Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,

This page created on 9th September 1998, updated 2nd February 2011

The Long Coaches, RCL2218-RCL2260

early RCL The RCLs probably should not have been built. Their market was rapidly disappearing at the time. It was the express services in from Essex, that for so long had competed with sardine-like steam-hauled articulated Gresley suburban trains on the Eastern Region, and the slow District line trains. But these lines had newer sleeker, faster electric trains that whisked Essex man into the City in greater comfort.

Even during the war these routes had used double - deckers, and after it had received dedicated GreenLine STLs and then the Daimlers. Those had been replaced by a fleet of GreenLine RTs (buses in all but paint). This group of routes had been untouched by the RMC class, and it was felt that perhaps the slide in patronage could be countered by giving the routes some really comfortable fast coaches. Large capacity had always been needed in the good times on the route, and now offered the opportunity to thin the schedules and save on staff costs.

GreenLine RT3254 And so the East End got its RCLs, 30 foot Routemaster coaches. They were developed from the RMC coaches, and shared their style. To maintain performance with the bigger buses (8 tons apiece), AEC AV690 engines with 11.3 litres were fitted, driving through semi-automatic gearboxes and high-ratio gears. They moved!

Displaced by the RCLs: GreenLine RT3254 in preservation (North Weald, June 1998)
New features compared to the RTs they replaced were deep GreenLine seating cushions, a heating system that worked, luggage racks and doors. Compared with the RMCs they had minor cosmetic changes, the most noticeable being the new radiator grille, the deeper front valences (displacing the spotlight) and the full-width front display, as presaged by RMC1469's rebuild.

RCL2229 at Northfleet RCL2229 at Gravesend RCL2229 at Gravesend

RCL2229, part of the London Transport Museum collection, shows what they looked like when new. It made a rare appearance at the Gravesend Running Day in October 2005.

The coaches started to appear in May 1965, and went to Romford for the 721, 722 and 726 during June:

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
6/65 721: Aldgate - BrentwoodRERTRCL (18)
6/65 722: Aldgate - UpminsterRERTRCL (10)
7/65 726: Romford - Aldgate - Whipsnade ZooRERTRCL (1)

RCL2233 at Wisley, April 2010 RCL2233 at Wisley, April 2010

RCL2233 wears 726 blinds for its appearance at the Green Line 80 celebration at Wisley Airfield in April 2010..
The other 14 should have gone to Grays for the 723 group of routes, but it was found that clearances were not suitable on the 723B. So five went to Hertford in a swap for RMCs:

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
7/65 723: Aldgate - Tilbury FerryGYRTRCL
7/65 723A: Aldgate - GraysGYRTRCL
7/65 715A: Marble Arch - HertfordHGRMCRCL

The hoped-for revival on the East End routes didn't happen. Electric trains would win every time in a straight battle with GreenLine coaches. So after a year (June 1966) some of the RCLs were re-allocated, those at Hertford first, plus those on the 722. The sixteen RCLs went to Windsor and Tunbridge Wells for the 704 route. At the end of 1966 the 709 was reduced in service, requiring just two large coaches. Two RCLs were provided, one from Romford (via Hertford) and one from Grays, where the remaining services were reduced accordingly.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
6/66 715A: Marble Arch - HertfordHGRCLRF
6/66 722: Aldgate - UpminsterRERCLRT
6/66 704: Windsor - Victoria - Tunbridge WellsWR, TWRFRCL
6/66 457D: Windsor - PinewoodWR, TWRFRCL
12/66 709: Godstone - Baker StreetGDRFRCL
12/66 723A: Aldgate - GraysGYRCLwithdrawn

RCL2233 A year later, at the end of 1967, Dunton Green received RCLs for the 705 route, which collected businessmen from the stockbroker belt between Sevenoaks and Westerham for delivery to the City or London Airport. This route had previously been upgraded, its RFs replaced by Reliance RCs in a new livery of pale grey, in March 1965. Unfortunately the RCs were unreliable. The RCLs for their replacement came from Grays, which thereby lost its entire RCL fleet in favour of smaller RMCs.
At the same time the tiny GreenLine garage at Tunbridge Wells closed, its entire allocation - eight RCLs for the 704 - being moved to Dunton Green.

RCL2233 shows blinds for route 704. Undergoing a partial repaint, it is seen at North Weald rally in 1998.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
12/67 723: Aldgate - Tilbury FerryGYRCLRMC
12/67 705: Sevenoaks - Victoria - WindsorDG, WRRCRCL
12/67 431D: Sevenoaks - Orpington StnDGRCRCL
12/67 493: Orpington (Ramsden Est) - Green St GreenDGRCRCL
12/67 704: Windsor - Victoria - Tunbridge WellsRCL (TW)RCL (DG)RCL

revised RCL During 1967 RCL 2250 had the twin seat under the stairs replaced by an extra luggage rack, but this was restored during 1968.

In early 1968 the RCLs were deemed due for an interim repaint, and went through Aldenham one by one throughout the year. They emerged in the reduced GreenLine livery, without the pale window surrounds.
The seasonal 726 service to Whipsnade was withdrawn in September 1968.

In 1969 the 704 was reduced in frequency, allowing the return of six RCLs to Grays for the 723.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
9/68 726: Romford - Aldgate - Whipsnade ZooGYRCLwithdrawn
10/69 704: Windsor - Victoria - Tunbridge WellsRCLreducedRCL
10/69 723: Aldgate - Tilbury FerryGYRMCRCL

The London Country era

The RCLs were transferred to London Country at the start of 1970 without ever receiving a full overhaul by London Transport. So their Certificates would all expire together in the middle of 1972 (seven years after construction), just before those for the green RMLs! So London Country started to send the RCLs to Aldenham for complete overhauls (without body change) from January 1971 onwards. London Country established its own "float" of RMCs that went round each RCL garage in turn during 1971, enabling a batch of RCLs to go for overhaul. They emerged still in Lincoln green with green bands. RP90

The first RCL shakeup occurred in January 1972, when the RP Reliances started to arrive. London Country had decided that GreenLine needed sleek single-deckers, not ponderous double-decker "buses". The 721 went, and the 723, the RCLs being officially downgraded to buses and receiving yellow bands and adverts. The Grays RCLs went onto route 300, plus 328A/B. Those from Romford went deep into the rural south, to Dorking and Reigate for the 414. They also worked from Reigate on route 424, and short workings on the 406.

RP90 wearing 715 blinds, seen in preservation at Showbus 97

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
1/72 723: Aldgate - Tilbury FerryGYRCL, RMCRP
1/72 721: Aldgate - BrentwoodRERCLRP
1/72 300: Purfleet - Grays - Stifford ClaysGYRTRCL
1/72 328A/B: Purfleet - Grays - OrsettGYRTRCL
1/72 414: West Croydon - HorshamRG, DSRTRCL
1/72 424: Reigate - East GrinsteadRGRTRCL
1/72 406: Reigate - EpsomRGRTRCL

March 1972 saw the end of RCL operation from Dunton Green and Windsor, when the 704 and 705 were converted to RP. The RCLs moved to Reigate, Crawley and Grays, for bus work. This left only RCL 2236, 2237 and 2250 as coaches, based at Godstone for the 709 peak-hour journeys.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
3/72 704: Tunbridge Wells - WindsorDG, WRRCLRP
3/72 705: Sevenoaks - WindsorDG, WRRCLRP
3/72 300: Purfleet - Grays - Stifford ClaysGYRTRCL
3/72 424: Reigate - East GrinsteadRGRTRCL
3/72 430: Reigate - RedhillRGRTRCL
3/72 405: West Croydon - CrawleyCYRTRCL
3/72 426A: Pound Hill - Crawley - IfieldCYRTRCL
3/72 434: Edenbridge - CrawleyCYRTRCL
3/72 476/ACYRTRCL

London Country, NBC RCL During the mid seventies some of the RCLs received the corporate NBC livery, but as they had not long been overhauled with repaints they were not top of anyone's priority list, and some never did get repainted.

The first RCL withdrawal came in October 1975 when RCL2227 was delicensed, just ten years old! RCL 2225 went in 1976. (Both received repaints after withdrawal: hope springs eternal!). Others spent some time without engines, and were repainted in this state. (After all, repainting these didn't take a bus out of service!).

Of the three coaches, only RCL2237 was repainted (with GREEN LINE fleetname), in March 1975, while the other two soldiered on in fading Lincoln green. Their nemesis arrived in May 1976, in the shape of long-wheelbase Leyland National "coaches". What the Surrey commuters thought of them compared to their comfortable RCLs can be imagined. It probably brought greater pressure behind the scenes of power to electrify the railway line to East Grinstead.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
3/75 709: Godstone - Baker StreetGDRCLLNC

In 1977 the Atlanteans completed the Grays opo scheme, dispersing most of the remaining Grays RCLs. Two went to Dartford. Leyland National buses were now making their impact around the London Country system. This included displacement of the RCLs from the 414 by SNBs, so Godstone was able to return some of its hired Atlanteans to Maidstone, using RCLs on the 403, alongside an increasing number of RMCs and the hardy remnants of the RTs.
The first two RCLs (unserviceable), were sold to London Transport, followed by another 18 runners.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
1977 414: Horsham - West CroydonRG, DSRCLSNB
1977 403: Chelsham - West Croydon - WallingtonGDhired AtlanteansRCL
10/77 405: Crawley - West CroydonRGRCLSNB

During 1978 the RCLs went into swift decline with London Country Their certificates were coming up for renewal again, and London Country withdrew them in droves, replacing them where necessary with RMCs (eg on the 403 at Chelsham). By the end of 1978 there were just three in service (2237, 2249 and 2250) of which RCL 2250 still wore Lincoln green. The last journey was by RCL2250 on 24th January 1979, on a Grays school special.

Go to

Part Two: RCL Revival with London Transport

Bus Stop RM RCLs red RCLs photo refs histories RMLs