The Bristol RE – Deliveries 1968-9

1968 brought another 30 REs, all the longer 36′ variety, and all with Leyland 600 engines. Early in the year 10 coaches (OAX1-10F) arrived, and these showed evidence of some forward planning for their later service life. The single piece coach door was replaced with powered ‘jack knife’ doors, with glass extending to almost the full depth of each leaf. The front dome was the flat-fronted full-depth type, capable of accommodating a conventional bus type destination window, although only the two shallow windows were fitted at this stage. The interior and exterior trim was to the full coach type, as with the 1966 vehicles. Several of these vehicles were indeed converted for bus use during the second half of the 1970s, although (as far as I am aware) none served with other operators. OAX9F survives in active preservation.

Later that same year, 20 RELL buses with 53 seat bodies were delivered (RAX1-20G). A few of these were put into use in the Forest of Dean area (including Monmouth and Ross-on-Wye), but most worked in the Monmouthshire (Gwent) valleys, principally from Brynmawr and Tredegar depots. They were thus generally crew operated for several years, as those depots had working agreements which precluded one-person operation of vehicles with more than 45 seats, and these agreements persisted until the mid-1970s. They were used on several of the longer services between Newport and Brynmawr and Bleanavon, and the various services linking Newport and Merthyr and Tredegar via the Rhymney and Sirhowy valleys. None survives today, although RAX11G was still being used as a roadside cafe in the early 1990s.

The 1969 orders consisted of just 11 coaches, the first three of which were delivered in November 1968, but not used until the spring of 1969. As ECW was principally a bus builder, the relatively small number of coaches were sensibly built during the autumn and winter. It seems that R&W had a sympathetic licensing office, as the low numbered registrations were always sought after, and this batch of coaches gave the company their 6th ‘1’ registration. As well as the 5 REs, there was also a Lodekka registered 1EWO. However, there were no more after SAX1G. These coaches were similar to the 1968 examples, except for a couple of minor changes affecting the bodywork. There is some uncertainty regarding the engines, as the official company fleet list from as late as 1976 records them with Leyland 600 engines. However, it seems that experience had shown that the 600 engine was underpowered for coach work, and that a programme to replace them with the more powerful 680 in this batch, and the 1968 coaches, was eventually carried out. Whatever the truth is, SAX1G certainly has a 680 now. The survivor of the 1968 batch seems to have been omitted from this programme, due to low mileage, and retains its 600 engine today.