STL 553-557 (Total 5) 12STL8These were the first STLs to enter service in London after the 1932 length relaxation.
They were bought by C.H. Pickup of Dulwich in 1932. They had Park Royal OPEN-TOP bodies. Charles Pickup thought that this would be an attraction on the weekend services to places like Richmond and Epsom: a man before his time! On Sundays and holidays the five buses, along with the three closed-top Titans, could be seen on the 70D to Epsom, but on weekdays they were seen on the 73 and 37. Their light weight (5-14-1) made their performance on the Epsom run particularly spritely! They were fitted with speedometers and oil gauges, and some with electric horns!
The firm was absorbed by the LPTB in November 1933, but continued at Lothian Road under Pickup management until the Board was ready for the influx of Independents' buses in January 1934. They went as open toppers to Old Kent Road (P), but after a fortnight were transferred to Croydon (TC) for use on the 254 route. This had a low bridge that prevented the use of double-deckers, but was too busy for single deckers. Open-toppers, with care under the bridge, were an answer (although it would never get a safety case today!). The five open-top STLs replaced four O-type Tillings-Stevens buses. The spare was often to be found on route 59 to Camden.
But it couldn't last. The Metropolitan Police District Carriage Office were not in favour of the use of open-toppers on Central Area routes, and the Pickups had to be modified. (The 254 was diverted in May '34 to allow ordinary Tillings STs to be used).
Chassis: AEC Regent, 16 ft 3in wheel-base, AEC A174 petrol engine (later A140) and crash gearbox.
Body: Park Royal six-bay open-top body, internal staircase. Chiswick fitted 5-bay tops on top of their 6-bay lower decks! The seating capacity was also reduced by 3 to keep the overall service weight within the 10-ton limit.
Ex-Pickup STL with Chiswick top-deck.Examples varied in detail: eg Initially all had glass hoods over the 3 central windows downstairs, but during war-time overhauls some lost their glass louvres in favour of metal rainstrips while STL 556 had the second and fourth windows mounted in Tilling style drop-frames with curved top-corners. STL556 also lost its oval offside window. Mechanically there were changes too, with changes to braking systems. Their larger A174 engines were replaced by standard A140 engines in the spring of 1934.
They spent most of their working lives at Croydon, Catford and Bromley - the Tilling garages. (After all, they were used to dealing with odd buses that were not "proper" London buses, weren't they?). STL554 was destroyed at Croydon during the war, but the others survived until 1948 or 1949, when they were among the first STLs to be displaced by RTs because of their petrol engines and non-standard bodies. STL553 received a later roofbox body in 1947 and was therefore the last of the bunch to be withdrawn, in December 1949.