SRT 1-160 (Total 160)Introduced: April 1949.
Chassis: AEC Regent, 16ft 3in wheel-base, 6 cylinder 7.7 litre diesel,
Body: Park Royal, RT9: 56 seats (26 + 30)
London Transport was busy. The new post-war economy was causing a huge
demand for bus travel in the Capital,
and LT was trying to meet it - despite the problems of a war-raddled fleet -
by an amazing program of bus replacement. The RTs were coming.
Unfortunately AEC could not supply chassis as fast as the
variety of bodywork producers: Park Royal, Weymann, Saunders and Cravens
were all busy churning out RT bodies.
Meanwhile some of the older STL bodies were sadly drooping.
LT was doing its best to hold them together by
straps and belts, but was fighting a losing battle.
It couldn't just scrap the STLs: demand for buses was too high.
Into serviceThe SRTs went into service from March 1949, to Palmers Green (route 34), Camberwell (35), Victoria (10) and Chalk Farm (24). A handfull went to Forest Gate as trainers in preparation for introduction on route 96.
Their reception was not rapturous. The crews very quickly found out that looks are not everything: their performance was poor. The metal body was a half-tonne heavier than the STL body. The proper RTs had 9.6 litre engines to cope - and better brakes - whilst the STLs had only 7.7 litres. The crews found their acceleration and braking not at all to their liking. After their inability to stop on request while descending hills was demonstrated to a previously sceptical management, they were withdrawn from the hilly routes.
Oddly, London did not dispose of them to the Country Area, but did try
to allocate them to less taxing Central Area routes,
concentrating them on route 16 from Cricklewood (W).
All those originally allocated to Victoria, Palmers Green and Forest Gate,
were withdrawn for brake modifications, and in October 1949 were sent to Cricklewood.
More new SRTs, suitably modified, joined them there, and later at Chalk Farm (CF) for route 24.
Camberwell retained its allocation, but these were moved from the 35 onto the less arduous 5, 5A and 42.
Later deliveries, based on older STL chassis,
went to the new garage at Twickenham (AB) for the 90 and 90B,
and to Harrow Weald (HD) for the 114.
Their lodging at Harrow Weald was short-lived. September 1950 saw them removed from there, displaced by new RTWs. They went to Chalk Farm and Holloway for new route 196.
January 1951 saw some of Camberwell's allocation made redundant when routes 5/5A were swallowed up by tram replacement routes 189 and 189A. But Camberwell reused some on new route 195 until May (when Norwood took over the route with RTs). February saw Sidcup join the ranks of SRT users, when a number of SRTs were collected together to operate new route 229. What Sidcup's crews, by now used to RTLs, made of them is probably best left unrecorded.
In July 1951 the 196 (Holloway and Chalk Farm) was extended as part of the tram conversion programme, and lost its SRTs. These now went to Forest Gate for route 66, displacing STLs. Forest Gate shared this route with Hornchurch (RD), and the latter received some SRTs in October 1951 for its share of the route, when Sidcup disposed of its last (the 229 becoming STL operated).
Barking (BK) became a marginal SRT user when it received three in October 1952 for new route 66A, which it shared with Forest Gate.
Overhauls started in 1952, with the SRTs being repainted into red with a cream band, and all but the first two with full blinds, but the programme was stopped when just 48 had been done, in May 1953.
A new garage at North Street, Romford took over Hornchurch's and Barking's SRTs in August 1953.
But already withdrawals had started, in July 1953, LT recognising the class's failings and ordering new chassis to replace the ex-STL ones. The bodies, with minor modifications to RT8 standard, went onto new RT chassis as they became available, becoming at first RT 4397-4556, (some of which were Green Line RTs) and the relatively young STL chassis went for scrap. Chiswick remounted already-overhauled bodies, while Aldenham overhauled its bodies before mounting them. Cricklewood started to lose its large allocation for the 16 from July 1953 onwards, replacing them with RTs. Twickenham's heavily-used SRTs followed from November. 1954 saw them disappearing also from Chalk Farm, which temporarily replaced them with RTs despite also operating RTLs and RTWs. Twickenham replaced its allocation with green RTs, some of them with ex-SRT bodies! All the SRTs had gone, unmourned, by the end of July 1954, only five years after inception.
Postscript: Fifteen of the chassis were reused to house float bodies for RTs, until these were required in 1955, when the chassis were scrapped. Another, from SRT45, was given the body from RT1 for a while, as training unit 1019J, until a newer chassis, from wrecked Cravens-bodied RT1420, became available.