Old Bus Photos

London Transport – AEC Routemaster – CUV 308C – RML 2308

London Transport - AEC Routemaster - CUV 308C - RML 2308

London Transport
AEC Routemaster
Park Royal H40/32R

OBP seems yet to have a picture of Routemasters in the Country Area livery, so here is one. RML 2308, delivered to London Transport in November 1965, is seen at Biggin Hill in the following year. These green buses, which totalled one hundred in two batches of fifty, RML 2306- 2355 in 1965 and RML 2411 -2460 in 1966, were all powered by the AEC AV590 engine de-rated to 115bhp, the same setting used in the earlier RT type, though the RML was 5cwt heavier. Semi automatic gearboxes were fitted rather than the fully automatic variety used in the Central Bus Routemaster fleet. The 410 ran between Bromley and Reigate on an hourly headway, with intervening ‘short’ journeys between Bromley and Biggin Hill; the picture above shows RML 2308 operating such a ‘short’. Because of a low railway bridge near Oxted station, the 410 route was run for many years by lowbridge double deckers, notably by the ‘Godstone’ STLs ((Godstone being the operating garage) and then by the RLH class (20 diverted Regent IIIs from a Midland General order for 30, and a further 56 built for LT). In the early 1960s LT(CB&C) yearned to standardise the Godstone fleet on RTs, and became impatient about the delays to the promised lowering of the roadway beneath the Oxted bridge. I was then a clerk in the South Divisional Office at Reigate, and pointed out that the offending bridge could be circumnavigated easily via Station Road East, then under the high bridge on the A25, and back into Oxted via East Hill Road. This solution was eagerly leapt upon, and RTs replaced the Godstone RLH fleet in November 1964. This allowed full interworking of the routes 409 (West Croydon – Godstone – Forest Row) 410 (Bromley – Godstone – Reigate) and 411 West Croydon – Godstone – Reigate). When the roadway under the Oxted Station bridge was ultimately lowered some time later, the 410 reverted to its original route. The LT Country Bus business passed to the National Bus Company in January 1970 under the name London Country. In 1978, with Routemaster mechanical spares becoming akin to hens teeth, and London Transport snapping up such parts as did become available, the entire London Country RML fleet was sold to LT, who repainted most of the vehicles red for service in London, though RMLs 2306, 2337, 2417, 2420, 2421, 2423, 2424, 2425, 2426, 2427, 2433, 2436, 2438, 2448, 2449, 2458 and 2459 were immediately scrapped for spares. In the early 1990s LT replaced all the original power plants in the survivors with Iveco and Cummins engines, RM 2308 suffering the inflicted indignity of a Cummins motor in 1993. It continued to serve London Transport until its withdrawal in March 2004.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

02/12/19 – 06:37

In actual fact, the Central London RM’s and RML’s had an either/or gearbox.
If top gear was selected when stationary, the bus would be in automatic mode, however, the driver had the option of driving them as a semi auto, and changing gear manually.
Unless fully loaded, or pulling away uphill, second was usually selected to pull away.
It may well be that in later life they were all converted to fully auto, but they weren’t when new.

Ronnie Hoye

02/12/19 – 09:46

The Central Bus Routemasters had fully automatic gearboxes with manual over-ride, a feature of auto boxes that continued into the later age of buses with auto transmissions by ZF and Allison, though not with the (dreadful) three speed Voith. Nowadays it seems that this feature has gone for buses, and the driver’s only over-ride option is kick-down. The Country area RMCs, RMLs and RCLs were semi auto only.

Roger Cox

03/12/19 – 06:30

I don’t know if its the way they’re set up, but some buses are awful. They seem to snatch when they change up, and lurch when changing down. The poor driver always gets the blame, but in reality there’s not a lot He/She can do about it.
Driver properly, a bus with a manual box, be it three pedals or semi auto, will always give a smoother ride than an automatic.

Ronnie Hoye

03/12/19 – 06:32

I had the pleasure, until recently, when prevented by ill health, of being a regular driver of RML 2440 a refurbished and re-engined bus – owned by Peter Cartwright. This most definitely was of the Fully automatic type. The coaches were semi-auto only – RMC and RCL.

David Oldfield

03/12/19 – 09:15

RML 2440 was sold by LCBS to London Transport in June 1979. It then went into Aldenham for conversion to LT specifications, including the addition of full auto operation of the gearbox before entering service as a red bus. In ‘Country’ service it was semi auto only.

Roger Cox

06/12/19 – 06:51

Your suggestion, Roger, about avoiding the low bridge at Oxted, which presumably was not greatly disadvantageous to passengers, is typical of a situation whereby nobody thinks of a solution for decades and it’s staring them in the face!
It certainly seems odd to my eyes in seeing a bus routed for 410 which is not lowbridge. I’m sure I’ve said before that the unique lowbridge STL’s (always with their sliding doors open, to avoid being illegal) would appear from time to time at Morden to cover overhauls of the lowbridge red D’s on the 127 and latterly lowbridge Tilling Bristol K’s, sometimes green and sometimes red!
With the ex-Romford Green Line D’s coming to Merton Garage, which took a while to repaint them into red, pre-war RT’s on the 93 and Maidstone Corporation Daimler CWG6’s, Morden Station’s Forecourt was was a real hotchpotch of colour, types and companies. Wonderful!

Chris Hebbron

08/12/19 – 06:18

There is a lot of truth in what Chris says, especially in large organisations. People become blinkered, because things have always been done in a certain way. A new employee with fresh set of eyes can often reveal new ways of doing things, that no one has previously thought of. It’s all a bit like the Hans Christian Aderson’s "The King’s New Suit of Clothes". Send for Danny Kaye!

Mr Anon

09/12/19 – 06:25

Ah, Danny Kaye. I always recall "The Court Jester" – The constant muddling up of "The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true!" Classic!

Chris Hebbron

09/12/19 – 12:20

Chris, if memory serves the quote from Danny Kaye went something like,
"The flagon with the dragon is the chalice with the malice, the vessel with the pestle is the brew that is true". How do I remember that?

Stan Zapiec

09/12/19 – 16:27

Here is the script gents

John Lomas

13/12/19 – 12:17

Wonderful stuff. Dedicated to everyone, who has been to the shops on behalf of their partner, then come back with completely the wrong thing.

Mr Anon


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British European Airways – AEC Routemaster – NMY 641E

NMY 641E

British European Airways
AEC Routemaster
Park Royal H32/24F

From 6 October 1957 until 1 January 1974, British European Airways operated a passenger transfer service between its West London Air Terminal at Cromwell Road, Kensington and Heathrow Airport. The rolling stock fleet was staffed and maintained by London Transport, and this was reflected in the vehicle types operated. By the 1960s, the increase in size of airliners meant that the BEA fleet of AEC Regal IV observation coaches of 1952/3 vintage were offering inadequate capacity, and were approaching replacement anyway. In 1961 an evaluation of the practicability of employing double deckers for the job was undertaken, initially using AEC Regent V, 220 CXK fitted with a Park Royal H38/17F body, the limited lower deck capacity arising from its adaptation to accommodate luggage in the rear portion. Between 1964-66, the 30 ft long front entrance Routemaster RM 1254 was tried out towing a separate luggage trailer, and this experiment was deemed to be successful. Thus, in 1966/67, BEA took delivery of 65 front entrance Routemasters of the shorter 27ft 8ins length with the slightly reduced seating of 56 to allow space for hand luggage at the rear of the lower deck. They had semi automatic gearboxes and AEC AV 590 engines, but were geared for 70 mph running with trailers on the M4 motorway, which would surely not be allowed today. Marshall constructed 88 luggage trailers so that the buses would not suffer luggage loading/unloading delays at the terminals. The Routemasters were delivered and initially operated in the traditional airline livery of blue and white, but, in 1969 the emerging distressing vogue for the use of orange in bus liveries gravely infected the BEA fleet. Mercifully, the merger of BEA and BOAC into British Airways in September 1973 saw the consignment of the execrable orange to oblivion with the restoration of a blue /white livery. The RMAs were progressively withdrawn from airport work from January 1975 until mid 1979, when the entire fleet of 65 was sold to London Transport, thereafter to suffer a curiously chequered, and somewhat wasteful career. In the photo taken at Heathrow in March 1972, orange adorned BEA 41, NMY 641E stands alongside BEA 32, NMY 632E. These vehicles were renumbered RMA 53 and 49 respectively on acquisition by London Transport in 1979. It is thought that both survive – somewhere!

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

06/09/17 – 07:00

Not one vestige of luxury abounded these vehicles – just a normal inside. Not the way to start an air flight, even with non-Transatlantic flights.
Was there an equivalent BOAC system such as the one BEA operated here, or did one have to make one’s own way to Heathrow?

Chris Hebbron

06/09/17 – 09:19

BOAC operated some Metro-Cammell bodied Leyland Atlanteans during the 1960s between Buckingham Palace Road, London and Heathrow Airport. They were fitted with higher backed coach type seats more suitable to long-haul airline passengers.
Photographs may be seen here:

David Slater

07/09/17 – 07:36

BOAC’s fleet pre-dated the Atlanteans and consisted of a fleet of single-deck vehicles, although I am not sure about the technical details. Unlike BEA, operations were not subcontracted to London Transport.

David Wragg

08/09/17 – 06:42

We have to remember the vogue for these colours in the 70’s- bright and striking and definitely non-traditional- a reaction against formal "liveries". Having said that it was a bit dire!
What does seem naff is the choice of vehicle- high floor with perhaps a noisy transmission and speeds for which it was not really designed- with trailer! A Neoplan Skyliner type would be better- but a lot dearer and less patriotic?! Was luggage checked in at the city terminal- so why not just use a van?


09/09/17 – 06:41

Here is a shot of one of the Routemasters at the west London Air Terminal in 1969 in the original livery: www.flickr.com/photos/
At the same time BEA was still using the one an a half deck AEC Regal IVs from London Transport. they were new in 1953 and had Park Royal bodies.
BOAC also had their own fleet of vehicles which operated from their terminal close to Victoria Coach Station. In 1966 they acquired a fleet of Leyland Atlanteans with MCW bodies.

Stephen Bloomfield

09/09/17 – 06:42

Joe – I think you’ll find BOAC left Buckingham Palace Road in the early/mid 70s. My 1978 office looked out on to it and I can remember, at one point, it being used for South Western Services on peak days to relieve pressure on the Coach Station itself. In the days of much smaller coaches they were accommodated in the underground car park of the Coach Station but I feel we’re talking about an era far before Neoplans came on the scene with Trathens.

Nick Turner

10/09/17 – 06:38

Nick- the Skyliner is celebrating 50 years this year – would it have filled the bill?! So would the Atlantean or even Bristol VR but they weren’t Routemasters!


11/09/17 – 06:26

I bow to your knowledge, Joe, but I can recall when Trathens of Plymouth introduced them to their London – Exeter and Plymouth contract for the newly created ‘Rapide’ brand, they were billed as state of the art. Certainly new to the likes of me. They must have been in use elsewhere, I presume, but they’d certainly have done the job!

Nick Turner

11/09/17 – 06:28

The BEA Routemasters were fitted with AV690 175 bhp engines. In my opinion, these vehicles were the right ones for the job. They had well padded comfortable seats , superb suspension, were nimble and quiet (certainly no problem with transmission noise). They were also a reliable and proven design. The Atlantean may have looked better, but as a tool for the job, would have been inferior.

Allan White

11/09/17 – 06:32

I can vouch for the basic seating of these RM’s, plus also on the "smart" clippies that made a lot of money because arriving travellers had no sterling.

Stuart Emmet

11/09/17 – 09:07

Re: Joe’s question "Why not a van?"
Surely using a trailer made it much more likely that the luggage got on the same plane as the passengers.

John Lomas

12/09/17 – 06:39

Why not a van? Why not? One summer, I drove for a major London Operator – a cruise transfer from Central London to the Liner at the coast. American Tourists with huge amounts of luggage. How will I fit it all in? Oh, don’t worry, there will be a van for that. ….. and there was, a big curtain sided vehicle just for the luggage.

David Oldfield

12/09/17 – 06:41

Nick, Although launched in 1967, the first right-hand drive UK versions were in service in 1981.
Joe, Regarding a van: I was working in Cork in 1975 when the hotel was invaded by by a C.I.E. coach with 40+ American tourists doing the Irish heritage circuit. As they all had about 5 large suitcases, the coach was accompanied by a C.I.E. container wagon.

Dave Farrier

12/09/17 – 14:44

Regarding the trailer, it was seen as a simple, effective solution whereby passengers and luggage travelled together. Even in 1960s London traffic, a bus and a van could easily have become well separated and the essence of the operation was to check in passengers at Cromwell Rd and give a smooth transit at Heathrow for both passengers and luggage. Keeping them together was the key to this.
The RM was chosen because BEA had long used LT as its contractor and the RM was its current vehicle just as the Regal was the basis for the half deck coaches and LT’s RF in the 1950s. The shorter version of the RM was chosen as BEA Tridents, Vanguards and 1-11s in service by the late 1960s had seating capacities between 100 and 135. Based on experience of the split between passengers checking in at the airport and those using Cromwell Rd, 56 seats was deemed to be the most viable option allowing room inside for hand baggage. Outbound to Heathrow vehicles were assigned to specific flights with the luggage in the trailers going directly to the aircraft. There were enough vehicles for duplicates if necessary, but in practice this was rare. Inbound passengers picked the first available bus and trailer as they had to pick their luggage in arrivals and, if necessary, clear customs, so it was impossible to keep passengers from any given flight together. Buses departed for London either when full or after a predetermined time after the first passenger had boarded so as not to delay arrival in Cromwell Rd.
BOAC and TWA both successfully used Atlanteans with internal luggage space between city terminals in London and Heathrow. To say the Atlantean was inferior is a nonsense as BOAC re-ordered Atlanteans and TWA’s contract with Hall’s of Hounslow specified the Atlantean based on BOAC’s experience.

Phil Blinkhorn

13/09/17 – 06:34

As Allan White correctly states, these did have AV690 11.3 litre engines, though I suspect that they might have been de-rated a bit. This, however, raises an interesting point. If these powerful, very highly geared, fluid flywheel coupled double deckers could run regularly at high speeds without problems, why did the Halifax Lolines suffer such transmission trouble?

Roger Cox

14/09/17 – 06:53

Maybe something to do with the terrain

Roger Burdet

14/09/17 – 06:55

Forgive me for straying from the main subject to mention the problems with Halifax’s Lolines for a moment.
A mechanic (and also an enthusiast) at Halifax Corporation with first hand experience of dealing with their five Lolines once wrote a piece in the local bus club’s newsletter (and I am taking the liberty of quoting him here):
"The transmission was unusual in that there was a transfer box at the rear of the engine which altered the rotation of the propellor shaft and gearbox, but allowed the propellor shaft to run along the chassis side, thus permitting a low floor level.
The Dennis mechanic from their Manchester service depot spent so much time at Skircoat Garage that it began to be said he was on the payroll. He was an odd fellow in that he would not show anyone how to do the job or even let them see him working. If an HPT mechanic passed near him he would stop work and cover the job up………………..
…………….Mounted at the back of the engine was the fluid flywheel coupling driving into the transfer box. A major fault on this was a lack of ventilation around the flywheel and transfer box for cooling purposes. So the flywheel got hot, then hotter and hotter still until the oil within it boiled, leaked through and spoiled the oil retaining seal. Alternatively the same might happen to the transfer box. Whichever it was, it was expensive – for Dennis Bros. anyway!
The other main problem was the gearbox. Most gearboxes have the input and output shafts rotating the same way i.e. anticlockwise – the same as the engine – but the Lolines were different, they had to have non-standard clockwise rotating gearboxes which were almost impossible to obtain, as no-one else used them.
The verdict? It was a love/hate relationship. When they were healthy (and new) most drivers (only short men could drive them comfortably) seemed to like them, but when they were poorly the Lolines were unloved (and unlovely). My opinion? Best left unrepeated!"
I do remember being told his opinion – and it was indeed best left unrepeated!
I knew many Halifax drivers who had driven them and most agreed that as long as they were going they were great buses to drive (but then to many bus drivers of my acquaintance A Fast Bus=A Good Bus. The main complaint seemed to be that they didn’t like the driving position, with the raked steering wheel (i.e. different to what they were used to) and that the cab roof was too low and had a prominent section of trunking passing across it just above where the driver’s head would be, causing taller drivers to constantly be striking their heads on it. Otherwise they would have to lower the seat to the point where they had to adopt an uncomfortable posture.
Speaking purely as a passenger with enthusiast tendencies at the time, I thought they were marvellous vehicles. Even Hilditch later went on to imply that it was a shame at the time he sold them that he hadn’t known that his undertaking would shortly afterwards take over Todmorden JOC with its requirement for low-height double deckers – so even he must have still have harboured positive thoughts about them.
Could there have been a certain amount of pressure within the NBC/APT part of the JOC to help West Riding out with Wulfrunian replacements and slightly raise the age profile of the fleet with these comparatively new buses (considering all the older Lodekkas they were having to take on) and it just seemed like a good idea at the time – especially if they’d offered a good price for them ? Who knows ?

John Stringer

14/09/17 – 07:01

Dave – I now live 50 miles from Cork City and was actually there yesterday. I think the governing factor behind the CIE van in ’75 would have revolved around the fact that Ireland only established bespoke bus/coach licences comparatively recently. With trailers already a reality, anyone being tested without a trailer on the back of the vehicle would have received a simple ‘D’ entitlement. Now, old fogeys like me, as long as we took our tests on a decker with manual box, would be entitled to an ‘All Types PSV’ which was literally converted to ‘D+E’ when trailers became recognised.
When I arrived here in 2007, and not being averse to a few extra Euros in my pocket, I spotted an ad in the local paper for D+E Drivers to drive a tourist road train round a local town. I got the job and found the other, main driver was also English. Any Irish drivers had worked in the UK where they, too, got an old ‘All Types’ licence but actual native D+E licences were as rare as hen’s teeth and I’m suspecting CIE had no option but to use a separate vehicle if they had no D+E drivers.

Nick Turner

15/09/17 – 06:37

An enlightening posting, John. However, several batches of Lodekkas had the SCG semi auto four/five speed gearbox, and this driveline must have incorporated a step down box in the transmission, reversing the direction of rotation, unless an intermediate cog was used to turn it back the "right" way. Does anyone on here know anything about the Bristol/SCG setup? As for the Dennis engineer’s singular secrecy, perhaps he was out of his depth himself, and didn’t want the customer to witness his struggles. The Lodekka/Loline driving position issue is often debated, and surely comes down to a matter of familiarity – the unusual is generally unpopular with bus drivers (enthusiast types like us are exceptions, of course). All I can say is that I liked it.

Roger Cox

15/09/17 – 06:39

The Routemaster, having a conventional height chassis and the gearbox remotely mounted towards the back axle, has much more room for cooling air to flow around it. Unlike the Loline which hasn’t. That could have also been a factor.I assume, because of constraints of space under the chassis, the Loline and the Lodekka had their semi auto gearboxes close coupled to the engine, under the stairs, where air flow over them would be even more restricted. Maybe it would have been kinder in retrospect, to have ripped the semi auto boxes out and retro fitted them with constant mesh units. Although, given the hilly terrain of Halifax, that may have created more problems than answers.
It would be interesting to know how the West Riding Auto Co. got on with their acquired Lolines. Maybe someone out there knows. Regarding the Dennis fitter. If you are called upon to solve a problem, but are mainly used to working on refuse disposal vehicles and not too sure how to go about working on a bus and its added complications, it must be tempting to avoid public scrutiny, retain an air of mystique, and hide what you are doing from people, who you feel may know far more than you do. But I bet the Lolines must have given him many sleepless nights! Regarding the reversal of drive through the transfer box into the gearbox on a Loline/Lodekka reminds me of a story. In the mid 1970s the Northern General Transport Group, found themselves short of serviceable vehicles, which prompted them to acquire a number of ex Crosville Bristol LD6Bs. It was not long however before the driving staff were complaining about their low power Bristol AVW engines and slow change constant mesh ‘boxes. In an attempt to remedy this the engineering staff successfully managed to fit a Leyland 0600 engine into one of these Lodekkas. However they must have forgotten about the transfer box and its reversal of drive, as they ended up with one forward and five reverse gears. Under those circumstances I do not know whether you would be tempted to laugh or cry!

John Anderson

15/09/17 – 06:40

The lack of DE licences in Eire might have been a factor in 2007, but surely not in ’75 when Dave saws the CIE container.
D and DE categories only came into being in June 1990 before that HGV and PSV licences were separate documents.

John Lomas

16/09/17 – 06:51

My reasoning, John, is that, whereas I’m told the UK introduced bespoke PSV licences in 1931, it could have been well into the ’70s before they were brought in in Ireland and, if they were already aware that trailers existed, there MAY have been some sort of exclusion written into them. I honestly don’t know, so it could have simply been that CIE didn’t have vehicles with tow hooks or trailers to put on them.
As something of a side issue, I remember petrol companies advertising for tanker drivers with a note ‘PSV drivers preferred’ because, in those days, you could drive 5,000 gallons of petrol around on a car licence.

Nick Turner

16/09/17 – 06:52

Roger Burdett’s comment about terrain deserves further exploration. The BEA Routemasters were dedicated to one service which involved sustained high-speed running, without, I imagine, a lot of gear changing. I wonder also if perhaps they had dedicated drivers. The Halifax Lolines were purchased for a long-distance contract, but were also used on local work in hilly terrain, for which their gearing must have been wildly unsuitable.
Drivers switching between high and low geared vehicles do not always make the necessary adjustment in driving style. I certainly experienced this every evening going home from work in Bristol, when a cascaded RELH was allocated to one trip on a service otherwise worked by RELLs. None of the drivers seemed to know what to do with it, and the transmission must have suffered significant punishment from being in too high a gear most of the time.

Peter Williamson

17/09/17 – 06:50

A few observations about the operation of the BEA and later BA Routemasters.
Whilst geared for high speed running, the first 4.4 miles from the Cromwell Rd Terminal to the end of the M4 was through London Traffic which, even in the early days of the service, could be very slow. The motorway sector to the airport was just over 9.5 miles but though the vehicles could attain 70 mph, they rarely did. From personal observation regularly driving that stretch of the M4 between 1967 and 1976 and, from time to time using the service, 50-60 mph was the norm, as traffic permitted on the motorway sector.
The first trailers were built by Marshalls. With different baggage limits in those days, a full bus could be pulling a fully laden trailer with a gross weight of 2 tons. The trailers were replaced in 1973 when check in was moved to the airport.

Phil Blinkhorn

17/09/17 – 06:51

The semi-automatic Lodekka had its gearbox amidship, there being a raised cover beneath one of the offside pairs of seats. The Loline, I am not sure about, but a photograph of the flywheel and step down gear cover in "A Further Look At Buses" (G.G.Hilditch) shows that, next in line, is a U/J and shaft, thereby implying a remote gearbox.

Allan White

18/09/17 – 07:25

This has turned into a most fascinating thread: Front entrance Routemasters v Atlanteans; trailers v vans; BEA livery variations; Halifax Lolines; Loline and Lodekka transmission differences. Wonderful stuff and all grist to the mill.
John(S), I enjoyed reading your comments regarding the semi-auto Dennnis Lolines and how and why they performed as they did (or didn’t!) at Halifax. Roger(C), you may well have hit the nail on the head with your point about the Dennis fitter being out of his depth with the foibles of the semi-auto Loline, hence his secrecy – or could he have held the view that "knowledge is power" and didn’t want to share it? Fortunately most manufacturers’ technicians I came into contact with were generally very helpful in troubleshooting, problem solving, offering advice and giving useful tips, but as the saying goes, "there’s always one".
Relating to Lodekka gearboxes, the design of the manual gearbox was quite clever. Most gearboxes on a conventional chassis of the time would have the input and output shafts on the same plane, rotating in the same direction, with a layshaft running underneath allowing the various gears to be selected. With the Lodekka having a dropped-centre rear axle and consequently requiring a lower transmission line to match up with it, the drive from the rear of the engine had to be taken down to a lower level in order to mate up with the prop shaft. Bristol did this in effect by using the gearbox layshaft as an output shaft. The input shaft remained at the usual level, but the layshaft beneath now became the output shaft, giving the required drop for the transmission line. (The engine also sloped down slightly to the rear and across slightly to the offside to assist with this). However, by utilising the layshaft in this way, the direction of drive from the output end was reversed, but as the dropped-centre rear axle took the drive from the lower level back up to wheel-centre level by means of an extra gear, the correct rotation of drive to the wheels was restored. Simples! (I do hope all this makes some sense).
The manual gearbox was bolted onto the rear of the engine.
On rear entrance Lodekkas it was partly beneath the rearward facing seat for five behind the front bulkhead, whereas on front entrance models there was a small protruding cover on the front bulkhead at floor level to accommodate the shape of the gearbox. When semi-automatic transmission became an option on the front entrance Lodekka in late 1966 (the last year of rear-entrance Lodekka production), the semi-auto gearbox was squarer and a little bulkier than the manual version, and couldn’t be mounted in the usual position. Bristol solved the problem by mounting the semi-auto ‘box remotely under the floor partway down the offside of the chassis. (Locating the semi-auto ‘box under the stairs was not really an option, as on F-series Lodekkas that position was taken up by the fuel tank). As Allan mentions, a shallow cover under a pair of seats on the offside gave the game away as to the transmission type. In order to bring the drive down from fluid flywheel to prop shaft level, Bristol used a pair of transfer gears behind the fluid flywheel, which gave rise to the distinctive transmission whine of the semi-auto FLFs.
I am unfamiliar with the transmission layout of the semi-auto Loline, but it sounds like it may have been similar in principle to that of the semi-auto Lodekka. Peter, you may be on to something regarding Roger(B)’s comment about terrain being a factor in the Lolines’ reliability problems. Presumably they would have had higher ratio rear axles for their higher speed duties, but which would have made them sluggish on town work. Does anyone know if West Riding considered fitting lower ratio diffs to improve reliability and performance or had they settled down by then on suitable routes? Also, does anyone know of any problems encountered with the semi-auto FLFs, and if so, what were the remedies?

Brendan Smith

21/09/17 – 06:34

The statement by Geoffrey Hilditch in in his book “A Further Look At Buses” suggesting that the five speed gearboxes of the Halifax Lolines were unique to the batch was certainly true when the vehicles were delivered, as the semi auto version of the FLF Lodekka was still several months in the future. However, Dennis had pioneered a four speed semi automatic transmission option right at the beginning of Loline III production in 1961, when it supplied a solitary example to Belfast, and built another for the China Bus Company. A year later the semi auto demonstrator EPG 179B appeared. It must be the case, therefore, that the semi automatic drive line, including the step down gear train, was designed by Dennis. The step down gearing must have been quite costly to produce, particularly since only three examples were made up to the delivery of the five Halifax Lolines in February/March 1967. The Halifax order was preceded by a batch of eight (constant mesh) buses to Reading in December 1966 which marked the resumption of Loline production after a gap of no less than 13 months. These Reading Lolines were fitted with the Bristol gearbox and rear axle, whereas all previous Lolines had Dennis’s own gearbox and axle options. The Halifax Lolines also had Bristol rear axles. By late 1966 it must have been apparent to the Guildford firm that the limited future demand for the Loline did not justify the resumption of manufacturing penny numbers of its own gears and axles when entirely suitable Bristol components could be bought off the shelf. One wonders, then – did Dennis really retain all the casting/tooling equipment from five years previously just to manufacture a mere five more of the complicated step down gear train behind the flywheel, which surely cannot have been a cost effective exercise for Dennis. We know that there was contact between Dennis and Bristol during the Loline production period. Did Dennis subsequently make the step down gears for Bristol, or did the Guildford firm, perhaps, sell/pass on its design work and tooling to Bristol for its own semi auto version of the Lodekka? If only we knew for certain.

Roger Cox

22/09/17 – 07:11

Roger – Your mention of The China Bus Co (Hong Kong?) reminds me that that was the destination for the Southdown Guys (Arab IVs) when they were eventually pensioned off, but one modification they underwent for service there was some form of auto or semi auto gearbox, much to the disgust of most of us. Does this tie in in any way with your last post?

Nick Turner

27/09/17 – 06:16

Where did the problem with the Halifax Lolines transmission lie? Was it the fluid coupling, gearbox, back axle or all three, does anyone know.
Eastern National’s semi auto FLF coaches must have been high geared also, although their operating territory flatter than Halifax.
I would have thought that as Dennis presumably owned the the tooling for the step down gears they would supply Bristol, if an apropriate price could be be negotiated. But its little more than a guess.

John Anderson

24/10/17 – 06:51

Even today "airline" luggage presents problems for coach operations. For many years I was involved in dealing with moving passengers from flights by road and each task had to be looked at specifically. A 49 seat coach could often only carry around 25 passengers because of the weight and amount of passengers baggage and it really depended on the airline and the destination/origin on the passengers concerned. We used trailers and even drafted in Pickfords on occasions. For one task we undertook to move an entire cruise from Liverpool Docks by road to Southampton. For this job we drafted in a large number of Pickfords pantechnicons to carry the luggage as it was so much easier. Luggage was sorted into appropriate vehicles prior to loading and was delivered to the right points on the quay for immediate loading. Meanwhile some 40 coaches moved all the passengers without problem as the nightmare of baggage had been removed!

Bill Headley

26/01/19 – 06:42

In response to John Anderson, one particular feature of the Halifax Lolines that was a cause for trouble was that it was not a ‘pure’ fluid flywheel but the type with a lock up clutch: to paraphrase the late GGH, this was to give engine braking, but if done wrongly engine breaking is what happened.

Stephen Allcroft

07/10/19 – 07:12

This picture now appears in an intriguing little book published by https://www.safehavenbooks.co.uk  called ‘Seats of London’ by Andrew Martin, best known as the author of a series of novels about a Victorian railway detective, and also as the presenter of some informed (as distinct from ‘celebrity’ auto cue fronted) television programmes on railway subjects. It covers in great detail the many varied moquettes that have graced the seats of London’s trains, trams, buses and trolleybuses for over a century, and is a fascinating look into a hitherto unresearched world. Within Andrew Martin makes some references to Old Bus Photos, which he describes as, ‘an excellent website that does what it says on the tin’.

Roger Cox


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London Transport – AEC Routemaster – WLT 339 – RM 339

London Transport - AEC Routemaster - WLT 339 - RM 339

London Transport
AEC Routemaster 4/5RM5/4
Park Royal H36/28R

The 630 trolleybus route took over from the former South Metropolitan tramway that ran between West Croydon and Mitcham on 12 September 1937, and was extended northwards over ex LCC tramway routes to a destination that, on the vehicle blinds, rather indecisively declared itself to be “Nr. Willesden Junction”. It was actually about half a mile short of that point, and, many years later, the displayed destination was amended to “Harlesden”. The 630 trolleys ran speedily, quietly and reliably for 23 years, until the cheapness of diesel fuel against the price of electricity, coupled with the costs of overhead maintenance, spelt the doom of the trolleybus, not just in London, but nationwide. The 630 route fell victim to the diesel bus after operation on 19 July 1960, and brand new Routemasters on rebranded route 220 took over the following day. Here is RM 339, delivered to LT on 16 May 1960, approaching the West Croydon terminal point shortly after the introduction of the 220 route – the trolleybus overhead wires are still in situ. Today, the Croydon transport scene has changed beyond recognition, and route 220 no longer serves the town.

Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox

23/10/16 – 13:37

As we know, hindsight is a exact science, and it was probably a mistake to get rid of trolleybuses. They were quick, clean and quiet, but they were restricted to where they could go by the overhead wires, they were capable of traveling short distances when disconnected, and had they been allowed to advance, its quite possible they would now be able to store energy and travel quite long distances when disconnected. They could use a pantograph instead of poles which could be dropped at the push of a button, thus allowing them to overtake each other, or go away from the wires altogether, and a single wire would probably be sufficient. Given the world we live in today, the biggest problem would probably be cable theft, or am I just being cynical?

Ronnie Hoye

23/10/16 – 13:37

I bet a lot of people wish the trolleybuses had stayed, given current concerns over pollution in towns, not to mention fluctuating fuel prices. They were quiet, comfortable and electricity could be generated in many different ways.

David Wragg

24/10/16 – 07:15

How would a trolley with pantograph and a single wire work without a return to earth. Surely a conducting strip rubbing on the road surface wouldn’t work.

John Lomas

24/10/16 – 07:16

I have seen photos of early trolleybuses, where the vehicle had a half-cab layout and even a representation of a radiator. Seeing this one under the wires, I wonder why I looked for the poles on the roof!

Pete Davies

24/10/16 – 07:18

And it’s a further irony that this section of road supports the overhead wires of the Croydon Tramlink.
The wheel has turned full circle, but I do regret the passing of London’s fabulous trolleybus system.


24/10/16 – 07:19

The 830 route reminds me of my having a girlfriend who lived in Croydon and I used to catch the last trolleybus across to Mitcham – they could do 60mph across the common, according to a driver, with a lot of shuddering! I’d then get a 118 to Morden and walk the last two miles home. It will cause no surprise to learn that the relationship was short-lived! We did go to the Majestic Cinema at Fair Green a couple of times.
London’s trolleybuses were quite sophisticated, with regenerative braking and many had chassisless bodies, not repeated until the Routemaster. LTE had to pay a wayleave on each pole, unlike municipal operators. Also, much of the electrical infrastructure dated back to the trams and was worn out, as were the trolleybuses by the 1960’s. Electricity costs (already mentioned)and limited flexibility with route changes or new, expensive suburb extensions sealed their fate. However, to ride on them with their silence, amazing acceleration and hill-climbing ability was exhilarating!

Chris Hebbron

24/10/16 – 08:58

I think I’m right in saying that in the initial stages of design of the Routemaster there was the possibility of a trolleybus version being made.

David Chapman

24/10/16 – 10:28

John, I don’t know the ins and outs of how it would work, but I’m sure its not beyond the bounds of possibility. Remember, in 1969, the Americans sent a man to the Moon with less computer technology than there is in today’s mobile phones

Ronnie Hoye

24/10/16 – 13:22

Ah, Ronnie, you’re referring to what my son calls a camera that makes phone calls!

Pete Davies

25/10/16 – 06:41

I don’t think a pantograph would work as the big advantage of trolley poles was that if a trolleybus had broken down, all that had to be done was to lower the poles and following vehicles could then creep past it – there was that amount of leeway in the system. As a matter of interest, the very early and very short-lived Dundee system used buses with single trolleys, with the current being returned to the road surface using a trailing metal strip.

David Wragg

25/10/16 – 08:07

Never heard of that method before, David W. Why was the system shortlived; for being quirky or some other?

Chris Hebbron

25/10/16 – 14:00

The use of a single trolley pole with a return via the ground was used in the early days of trolleybuses when operators were testing them on existing tram routes. The trolleybus took the positive feed from the single overhead tram wire and used a skate running in the tram track for the negative return. I am pretty sure it was only ever used as a temporary measure under trial conditions.

Philip Halstead

25/10/16 – 14:01

This Dundee link shows picture of the first Dundee trolley which seems to have double poles/wires. www.dmoft.co.uk/2011/04

John Lomas

25/10/16 – 17:02

The system was short-lived because of the damage the trolleybus wheels inflicted on the poor road surfaces and the damage the road surfaces inflicted on the trolleybuses. As John L writes, the image he refers to does show twin trolley poles, but ‘British Trolleybus Systems’ by Messrs Joyce, King and Newman says that the trolleybuses used the existing tram overhead. The whole concept was seen as a feeder to the trams, not a replacement, giving the impression that once traffic built up or the city’s residential area expanded, the trolleybuses would be replaced by trams.
The system operated from September 1912 to May 1914, so it was Britain’s first trolleybus system, and also the first to be abandoned.

David Wragg

26/10/16 – 06:16

David, perhaps the Dundee trolleybuses were the first to operate in Scotland, as the first trolleybuses to operate in the UK were those of the Bradford and Leeds Transport Departments in 1911. Both undertakings first operated their trolleybuses on 20th June 1911 on their respective inaugural runs, but whereas Leeds then continued to operate them in service from that date, Bradford’s entered public service a few days later on June 24th. The Bradford vehicles operated on a short route from Thornbury to Dudley Hill via Laisterdyke, and connected with the tram routes on Leeds Road and Wakefield Road at either end. Leeds decided to close its system in 1928, when the trolleybuses and electrical equipment were apparently in need of replacement. In contrast however, Bradford continued to expand its network over the years and operated trolleybuses very successfully until March 1972 – the system being the last to operate in the UK.

Brendan Smith

26/10/16 – 06:17

Birmingham used the Skate to travel between depots and their overhaul works probably at night I guess.

Patrtick Armstrong

26/10/16 – 06:19

Two of those Dundee trolleybuses went to Halifax for the Corporation’s only trolley route between Pellon and Wainstalls. They were joined by a new Tilling-Stevens machine, but the route operated only from 1921 until 1926, when trolleybuses were abandoned forever by Halifax. During those five years, the trolleys ran between Pellon and Skircoat Road depot by connecting the positive trolley boom to the tram overhead and dragging a metal skid in the tram track to give the negative return to earth.

Roger Cox

27/10/16 – 08:19

If you would like an idea of what a Routemaster trolleybus might have looked like go here www.britmodeller.com/forums/ to see one modeller’s ideas and how he developed the idea and the advice he received.

Phil Blinkhorn

02/11/16 – 05:55

In Ken Blackers book he does mention that the option of electric power was considered,although given that by this times sentence had been passed on the trolleybus.
The trolleybus route 630 was intended to be worked from Thornton Heath and crews from there were provided with a staff bus whilst waiting for the wires to reach into Surrey which they unfortunately never did.
Trolleybuses should be the environmental public transport vehicle of choice, cheaper and more flexible than Trams

Patrtick Armstrong

03/11/16 – 06:20

Not quite sure, Patrick, what you mean about "the wires reaching into Surrey which, unfortunately, they never did". Croydon and Thornton Heath were in Surrey until 1973. Even Mitcham was, if I recall rightly.

Chris Hebbron

03/11/16 – 14:45

WLT 334

Here is another shot (rather less clear – it was taken in a heavy thunderstorm) of a Routemaster under the trolleybus wires at West Croydon. This is RM 334, taken into LT stock on 12 May 1960. If there ever was a project to make a trolleybus version of the Routemaster, it must have been abandoned early in the development programme, since the decision to abandon London’s trolleys was absolutely cast in stone by 1954, the year in which RM 1 appeared. On the subject of trolleybuses running in Surrey, parts of Croydon may well have been in the postal district of Surrey (some fell within the London SW postal area), but it was a self governing County Borough from 1889 until 1965 when it was incorporated into the GLC. Thus, trolleybuses never did run in the county of Surrey proper.

Roger Cox

04/11/16 – 06:16

With apologies to Chris H, he is right. Mitcham was a municipal borough in Surrey from 1915 to 1965, so yes, trolleybuses on route 630 did just enter the very northern tip of that county.

Roger Cox

06/11/16 – 09:52

That’s a lovely shot of RM334, Roger, ploughing through rain. I like evocative photos like this, as my recently-posted one of Morden Tube Station forecourt, in driving snow, testifies.
Apologies graciously accepted about the 630 route going through Surrey! I had kept some of my powder dry to mention the Fulwell Depot trolley routes 601-605, some of them working their way through Kingston to Tolworth and Wimbledon. Kingston-upon-Thames was only a borough, albeit a Royal one (I’m on one knee as I type this)! I’m old enough to recall travelling from Raynes Park to Kingston/Hampton Court) on the ‘Diddlers’ that frequented the 604/605. Poor things, sound chassis but frail bodies, even when extensively rebuilt, they creaked their way around and were replaced none too soon. I’d hazard a guess that they were the most worn-out vehicles London Transport ran at that time, lasting from 1931 to 1948. But I digress (again)!

Chris Hebbron


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