‘Warship’ open top Bristol VRT returns home

Although the ‘Seadog‘ Leyland Atlanteans operated by Devon General can be described as ‘iconic’, the ‘Warship‘ open top Bristol VRs that followed them can probably be described as ‘classic’. One of them has returned to Devon and is set to re-enter revenue earning service wearing a new livery. I photographed it at Churston not long after it had arrived under suspended tow from Yorkshire.


VDV138S was one of the 11-strong batch of convertible Bristol VRTs operated by the NBC (Western National) on South Devon routes. It is shown here on the 124 route to Brixham, leaving Paignton Bus Station. Incidentally, it was the 124 route that I chose to put on the blind of open top Bristol LDL VDV752 when I recreated its layover in Torquay a few years ago.

Carrying Devon General fleetnames, 938 ran in service until 1992 and carried the names ‘Warspite’ and ‘Illustrious’ during this period. Rather unflatteringly, it also carried the name ‘Wendy’ during a later period when owned by East Yorkshire Motor Services but the less said about that the better.

Coming up to date, Dartmouth Steam Railway has bought 938 from East Yorkshire and, after some remedial work, will run it in service on the 100 route between Torquay-Paignton-Totnes. The Gardner 6LXB engine is currently seized and has been removed from the vehicle. It will be completely rebuilt by one of the Railway’s engineers over the winter period. Other work will be carried out to bring it up to spec, including a repaint into (probably) the same blue and white livery carried by the other two Bristol VRTs in the fleet.

It will be very fitting for 938 to return to its old haunts next year, including Paignton Bus Station, on a regular basis. Whether I will be around to drive it is another matter, although the Transport Manager keeps dangling 938 in front of me like a carrot! Although I would love to drive for this operator again next season it is by no means certain as I have to find some other employment in the meantime.

13 comments on “‘Warship’ open top Bristol VRT returns home

  1. Rob Jennings says:

    could they put traditional style western national names on the livery that you will use

    • busmanjohn says:

      It would have carried Devon General (NBC style) fleetnames originally. I don’t have any say in the matter but I would hope that there will be some reference to the local connection, even if it’s the re-application of the ‘Warspite’ or ‘Illustrious’ name.

  2. Bill Stickers says:

    Oh no not another VRT, not exactly the high point of the Bristol story and not a patch on the Daimler Fleetline. Still with a Gardner 6LXB it should have reasonable fuel consumption.

  3. Don McKeown says:

    Having driven VRT’s I thought they were a real “drivers’ bus”. They were lively performers with very smooth acting and predictable brakes and gear change, You could drive any VR for the first time and know that you were going to give your passengers a smooth ride. You certainly couldn”t say that about the early Olympians (especially those with the “jerkamatic” gearbox) which superceded the VR, although later Olympians were much improved.

    One feature of the Western National/Devon General VR’s which I always appreciated was the provision of a seat over the nearside front wheel, so you didn’t have to go upstairs (and lose the sound effects) to enjoy a view forwards.

    I hope you will have the pleasure of driving this excellent bus next summer!

    • busmanjohn says:

      The Olympians I’ve driven this summer/autumn date from around 1995 but I don’t know whether that makes them ‘early’ or ‘late’. I do know that I prefer the VR’s semi-automatic box. I like to be in control of when it changes gear! The Olympians’ auto boxes are very smooth usually but, under certain circumstances, will change up with an awful jerk.

  4. I remember riding on this on Scarborough Sea Front. Did not like the Bow Tie though

  5. Bill Stickers says:

    They may have been a drivers’ bus but they weren’t a fitters bus.

  6. Chris Sealey says:

    Hope to finally see 138 back on the road this year,since it was me that told jim that east Yorkshire were disposing of it

  7. paul webber says:

    What is the position with this one? I haven’t seen any sign of it since it turned up wrapped up like this at Churston.

  8. […] hopping aboard the iconic Atlantean. Although the VRT ahead of it wasn’t repainted when it joined RRL in 2013, the colours of the East Yorkshire Motor Services livery it still carries are almost identical to […]

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