Bristol RELL – 863 (TDL563K)

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

Bristol RELL, No. 863 (TDL563K) is seen at Carisbrooke Castle
Bristol RELL, No. 863 (TDL563K) is seen at Carisbrooke Castle

863 (TDL563K) was one of a batch of nine single-deck buses, Bristol RELL’s, delivered new to Southern Vectis in 1970/1/2, with standard E.C.W. bodies featuring B.E.T. specification curved windscreens. Designated RELL6G and built to the maximum permitted length of 36′ 0″, they had Gardner 6HLX six-cylinder diesel engines and four-speed semi-automatic gearboxes. All nine were delivered in Tilling Green & Cream livery. 863, the first of the second batch, differed from the earlier pair (PDL492/493H) delivered in 1970, in having a rear central lower window positioned below the wastrail in the emergency exit door, this was to aid the driver in reversing these long vehicles. Internally the front fibreglass bulkhead and cab panelling was now black and luggage space was available by two, side by side tipping inward facing seats over the nearside front wheel arch.

The lack of power steering made them unpopular with drivers as soon as this feature became standard on later buses. Even though built to the maximum length permitted at the time, the RELL’s were versatile machines and they were used all routes, with the exception of Cowes Pontoon services.

Although a successful design, economies in the SVOC fleet saw the RELL’s delicensed for long periods from 1983, as single-deckers fell from favour with the company. In 1987, six of the batch, though not 863, were sent to the short-lived Badger Vectis venture operating in Bournemouth. TDL563K meanwhile remained, as spare for open top RELL conversion No. 864 (TDL564K) ‘Shanklin’s Pony’, on the Island and after being delicensed for a long period, received traditional Tilling green livery in 1990 and was included in the company’s Vintage Fleet, being the only vehicle from this to operate all year. It was outstationed at East Cowes and used for a Wayfarer ticket machine trial in March 1993. After the demise of the vintage fleet in 1997, 863 remained as a spare vehicle at Ryde where it was refurbished in 1999 with coach seats from an Olympian transferred to Solent Blue Line, It also received the then current mushroom and holly green fleet livery.

Withdrawn in 2001, it was sold for preservation in June of that year to Don and Sally McCririck. After a period in Sussex, 863 moved to Somerset, but Don and Sally generously donated it to the Museum in November 2014 and it returned to Ryde Depot where it had spent much of its service career. On display following a repaint in May 2018

Vehicle Details/Specification:

  • Bristol RELL, Chassis No. RELL3/1527.
  • Body: ECW, No. 19347

Key dates:

  • New – July 1971
  • Repainted in National Bus company Leaf green & white – December 1973
  • Repainted into original Tilling green & cream for service in vintage fleet – February 1990
  • reseated to DP48F – 1999
  • Repainted into 2nd de-regulation livery, mushroom, dark green, with white & red bands – 1999
  • Withdrawn from service and sold to preservation – June 2001
  • Donated to the Isle of Wight Bus & Coach Museum – November 2014
  • Repainted into 2nd de-regulation livery, mushroom, dark green, with white & red bands – 2018

Current Status:

  • restored and operational