Bristol LD6G – 559 (PDL 519) Tadpoles

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Vehicle on Loan  –  owned by Top Deck Travel (click title to read more…)

Tadpoles on display in London March 2013
Tadpoles on display in London March 2013

PDL 519, a remarkable vehicle in every sense, was originally one of a batch of 4 Bristol LD6G Lodekkas delivered new to Southern Vectis in June 1958. It was allocated fleet number 559 and initially worked from Shanklin Depot. After a 20 year service life on the Isle of Wight, it was withdrawn in June 1978 and sold to North’s the Yorkshire dealer, before being resold to Argas Persicus Ltd, T/A Top Deck Travel, London, in September, 1978. Little did most people know at the time that 559 (along with other ex Southern Vectis vehicles) was going to travel the world. Argas Persicus was formed in 1973 when two vets decided it would be fun to travel across Europe in a Bristol KSW converted to a mobile home.

The idea was then applied to the holiday market and a sizeable fleet of Bristol Lodekkas acquired to cover an extensive tour programme. Argas Persicus became Top Deck Travel in 1983 although this had been the trading name from the start. The tours on offer were specifically for 18-35 year olds covering Europe and the Far East, while America and Australia were covered with flight packages. 559, mainly operated on the Far East run which involved running through Europe and into Asia to terminate at Kathmandu (Nepal). The journey would take about three months in each direction with challenging situations along the way. When back in the UK the vehicles were garaged and maintained on a farm at Horsell, near Woking before setting off again for a further marathon journey.

The fleet was gradually reduced until 559, which had worked 20 overland tours across the World, operated the last journey to the Far East in 1997. On one tour, the bus was struck by a lorry in Germany and had a new rear end grafted onto the bodywork. All Top Deck vehicles were named and 559 became “Tadpoles”. Unfortunately engine problems prevented 559 from completing her final tour as she failed on her return through Europe. After repair it returned to the UK in May, 1998 and was driven to the Isle of Wight Bus & Coach Museum on loan from owner Paul Ludeman (of Top Deck Travel). We are fortunate to have one of the most travelled buses in the world loaned to our collection, retained in its travelling condition.

In 2008 Top Deck brought the bus out of The Isle of Wight Bus & Coach Museum to visit Dublin for a Top Deck event, 559 making the journey under its on power to Holyhead, on to Dublin and back. Then in 2011, PDL519 initially made a European tour into France, Belgium and Germany, which culminated in an epic 22,000 mile journey back to Kathmandu for a documentary film, revisiting most of its former haunts with a party of 14. It was shipped back to the UK and once again generously loaned to the Isle of Wight Bus & Coach Museum.

Vehicle Details/Specification:

  • Bristol Lodekka LD6G, Chassis No.138108
  • Body: ECW, No. 10312

Key dates:

  • New in Tilling green & cream livery – June 1958
  • Under seat saloon heaters fitted – 1959/1960
  • Repainted in National Bus company Leaf green & white – unknown
  • Withdrawn – April 1978
  • Sold to North, Sherburn in Elmet (dealer) – June 1978
  • Sold to Argas Persicus (Top Deck Travel) of London, who named it “Tadpoles”– September 1978
  • Severely damaged in a rear end shunt in France – 1980
  • Repaired and reinstated – 1980
  • Made final overland tour to Kathmandu – September 1997
  • Loaned to The Isle of Wight Bus & Coach Museum – July 1998
  • 559 travelled to Dublin and back to the Isle of Wight for a Top Deck Event – 2008
  • Overland Tour, London – Kathmandu – 26 September – 19 December 2011
  • Shipped back to the UK – March 2012
  • Returned on Loan to The Isle of Wight Bus & Coach Museum – 11 August 2012

Current Status:

  • Retained in Top Deck specification and operational