This page updated 26th February 2013: best on 800*600.

RT44, Stratford-on-Avon June 1970

RT2-151 (Total 150)


Chassis: Type 2RT: AEC Regent III, 16ft 4in wheel-base, 6 cylinder 9.6 litre diesel, A185

Bodies: Chiswick, RT2: 56 seats (26 + 30), composite wood-metal frames, 4 bays, 25ft 11 3/8in long, 7ft 6in wide, 14 ft 3 1/2 in high.

Pre-war RT44 keeps TF77 company at a rally in Stratford upon Avon, 1970.
Photo by Ian Smith. Click on image for larger, clearer version

"Its a pre-war!" In the late fifties the London bus scene was totally dominated by the ubiquitous RTs. In Central London and the suburbs the post-war thousands were everywhere. Even in the Country Area they reigned supreme. Almost the only exceptions were the radically different RLHs. But every now and then there was the odd sighting of a 'pre-war' RT. Displaced from their Central Area duties at Putney and New Cross in 1955 (by new RTLs), they had in turn displaced STLs from their role as learner vehicles and staff transports. So they could turn up anywhere, at unexpected times - and they did.

RT113, Aldwych June 1999 Pre-war RT, initial livery

RT113 at Aldwych during RT60, June 1999. Drawing of "Pre-war" RT in its first service livery, with offside passing lamp

They were instantly recognisable by the droopy windows at the front. The post-war RTs had straight lower edges to the driver's windows, but not the pre-wars. At the back they had the rear roofbox, perched ludicrously on the dome above the rear window. Not that the rear boxes ever seemed to have been used: from soon after delivery, as the wartime shortages reduced the display areas, both front and rear roof-boxes had been painted over. Most were not re-instated post-war, either (except for the magnificent seven - of which more anon). Another give-away was the front destination blind, perched above the via-points, whereas on the post-war buses it was below. There were other minor differences as well: the front cab ventilator had more louvres, and a beading line passed through the front lamp fitting and across the cab front, and there was no rear corner hatch cover, so there was a tumble-home on the offside rear panel. But these were minor differences: the "pre-war" had been identified long before these were noticed.

RT113, Aldwych June 1999 RT113, Aldwych June 1999

RT113 at Aldwych in June 1999, preserved in early wartime condition, with small offside headlamp mounted very low, grey roof, no window netting and a full display, including the "lighthouse".
Under the skin they were rather more different from either RT1 or the post-war RT family. The prototype had used a metal frame for the body, with the platform cantilevered out from the back rather than carried on the rear chassis frames. But conditions in 1939 did not allow for such luxuries. The 2RT2s reverted to STL type construction, with composite frames, and with the platform carried by the chassis frames. The traditional style of construction meant that although they were similar to each other, the bodies were not identical in the way that post-war jig-construction allowed, so the 2RT2s tended to retain their bodies through overhauls (except for war-damage replacements).

RT113, Hertford, 9/2000 Not that they actually were pre-war. RT1, the prototype was, but these buses were 2RT2s. They were built between September 1939 and May 1940. There should have been 338 of them, but war-time needs took over when the BEF was pushed out from Dunkirk leaving their transport behind. They should have supplanted the last of London's open stairway buses, but in the event there were not enough of them. Wartime body production was slow, so that some chassis had to wait many months before being finished.

The new buses went to Chelverton Road garage in Putney (AF), for use on the 30, 37, 28, and 72. They were unofficially used on the 22 as well. Putney Bridge (F) then received some for the 14. When Gillingham Street garage at Victoria (GM) opened in March 1940, some new ones went there for the 22 - officially this time.
Initial routes:
14 Hornsey Rise - Kings Cross - Picc.Circus - Knightsbridge - Putney - KingstonF
22 Homerton - Dalston - St.Pauls - Picc. Circus - Knightsbridge - Chelsea - Putney CommonGM
28 Golders Green - Kilburn - Kensington - Wandsworth - Putney HeathAF
30 Roehampton - Putney - Earls Court - Knightsbridge - Marble Arch - Kings Cross - Dalston - Hackney WickAF
37 Peckham - Herne Hill - Brixton - Clapham Junc. - Putney - Richmond - HounslowAF
72 East Acton - Shepherds Bush - Barnes Common - Roehampton - Hook - EsherAF

The War Years

RT113 on 93, Dorking, September 2002. RT113 on 93, Epsom, September 2002. The new RTs were not without their teething troubles. In particular they had braking problems, due to the inadequacy of the compressor. This was a British replacement for the German-made one used on RT1. These were unobtainable for a while. Problems with brakes meant that many went into store until they could be sorted out. Initially the existing rotary compressors were upgraded, to try to restore the RTs to service. Later a different type of compressor was found, a reciprocating pump belt-driven from the gearbox, which supplied enough compressed air to keep everything working, and the buses were modified, becoming 1/2RT2/1 in the process.
The buses returned to Putney and Putney Bridge garages, initially on the 37 and 72, and then the 14. As the situation improved their allocation spread to the 14, 74, 85, 93 and 96 from Putney Bridge, the 30 and 37 from Putney and the 52 at Victoria.
RT113, preserved in wartime livery, worked route 93 from Putney Bridge to Dorking and back, during the September 2002 Dorking Running Day.
October 1941 Routes:
14 Hornsey Rise - Kings Cross - Picc.Circus - Knightsbridge - PutneyF
30 Roehampton - Putney - Earls Court - Knightsbridge - Marble Arch - Kings Cross - Dalston - Hackney WickAF
37 Peckham - Herne Hill - Brixton - Clapham Junc. - Putney - Richmond - HounslowAF
52 Victoria - Knightsbridge - Ladbroke Grove - Kensal Rise - Willesden - Burnt Oak - Mill Hill GM
74 Camden Town - Zoo - Marble Arch - Earls Court - Putney - Putney Heath F
85 Putney Bridge - Roehampton - Norbiton - Kingston F
93 Putney Bridge - Wimbledon Common - Morden - Ewell - EpsomF
96 Putney Common - Knightsbridge - Picc Circus - Aldwych - St Pauls - Aldgate - Mile End - Stratford - WansteadF

There were some war-time casualties. Several were caused by the German V1 cruise missiles during 1944.
RT87 and RT52 were badly damaged in June, with the bodies going for repair. That from RT52 returned to be mounted on RT87, while the chassis of RT52 was sent to AEC. Eventually, in March 1945, RT52 was refitted with a body (from RT19), and returned to service.
RT66 also suffered in June 1944, and its bodied was destroyed beyond recovery. RT66 took the repaired body ex RT87 when it returned in September.
RT59 and RT97 were damaged in July, and were sent to Birmingham City Transport for repair. RT59 returned with minor body oddities, but RT97 came back without repair. RT97 was then used as a project vehicle. Fitted with platform doors, it was used on Central Area and then Greenline Pay As You Board experiments during 1946. A further rebuild made it a prototype RT coach: RTC1. A fuller story is given on a separate page.
Other casualties were less significant: RT110 lost its front roof box, but continued without it until 1954.

Pre-war RT, initial livery

Post-war recovery

After the war it took some time for normality to return. Materials were still in short supply. But the RTs lost their anti-shatter netting and their headlamp cowls, and gained proper headlights and fog-lamps for the first time. Overhauls gradually started to catch up on the maintenance back-log. The first two in March 1946, RT7 and RT39, received red livery with two cream bands, one on the cant-rail and the other above the top deck windows, as did newly-restored RT19. This style did not last long, being superceded by red with cream band and upper-deck window surrounds.
Putney, Putney Bridge and Victoria garages continued to be associated with the type after the war.
In July 1952 eighteen were allocated to New Cross (NX) for tram replacement, where they worked alongside some refurbished STLs. These 2RT2s had their blinds restored to full displays (except the rear lighthouse), and received the full red with cream band livery. New Cross garage was still being converted, so the 2RTs actually worked from Peckham garage, but with NX plates and crews. They strayed sometimes onto Peckham's Sunday 70A, wearing PM plates.
Pre-war RT, initial livery

163Victoria Embankment - Westminster Bdg - Camberwell - New Cross - Greenwich - WoolwichNX (PM)
177Abbey Wood - Plumstead - Woolwich - New Cross - Old Kent Rd - Elephant - Westminster Bdg - Victoria Embankment - Blackfriars Bdg - Elephant - - Abbey Wood NX (PM)
182Woolwich - Eltham - Lee Green - Lewisham - New Cross Gate - Old Kent Rd - Cannon StreetNX (PM)
70AVictoria Embankment - Blackfriars - Southwark - London Bridge - Surrey Docks - DeptfordPM

2RT2 in post-war red livery.

Staff buses and trainers

In 1955 the 2RT2s were displaced from Central Area passenger service at a stroke. Most survived the blow. The opening of Aldenham works, away at the edge of the London Transport area, and beyond the Tube system, required London Transport to bus in its staff, many of whom previously worked at Chiswick and lived near there. Other workers had previously been at Charlton (the tram works), Lewisham (Tilling's works), Reigate (LGCS Southern division) or St Albans (LGCS Northern). So a network of staff buses ventured across London every day to reach the works, and about sixty of the 2RT2s were used for this. Most of the others became trainers. Some were attached to individual garages for several years, especially in the Country Area and at places where there was a steady demand for training, such as Bromley and Croydon. Others did the rounds, transferring from garage to garage as training required, and being an essential ingredient of the trolleybus conversion programme. They continued in this role for some years, whilst younger 3RT3s were being sold off.

A crunch came in autumn 1959. Spare RTLs took over the Aldenham staff duties in September and October. The displaced 2RT2s, with relatively few miles on the clock, took over training duties, and many of the trainers went into store. They accumulated at the Stockwell barn, and then at Camberwell and Walworth, prior to mass sales in 1960. Most went for scrap, often at Bird's of Stratford, since much younger and more modern RT3s were now coming onto the second-hand market.

The Magnificent Seven

RT1, second livery But seven were given a totally new lease of life. RTs 36, 62, 79, 93, 114, 128 and 137 were overhauled in October 1954 Repainted in green and cream, and with the displays restored (except the rear top-box) they went to Hertford (HG) in May 1955. There they displaced saleable STLs on the 327 between Nazeing Gate and Broxbourne. A weak bridge prevented the use of post-war RTs (UW 7-10-0), but allowed the lighter, wooden-framed 2RT2s (UW 6-15-0). For two years the magnificent seven worked the 327, until August 1957.
They had company at Hertford in the shape of red RT30 - a long-term Country Area trainer, and for two periods red RT133, which was officially a spare staff bus, but had a passenger license that was occasionally put to use, making this the last RED 2RT2 to see passenger service for London Transport. After August 1957 the seven green buses were put into store at Potters Bar, and then became became trainers - some with the Country Area, and some in Central area, retaining their green livery. One of them, RT79, was the last trainer to be phased out, from Dunton Green (DG), in February 1963.

RT113 and RT2083 at Hertford, June 2002. RT113 at Nazeing Gate, June 2002.

RT113 recreated the 327 route between Hertford Bus Station and Nazeing Gate during the Running Day in June 2002. It is seen in the much-modernised Hertford Bus Station, passing RT2083, and at the rural terminus next to the pond at Nazeing Gate.

The ex-staff buses, plus the green seven, soldiered on as trainers before the axe finally fell at the start of 1963. In January and February the orders went out, and the L plates were hung up for good.

RT44, Stratford-on-Avon, 6/70 RT54, Stratford-on-Avon 6/70


At least three survived into active preservation in the UK: RT 44, 54, and 113. RT113 is currently active.
RT106, latterly turnover trainer 1036TV, was acquired for its chassis once its days with LT were finally done.
Others are or were preserved abroad, eg RT8 in St Louis (USA) and RT82 in Boston (Mass. USA). RT8 has now been brought back to the UK for the Ensignbus Museum.
Where is RT138? - or what happened to it?
Early days of preservation: RT44, with white upper-deck window surrounds, then RT54, with painted-over destination panels, leave the June rally at Stratford in 1970. Photos by Ian Smith. Click for larger version.
RT8 on X81 at Lakeside, December 2012. RT8 on X81 at Lakeside, December 2012.
Rt8 was in service on the Ensignbus classic bus Running Day on 1st December 2012. Here it is on the X81 at Lakeside.

RT97 and RTC1 bus histories Photo References

Bus Stop RT Contents RT1 prewar RTs roofbox RTs