CHELTENHAM BUS 75
|Saturday 18 October 2004 saw the
75th anniversary of the Cheltenham District
Traction Company and the first diesel bus route in
Gloucester to replace trams. This route serving
Tuffley via St Barnabas Church - is today known as the
Number 9, and the occasion was marked by vintage Public
Service Vehicles replacing modern Stagecoach buses. The
classic buses in fact worked several routes
including the 94 through Churchdown to Cheltenham
and were driven and conducted by volunteers, many of whom
had moved on to office jobs within the company.
Pictured above and below - opposite the Hare & Hounds, Churchdown - is Bristol Low Height double-decker bus 802 MHW, introduced brand new to the Cheltenham District fleet on 1 November 1961. Combining a Lowestoft-built 60 seat Eastern Counties body with a Bristol FSF6G chassis, it is powered by a Gardner 6LW 8.4 litre diesel engine through a crash gearbox.
The FSF was the shorter length forward entrance version of the ground-breaking Bristol Lodekka concept introduced in 1954.
Low bridges and trees caused many operators problems and, in the late twenties, a low bridgedesign of double-decker was evolved with a sunken side gangway on the offside of the upper deck which protruded into the lower saloon. The sunken side gangway, whilst achieving the desired height reduction, meant the upper deck seats were arranged in rows of four passengers which was hardly convenient for those nearest the nearside window or for the conductor collecting fares.
The Bristol company eventually solved the problem through the use of a drop-centre rear axle. The design continued to evolve and several variants were eventually offered, although only a shade over 200 FSFs were produced.
In Cheltenham District service 802 MHW carried the number 6037 of the Bristol Omnibus Company fleet which controlled Cheltenham District at the time. Driver only working was introduced to Cheltenham in 1967 in the shape of four Bristol REs which surprisingly replaced the four Bristol FSFs in the fleet rather than older vehicles. The quartet, along with other FSFs in the Bristol fleet, were sold to Western National. 802 MHW became 1011 with Western National and ran until 1978 at which time it was based at the firm'sTaunton garage. After overhaul in preservation it was returned to the distinctive colours of Cheltenham District colours. Fairly unusually,too, 802 MHW still retains its original air suspension.
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