Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,

This page created 22nd November 1998.

The BEA Routemasters

British European Airways had long operated a service between its London book-in terminal and Heathrow airport, for its domestic and European passengers. It had started the service in the fifties with half-decker Commer Commandoes, and continued it with the dedicated fleet of BEA RFs.
Now, in the mid-sixties, it was time to for them to order replacements. Larger aircraft now required larger vehicles. They had conducted trials with double-deckers, one a very ugly AEC Regent V with a large rear luggage compartment, and the other RMF 1254 , with a trailer.

The RMF trials seem to have been successful, as BEA now ordered a fleet of sixty-five, together with 88 trailers (by Marshall). The RMAs differed from RMF1254 in various ways: BEA, first livery

  • They were of the standard Routemaster length, 27ft 8in.
  • They had the standard engine but were geared for 70mph motorway operation.
  • They were equipped with paraffin heaters to keep the interior warm during the sometimes lengthy waits at terminals.
  • The destination displays were eliminated (as passengers knew where they were going)
  • An illuminated panel above the front entrance advertised the airline, as did a matching panel on the offside.
  • The drivers front window was of the single pane non-opening variety.
They went into service between the Cromwell Road Air Terminal and Heathrow Airport from October 1966, after a brief trial period. The coaches were based at the old Chiswick Tram depot (later to become Stamford Brook garage).
BEA 1, preserved BEA 1, preserved
Preserved BEA1 at the 2009 Shopwbus, Duxford

BEA, second livery April 1969 introduced a further image change resulting in the replacement of the elegant (but old-fashioned) blue and white in favour of brash tangerine and white. The illuminated panels went, replaced by "high-speed" BEA logos. Presumably some design consultancy earned a lot of money from this change. Apart from the first, which was done by BEA workshops, they were repainted by Aldenham. The orange finish quickly faded, and showed the dirt badly. Few outside the business thought it an improvement in appearance!

Replacement trailers, by Locomotors, were delivered from 1972 onwards.

BEA, third livery Just four years later, when BOAC and BEA were merged into British Airways, another makeover was initiated, with dark blue lower panels and a large expanse of white, with British Airways written prominently on each side.

Not all the BEA RMs were repainted from orange. Thirteen were deemed redundant, and were sold to London Transport in August 1975. Another fourteen followed at the end of September 1976, and a further nine in early summer 1978.

The remainder continued on into 1979, having moved home to Stonebridge garage in August 1978. But At the end of March the last twenty-nine were withdrawn, and were bought by London Transport too.

For the story of their continued existence with London Transport, click here.

The bus histories are on a separate page, as are the photographic references

Ian's Bus Stop RM Contents. RMF BEA RMA LT RMA