AR169 Bristol Album: Buses, coaches and lorries
Bristol buses were sturdy, dependable, workmanlike pieces of engineering. Similarly, the bodywork by Eastern Coach Works (ECW), seen on so many Bristol chassis, was well-proportioned and well-constructed, without any frills or furbelows. Tens of thousands of Bristol buses and coaches saw service on British roads down the years without fuss or fanfare. Enthusiasts for other bus builders regarded the privileged position of Bristol and ECW as the in-house providers for the Tilling companies (and thus the nationalised undertakings) as an unfair advantage. Yes, Bristol-ECW had a guaranteed market, but there were more managers of municipal or independent bus companies who looked with envy at the Bristols in their local Tilling fleet than vice versa. In the 1950s I lived in an area where joint services were operated by the municipality and a BTC company. I remember people stepping back from the bus stop to let a Corporation lowbridge Leyland pass, if they saw a Bristol Lodekka approaching in the distance. Everybody preferred the Lodekka. The history of the company began when the Bristol Tramways & Carriage Co produced motor vehicles for its own use in 1907. Slow but steady development led to a well-engineered range of motor buses between the wars, which were now offered to other bus companies as well as Bristol Tramways. Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, Bristol produced two classic designs which would continue into the 1950s, the K-type double-decker and the L-type single-decker. More iconic designs followed, including the ground-breaking Lodekka, which by some sorcery offered the same internal headroom as a highbridge double-decker in the same overall height as a lowbridge bus. The last Bristol designs, including the RE single-decker and the VRT double-decker, ceased production in the early 1980s when the Brislington factory was closed by new owners Leyland. The last double-deckers built at the famous factory were Leyland Olympians, which had actually been designed at Bristol. In this publication we also have the stories of Eastern Coach Works (ECW) and Brislington Body Works (BBW), Bristols’s own coachbuilding department.