The London Transport experimental Fleetlines: XFThis page created 14th May 1999, updated 25th September 2000 by Ian Smith
Introduction.Daimler Fleetlines were the OTHER rear-engined buses that were being bought in large numbers by operators round the country in 1965. When London Transport ordered fifty Leyland Atlanteans for evaluation they played fair and ordered some Fleetlines as well: just eight, that would go to the Country Area for evaluation first. Part of the plan with these was to evaluate them as dual purpose vehicles, as crewed double-deckers during peak hours and as one-person-operated single deckers at off peak times. A lockable gate was incorporated to enable the top deck to be locked off, so that it would then legally be a single-decker for passenger carrying purposes. (Double decker one person operation was illegal at that time).
ConstructionThe XFs had Daimler Fleetline chassis with a Gardner 6LX 10.45 litre engine mounted transversely at the back. The bodywork, by Park Royal, was the same as on the XA Atlanteans, to a design externally similar to that supplied to Stockton-on-Tees Corporation in 1964. This had fairings over the protruding rear bustle, matching it in with the top deck. Windows were standard provincial sliders. The display comprised a three-window group at the front, and a small number-only window at the rear.
Internally they were different from most other Fleetlines, in that the floor was raised, giving a second step up from the roadway. This was to ease the movement of passengers through the constriction between the front wheel arches, with the aim of allowing two-stream loading/unloading. The staircase foot was also angled towards the door with the same purpose.
Preserved XF1, at Lingfield Station in 1998, during the Running Day, and at Cobham Open Day, 1998.
Into serviceThe eight XFs went into service before the Atlanteans, on 15th September 1965. They were all allocated to East Grinstead (EG), where they took over from the RTs on route 424, a long wiggly route from Reigate to East Grinstead. This offered the experience of crush-loadings in the Reigate peak - hours, urban operation in East Grinstead, and rural quiet in between. They also operated journeys on the 435 and 438C. All journeys were operated with conductors.
They seemed to be performing more reliably and with better fuel figures than the XAs in London, but it was suggested that this was because of different conditions of operation (and maintenance) in the City. The scientific, and practical, approach was to do a swap. So in April 1966 the eight green buses found themselves at Highgate garage in exchange for eight XAs. It seems that the differences persisted.
In July the XFs returned to East Grinstead. New legislation permitted the operation of double-decker with driver only, and LT was keen to try out its arrangement with the top-deck locked off for omo operation. It was not a success. Neither terminus of the 424 was at a crew changeover point, so there were problems over whether to change the operating system at the terminus or convince passengers to vacate the preferred top deck part-way through the journey. The experiment ceased in April 1967, with a reversion to dual crews.
Inside XF1, in preservation
They next went to Stamford Hill (SF) in mid-May 1967, again in exchange for XAs, for more engineering comparisons on the tougher streets of the East End. XF3 acquired a wider Cummins V6 engine, giving it a protruding bustle at the back.
They returned to East Grinstead after two years of London work, (all in green), having proved their superiority over the XAs, and settled down to the familiar Country routes.
The next major change, for three of them, was in late 1969, when XF6-8 were painted in an experimental blue and silver livery. Complete with London Country fleetnames they started work in Stevenage in the last few days of London Transport Country Area, before it was nationalised on 1st January 1970 to form London Country. Maintaining their tradition of experimental work, they operated the new Blue Arrow services in Stevenage. These planned to limit car use by making contracts between bus operator and regular users, whereby the buses operated a personalised service between residential and commercial areas of the New Town.
Stevenage Blue Arrow
This presently gave way to the Stevenage Superbus system, using dedicated Swifts (followed by Metro-Scanias and Leyland Nationals), and the wandering three went for overhaul. Back in green, they returned to East Grinstead in 1972, where they rubbed shoulders with three XAs that had been drafted in to replace them. The XAs were sold to Hong Kong in 1973, but the XFs continued with London Country until the end of 1981, by which time they were the only ex-London Transport buses still in operation with the company. They had outlasted many of their LT successors too, the DMS class!
XF3 in preservation in April 2002, at Cobham Museum Open Day, and loading up at East Grinstead.
Click for larger photos
Photos by Ian Smith.