The arrival of Bristol/Eastern Coach Works RELL6L 53 seat buses ushered in a new era at Stroud. Powerful, comfortable, with uncluttered platforms and with an easier access than previous single deck MWs, they were the height of modernity. In fact, with the passenger saloon occupying nearly the entire 36ft length, they were particularly spacious and certainly, from the passengers’ perspective, appeared as very long indeed. On trunk routes, the buses were also viewed as the salvation of the rural bus service where previously capacity had precluded one man operated MWs and where conductor-operated double decks were the norm. Stroud eventually had a considerable number of RE buses and, in the early days, these were supplemented by Cheltenham-based vehicles on service 564. The first Bristol RELL6Ls at Stroud had the flat front ECW bodies with shallow windscreens typical of the time. Each seated 53 passengers. Later vehicles seated 50 passengers and carried rounded so-called BET rather than flat fronts. Stroud also operated 1105 as the first B50F ECW bodied RELL in the town. This transitional vehicle was unusual. It retained its flat front, albeit as the only Stroud RELL to carry the rarer modified, slightly deeper windscreen and side-by-side route number and destination as opposed to the “T” arrangement as had previously been the case. 1105 also heralded a brighter, lighter new interior of cream and off-white Wearite associated with the later vehicles with rounded fronts. By contrast, the interior of earlier flat-fronted REs was a characteristic dark green vinyl with plenty of red trim on the moquette seats, a noticeable throwback to the late 1950s and early 1960s. With the 50 seat examples from 1105 onwards, there also came a fixed luggage pen behind the driver instead of a fold down seat back on the longitudinal seat behind the entrance. The example below is of a similarly-styled vehicle to 1105 on the 2002 Running Day. It is on service 555, a hybrid of the erstwhile 556 Nailsworth – Stroud – Gloucester trunk service which, although partly one man operated, became totally RE operated in the mid-1970s.Representing an example of the mainstream Stroud bus fleet of the 1970s and early 1980s, ex-Wells depot Bristol Omnibus RELL6L 1317 below is seen in 2001 here on the 430 in Minchinhampton, nearly 700 feet above sea level. After withdrawal at Wells in the early 1990s, 1317 went to Newcastle where its step arrangement was altered to comply with DiPTAC specifications. This was the clear RE favourite of the 2002 running day, owing to its tremendous 680 engine thunder, which fuelled speculation that the exhaust was non-standard. The vehicle owner confirmed that it was, in fact, a standard fitting. To Minchinhampton by RESuch vehicles would appear almost anywhere in Stroud and largely replaced the MW type used on some of the local services to hill-top settlements such as Minchinhampton where capacity—at school times—was the issue. Though lightly loaded during the daytime, seats on such services were in some demand at school times for the Downfield schools, both of which, as grammars, had large catchments. The better performance of the RE was also important on such hilly routes. In the days of the MW and RE, the route between Stroud and Minchinhampton via Amberley had been variously numbered as 428, 429, 430 and 414. Best described as “tortuous”, the 430 of the late 1960s and early 1970s once operated from the bus station, up Gloucester Street (when buses were allowed that way), along King Street, Bedford Street and London Road. 431 variants would divert steeply left before serving Park Road and later 432s would make the same left, but climb further to Highfield Road and descend the steep Bowbridge Lane. REs found it hard work and MWs found it somewhat harder still.
At Bowbridge, buses would turn south, cross the Stroud – Swindon railway line and climb steeply up narrow Butterow Hill towards Rodborough Common. MWs and REs would struggle at this point. Things eased at Winstone’s but the pitch worsened beyond the Bear Inn before reaching the flat at Amberley Ridge and Moor Court. Here, buses would avoid the direct route to Minchinhampton by forking right towards Amberley. It was along this part that drivers were able to accelerate along the flat on the approach to Amberley Memorial before the steep decent first to the Amberley Inn and then beyond to Pinfarthings, again taking a somewhat circuitous route along narrow lanes, dips and rises with overgrown foliage rather than the straight line via Amberley Church. A short pitch to the Halfway House at Box was next, followed by the steady run in to Minchinhampton itself, along the narrow and twisting West End, with limited visibility and even more limited manoeuvring potential. At Minchinhampton’s Market Hall, the bus would then go wide and then reverse on to its stop to return to Stroud.RESLsStroud operated four RESLs, two with flat and two with curved fronts. A fifth later joined. At about 3ft shorter than the RELLs, the RESLs seated 43 rather than 50 or 53. RESLs were not often used on the 564 trunk route between Forest Green, Stroud and Cheltenham (as seen here). Nevertheless, RESL 516 is parked at Woodchester Station on that route. The 564 was the first route to see RE operation at Stroud in 1967, where 1017 appeared on short workings between Stroud and Nailsworth (while the through services still used FLFdouble decks). The 564 was, however, the first trunk route to be convertedtofull RE operation, before the 556 (Gloucester), which also served Woodchester.
Two body styles on similar chassis. On the left is the flat front and “T” destination display associated with Stroud’s first RELLs. It is ex-Cheltenham District 1003. Occasionally, at times of need, Cheltenham would send a red RE on the 564 (Cheltenham – Stroud – Forest Green) rather than the usual green Country version. That on the right is 1272, with the later curved BET frontal treatment, in-line destination display, twin headlamps and revised grill.