Bristol VRT – 673 (UDL 673S)

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owned by  –  The Isle of Wight Bus & Coach Museum (click title to read more…)

Bristol VR formerly Southern Vectis 673, preserved as damory 5066 (UDL673S) is pictured at Nettlestone

Although most of its career was spent in Dorset this vehicle, as will be seen from the DL registration, was new to Southern Vectis on the Isle of Wight. Part of a batch of 9, it was a standard Bristol VRT with E.C.W. body,  arriving from Lowestoft in April 1978 and was allocated to Newport, with 670-2/4-6 while 668 went to Shanklin and 669 to Ryde.

Earlier, Hants & Dorset had received a batch of 6 convertible VRs (UFX 855-60S) which were part of a special build of 50 by E.C.W. to allow OMO on various seasonal services worked by crewed open-toppers. Having obtained their allocation, Hants & Dorset found they no longer required open toppers after a service reorganisation saw Bournemouth Corporation taking on a route to Sandbanks.

Southern Vectis still had 5 Bristol rear entrance Lodekkas and an FLF on their open top routes so saw the chance to effect an economy by swopping their 6 newest VRs for 6 convertibles. One by one, 671-6 were exchanged (in numerical order) for convertibles with 673’s nominal replacement being H&D 3376 (UFX 857S).

The 6 VRs from Southern Vectis entered service in the Bournemouth – Poole area becoming H&D 3414-9 still in leaf green livery. The former 673, now 3416, was in due course repainted poppy red but spent the next 19 years in the same area, latterly “cascaded” to the low mileage fleet for schools and local work and renumbered as 4416. As a prelude to privatisation and the break up of the NBC, Hants & Dorset had been split up in April 1983 with all the ex SVOC VRs, allocated to Poole, becoming the property of Wilts & Dorset. Withdrawal came in 1998 and UDL 673S could well have been despatched to the Barnsley scrapyards at this time. However the privatised Wilts & Dorset, who had adopted a new livery of red, white and black, had embarked upon a programme of heavy refurbishment for many of its VRs so 4416 was reinstated as a float vehicle to cover for those despatched to Hants & Dorset Trim in Southampton for attention. It was then itself sent for the £14,000 rebuild which included work on front and rear domes, replacement of rattling slider windows with plain glass, fitment of yellow DipTAC handrails and complete retrim in grey moquette for both seats and ceiling panels. It returned to the associated Damory fleet at Blandford, receiving turquoise and white livery and a new fleet number (5066). It was set to operate another 10 years in this guise combining schools work with several deeply rural services around the Dorset lanes. During that time it made a successful journey to the Johnson’s VR Running Day, a rally in Doncaster and various more localised rallies, including an I.W. Bus Museum Running Day.

Ironically it was the availability of Olympians cascaded from SVOC that hastened the demise of the last VRs from the Damory fleet. UDL 673S was despatched to Swanage for storage in December 2008 but, following Go South Coast’s generous offer, to donate 5066 to the Isle of Wight Bus & Coach Museum, it was brought back to Poole from where it was collected on 19 March 2009. This vehicle was immediately restored and repainted in the Damory livery, which of course is appropriate to the internal modifications that had been undertaken. 5066 was officially donated to the Isle of Wight Bus & Coach Museum by Go South Coast MD Alex Carter at a ceremony in May 2009.

Vehicle Details/Specification:

  • Bristol VR, Chassis No. VRT/SL3/1299
  • Body: ECW No. 23268

Key dates:

  • New, in NBC leaf green & white  – April 1979
  • Withdrawn  – April 1979
  • Transferred to Hants & Dorset in exchange for convertible Bristol VR (UFX857S)  – 21 April 1979
  • Transferred to Wilts & Dorset  – April 1983
  • Reserve fleet – February 1995
  • Reinstated and renumbered 4416 – April 1995
  • Withdrawn – April 1998
  • Reinstated – May 1998
  • Transferred to Damory and extensively refurbished  – September 1999
  • Entered service, renumbered 5066, in Damory turquoise & white livery – February 2000
  • Withdrawn – November 2008
  • Donated to The Isle of Wight Bus & Coach Museum – May 2009
  • Restored, culminating into a repaint in Damory livery as 5066 – June 2010

Current Status:

  • Fully restored and operational