Friday, 19 December 2014

Once again the Newman Family operated their now annual Ensignbus Vintage Bus Day, the 2014 event held on Saturday 6th December. Two regular routes were run the X55 and X81, along with a new addition in the shape of the X86. Generally the routes ran from 0900-1700 hours, with one or two exceptions before and afterwards.

Buses from their 'heritage' fleet were used most being halfcab members of the AEC stable, although there were one or two other types to provide some interesting contrasts.

Two splendid sets of images have been provided courtesy of Haydn Davies and Mark Lyons, to whom Focus Transport are very grateful. Mark's are identified by his name on the respective images, Haydn's being clear of such additions and are displayed below in route order.


This ran every 30-minutes from Upminster Station via Corbets Tey, Aveley, Lakeside, Greenhithe Station and Bluewater to Gravesend, West Street.

Illustrated here on the route is AEC Regent RLH 61, one of seventy-six supplied to London Transport between 1950 and 1952. The first twenty of the type were painted green for country area routes, and actually a diverted order from Midland General in 1950. A further fifty-six came later by 1952 in the red central area livery. All featured lowbridge Weymann bodywork and featured an offside sunken gangway on the upper deck. Generally these were used on routes restricted by low bridges.

The RT-class reached the dizzy heights of 4,825 units before production ceased, the last one appearing in 1954. The bus was the mainstay of the London fleet through the 1950 and 60s and into their final revenue-earning days during the 70s. Whilst the majority were produced post 2nd World War, the first 151 of the type were built in 1939, all with LPTB bodywork. 
Post war several bodybuilders were tasked to provide for the class, being Cravens, Park Royal, Saunders and Weymann.
RT 3251 here features the bodywork supplied by Weymann and is shown here as it departs from Lakeside  bound for Upminster Station.

One of the most splendid of preservation pieces in the Ensignbus 'heritage' fleet is this pre-war AEC Regent, fleet number RT 8. In comparison to the post war version hardly any of the pre-war versions survive and especially one in perfect working order. The bus was repainted complete with white window surrounds and white-tipped mudguards, all for blackout operation during the war. Another distinguishing feature of LPTB body design was the drooped driver's cab windscreen.

With a distinction between Central and Country areas defined by in part by livery, many of the RT-class were painted green for the latter. Although vehicle specifications were identical for both, the respective areas of operation were in the main distinctly different. The red area fleet operated predominantly high frequency routes through the more densely populated areas, whereas the green area was more of an 'open road' operation through large areas of countryside with townships of moderate population. Some of these though were of the 'new town' design, built post war to accommodate the growing population of London. 
Included within the green fleet were a number that sported Green Line livery and black on yellow blind displays for the Limited Stop '700' group of routes. Again though apart from the liveries, all interior design was identical. Both with bodywork from the Weymann factory, RT 3232 (upper) illustrates the 'Green Line' livery whilst RT 3251 (lower) shows off the central area's red livery. One other noticeable difference was the lack of advertising on the 'Green Line' operated buses, perhaps a method to distinguish between the two different types of route operation.

In addition to the AEC RT type, there were also the RTL and RTW class of buses built for London operation, both types with Leyland Titan chassis and mechanics. Looking reasonably identical with Park Royal bodywork RTL 453 was built in 1949 and sports a roof route number box and white upper deck window surrounds, to provide some variety to the basic red livery. Period dated advertisements from the 1940s to the 1960s is an additional feature on almost all of the Ensignbus fleet wherever pertinent.

But time time moves on and a new bus was required for London.

In 1959 after years of development the AEC Routemaster first appeared in regular service, when 74 buses were allocated to Poplar and West Ham Garages to replace trolleybuses under Stage IV of the trolleybus Conversion Plan. Designed by London Transport with assistance from AEC Ltd and Park Royal Vehicles Ltd, eventually 2760 assorted models entered revenue-earning service in London. 
The standard model was 27 foot 6 inches long and 8 foot wide, capable of seating 64 passengers, eight more than the standard RT type, but achieved with a similar weight limit. RM 1843 (above) is an example of this type. Note the period change in design of the advertisement for BOAC on this and the earlier RT 3251. 
RCL 2226 (below) though, was a longer 30 foot example, originally designed as a coach version along with the shorter RMC class. However, unlike the earlier Green Line liveried RTs, the RMC and RCL were fitted with doors and slightly more comfortable seats.


This ran every 30-minutes from Shenfield Station via Brentwood High Street, Brentwood Station, Great Warley, North Ockendon and Lakeside to Grays Bus Station.

With the need for increased numbers of the RT type, London Transport looked towards the Sheffield-based Cravens company, who eventually supplied 120 of their bodies on a batch numbered RT 1402-1521. The bodywork differs considerably from other producers, being more or less of the Cravens standard all-metal construction, modified to LTE's requirements as regards appearance and finish. Most noticeable was the seven upper and five lower bay windows as opposed to the respective six and four of other RT types. The front upper deck is squarer and there is curve to the back of the upper body. RT 1431 (upper) and RT 1499 (below) illustrate the respective red and green liveries applied. Another contrast is that provided by a lack of advertisements on the former, with fine period-style examples on the latter, Ensignbus's self promoting version being a particularly clever addition.

Another version of the Routemaster is RML 2588 a 30-foot 72-seater version of the standard design. The insertion of a half-bay in the centre of the bus provides the additional eight seats. Two batches of this length were produced, the first in 1961/2 was an experimental batch of twenty-four as RML 880-903. Upon production some of the earlier buses were classified with ER fleet numbers, although this was never proceeded with.
A later and larger batch began to be delivered in 1965 at RML 2261-2760 in either red or green liveries for both red Central and green Country operations.

Possibly one of the highlights for many on the day, was the re-appearance of MD 60. This was once one of the 164-strong fleet of Metro-Scania Metropolitans supplied to London Buses between 1975 and 1977. This bus was a combination of Scania-Vabis running units and MCW bodywork and all 164 operated out of garages in South London. 
Sadly reliability and corrosion issues took their toll and the fleet had a short life within the London operations. This was regrettable as they proved popular with passengers, so it was with great delight for many that this fine example of the type returned during 2014.
Looking absolutely resplendent the perfectly painted bodywork, gleams in the winter sunshine, as the bus passes through Great Warley on the X81 bound for Grays.

The natural progression from the MD-class visually appears to have been the M-class MCW produced Metrobus.

Having been impressed by the MD type apart that is from the corrosion issues, In the late 1970s London Transport required large numbers of new buses to replace less efficient and reliable types. Having been impressed by the MD type, apart that is from the corrosion issues, LT embarked on the acquisition of the MCW Metrobus, along with a smaller fleet of Leyland Titans also in build at the same time. The first five production models appeared in 1978-9 and were originally classified as MTs. However, and perhaps this is lost in the mists of time, someone took one look at that classification and thought, perhaps not. MT buses was not something to be bandied about in conversation, so the T was dropped and they became the plain and simple M class. The first one M1 is illustrated passing through sylvan surroundings of the Essex countryside.

And now for something quite different on the X81. Ensignbus have not been confined to acquiring just London centric buses and coaches for their 'heritage' fleet. One fine example is this former Leeds City Transport Roe bodied Leyland PD3 built in 1959. Here it makes a fine contrast amongst all the red buses on duty and appeared to be a popular mode of transport on the day.
Unsure though whether the upper deck front nearside passenger was shielding his eyes from the low winter sunshine, or waving a greeting to the phalanx of photographers on the approach to the Lakeside Shopping complex.


Introduced new this year, the route ran every 30-minutes from Brentwood High Street via London Road, Nag's Head Lane and Hall Lane to Upminster Station.

What better way to end this seasonal feature, than with a couple of absolute 'crackers'

Making a surprise appearance was this former St.Helens Corporation AEC Swift with Marshall dual-door bodywork built in 1971. Fleet number 248 is privately owned but is now being looked after by Ensignbus and is shown here complete with driver and conductor as it passes along Nags Head Lane in Brentwood. Watch out for another interesting acquisition though from the same area, when it appears in due course.

And finally. We started, so we'll finish with it. T 499 a LPTB bodied AEC Regal from 1938, made its 'heritage' debut at the 2013 pre-Christmas running day but in quite a different guise. Then it appeared in an allover grey livery as it depicted the time during the 2nd World War, when several of the type were requisitioned as ambulances for the United States forces. 
However, by the 2014 event it had been restored to this fine Green Line livery, and was sort of back to its roots (or should that be routes), the signboard on the sides above the windows showing that the type once operated over the local Essex route Z from Grays to London. Hall Lane in Harold Wood played host to the coach as it conveyed a full loading of passengers between Brentwood and Upminster Station. 

Watch for news of the 2015 event when we become aware of the date and details during next year.