Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,

This page created on 10th September 1998, updated 2nd February 2011.

The Long Coaches, RCL2218-RCL2260: Part Two

Revival with London Transport

RCL trainer, LT But all was not over for the RCLs. Many of them still had the largest part of their service lives ahead of them, although few predicted it at the end of the seventies. They were still young in Routemaster terms, just fourteen. London Transport was having terrible problems keeping its fleet on the road, and desperately needed crew-operated buses. It bought twenty RCLs before the end of 1977, and promptly sent the two long-term dead ones - RCL2225 and RCL2227 - to Wombwell Diesels for parts recovery and scrapping. Spares were as important to LT as live buses.

During 1978 nineteen RCLs were put back on the road, into the training fleet, in NBC green with LT bullseye logos - apart from those that still carried "London Country" with the NBC double arrow! One, RCL2232, was repainted red whilst in the training fleet. Another, RCL2221, spent two weeks as a trainer, and then went into Chiswick to be converted into a cinema and exhibition bus. It re-appeared in Shillibeer livery for the 1979 celebration, and was subsequently repainted into red with cream trims.

In January 1978 LT agreed to buy the rest of the Routemaster fleet from London Country, including the rest of the RCLs. They were supposed all to be runners, brought up to at least MOT standard before handover, with LT providing spares to enable this process. Three more RCLs were handed over in early 1978.
Something went wrong, and London Country, plagued by dead RMs clogging up its small maintenance facilities, took unilateral action by selling a batch of dead buses to Wombwell, claiming that LT had not provided the necessary spares. This included six RCLs.
LT RCL bus Galvanised into action, LT promptly remade its agreement with London Country, provided storage space, and bought back the Wombwell buses (apart from two RMLs that had been scrapped).

In January 1980 London Transport started a major transformation of its RCL fleet. Twenty six were trainers, one was the cinema bus, and fourteen were stored in the docks. Leaving aside the cinema bus, this fleet could be used as service buses to replace crew-operated Daimler Fleetlines! RCL2239 was treated first at Aldenham. The doors, door wiring, luggage racks and ash-trays were removed; vertical handrails were installed in the saloons and on the platform; and the upholstery was completely re-trimmed. At the front, standard RML valances with single headlights were substituted. Red livery with white bullseyes completed the job.

The other RCLs received the same treatment at Aldenham between February and September 1980. Some received replacement engines, usually the smaller AV590 variety. They were allocated to route 149 from Edmonton (EM) and Stamford Hill (SF) garages. Unusually for RMs, they were not immediately swamped with advertising, and so looked unusually good in service. RCL2256, after a serious rear-end shunt in April 1981, was fitted with a standard RM platform and rear panel. (Probably contravening the regulations, as these buses had no emergency exit windows on the offside.)

They lasted until 1984. Their Achilles heel was the coach flooring, which was less resilient than the wooden slatted floors used on Central Area buses. The time and cost of conversion was not considered economic in most cases, and they gradually withered away.
RCL2260 was adopted by Edmonton as a showbus, and reacquired twin headlamps and a GreenLine style livery, but in red and cream rather than two shades of green (like RCL2221).
At the end of 1984 the remainder were all stored, and some were sold. RCL 2229 went into the care of the London Transport museum for restoration to GreenLine condition.
RCL2221 continued as the cinema and exhibition bus, passing through a variety of liveries as the need arose, and was allocated to Central Distribution Services (LRT) in 1986.

London Sightseeing

The revamp of the London Sightseeing business in 1986 included the eleven remaining stored RCLs. Their extra comfort, and the possibility of refitting the doors, were distinctly in their favour for this work. They were refurbished and repainted at Aldenham ready for the 1986 season. Apart from sightseeing work, the Commercial Operations Unit also operated some commuter services, and one RCL was used to celebrate the start of such an operation to Tunbridge Wells, running as a relief to the modern coach wearing 704 blinds. RCL 2250 was also used as a spare for commuter services from Ash Green in Kent, after Bexleyheath Transport failed.

In 1987 the doors were refitted, followed by tape equipment in 1990. Ten of the eleven were converted in 1990 to convertible open-top form, leaving RCL2260 with a closed top. The entire fleet of eleven were included in the privatisation sale in 1992, when the operation became London Coaches Ltd., and was later owned by Arriva. The RCL fleet was dispersed in 2000. Some were subsequenrtly acquired by Mac Tours for sightseeing in Edinburgh.

convertible RCL2259, 1998 open-top RCL

RCL2259 wears its convertible hat through Trafalgar Square on a cold December Day, 1998.


RCL2239 at Showbus 97 RCL2239 at Cobham 98
RCL 2239 worked with Blue Triangle. This bus, used for the trial conversion to bus format, was restored to its previous condition, with Blue Triangle's distinctive livery suiting it well (Showbus 97, Brooklands 98). It subsequently passed to Imperial Buses of Rainham.
This survivors list may be out of date. If you have more up-to-date information, please let me know.
RCL 2218 CUV 218C  preserved at Nottingham Transport Heritage Centre, Ruddington: red 
RCL 2219 CUV 219C  Birmingham and Midlands Museum of Transport: GreenLine. 
RCL 2220 CUV 220C  Ensignbus, convertible
RCL 2221 CUV 221C  Timebus Travel, St.Albans. 
RCL 2223 CUV 223C  hospitality bus: M.Newman, Strathdon: Red Bus Celebrations. 
RCL 2226 CUV 226C  RCL2226 Group, (Purfleet) for restoration. 
RCL 2229 CUV 229C  London Transport Museum, GreenLine.
RCL 2233 CUV 233C  privately preserved,  GreenLine. 
RCL 2238 CUV 238C  privately preserved.  GreenLine. 
RCL 2239 CUV 239C  PSV, Imperial Buses, Rainham, red/cream.
RCL 2240 CUV 240C  hospitality bus: Charles Wells Brewery, Bedford. 
RCL 2241 CUV 241C  Mac Tours, Edinburgh, convertible.
RCL 2243 CUV 243C  Crewe Heritage Centre, convertible. 
RCL 2248 CUV 248C  Mac Tours, Edinburgh, convertible. 
RCL 2250 CUV 250C  promo bus: Corona Beer.
RCL 2252 BC8 559   Double Deck Tours, Niagara, Canada, #2
RCL 2253 CUV 253C  Les Bus Anglais, Paris.
RCL 2254 CUV 254C  privately preserved, Harrow
RCL 2255 BC8 555   Double Deck Tours, Niagara, Canada, #1
RCL 2259 CUV 259C  promo bus 
RCL 2260 CUV 250C  The London Bus Company, Northfleet, GreenLine.  
RCL2260 at Northfleet Plough, July 2006 RCL2260 at Gravesend, July 2006
RCL 2260 was promptly returned to Green Line condition and livery by Blue Triangle when Roger Wright bought it. I have had the chance to ride on it at several Running Days. This is the Gravesend Running Day in July 2006, at Northfleet (Plough) and Gravesend.

Bus Stop RM RCLs red RCLs photo refs histories RMLs