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Kit No. BT 39

Bristol L5G 1939 Bristol Tramways - Bristol body


Background Note - The Bristol Tramways & Carriage Company

The Bristol Tramways Company was founded in 1874 by a syndicate of Bristolian businessmen, led by George (later Sir George) White to operate the tramways in Bristol, which it electrified in 1895. The same syndicate also formed the Bristol Cab Company to operate taxis, hearses and the like. The two companies combined in 1887 to form the Bristol Tramways & Carriage Company Ltd (BT&CC), a title, which the company retained until 1957, when it became the Bristol Omnibus Company.

The BT&CC commenced operation of motor buses in 1906, initially as feeders to the Bristol tramway system, but gradually extending into the surrounding country such that by the end of the ‘30s it encompassed most of Gloucestershire, North Somerset and North Wiltshire. The Railway (Road Transport) Acts of 1928 formalised the position of the main line railway companies in respect of the operation of bus services and they generally exercised these powers by buying into existing bus companies. In the case of the BT&CC the Great Western Railway was offered a majority shareholding in 1929. However, concern as to whether the Act allowed it to own a tramway company resulted in the GWR selling its shares to the Tilling Group in 1931, which the latter vested in Western National. Thus BT&CC became a Tilling Group Company and, technically, a subsidiary of Western National.

BT&CC’s expansion, as with the other major territorial bus companies, was largely achieved by a process of acquisition and two acquired operations deserve special mention, as they are relevant to this model: 

·          Gloucester, In 1936 BT&CC arranged a lease to operate the bus service of Gloucester Corporation Transport. While these were legally registered to the BT&CC, they were numbered in a separate series, latterly with a “G” prefix and carried the Gloucester City coat of arms on the side. They also carried Gloucestershire registrations.

·          Bath. Also in 1936 the BT&CC acquired the Bath Electric Tramways and its associated Bath Tramways Motor Company. These buses were operated as a separate company, with Bath registrations, and carried the fleet-name BATH in a gold scroll on the side. After the Second World War this was replaced by the text fleet-name BATH SERVICES.

Bus Manufacture

BT&CC was not overly impressed by the vehicles, which it had bought for its initial motor bus operation, and quickly decided that it could build better itself. It built its first bus chassis in 1908 in the tramway workshops at Brislington. In 1912, to cope with increased production, a new factory was established in Brislington, known, in true Bristolian fashion, as the “Motor Constructional Works” while a portion of the tramway workshops became the “Body Building Works” (BBW), often misquoted as Brislington Body Works.

Under Tilling management, Bristol became the preferred chassis for Tilling Group buses and further expansion of assembly capacity was required in 1936. However Tilling had its own body building facility in the form of Eastern Coach Works at Lowestoft and BBW body construction was largely confined to BT&CC itself and to a lesser extent to Southern and Western National. BBW built its last bus body (for Southern National) in 1955 and the factory closed in 1956.

In 1955 the bus building component of BT&CC became a separate entity, Bristol Commercial Vehicles Ltd.

The Bristol L5G

The Bristol L type 17’ 6” wheelbase single deck chassis was introduced in 1938 as successor to the previous J type and some 800 had been built by 1942, when production ceased, to be resumed in 1946. The majority of the chassis built prior to the Second World War were L5Gs with Gardner 5 cylinder 5LW diesel engines. Almost 100 L types were supplied to BT&CC and its subsidiaries. All pre-war L types had the tall “KV’ radiator and bonnet.

BT&CC purchased twenty seven L5Gs in 1938, with their own dual door “S5” type body, which were allocated to the Bristol Country, Bath and Gloucester fleets, the Gloucester examples having Gardner 4 cylinder engines as L4Gs.

A further twenty eight L5Gs were purchased in 1939 with a revised “S6” type body, with a single forward entrance, a lower waist rail and longer and deeper windows. Eighteen were allocated to the Bristol Country Fleet and ten to Bath. A further seventeen similar buses were built for BT&CC in 1941/1942, of which three were diverted new to Doncaster Corporation. These all differed in having a simplified waistline, with simple beading in place of the curved moulding. A two door variant of the S6 body was also produced, which had the same lower waist rail but the shorter window spacing of the S5 type. Six dual door L4Gs were built for the Gloucester fleet in 1939 and a further six on L5G chassis for the Bristol City fleet in 1941.

BT&CC also purchased fourteen L5Gs with Duple coach body in 1939 for its Greyhound express services.

BT&CC’s final pre-war L5G (2167) was delivered in 1942 with a Bristol built utility body.

The Model

This model represents the twenty eight Bristol L5Gs with BBW 32 seat “S6” type forward entrance body delivered in 1939 to BT&CC (18) and Bath Tramways Motor Company (10).

Source material for this model came from “Coachwork by Bristol Tramways” by Allan Macfarlane – Millstream Books, 1999 and from the same author’s “Pictorial Tribute to the Bristol Omnibus Company” – Oxford Publishing Co, 1985. “The British Bus Scene in the 1950s” by J. Joyce (Ian Allan 1984) has an excellent 1953 photograph of BT&CC 2134 (FHT 281). There are photographs of the Doncaster Buses in the Prestige Series “Doncaster Vol 3, the Corporation” by John Banks – Venture Publications, 2005. This book incorrectly attributes the bodies to Roe.

The above notes are, of necessity, a very much “potted” version of BT&CC’s history and interested persons are referred to the above-mentioned texts for further detail.

The following table details the L5Gs with Bristol S6 type body: 




Fleet number



FHT 272 - 289


2125 – 2142

46th Sanction


GL 6615 – 6624

Bath Tramways Motor Co

2250 – 2259

46th Sanction


HAE 11 – 15


2161 – 2165

50th Sanction


GL 7809 - 7812

Bath Tramways Motor Co

2260 – 2263

50th Sanction


BDT 979 - 981

Doncaster Corporation


50th Sanction


DFH 449 – 451

BT&CC (Gloucester)

1259 – 1261

50th Sanction


HHT 148, 151


2166, 2168

56th “unfrozen” Sanction

Note, in respect of the model, that half-drop windows were fitted in the second and fourth bays on each side. Note also that I have made the dog-rails “solid” to simplify casting, but they are on a 10 thou backing so can be opened out if required by means of a small drill and a sharp knife.

Initially the front number plate was suspended beneath the radiator grille, but was later replaced on BT&CC buses by a painted rectangular plate on the front dash. The Doncaster buses retained the position below the radiator.

Livery and later modifications


Pre-war BT&CC livery was dark blue below and including the waist rail and white above the waist rail. The white was over-painted grey during wartime. Post-war livery was Tilling green, with cream confined to the side window surrounds, the rain shields above and the windscreen surrounds. The window area below the canopy and under the “porch” was green. The early repaints of BT&CC buses into Tilling Green after the Second World War were all-over green, with cream confined to the waist rail, but I have no evidence that any of the S6s were so treated. Fleet insignia was the Bristol or Gloucester City coat of arms, while pre-war Bath buses had the word “BATH” in gold within a gold outlined garter. Post-war this was replaced by the text BATH SERVICES.

Post-war “50s” photographs of Bristol 2134 and Bath 2250 show that the depth of the body panelling behind the rear wheels had been reduced to the same depth as that within the wheelbase, while the front destination indicator had been changed to a sloping style of the post war standard 36” x 18” size, with no separate number stencil. The front dash had also been remodelled to a fixed rather than floating style. Although a few were rebodied, the S6s were generally withdrawn in the mid ‘50s with their original bodies and tall radiators.

Doncaster Corporation

The Doncaster buses were painted in overall dark maroon with a white waist band. Being wartime deliveries the customary white markings were applied to the front mudguards, the dog-rails and the entire entrance step area.  A lighter shade of maroon was introduced during the '50s. 

They also later received cut down panelling behind the rear wheels and a sloping destination indicator, albeit smaller than the BT&CC version. The floating dash was not changed. They remained in service until 1961, although they had been converted for one person operation in 1957. This entailed replacement of the front bulkhead window by an angled window and the provision of power operated doors, almost flush with the body side.

© Tony Swift, Kirribilli, NSW, Australia, 2009.

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