|Registration Number:||TVS 367 (Originally GM 9287)|
|Chassis Type:||Bristol Lodekka LD6G|
|Body Type And Seating:||ECW H33/27R|
|Original Operator (Fleet Number):||Central SMT (B87)|
Between 1932 and 1942 Central SMT’s double deck fleet had been almost exclusively Leyland. Then severe restrictions on what buses were available, caused by World War Two, forced Central to try both Bristol and Guy buses fitted with Gardner engines. After the war, Central went back to buying Leylands – but chose to keep on taking Guys as well. After trials, in 1954, Central placed an order for the new, low floor, Gardner-powered Bristol LD6G Lodekka.
By 1957 Central had taken 70 into stock and had placed orders for another 25. B87 (GM 9287) arrived at Traction House, Motherwell, on 20 June, 1958. The chassis had been constructed at Bristol’s Brislington factory and married up with a 60-seat Eastern Coach Works body built in Lowestoft, Suffolk. Both factories were owned by the British Transport Commission and worked closely together.
B87 was fitted with a 112 brake horse power, Gardner 6-cylinder LW diesel engine - number 116673 - and a four forward-speed, constant mesh, John Brown gearbox. It was licensed for service, from Stewarton Street depot, Wishaw, on 1 July 1958, as one of Central’s fourth consecutive batch of Lodekkas. Eventually 375 Lodekkas were operated by Central!
When new it served on the intensive groups of routes, out of Glasgow, to Newmains, Shotts, and Lanark. It would have been seen regularly in Bellshill, Bothwell, Blantyre, Hamilton & Motherwell. Later it operated on local routes and finally on special duties, including duplications, schools and workers’ contracts.
It was last repainted by Central, using Williamson’s paints, receiving the latest lower case fleetnames, on 14 August 1972.
Many buses in the fleet moved around most if not all the depots. B87, however, remained stable at Wishaw until 1974, when it then flitted twice to Braeview Place depot, East Kilbride. It was withdrawn for sale, from East Kilbride, to Tiger (dealer), of Salsburgh, around October 1975.
B87 had been one of Central’s last, traditional, open-platform double deckers. Cold in winter! But easily boarded and alighted. The growth in numbers of One Person Operated routes, in the Scottish Transport Group, from just over 10% in 1970, to 45% and rising, in 1976, hastened the demise of all half cabs buses. They couldn’t be worked without a conductor.
As GM 9287, it was painted sky blue and white, in June 1976, for Bellshill-based Bingorama, to carry players from hall to home. After four years of this it followed other ex-Central Lodekkas to Strathclyde Regional Council, as Playbus number 25002. Joiners fitted the bus out at a Glasgow workshop. Facilities included a shute, gas heaters, and a Wendy House upstairs. Thankfully, most interior components were left in situ. Until 1993, it was the ‘Monklands Playbus’, and was decorated in all-over pink, with cartoon characters on all sides. It had been last road-taxed, by the Council, in February 1992. Its Vehicle Registration Number was then changed to TVS 367. The bus was sold on to a private owner, for static use, at a North Lanarkshire property. There it lay until transport author, Mr Douglas MacDonald, alerted Classic Bus magazine to its existence in 2003.
The only other Central Bristol LD6G to survive into the 21st Century, B110, had recently been destroyed by fire. The imminent threat of B87 being lost also, prompted a well-coordinated rescue in June 2004. For the first time in eleven years the bus drove under its own power, for over a mile, to the pre-arranged rendezvous with M8 Recovery. It was towed to Bridgeton where restoration began. Between October 2004 and August 2008, work continued at the SVBM, Lathalmond.
Components, including the steering wheel, were donated from BL351 (HGM 351E), Douglas Forbes’ ex-Central SMT Bristol FLF6GLX Lodekka. Other scrap vehicles contributed. Most notably, ex-Alexander’s (Midland) MRD70 (KWG 623), another 1958 LD6G, donated a missing side window. The ‘Wishaw’ destination blind, once carried by BE376 (RHN 947F), was fitted in 2005. Re-panelling work on both decks and the re-fitting of seat rails preceded brush-painting into Central SMT’s classic ‘1956’-style livery.
Original features include: driver’s seat, floor lino (upstairs), light fittings, bell and main stanchion (pole) on the rear platform. The original-pattern moquette, covering all passenger seats, was obtained through the Lottery-funded L484 Group, and trimmed by First Trimming.
The bus was returned to the GVVT, at Bridgeton, in 2008, where it was successfully prepared for an MOT pass in February 2009.
Replica fleet number and registration number plates were sourced and fitted. In 2012 replacement fuel injectors were fitted and the fuel pump recalibrated. The driver’s cab interior was then re-painted and an electric windscreen wiper motor fitted. Since then, with regular participation at rallies, B87 has needed and received minor repairs to body panels and to the exhaust system. Drive linkage and fan bearings have also required skilled attention.
Since restoration B87 has appeared on film (BBC’s “Hattie”) and, through enthusiast tours, has visited all parts of its former operating area (Lanarkshire & West Dunbartonshire).