This page created 26th October 2006, updated 7th December 2008: best on 800*600

Most photos on this page are by Ian Smith, and can be clicked to see larger versions.

The Saunders RT3/3

RT3062 on 38 at Victoria, December 2005 RT3062 at St.Michaels, September 2006
RT3062 is a Saunders RT restored to working condition and early livery by Blue Triangle. It works for its keep, but joined in the last-crew day on route 38 in December 2005, and enjoyed a holiday at Tenterden in Kent in September 2006.
Whilst planning the post-war build of RTs London Transport realised that there would be times when chassis and body production would be out of step. Weymann and Park Royal would be fully committed during 1948, both with RT work and with vital orders for the rest of the home market and for export. With Leyland coming on-stream there would be a glut of chassis. At other periods there would be an excess of bodies. Should they keep expensive chassis piled up while they waited for bodies to come? LT decided to look to other body manufacturers, to see whether they could provide. Two were chosen: Saunders Engineering on Anglesey and Cravens in Sheffield. While Cravens chose to provide a bus that was more or less their own standard product with a RT standard cab grafted on as required, Saunders gravitated towards providing a bus that looked just like the Park Royal or Weymann product, but using their own form of cruciform metal body pillars.

RT, green They produced a roofbox RT that was almost indistinguishable from a Weymann or Park Royal bus to the casual observer. Two differences marked them out from the RT10s: the offside route indicator panel was set rather further back than on the standards, and (at least in their early years) the bottom front edge of the cab ran directly across to the radiator, with no scoop to allow for fitting to Leyland chassis. The valance above the bonnet was of the RT10-style reduced height.

Structurally they were rather different. The cruciform pillars required a different pattern of fixing screws, and a different joint to the front bulkhead, which meant that garages that had them needed different spare panels, bits and repair manuals. They were type-coded 3RT3/3.

Saunders won an order for 250, all to be delivered between June and December 1948. These were numbered RT1152-1401. Saunders works on Anglesey were an established yard for building RAF Rescue boats and sea-planes, so they were confident that their workforce had the necessary skills to do the job. Parts were ordered from sub-contractors. There were delays. The first one arrived in November 1948, and only a handful had been produced by the end of the year. This first batch took until September 1950 to complete. They were all delivered in red with cream upper window surrounds. They were allocated randomly to garages in the Central Area.

RT1396, August 2006 (Mike Tamkin) RT, green

RT1396 is another Saunders bus still earning a crust. Mike Tamkin offers it for weddings and other suitable private hire work, trading as Alphabus. He sent me this picture on its first day back in service after restoration, alongside RML2666.
Quite understandably Saunders wanted further work, to keep their workforce until orders for a new type of body were forth-coming. They wanted another 250 or 500. But now LT was realising that the number of buses they were going to require was not going to be as great as initially imagined, despite the huge increase in post-war travel. They gave Saunders a follow-on order for another fifty, which followed on immediately from the first batch. Although Weymann and Park Royal had now ceased production of the roofbox version of the RT, Saunders were given permission to continue building them. This second batch, without the cream upper window surrounds, were numbered RT4218-4267, arriving from September 1950 until February 1951. These too were all red, and distributed around the Central Area.

The Saunders bodies proved to be very well-built. There was a problem discovered at first overhaul, with front bulkead cracking, which Saunders paid to have rectified. That apart, they were strong. At overhauls they were fully interchangeable on AEC chassis (but not Leylands), so they quickly began to appear with fleet numbers across the whole range. None were ever repainted green.

Their sturdiness was a factor in their relative longevity with London Transport. After one low-numbered one was mistakenly sold in its first batch of post-war RT sales, they went on the "keepers" list. One (RT1903) even received heaters, which wasn't supposed to happen to roof-box RTs!. But their roofboxes still made them early targets for withdrawal compared with the standards, and many were sold in 1969-1970, after nearly twenty years of service. RT1903 lasted in service until March 1971. After that they continued to appear as trainers.

As for longevity: a pair (RT792, RT3123) went to the University of Davis in California, where amongst others they ran for many years on student services. They maybe still do. Two others still have PSV status in south-east England, and may be seen at weddings and ther events, besides rallies and running days: RT1396 and RT3062.

Preserved Saunders roofbox RTs

(Please let me know of any others not mentioned):

RT742                  Saunders: Davis Unitrans, University of California, Davis, Ca. USA
RT1320  KLB 569  2008  Saunders, preserved, in store: The London Bus Company
RT1396  KXW 495  2008  Saunders, working preservation: Alphabus, Bletchley 
RT1656  KXW 302  2008  Saunders, preserved, in store: The London Bus Company
RT1775                 Saunders, preserved: LondonBus, Saint-Amant-Tallende 63450 France
RT3062  KXW 171  2008  Saunders, working preservation with The London Bus Company. 
RT3955  LUC 114  2008  Saunders, preserved, awaiting rebuild: D.Thrower & P.Hammell
RT4482  OLD 702  2008  Saunders, in rebuild, D.Bosher
RT4686  NXP 971  2008  Saunders (minus roofbox), in store for Ensignbus Museum
RT4823  OLD 587  2008  Saunders, preserved, in store: The London Bus Company

photo references. bus histories. Park Royal & Weymann roofbox RTs Cravens roofbox RTs

Ian's Bus Stop RT contents wartime RTs Saunders RTs standard RTs