After being away from base for almost exactly a year, I had the honour of bringing a refurbished Bristol RE back to Weston-super-Mare.
1967-built Southern National 2700 (HDV626E) has been receiving the attentions of restorers at Reliance Bus Works in Stoke-on-Trent since January 2015 and I was happy to be offered the chance to bring it back to the Crosville Motor Services depot again.
This particular vehicle is very significant as it is the earliest surviving Bristol RELL3 chassis. In fact, it was only the 12th example off the production line at Brislington.
I arrived by train and the proprietor kindly offered to pick me up from the station. The only trouble was, my train was diverted to Crewe at the last minute due to a faulty set of points just south of Stoke. After a hasty phone call, I jumped on a train again and we finally met up at Kidsgrove.
2700 had been parked facing the road, ready for my departure. She looked magnificent inside and out. Maybe not ‘concours’ condition but that doesn’t matter. The folks at Crosville just wanted her to be brought up to spec for private hire mechanically and to have some bodywork issues sorted out. A fresh application of Tilling Green and Cream was the finishing touch, together with some repainting inside.
Part of the work done included replacing all the glazing rubbers and I’m pleased to see that cream rubber has been used, as per the original spec. A number of earlier restorations to other F-series Bristol vehicles have been re-glazed with black rubber and they just don’t look right!
I checked her over while the boss topped up the coolant and dipped the fuel tank. A fuel stop would be required so I planned to take on fuel at a Morrisons filling station on the way to the M6. With everything satisfactory I applied the footbrake and engaged 2nd gear with the little semi-auto gear selector before rolling down the gentle slope towards the road.
Hearing the throaty tones of the exhaust behind me as I went up through the gears was music to my ears. Anyone who has heard a Bristol RE will know what I mean – its audio signature is a really raspy exhaust!
Re-tracing my route from 12 months previous, I called in at the filling station and topped up the tank. Soon we were bowling along the M6 southbound at about 50mph. The traffic was quite heavy, especially around Birmingham. A steady stream of lorries passed by and I found myself constantly flicking the headlight switch as the longer artics usually wait for the customary ‘all clear’ signal before pulling back into lane 1.
The accelerator pedal on this RE is noticeably stiff (due either to a heavy return spring or worn linkages) so I gave my right foot a rest at Frankley Services. While there I checked for leaks and so on. Refreshed by a cup of coffee I set off again. By now it was dark so I made sure that the RE was properly lit.
The rest of the journey went to plan, except for the last mile or so after leaving the M5, when it started to rain heavily. I was just glad that I didn’t have to contend with darkness AND rain on the motorway! An earlier journey north with a Bristol K6A comes to mind…
When I arrived at the Crosville depot I found that I couldn’t get anywhere near the garage door. The yard and the approach road were both choked with service buses being washed and fuelled – or waiting for their turn – so I was advised to park nearby until space became available. I’m sure that every time I come up to Weston the bus fleet grows even bigger!
The Crosville boss was extremely pleased with the rejuvenated RE, and rightly so. The chaps at RBW have done a fantastic job and I can highly recommend them for heritage bus work.
My next job was another delivery journey but it couldn’t have been more different. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the next post to find out why!