Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,

This page created 25th January 1999, updated 20th February 2015.

The Front Entrance Routemaster: the "Fruitmaster"

early FRM


The FRM was unfortunately only a single prototype. Unfortunately because it was a bus that drivers, mechanics and passengers liked. One wonders what the history of London Transport in the seventies and eighties would have been like if these had been available in bulk rather than the Fleetlines.

The idea of the front entrance, rear-engined Routemaster was a response to the pressures of staff shortages and the pervasiveness of the new generation of rear-engined buses that were all the fashion. In 1964 London Transport started a collaboration with AEC and Park Royal to develop the bus. With the Routemaster already being seen to be a good design with high reliability and public acceptability, it seemed sensible to employ the RM technology. In the event 80% of parts were from the RM standard parts list.
The upper deck was essentially simple stretched Routemaster, incorporating an extra full bay, making the bus 31ft 3in long. Below that, of course, the stairs, cab, doors, engine, running gear needed re-arrangement or redesign. The staircase was based on a Park Royal design for Stockton Atlanteans.

The driving position was high, which pleased the drivers. The front doors were electrically operated, opening to give two doorways. There was a normal emergency exit at the rear of the upper deck, and a RML-style pushout window at the offside rear downstairs. Unusually there was also a conventional emergency door behind the staircase.

FRM1 o/s FRM1 n/s FRM1 n/s
FRM1 n/s

These photos of the FRM in original condition are by an official PRV photographer and are from the collection of the FRM designer Alfred Hill. See Graham Hills PRV website.
The AEC AV691 engine was similar to that developed for the Merlins, but the cooling group was moved out of the engine compartment in an attempt to reduce the overheating problems being encountered generally with rear-engined buses. The heat exchangers were mounted in the vehicle sides at the rear of the upper deck. Reversible fans, hydraulically driven, could direct the warm airflow into the saloons or outwards, giving an element of air-conditioning. Air was drawn into the saloons through front vents rather than opening windows as on the early RMs.

The Routemaster seating was 41 up, 31 down, giving the same total as an RML at 72. The running gear used components from standard Routemasters, re-arranged to suit the rear engine, but with air suspension at the rear. The wheelbase was distinctly longer than that of an Atlantean, at 16ft 10in, with overhangs of 7ft 2in at the front and 7ft 3in at the rear.

Destination displays comprised a standard RM display at the front, with route and final destination displays centrally at the rear.
Livery was standard red with cream band, but the fleetnames were in the new block letters without underline, and the fleet numbers were in minute white lettering on both sides. New open roundels were on front and rear.

Into service

FRM1 at Acton, March 2002 FRM1 first appeared in public at Christmas 1966, after nearly two years in build. Enthusiasm for the project had obviously died at a high level: London Transport had its sights set on single deckers for its salvation, and AEC/Park Royal, both part of the Leyland organisation, were no longer enthusiastic about a bus that would compare well with Leyland's flagship product, the Atlantean, and similarly saw single deckers as the way forward.
FRM 1 went onto mileage accumulation testing, which saw it well-received by drivers and enthused over by managers, for its low fuel consumption.
In June 1967 it finally went into service, on the 76 and 34B at Tottenham garage, where it could be compared with the Atlanteans on trial. It was well received.
Disaster struck on 31st August. Leaking flywheel oil caught fire whilst it was on service in the City. No-one was hurt, but the bus filled with black smoke, and firemen smashed the unopenable windows to let it escape.
I finally caught up with FRM at the Routemaster Day at The Depot, Acton, in March 2002.
FRM1 at Acton, March 2002 FRM1 at Acton, March 2002

Croydon FRM, opening windows

Back in the Chiswick experimental shop it was fitted with opening quarterlights: two at the front, two on each side upstairs and three altogether in the lower saloon. It returned to Tottenham in December, and worked there until August 1969, when the XAs were shifted away to Croydon.
FRM1 returned to Chiswick, but after a brief holiday there followed the XAs to Croydon. It couldn't share their OMO workings because their fare-boxes were incompatible with the high driver position.

But route 233, West Croydon - Roundshaw, had just a single vehicle requirement. FRM1 was labelled for one person operation, and draped with adverts, and took up a quiet suburban existence in Croydon in December 1969.
June 1970 found it at Aldenham for a repaint, which repeated the same pattern as before. The fleetnames were replaced by open bullseyes, DMS style, in 1971. Oddly, gold fleetnumbers of decent size were applied too.

By now FRM 1 had had a slight change in occupation. The 233 had been taken over by Swifts in March 1971, so FRM1 moved onto the 234, working alongside Atlantean XAs. That lasted until January 1973, when the XAs, well out of favour, were displaced by DMSs. Again it was deemed unsuitable for the single door FRM to cohabit with dual door DMSs, so FRM 1 retired to Chiswick for an overhaul.

Potters Bar FRM A new job for FRM 1 was found, again a single bus operation. This was the 284 Potters Bar Station - High Street. FRM 1 emerged from overhaul with a white cantrail band and white bullseyes, and with a small air intake on the front panel. It had the yellow doors that were all the rage too. Fleetnumbers were now in white, but of a legible size. The garage plate holder on the nearside was moved back to allow a Pay As You Enter sign to be located just behind the doorway.
As elsewhere, it was a popular bus at Potters Bar Garage, and was treated with extra-ordinary care. Not many buses at this period emerged each day with polished chrome wheel-nut covers!

FRM1 stayed at Potters Bar from October 1971 until September 1976. Its job was about to disappear again, as the subsidy for the 284 was not being renewed by Hertfordshire, but even before its expiry FRM1 settled the matter by ramming SNB92 belonging to London Country. It went for repair, followed by a year of inactivity and another repaint in the same style.

Sightseeing FRM But in December 1977 it was fitted with Public Address equipment for tour work, ready to take up duties on the Round London Sightseeing Tour, from February 1978. Once again, Stockwell Garage took it to their collective bosoms, and it became the unofficial flagship of the tour fleet. At its February 1981 repaint it received a cream band again, with gold fleetnames (underlined this time), as well as its white bullseye above the door! A real note of distinction was conferred by the award of a London Transport Medal: a red and gold metal bullseye on the front.

The tour fleet moved to Victoria in November 1982. FRM1 was withdrawn the following spring, in February 1983, not because of any failure but because its face no longer fitted in the eighties scheme of things that went for "corporate image" and the suppression of individuality. It was handed over to the London Transport Museum in April 1983, and forms part of the Reserve collection. From time to time it comes out to play, to the delight of those who get to drive it.

FRM1 front
FRM1 at Chiswick Works in 1983 for the LT50 celebrations.
Photo, used with permission, by Adrian Stuart-Robson.
Click for a larger version.


 7/66    new into LT stock for trials.
12/66 GM first public appearance (Victoria)
 6/67 AR transfer for 76, 34B (Tottenham)
 8/67 AR fire in service: windows smashed by Fire Brigade
 9/67    Chiswick overhaul: windows fitted
12/67 AR from overhaul
 8/69 AR into store
 8/69    Chiswick, stored
11/69 NX change store
12/69 TC transfer for 233 (Croydon)
 6/70 TC Aldenham repaint
 3/71 TC reallocated to 234
 6/71 TC white bullseyes replace fleetnames
 1/73 TC withdrawn, into store
 2/73    Chiswick overhaul: air intake,
         repaint, red/white,  yellow doors
 8/73 PB transfer, trainer (Potters Bar)
10/73 PB service on 284
 9/76 PB accident damage: withdrawn for repair
10/76 CS to Chiswick
11/77    Aldenham repaint: red/white, bullseyes
12/77    p/a system fitted
 1/78 SW transfer for Round London Tour (Stockwell)
11/78 CS into Chiswick
12/78 SW ..and out
 8/80 SW into store
 2/81    Aldenham repaint, red/cream,
         gold badge, fleetnames
 3/81 SW return to Sightseeing Tour
 6/82 SW on RLST
11/82 GM transfer (Victoria)
 2/83 GM withdrawn
 2/83 EM transfer into store (Edmonton)
 4/83 LT transfer to LT Museum
12/98 AT transfer to Acton Depot (Museum Reserve Collection)
 3/02 AT at RM Open Day, Acton
 7/04    active at RM50, Finsbury Park
 9/04    used on last crew day on 73
 4/06    active at East Grinstead Running Day (409)
 9/06    used on 9,15
 7/13    at Tottenham Garage Centenary: ran over 76
 6/14    at Fulwell Open Day
 6/14    Year of the Bus display, Regent Street
 7/14    at Potters Bar Open Day
 7/14    at RM60, Finsbury Park
 9/14    at Earl's Court for RM1's 60th birthday

Photo References

The key to the photographic references is in the bibliography.

FRM 1  KGY 4D:
 BM3RM p50    1966 
 BM3RM p51    1966    rear view	
 CB35 p44    12/66 GM Victoria Gar
 LTBG p68     1966 GM in Victoria Garage
 ALoLBWp112           at MIRA	
 BPRM p63     1967    at MIRA
 RM_1 p136    1967    Chiswick
 RM_1 p137    1967    Chiswick, interiors, various	
 RMB p42p4    1967    Chiswick display, 6 views
 CB35 p44     1967 AR on 76 to Victoria
 RLB p22      1967 AR on 76 to Victoria
 LBiC60 p09   6/67 AR on 76 to Tottenham Garage, Victoria
 BAnn78 p23   6/67 AR on 76 to Tottenham Garage, Victoria
 RM_1 p134    6/67 AR on 34B to Walthamstow, Enfield
 AIHLB p66    1967 AR on 76 to Waterloo, rear o/s	
 BM3RM p51    1967 AR on 76 to Tottenham Garage, Victoria	
 LSubB p73    1967 AR on 34B to Ponders End Garage, Tottenham LT
 RM_1 p138    1967 AR on 76 to Tottenham Garage, Victoria garage
 RM_1 p138    8/67 AR on 76 to Victoria, Princes St, after fire	
 RM_1 p139   10/68 AR on 76 to Tottenham Garage, Waterloo
 LBP&P p45    1969 AR on 76 to Westminster, Tottenham LT
 LBiC p69     1969 AR on 76 to Stoke Newington, Waterloo
 CBY95 p34    1970 TC on 233, West Croydon & Roundshaw
 AIHLB p66    1970 TC on 233 to West Croydon, Roundshaw
 LT6395p18    1970 TC on 233, West Croydon & Roundshaw, open bullseye		
 HeyLB3p30    1970 TC on 233 to Roundshaw, W Croydon
 RM_1 p139         TC on 233, West Croydon & Roundshaw
 LT6395 p4         TC on 233, Purley Way
 LSubBp118    1971 TC on 234 to Selsdon, Hackbridge, open bullseye		
 RM_2 p48          TC on 234B to South Croydon Garage
 HeyLB p48         PB on 284, Potters Bar Garage
 RLB p94     10/73 PB on 284 to Potters Bar Station
 LB&TA p40    1974 PB on 284, Potters Bar Station
 RM_2 p49     1975 PB on 284 to Potters Bar Station
 RMB p40      1978    Chiswick display
 LCityB p47   1978 SW on Sightseeing Tour, Parl Sq
 RM_2 p28     1979    Chiswick
 BM3RM p52         SW on Sightseeing Tour
 BPRM p32     1981 SW on R-L sightseeing tour
 LBM145 p13   6/82 SW on RLST, Piccadilly Circus
 CBY95 p33    1982 SW on Sightseeing Tour, Victoria
 ABC80 p71         SW on Sightseeing Tour, Parl.Sq.
 RM_2 p49     7/82 SW on Sightseeing Tour, Marble Arch
 LBM136 p34   9/82 SW on Sightseeing Tour, Buckingham Palace Road
 Bus412p316   4/89    at Cobham Museum
 RMH p79     10/94 AR showing 76 to Westminster, Canvey Island, LT Museum
 Buses476p25  9/94 LT on 40R to Victoria Dock, RM40 celebrations
 RMB p02              showing 220 to Park Royal, Chiswick:display
 CB59 p30     3/02    at RM Open Day at Acton
 TLB480 p0    7/04    on X50 at RM50
 TLB506 p41   9/06    on 9 to Royal Albert Hall, Pall Mall
 LBM138 p03   9/06    on 15 to Trafalgar Square, Mansion House
 LBM144 p41           in LT Museum
 TLB588 p44   7/13    on 76 to Tottenham Garage, AR Centenary
Graham Hill's FRM page, with photos
Toby and John King's FRM page, with in-service pictures

Ian's Bus Stop RM Contents. RMA FRM