewhere on route near Rusper on the Horsham circular where the driver kindly stopped for an SUL enthusiast to take this shot.

West Yorkshire Road Car EWT 382C awaiting time at Barden Tower on the service from Grassington in 1971. It was actually route 72, the 'A' was a driver error.

A feature of the route 72 Grassington to Ilkley was the arch at Bolton Abbey and EWT 383C is seen here negotiating it in1970.

Southern Vectis 464 ADL taken in 1972 on the short Luccombe Village route.

425 HDV with Devon General at the Hennock terminus of the Newton Abbot route in 1975. SUs are not associated with Devon General and were transferred in the NBC days.

Western National 430 HDV on the Bridport town service in 1978, originally Bridport was Southern National.

Western National EDV 555D in more typical surrounds near Stoke Abbott on the 487 service from Bridport to Broadwindsor in 1978, yet again ex Southern National.

338 EDV in preservation. For many years this was a common sight as a playtoy at a school in Bridport. It was rescued by Rory Weaver restored and rebuilt. Rory ran Weaverbus in Weymouth from his home but lack of storage space meant the SUL had to go. It was used once and once only on the Weaverbus summer service to Lulworth. Naturally, it rained.


Keith Newton


20/02/15 - 11:41

A great set of photographs, Keith. I especially like the one of SNOC EDV 555D in the Devon country lane - a beautiful shot.
Like most ECW products the SU was a very tidy looking design, just to my mind spoilt by the shallow, high windscreens and high mounted grille, giving it a slightly snub-nosed appearance that for the same reason strangely always reminds me of the early postwar Karrier CK3 lorry, most commonly used as refuse lorries or by the GPO. However, maybe that's just because I'm comparing it with the MW bus, and I suppose it's what gives it its character. I do think the DP version looked better though.
I have always regarded the SU - probably wrongly - as Bristol's version of an Albion Nimbus. I believe it had the same engine, but wonder how it compared in all other respects. Was it heavier duty than the Albion ? I would be interested to hear from anyone with practical, hands-on experience with them.

John Stringer

26/02/15 - 06:50

Here are a few more pictures of Bristol SUL4A buses, all with standard ECW B36F bodies.

Keighley West Yorkshire KSMA1, 807 BWR of 1962, photographed in 1966 in sadly typical weather at Hebden Bridge Railway Station (how I scorn the currently fashionable term 'rail station'). This bus was withdrawn by WYRCC in May 1972 and went to a dealer.

Ex Western National No 648 of 1961, 417 HDV, sold in January 1972 and placed in service the following month by Tillingbourne, with whom it is pictured in Gomshall Station yard. The display is incorrect; 451 was the route number for the Horsham service ('Carfax' is Horsham town centre - the parochialism of this destination reminds me of the use of 'Crossfield' in Halifax). Upon withdrawal by Tillingbourne in July 1975 it passed on to Bickers of Coddenham, and later still saw service in Guernsey.

Ex Western National No 633 of 1961, 347 EDV, sold in April 1972 and placed in service almost immediately by Tillingbourne. It is seen on the rural eastern section of the 451 service between Rusper and Colgate, where I stopped when driving it to take its picture. Tillingbourne sold it on in March 1974, and its subsequent history is untraced, unless somebody on OBP knows a bit more.

Western National No 648 of 1961, 356 EDV, sold in April 1976. I photographed it on a local Taunton service in 1970 during one of the many Youth Hostelling trips I used to make in years gone by (back in the time when Youth Hostelling meant travelling by public transport and shank's pony between hostels!) This bus also later found its way to Bickers of Coddenham and on again to Guernsey.


In response to John's query, I drove the Albion Nimbus buses in Halifax and also ex Western Welsh examples for North Downs before operating the Tillingbourne Bristol SUL machines. I always had a soft spot for the Nimbus from my first acquaintance with it in Halifax. The Albion six speed constant mesh gearbox was fine once one got used to the long travel of the gear lever, and, with sympathetic treatment (which it seldom received in Halifax), selecting the middle gate was entirely straightforward. Given its head, a Nimbus could really motor, but its short wheelbase certainly gave a lightweight, bouncy ride. Like the Halifax machines, the ex Western Welsh Nimbuses which I drove for North Downs were of the NS3AN variety with the 72 bhp 4.1 litre EN250 engine. but the firm had inherited from Brown Motor Services a solitary example of the earlier NS3 type which had the same engine coupled with a more positive four speed David Brown gearbox. The NS3 and NS3AN had 'bought in' front and rear axles from the BMC 5 ton haulage range. Driving a Nimbus was good fun, but It did have a decidedly fragile feel to it. Not unsurprisingly, the Bristol SUL felt much more substantial to handle, not only because of the longer wheelbase which gave a better ride than the Nimbus, but because of the sound ECW bodywork. It had much more of a typically Bristol big vehicle feel, even though it also employed the BMC rear axle and final drive, but the front axle came from Kirkstall. The David Brown five speed constant mesh gearbox had (unless my high mileage memory is reaching its overhaul date) more logical selector positions than the idiosyncratic layout of the SC. The Nimbus gained a reputation for dubious engine reliability, but the Bristol use of the Albion engine seems not to have given rise to the same degree of difficulty. Possibly the SU installation was better engineered, and the front mounted radiator may well have effected superior cooling characteristics. In addition to the standard bus types, Tillingbourne had a solitary ex Western National coach example, 269 KTA, by then converted from C33F to DP33F, which it kept from November 1973 to December 1974. This vehicle also went on to Bickers. I often had this machine for the Horsham - Rusper route on my Saturday driving spells, and its road behaviour was little different from the bus version. However, in hours of darkness, the interior reflections from the saloon lights in the windscreen were truly terrible on unlit rural roads. The flatter screens of the bus type did not have this problem. All in all, the SU was certainly a superior bus to the Nimbus, and arguably a better machine than its successor, the LH. I never drove an LH, but suffered many extremely bouncy miles as a passenger. Whatever the deficiencies of the Albion engine, both Leyland and Perkins powered LHs soon acquired reputations for engine failures at quite low mileages, yet around 2000 examples were produced compared with just 181 of the SU type.

Roger Cox

26/02/15 - 12:15

As an SU fan I just want to thank you for posting the picture taking in Taunton. I lived in my youth in Roman Road where services 274 and 276 ran past my door, normally Bristol Ks and later Bristol FLFs but generally a double decker. However as we were only a mile or less from Taunton bus garage we would also see plenty of other vehicles including SU either deputising for a service vehicle or as an extra service testing a vehicle from the garage. Pity I was too young to take any pictures.

Ken Jones

27/02/15 - 07:06

What a great set of photos. I particularly liked the West Yorkshire ones and the Southern Vectis at Old Shanklin. I never experienced either the SU or the Albion Nimbus in my career but we did have 34 Albion Aberdonians at PMT a sort of enlarged Nimbus/cheap Tiger Cub. The gearchange on them was akin to stirring a particularly thick pudding.

Ian Wild

27/04/15 - 11:00

A final word maybe on the SUL bus and with thanks to Roger Cox and Ken Jones for their contributions throughout this gallery. I am attaching a photo from 1975 taken in Taunton Bus Station. 430 HDV is in the NBC red of Devon General but the blind shows the local service 270 from Corfe via Trull. BDV 253C (2nd from right) will provide the trunk 218 to Minehead - 40 years on this service is subject to competition between 2 operators with 4 buses an hour on weekdays and it is amusing to recall that a 2-hourly frequency sufficed in those days. Great fun.

Keith Newton

19/05/15 - 06:50

What a wonderful set of photos, Keith - the "group" photo at Taunton Bus Station in particular brought back many memories as the 270 was my daily route to and from school in the mid-seventies and I can still remember travelling on both SUL buses and coaches on this route, struggling to board with my school bag, my violin case and my PE kit on some days!
Seeing BDV 253C blinded for the 218 made me smile - I think any passengers Minehead-bound would have needed a strong constitution (maybe we did in those days!!) travelling on an SU on this long and winding route - at least the superb scenery would have made up for it......
If you have any more Taunton area photos (or indeed anywhere) that you are happy to share, I for one would love to see them.

Paul Soper

20/05/15 - 06:10

What a superb set of pictures Keith and Roger of these most attractive and practical small buses in some quite delightful locations and liveries. The West Yorkshire ones brought back happy memories for me of the 1960s when I was a conductor on the Ilkley - Grassington route which was 75 in those days. The route was a total drivers' nightmare with narrow roads, dry stone walls, and "weekend" car and caravan drivers with absolutely no idea at all. Full size single deckers were used, preferably 7'6" wide but not always. Later in my career when with Wallace Arnold I did an evening excursion with one of the first giant tall Leyland Leopard/Plaxton coaches and, believe me, there was no room for error at the Bolton Abbey Arch. Just a little behind Barden Tower there was a narrow bridge with very tight ninety degree turns at both ends - I'm pretty sure that it would now be impossible to cross with a modern vehicle. The route these days (now 74) is operated with midibuses by Pride of the Dales who provide excellent rural services.

Chris Youhill

21/05/15 - 07:00

Would Paul Soper please contact me by email via this website. Not only do I come from Taunton, I am a SUL fan but we took 1949 Daimler Exeter City Half cab at Taunton Rally this year on three 270 runs to Pitminster, Trull and Corfe, plus there were 2 SUL's in service in Taunton on the day as per attached picture taken at Castle Green

Ken Jones



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