Central SMT

My First Lodekka Memories

Contributed by Jack Harrison, August 2002

There are two things in life about which I am absolutely sure; the first is where I was when it was announced that President Kennedy had been shot and the second is where I was when I saw my first Bristol Lodekka!

I had just alighted from a PD2 at Limetree Cottage in Burnbank when I saw it. The first thing that struck me was that passengers upstairs were seated on both sides! Downstairs was different too -  the front seat was facing backwards! I managed to read the name 'Bristol' on the radiator and noticed the prefix B with the vehicle number. I'm fairly sure it was B1, but it was a long time ago. I do remember that it had the full-depth radiator grille. I ran home and told my younger brother what I had just seen and then we waited. It was a very exciting time. I had just started secondary school in Hamilton and was travelling the two miles by bus, four times a day, so it wasn't long before I had my chance. I boarded the LD and made straight for the stairs, pausing only to look at the unusual rearward facing front bench seat, which I would try next time. My first impression on seeing the upper deck was that there were a lot more window seats available and, with the deep windows, visibility was very good. Until then, my only experience of centre-aisle upper decks had been an occasional ride on a Chieftain bus. But the Lodekka also had an air of quality about it; in place of the painted inside walls there was a cloth material. I remember seeing a notice on the rear window stating "WILFUL DAMAGE to Seats etc. --- The company will press for highest damages against offenders". "I should think so too," I thought, but I was not aware that Central SMT had a problem at that time with vandalism. I expect Eastern Coach Works put the notice there as standard practice.

Subsequent journeys were used to try out different seats although it was quite a climb for a little lad to reach the seats over the rear wheels! On several occasions I was taken past my stop because the conductress couldn't see me standing on the platform.

The next development for me was the introduction of the front entrance FSFs, which I also felt were very fine buses. I particularly liked the front seats just in front of the stairs. During some very hot weather it was not unusual for drivers to leave the doors open to encourage a welcome breeze inside the bus. They wouldn't be allowed to do that today. The introduction of front entrance buses required some getting used to by passengers and drivers - some drivers regarded bus stops as rough indication stops only - and there were some amusing incidents. I was sitting downstairs on the rear nearside seat of an FSF when, as the bus pulled away from Burnbank Cross, I was aware of someone casually running across the road, no doubt confident of catching the bus before it gained speed. I next saw him with his hand held high, ready to grab the pole, just about to leap from the pavement before realising that the door was at the front!

With the introduction of the FLFs the Bristol fleet expanded considerably, but by then I had obtained my first motor scooter and spent more time following behind them than inside. I moved south in 1967 and more or less lost touch with Central SMT until fairly recently, when my interest was rekindled.

But that, as they say, is another story!