Friday 31 January 2014

Blast From The Past 5

Haven't got out much this week so thought it was time for a bit of self indulgence and another look back at my childhood enthusiast days. In the last post we had reached 1977 when I started secondary school, which is when I realised what a variety of vehicles there were. 1977 and 78 saw new batches of Bristol VR's and Leyland Nationals but in 1979 things started to get interesting. I remember standing in Rochester waiting for the second of two buses home from school when I noticed a brand new Leyland Leopard coach on my route going the other way. And then another one, going the right way! There were in fact seven of them and I became very familar with all of them.

Leyland Leopard 2149 BKJ149T in original M&D livery. Pic by aecregent
Not strictly sticking to chronological order as I'll be doing an Invictaway special in due course, but any excuse to show a pic of the livery all 7 were soon to be painted in - they even still turned up on my home route in it on occasions.

2152 at Victoria Coach Station showing the low cost of coach travel. Pic by timthemix
Another feature of 1979 was yet another batch of Bristol VR's - 32 of them to be precise and they were truly divided up around the depots with, if memory serves me correctly, Hawkhurst, Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells, Borough Green, Hastings, Silverhill and Gillingham all receiving some. It's worth noting that only Tunbridge Wells and Gillingham depots still remain today (Maidstone moved to the former Boro'line depot). This batch included my all time favourite Bristol - 5857 BKE 857T. The engine made a sublime throaty noise and for a Bristol she flew. I make no apology for posting 3 pics of her in very different liveries, the last of which came as a complete surprise to me.

Bristol VR 5857 in Maidstone with Invictaway ad. Sometimes used on London runs if coach shortage. Pic by UK Transport Photos

5857 in old M&D tribute colours very rarely on a London - Maidstone journey in Lewisham. I think those colours really suited her. Pic by briandela
5857 in Cornwall working Eden Project Park & Ride. Note the new Olympian front to the roof - anyone else know of another example?  Pic by vincentminto

I have just discovered that 5857 was destroyed in an arson attack at Truro depot on New Years Eve 2005. I'm in mourning. 

Further research has revealed that no less than 9 of this batch of Bristols still survive 35 years later. However it would take quite a jaunt around Europe to catch up with them all as there are vehicles in Belguim, Poland, Italy, and Spain!

In 1980 I would have just about the best year in my enthusiast life, but that is for the next installment


  1. Hi Steve,i took several of Invicta ways when they use to visit Ipswich in the 80's with dereg,good times.

  2. Jim if you have any pics of any of the Leopards in black invictaway livery I would be delighted to see them, as there seem to be precious few of them around. If only digital photography had been around in those days. I spent many happy days belting up and down the A2 or M20 on Invictaway services, including one memorable occasion on a coach that was crew worked with a conductor!