Classic Buses Profiles

Crosville - Halfcab Bristol 'L' single deckers


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Last updated 24 February 2017

Another look at some delightful vehicles from the past. This time it's the huge number of halfcab Bristol 'L' single deckers operated by Crosville.


The Crosville Motor Services Limited (as it was known in 1950s and 1960s) had originally been formed to build cars in 1906. Associated at one time with the LMS railway, and later becoming part of the Tilling Group, it was based in Chester, Cheshire.

By 1960 its route network stretched from Liverpool and St.Helens in the North, west round the Welsh coast as far as Cardigan Bay, including the island of Anglesey and a link to Cardiff. It also covered Welshpool and Oswestry, and as far east as Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Ken Jones took this shot of preserved Crosville Bristol L5G KG131 (KFM 893) at Taunton in April 2010.

The chassis and engine manufacturer Bristol named each new model with a consecutive alphabetical letter. Thus, the 'K' double decker of the mid-1930s was followed by its single-deck equivalent, the 'L'. Bristol Ls with Eastern Coach Works ('ECW') bodies were built in huge numbers and served all over Britain. At first glance they all appeared absolutely identical, but there were in fact several versions with visible differences.

The basic 'L' was launched in 1937, and reappeared after the war in 1946 as an improved model. It had a 16 ft. 2 inch wheelbase and was 7 ft. 6 inches wide. In 1950 a longer version was introduced with a 19 ft. long wheelbase, increasing the capacity of the bus by one seat row - i.e. 4 seats. This typically meant an increase from 35 seats to 39, and the model was named the 'LL' (for 'L' Long). In 1951 an 8 ft wide version became available, and this was known as the 'LW' (for 'L' Wide). An example that was both long and wide was designated the 'LWL'.

The designation also showed the number of cylinders and the manufacturer of the engine. So, an LWL6B was a Bristol 'L', 8 feet wide, with a lengthened wheelbase, and a 6-cylinder Bristol engine. Whereas an LL5G was a Bristol 'L', with a long wheelbase, (but only 7 ft 6 inches wide) and a 5-cylinder Gardner engine. Crosville had a great number of ECW-bodied Bristol Ls of all types, and it is currently thought that 17 of them are still around.

The numbering system changed several times during the life of the company, but we are using the numbers adopted from 1958 onwards. This separated the batches into classes according to their configuration. 'S' stood for Single deck (or 'E' meant an Express coach), 'L' meant a Bristol L chassis, and the engine maker was represented by 'A' for AEC, 'B' for Bristol and 'G' for Gardner.

It should be mentioned that the 'gap' in the numbering sequence between 230 and 268 was, in fact filled by two more batches of Bristol L single deckers but, since they all had 8 ft wide full-fronted 'Queen Mary' bodies, this highly halfcab-biased page has excluded them ! However just for the record, the two batches (both from 1951) were;

CLB 230-244 (LFM 811 and MFM 662-675) Bristol LL6B, withdrawn 1963-64.

CLB 245-268 (MFM 676-699) Bristol LWL6B, withdrawn 1963-64.

Prior to the 1958 re-numbering scheme, they had been KW 230-268. There are no survivors from either batch.

Andrew Jay Barratt kindly sent me the picture above, showing Bristol LWL6B SLB289 (NFM 45), one of the last Crosville Bristol halfcabs, working out of Crewe on the K14 route to Sydney. That's Andrew's grandfather driving the bus!

As with my other lists, the mistakes are bound to creep in, and some relevant information may be missing so, in order to make it as accurate a reference as possible, I would of course welcome any additions or corrections. In this connection I must particularly thank Charles Roberts for his great help in straightening out some of the 'wobbles' in the fleet details, and for providing one of the images below.


FLEET LIST

===============

BRISTOL L6A   -   SLA / ELA (originally KB) 1 - 81   (Total 82)

Crosville KB10

One of the first of many, this is Crosville KB11 (FFM 479). Perhaps someone can tell me where it is, and also why the side window arrangement differs from SLA43 in the picture below. Photo by Dennis Kerrison on 26 Aug 1959, when it was tow vehicle A11.

Ray Jones writes: "The photo shown is at the Albion Works, Rhyl. The reason for covering the sliders is not known to me, but all the early ECW Bodied Tow Buses converted by Crosville had this "modification" done."

Alan Watkins says "The window shape indicates it is one of the early postwar bodies with the external sliders that were quickly replaced in 1947/48 by the more orthodox internal sliders."

Mike Grants says "The picture is taken at Rhyl depot (also known as Albion Works). The background sandstone wall which is the ramp to an adjacent railway bridge is the clue. When pictured, the vehicle had been demoted to a tow bus - hence the absence of cream paint. It started life as KB11, became SLA11 but by then was A11 (plate just visible behind driver's door handle). The non-PSV status dates the picture sometime from 1959 and into the first half of the sixties."

GFM 852

Bristol L6A SLA43 (GFM 852) in the yard of Autowreckers, Penwortham, near Preston in 1982. After service with Crosville, the vehicle served as a mobile shop in the Preston area. It was subsequently rescued by someone from the Blackpool area with a view to restoration but is believed to have since been scrapped. Photo: Charles Roberts.

Built in 1946-49

Chassis: Bristol L6A, with AEC 6 cylinder 7.7 litre engine (SLA 70 and 71 were L6B).

Body: Originally Eastern Coach Works 35-seat rear-entrance bus bodies, but most were later converted by Crosville for one-man operation, with front entrances and automatic doors.

Notes: This batch was originally designated 'KB' before 1958. Redesignation then led to the majority becoming 'SLA'. However, seven (Nos. 1, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14) were classified as 'ELA' with the 'E' representing 'Express'. ELA 1 was dual purpose from new, whereas the other six were fitted with secondhand bodies from pre-war vehicles which had themselves been re-bodied in the late 1940s.


BRISTOL L6A/B   -   SLA / SLB (originally KB / KW) 82 - 110   (Total 29)

Crosville KB88

This photo of KB88 (JFM 117) may have been taken when new, as the sign in the side window says "Body by Eastern Coach Works Ltd, Lowestoft". Destination blinds have not yet been fitted and the vehicle looks in fine condition. Location unknown, photographer unknown.

Ray Jones tells me: "KB88 is, as you say, newly delivered and is taken at the Sealand Road Works."

Built in 1947-48

Chassis: Eighteen were Bristol L6A, with AEC 6 cylinder 7.7 litre engine ('KB', later 'SLA'), and eleven were Bristol L6B with a Bristol 6-cylinder engine ('KW', later 'SLB').

Body: Eastern Coach Works 35-seat rear-entrance bus bodies.


BRISTOL L5G   -   SLG (originally KG / KW) 111 - 149   (Total 39)

Crosville Bristol L5G tow vehicle G124

This photo shows KG124 (KFM 773) at a bus rally in Luton in June 1993. Photo by David Beardmore.

Built in 1949-50

Chassis: Bristol L5G, with 5-cylinder Gardner 5LW engine ('KG', later 'SLG'), and some were Bristol L6B with a Bristol 6-cylinder engine ('KW', later 'SLG').

Body: Eastern Coach Works 35-seat front-entrance bus bodies.

Notes: This batch was originally designated 'KG' and 'KW' before 1958.


BRISTOL LL5G   -   SLG (originally KG) 150 - 164   (Total 15)

Crosville KG150

This picture (by kind permission of David Beilby) shows Crosville LFM 731 (KG or SLG 150) at the Crich rally on 27 August 1979. It ran at that time with this pseudo-original blind, but David thinks it only had the one display. In the background is Bristol C2388 (LHT 911).

Built in 1950

Chassis: Bristol LL5G, with 5 cylinder Gardner 5LW engine

Body: Eastern Coach Works 39-seat rear-entrance bus bodies.

Notes: This batch was originally designated 'KG' before 1958.


BRISTOL L6B   -   ELB (originally KW) 165 - 174   (Total 10)

Crosville ELB 173

Bristol L6B ELB 173 at Rhyl in 1960. Photo by kind permission of Eamonn Kentell.

Dennis Kerrison writes "The photo of ELB173 (LFM754) was not taken in Rhyl. It is at the express services/coach tours layover park in or near Llandudno Oxford Road."

Built in 1950

Chassis: Bristol L6B, with 6 cylinder Bristol engine

Body: Eastern Coach Works 31-seat, rear-entrance express coach bodies, except 171 which had 27 seats.


BRISTOL LL6B   -   SLB (originally KW) 175 - 187   (Total 13)

Bristol LL6B, Crosville SLB183

Nigel Lemon kindly sent me this picture of SLB183 (LFM 764), taken on 19 July 1961. He says it is "climbing out of Porthmadog (probably spelled Portmadoc in those days), before descending towards Borth-y-Gest: the inhabitants of the bus all seem to be looking at the strange photographer!".

Meanwhile this picture of preserved SLB175 (LFM 756) was taken by David Humphrey during the Crosville Retired Salaried Staff Association's summer meeting and lunch in June 2009. Many thanks to David for the photo.

Built in 1950

Chassis: Bristol LL6B, with 6 cylinder Bristol engine

Body: Eastern Coach Works 39-seat rear-entrance bus bodies.


BRISTOL LL5G   -   SLG (originally KG) 188 - 203   (Total 16)

Built in 1950

Chassis: Bristol LL5G, with 5 cylinder Gardner 5LW engine

Body: Eastern Coach Works 39-seat rear-entrance bus bodies. SLG 193-203 had 7 ft 6 in chassis with 8 ft wide bodies.


BRISTOL LWL5G   -   SLG (originally KG) 204 - 225   (Total 22)

Crosville SLG 215

The indicator blind on SLG 215 (seen probably in the 1960s, almost certainly in Chester) says it is on route B6, which ran from Mold, via Buckley and Broughton to Chester. The one behind says it's going to Puddington - probably some variation of the C22 route heading north out of Chester to Meols. Photographer unknown.

Ray Jones says; "The photo is outside the old Northgate Station, sadly long demolished, and a favourite place for the Crosville Depot (just across the road) to park the "overflow" buses. Ah those were the days!!"

Built in 1951-52

Chassis: Bristol LWL5G, with 5 cylinder Gardner 5LW engine

Body: Eastern Coach Works 39-seat rear-entrance bus bodies.


BRISTOL LWL6B   -   SLB (originally KW) 226 - 229   (Total 4)

Crosville SLB 229

KW 178 (LFM 759) and KW 229 (LFM 810) taken at Glyndyfrdwy on the Llangollen Railway on 27 August 2012. Photo by Berwyn Prys Jones.

Built in 1951

Chassis: Bristol LWL6B, with 6 cylinder Bristol engine

Body: Eastern Coach Works 39-seat rear-entrance bus bodies.


CLB 230 - 268   ----   See notes above.


BRISTOL LWL6B   -   SLB (originally KW) 269 - 293   (Total 25)

Crosville SLB 288

SLB 288 (NFM 44) was one of the last Bristol Ls to be delivered to Crosville. Photo: unknown.

Ray Jones tells me: The shot of NFM44 is coming up the Liverpool Road, Chester, towards the terminus, and just past the Chester Depot.

Nigel Lemon wrote; We lived in Crosville country at Chester from 1969 until 2002. The earlier of those years was in fact early enough to remember the L-types on the C 40 which then ran [I think] to the Zoo; and I initially worked (for what was then Chester College and now University College Chester) in the church building whose spire is visible in the right background of the picture of NFM 44. This was formerly the Northgate Congregational Church, which by 1969 had closed following the construction of the first part of the inner ring-road: this had caused a large roundabout to be built 'behind' NFM 44 with the destruction of most of the houses etc on the left hand side of the road.

Meanwhile, as an appropriate postscript to this story, the picture above was kindly sent to me by David Humphrey. He took the photo of SLB290 (NFN 46) at Sealand Road works in the summer of 1970 just after its withdrawal as Crosville's last serving halfcab saloon. He says "I was a managment trainee with Crosville at the time, and had the pleasure of driving SLB290 in service - it was a dream to drive!"

Built in 1951-52

Chassis: Bristol LWL6B, with 6 cylinder Bristol engine

Body: Eastern Coach Works 39-seat rear-entrance bus bodies.

Notes: This batch was originally designated 'KW' before 1958.


TOTAL 255 ( with 19 Survivors )

=========================

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