STL 959-1043, 1056-1059: The First Series (Total 89) 10STL6The First Series of Country STLs were NOT the first STLs owned by the Country Area. They had experience of the Godstone STLs bodied by Weymanns of Addlestone, and had been impressed by the front entrance layout. They needed new highbridge buses to replace the varied collection of older types that had been inherited from other companies on the formation of London Transport in 1933, and the elderly NS and PS types from London General Country Services.
Chiswick produced a front entrance version of the new standard STL, and very good it looked. But unlike the Godstones, this STL had no door: it was considered an inconvenience that delayed boarding times. So Chiswick dreamed up the draught-proof entrance: the angled front bulkhead and recessed doorway was supposed to deflect the airstream outwards.
Did it work? Not according to the passengers! A front entrance, unheated bus in a cold February morning was not a pleasant experience!
Another penalty was the size and weight of the arrangement, which resulted in these buses having only 48 seats, (only 19 downstairs, with luggage pens over the rear wheel arches, plus 29 upstairs.
The staircase was behind the driver, ascending clockwise.
The STL6s were otherwise based on the STL5 design, with the same general good looks. They were initially painted in two shades of green (mid-green and apple-green), with black trim bands, mudguards and silver roof. They probably had orange wheels too!
This original livery wore badly, especially along the Thames Estuary, (as Arriva seems to be finding with its turquoise), and the engineers apparently wanted to paint them red. This was not acceptable to the 'powers that be' and the livery was changed in 1939, to Lincoln green with white window surrounds, black bands and guards, and a silver roof.
The roof became red oxide during the war, and after the war the livery became overall green with a cream cant-rail band.
Into serviceEarly in 1935 the new Country buses started into service on the long 321 route (Luton - St Albans - Watford - Rickmansworth - Uxbridge), initially at Watford High Street (WA), followed by St Albans (SA) and Luton (LS). But the rest went south of the Thames, fuelling the feeling in the Country Area Northern Division that the Southern half got all the goodies (ignoring the placing of the Bluebird STs around Hertfordshire, of course).
Four more were built in July 1935 for increased services in the Darenth area, two going to Dartford, two to Swanley.
In 1939 the question of major overhauls arose. The Country buses had no body float for overhauls. It was decided to create one by fitting STL14/1 bodies to six 10STL buses, four that had carried Chiswick bodies, and two with Weymanns. The float bodies sat around at Chiswick, the overhaul programme having been interrupted by the war, but in January and February 1942 the Chiswick-built bodies were used to replace four Weymann bodies, in order to increase the buses' passenger capacity.
During 1939 their limited seating capacity was increased by replacing the luggage bins over the wheel arches by sideways-facing double seats, making them 52 seaters (plus five instead of four standing, too).
After the war they were regarded as something of a mixed blessing. Their low seating capacity still told against them, but some of the bodies were still quite serviceable. Eventually, as buses were being swept of the road by the men from the Ministry for rotten bodywork, someone remembered the excellent float Weymann Country bodies, still sitting at Chiswick. They were given Country-series chassis for the exigencies of 1951. The class promptly went back into store or to the scrapyard in the autumn, only for some to reappear in the month of May 1953 for another brief moment of glory before their ultimate demise.
STL 1040 went on to Premier Travel of Cambridge.
STL 1464-1513, Country STLs Second Series, (Total 50) 1/10STL6/1The second Country Series was built in late 1936. In specification they were the forward entrance equivalent of the STL11s, with the Comet Mk III oil engine and a double-panelled body. As Chiswick was likely to reach its legal capacity for bus-building in fulfilling orders for roof-box STLs, this order was given to Weymann's of Addlestone.
They built a metal-framed version of the forward entrance body, distinguishable from the earlier series in a few ways:
Of this batch of fifty, forty-nine went to the Southern Division, just one to the north:
The extra weight of the Weymann series meant that they were not given the additional seats over the wheel-arches, and remained 49-seaters. This meant that on the outbreak of war in September 1939 all of them were withdrawn because of their low seating capacity. This was obviously a nonsense, as there was increased demand for double-deckers, and they were very soon reinstated. But instead of going back to the Southern division (mainly at Reigate and Windsor), they went either to Romford for the reinstated Y1, to Epping or to High Wycombe.
From November 1939 the Country STLs gained regular GreenLine work: the Y1 route from Aldgate to Romford had been promptly withdrawn on the outbreak of war in September, but this had caused considerable problems. LT was allowed to reinstate a few routes, including this one using 24 of the Country STLs. The 1936 proposal had come to fruition in a strange way. In December 1940 the Greenline network was recast. Romford's Y1 became the 55, and continued with the STL6/1s. Romford's single-decker Greenline route 58 was also double-decked with the second series Country STLs, as was new Romford Greenline route 54.
After the war the same considerations applied to these as to the other Country STLs, except that their seating was less but their body condition was better. The overhaul float bodies were discovered to be sounder than those on some of the Chiswick-bodied Country buses, and made a comeback during the latter part of 1947. Some of the second series received roofbox bodies in early 1948. Many of them disappeared during 1950 and the latter part of 1951, with a few kept in store for 1953.
Just one went for service elsewhere: STL 1510 went to Whieldon of Castle Donnington and at last acquired a door!
Tree Pruning Equipment 971J (ex STL1470) makes a welcome return to the active preservation scene, looking glorious in fresh paint during the spring 1999 HCVS run to Brighton. Photo by Mike Dawes. Thanks!
But further service with LT awaited five of the Weymann-bodied survivors: STL1039 (now Weymann-bodied), STL1470, STL 1494, STL1503 and STL1512 had their bodywork cut off just above the bottom of the upper-deck windows, and became tree-loppers (or Tree Pruning Equipment). Painted in the khaki service green they became regular visitors to many parts of the London Transport system throughout the remainder of the fifties and the start of the sixties, eventually being replaced by purpose-built Thames Traders. They were an unusual but welcome sight. At least one is preserved.
971J was also a welcome visitor to Lingfield Show in August 2000. Photos by Ian Smith. Click for larger versions.