AEC Bridgemaster

The Bridgemaster had a relatively dull and short career for such an interesting vehicle.  Built on the same chassisless principle as the Routemaster,  using AEC subframes and with lightweight alloy framing, the bodywork was designed in the mid 1950's at Park Royal, with my father heading up the team and using his skills from the Routemaster development.  Having a dropped axle, similar to the relatively highly successful Bristol Lodekker, with which it was in direct competition, enabled the floor height to be reduced thus reducing the overall height making it suitable for height restricted routes; hence the name.  

However, the original Bridgemaster was not built at Park Royal, the final design & build of the prototype taking place at ACV's Crossley Motors instead.  And in this form the Bridgemaster made its debut at the 1956 commercial motor show looking, in my opinion, like an amalgamation of Regent style front ending and Routemaster rear.

Unfortunately, and in hindsight, the Bridgemaster was doomed from the start; the prototypes did not find favour with ACV's main potential Operators for these buses, most of which were part of the huge BET (British Electric Traction) conglomerate that demanded steel-framed buses rather than London Transport's preference for aluminium.  This, along with the restriction on two-axle PSV length being increased to 30 feet, meant that a longer steel-framed vehicle would be too heavy for the power unit that the prototype had been designed for and thus a redesign was necessary if BET companies were to become customers. 

Two years later, in 1958 - the year that ACV closed its Crossley concern - the redesigned, Park Royal constructed, Bridgemaster was shown at the commercial motor show along with, perhaps somewhat incongruously, Routemaster RM8.  A front entrance version was also produced, but by the early 1960's Operators were clearly looking towards rear-engined forward entrance OPO designs and the future success of the Bridgemaster was evidently limited; especially as the market for such vehicles had already been well saturated by the Bristol Lodekker that pre-dated the new Bridgemaster by almost ten years and was to remain the predominant low-height unit (with over 5000 being built) until 1968.  So after just 179 units, the Bridgemaster's order book was closed in 1962, the last few remaining orders being completed by April 1963.

Here is the advertisement flyer for the prototype Bridgemaster from Crossley dated August 1st 1956 (Or Click Here for the full advertisement text). 

b41891_6-1.jpg (51536 bytes)b41891_6-2.jpg (51536 bytes) Registration Numbers 2519WE & 2523WE, built in 1958/9 (Body Nos. B41891-6) were the first & penultimate of six "B3RA" Bridgemasters with Park Royal H45/31R bodywork delivered to Sheffield Corporation in January/February 1959 (Fleet Number 519 & 523) (Information Roger Hardy).

b44035_9-1.jpg (51536 bytes)b44035_9-2.jpg (47293 bytes)b44035_9-3.jpg (67336 bytes)b44035_9-4.jpg (62796 bytes)b44035_9-5.jpg (74295 bytes)b44035_9-6.jpg (68599 bytes) Registration Number WCY888 built in April 1960 (Body Nos. B44035-9); for South Wales.

b45432_3-1.jpg (227543 bytes)b45432_3-2.jpg (215825 bytes)b45432_3-3.jpg (216768 bytes)b45432_3-4.jpg (220384 bytes) Registration Number 312MFC built in November 1961 (Body Nos. B45703-10); for City of Oxford.

b47021-1.jpg (261315 bytes)b47021-2.jpg (236428 bytes)b47021-3.jpg (218394 bytes)b47021-4.jpg (231660 bytes) Registration Number 78BVD built in November 1961 (Body No. B47021); for Baxters Bus Services.  

b47022_3-1.jpg (226682 bytes)b47022_3-2.jpg (197929 bytes)b47022_3-3.jpg (231516 bytes)b47022_3-4.jpg (236966 bytes) Registration Number 29EGD built December 1961 (Body Nos. B47022-3); for Scottish Co-Op.

b47027_30-1.jpg (289759 bytes)b47027_30-2.jpg (278162 bytes)b47027_30-3.jpg (209921 bytes)b47027_30-4.jpg (245002 bytes) Registration Number 9727AT built in May 1961 (Body Nos. B47027-30); for East Yorkshire.

b48684-1.jpg (250110 bytes)b48684-2.jpg (227856 bytes)b48684-3.jpg (266132 bytes)b48684-4.jpg (246647 bytes) Registration Number 27WKX built in March 1962 (Body No. B48684); for Keith Garages.

b48752_3-1.jpg (291712 bytes)b48752_3-2.jpg (286903 bytes)b48752_3-3.jpg (230778 bytes)b48752_3-4.jpg (244411 bytes) Registration Number 480DVA built in July 1962 (Body Nos. B48752-3); for Baxters Bus Services.  

b48970_73-1.jpg (254443 bytes)b48970_73-2.jpg (237396 bytes)b48970_73-3.jpg (224226 bytes)b48970_73-4.jpg (246621 bytes) Registration Number TFE538 built in Nov 1962 (Body Nos. B48970-3); for Lincoln Corporation.

b48754_5-1.jpg (284809 bytes)b48754_5-2.jpg (264745 bytes)b48754_5-3.jpg (232143 bytes)b48754_5-4.jpg (257126 bytes) Registration Number 3754RH built in Feb 1963 (Body Nos. B48983-95); for East Yorkshire.