09 March 2011
Mike Forbes looks at the model replicas of the buses that operated in the East of England. ...
The release of a new version of the 1/76 scale Bristol VR III in Eastern Counties colours by Exclusive First Editions prompts a long overdue look at the models of buses in this company’s liveries. Eastern Counties Omnibus Company was the major operator throughout Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, not forgetting Peterborough, once separate, with a few routes also extending to towns in Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Essex.
ECOC was a Tilling company, having originally been part of the United empire, which covered much of eastern England from Suffolk to Northumberland. The Tilling companies were nationalised in 1948. A major effect with a direct bearing on the models available was that most Eastern Counties vehicles had Bristol chassis and Eastern Coachworks bodies, built at Lowestoft in ECOC’s operating area.
Incidentally, right up to its demise in 1987, ECW was known to many of the local workforce as ‘the Counties’ rather than ‘the Coachworks’, harking back to its days as United’s bodybuilder, until the name changed in 1936.
You might think that an operator represented by 26 different 1/76 scale models had fared quite well, compared with some other companies. This total is not in the same league as, say, London Transport or maybe Southdown, but compares well with some of the other well-known bus companies.
There is the ever-present problem that manufacturers have to make models of prototypes which can be finished in multiple liveries, which don’t always fit in as typical vehicles from the fleet they represent. With most of Eastern Counties’ buses being Bristol/ECW combinations, you would think it would be easier, but there seems to have been a resistance to offering, say, a Lodekka in each of the Tilling operating company’s liveries. There is scope with some aftermarket transfers – but that’s another story...
The first 1/76 scale bus model to appear in Eastern Counties livery was the Bristol FLF Lodekka from EFE, in 1994, a couple of years after the FLF first appeared. This was the first FLF to appear from EFE in the National Bus Company ‘poppy red’, although I think the ’tween decks band should have been the ‘dirty white’ shade usually used by NBC companies, rather than cream. An individual bus might have been poppy red and cream in the early 1970s, when all sorts of combinations were tried out, but it was not typical.