PDL519, a remarkable vehicle in every sense, was originally one of four Bristol LD6G-type Lodekkas delivered new to Southern Vectis in June 1958. Starting life as a standard 60-seat bus, PDL 519 was allocated fleet number 559 and worked from Ryde depot.
559 completed a 20-year service life on the Isle of Wight and was withdrawn almost exactly on its 20th ‘birthday’ in June 1978. She was sold to a dealer before being purchased by Argas Persicus Ltd., London, in September 1978. Little did most people know at the time that 559 (along with a few other ex-Southern Vectis vehicles) was going to travel all over the world.
Argas Persicus was formed in 1973 after two vets decided it would be fun to travel across Europe in a Bristol KSW converted to a mobile home. The idea was then applied to the holiday market and worked very well. A large fleet of Bristol Lodekkas (of the LD, FS and FLF types) was acquired and soon an extensive tour programme was available. Argas Persicus became Top Deck Travel in 1983 although this had been the trading name from the start.
The tours on offer were specifically for 18-35 year olds and covered Europe and the Far East, while America and Australia were covered with flight packages. Our bus, 559, operated mainly on the Far East run. This involved running through Europe, on through Asia to terminate in Kathmandu (Nepal), which takes a bit longer than Newport to Ryde!! The journey would take about three months in each direction and there would always be interesting events along the way to slow things down!
559 was one of the last Top Deck Travel vehicles to operate a tour to the Far East. By 1997, she had operated 20 overland tours across the world and demand was low so that one was to be her last. Unfortunately, engine problems in Germany meant that ‘Tadpoles’ (559’s name – all TDT buses have names!) would not complete her final tour. Repairs were carried out and ‘Tadpoles’ returned to the UK in May 1998 and was driven straight to the IW Bus Museum where she was put on permanent loan.
We are extremely fortunate to have perhaps one of the most well-travelled buses in the world with us and have kept her in exactly the condition she arrived it – even with desert sand in the wheel arches!!
Chassis make and designation – Bristol LD6G
Chassis number – 138108
Engine make – Gardner
Engine type – G6LW 6 cylinder diesel
Body make – Eastern Coach Works
Body number – 10312
Seating configuration (original) – H60R
Date of first registration – June 1958
Former owners –
Southern Vectis, Newport, IW ................June 1958 to June 1978
North (dealer), Sherburn June 1978
Top Deck Travel (Argas Persicus), London June 1978 to July 1983
Current owner – Top Deck Travel, London since July 1983