RMC4 at Wisley Airfield

Green Line 80 at Cobham

Sunday 11th April 2010

Prepared by Ian Smith, 18th April 2009.

Cobham Museum

The theme of Cobham Bus Museum's Spring Gathering was Green Line, remembering that 2010 is the 80th anniversary of the introduction of Green Line services in 1930. I went along. I shall not bore you with a report of all that I saw at Cobham and Wisley on the day, but hope to give a flavour of the Green Line Anniversary offerings.

I was met at Weybridge Station by a suitable vehicle: RT3491, in Green Line livery (with the green band, no adverts and cast Green Line bullseyes) was on the 499 service to the Museum. It swallowed an enormous queue. I went inside for the short journey along the busy Surrey lanes to reach the museum in Redhill Road. I sneaked a further ride up Redhill Road, to the turning point and back, which gave an opportunity to chat with Peter Larkham, the conductor.

RT3491 at Weybridge Station. RT3491 at Redhill Road.

I went into the museum, where I was pleased to see that the NS is progressing, with the lower deck body back on the chassis. Also nice to see was UMP227, the RF prototype, under restoration. Beyond the shed, where the vehicles were not so much on display as hidden away behind sales stalls, I found the Green Line display.

Pride of place went to RT3238, making its preservation debut after a restoration lasting many years, and a reregistration. RT3198, as was, retired from the Country Area with an original Green Line body and an original Green Line chassis. So it has been restored in Green Line form. It even has original Green Line heater switches on the platform, and the Green Line cast bullseyes once worn in the Museum by RTL1323! It looked immaculate. It was wearing Green Line blinds for the Romford-London express route, where the RTs took over from austerity Daimlers and competed with the antique steam trains from Liverpool Street until electrification (of the railway, but not the bus route, unfortunately).

RT3238 at Cobham Museum. RT3238 at Cobham Museum.

Standing next to the RT was Green Line RF226, in unrebuilt Green Line form, a sight that represented Green Line for most people in the fifties and sixties. Opposite stood Country Area RF672, wearing Green Line blinds. Externally much the same (except for the distinctive roof boards and the green trim), the Country buses were much different inside: the Green Line coaches had no longitudinal seats, and its seats had much deeper cushions. There were no handrails inside, and no bell-rope. But there were high-level luggage racks, and bell-pushes for the conductor to operate for one. If you get the chance, just compare sitting on a 1950s Green Line seat to sitting on a modern First Group bus seat to see how society and technology has changed.

RF226 at Cobham Museum. RF672 at Cobham Museum.

London Transport was keen to put double-deckers on its Green Line routes: single-deckers with conductors were an expensive option. The RTs on the Romford route were not full Green Line specification: they had bus seats and hand rails: no personal luggage racks or deep seat squabs. The something better came in the shape of the RMC class: Routemasters fitted out with the Green Line refinements, Green Line livery and fashionable twin headlights. The problem with them was that their extra capacity meant that LT reduced the frequency, making the service less attractive. They were represented in the museum display by RMC1461, donated to the Museum by Stagecoach after a long career culminating in peak express duties on the Beckton Express.

I headed for the bus stops, to go to Wisley Airfield. I was just in time to see RP90 depart. The Reliances were an attempt to get the failing Green Line network back on an economic footing by using one man operation. Unfortunately they did not live up to their name, and railway electrification was providing a quicker commuting alternative from most areas

RMC1461 at Cobham Museum. RP90 leaves Redhill Road for Wisley.

Wisley Airfield

I travelled out to Wisley Airfield on a red RML. I waved my wristband at the marshalls and climbed the hill up to the display area on the old runway. There I found more of the official Green Line display.

Another Green Line Routemaster was RMC1469, unique in that it was rebuilt experimentally with a wider blind display-box as a trial for the later RCLs - and retained it.

Standing in front of it was a smart looking RML in London Country livery, wearing Green Line blinds. The use of RMLs on Green Line duties in London Country days was a a rarity: the disparity in provision was even more marked than on a single-decker RF - and the physical presentation of many of the RMLs was often somewhat lacking. But RML2412 certainly looked smart enough, with its canary yellow band on shiny green paintwork.

RMC1469 at Wisley Airfield. RML2412 at Wisley Airfield.

Before the days of stretched limos London Transport introduced the stretched Routemaster. The RCL was the coach version, carrying an extra eight passengers by virtue of an extra short bay in the middle. There was a place in the network where the long version could not displace the shorter RMCs onto bus duties: clearances at a lowish railway bridge on the 723B proved too marginal because of the way the road dipped under the bridge, with the longer buses straddling the dip! RCL2233 represented the Romford allocation on the Whipsnade Zoo route 726.

Also wearing 726 blinds was RT3254. This express, almost non-stop route only escaped being treated as a formal coach route (with a requirement for spare wheels, jacks and other provisions) by the inclusion of cheap fares on the garage runs!

RCL2233 at Wisley Airfield. RT3254 at Wisley Airfield.

Two more unmodernised Green Line RFs were in the "official" Cobham Green Line area on Wisley Airfield: RF113 and RF269.

RF113 at Wisley Airfield. RF269 at Wisley Airfield.

Also there were a pair of modernised RFs: these were the result of a mid-life refurbishment that went well beyond the standard heavy overhauls. In the second half of the sixties London Transport could not afford to replace the Green Line RFs, now fifteen years old. A review suggested that their image could be updated. The interiors were retrimmed in fasionable business grey (or blue), and the exteriors were face-lifted, with a broad cummerbund edged in aluminium trim, twin headlight units, new direction flashers, curved drivers' windscreens, a revised front symbol treatment and lowered numberplate. With a new paint job, and yellow roofboards, the transformation was surprisingly effective. RF28 was there when I arrived, and was joined later by RF168.

RF28 at Wisley Airfield. RF168 at Wisley Airfield.

Also arriving late, having spent the morning in the painting booth at Cobham, was T504, representing an earlier era in Green Line elegance, lasting from pre-war to the early fifties.

Outwith Cobham's "official" display was a variety of other Green Line representatives, not permitted within the confines of the "official" display. These included another Regal, postwar T792. These lovely buses were not seen often on Green Line duties. Amersham and Tring examples were seen wearing Green Line blinds, but those from Grays were occasionally seen actually working on the 723 and 723A from Aldgate to Grays.

T504 at Wisley Airfield. T792 at Wisley Airfield.

Two more ex-Green Line Routemasters were RMC1500 (as RMC1486) in London Country green and yellow, and RMC1476 in London Country NBC green and white.

RMC1500 at Wisley Airfield. RMC1476 at Wisley Airfield.

Two more Country bus Routemasters wearing Green Line blinds for the occasion were RML2440 and RML2330.

RML2440 at Wisley Airfield. RML2330 at Wisley Airfield.

I do not know whether East Grinstead's XF class Daimler Fleetlines ever did work on the 709, but XF3 was here wearing the blinds.

Not technically Green Line at all, Alder Valley's Leyland Olympian double-decker B578LPE worked the same kind of express service to and from London that London Country's LRCs did for Green Line.

XF3 at Wisley Airfield. Alder Valley Olympian at Wisley Airfield.

The use of red buses on Green Line services (and vice versa) was officially frowned upon, except in emergencies. For ordinary weekend Green Line reliefs the Country Area provided green RTs, which were replaced on Country bus services by red buses borrowed for the day. But there were occasions when a Green Line vehicle failed near a London Transport Central Area garage and all that was available at short notice was a red bus. Roofbox RT1784 and standard RT1702 both turned up today wearing suitable Relief blinds.

RT1784 at Wisley Airfield. RT1702 at Wisley Airfield.

After the Reliances came the Leyland Nationals - a distinct let-down of the Green Line image. An improvement was a period of leased Reliances with coach bodywork, the RBs and RSs, with Volvos and Leopards to follow, all on short hire. None of these was here today, that I noticed. But there was a Tiger. TD1 entered preservation last year, and has begun the long transformation back to Green Line livery. It was good to see it here.

I looked briefly at the modern Green Line coaches on display, then headed home. As I exited from the airfield aboard another red RML I passed RMC4, the prototype coach Routemaster, waiting for a turn of duty.

TD1 at Wisley Airfield. RMC4 at Wisley Airfield.

Many thanks to Cobham Museum for putting on the display, and to all those who entered into the spirit of the day and added that something extra to that provided by the official display. My apologies for any Green Line elements that I missed. And thanks to Arriva for sending along some modern Green Liners by way of contrast.

Now for the Green Line Running Day!

Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.

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