By 1970 the influence of the National Bus Company was becoming increasingly obvious in Wakefield with the arrival of the first batch of Eastern Coachworks bodied Bristol RELL6G delivered to the West Riding Automobile Company.
Number 261, THL 261H, was the last of a batch registration numbers THL 250–261H and followed a small batch of Plaxton bodied RELL6G delivered in 1969. From 1970 Eastern Coachworks was favoured and a small fleet of 44 ECW RELL6G was built up by West Riding, 261 being the only known survivor.
THL 261H was renumbered 298 in November 1971 and led an uneventful and reliable life until withdrawal from passenger service in early 1982. She was retained in store and emerged in January 1983 painted blue with red and white stripes as Driver Trainer number A17 and remained so until January 1985. She then passed to Farnell Instruments Wetherby as a staff bus in March 1985.
By April 1989 she found herself at PVS Carlton and may even have had a brief stay with Wigley at Carlton before being acquired by Independent of Horsforth in July 1989, where she received fleet number 57. By November 1993 she appears to have been stored at Thornes of Bubwith but by November 1994 she was back in service with Independent of Horsforth.
A final stay of execution came when she moved to Hylton Castle Catch -a- Bus, East Boldon, in December 1996 where she continued in revenue earning service. In January 1997 she received Catch-a-Bus livery but by November 1997 was with Kirton Bus and Coach dealership.
Fortunately, Ian Hunter spotted 261 and acquired her for preservation immediately. For many years she resided in North Yorkshire whilst work was undertaken to bring her up to roadworthy condition and with the help of David Keel she was once again out and about as a regular performer at bus events across Yorkshire, sporting a green and cream livery.
On 8th March 2015 she was finally acquired by the West Riding Omnibus Preservation Society (WROPS) as a missing link in the collection. WROPS would like to formally thank Ian Hunter and David Keel for their generosity in ensuring 261 could be acquired by the Society.
Initial activity on the vehicle included a thorough deep clean of the interior and a mechanical health check. There are no immediate plans to add West Riding insignia as the current shade of paint is incorrect and 261 will require some paintwork attention when time permits, at which point her West Riding identity will be re-instated. Having been rallied for two seasons, 261 developed a fault building her air up so was set aside until time could be found to investigate the issue. She has since been out and about again on several bus running days representing both the West Riding Omnibus Preservation Society and Dewsbury Bus Museum.
These two pictures were taken in 2017, and show 261 both inside and outside.
Pity the poor souls who went all the way to Blackpool in her.....
Now a Driver Training Unit in this attractive blue livery....
Catch-a-Bus - Who would have thought it.....
Chassis – Bristol RELL3/1105
Body – Eastern Coachworks 18643 Series 2
Power – Gardner 6 HLX with 5 speed semi-automatic gearbox
Click on the image below to see more photographs of THL261H