One of the most enduring images of London embodied on postcards and exported around the world by tourists writing home is the London Bus. It’s a big red double-decker and the postcard often shows it with Big Ben or a Policeman directing traffic. The vehicle shown in these photos is almost always the traditional AEC Regent ‘RT’ type or the AEC Routemaster, rather than the current rear engined types that populate our city’s streets. So I thought a quick tour around some of the London buses that were in service in my younger years might be of interest starting with that most Quintessential of London Buses: –
Designed by AEC (Associated Equipment Company) prior to the second world war – the bulk of the fleet of over 5000 vehicles was delivered from 1946 onwards. 4825 were of AEC manufacture with most being bodied by Park Royal or Weymann. The rest were variants of the Leyland Titan. It is the AEC version that most remember with its distinctive radiator – very much a symbol of London.
I have a special affinity with the AEC Routemaster, the first prototype (built in 1954) entered revenue service in February 1956 – at the same time as me 😉 The Routemaster was a bit of an anachronism. A rear-loading, front engined, crew operated vehicle conceived at a time when everywhere else operators were looking to the rear engined front entrance buses that would allow one-person-operation. 2760 Routemasters in differing guises were built for normal London operations. The production vehicles entered service from 1959. Routemasters are still in daily service on the central sections of the 9 and 15 bus routes but these vehicles have been extensively modified – whilst they are still Routemasters, the engine and transmission have been replaced by modern units and don’t sound anything like the original 😦 Some privately operated vehicles with original engines can be seen though on charter work.
Not usually found on the tourist postcard – the RF’s were the main single deck bus in the 1950’s / 60’s. 700 were built for London Transport’s Central and Country areas as well as Greenline coach services. The first ones entered service in 1952 and the last vehicles were withdrawn in the late 1979. Ironically one of the first routes to receive them was the 210 and I have vivid memories of them roaring up the hill from Golders Green station to Whitestone Pond in Hampstead – one of the joys of a favourite family trip to Hampstead Heath when I was a child! The Darts and DAF’s that climb that same hill now seem to struggle by comparison. The RF’s were a real pleasure to ride on and, when running on the express Greenline services, could really fly!
Detailed histories of all the above vehicle types and other London Transport types can be found at Ian’s Bus Stop.
This post was prompted by a kind comment from Judith on my previous post – you can read her blog at Touch2Touch
Finally – Many examples of the vehicles described have made it into preservation and some are licensed to carry passengers too. Below, two RF’s and an RCL bask in the sun at Cobham during a special running day to celebrate 80 years of Greenline Services – Alasdair and I enjoyed a run back into central London on the RCL and very comfortable it was too. Reputedly the RCL’s, when introduced in 1965, could out-accelerate the average family saloon car 🙂