Bristol VRT – 628 (SDL 638J)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Members’ Vehicle  –  owned by R.Newman, L. Roberts & M.Birkin (Click title to read more…)

628 (SDL 638J)
Former Southern Vectis series 2 Bristol VRT no. 628 (SDL638J)

Bristol Commercial Vehicles produced its rear engined VR (Verticle Rear) large capacity double-decker, capable of being operated ‘one-man’ in the late 1960’s. Originally only single deckers could be operated without a conductor and 628 displays the ‘stair gate’ that could be slotted across to prevent access to the upper deck before double deck OMO was legalised.

Southern Vectis bought two series 1 VRs in 1969 and were thus amongst the first operators to use the type. When new, they could not run on the service 16 under Morton Common Railway Bridge, Sandown, until the road surface was lowered. As a result, 3 VRs ordered for 1970 delivery were diverted to City of Oxford Motor Services, but a batch of 6 ‘J’ registration examples (including 628) arrived in the spring of 1971.Two of the batch, probably 628/9, were originally for delivery to Crosville, but were diverted to Southern Vectis.

These were actually series 2 chassis, although outwardly similar to the earlier type as they retained the distinctive flat windscreen ECW body. They featured 5 speed semi-automatic gearboxes and electrically operated platform doors, rear number and destination screens were also fitted. 628 operated most of its career from Newport depot but members of these early batches did go to Ryde or Shanklin depots on occasions. Delivered in Tilling green and cream, 628 received the standard NBC leaf green and white livery in September 1974 and later had its rear screen boxes panelled over, (though the destination equipment was never removed) a feature that was restored during restoration in 2006.

One of the J reg batch, 625, sustained fire damage in October 1983 but 624/6/7/9 were despatched to the mainland to establish Solent Blue Line operations in Southampton, in May 1987. 628 had been refurbished and was chosen as part of the Vintage Fleet to run the Ryde –  Cowes route from 1987. It was taken out of use in March 1995, having operated in original Tilling green livery on the vintage services, and then was leased to Westbrook Travel of Seaview from April 1995 and was used on the service 88 Downs service out of Ryde as well as on school journey private hires. Newbus Ltd of Shide acquired the Westbrook operation in January 1997 and 628 became owned by Newbus from July 1999. However, the vehicle had been laid up after the 1998 season and was eventually sold into preservation in November 2002.

The majority of the restoration work was undertaken by its owners on the Island, this culminated with a repaint into Tilling green & cream livery at Brijan Tours (Botley) in April 2008

Vehicle Details/Specification:

  • Bristol VR, Chassis No. VRT/SL2/175
  • Body: ECW No. 18920

Key dates:

  • New, in Tilling green & cream  – March 1971
  • Repainted into NBC leaf green & white  – September 1974
  • Refurbished and repainted into Tilling green & cream  – March 1987
  • Received replacement gearbox (from RFB615S)  – October 1990
  • Withdrawn – March 1995
  • Leased to Westbrook Travel, named Zaphenath Panea (the Egyptian name for Joseph) – April 1995
  • Withdrawn – September 1998
  • Sold to Newbus, T/A Westbrook Travel – July 1999
  • Sold for preservation to R. Newman. L. Roberts & M.Birkin  – November 2002
  • Restored to Southern Vectis condition as 628, completed – 2008
  • Repainted into Tilling green & cream livery (by Brijan) – April 2008

Current Status:

  • Fully restored and operational