The LONDON TRANSPORT AEC Q class

This page created 29th December 2000, updated 23rd January 2005, using Notepad, by Ian Smith.

The 4Q4

London's first major order for the Q-type was for 100 single-deckers for the Country Area. The order was too late to revive the fortunes of the type in terms of national sales, as most companies had already observed that after the prototypes London Transport had not ordered any more, and many had therefore written off the type without trying it.

But back to London's 4Q4s. The Country department had a large number of antiquated relics rattling around from the takeover, and wanted a standard bus. The 4Q4 filled the need. The model chosen had a centre doorway on the nearside, and seated 38, with bench seats over the engine and front nearside wheelarch and seats in the front corner alongside the driver. They were designed with conductor operation in mind, of course, as regulations prohibited one man operation for buses carrying more than twenty passengers.

Chassis: AEC Q, 18ft 6in wheelbase, AEC A170 oil engine
Body: Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Co, 27ft 6in, B38C (later B35C).

4Q4, green/green An unusual styling feature was the sloping roof: the bus was appreciably higher at the front, with the roof and gutter sloping down to the rear. The back of the bus had a normal rear window, so there had to be an offside emergency door. This was fitted in behind the engine, so two longish window bays became two with a doorway in the middle. This made the offside something of a pot-pourri stylistically. The nearside, with the doorway occupying the bay behind the front wheel, was much better. At the front a curved profile was achieved by having the flat windscreens in two halves, each openable, with windscreen wipers on both top halves. Headlights were set low and wide, sidelights were built into the front corners of the roof, and a foglight was installed low on the nearside. A triangular AEC badge adorned the rather bald front.
Livery was two shades of green, separated by a black line, with black guards. Inside, the finish would be recognisable to any post-war rider of RTs or Routemasters, with the rexine colour change halway up the window pillars. It was a very stylish motor indeed, that would not have looked out of place if produced twenty years later. It was worlds different from the antiques that they displaced: ADCs, Tilling Stevens and Thorneycrofts mainly.

Q83 at East Grinstead, April 2000 Q83 at East Grinstead, April 2000

Into service

The first 4Q4s went into service in July 1935, working from Watford High Street garage (WA) on routes 306 and 311, immediately followed by some for Dartford (DT) and Amersham (MA). August saw more go to Watford, with some to Hertford (HG) and Hatfield (HF), and a few to Leatherhead (LH). September saw a few go to Leavesden Road garage in Watford (WT), plus Swanley (SJ), Addlestone (WY) and Dunton Green (DG). In October more went to Watford (WT) and Hertford (HG), whilst a handful went to Dorking (DS) and Godstone (GD), with more to Reigate (RG). Dorking received more in November, and some were new to Guildford (GF) and St Albans (SA). Windsor (WR) got them in December, and the last of the 100 (Q86) went into service in January 1936 at Hatfield.

Dates Route No Route Garage
July 35 306 New Barnet - Watford - Leavesden WA
July 35 311/A Shenley - Watford - Leavesden WA
July, Aug 35 312 Little Bushey - Watford WA
July, Aug 35 335 Watford - Rickmansworth - WindsorWA
July 35 499 Dartford local service DT
July 35 353 Berkhamsted - Amersham - Windsor MA
July 35 362 Ley Hill - Amersham - High Wycombe MA
August, Oct 35 303 New Barnet - Hatfield - Hitchin HF, HG
August, Oct 35 340 New Barnet - Hatfield HF, HG
August, Oct 35 341 St Albans - Hatfield - Hertford HF, HG
August, Oct 35 418 Kingston - Leatherhead - Gt Bookham Stn LH
Sept, Oct 35 317 WT
Sept, Oct 35 318 Abbotts Langley - Watford - Hemel Hempstead WT
Sept, Oct 35 318A Abbotts Langley - Watford - Bucks Hill WT
Sept, Oct 35 318B Garston - North Watford WT
Sept, Oct 35 385 Watford local service WT
Sept 35 SJ
Sept 35 WY
Sept 35 DG
Oct, Nov 35 DS
Oct 35 GD
Oct 35 RG
Nov 35 DS
Nov 35 GF
Dec 35 WR
Dec 35, July 36 SA

Two more were ordered, and arrived in July 1936. Q186 and Q187 went new to St Albans.

During the spring and summer of 1936 the front nearside seats were removed, and a bulkhead and door installed, making them now B35C.

Q83 at East Grinstead, April 2000 Q83 at East Grinstead, April 2000

The Green Line conversions

4Q4, Central Area In October 1936 twenty-seven 4Q4s were withdrawn from bus duties for conversion to GreenLine coaches. These were Q81-105, 186-187. The twenty seven were replaced by new 5Q5 buses, diverted from the Central Area. While the conversion programme was underway the Central Area had a short-term single-decker crisis, due to increases in the Romford area, and seven of the 4Q4s awaiting conversion were repainted red and white with black roofs for a spell in the Central Area: Q101-105 went to Cricklewood (W) for the 226 (Golders Green - Cricklewood Broadway, and Q186-187 to Kingston (K). The Cricklewood quintet went back into works in March 1937, and the Kingston duo went temporarily to Staines (ST) in February and to works in March.
4Q4, Green Line The conversions for Green Line use entailed the fitting of a heater, luggage racks and roof board brackets. A grille was fitted on the front panel, but whether this was a dummy or related to the saloon heater I don't know. It certainly identified them, and improved the front appearance. They retained their bench seats, which reduced their value as coaches for longer journeys. They were reclassified as 1/4Q4/1.

The new coaches started to enter service in January 1937, and all were in use before the summer. They replaced elderly Gilford coaches (GF class) from the Greenline fleet. They went to Northfleet and Staines for the A1/A2, Leatherhead for route L, and Amersham for route R. Route L disappeared in May 1937, and the 1/4Q4/1s from Leatherhead went to Leavesden Road (WT) for route T instead.

  • A1: Gravesend - London - Ascot
  • A2: Gravesend - London - Sunningdale
  • L : Uxbridge - London - Great Bookham
  • R : Uxbridge - London
  • T : Watford - Golders Green Stn

Their sojourn on front-line coach duties was short. During 1938 new AEC Regal 10T10s arrived and took over not only from the elderly 7T7s but also from the Qs, which were relegated to bus duties. Northfleet and Staines changed in July, Amersham and Watford in August. All except Q100 lost their saloon heaters and Green Line fleetnames but retained the roof-board fittings and luggage racks, which made them valuable as spares to cover shortages in the coach fleets.

The War

1/4Q4/1, wartime Wartime saw all the 4Q4s on Country Bus duties. Wartime trim included white front corners and reduced lighting. Some were reseated internally, with peripheral seating all the way round, reducing seating capacity, but with standee space increasing overall capacity. The livery was altered to Lincoln green with white window surrounds, and a brown roof. A few were painted grey for use in sensitive defence areas, including nine at Addlestone that worked to the Vickers works at Weybridge.

Post-War

4Q4, postwar red 1944 and 1945 saw the start of a return to normality. The air-raid precautions were wound down, and the buses returned to standard seating and livery as they went for overhaul. The Qs were still scattered around the Country Area, and working hard. 1948 saw a surplus of single-deckers in the Country Area, after the delivery of the postwar Regals, the 15T13s. The Central Area was still desperate for buses of any shape, size or colour, and welcomed an influx of 4Q4s. They were repainted red, and went to West Green, for use on the 233 (Finsbury Park - Alexandra Park - Northumberland Park). Drivers had some difficulties with the 4Q4s on the open sections of road across Alexandra Park, where they claimed to be unable to see the edge of the road, and the red 4Q4s were transferred to Dalston for the 208 (Clapton Pond - Hackney Wick - Old Ford - Bromley-by-Bow).
But the Central Area's fortunes improved, with the arrival of the Leyland Tiger TDs, and Country Area asked for the 4Q4s back.
4Q4, postwar red In 1950 the Central Area needed a float of buses to cover for the absence of 1T1s and LTL six-wheelers during the refurbishment programme, and further 4Q4s went to Kingston, where they received the postwar red livery. They were not the last. Further 4Q4s were drafted to Kingston to enable the retirement of the ancient 1/7T7/1s. Some were repainted. Some retained green and white. Kingston was a mixed red and green bus town, and the RFs were on the drawing board. Kingston used them mainly on the 215 and 219, with some use on 218 short journeys:

  • 215: Kingston - Esher - Church Cobham - Ripley
  • 219: Kingston - Esher - Hersham - Weybridge Stn.
  • 218: Kingston - Esher - Hersham - Walton-on-Thames.

Q83 in red, June 2001 Q83 in red, June 2001 Q83 in red, June 2001
Q83, repainted in postwar red, stands gleaming in fresh paint at Cobham Bus Museum during RF50, June 2001. Click on pictures for much larger versions.

The end

The 4Q4s did not fade out. They went abruptly as the new RFs flushed all pre-war types out of existence. The Greenline RFs first replaced the TFs, 6Q6s and 10T10s, with the latter finding new work temporarily as buses, replacing 9T9s, 4Q4s and 5Q5s. The Central area replacement programme saw off the red buses, and the last few went in 1953 with the arrival of the Country Area bus RFs.

Q83 at Cobham Museum, October 1999 None saw further work as service buses in the UK, as the post-1948 rules prohibited their sale as psvs in the UK. Contractors took some, and a good number were exported by Norths to Tripoli, Cyprus and Malta. London Transport kept Q55 for the LT Museum, and converted Q75 into a Civil Defence service vehicle, Q1035CD, in which guise it survived into the 1960s.

Q69 and Q83 were both used by Old People's Associations, in Gravesend and West Bromwich respectively. Only the chassis survives of the former, but Q83 has been preserved and restored, and is once again to be seen around the fringes of London.

Q83, a 1/4Q4/1, has been restored to early post-war condition. Seen here at Cobham Bus Museum, it can now be seen at a variety of events around London. Further up the page it can be seen at East Grinstead, where it made an appearance during the April 2000 Running Day. All photos by Ian Smith. Click for larger versions.
bus histories photographic references.

Bus Stop Q index. 3Q3 4Q4 5Q5