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This page created 31st December 2003.

Part 8: London Sightseeing

London Fleetlines were no strangers to London Sightseeing by the mid-1980s. Brand-new DMS buses were drafted in to Stockwell garage for use on the Round London Sightseeing Tour from March 1973 onwards, each staying just under six months before going onto ordinary bus duties, in order to qualify for the Bus Grant. But the supply of new Fleetlines dried up. Ex-Midland Red D9s were hired from Obsolete Fleet for the service from 1975 onwards, and London Transport moved into open-top operation from May 1978 with its fleet of ex-Bournemouth Fleetlines, the DMO class. More D9s followed from 1980, with the hire of open-toppers from Obsolete Fleet. The tourist-bus business was growing dramatically. It was becoming sufficiently big business - and lucrative enough - to attract the attention of the Conservative government, who legislated to allow competition on such services within London.

So 1983 saw the introduction of the first of a wave of new entrants to the London bus tour market, many of whom used newly-redundant Fleetlines from London Transport. The business was exceedingly competitive. New ventures were tried: new routes, open-top Fleetlines. Some were successful, others not. Takeovers made recording of who owned what complicated- so my notes below are somewhat incomplete! Eventually the big players were Ensignbus (with London Pride) and The Big Bus Company, both long-term users of ex-LT Fleetlines. Who said they couldn't last in London? Who would have foreseen then that twenty years later some of the Fleetlines would still be operating on tour duties in London.


Culturebus DMS Culturebus, a Feltham-based company, began operating a hop-on, hop-off operation from May 1983. Six ex-London Fleetlines had been bought in April (576,589,620,648,1444,1476), followed by a further two (821,849) in February 1984. These were repainted in overall yellow livery, with the front destination gear panelled over. This large panel was painted white with 21 varied destinations printed in black.
The company, and operations, were taken over by Trathens during 1984, and by Ensignbus in July 1985. They kept the name active for a while, adopting a new yellow and grey livery. Some of the ex-Emmerheath buses (eg 1092,1738 in 10/85) were transferred into the Culturebus fleet in the new livery.

London Cityrama

Cityrama DM London Cityrama was an early-bird in the tourist-bus stakes. The business was bought by Limebourne and set up as a separate operating unit from July 1982. The company had long held a licence for operating London sightseeing tours, from its inception by Peter Newman (of Ensignbus). Cityrama gathered a fleet of Fleetlines in deep blue livery from late 1982 onwards, to add to its other vehicles. Some Fleetlines were converted to open-toppers. London Fleetlines included (with approximate acquistion dates):
11/82: 1765(o/t), 2061, 2062, 2101
4/83: 2091, 2104
5/83: 2127
10/83: 2159
11/83: 2036
4/84: 2029
7/84: 1111(o/t), 1939(o/t),
2/85: 124, 713, 861, 863
7/86: 2050

In March 1986 they won the LRT tender for route 200, and bought further DMS Fleetlines for that. The 196 followed, for which ex Sheffield Fleetlines were bought. but they kept their bus operations and tour operations fleets separate. Their service routes were plagued by unreliability, despite the purchase of two new Olympians, and in December 1988 the 200 was surrendered, followed by the 196 in October 1989. Cityrama pressed on with tour operations.

London Cityrama was acquired by Ensignbus in the autumn of 1993, and their tour-bus fleet was incorporated into the London Pride operation.

Ebdons of Sidcup

Ebdons bought three Fleetlines at the end of 1983, and established them on London sightseeing operations in 1984. More buses followed, and by July Ebdons were operating nine ex-London Fleetlines in addition to some older "traditional" buses.
The fleet at July 1984 was DMS 586, 813, 853, 1072, 1113, 1138, 1157, 1218 and 1710.
Another five followed during the second half of 1984: (158, 159, 287, 325 and 353)

Ebdons was taken over by Ensignbus in late 1985.

Crouch End Coaches

So far I have uncovered very little about Crouch End Coaches, except that they used ex-London Fleetlines on London tourist work, contracted to LT's Round London Sightseeing Tour. These included:
3/83: 2050
4/84: 1467, 2222
9/85: 1855


Ensignbus DMS Ensignbus was well-placed to take advantage of the changes in legislation, with an enormous pool of DMS Fleetlines to choose from out of the sales stock passing through the associated Ensign Coach & Bus. Ensign's prepared Fleetlines for a variety of customers, including engineering and restyling as required. The company became adept at open-top conversions, producing a variety of styles to suit the vagaries of the English weather. It soon became apparent that the tourist bus was no longer a summer-only phenomenon, and that open-top buses could attract clientele even on bright cold winter days. But closed top buses were needed for rainy days. A compromise that would give the best of both worlds on iffy days was the part-open-top conversion where a smaller number of passengers could enjoy the front shelter if it rained, or enjoy the breeze and pull a tan at the back.

Ensignbus gained experience contracting for the Round London Sightseeing Tour, then began its own independent tourist operations. Fleetlines began appearing in numbers from the end of 1983. The individual buses in Ensign's tourist fleet varied rather more quickly than those in other fleets, as they shifted between the tourist list, the service bus list, and sales stock. Livery was blue and silver, with black lining, like the service-bus fleet, but with London Pride lettering following the 1985 merger.

Emmerheath, London Pride

Emmerheath DMS Emmerheath Ltd began operations in 1984, using Fleetlines in a striking pink and white livery. Before long they adopted the London Pride fleetname. Buses included both closed-top and open-top specimens:
2/84: 648, closed-top
4/84: 1424,1469, closed-top
7/84: 816,840, both open top
12/84: 1069
5/85: 36 (leased from Brakell)
London Pride POT DMS The company merged with Ensignbus in late October 1985. Buses then wore Ensignbus blue/silver, with London Pride markings.

DMS's involved are
25,33,104,165,188,192,255,264,279, 315,322,343,816,840 all open top.
589,620,648,1069,1092,1424,1444, 1469,1476,1680,1682,1709,1738,1941, 2000,2240,2407.
Later the London Pride fleet was given its own livery, distinct from that of Ensignbus, as the bus operations of the latter were sold off to form Capital Citybus. The new livery was distictly from the Ensign pattern-book, but with a plummy red in place of Ensign's blue.

Wealden of London

Wealden of London DMS During the spring of 1984 Wealden of London started two tourist services: the Richmond Heritage Ride, an hourly circular tour along both banks of the Thames between Kew Gargens and Hampton Court, and Wealden Westway Leisure Ride, which linked Hyde Park Corner and Windsor Safari Park via Kew, Hampton Court and Thorpe Park. Yellow and black Fleetlines werte used, but the services were spectacularly unsuccessful and were quickly withdrawn. DMS 821 and DMS 849 were used.

The London Tour Company

5/86:1110 o/t, 1834 Vehicles were taken over by Ensignbus in late 1989, including DMS1414.

Maybury, London Sightseeing Tours

If my recollection is correct, Maybury was a Hampshire-based firm which established a sightseeing tour presence in London. Ex-London Fleetlines were used from November 1983 onwards, when DM953 joined the company, and several more joined in April 1984 (DM925, 1004, 1093, DMS1944 and 1962). DM1147 and 1194 were added in February 1985.

The operations were recast as London Sightseeing Tours in 1985, with the addition of DMS141, 347, 371 and DMS1691

This in turn was replaced in 1993 by the London Hop-On Hop-Off Service. Some of these Fleetlines had the entre doorway transposed to the offside, behind the stairway, to enable offside stops in one-way systems.

The Big Bus Co.

The Big Bus Company has become a major player in the London Tourist market. They chose a tasteful but bold livery of maroon and cream (apparently based on East Kent's livery), and deployed a fleet of Routemasters and Fleetlines from June 1991 onwards. They gathered DM/DMSs from a variety of sources, collecting not a few from the suburban operators who were now perforce moving on to Olympians for tendered routes.

They have a fleet with a variety of open-top styles, as shown in the gallery of photos below. Big Bus DMS2447, Buckingham Palace, April 2002 Big Bus DM1534, April 2002

DMS2447 (above left)has a triangular front side window in this April 2002 view outside Buckingham Palace, while on the same date DM1534 (above right) has complete front side-windows and no roof.
DM2117 (below left) retains its top for those not-so-nice days, and was seen at Cobham Museum Open Day in April 1999, while B20 DMS2545 (below centre and right) has two covered bays. It was waiting for custom at Baker Street Station in October 2001.
Big Bus DM2117, Cobham,  April 1999 Big Bus DM2545, Baker Street, October 2001 Big Bus DM2545, Baker Street, October 2001

The Fleetlines have largely been displaced recently by newer buses. (The Big Bus Company became a major user of London Titans, and Hong Kong six-wheeler Metrobuses)

Blue Triangle

Blue Triangle is another company based on the London periphery that has used Fleetlines on London Tour operations, in a traditional London Transport 1930's style of red and cream with black trimmings and silver roof.

DMO1-7 Ex-Bournemouth Sightseeing Fleetlines

Bus Stop Part 1. Part 7. DMO Class. bus histories. photos.