Thorpe's Dart SLFs: DLF
DLF29-40 for 210F.E.Thorpe was not a stranger to London tendering, having operated the Stationlink services and various mobility routes. But the 210 was a departure, in being a busy regular route (Finsbury Park Stn - Highgate Village - Golders Green Stn - Brent Cross). The company took it over in September 1998, and used a fleet of twelve 10.1m Dart SLFs with Pointer 2 bodies, that it numbered DLF 29-40, using the last two numbers of the registration letters. A new operating base on the Wembley Trading Estate was taken on to accommodate the enlarged fleet. The buses were in a startling livery of yellow and red: front half yellow, rear half red, with an interlocking pattern at the join. Route information was on the rear half cantrail.
DLF41 passes through Highgate Village on the 210, as DLF33, in the vivid red/yellow livery, threads through in the other direction. (February 2001)
DLF9: spare for 210In order to provide a spare for maintenance and exigencies on the 210 Thorpe took the opportunity in January 1999 to acquire a second-hand Dart SLF. DLF9 had been with Limebourne, and had been repossessed by the leasing company when Limebourne had to cease operation in October 1998. It was not standard with the others, being a "shoebox" Pointer rather than a Pointer 2. More importantly it only had a front doorway, although it did seat 33.
In January 2000 it spent a short time in The Dome Contingency fleet, waiting lest the Jubilee line stopped working. It soon returned to the 210, once a public fuss had been whipped up by the media over the unused fleet of buses.
DLF41: spare for StationlinkAnother spare was acquired during 1999. DLP1 had been London Transport's prototype Dart SLF. I had been on exhibition at the NEC in 1995, been tested exhaustively by LT, then lent to Centrewest for evaluation purposes from August 1996. They had used it at first on Uxbridge route 222, but later had settled it on the busy Gold Arrow routes 28 and 31. Centrewest had then opted for Marshall-bodied Darts, and returned the trials bus to LT in March 1999.
Thorpe acquired it as a spare for the Stationlink services SL1 and SL2, which used Excels. DLF41, unlike DLF9, had dual doorways suitable for the Stationlink work. It was shorter han the other DLFs, being only 9.2m, although it still seated 27. Thorpe painted it plain red, with yellow fleetnames on cant-rail and front. It appeared frequently on the 210.
In 2003 it was loaned for a while to Blue Triangle for their 66 takeover, but returned to Thorpes in October, now owned and in standard Thorpe's livery.
DLF63-69, 71-77, 79 for 70June 2000 saw another fourteen Dart SLFs, 10.1m long and dual-doored (like DLF29-40), go into service on route 70 (South Kensington Station - Notting Hill Gate - Ladbroke Grove - East Acton - Acton High Street). As this was an 80% red route the bold yellow/red livery of the earlier batch could not be employed. A much more sedate livery of red with a yellow cant-rail was used instead. DLF30 and 31 from the earlier batch had already been repainted into this livery to be able to act as spares for the 70.
DLF79 was added at the end of the year, when the need for a maintenance spare began to be felt.
DLF31 passes through Highgate Village in November 2000, on the 210. DLF95 stops to take me to Golders Green in October 2005.
DLF80-103 for 316Two dozen more of the same kind of dual-doorway 10.1m buses were ordered for 2002, for the 316 (Neasden - Cricklewood - Kilburn - Ladbroke Grove - North Kensington). The first two were ordered early, and arrived in July, easing an awkward moment for bus availability on the Stationlink services (the Excels were not living up to their name.) DLF80 and 81 were put to work on the 210, while other buses covered for the Excels.
The remainder came in time for the takeover of the 316 in October. They were all in the standard red with yellow cant-rails.
DLF99 passes through Highgate Village on the 210 in October 2005, wearing the more restrained later livery.
DLF83, in plain red, at the South Kensington terminus of the 70, and setting off for Acton.
DLF104-110: single doors for 705The Stationlink services, clockwise and anticlockwise between the major London termini, provided mainly for interstation connections for those unable to use the Underground, were replaced in August 2002 by two new services: the 205 operated along Euston Road, while the 705 operated the longer southern circuit between Liverpool Street, Waterloo, Victoria and Paddington Stations. Thorpes won this latter route, and commenced it using the clutch of Excels that they had gathered to work Stationlink. But in October seven new Dart SLFs arrived to take over operations. These differed from the Thorpes norm in having only single doorways, presumably because the 705 was operated on a limited stop basis. They were dressed in Thorpe's standard red with yellow cant-rails.
DLF105 on the short-lived 705 replacement for the Interstation service.
MLF122: the MarshallIn October 2002 a Marshall-bodied demonstrator came to Thorpes. With the demise of Marshall the fate of the machine was undetermined. It stayed in store until September 2003, when it went into service with Thorpes. It was a 10.2m single-doorway bus. Already in red, it just needed Thorpe's yellow roofbar to complete its livery. It went into service on the 210. It was eventually numbered as MLF122.
DLF125: the long busDuring the summer of 2002 Thorpes hired Y641AVV from Dawson Rentals. It was a long, 10.7m single doorway Dart SLF Pointer2, which naturally arrived in dealer white. Thorpes used it on the 705 until the new buses arrived. Then they switched it to the 487, which they had taken over from Metropolitan Omnibus, where it worked alongside the Volvo B6BLEs. In the summer of 2003 it disappeared, presumably back to Dawsons, but then came back in Thorpe's red livery with dual doorways. Even then it did not acquire a fleet number until July 2004, when it was given DLF123. But a month later it was changed, for no obvious reason, to DLF125.
Autumn on the 326: DLF73 climbs the hill to High Barnet Station, while DLF102 basks in the autumn glow as it rolls down the gradient, October 2008.
DLF111-120: the Mitcham Belle loansThe hire of ten 9.9m dual doorway Dart SLFs from Mitcham Belle from August 2003 allowed Thorpes to dispose of the fleet of Volvo B6BLEs acquired with Metropolitan Omnibus routes 187/487. They went back to Yorkshire Traction. The hired buses were repainted in standard Thorpe's livery, and went to work on the 210, while standard DLFs were shuffled around the required duties.. The 487 went elsewhere in March 2004, and the hired buses were returned, promptly going off on further loans to First London (including at Alperton for the 487!), with DLF119 going briefly to Armchair. Still in Thorpe's livery they all gathered back at Mitcham Belle in July 2004, for return to their actual owner, Blazefield Holdings.
DLF122-123: two more standardsTwo more permanent buses, to Thorpe's standard 10.1m dual-doorway layout, were acquired in November 2003, and became DLF 124 and 125. But 125 was renumbered 123 in August 2004.
Metroline takes overAugust 2004 saw the company taken over by Metroline, but initially the operations and identity were kept separate. Eventually that changed, with repaints into Metroline colours but with Thorpe's fleetnames. Later the company was subsumed and the buses received full Metroline livery and fleetnames. Buses - and services - started to switch between garages in the larger group, such as the C11, complete with DML1-18, moving from Holloway to West Perivale.
In May 2005 route 705 ceased its brief operation. Its seven single doorway buses, DLF104-110, were retained, but for a while were just utilised on other north-west London routes. But in September 2006 they were moved to Potters Bar for the 84, replacing the elderly Volvo Olympians. They were replaced in April 2007 by new EnviroDarts, and went into the training fleet.
Winter on the 84: Single doorway DLF107 at the end of the line on the 84, in St.Albans in January 2007.
Parting shots: DLF106 and DLF108 on the 84, in St.Albans in January 2007.2008 to 2010 saw most of the DLFs come to the end of their leases, and they were gradually returned to Dawson Rentals, mostly being replaced by similar but newer Enviro200 Darts. The last, DLF165, went in January 2011.
The thirdhand DPsIn September 2006 Metroline took on nineteen six-year-old Dart SLFs from Centra. These were 10.1m dual-doorway Darts just like the DLFs and DLDs - and were already in red with blue skirts! DP12, 14, 16-19, 22, 24, 26-28, 32-34, 36-38, 43 and 49 even retained their Centra numbers, rather than being renumbered into the DLF or DLD fleets, and despite the actual numbers duplicating those found on similar buses in all three Metroline fleets. They went initially to the Thorpes garage in Perivale, although they did not stay there, soon being dispersed around the group's garages..
Snatched views on the 70: seen from the windows of a DLD travelling the other way on the 70 in September 2010, DP18 and DP34 head for South Kensington. There are slight livery differences between the two.