Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith, best on Netscape 800*600.
This page created 19th October 2002.

Part 6: The last ten years with London Buses


When London Buses was formed on April Fools Day 1985, as a bus operating company using the old London Transport operating assets, the ordinary passenger-carrying DMS fleet was concentrated in the south of London, at Sutton, Merton, Streatham, Brixton, Elmers End, Thornton Heath and Croydon (all Wandle District), and at Stockwell (Abbey District).

Overhauls were needed, and as Bus Engineering Ltd at Aldenham was concentrating on Titans and Metrobuses a decision was made to overhaul locally. Buses were given mechanical attention at garages, repanelled as necessary, also in the District, examined for a Freedom From Defect (FFD) certificate, and repainted at Clapham or Aldenham. Livery at this stage was still all-red.

Ogle-rebuild DMS2456 (Paul Watson) DMS 2456 re-appeared from Chiswick in 1985, having been altered significantly as a test-bed for ideas on bus interiors by Ogle Designs. Most radical was the straight staircase, which meant a revision of the whole offside front. The cab was rebuilt too, with ergonomically designed controls. Unfortunately this proved not to be amenable to the fitting of a fare machine, restricting the bus to crew duties. Doorways and circulating areas received attention too. The old AFC machines had gone (most DMSs still carried them, despite their not being used). Barriers around the doors had gone too, and the front door had a slit step entrance. The centre doorway, moved forward slightly, received an extra internal shallow step. Handrails were coated in a non-slip high-visibility bright green material. It went into service on the 77, from Stockwell, alongside the other types on the Alternative Vehicle Evaluation trials.


The DMS overhaul programme wound to an end in February 1986, and DMS2456 moved onto the 88. But London Buses declared its faith in the B20, and looked for ways to extend their lives for another five years.


Iveco engine, tape-grey livery Two events in 1987 heralded a transformation in the performance and appearance of the B20 fleet. In July Croydon's DMS2281 was successfully fitted with an Iveco 836-S11 engine for a three month trial period. The trial was successful. Here was an engine that worked for the Fleetline, reliably! From November onwards the B20 fleet was re-engined at the rate of one a day, another 29 buses at Croydon being the first recipients. Apart from performance and audio effect, external signs of the transformation were the installation of a nearside air intake and the capping of the nearside "chimney".

The other external change initiated in 1987 was the adoption in December by London Buses of an improved livery. Addition of a grey skirt and a white stripe (the "tapegrey" livery), plus new London Buses bullseyes, did wonders for their appearance, even if some had the changes added over the previous paint-job. Repaints resumed. Appearance moved up the agenda, as part of a new market-orientated awareness.
Leaside training livery on DMS666 (Paul Watson) In north London Leaside Buses applied their new livery with black skirts and broad white band to their DMS trainers as they repainted them, and they hung on to the livery for about a year until it was officially frowned upon by Higher Authority.

Trainer DMS666 retained its exceedingly good-looking Leaside livery even after transfer to London Northern, until the damp hand of officialdom insisted on tapegrey. It is seen here at North Weald rally in 1989 offering the public a chance to drive a bus. Photo, used with permission, by Paul Watson
At Norbiton converted DMS trainers began a new passenger-carrying phase in the Kingston low-cost unit, from June.

Towards the end of the year there was a clear-out of disused Fleetlines, and older buses replaced the four B20 trainers, which went back into service.


The Iveco engine conversions continued: 70 buses at Sutton comprised the remainder of the first batch, converted between January and April. After Croydon's were all completed the sole non-B20 there (DMS2205 with Maxwell gearbox) was shipped off to Brixton.

Bexleybus began their adventure using resurrected Fleetlines in January. In November Suttonbus, with a vastly more reliable fleet of re-engined B20s, began their nominally independent existence.

Leaside's opentop DMS2291 (Paul Watson) Another open-topper appeared in the London fleet in February, when DMS2291 returned from works after a de-roofing, to be used for private hire work from Stamford Hill (Leaside Buses). It was also used on the 310B (Enfield - Harlow) and was the regular bus for the 333 (Lea Valley Leisure Bus).

Leaside's open-topper, on a tour. Photo, used with permission, by Paul Watson
Wandle District itself was divided into separate operating companies in December, with Sutton, Merton, Putney and Stockwell (ex-Abbey in 8/87) joining London General, and Croydon, Thornton Heath, Streatham and Brixton joining South London. With company names appearing on the fronts of buses number plates moved again, to between the windscreen and the cab ventilator.


Iveco engine transplants continued, with another 101 engines bought. Walworth garage did the conversions, so that by the end of August Croydon, Sutton,and Thornton Heath were totally done, plus a three at Merton and seven at Brixton.

Problems with the reprieved "standards" in the low-cost units at Norbiton and Bexleyheath led to their steady attrition during the year.


DMS2112 with London General after Bexleybus (Paul Watson) In January Merton was the surprise recipient of four of Norbiton's 'old bangers', which were put to work on the 44 and 219. Others followed, but they were all retired again by August, after the annual round of Special Events (Wimbledon, Flower Festivals...)

Bexleybus disposed of the last of its Fleetlines by March. Again, four appeared with London General in April, bizarrely partly repainted: the fronts only were London General red/tapegrey, while the sides and back were still Bexleybus blue and cream. These too were used during the peak requirements of the shows and festivals season, and retired in July.

DMS2112 rides again. With red front so as not to confuse the passengers, and Bexleybus sides and back so as not to uopset the accountants, it works from Merton on route 219.
Photo, used with permission, by Paul Watson


Supercar: DMS1515 (Paul Watson) January produced another DMS oddity: DMS1515 was rebuilt as the Supercar, to promote Travelcards. The front was DMS, the middle was a section of a 1973 Underground Tube train, and at the rear was a Network South East Networker train cab! It all ran on the DMS chassis - but not in service!
Supercar, alias DMS1515. Photo, used with permission, by Paul Watson

May 1991 saw a downturn in the fortunes of the B20s, which had hitherto remained largely intact for several years. Stockwell, Streatham and Merton received Metrobuses to replace DMSs for the Wandsworth Area tender awards. Leyland engined B20s departed wholesale, leaving just Merton, Sutton, Brixton, Croydon and Thornton Heath with B20s in ordinary service.

But Leaside won some contract work, and took four B20s for it. They were followed in August by DMS681 and D1868, reappointed from training to contract work.

Another surprise in July was the appointment of D2600 to East London's contract fleet at North Street. This meant that it appeared fairly frequently on schools routes 345 (Goodmayes - Chingford) and 449 (Romford - County Park Estate).


Metrobuses took over from DMSs almost completely during 1992. Merton lost its last, DMS2406 in January. Thornton Heath changed over completely in March, and simultaneously Croydon lost all but seven used on the 68, 130 and X30. Sutton's last departed in April and May. Croydon kept DMS2633 as a hire vehicle, and by October was left with just DMS2438.


At the start of 1993 South London was still operating DMS2438 on route 130, but the end was nigh. On 2nd January it went on a mammoth tour to mark the end of normal DMS operation, operating from Chipstead Valley through Croydon, Brixton, Elephant & Castle, Kings Cross, Tottenham and Waltham Cross to Hammond Street, taking 3.5 hours. After that it appeared a few more times on the 130, but the last appearance was on 20th January.
South London still had D2633, but this was on hire work. It stayed in work until April.

Selkent Travel's DM948 in April 1991 (Paul Watson)

Selkent still had open-toppers DM948 and DM1102. These were used on the Greenwich Tourist service. Another open-topper still in use was Leaside's DMS2291, which was used on the Lea Valley leisure services. This one also appeared occasionally on normal services, such as the 73 (with crew), and on the 38 when that was greatly enhanced during the closure of Charing Cross and Waterloo East stations. London Buses' open-toppers received an extra in May when D2556 joined London Northern's hire fleet at Holloway, replacing DMS2595.

Selkent Travel's open-topper DM948 spends a day route-learning. Photo, used with permission, by Paul Watson

Four other ordinary Fleetlines were still on passenger duty: London Northen had DMS2168, and Leaside had DMS681 and D1868 on Islington schools' contracts. East London's D2600 was still performing on the schools contract services from North Street, and giving cameo appearances on routes 129 and 174 in February when there was a Titan shortage. It survived until September, when it was withdrawn.

Driver trainer DMT2413 (Paul Watson) Driver-trainers were being replaced by early Metrobuses and Titans too, and several went to the sales yard during the spring. London General selected thirteen B20s as specialist driver trainers. They were given extra mirrors and controls, and the blind boxes were removed . They received a special livery: a full yellow front and roof marked them out from other vehicles, and sign-writing on the sides invited passers-by to join the driving team. London General classified them DMT. They were originally distributed around the company's garages but were gathered together to Putney in June.

Driver trainer DMT2413. Photo, used with permission, by Paul Watson

1994: Privatisation

The survivors proved remarkably resilient: they had found niches within the system and clung on tenaciously. By privatisation in the back-end of 1994 the situation had not changed much:

Stagecoach Selkent acquired open-toppers DM948 and DM1102.

Leaside had three: DMS681, DMS 2291 (open-top), D1868

London Northern had just two: D2556 and DMS2168 (open-top)

London General had DMS2633, and twelve driver-trainer DMTs.

Part7: London Area Independents

Bus Stop Part 1. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. bus histories. photos.