This page created 1997, updated 4th March 2007.

The "leaning - back" STLs

STL 203-552, 559-608 (Total 400)

leaning back STL drawing Standard STL stern.
Standard stern (STL 469):


Perhaps recognizing the ugly - duckling qualities of the first STLs, the LGOC designers tried another tack. The quest for 60 seats was over (at least until the RM took over the General STL theme - with rounded corners!). Instead, the 1930's vogue for streamlined shapes made its mark. The front was raked back quite sharply above the driver's dashboard, and the back was rounded off, in a rear end that was to become the STL standard.

The display was still the same mess of three non-matching openings but somehow didn't look so bad on this raked front. As the design progressed through different batches the display was modified, first by judicious use of black paint to make the apertures appear the same size, and later still with more glassto create a unified approach.

Although this group of 400 buses were produced in just about a year, covering the changeover from LGOC to the new London Transport Board, there were several sub-varieties reflecting the serious advances in mechanical engineering occurring at the time. The buses did not LOOK much different, but there were differences under the skin that merited the award of several different class types.

Photo of STL441 Most obvious were the two body-types:
The STL2 was the first of the body designs. This introduced the raked back front, with the consequent loss of a seating bay compared with the General STL1, making it a 56 seater (H30/26R). The front windows at the front were raked back in a V-plan, which didn't match the roof or the panel below, so was not totally satisfactory.
After the first fifty the design was altered slightly at the front, with upper windows that fitted the plan. This was the STL3 body that with minor alterations to suit the various chassis was to make up the other 350 of the type.

STL 441, with a STL3 type body, beautifully preserved at Cobham.

Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter

Inside STL441, upstairs Inside STL441, downstairs

Inside an STL. This one (STL441) shows the design of seats with aluminium handrails and integral poles, and the brown up to window-top level with cream ceilings. The moquette here is postwar RT. (Photos taken, with permission, by Ian Smith during Cobham Open Day, April 1999.)
The chassis displayed more variations: at first the available diesel engines were too large to fit within the STL chassis and the legal length limit, but London Transport was still anxious to standardise on diesels where possible because of the saving in fuel costs. So some were built with petrol engines, while others were delivered without fitted engines but WITH diesel engines. These were then fitted to the longer LT class, from which the secondhand petrol engines went into the STLs. Then a smaller 7.7 litre diesel engine, adapted from the Q design, did become available, and eleven STLs were fitted experimentally with these, the 5STL subgroup

Gearboxes were also the subject of experimentation: the first fifty had Daimler crash gearboxes without fluid flywheels, 3STL. A few of them had fluid flywheels fitted, and these proved so much superior to those without, in terms of ride quality and reduced gearbox wear, that fluid flywheels were retro-fitted to the remainder in the autumn of 1934.
The next thirty-nine, 4STL, had Daimler preselector gearboxes, again with fluid flywheels added later.
These were followed by another fifty 6STLwith crash gearboxes.
The eleven diesels 5STL had Daimler gearboxes and fluid flywheels from new.

The London Transport orders started with another 50 6STLs, and 50 7STLs (with Wilson gearboxes), then they settled on the 7STL for the last 150.


STL 469.
Numbers Type Engine Transmission
STL203-252 3STL2 new petrol A140 D128 Daimler crash*
STL253-291 4STL3/2 s/h petrol A145 D128 Daimler preselector *
STL292-341 6STL3 s/h petrol A145 D124 Daimler crash *
STL342-352 5STL3/1 new diesel A171 D128 or D132 crash + fluid flywheel
STL353-402 6STL3 s/h petrol A145 D124 crash + fluid flywheel
STL403-452 7STL3/2 s/h petrol A145 D132 preselector + fluid flywheel
STL453-552 7STL3/2 s/h petrol A145 D132 preselector + fluid flywheel
STL559-608 7STL3/2 s/h petrol A145 D132 preselector + fluid flywheel
* = fluid flywheel retrofitted in late 1934
STL 469 in post-war red, at Covent Garden December 1998, as part of the London Transport Museum Reserve Collection. Photo by Ian Smith. Click for larger version.


Into service

When new in autumn 1933 the first batch (3STL2) went to Clay Hall (CL), displacing the 1STL1s, except STL 226 which went to Tottenham (AR).

Most of the second batch went to Tottenham (AR) for the 73 and 76 routes, with both crash and preselector gearboxes. When, after the fluid flywheel trials, more preselector buses were built, these replaced the crash box buses at Tottenham, which then went elsewhere.
They replaced LTs at Athol St (C) on the 106, and at Sutton (A) on route 70. Sutton also used STLs to replace NSs on routes 157 and 165C.
Chalk Farm (CF) received a large consignment, between April and August 1934, which were used on routes 3, 63, 68, 68A, 169, 77, 77A and 177.

STL 469 at the Redhill Steam Rally in 1994, wearing
blinds and garage plates for the 8 from Willesden.
Photo by Paul Watson. Click for larger version.

Some of Chalk Farm's early buses had crash-boxes, and these were subsequently sent to Willesden (AC) for the 6. Hackney (H) received new preselector-fitted buses in August and September 1934, also for the 6.
Catford (TL) also received some for the 36 and 137 (the erstwhile 536), some of them re-allocated from Cricklewood(W) (where the allocation seems to have been an error).
The eleven with diesel engines from new (STL342-352) were allocated to Hanwell (HW) in early 1934, at first on the 526 with LTs, but from May as the full HW allocation on the extended route 55.

In 1938 three petrol buses were experimentally fitted with syncromesh gearboxes: STL253, STL263 and STL 290. They reverted to standard AEC crash gearboxes during the war.

Just before the war there was a move to rebuild some of the type, with diesel engines plus new roofbox bodies (STL 16). But after a few had been done the programme made do with re-engining with diesel engines. All the buses fitted with fluid flywheels were converted, receiving A173 diesel engines, becoming 16STL18, 1/16STL18 or 2/16STL18/1, according to gearbox.
The suspension arrangements to accommodate the new engines raised the fronts slightly, increasing the leaning-back effect.

STL441 leaning back STL: early post-war

STL441 in prewar livery, in preservation at Cobham.

Re-engined leaning-back STL in early post-war condition.

STL469, post-war red Because these buses were upgraded/diesel engined in 1939 they tended to survive longer than their later-built siblings that retained petrol engines. Most of the petrol buses disappeared during 1949, apart from a few converted to service vehicles.
A swathe was cut into the diesel buses during 1950, but then the tram replacement programme mopped up all the new buses arriving, plus more. For the last phase, in south-east London, there were insufficient RTs, even including the pre-war variety, and STLs were drafted in, including some "leaning back" buses. Most of the tram replacement buses received full blind displays (the first time since the war), and a new coat of paint: the overall red with cream band livery. (However, STL 442 went to New cross still in red and white). The Festival of Britain in 1951 also required a fleet of extras, for the special services and for short journey reliefs on longer routes passing the South Bank and Battersea. Again the STLs were called for duty.

STL469 in postwar red. (At Covent Garden, December 1998)

leaning back STL: post-war After that some went to the Country Area, and were given the full green paint-job despite their poor long-term prospects. Some appeared at Grays for the takeover of the local Eastern National routes there in September 1951. Others continued in the Central Area, and received an overall red livery (with cream band), ready for the Coronation. These included STL 469, later selected for preservation at the London Transport Museum. After the Coronation the slaughter began again in earnest, and their numbers dropped very rapidly in the second half of 1953 and early 1954. STL 469 went to Dartford (Country Area) for a couple of months at the end of the year, and continued to work in red until withdrawn into preservation in January 1954.

Again some were converted to service vehicles, but two buses survived into preservation, STL 441 with the Netherlands Transport Museum, and STL469 with the London Transport Museum. One of the service vehicles (830J), previously STL390, also joined the LT Museum Collection.

830J, front 830J, rear

830J, as a Breakdown Tender. Also part of the LT Museum Reserve Collection, it was at Covent Garden Piazza on 5th December 1998, en route from Ash Grove to the new Acton Depot. Photo by Ian Smith. Click for larger version.

leaning back bus histories photo refs

Bus Stop contents Tillings lean-backs Pickup STLs