RT 97 and RTC1

This page updated 29th July 2005

Rebuilt:1944(by enemy action!), 1945, 1946, 1948

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

Bodies: see below!

Pre-war RT, initial livery RT97 started existence as just another "pre-war" RT, in April 1940. But in July 1944, whilst on duty from Putney Bridge, a close encounter with a German cruise missile altered it permanently. The blast from the V1 "doodlebug" blew in the panelling all along the nearside, and made a mess of the front and dome of the bus. It was sent to Birmingham for repair, but the extent of the damage must have been greater than that agreed, so it was returned to London un-repaired.

Before the blast: a typical "pre-war" RT.

The boffins at Chiswick presently got round to it, and decided to use it as another vehicle in their Pay-As-You-Board experiments. They also had a pair of STLs and a trolleybus, all with front or centre entrances, where boarding passengers paid a seated conductor.

RT97, red For RT97 they provided a new platform and sliding door, with a rear-facing seated conductor. This does not sound very radical, but the platform was to be a waiting area, where customers could stand while the bus moved off. So it was raised to the level of the lower saloon floor, with a step up from the doorway. The sliding door was in two parts, opening forwards into a recess in the rear wheel-arch. Because of the closing door an emergency exit was required downstairs. Two were provided: a flap-down widow at the rear of the platform, and a hinged door at the foot of the stairs, on the offside. What? Oh yes, the staircase had been moved, becoming an ST-like straight staircase above the offside rear wheel. The rear offside window was reduced in length, but might just as well have been plated completely, as the stairwell blocked most of its reduced length anyway.
Seating was affected, of course. Downstairs the two triple seats over the wheel-arches disappeared: one for the stairwell and one for the seated conductor, so 26 seats became 20. Upstairs the new stairwell displaced a double seat, but the rear seat became a five-seater across the full width of the bus, so upstairs still seated 30, making a total of 50.
The destination indicators were also altered. The front appears to have been rebuilt as standard, but the nearside display over the door was reduced in size to clear the door-operating mechanisms. The rear display was a small neat variant of the RT rear display.
A further visual change was a small opening ahead of the nearside rear wheel-arch, for an emergency door operating system.

It entered service at Kingston in January 1946, alongside the two PAYB STLs on the 65. Like them, it was not a success. From an operating standpoint, the buses ran late, because of protracted boarding times. Customers disliked standing on the platform in order to pay their fares, rather than sitting down and waiting for the conductor to arrive. (Both these conclusions were forgotten -or ignored- by the late sixties, when PAYB standee single-deckers were introduced en masse to replace the RTs). By the end of March 1946 the experiment was over at Kingston, and RT 97 returned to Chiswick. But LT did not give up ideas easily. If busy town routes caused problems with passengers having to stand for several stops before paying, then the answer probably was to use PAYB on services with wider-spaced stops!

RT97, Green Line So three weeks later, in April 1946, RT97 re-appeared, resplendent in full Green Line livery with bronze lining. Not much else had changed, except that the front wheels now sported wheel discs of the 9T9 style (also worn by RTs in the Victory Parade that year).
RT97C (the"C" was never worn) went to Romford for use on the East London services from Aldgate to Romford: the 721. There it ran alongside the new but austere GreenLine Daimlers. So it was preferred by customers for its comfort, but disliked for the waiting to pay on a lurching platform.
So in July 1946 the PAYB aspect was abandoned, and RT97 continued on the 721 with a roving conductor. It was to stay that way for the rest of the year, until taken back to Chiswick for further experimentation early in 1947. It had, however, made the point in comparison with the Daimlers, that something better was expected by Green Line passengers. Consequently, the Daimlers were fairly soon displaced by GreenLine RTs.

The idea for proper double-deck Green Line coaches was not a new one for London Transport. It was one of those persistent ideas that kept coming up, being tried, failing, and being put back on the shelf, There had been the real odd-ball, LT 1137, a double-deck six-wheeler Renown with a peculiarly shaped roof, back in 1931. That had soon been dispatched for bus duties in the northern outreaches of the system. Then STL buses had been used on the East London routes during the war, followed by the Daimler buses and RT97C. These had the capacity required, but not the standard of style or comfort associated with the GreenLine single-deckers. They lacked luggage racks above the seats, for instance, and had standard bus seating. RT 97 was to show what could be achieved. The war was over, Austerity was in vogue, but would not be tolerated for long. The Festival of Britain and a new explosion of post-war design style was just beginning. LT used a firm of designers to give RT97 a makeover, reflecting the new ideas.

RTC1, Green Line The front was restyled completely, with the radiator disappearing. A bonnet and half cab were retained, in a built-up curved style reminiscent of the pre-war TF class. The distinctive raked curve of the RT front was reprofiled.
The window treatment was totally changed: instead of the chunky RT pillars there were slim but deep aluminium dividers. The windows (except at the ends) rolled down into the bodysides, giving a half-opening without dividing the panes. The window areas were given a broad trim line surround. The between-decks band was deepened considerably, so that traditional GreenLine roofboards could be mounted on the sides, and a Green-Line fleetname on the front and rear (These were translucent, and illuminated from behind). The nearside destination display disappeared altogether, and those on front and rear were reduced to a single panel. The roofboxes went.
The sliding door arrangement of RT97 was retained, with the new trim fashion applied. But the stairs went back to their normal rear corner position, so a new emergency door was fitted in the rear, replacing the offside door and the drop-down window of RT97.
But there were other, internal changes too. The lack of a front radiator involved much plumbing! The engine hot water was piped to a heat exchanger under the stairs, which in turn ducted hot air around the bus to keep the passengers warm. Lighting inside was by means of the new fluorescent tubes. The conductor too was not forgotten: a tip-up seat inside the doorway was provided for his comfort.

The new bus (coded 5RT5), was revealed to the press in early 1949, but it was not until April that it was licensed for service. After trials from Windsor it started service from Hertford on the 715. It quickly moved around to Reigate (711) in May, Hemel Hempstead (708), also May, and Windsor (704) in June, then Hertford again in July for 4 months on the 715. But by November 1949 its GreenLine days were over.
It had been unreliable - perhaps the worst sin for a service bus! The problem seems to have centred around the plumbing: which from our time seems obvious, in the light of later experience of buses without front radiators! But the plumbing and heat exchanger suffered from air-locks, with consequent overheating. Passengers complained about the ride quality too.

RTC1, final bus livery So it was sent to Leatherhead for bus duties, in December 1949, for use on the 416 and 468. The green window trims and the inter-floor band were painted cream at first and the bronze trim overpainted in green. In this condition it ran for two years. But at a light overhaul at the start of 1952 the cream window surrounds were over-painted too, leaving only the middle band in cream to relieve the green. The fluorescent lighting went too, and the coach seats. But even on humble bus duties it was not proving reliable, and it was withdrawn in 1953 and sent to Chiswick.

Here it was used in development work, and helped inflence the design work taking place on the Routemaster. The Green Line coach concept resurfaced of course with the fourth RM prototype, CRL4, and reached maturity with the production RMCs and RCLs. RTC1 was bought by Norths, the Leeds dealers, in 1955 and it presently found itself with Vernons Pools in Liverpool, who used it for staff transport. It seems to have been something of a pet there. Ultimately, in August 1961 it was sold on, and scrapped in Birkenhead.

RM1, 1954 prototype Failure it may have been in service, but its design influence was obvious when the prototype Routemaster made its appearance at the Commercial Motor Show in 1954. There was the rounded, radiator-free front. There were the tiny destination panels. There was a built-in heat exchanger for saloon heating. Of course, some of these didn't stand up to the rigours of operation, but RTC1 had left its mark.

RM1 in 1954 protype condition

Photographic References:

RT 97 FXT 272
             FRT p63     1946 K on 65, rear quarter views
             FRT p64-5   1946, more official views, inside and out.

RT 97 FXT 272
             FRT p66-67  1946 RE on 721 to Romford
             RTJub p50   1946 RE on 721 at Aldgate

RTC1 FXT 272
             FRT p70-74  1949    at Chiswick, various views, inside and out
             BM3RM p8    1949    showing 715, at Chiswick, doors closed
             BPRM p15    1949
             LSubBp125           at Chiswick, rear view
             RTJub p51   1949 HG on 715
             FRT p75     1949 RG on 711 to Reigate
             LTGL p95    1949 RG on 711 to Reigate
             AIHLB p24   1949 WR on 704 to Windsor
             LBT&N p39   1949 WR on 704 to Windsor
             LCityB p70  1949 WR on 704, at Eccleston Br 
             LB&TA p32   1949 WR on 704 to Tunbridge Wells
             LBM89 p23   1949 WR on 704 to Tunbridge Wells, o/s rear view
             LT3362p76        WR on 704 to Tunbridge Wells,  rear view
             BusEx61 p6       LH on 468 to Chessington Zoo
             FRT p76-77  1952 LH on 416 between Esher and Leatherhead
             LBF p87          LH on 416, Esher & Leatherhead, two views
             GDRT p11    1950 LH on 468 to Leatherhead, Epsom
             FRT p77     1953    ex LT, at Lancashire Motor Traders
             H56 p130   10/56    Vernon's Pools staff bus, Liverpool

Bus Stop RT Contents prewar RT97, RTC1 postwar