The Bristol Lodekka was a half-cab low-height step-free double-decker bus built by Bristol Commercial Vehicles in England. It was the first production bus design to have no step up from the passenger entrance throughout the lower deck, although Gilford and Leyland Motors had developed low floor city buses in the 1930s, these did not enter production.
Preserved Bristol Lodekka FS6G
|Manufacturer||Bristol Commercial Vehicles|
|Body and chassis|
|Floor type||Low Floor|
|Capacity||33/25 or 33/27|
- LDX/LD/LDS/FS models
- LDL/FL models
- FSF models
38/32 or 40/30
- most FLF models
44/32 or 44/34
- Scottish longer FLF
Coach seated vehicles varied.
|Length||26 ft 0 in (7.92 m) (LDX)|
27 ft 0 in (8.23 m) (LD, LDS, FS, FSF)
30 ft 0 in (9.14 m) (LDL, FL, most FLF)
31 ft 0.8 in (9.47 m) (Scottish longer FLF)
|Width||7 ft 6 in (2.29 m) (LDX)|
8 ft 0 in (2.44 m) (all other models)
Design and development
The point of its design and introduction was to end the uncomfortable and inconvenient Lowbridge double-deck bus layout, replacing it by lowering the chassis frame and integrating it with the body, and fitting a drop-centre rear axle, so that there were no steps from the rear entrance platform to the front of the passenger gangway, itself sunk about 10 cm (4 inches) below the seating platforms on the LDX, LD and first five LDLs. A full flat floor was developed on the last LDL, then used on the LDS and the F series Lodekkas. Bristol Commercial Vehicles, Eastern Coach Works and some of their employees obtained a number of patents relating to the design.
Bristol manufactured over 5,200 Lodekkas from 1949 to 1968, as a standard double-deck vehicle for the UK state-owned bus sector. With all examples bodied by Eastern Coach Works in Lowestoft, they have a traditional half-cab design and a lower floor level allowing a low overall height. The earlier LD-series and the later FL and FS had a rear platform, but the FSF and FLF had a forward (behind the front axle and driver's position, rather than 'front' ahead of the front axle and alongside the driver) entrance. Most were powered by 5 or 6-cylinder Gardner engines, with fewer having a Bristol or Leyland power unit.
An engineering option was designed to reduce the power loss due to engine radiator fan operation and to increase the heat available for heating of the passengers. After experiments by Wing-Commander T.R. Cave-Browne-Cave (CBC), Professor of Engineering at Southampton University, a satisfactory design was produced. The 'CBC' system involved two small engine radiators being placed above the driver's cab roof level at the front outer corners of the double deck to give maximum aerodynamic air flow. The engine coolant water was pumped around these instead of the traditional radiator. In cold weather, all or a portion of the air passing through these radiators, was diverted by flaps, the left into the upper saloon and the right to the lower deck. In hot weather, the flaps could be changed by push-pull levers in the driver's cab roof to divert all the hot air to the outside of the vehicle. The movement of the vehicle was (usually) adequate to cool the engine without the need for a fan or radiator at the traditional position in front of the engine. The traditional 'radiator' grille at the front of the vehicle was not required, but was usually retained (with a few exceptions) and blanked off behind. 'Varivane' wax capsule operated shutters were fitted in front of the upper radiators to keep the coolant at optimum temperature. There were some disadvantages to the scheme and eventually customers stopped specifying it.
The first prototype vehicle (chassis no. LDX001) was operated by Bristol Tramways & Carriage Company Ltd Ltd who designed and made the chassis at its 'MCW' (Motor Constructional Works) which at that time was still an integral part of the company. It was allocated fleet no. LC5000 and registered LHY 949. There is a story that the first vehicle originally had two separate propshafts, one to each side rear wheel with the differential at the front of the vehicle. This was soon changed to incorporate the differential into the off-side gear train - a concept still used today by several international bus manufacturers.
West Yorkshire Road Car Company had the second prototype Lodekka (chassis no. LDX002), originally fleet number 822 but renumbered DX1 under the April 1954 renumbering scheme, registered JWT 712, which operated in the Harrogate area and lacked the distinctively stylish fairing of the production models. This was displayed at the Festival of Britain (South Bank Exhibition) in 1951.
Lodekka users in the UK included: Brighton Hove & District, Bristol, Crosville, Cumberland, Eastern Counties, Eastern National, Hants & Dorset, Lincolnshire Road Car, Red & White Services, Scottish Omnibuses, Southern Vectis, South Wales, Luton & District, Thames Valley & Aldershot, United, United Counties, United Welsh, West Yorkshire Roadcar Co, Western National, Western Welsh, Central SMT and Wilts & Dorset. Whilst no Lodekkas were bought by any London based companies, they often worked into the capital on services operated by Thames Valley and Eastern National.
With the arrival of more modern "OMO" or one person operated buses, such as the Leyland Atlantean and Bristol VRT (the Lodekka's successor), many Lodekkas found themselves relegated to driver training duties. The urgency with which the National Bus Company wanted to convert operations to one man operated double deck vehicles led to the unusual exchange of 91 Lodekkas of the newest FLF type with a similar number of older Bristol VRT (rear engined and front entrance suitable for one man operation) double decks from the Scottish Bus Group which was keen to have the more reliable older design. The exchange took place at the Carlisle (Willowholme) depot of Ribble Motor Services.
The Bristol Lodekka was also manufactured by Dennis under licence, and was sold as the Dennis Loline. This arrangement was necessary because the Bristol company was prohibited by law from selling its products at the time to anyone other than similar government owned undertakings. The design, though, was attractive to other operators, so this arrangement allowed them to purchase vehicles to the same design. Sometimes the Bristol Lodekka can be offered as an open-top bus.
In accordance with Bristol Commercial Vehicles practice, chassis were designated by a two or three letter code, followed by the number of engine cylinders and engine manufacturer.
- LDX: Low 'Decker, Experimental (the first two LD vehicles)
- LD: Low 'Decker
- LDL: Low 'Decker, Long (Essentially pre-production FL models - introduced when the maximum legal length of double deck buses was extended from 27 ft (8.2 m) to 30 ft (9.1 m). Braking was improved from the earlier vacuum assisted to compressed air assisted)
- LDS: Low 'Decker, Short (Essentially pre-production FS models)
- FS: Flat-floor, Short length
- FSF: Flat-floor, Short length, Forward entrance
- FL: Flat-floor, Long
- FLF: Flat-floor, Long, Forward entrance
Example engine classifications
- FS5G: FS with Gardner 5LW engine
- FL6B: FL with Bristol BVW engine (AVW type in Bristol LD6B)
- FLF6G: FLF with Gardner 6LW or 6LX engine
- FLF6L: FLF with Leyland O.600 or O.680 engine
In the early 1990s, Surrey based "Leisurelink" used a former Southern Vectis example (MDL 954) on a weekend-only tourist service, linking Gatwick Zoo (now closed), Gatwick Airport and the Bluebell Railway.
Some overseas operators acquired second-hand Bristol Lodekkas from the UK for further service. For example, Fok Lei Autocarro S.A of Macau operated a small number of Lodekkas between the 1970s and late 1980s. Citybus of Hong Kong operated one example in 1980s.
A charter/limousine company named Double Decker PDX in Portland, OR operates a refurbished Bristol Lodekka.
A bakery in Saratoga Springs, NY, named Bettie's Cakes, operates a Lodekka as a Double Decker Cupcake Stand affectionately named DeeDee.
A number of Lodekkas were used during the 1970s by the British engineering consortium Atomic Power Construction (APC) for transporting workers to and from work during the building and running of Dungeness A and Dungeness B nuclear power stations.
In popular culture, Bristol Lodekkas featured extensively in the early-1970s London Weekend Television series On the Buses, with actor Reg Varney driving and Bob Grant his conductor. One of these Lodekkas has been preserved.
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