Bristol Commercial Vehicles Enthusiasts

PHOTO OF THE MONTH - ARCHIVE

Last Updated : August 1st 2007 (PCH418L added)


With the very kind assistance of Cliff Beeton I have put together a detailed review of the REs operated by Potteries Motor Traction (or P.M.T. as it was also known) here. Cliff has sent me many photos and negatives for scanning, but this one was a real surprise due to the livery carried. It is PCH418L which was new to Trent and was one of a pair acquired from Berresford of Cheddleton along with their stage carriage services in 1987. The other was an ex-Eastern Counties Plaxton RE coach which was soon sold for scrap, but this ECW-bodied coach lasted long enough to be repainted in fleet livery. Cliff and I plan to follow up the RE page with a review of P.M.T. VRs - this is currently a work in progress here. I am always keen to produce such fleet lists with anyone who wishes to help with photos of their favourite operator, large or small. Do please get in touch at rob@robsly.com if you are interested in helping. Thank you. June 14th 2007

KRM431W (now reregistered PHH149W) found fame as the last surviving VR with Stagecoach North West (Ribble/Cumberland), even receiving Stagecoach "rolling ball" livery, from which it has now been repainted into Cumberland's post-deregulation livery having passed into preservation last October. It is a credit to new owners Brian Pritchard and John Burrow (the latter having performed the repaint himself).

April 17th 2007
I'm very pleased to be able to show this newly-repainted FLF, photographed by its new owner, Chris Byart of Erin, Ontario, Canada. It is one of surprisingly few former United Automobile Lodekkas to survive - L260 (THN260F) which has now been in Canada twice as long as it was in service in the UK. I have recently been adding operator histories for some of the North American owners of Lodekkas and VRs, and this particular FLF was one of many owned by River Rouge of Winnipeg. Good luck to Chris with his new venture - let's hope he can bring himself to remove that ridiculous contraption masquerading as a rear view mirror!! March 9th 2007

Abus of Bristol have owned REs on and off throughout their existence, even in the earlier days when they were associated with Crown Coaches as their fleet history will testify, so I am pleased to be able to report that OAE954M has recently been renovated and returned to service in latest fleet livery of cream with maroon skirt and rear end. It is being operated in revenue-earning service over the Christmas break, when double deckers are not required for certain journeys. There is no better sounding bus than a RELL with a Leyland O680 livery so do take the opportunity to ride this one through the Somerset countryside if you possibly can.

December 24th 2006

The REMH coaches (the M is variously believed to stand for Maximum or Motorway) with Alexander bodies were impressive vehicles in their own right, but nearly forty years ago they must have turned heads up and down the country. There were two Scottish operators of the type, and I have been busy putting together fleet histories for each which can be found by following the links to Eastern Scottish and Western SMT. The REMH shown above is LFS276F of Eastern Scottish (preceding the VRTLLs with of the same registration block) - it carries the original yellow and black livery of that operator. You will see that I am missing a great many photos of these magnificent coaches - if you're able to fill in any of the gaps I'd love to hear from you at rob@robsly.com

November 22nd 2006
Back in June 2001 I was thrilled to feature 1197 (LFJ841W) as the first repaint in the then-new Barbie 2 livery (still viewable in the Photo of the Month Archive). At the time there were eighty-plus VRs still in the First Devon & Cornwall fleet and hopes were high that many would follow. In the event few did, but I don't think anyone would have believed that more than five years later I would now be featuring the first repaint into Barbie 3 livery, but amazingly 1226 (LFJ873W - now 38873 of course) has emerged in these latest colours and appeared at the Plymouth Rally on July 23rd before travelling back down to Cornwall for what will hopefully be considerable further service. It has been fully refurbished with a retrim in the latest First purple and aqua moquette plus First-style modern decals. At least one more is to follow, already in the Camborne workshops as I type this and believed to be 38749 (AFJ749T). My thanks go to Jon Gulliver for supplying the first photo of this immaculate vehicle and James Pratt and Allan Macfarlane for providing additional information. August 21st 2006
Daniel Stazicker has been a major contributor to this website for quite a few years now, and has recently tracked down a number of repainted VRs, including PKE807M, MFN41R and this rare surviving dual-door example in the smart new livery of Farleigh Coaches of Wouldham in Kent, HUD479S. This one was of course new to City of Oxford who were loyal to the two-door layout for urban operation right to the end of VR production. July 24th 2006

Carl Berry kindly sent me this photo of XAN431T which has recently received the current fleet livery of Westward Travel of Bristol. This is one of seven VRs delivered new to the Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell in Oxfordshire of which five are still very much alive and well and still running in service around Britain. I would be really grateful if anyone has any scans of these with AERE that they could send to me at rob@robsly.com as such views are extremely hard to come by and have so far completely eluded me.

June 24th 2006

Rob Ryder of Summercourt Travel in Newquay has been a regular contributor to the website during the time he has operated VRs. Recently UWV617S has been disposed of to a non-PCV owner, but UWV613S is to be retained and Rob has sourced a new roof for it after the original was lost somewhere between Sussex and Fife ownership, making it convertible open-top again. Presentation of the VR is excellent, as is that of the Street Safe exhibition unit XHK220X which is also maintained by Summercourt, although it is actually operated by a consortium of local police, ambulance and council. It is to be hoped that VRs will continue to ply the streets of Newquay for many more summers.

May 22nd 2006

I don't often feature types other than VRs in here, but the news of a fifty-year-old Lodekka turning up in Denmark nearly thirty years after it was exported is surely worthy of celebration. The bus in question is former Western SMT B1168 (GCS254) and it was spotted and captured on camera by John Blakey (now there's a good name for a busman) in North Jutland on November 29th in use in connection with a Christmas fair. It appears to be owned by Connex Denmark, but that is unclear at this point. B1168 was quite a survivor even in 1975, having given a full twenty years of service to its original owner - a very rare event at the time. Interesting to note it was exported by none other than a fledgling Ensign organisation (then based in Benfleet) - one of the first of a very long line of half cabs to journey from Essex to the many far-flung corners of the World!! 

March 9th 2006
The new school year is now upon us, but far from seeing all VRs being replaced by newer stock, several have received new coats of paint (see Alpine, Embling, Bri-Jan) and at least one VR has been given a whole new lease of life. FRP907T has already had a long service history, originally with United Counties and more lately with Mulley, but it has now received a full internal refresh and repaint into these striking colours by The Running Footman of Martlesham in Suffolk. This photo was kindly sent by Oliver Fosker who drives for this small operation (formerly known as Wish You Were Here) which just happens to be run by his brother! December 6th 2005

Bristol VRs can still be seen operating in everyday service at both ends of Great Britain - the Cornish operations of First are well documented, but Highland Country also run services in the northern-most towns of Scotland, including right the way up to John O'Groats. Former Eastern Counties KVF246V is seen here in Thurso, on the service to Wick. It is rumoured that Highland may be about to sell out to Stagecoach, with whom surely the VRs will not survive long - so take the chance to sample these remote services while you still can.

 

September 6th 2005

This month's study is an interesting view from Neil Halliday depicted the three VRs of the West Yorkshire Road Car Company Limited Preservation Group. The Group now has one of each VR series, all of which were new to the West Yorkshire company. Closest to the camera is Series 1 VR4 (XWW474G) which has been in preservation for twenty years now and might - one day - receive a repaint out of its NBC red livery as carried while still in service with the company. In the middle is Series 2 (curved windscreen) 1968 (JWW227N) which has had a partial repaint back into NBC red from its Grayscroft of Mablethorpe livery. Furthest away is newest recruit, 1746 (PUM149W) which was recently acquired from a member at Keighley Bus Museum. More can be learned about these preserved VRs by following the links from their registration numbers in this text.

 

August 1st 2005
Daniel Stazicker is making a name for himself tracking down interesting British buses around the World. I remember looking in wonder at his photos of Leyland National 2s in Trinidad a year or two back. He has also been to Australia and found several Bristol double deckers there. This month he has been to Belgium where he found the Bus Prophils fleet based near Brussels. He has sent photos of all six VRs they operate, including DNG232T which has been rebuilt with the nearside door filled in and a new entrance on the offside. One of their Routemasters can just be seen on the right. A list of all VRs known to be in Belgium can be found by following this link. May 13th 2005

This month's pair of photos are an exclusive, courtesy of Richard Waterhouse who has just completed this impressive and extensive restoration of Midland General 801 (LRA801P) back to its original condition (although I assume it still carries a Gardner engine having been repowered by Trent from its original Leyland O501?). We see 801 on its maiden journey in suitable rural surroundings, the rear view showing the original flaps for the powerful vacuum cleaner that was used to clean out the upper deck from the outside. The idea was that the inlet blew air in whilst the outlet sucked any loose items out. However, I believe the system was less than successful, with most of the dirt and rubbish simply being blown to the front of the deck where it had to be manually collected. Many congratulations are due to Richard and thanks for the photos.

March 5th 2005
Dave Bartlett scores Photo of the Month for the second consecutive month with this view of the three surviving VRs still in service with Arriva. It was taken at Luton depot from which all three continue to operate school services. From right to left they are 5033 (SNV933W), 5866 (FKM866V) and 5000 (BKE847T). 5033 is the last surviving native United Counties example, whilst 5000 and 5866 came from Maidstone & District in 1997. The survival of this trio is all the more surprising given how many early Olympians have already left the fleet - clearly someone appreciates the charms of a quality bus in Bedfordshire! February 6th 2005
Paul Gilroy sent me this photo (taken by Dave Bartlett) of his former Southdown convertible open-top VR, UWV620S which runs in his Dreadnought Coaches fleet, based in Alnwick in the remote North East of England. Last season it ran with the upper half in Dreadnought livery and the lower half in former Lakeland Experience green livery, but it has now been superbly repainted in full fleet livery. Paul also runs two Lodekka open-toppers, both ex-Mac Tours in Glasgow. Do go and have a ride on his tour if you get the chance!  October 7th 2004
Malcolm Redpath came across this long-surviving Series 2 VR in Budapest in July and kindly sent me the print for scanning. I thought it would be a shame not to share this lovely vision with my readers, not to mention the attractive payload who are setting up their promotional stand for Dove Soap!! This is former West Riding JHL775L which has been in Hungary since 1989 - has anyone else come across it during the previous 15 years in Eastern Europe? Other VRs known to be in this region can be found here. September 5th 2004
Former Lincolnshire 1943 and latterly with Marchant of Cheltenham KTL26V has now been converted into this elegant non-PCV unit which is kept in the car park of a pub in Lye near Stourbridge. The dark blue and gold livery is impressive enough, but what is really striking is the shine on that paint job - talk about seeing your own face in it!! The current use of this VR is unknown but it is likely to be a caravan of some description. Many thanks to Stuart Turner for sending in this photo. July 12th 2004
At first glance this is just another ordinary Series 3 VR in use with a small operator. However, this picture was taken in the town of Mosgiel, New Zealand is of no less a historic bus than the prototype Series 3, former Western National 1078 (ODV78M). It was the first bus to carry a number of the features which mark out the Series 3, including remodelled front cowl. It was also the first VR to carry a Leyland O510 engine and I will be interested to find out whether this unit is still carried. This remarkable survivor is still with the King's Coach organisation who bought it way back in 1986 and ran it in the UK until they exported  it to New Zealand in 1991. It has been in Mosgiel ever since and was tracked down by Darren Frazer this week, looking in excellent condition in the King's Coach livery familiar in the UK and even with very nice polished wheeltrim. Darren has a very keen interest in buying this bus and we wish him well. May 30th 2004

Ian Wilson took this view of Alpine's former Crosville Wales DVG520 (BMA520W) this very afternoon while it dries after a repaint into their new yellow school bus livery. Ian understands that this one was chosen because it has been fitted with CCTV equipment and Alpine wanted to see what a VR looked like in this livery. If considered a success it is likely that others will receive the same treatment. It's always great to see VRs receiving new colours for further service and this is no exception.

March 29th 2004

Former Alder Valley driver Hans Retallick was most surprised to come across former Alder Valley VR 969 (WJM829T) during a recent trip to Rome. It has been converted to open-top for an unknown use, presumably some for of exhibition work, and was exported back in 1999 after withdrawal from Aldershot by Stagecoach Hants & Surrey (the spiritual successor to Alder Valley). 

13th February 2004

Well, Photos of the Month really. These two photos show the conversion undertaken by The Ink Station on former Burnley & Pendle/GHA Coaches FFR172S to turn it into a mobile tattoo studio. Pennywise (the owner - you can meet him on his website) has had a little trouble with the council over where to park his "bus", but as he has pointed out to them it's only got two seats so how can it be a bus!! How anyone could object to having the wonderful ECW shape outside their house I just don't know, but seriously we wish Pennywise well with his new venture. 11th January 2004
MOU739R becomes the first bus to star in our Photo of the Month feature for the second time (see the archive). Being a former Cheltenham vehicle I was really pleased when it passed on for further service in Devon after withdrawal by Cheltenham & Gloucester a couple of years ago. Now it has been withdrawn again by Duchy Travel I feared the worst, but it has now turned up in the Winchester area running for a company with a familiar name and an even more familiar livery - Black & White Motorways! Of course the original company of this name was based at Cheltenham, so MOU is a particularly appropriate vehicle to carry their version of the classic livery - and mighty fine it looks too! It is seen here fresh from the paintshop in mid October as captured by my regular contributor who likes to go by the name of "Nelson". It often rubs shoulders on schools services with the VRs of Pikes of Andover which also operate in a mostly white livery. 2nd November 2003
The last in a long line of VRs with major operators in Scotland is UWV611S which is still with the Western Scottish operation of Stagecoach as fleetnumber 15711. The VR has had a distinctly chequered career in Scotland, so perhaps the livery carried by 15711 is particularly appropriate!! It is kept as a special events vehicle and carries the latest Stagecoach "rolling ball" logo, although I'm not sure how the interior copes with the Scottish weather with no windows fitted, even downstairs? This former Southdown bus was captured (like so many others) by the camera of Dave Beardmore during his travels, this time at the Scottish Vintage Bus Museum in Lathalmond during August. 1st October 2003
Warrington & District is a new operation with a variety of secondhand buses, but its two VRs are certainly taking a high profile with former Crosville DCA530X, seen here, having been outshopped in the very smart two-tone blue fleet livery with silvered wheels. Thanks are due to Gareth Hughes for the supply of information and also for this photo. 5th August 2003
Devon is famous for the ex-London Transport LH fleet of Tally Ho! Coaches which still numbered fifteen operational examples at the last count, some of which have clocked up more than twenty years with this operator. However, this view is of another ex-London LH also running in Devon in June 2003, this time former London Country LHS6L BN42 (GPD310N) which is still operated by Wood Brothers of Buckfastleigh. This one too is due to record twenty years with its second owner in August, making a mockery of NBC policy back in the early 1980s which decreed that the LH was only fit for seven years of service before companies were forced to sell them off - sometimes even to each other!! Very many thanks to Jon Gulliver for the photo, and let's hope that the LH continues to bounce around the country lanes of Devon for a good few years to come. 25th June 2003
A VR in a familiar livery, but this is no member of the fantastic Hedingham & District fleet, but is instead former Southern National 574 (VOD594S) on its way to export to Classic Bus West Nederland in Amsterdam, Holland. Prepared by Simon Munden in Bristol, this VR's new owner was so taken by the Hedingham livery that he asked to have VOD painted in the same colours. Here 574 awaits the final touches in Bristol, including the offside main headlamp and surround. VOD590S actually ran for the real Hedingham in these colours for more than a decade, but was sadly scrapped in 2001. Many thanks to Allan Macfarlane for this and many other excellent contributions to the website. 31st May 2003
Gavin Rowney feels that the new Southern Vectis open-top tour livery deserves to be Photo of the Month - and who am I to argue? It is certainly a complete change of direction from the previous livery, based on the traditional colours of green and cream, and which can still be seen carried by 683 on the Southern Vectis page of this website. This view is of 682 (VDL744) which was previously registered FDL682V and was converted to permanent open-top layout in 2001 having spent the previous twenty years in normal passenger service on the island. It carries lettering for The Needles Tour alongside 681 (ODL447, previously FDL681V). Interestingly, sisters 503 (XDL872) and 504 (WDL655), both formerly convertible open-toppers (UFX855/6S) have been converted to permanent open-top for this season (albeit with dome and two front bays intact) and carry a similar livery but lettered for Sandown Bay Tour. A visit to the island is an absolute must for VR fans this summer. Thanks for the wonderful photos Gav!! 22nd April 2003
This month's photo really couldn't be anything other than First Bristol's 8600 (RTH931S) in the newly-introduced First Tour livery. Steve White captured this photo on 8600's first day in service in this livery, on March 28th. I like the way the text "Bath Open Tour" blends into the "Barbie" colours below the windows, but I am far from convinced that bright green is the best colour to offset the livery! You can make your own minds up from this view outside the Bus Station and opposite the Royal Hotel, where I stayed for a night last week before heading down to Cornwall for one last bash on the VRs running trunk commercial services. Still an amazing experience in 2003, but one soon to become just a fond memory. Returning to Bath, all the other VRs remain in Guide Friday livery for now, but with all traces of the GF name removed. 1st April 2003

It is very pleasing to note that VRs continue to operate in Solent Blue Line colours into 2003, despite SBL having sold their last examples at the end of 2001. This can happen of course through the use of franchise operators to run some of their services. One such operator is Bri-Jan Coaches of Bishop Waltham who run three VRs including one-time Bristol Omnibus C5104 (PHY698S). You will find further details of this opereator by following the above link because I have recently been extending the scope of the website to include ALL operators of VRs, not just those with four or more examples in service. This work will be completed in the next few weeks. C5104 was sold by BOC in 1993 to be replaced by Volvo Olympians. It continued to operate in Bristol though, neatly converted to single door (as seen here) by Bob Buglar. It was exchanged in September 2001 for YDL673T which remains in Bristol, and found its way into the Bri-Jan fleet in December of that year. My sincere thanks are extended to Gerry Tormey for supplying this photo (see the amended link to his own Bristol SU site below) and to all the other kind contributors who help to keep this site as up-to-date as possible.

9th March 2003

This month we depict another First "Barbie 2" liveried VR, but this time it is First Western National permanent trainer, 1259 (URF668S). The lettering on the side reads "Your Bus Driving Career Starts Here". It is a shame that the pink fades have not been added to the livery to provide a splash of colour on what is an otherwise quite bland layout.1259 is an exceptional survivor, particularly when you consider that it started as an unusual ultra-lowheight Leyland O501-engined VR in the fleet of Potteries Motor Traction. Although PMT later became part of Firstgroup, it was not by inter-company transfer that it found its way to the South West. In 1992 it was sold to the independent Orange Bus Company in Bristol (later to become the Durbin operation) which was taken over by Bristol Omnibus in 1996. URF passed to Bristol in allover orange livery and its future was very uncertain, particularly when it passed to Western National for use for spares to keep the indigenous fleet going. However it was in good condition, too good to break, and it was fitted with the Gardner 6LX engine from scrap WDM341R. This engine was described as "gutless" by drivers around Plymouth and a 6LXB unit was substituted in 1997 and it remained in service in standard fleet livery until July 2002 when it received the livery shown above and settled into its new role. Many thanks to Richard Stedall for posting this picture which was taken last October.

9th February 2003
Nick Doolan made the surprise discovery of this VR near London Bridge Station during December 2002. It is former Eastern Counties JAH243V, and it is a surprise because it was thought that this had been scrapped by Stephenson, Rochford during 2000. However it looks like this is the real thing as it has the correct destination display, front cowl and distinctive non-standard windows (this one has short hoppers while most V-registered VRs had the longer Widney hoppers). It appears to have been converted to a mobile canteen for use by a Film/TV location company in a style that is becoming increasingly common as can be seen from the Non-PCV page of this website. 2st January 2003

Ken Larking has kindly sent me this photo of a real survivor. KOU796P was new to Bristol Omnibus as their fleetnumber 5510 and passed to Badgerline when that company was formed out of BOC in 1986. It passed to Western National as their 1085 in 1988 and was withdrawn in 1993, passing straight to the short-lived Nottingham Omnibus operation until it ceased in June 1994. Next stop was Stephenson of Rochford in Essex before finally arriving with the associated M&E Coaches of Shoeburyness where it remains to this day running schools services in the Southend area. To the left can be seen FKM875V which is clearly still in Maidstone & District's final pre-Arriva livery.

17th November 2002

This photo has been kindly submitted by Ivor Bufton, who has also been a regular contributor to the news of VRs in North Wales over the last year. It shows NUD104L in use with (appropriately) the North Wales Weekly News during the late 1980s. This was a former City of Oxford coach-seated Series 2 VR of the ultra-low 13'5'' variety which was once used on the intensive Oxford to London express services. This VR is the latest to be treated to a full Illustrated History on the website and you can find the NUD104L page by clicking on the link. If anyone else has any more views of this VR to submit for publishing or requests for me to create any further Illustrated Histories then please feel free to contact me at Rob_Sly@idx.com

15th October 2002
A remarkable repaint into full Barbie 2 livery is PMT 709 (now 30018 in the First national fleet renumbering). This photo was taken this very morning by the intrepid Dave Henderson and he reports that the advert had been fitted not ten minutes earlier - and on still-wet paint no less!! It is great to see a VR in normal service with the full treatment - black window surrounds and grille, pink vinyl fade-out; all of Western National's similar repaints (thirteen at the last count) lack one or more of these features. 709 is also rare in retaining its Leyland O501 engine and is one of the very last VRs in regular service anywhere with this feature. Thanks to all my regular correspondents in PMT (sorry, First!) land for keeping me up-to-date with the very interesting events there. 1st September 2002
An old photograph this time, but one with a very topical subject. Here we see Standerwick VRL coach LRN55J on a short working to Birmingham (most services made it all the way through to London) from the wonderful Photobus collection (I can put you in touch with Arnold Richardson if you want to buy similarly excellent photos from him). This VRL has been with London Export Company for many years now and has been hired out as an exhibition unit for Rabbit Telephones and UK Alarms amongst others. It has now been bought by Visibuzz of Belgium and is undergoing a thorough refurbishment before continued use as an exhibition vehicle. I have added an Illustrated History page for LRN55J which includes many photos of it during former lives. Let's hope Olivier Caeymaex and his crew will get years more work out of her. As if this news wasn't amazing enough, I have just today heard from Craig Coxe of Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.A. that he has acquired the two VRLs known to still exist over there, having sat derelict with Rochester Coach Lines in Minnesota for many years, and having been owned by them for over twenty years!! These two are sisters LRN53J and LRN57J and Craig intends to return them to their former glory for further service. He is well aware of their mechanical shortcomings and is determined to overcome them through sympathetic engineering. Craig has promised to send regular photos of progress of  his new charges and they will undoubtedly be future subjects for our Photo of the Month feature. 5th August 2002

My sincere appreciation goes to Neville Tobin of Christchurch, New Zealand for posting this photo half way across the World for scanning for this feature. This VR was new to Crosville in 1978 as DVL368 (BTU368S), later re-engined with a Gardner unit and continued in service with Crosville Wales (as their DVG598) until 1996. It was exported to New Zealand in 1997 following a brief spell as a non-PCV in London and was used by Scenic Coachlines in Auckland repainted as an overall advert for Japan Travel Bureau. It is now with Redbus in Christchurch where Neville photographed it on sightseeing duties earlier in 2002. Redbus is the modern trading name for the former Christchurch Transport Board which of course took delivery of a great many Bristol RE single deckers and although all the REs have now been sold it is great to see that the traditional operation of Bristol vehicles in the city is being maintained.

8th June 2002
Steve King and Lee Garrett have recently repatriated this rare highbridge coach-seated VR back to the North East. This is most definitely a VR with a history! JPT906T was new to Northern General 3406 as part of a large batch comprising 3392-3434 (JPT892-9y34T) of which only this and 3401 still survive (see Preservation Focus). It passed to Sunderland & District when Northern was split, and was withdrawn in August 1992. In January 1993 it passed to Blue Triangle of Bootle and was reregistered 449CLT (from Routemaster RM1449), receiving the mark LDS190A later that year when RM1449 was reunited with 449CLT. In July 1994 it passed to Mercury Passenger Services in Kent which operation was bought by Maidstone & District in September 1996. It lasted another six months with Mercury then made the trip across to Bristol for yet further service with Eastville Coaches where it was painted allover white with black window surrounds and was used in the associated Leisure Travel fleet. It passed to South Gloucestershire (Durbin) in February 2000 and received yet another reregistration when it temporarily carried LHT728P, swapped from another of Durbin's VRs. The blue and white fleet livery pictured here was applied in August 2000 and it ran in service right until acquisition by Steve and Lee in February of this year. They have quite a selection of liveries to choose from in which to restore 3406! 14th March 2002
Here we see former United Counties 778 (CBD778K) at its current home, the BaMMOT museum at Wythall in the Midlands. All K-suffix VRs were delivered with flat windscreens, but United Counties saw fit to convert a number of their early VRs to Series 3 format, including some very early G-registered Series 1s. Three such conversions have recently come to my attention in various different ways; TBD754G has lain engineless in the yard of Spa Motors, Strathpeffer for more than ten years and is still in the livery of its last operator, Blue Triangle of Liverpool. ANV775J has only just been retired from passenger carrying service, by Loch Lann Coaches and is now safely in preservation, while 778 herself is also now for sale in good condition, having been used in public service by the museum as recently as last summer. The asking price is in the region of 3000 and interested parties should contact Paul Gray on 01527 876968. It is pictured next to East Lancs-bodied VR OWE271K which has since been restored to its magnificent Sheffield Corporation original livery (photo by Gareth Crowther). BaMMOT also have former Eastern Counties VR247 (KVF247V) in need of some work available in the region of 1200. Please give a bus a good home! 27th January 2002
Where in the year 2001 can you still find a Series 2 VR in regular service in the UK still carrying the original National Bus Company red livery applied to it in the mid 1980s? Strathpeffer in Scotland - that's where!! Here we see ATA563L running for Spa Motors this summer just as it has done for the last twelve years. The paintwork is certainly looking a little worse for wear, but other than that it is in as-withdrawn condition. This VR was new to the Devon General part of Western National as their fleetnumber 563, and passed to the separate DG company when WN was split in January 1983. Displaced by Ford Transit breadvans of the Harry Blundred empire it was sold to East Yorkshire (who were buying any double decker that moved!) in September 1986 just prior to deregulation. It was probably at this time that the current layer of NBC red was applied (does anybody know for sure the last repaint date for this bus?). It was withdrawn in 1989 by EY being unusual in never having received their post-deregulation red and white livery. Another interesting Series 2 can just be seen parked behind; this is MGP226L which was new to the Department of Transport as a non-PCV in June 1973. It performed this role until sale to Rapson's Coaches in 1987; they ran the VR in passenger service for the first time and it passed with their bus operations to Highland Scottish (as their D326) before being sold on to Spa Motors in July 1997. It hardly needs saying that it is still in the livery of its former owner in this view. Further details of the fascinating fleets of both Spa Motors and Highland can be found by clicking these links. Many thanks to Mark Telfer for sending this and several other views from his recent trip to Scotland. 25th November 2001
It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of the VRs that are being exported, both to the Continent of Europe and to North America. The job of tracing and identifying them is not aided by the number of reregistrations that take place before export, and this Series 3 example takes the biscuit in carrying the registration from a 1970 RE single decker (former Wilts & Dorset RLJ345H)! This as-yet unidentified VR is operating in Montreal, Canada in a livery that rather enigmatically promotes the Biosphere - presumably a local tourist attraction. It was tracked down and photographed by my brother-in-law John Cleminson and his son Joseph during a recent trip - I am very pleased to have my Bristol double decker spies travelling all over the globe!! 11th October 2001
I recently received a very interesting selection of photos from Karl van Camp showing this quartet of VRs in a very smart livery for Bacardi Breezer during a promotional tour of Belgium. From the left these are SKL682X, XJJ655V, BKR859T and BJG671V. These buses have no doubt been supplied by David Hoare of Chepstow who runs the Chepstow Classic Bus operation with a heavy emphasis on former Stagecoach Group vehicles and the VR in particular. If anyone can confirm the identities I would appreciate it, but in the meantime thanks very much to Karl for sending this interesting photo. 4th September 2001
It's always a pleasant surprise when a vehicle you thought was long-since scrapped turns up, but for a Leyland O501-engined VR that was sent to Barnsley back in 1994 to turn up after seven years, in 2001, really is a big surprise. The VR in question is former Crosville DVL348 (WDM348R) and this photo arrived on my doorstep this week, very kindly sent by Jan van der Stelt of Amsterdam, Holland. It was taken by Jan in 1999 and shows DVL348 to be in excellent condition, being run by the College voor Logistiek in Purmerend which is a college for transport education (they could learn a thing or two from the VR!!!). It is garaged on the premises of a company now called Connexxion (formerly NZH). This was one of the vehicles that passed from Crosville to PMT in February 1990 along with a large area of the former's English service network. It was withdrawn in September 1994 and was soon despatched to Hardwick's yard in Carlton, we presumed never to be seen again. Many thanks indeed to Jan for taking the trouble to prove us all wrong! 10th August 2001
Astonishingly, and hot on the heels of the Barbie 2 VR with Western National, Stagecoach in Bedford (otherwise known as United Counties to you and me) have repainted twenty-five year old 849 (OVV849R) in the new Stagecoach Corporate livery. This is a remarkable event, particularly when you consider that the livery is only intended to be applied to vehicles up to eight years old - older vehicles are supposed to receive a re-application of the "traditional" Stagecoach livery! 849 is not intended for service however, and will take up a promotional role having already been earmarked for being pulled by a strongman with his teeth later in the year! This now means that there has been exactly one VR in each of the "Big 3" groups' most recent corporate liveries - one Arriva Kent & Sussex example (now sold), the Barbie 2 in Plymouth and now 849 in Bedford. 849 had previously been withdrawn from service by UC in 1999 and has since been on hire to Kettering Borough Council in an allover white livery as "The Freedom Bus". This picture was kindly taken and supplied by Grahame Bessey at the North Weald Rally where 849 made her debut appearance along with a more mainstream Olympian in the same livery. Unfortunately she disgraced herself on the way home and broke down - not exactly the kind of "promotion" Stagecoach were looking for one suspects! 11th July 2001
Our latest featured VR really couldn't be any other than the first (and so far only) repaint into Firstgroup's "Barbie 2" livery, Western National's 1197 (LFJ841W). This really is a monumental event in VR terms and shows that at least some of the eighty-plus examples left with First Western National still have a bright future. I read that FWN's routes that are suitable for highbridge 'deckers are now saturated with Atlanteans (centred on Barnstaple and Plymouth) and so further of these iniquitous replacements from Aberdeen (which have come along with the new MD) are unlikely. Almost none of Cornwall's service can be operated with anything higher than a 13'8'' vehicle, so the VR looks set to reign there for some time to come. 1197 is another hard-to-replace VR since it is one of the batch that has been converted for use on the Torpoint ferry; you can just make out from the photo that the front is slightly raised ahead of the wheelarches. Although 1197 is lacking the fade-out vinyls which I believe really do enhance the look of this livery, am I the only person who thinks that Barbie 2 is particularly smart and modern-looking? It certainly suits the lines of the VR. Let's hope that this is the First of many such repaints and that 1197 does not join WKO125S (an earlier Photo of the Week) as a one-off in its parent group's corporate livery (Arriva in that instance). Many thanks to Dale Tringham for supplying this photo specifically for this feature, taken on May 31st 2001 at Plymouth Bus Station. 15th June 2001
We continue our review of Mark Telfer's recent Scottish VR photo acquisitions with this view of Midland Scottish Omnibuses MRT7, SMS37H. It was new in 1970 but soon passed to Eastern National as their fleetnumber 3011 - certainly some of these ran in the blue livery before receiving EN's green, perhaps 3011 was one of them? It led a full service life until 1987 when it was sold to dealer Martin of Middlewich. This was not the end of its service history though, Trent experiencing a shortage of double deckers in the post-deregulation melee, so it became 760 in that fleet running for just over a year before finally being sold to dealer North of Sherburn-in-Elmet in February 1989 and finally on to Barnsley for scrap later that summer. 25th April 2001

It had been thought that the operations of Viking Tours of York had finished in the summer of 2000 and that the company was in liquidation. It therefore comes as something of a surprise that WTH962T has turned up back in service, repainted in a new livery but still sporting Viking signwriting on the rear as seen here. It would appear to be sponsored by Aston Villa Football Club judging by the choice of colours!! This VR was new to South Wales Transport as their 962 in 1979 and was sold to Battrick & Brown of Manchester in 1989. After two years it moved across to Viking in York whereupon it was converted to open-top and placed in service in May 1991, and it has been a regular sight ever since. 962 was delivered with a Leyland O501 engine like most South Wales VRs, and I have no record of it ever having lost this motor - can any local members confirm whether or not it has been re-engined with a Gardner please? Many thanks to Adrian Brown for supplying the photo which was taken on March 12th 2001.

20th March 2001

This week we go right back to the beginning for the VR. GGM431D was the very first to enter service, being one of the two VRX longitudinally-engined long-wheelbase prototypes. This vehicle was demonstrated at the 1966 Commercial Motor Show before travelling north of the border for an extended period with the Scottish Bus Group. It is seen here soon after entry into service with Central SMT as their BN331 pounding the streets of Glasgow. You can find a detailed history of this vehicle on the VRX-1 Illustrated History page. This photo was kindly supplied by Mark Telfer, although he bought it from an anonymous dealer at a rally so if it's your copyright please let me know and I'll happily add a credit for you.

17th February 2001
Like the Lodekka before it, the VR has found a ready secondhand (and third and fourth and...) market in Holland and it is actually quite easy to spot red-liveried London Transport lookalikes hiding away in yards or running on private hires over there. Nobody is more dedicated to keeping the Bristol marque running in Holland than Bart Prins of Prins Classic Transport, Opijnen. Details of Bart's fleet can be found on this very website on our very own Dutch page, but as a taster here is former Cumberland 423 (FAO423V) painted in a livery which Bart himself confesses is unashamedly based on the old Devon General livery - and splendid it looks too complete with black lining-out. January 2001 has seen there arrival of yet another former Cumberland example, 437 (KRM437W), undoubtedly this being a popular choice due to the ultra-lowheight 13'5'' ECW bodies of these vehicles which meet European requirements. This is becoming a very widely-dispersed batch these days, of which more in our next Photo of the Week feature! 27th January 2001
Courtesy of Operations Manager Michael Wootten here we see Woottens Luxury Travel's very own VR, JWV273W waiting for a turn in service on December 27th 2000. Woottens are based in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. This VR looks very different now from a year ago when it was one of the final survivors with Brighton & Hove, having received this overall white livery (with racy logo) and having been reregistered WJI2849. Reregistrations seem to be the "thing" in this part of the world, Taylors of Aylesbury (almost the next town) having reregistered sister bus JWV272W to 90RFX. Michael informs me that '273 is an excellent vehicle, having passed her MoT first time last month and she starts instantly without a hint of smoke. Unfortunately the future is not safe for the VR for, as with many school services, the re-tender next year may require seatbelt-fitted coaches, and 68-seat Leyland Tigers may be acquired in replacement. Let's hope not! 2nd January 2001
A new user of the Bristol VR is City Central in Hull who have acquired two of those recently withdrawn by Arriva The Shires. The two are URP946W and UDM448V, both of which have been quickly repainted into their smart fleet livery and pressed into service. URP was new to United Counties and still carried the old Luton & District red and cream livery on acquisition while UDM, originally a Crosville vehicle, was in the Shires yellow and blue scheme. This photo, kindly taken and submitted by Dave Longbottom (who runs an excellent approval service for bus photos), shows UDM proudly displaying its new fleetname. Behind is North Bank Travel Leyland National TAE639S which used to be a Gloucester bus during my schooldays in Cheltenham. 2nd December 2000
A dig into the archives this week to find one of my photos of an old friend, Cheltenham District 5087 (NHU670R). I have just heard that it is under conversion to offside entrance for export to Apple Tours in New York for a new life having spent no fewer than twenty-three years pounding the genteel streets of Cheltenham - not quite a recipe for a quiet retirement! 5087 was delivered in 1977 as a dual-door vehicle in NBC green livery. It later received poppy red NBC livery when Cheltenham switched colour in 1984, being rebuilt to single-door by Hants & Dorset Engineering in 1987 at which time it received the truck red and ivory "Starsky & Hutch" livery depicted here. Fleetnumber 205 was allocated in 1994 when the Bristol Omnibus numbering series was finally abandoned by the former Northern Area depots, by now under Stagecoach ownership. In 1996 it was demoted to contract duties and repainted again, this time in overall aircraft blue. It was finally withdrawn in March of this year and is undergoing conversion for export at Munden's in Bristol - I look forward to catching up with it again on the streets of New York. 11th November 2000
The Welsh bias of this feature continues this week with a view of YCU961T (formerly OBR774T) an open-topper with Arriva Cymru's Shoreline operation. It is seen in September in company with the entire fleet of sighteeing VRs at Rhyl depot where they will presumably spend the winter months in storage. Now OVG961 with Arriva Cymru, this VR started its career as a standard closed-top VR with United Automobile as their number 774, passing to Northumbria as their 555 in 1986. It passed to Crosville Wales in 1994 and received this yellow and blue colour scheme in May 1998. Thanks go to Paul Forbes for supplying this photo and for the many other interesting views he has supplied from the prinicipality. 27th October 2000
Yet another ex-Stagecoach VR with its stripes overpainted! Here we see a photo of ex-Ribble 2042 (RRP858R) at Showbus 2000 beautifully presented with polished wheeltrims and in the colours of Norfolk Green, who have recently acquired no fewer than four of the type. RRP was new to United Counties (as number 858), passing to Ribble as long ago as January 1990. Thanks go to Chris Bowles for this photo, and for his continued supply of news from the Cambridge area. 16th October 2000

I make no apologies for posting this picture of recent ABus of Bristol acquisition MOU739R even though it has already appeared on the excellent ECWBristol egroup. This bus holds fond personal memories for me of journeys to school across Cheltenham in the early 1980s and I am really pleased to see that it has found a good new home having only earlier this year retired from mainline service with Stagecoach Cheltenham & Gloucester. It was new to Bristol Omnibus in 1976 as G5065 (the G denoted being a member of the Gloucester City Services fleet) in NBC green livery and with dual doors. It was transferred in about 1981 to Cheltenham and duly received NBC red livery in 1984 after the split from BOC. A spell in overall advertising livery for the Gloucestershire Echo was followed by a rebuild to single door layout in 1988. It was later transferred to Stroud Depot where, now renumbered 204, she received green and yellow "Starsky and Hutch" livery. The final transfer was to Stagecoach Cirencester where allover aircraft blue was applied for contract work, although 204 was also often to be found on stage carriage services. Hastily withdrawn early in 2000 under the new management regime which sees fit to cascade not much younger Limpalongs to the Stagecoach West fleets, 204 was sold along with most of her siblings to Simon Munden in Bristol. This view at the Munden/ABus yard at St Phillips was taken by John Hammond on September 11th, resplendent in a shiny new coat of white paint. One wonders what the future holds for this excellent machine.

6th October 2000

A real surprise is the repaint of one of Road Car's few remaining VRs into a new livery, especially considering how quickly the fleet has been disappearing over recent years. The livery is dedicated for school buses, following a recent national trend of US-style yellow school buses, and the first example into the scheme is 1957 (PFE541V) seen here on September 4th at the Road Car garage in Lincoln. Many thanks go to Michael Hill for supplying this photo and also for the wealth of other interesting photos he has supplied from this region recently. More of Michael's work will appear on this site soon.

22nd September 2000

Yet another photo from the prolific camera of William Blower who seems to have single-handedly photographed every VR in Wales this summer! Here we see former East Midlands 211 (JAK211W) which is now part of the East End Motors fleet in Clydach. It has had two of its Stagecoach stripes overpainted in the green of East End's fleet livery; it is unusual for them not to apply full fleet livery before service, but this and HUP763T (which also Carlton Coaches livery) were replacements for fire-damaged vehicles and were pressed into service in the condition in which they were acquired. 16th September 2000

This week's photo comes from the camera of Bob Tarling, owner of former Bristol Omnibus Company dual-door RELL C1330 (OHU38M). It is of another dual-door vehicle, 5209 (WUF537K), the only such vehicle of its batch to run for Badgerline (the batch was new to Southdown, passing to Bristol for City service in 1982). It is seen entering Marlborough Street Bus Station in Bristol on August 7th 1985 and was finally withdrawn from service in July 1986. The rest of the batch was scrapped after withdrawal from Bristol, but again 5209 ploughed its own furrow and found its way to Scotland running for Riddler, Arbroath from 1986 to 1992 when it passed to a berry picking farm. It was rescued for preservation earlier this year and happily is now safely back in its native Southdown territory. 1st September 2000
Another view from the camera of William Blower shows former West Yorkshire LWU466V at the depot of Gemini, Birchgrove in the company of STW24W and another unknown VR. The smart blue and white livery is slightly let down by the remnants of the previously-carried Stagecoach stripes at roof level to the rear (these can just be made out), but it is good to see the VR flourishing in South Wales at least. 24th August 2000

Eastern Counties 294 (VEX294X) is famous as the last VR delivered to the National Bus Company and it has been withdrawn this week by First Eastern Counties and lies disused at Lowestoft depot. Moves are afoot to preserve this important vehicle and we hope to have good news soon. In happier times earlier this year (on April 6th to be precise) is 294 captured by Keith Mizen in Lowestoft Bus Station. 12th August 2000

The one and only VR ever to have received Arriva corporate livery passed to Burrows, Ogmore Vale in South Wales in April and still retains the livery, albeit with a strange dark blue patch underneath the destination box. Once again we have William Blower to thank for this view which was taken only last week. 5th August 2000
Millington (GM Coaches) of Cefn Cribbwr in South Wales have taken delivery of three of the recently-retired VRs from Arriva Kent & Sussex subsidiary New Enterprise of Tonbridge. They join former Cardiff Alexander-bodied WTG330T in the fleet and FKM869V is seen here in the extremely smart fleet livery of red and cream. FKM863V is in a little trouble at the moment as it requires a replacement 17-toothed pinion and Mr Millington is only able to find 16-toothed examples to buy - if anyone can help please drop us a line at BVRES and we'll pass on the information. The last of the trio is FKM868V, still in Maidstone & District colours at the moment. My grateful thanks go to William Blower for this and many other topical photos he has mailed to me recently of VRs surviving with South Wales operators. These will all go onto the site in the Still in Service lists in the next few weeks. 28th July 2000

Some thirty years after it was discarded by the Scottish Bus Group as "hopelessly unreliable and poorly built" LFS296F has finally finished in revenue-earning service and is now enjoying a well-deserved retirement in preservation, having recently been repatriated to the UK from its final stamping grounds around Galway on the west coast of Ireland. This photo was taken in 1997 by Richard Stumpf, soon after it had been reregistered 68G811 in the Eire series. 21st July 2000
Stagecoach West sold coach-seated EWS743W earlier this year to Yeomans Canyon Travel of Hereford. Here it is seen in Hereford Bus Station with the blue stripe of its livery repainted in the green of Yeoman's usual fleet colours. It joins several other VRs in this interesting fleet. Heartfelt gratitude to Paul Williamson for providing this photo. 7th July 2000
Have you seen a photo of the new corporate Guide Friday livery as applied to a VR before? I know I hadn't until regular contributor Alistair Friar sent me this view of WWR417S on the York Tour. 29th June 2000

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