Prepared on Notepad by Ian Smith,

This page created on 12th September 1998, updated 11th June 2004

The Long Buses, RML 880-RML903, RML2261-RML2760

Part One: Into service

early RML

The first build (24)

The first thirty footers (actually 29ft 10.6 in) were introduced as early as summer 1961, well before the main batch came on stream in 1965. It was a surprise that London Transport had not tried them before. It had used a large fleet of 30ft trolleybuses on routes into London, but motor buses had stuck at 27ft 7in even after the regulations had been relaxed to allow the longer buses. Union resistance did not help of course. Eight extra seats was potentially 12.5% extra work for the conductor, while more seats per bus would probably mean fewer buses per route, and hence fewer conductors and drivers... The Unions and management were already in a bitter row over replacing 56 seat RTs with 64 seat RMs. Introducing 72 seat RMLs was not going to be easy, and at that stage was certainly not diplomatic! But they did reach agreement on trying them on a trolleybus replacement route, where the capacities would be similar. The choice fell on the 609, already worked by Highgate RMs on Sundays, which was to become the bus-operated 104.

RML2466, nearside LT used the standard modular construction of the RM to full advantage in these buses: they were standard RMs with an extra 2ft 4in bay inserted in the middle and a longer drive-shaft! This made them look even longer than they were, as the wheelbase was longer than for most thirty-foot buses.

A broadside view of RML 2466 shows well the great length of these buses. (Hyde Park Corner, June 1998).

RML880 The design did show the stretchability advantage of such modular design, that appeared again later in the Plaxton Pointer and the Volvo Olympian (to name just two). One visible change was the quick-release emergency exit window on the offside.

The original intention was to classify them ER (for Extended Routemaster), and the first four wore the numbers ER880 to ER883 when first delivered. But this was changed to RML, the original RML classification for Routemaster Leyland being abandoned. (RML3 was renumbered to RM3). Their kerbside weight was 7-12-0, 7cwt more than the standard RM and just 2cwt more than an RT.

They were delivered over a lengthy period between July 1961 and January 1962. Three were used as trainers from October. Fifteen were ready by November 61, when the 104 was converted. The route actually needed nineteen RMLs, so some ordinary RMs were used as well, until the deliveries caught up.

ER880 in 1998: London United operates RML 880 in a 1933 style livery, with the original ER880 number, (North Weald)

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
11/61 104: Moorgate - BarnetFYtrolleybus (609)RML

As not all of the batch of twenty-four were required for the 104 they were an obvious choice for ambassadorial visits. RML 898 went to America in 1962 (twice!). RML 903, delivered in March 62, went twice to Europe in 1963. Both did not enter LT passenger service until May 1964! The others, RML900-902, were stored at Aldenham and eventually released for service at Finchley. The entire batch were kept together and stayed on the 104 at Finchley for many years, even after the main batch appeared. Likewise they retained bodies within the batch at overhaul. (Did the original agreement between LT and the Unions specifically relate to rthis batch of buses? Is this why they were kept together? Does anyone know?) As time progressed they began to look more like the standard batch as they acquired later radiators, valences, heater grilles..

The main build (500)

Country Area RML It was another three years before production of long Routemasters took over from that of the standard length. It had become clear that operation of the longer buses was both possible in London conditions and also desirable. The rear-engined Fleetlines and Daimlers were being adopted wholesale by fleets around the country, and LT, ever conservative, wanted to try out some in competition with RMs of similar 72 seat capacity. At the same time, the Country Area needed replacements for its ageing fleet of RTs, with many routes on the periphery of the London area that could use large double-deckers. Perhaps they already had in mind the possibility of swapping the Country RMLs for omo double-deckers once they became legal.

Anyway, production commenced, following on from the RCLs. The new buses were very similar to the first batch, but had the new radiator style with V-shaped badges, half-blanked ventilator grilles and no offside route number window.
RML2456 at East Grinstead, April 2004 RML2456 at East Grinstead, April 2004 A major appearance change was that fifty of the first build (RML2306-2355), plus another fifty later (RML2411-2460), were in Country Area green with cream bands. They had semi- rather than fully-automatic gearboxes, reflecting the longer distance between stops in the Country Area. They looked magnificent. I saw them on the 410 route in October 1965, where they ousted the RTs that had just previously put an end to the RLHs at Godstone.

RML2456 was retored to green livery by Stagecoach East London in 2003, and here makes a return to the 409 during the East Grinstead Running Day in April 2004.

RML2334 was one of the Country Area RMLs, delivered to Godstone in November 1965. Resold to London Transport by London Country, RML2334 subsequently passed to Leaside Buses and Arriva, who have it route-branded for the 38. (North Weald 98).
RML2334 Much to my surprise, the 410 also sported RED RMLs. In order to make a complete changeover from RT to RML at Godstone in one go, for the busy 409, 410 and 411 group of long heavy routes, London Transport most unusually allocated new red buses there. These were due to take part in the comparative trials against XAs and XFs, but were not needed until November. So for two months the red RMLs graced the North Downs routes into Surrey from Bromley and Croydon. Seven of the seventeen returned to the Central Area in November, to Tottenham, whilst the other ten went to Stamford Hill in December. The 409/10/11 group of routes required some out-stationed buses: one at East Grinstead for the 409, and one at Reigate, so these garages too had a small taster of routemaster refinement.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
10/65 409: West Croydon - Forest RowGD, EGRTRML
10/65 410: Reigate - Bromley NorthGD, RGRTRML
10/65 411: Reigate - West CroydonGD, RGRTRML

In November another nineteen green RMLs went to Northfleet (NF) for the busy Thames-side trunk route between Erith and Gravesend, via Dartford, the 480. This worked through an amazingly industrial area, dominated by chalk pits and cement works. (All sorts of fascinating industrial steam locomotives could be spotted from the top deck of the RMLs!) In the way of Country routes it also yielded interworkings of the RMLs onto a variety of other routes in the area.

RML 2327 was one of the Country Area RMLs sent to Northfleet in November 1965. Subsequently bought back by London Transport from London Country, it now operates for London Central on route 12. (Westminster, August 1998)

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
11/65 480/A: Erith - Dartford - Gravesend - DentonNFRTRML
11/65 487A: Rosherville- SwanscombeNFRTRML
11/65 488/A: Swanscombe/Rosherville - Kings Farm Est.NFRTRML
11/65 495A: Rosherville - Christianfields EstateNFRTRML
11/65 496A: Rosherville - WaterdalesNFRTRML

RML2363, front RML2363, rear Tottenham (AR) started its comparative trials earlier in November, with 31 RMLs replacing RTWs on routes 76 and 34B, while the Atlanteans started on the 24 from Chalk Farm. Stamford Hill (SF) received its red RMLs for the trials on route 67 during December, which displaced RMs. They in turn went to replace RTWs on the 45 at Walworth. More Atlanteans for the trials went to Highgate in January 1966, working on the 271. Again the displaced RMs went to replace RTWs, this time at Chalk Farm for the 45. The XAs were joined in April by all the XFs, still in green, from East Grinstead.

RML 2363 was delivered to Stamford Hill in December 1965. 33 years later it is still in front line service, now on the 11. (Whitehall, June 1998)

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
11/65 76: Victoria Stn - Tottenham GarageARRTWRML
11/65 34B: Brimsdown - Walthamstow (MF rushes)ARRTWRML
11/65 24: Pimlico - Hampstead HeathCFRTWXA
12/65 67: Northumberland Park Stn - London DocksSFRMRML
12/65 45: Hampstead Heath - South KensingtonWLRTWRM
1/66 271: Moorgate - Highgate VillageHTRMXA
4/66 271: Moorgate - Highgate VillageHTRMXF
1/66 45: Hampstead Heath - South KensingtonCFRTWRM

Finchley, no stranger to RMLs, then received some new ones for the new 104A route, towards the end of January.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
1/66 104A: Golders Green Stn - BarnetFYnew routeRML

Central Area RML In the Central Area, conversions to RML continued, mainly displacing RMs which in turn displaced RTWs or RTLs elsewhere. The reasoning for the placing of the RMLs was very much that which had prompted the original choice of RM locations in the first place: heavy loadings. There was also the fact that it placed smaller strain on already disturbed labour relationships if the new 72 seaters replaced 64 seaters rather than 56 seaters!

West Ham was the focus for the next displacement, in February and March. The 5 group and the 249/A received RMLs, the RMs going to Riverside and Dalston to push the RTWs off the 11, giving rise to the highest concentration of published photos of RMs of any London route! RMLs also went to Poplar and Walthamstow for their share of the affected routes.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
2/66 5/5A: Bloomsbury - East HamWH, PRRMRML
2-3/66 249/A: WH, WWRMRML
2-3/66 11: Liverpool Street - Shepherds Bush GreenR, HRTWRM

The Country Area also started to receive their next batch in February, these heading for the north and west of the Country Area "polo". High Wycombe (HE) received some for the 363 and associated routes, and Garston (GR) had a lot for Watford Area services. This also required two for Hemel Hempstead (HH), which shared the 347/A with Garston.
In May the Country Area received its last new double-deckers, when RMLs went to Windsor (WR) and Harlow (HA) for heavily used routes. London Transport transferred some of the many RTs released by this programme into the Central Area (after a repaint), where they displaced yet more Leylands.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
2/66 363: Totteridge - High Wycombe - BeaconsfieldHERTRML
2/66 305: Uxbridge - West WycombeHERTRML
2/66 326: Mill End Rd - High Wycombe - Micklefield EstateHERTRML
2/66 362: Ley Hill - High WycombeHERTRML
2/66 455: Uxbridge - High WycombeHERTRML
3/66 306/A: New Barnet / Borehamwood - Watford / Harpenden)GRRTRML
3/66 311: Shenley - Watford - LeavesdenGRRTRML
3/66 311: Shenley - Watford - LeavesdenGRRTRML
3/66 347/A: Hemel Hempstead - Watford - UxbridgeGR/HHRTRML
5/66 353: Windsor - BerkhamstedWRRTRML
5/66 400: Britwell - Slough circularWRRTRML
5/66 417: Langley Hosp. - Windsor - Old Windsor Hosp.WRRTRML
5/66 445: Datchet - WindsorWRRTRML
5/66 460: Slough - StainesWRRTRML
5/66 484: Langley Village - Slough - Farnham RdWRRTRML
5/66 396: Epping Station - Harlow - Bishops StortfordHARTRML
5/66 397/A/B: Passmores - Bishops Stortford / PinnaclesHARTRML
5/66 804/A: Harlow / Harlow Mill - Latton BushHARTRML
5/66 805/A/B: Potter Street - Little ParndonHARTRML
5/66 806 : Harlow Mill STn - Canons GateHARTRML

The long south-London 37 route, from Peckham to Hounslow, was next for conversion, the swap for RMs resulting in the removal the last of the RTWs from passenger service (from Brixton's route 95). The other half of the 37 allocation was converted the next month, in June, when it was Stockwell's turn (SW). The displaced RMs this time ousted RTLs, from Stockwell's own 88 and Victoria's 52.

RML 2466, new to Putney in May 1966 for route 37, still works at Putney garage for London General. In June 1998 it was on route 22 in Kensington High Street.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
5-6/66 37: Peckham - HounslowAF, SWRMRML
5/66 95: Tooting Broadway - Cannon StreetBNRTWRM
6/66 88: Acton Green - MitchamSWRTLRM
6/66 52: Victoria Station - Mill Hill BroadwayGMRTLRM

In June and July 1966 the next phase in the comparative trials began, with the XAs swapping with the RMLs, and the XFs going back to East Grinstead.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
6/66 76: Victoria Stn - Tottenham GarageARRMLXA
6/66 34B: Brimsdown - Walthamstow (MF rushes)ARRMLXA
6/66 24: Pimlico - Hampstead HeathCFXARML
7/66 67: Northumberland Park Stn - London DocksSFRMLXA
7/66 271: Moorgate - Highgate VillageHTXA, XFRML
7/66 424: Reigate - East GrinsteadEGRTXF

Also in July, the 15 was converted to RML at Upton Park (U), with its RMs going to Shepherds Bush and two Romford garages: Hornchurch (RD) and North Street (NS).

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
7/66 15: East Ham - Ladbroke GroveURMRML
7/66 100: Barking - BecktonURMRML
7/66 88: Acton Green - MitchamSRTLRM
7/66 165: Havering Park - Romford - RainhamRDRTRM
7/66 174: Noak Hill - Romford - DagenhamNSRTRM

After the summer break, Hackney (H) and Willesden (AC) received RMLs for the 6 group, which had been one of the last to receive new RMs, just eighteen months before. Some of the Hackney RMLs had illuminated offside advertising panels.

Putney (AF) had the last of this series of RMLs in November, its second allocation, this time for the 14. The 2B was the lucky recipient of the RMs, at Norwood (N) and Stockwell (SW).

Putney Bridge still sees RMLs on the 14. In February 1998 RML 2593 hurries over the Bridge for London General.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
9/66 6/6A: Kensal Rise - Oxford Circus - Hackney WickHRMRML
9/66 113: Edgware Stn - swiss Cottage / Oxford CircusAERTRM
10/66 6/6A: Kensal Rise - Oxford Circus - Hackney WickACRMRML
10/66 83: Golders Green - Alperton / HanwellONRTRM
11/66 14: Hornsey Rise - Putney / KingstonAFRMRML
11/66 2B: Crystal Palace - Golders Green StnN, SWRT, RTLRM

There were no more RML deliveries until March 1967, while the BEA Routemasters were being built.

However, the "rationalisation" cuts at the end of 1966 saw some changes of RML allocation. Poplar lost those that it had for the 5 group. They went to Leyton (T) for the new 262 route.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
12/66 5: Bloomsbury - East HamPRRMLservice reduced
12/66 262: V&A Docks - Chingford StnTnew routeRML

Route 14 had to wait until May and June 1967 to receive Holloway's share of the RMLs for the route. The redundant RMs from Holloway (J) went to Stockwell (SW) and Cricklewood (W) for route 2, as did those from Putney (AF) when it received its third RML allocation, for the 74. The 74B followed in July, with Riverside (R) exchanging RMs for new RMLs. As a consequence Plumstead (AM) received RMs for route 53.

RML2615 still looks really good although 31 years old when seen in Whitehall on route 11 for London General in June 1998. When new it was allocated to Holloway (J) for route 14.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
5-6/67 14: Hornsey Rise - Putney / KingstonJRMRML
6/6774: Camden Town - Putney HeathAFRMRML
6/67 2: North Finchley - Crystal PalaceW, SWRTLRM
7/6774B: Camden Town - Hammersmith BroadwayRRMRML
7/67 53: Camden Town - Plumstead CommonAMRTRM

After the summer hiatus New Cross also received RMs for the 53 when the 207/207A were converted to RML operation. Some of the RMs from Hanwell went to Hackney for route 22 as well.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
9-11/67 207/A: Uxbridge/Hayes - Shepherds Bush/ChelseaUX, HLRMRML
9-11/6753: Camden Town - Plumstead CommonNXRTRM
10/67 22: Putney Common - HomertonHRTLRM

The last new RMLs went, most unusually, to Croydon. Until now the southern fringes of the LT area had seen little Routemaster activity, apart from the magnificent green machines from Godstone. Croydon garage had had a few secondhand RMs, for a share in route 64, but never any new RMs. Now it received lovely new RMLs to directly displace RTs on the heavy-duty 130 group of routes, connecting Croydon with the dormitory suburb of New Addington. Croydon simultaneously lost the 11 RMs on the 64, these moving to Thornton Heath.

RML 2732 was one of the RMLs that served Croydon for a short while when new. Now it operates for London General, usually on route 11. Here it is on holiday at North Weald rally, June 1998.

DateRouteGarageType displacedDisplaced by..
11/67-3/68 130/A/B/C: New Addington - Croydon/Thornton HeathTCRTRML

The highest numbered, RML2760, went to Upton Park (U), where it has remained. It still sports original London Transport red livery, now with cream band and traditional London Transport fleetnames, although in the ownership of Stagecoach East London.

Part Two: Survival of the fittest

Part Two: Survival of the fittest photo references bus histories

Ian's Bus Stop RM Contents RCLs RMLs RMFs