This page created 3rd April 2000, updated 18th June 2019 using Notepad, by Ian Smith.


CR16 at Chobham, April 2007 The Rear engined Cubs were born out of their time. The concept was much the same as for the Dennis Dart that followed fifty years later: small compact bus, rear-engined with one person operation capability. They were in a strong line of bus development being pursued by the single deck bus designers of London Transport. There had been the revolutionary AEC Q's, earlier in the thirties, with offside counter-rotating engine. There had been the elegant TF coaches, Leyland Tigers with engines flat under the floor.
So when LT came up with a requirement for more small buses to replace the remaining Dennis Darts (DA class) and small Bedfords (BD), the designers produced the Cub Rear rather than ordering more C class Leyland Cubs.

The prototype, CR1

CR1 was built in 1937, the chassis being delivered to Chiswick in October 1937 and the Chiswick-built body fitted right at the end of December. It was licensed at the beginning of January 1938, and shown off to officials and press in Westminster.

CR1 drawing The driving position was right forward, with a half-cab, with a sliding door behind the front wheels. The 4.4 litre engine was mounted longitudinally on the centre of the rear overhang, and drove forward to a gearbox, then down backwards through the final drive unit to the de Dion rear axle.

The 20 seater body had an inside-sliding main door, an offside emergency door, and no separate driver's door. It was finished in a livery of three shades of green.
Although the press photos showed it with Watford (WT) running plates and 355 route displays, the new bus was allocated to St Albans (SA). It ran there for a while, then moved in March 1939 to Windsor where it operated alongside odd Cub C76. The new bus was not without its teething troubles, but was generally considered successful.

Like the other CRs, it was withdrawn during the war and placed in store, re-emerging in 1946 to play a role as a Central Area spare, based at Streatham (AK). It was scrapped by LT in 1949.

Production buses: CR2-49

An order for 48 production CRs followed. There had been an intention to order 74, but there were only 41 DAs and 12 BDs to replace. Only 134 small buses were needed in total, and there were 76 normal-control Cubs, so the order had been cut to 59. Further reductions in requirement, with larger saloons taking over small-bus work reduced the number to 48.

The production buses were not identical to CR1. They had a larger 4.7litre engine, and the bodywork was redesigned to give a level window-line, with the main door moved forward to improve access to the driver for single person operation. The door was also moved to the exterior of the body. Seating and interior trim was the standard familiar for many years after the war to users of RTs, RFs and GSs.

red 2CR2 drawing The Central area buses were delivered in red, with white window surrounds, black mudguards and a grey roof. The latter, instead of silver finish, was because of the air raid precautions coming into force. The first, CR2 emerged just after the declaration of war, on 8th September 1939. White trims and masked lamps emphasised the war treatment. The grey roofs were soon deemed to be too light, and were replaced by a covering of red oxide or brown.

They went into service at a variety of garages.

  • Kingston received the first supply, for the 216 and 206.
  • Hounslow used them to displace tiny Darts from the 237.
  • Uxbridge used them on the 220, 223 and 224.
  • Enfield had two for the 205 and 205A, and
  • Harrow Weald used one on the 221

green 2CR2 drawing Not all were used: the demands on labour meant that twenty-seater buses with two crew were deemed over-indulgent, and the cutback in private transport produced demands for bigger buses. So CR36 and CR38-46 went straight from delivery into storage, and others rotated between use and storage for a while, before all going into storage by the end of 1942, not to re-emerge until 1946.

The Country area took six (CR12-17), painted green, white and brown from new, and sent them to Windsor to join CR1. They were used on the 442, 462 and a 461 journey. They too were placed in store - at Windsor - from November 1940 or May 1941.

CR16 at Chobham, April 2007 CR16 at Chobham, April 2007

Brief postwar resurrection

Even by 1946 there was not really a role for them. The Central Area had abandoned one person operation, and small saloons in general. The Cubs had congregated in the Country Area, but even there found too little work. The pressure was on for large buses, to shift the crowds to and from work. Not yet was there scope for route development using small buses initially. But the shortage of buses was becoming desperate, and LT could not hire buses while its own were sitting in store. So the rear engined Cubs came out of store during 1946, and went to work (some for the first time). It was not what they were designed for, but rush hour relief work, with conductors, operating into London and Westminster in many cases. They also acted as spares, replacing much larger vehicles as those suffered Ministry compulsory withdrawals.
Still a strange new design, they were overloaded, crowded, and not surprisingly suffered breakdowns.

1948 produced a niche for them to occupy. In July and August London hosted the Olympic Games, and these small buses were useful to transfer teams and officials to and from Wembley and other venues. Twenty-four CRs were pulled from their peak-busting activities and allocated to Cricklewood, Hounslow, Putney and Putney Bridge for the duration, in most cases returning whence they came after the event. A steady stream of them passed through Chiswick Works for overhaul, some changing colour in the process.

The Central Area buses were placed into store en masse in May and June 1949, when the flood of new RTs eased the Central Area situation. Twenty-seaters were no longer required as peak-hour extras. The little buses went into store at Slough and Reigate. A handful of the Central Area buses were repainted into green and white at this time, and transferred to the Country Area.

By 1953 most were withdrawn, mostly for sale to W.North in Leeds, or L.W.Vass of Ampthill, where they were variously sold on or scrapped.

But a surprise came in May 1953 when CR43, which had been reinstated back in September 1951 for use at Epping on the 381 in Central Area livery, was repainted into Country Area green/white and sent to Leatherhead for the 481 "swinger" (Epsom Station to Wells Estate). There it was joined by long-term green companion CR13 from East Grinstead, where it had been the 494 steed for some years. Then in July 1953 CR4, which had previuosly been reinstated for the 393 at Epping, was taken back out of store at Reigate and sent to join CR17 at Tring for the 387 (Tring LT Garage- Aldbury).

CR14 in preservation These lasted until the end of 1953, when the new GS class put paid to the last few.

One, CR14, was collected by the LT Museum for preservation, but was sold in 1967 for private preservation. It has since been seen occasionally in public.
Several others were exported to Cyprus, whence two have been repatriated with restoration and preservation in mind. CR36 is little more than a chassis. CR16 has been substantially rebuilt, and reappeared in Country green and white livery at the Cobham Bus Gathering in April 2007. It seems to have taken up residence in the London Bus Museum at Brooklands.

Preserved CR14 on an outing. Photo, used by permission, by Mike Dawes.

Ian's Bus Stop CR main text. CR histories CR photo refs