This page created on Notepad by Ian Smith, August 1997, updated 20th November 2004


  1. Introduction: the overall class history.
  2. Fleet List: history of individual buses.
  3. Photographic Source Index
  4. Merlins: MB, MBS, MBA
  5. Country "Welsh" Swifts, SMW
  6. Greenline Swifts, SMA
SM143 at Crawley (CY).
Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter


SM3 in preservation The Merlins had not been a success. Identified as its main weakness, as far as London Transport was concerned, was the lack of manoeuvrability compared with the RT. "It is too long" they said. "Let us make a shorter version and all will be well". So they adopted the shorter version of the AEC Swift chassis, giving an overall length of 33ft 5in instead of 36ft. But the shorter length was not without sacrifice: the 11.3 litre engine had to be replaced by a paltry 8.2 litre engine - even smaller than the RT's 9.6 litres. The bus proved under-powered. The Swifts too were prone to unreliability, and proved too expensive to give total overhauls.
They were very cold in winter, too, and soon earned the class title of Siberian Morgues! So they too were destined, like the Merlins, to have a short life with LT. This was a shame for such a good-looking bus!
London Country, formed in January 1970, received a share of the order too.
SM3 in preservation. Click for larger picture.
Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter

Into service

first batch SM

SM 1-50, (B42F+20)

The first fifty, SM1 - SM50, bodied by Marshalls, were single doored, for suburban RT replacement, commencing delivery in November 1969. As 42 seaters with 20 standing they were considered "equivalent" to an RT (56 seated + 5 standing).
Eleven started in service on 24th January 1970, from Catford garage (TL). The drivers, on routes 160 and 160A, quickly found that the SM could not go where an RT could, and instant changes of route were adopted unilaterally by them.
In April more of this first batch went to Bexleyheath (BX) for the 132, Fulwell (FW) for the 270 and Hounslow (AV) for the 81 and 81B. The remainder went to Cricklewood in June 1970 for routes 245/A. The 81B was extended in September 1970, becoming the 82, with SMSs instead of SMs.

DateNo.RouteGarageType displaced
24 Jan 70160Catford (St.Dunstans)-Eltham-Welling (Mon-Sat) TL CatfordRT
24 Jan 70160ALower Sydenham Stn-Catford-Eltham-Welling-Plumstead Garage(Sun)TL CatfordRT
18 April 70270Richmond Stn-Twickenham-Teddington-Fulwell GarageFW Fulwellnew
18 April 70132Eltham-Bexleyheath Garage-Slade GreenBX BexleyheathRT
18 April 7081Hounslow-Cranford-Heathrow Airport North-Colnbrook-Slough Stn AV HounslowRM
18 April 7081B Hounslow-Cranford-Heathrow Airport CentralAV HounslowRM
13 June 70245 Golders Green-Childs Hill-Cricklewood-N.Wembley-Sudbury Town Stn (M-S)W Cricklewood
13 June 70245A Golders Green-Pennine Drive-Cricklewood-N.Wembley-Sudbury Town Stn (Sun)W Cricklewood

photo of SM 4

SM 4 at Catford (TL) for the 160. Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter
Hounslow's SMs on the 81 group were displaced by dual door SMSs in January 1973, and moved to Poplar to replace the Strachan-bodied MBs on the 108 route through the Blackwall Tunnel.

A year later, in January 1974, the opposite kind of displacement occurred: Bexleyheath's route 132 was converted to DMS, reducing serious overcrowding, with the SMs going to Fulwell to displace SMSs on route 90.

Two years later, the Fulwell SMs were replaced by SMDs, on the 90 in March 1976, and the 270 in April. After a trip to Poplar for fare-apparatus exchange they went on to Cricklewood in April, replacing MBs on route 268. Catford's SMs were replaced by SMDs in June, and went to Leyton for the 235.

SMS 51-100, (B33D+34)

drawing of London Transport SMS The second series, SMS51-SMS100 were bodied by Park Royal. They had dual doors, with a split entrance. This divided the crowd: the left door catered for those wanting the driver, or change, while the right hand door gave entry to automatic fare machines. It all worked fine in factory trials, but the sensitive money-handling machines performed less well when jolted around in service: weighing machines never work well under variable gravity! When the machine didn't work the luckless passengers were barred from reaching the driver, which slowed things even more. Not surprisingly, the cognoscenti sooned learned not to play the slot machines in the chance of hitting the jackpot, and entered via the driver's door (or sneaked in via the exit doors).

New Cross garage (NX) was the first recipient, on 18th April 1970, for radial route 70 (Greenwich Church - Aldgate).
More followed on unlucky 13th June, at Edgware (EW). The transition there was not helped by a shortage of ticket-rolls for the fare machines!

DateNo.RouteGarageType displaced
18 April 7070Greenwich Church - Surrey Docks - London Bridge StnNX New CrossRT
13 June 70142 Watford Junction - Bushey - Stanmore -Edgware( - Colindale)EW Edgware
13 June 70186 Harrow-on-the-Hill - Wealdstone - Belmont Circle - Canons Park - Edgware StnEW Edgwarenew
13 June 70286 Harrow-on-the-Hill - Wealdstone - Harrow Weald - Stanmore - Canons Park - Edgware StnEW Edgwarenew

SMS369,683, 753 in preservation

SMS369, 683 and 753 all display different 286 blinds whilst in preservation by Mick Overton in 1987. Photo, used by permission, by Mick Overton

London Country SM 101-148 (B38D+18)

drawing of London Country SM The new London Country, separated from London Transport in January 1970, received its quota of Swifts, ordered by London Transport before the nationalisation of the Country Area.
The Country Swifts, although dual-door, did not suffer the indignities of automatic fare collection: everyone paid the driver. Again, they were conceived as RT-replacements.
The first few started in June 1970 from Leatherhead(LH) on the 418 and 418A. More followed on 1st August, to Crawley (CY), Addlestone (WY) and Guildford (GF). They did look smart in the last LT Country Area livery of Lincoln green with canary yellow waist-band, (with London Country fleetnames and "flying polo" symbols of course). At Addlestone and Guildford they displaced the last seventeen of the Country area low-height double-deckers, the RLH class, that operated the 436, 461, 461A, 462, and 463 until the 31st July 1970. At Crawley they took over from RTs and RFs on local routes.
photo of SMS321
The old order and the new, for London Country. SM 119 at Crawley, alongside RF 549. The SM is a handsome bus. It was a pity that its performance did not live up to its appearance! RF 549 still looks reasonably modern, despite twenty years of service.

Click image for a larger picture.

Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter

DateNo.RouteGarageType displaced
27 Jun 70418 Kingston - Surbiton - Tolworth - Epsom - Leatherhead - Bookham Stn LH LeatherheadRT
1 Aug 70436 Staines - Chertsey - Addlestone - New Haw - Woking - Burpham - GuildfordGF/WYRLH
1 Aug 70436A Staines - Chertsey - Addlestone - New Haw - Woking - RipleyGF/WYRLH
1 Aug 70461 Staines - Chertsey - Addlestone - Weybridge - Walton-on-ThamesGF/WYRLH
1 Aug 70461A Botleys Park - Ottershaw - Addlestone - Weybridge - Walton-on-ThamesGF/WYRLH
1 Aug 70463 Guildford - Merrow - Woking - New Haw -Addlestone - Weybridge - Walton-on-ThamesGF/WYRLH
1 Aug 70426A Pound Hill - Three Bridges - Crawley - IfieldCY CrawleyRT/RF
1 Aug 70476 Crawley - IfieldCY CrawleyRT/RF
1 Aug 70476A Pound Hill South - Three Bridges - Manor Royal - Langley Green - IfieldCY CrawleyRT/RF

SMS 149-448 (B33D+34)

75 more dual-doored bodies by Marshall, and 225 by Park Royal followed during 1970-1 for Central Area use, displacing RTs - and Merlins - around the suburban fringes of London.

SMSs joined SMs at Hounslow (AV) in September 1970 for new route 82 (Hounslow Bus Stn - Heathrow Airport - Hatton Cross - Hounslow West), this being an extended version of the previously-SM operated 81B. SMs remained on the 81.
The end of October saw SMSs take over from Strachans-bodied Merlin MBs on the 107 at Enfield (E). On this route they were treated as if they were SMs, having no automatic fare equipment, and not using the centre doors.

Others arrived at Croydon (TC) for the 166 group, Thornton Heath (TH) for the 289, and Elmers End (ED) for the 194, displacing RTs.
In November Willesden (AC) received seven to convert the 226 from RT operation.

DateNo.RouteGarageType displaced
19 Sept 70248 Romford Stn-Roneo Corner-Hornchurch-Upminster Stn-Hall Lane-
Upminster Park Estate-Cranham-Upminster Stn
RD HornchurchRLH
19 Sept 70248A Upminster Stn-Corbets TeyRD HornchurchRLH
26 Sept 7082 Hounslow-Cranford-Heathrow Airport Central-Hatton Cross-Hounslow W.AV HounslowSM (81B)
31 Oct 70107 Queensbury Stn-Edgware-Elstree-Arkley-Barnet-Enfield-Ponders EndE EnfieldMB
31 Oct 70166 Chipstead Valley-Coulsdon-Purley-E. Croydon-Addiscombe-Shirley-
Beckenham Junc)
TC CroydonRT
31 Oct 70166A Chipstead Valley-Coulsdon-Purley-Croydon-Thornton Heath GarageTC CroydonRT
31 Oct 70194 Forest Hill-Penge-Elmers End-Shirley-East Croydon-Croydon AirportED Elmers EndRT
31 Oct 70289 Thornton Heath Garage-AddiscombeTH Thornton HeathRT
7 Nov 70226 Golders Green Stn-Pennine Drive-Cricklewood-Harlesden-Park RoyalAC WillesdenRT

Early January 1971 saw more omo conversions: Putney's route 85, Thornton Heath's routes 115/A, Stockwell's route 81 and Bromley's 227. At Putney RMs were displaced, while from Thornton Heath and Stockwell it was RTs.

SMS321 on 227 at Crystal Palace

On the 227 Swifts replaced not the usual RTs but RFs. The route suffered a low bridge under the Southern main line and over the River Ravensbourne at Shortlands station (Bromley), which dictated single deck operation on this busy route. A length constraint at termini at Penge and Chislehurst prevented use of the longer Merlins.

SMS 321 at Crystal Palace, brand new on the 227.
Note the flat fare symbols on the front, a visual reminder to waiting passengers to have the correct money available.
Click image for a larger picture. Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter
In mid-January the 125 at Finchley, 240/A at Edgware and 244 at Muswell Hill were converted to SMS. The Edgware conversion caused a change-round of SMS allocations to get all of Edgware's SMSs to have the same type of afc equipment.

An extension of route 111 to Hampton Station to replace the withdrawn 211 (M-F) saw more SMSs go to Hounslow for both 110 and 111, displacing MBSs to Harrow Weald. At the end of the month Merton converted back to single-deckers on the 200

SMS369 offside, Cobham 4/03 SMS369 rear, Cobham 10/97

SMS 369 was a Merton bus for its first seven years of servcice, so was no stranger to the 200 route. The bus has been beautifully preserved. It is seen at Cobham in October 1997, and again in April 2003.

DateNo.RouteGarageType displaced
2 Jan 7185 Putney Bridge Stn - Roehampton - Kingston Vale - KingstonAF PutneyRM
2 Jan 71115/A Wallington - Hackbridge - Mitcham - Streatham - Thornton Hth Pond - Croydon AirportTH Thornton HeathRT
2 Jan 71181 Streatham Garage - Tooting - Balham - Clapham - Stockwell - Vauxhall - VictoriaSW StockwellRT
2 Jan 71227 Chislehurst - Bickley - Bromley - Beckenham - Penge - Crystal PalaceTB BromleyRF
16 Jan 71125 Winchmore Hill - Southgate - Whetstone - Finchley - Hendon - Golders Green StnFY FinchleyRT
16 Jan 71240/A Golders Green Stn - Hendon - Mill Hill - Edgware StnEW EdgwareRT
16 Jan 71244 Southgate Stn - Bounds Green - Muswell Hill BdyMH Muswell HillRT
16 Jan 71110 Cranford - Heston - Hounslow - Hanworth -Twickenham Stn AV HounslowHillMBS
16 Jan 71111 Hanworth - Whitton - Hounslow - Hampton StnAV HounslowHillMBS
30 Jan 71200 Raynes Park - Wimbledon - MitchamAL MertonRT

Mid-March 1971 saw SMSs go to Romford, to North Street to replace RTs on routes 103 and 294, and another bunch to Hornchurch for the 252. Later in the month Camberwell converted trunk route 188 from RT operation, Fulwell and Norbiton converted route 285 from RMs, Highgate introduced new route 239 and Croydon rationalised by converting the 233 from operation by FRM1 and XAs.

Catford took some SMSs from this batch for the 108B in April, while Stonebridge took the last Park-Royal bodied buses for the 112 in May.

DateNo.RouteGarageType displaced
13 Mar 71103 North Romford - Romford - Becontree Heath - Dagenham - RainhamNS North StreetRT
13 Mar 71294 Lodge Lane Estate - Collier Row - Romford - Gidea Park - Hornchurch StnNS North StreetRT
13 Mar 71252 South Hornchurch - Romford Stn - Collier RowRD HornchurchRT
27 Mar 71188 Greenwich Church - Deptford - Rotherhithe - Bermondsey - Elephant - Waterloo Stn - Aldwych - EustonQ CamberwellRT
27 Mar 71285 Heathrow Airport Central - Hatton Cross - Feltham - Teddington - Kingston - New MaldenFW/NBRM
27 Mar 71233 West Croydon Stn - RoundshawTCFRM/XA
17 Apr 71108B Crystal Palace - Sydenham - Catford - Lewisham - Blackheath - GreenwichTLRT
15 May 71112 Finchley - Neasden - Stonebridge Park - Hanger Lane - Ealing Broadway SERT

London Country SM 449-538 (B41D+15)

London Country took another 90 dual-doored SMs during 1971. In February Hatfield converted routes 303/A and 315/A from RT. Meanwhile Amersham and High Wycombe started to put SMs into service with crews in advance of the official omo conversion date (Feb.20th), in order to avoid recertifying RTs on routes 353 and 362/A.

Stevenage received some in standard green and yellow livery in March, to convert the 809 to SM operation.

Four more went to Crawley in April when London Country took over more town services from Southdown, including the 475.

DateNo.RouteGarageType displaced
Feb 71353 Berkhamsted - Chesham - Amersham - Gerrards Cross - Slough - Windsor MA AmershamRT
Feb 71362/A Ley Hill - Chesham - Amersham - - High WycombeMA/HERT
20 Feb 71303/A New Barnet - Potters Bar - Welwyn Garden City - Knebworth - Stevenage - HitchinHF HatfieldRT
20 Feb 71315/A Hatfield - Welwyn Garden City - Welwyn - Kimpton/Woolmer GreenHF HatfieldRT
20 Mar 71809 Stevenage Stn - Stevenage - Bedwell - ChellsSV StevenageRT
24 Apr 71475 Crawley - HandcrossCY CrawleySouthdown

drawing of Superbus SM
The 809 was not to last long. In July it was the centrepiece of a new venture in Stevenage, when it was converted to be the first Superbus route. The buses wore a startlingly different livery: yellow with blue relief. The buses were collected at Garston or Dorking before the inauguration, and completed in their new livery. Initially there were only five Swifts (SM495-499) to go with two Metro-Scanias, but success quickly brought the repainting of further Swifts.

The rest of the batch of Swifts went to Swanley, Dartford, Chelsham and Dunton Green, displacing RTs and RFs across a wide swathe of the South-East sector. Routes involved were the 401/A, 402, 423/A/B, 453, 467 and 491.

SM488 at a rally SM532 on 403

(left): SM488 at a rally (right):SM532 on the 403 to Tonbridge.

Click on images for larger pictures.
Photos, used with permission, by BusSpotter

DateNo.RouteGarageType displaced
3 July 71401 Upper/Lower Belvedere - Bexleyheath - Bexley - Dartford - Shoreham - SevenoaksSJ/DTRT
3 July 71401A Bexleyheath/Bexley/Dartford - Joydens Wood EstateDT DartfordRT
3 July 71402 Bromley North Stn - Farnborough - Dunton Green - Sevenoaks - TonbridgeDG Dunton GreenRT/RF
3 July 71423 Wrotham - West Kingsdown - Farningham - Swanley - Wilmington - Dartford - Watchgate - LongfieldSJ/DTRT
3 July 71423A/B Wells Factory/Littlebrook- Dartford - WatchgateSJ/DTRT
3 July 71453 Chelsham - Warlingham - Whyteleafe - CaterhamSJ/DTRT
3 July 71467 Sidcup - Foots Cray - Bexley - Crayford - Dartford - Wilmington- Horton KirbySJ/DTRT
3 July 71491 Lower Belvedere - Barnehurst - Perry Street - Crayford - Dartford - Wilmington- Horton KirbyDTRT/RF
31 July 71SB Stevenage - ChellsSV809 SM

SMS 539-838 (B33D+34)

drawing of London Transport SMS
London Transport found itself with another three hundred Swifts arriving during 1971 and 1972, the last buses from AEC for LT. These arrived as LT was starting its next attempt at modernisation and RT replacement - the Daimler Fleetline DMS - trying to build on its one-man operation experience gained with the single-deckers.

The Swifts again went to various parts of the system, replacing some RTs and standing in for failed Merlins and earlier Swifts: they were not proving any more reliable than their immediate predecessors.
photo of SMS775 at Victoria

SMS 566 at Elephant & Castle on the 188 service to Waterloo.
Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter
The first of LT's MCW-bodied SMSs arrived while Park Royal was tailing off its batch. LT tried to keep them separate in their initial allocations. The first MCWs went to Highgate in the March 1971 programme, for the new 239 route. They were followed in April by the conversion of back-street route 236 from crew-operated RF - the last route using crew RFs. Dalston and Leyton were both involved. West Ham converted the 238 from RM operation at the same time.

May saw more RTs displaced at Alperton and Southall with routes 92 and 274. Southall also gained new route 208, while Streatham acquired new route 249.

On 3rd July Swifts replaced Merlins on Peckham route P1, allowing a cover float of MBSs to be set up for the MBS repaint programme. RT replacement continued at Loughton (167), Barking (179) and Potters Bar (299). At the end of the month Upton Park joined in, losing RTs from the 147.

DateNo.RouteGarageType displaced
27 Mar 71239 Tuffnell Park - Kings Cross - WaterlooHT Highgate new
17 Apr 71236 Leytonstone Stn-Hackney Wick-Dalston-Finsbury Pk Stn (-Golders Green Stn) D/TRF
17 Apr 71238 Stratford Broadway-Upton Park-East Ham-Barking-Goodmayes-Little Heath WH West HamRM
15 May 7192 Southall Garage - Greenford - Sudbury - Wembley ON/HWRT
15 May 71274 Hayes - Yeading - Greenford - West Ealing - Ealing BroadwayHW SouthallRT
15 May 71208 Hayes Stn - Hanwell HW Southallnew
15 May 71249 Crystal Palace - Clapham Junction (- Battersea) AK Streathamnew
3 July 71P1 New Cross - Surrey Docks - Bermondsey - New Cross NX New CrossMBS
3 July 71167 Debden Broadway - Loughton - Buckhurst Hill - Chigwell - Barkingside - Ilford L LoughtonRT
3 July 71179 Chingford Stn - Woodford Wells - Sth Woodford - Gants Hill - Ilford - BarkingBK BarkingRT
3 July 71299 Southgate Stn - Cockfosters - Potters Bar - South Mimms - BorehamwoodPB Potters BarRT
31 July 71147 Redbridge Stn - Ilford - East HamU Upton ParkRT

During the back end of 1971 the omo conversion process continued unabated, using both DMSs and SMSs. In September the latter included routes 57 (Merton), 91 (Turnham Geen), 116 (Hounslow) and 231 (Enfield), all converted from RT to SMS. Norbiton started new route 211. SMSs also took over from omo RFs on the 210 route. At the end of October Harrow Weald lost its RTs from the 114, and Upton Park Routemasters from the 162. Uxbridge changed from RTs on the 222 in December, and Southall started new route 195. Croydon put one SMS onto new (Saturdays only) route 233A.

DateNo.RouteGarageType displaced
18 Sep 7157 Kingston-Norbiton-Raynes Park-Wimbledon-Merton-Tooting-Streatham AL MertonRT
18 Sep 7191 Wandsworth Bridge - Hammersmith - Turnham Green - Hounslow West V Turnham GrnRT
18 Sep 71116 Staines - Bedfont - Hounslow Heath - Hounslow (- Great West Rd) AV HounslowRT
18 Sep 71211 Kingston - Hampton Court - E.& W.Molesey - Walton-on-ThamesNB Norbiton new
18 Sep 71231 Turnpike Lane Stn - Enfield Town - Forty Hill E EnfieldRT
18 Sep 71210 Golders Grn Stn-Hampstead Hth-Kenwood-Highgate-Archway Stn-
Finsbury Park
31 Oct 71114 Ruislip Lido - Ruislip - South Harrow - Harrow - Wealdstone
- Harrow Weald
HD Harrow WealdRT
31 Oct 71162 Wanstead-Forest Gate-Upton Park-East Ham-Barking-Mayesbrook Park U Upton ParkRM
4 Dec 71222 Hounslow-Cranford-Harlington-Heathrow North-West Drayton-
Uxbridge Stn
UX UxbridgeRT
4 Dec 71195 Charville Lane Estate - Greenford (-Perivale) HW Southallnew
4 Dec 71233A Roundshaw Estate - Wallington (Sats) TC Croydonnew

SMS369 offside, Cobham 10/97 Early 1972 saw the last of the SMS class being delivered. In January North Street in Romford converted routes 66 and 66B from RT. Route 12 was split, with SMSs operating the 12A between Peckham and South Croydon.
The February changes were more complex, There were not enough new SMSs for the February programme, but more were found by converting Putney's route 85 to DMS operation. This allowed Fulwell's route 90 to be converted from RT, and route P2 to receive SMSs in place of MBSs at New Cross. There remained enough new buses to convert Hounslow's last RT routes, the 203 and 203A, in March.

SMS 369 at Cobham Bus Museum in October 1997, wearing P2 blinds.
Photo by Ian Smith.

DateNo.RouteGarageType displaced
8 Jan 7266/B Leytonstone - Newbury Park - Romford - Gidea Park - Harold Wood Stn / Hornchurch StnNS North StreetRT
8 Jan 7212A Peckham - Dulwich - Penge - Addiscombe - South Croydon GarageED Elmers End RT
5 Feb 7290 Staines - Sunbury - Hanworth - Twickenham - Richmond - Kew Gardens StnFW FulwellRT
5 Feb 72P2 Rotherhithe - Surrey Docks - RotherhitheNX New CrossMBS
11 Mar 72203/A Hounslow - Hatton Cross - Bedfont - Staines / Ashford StnAV HounslowRT

October 1972 saw the start of a repaint programme for SMs and SMSs. To provide sufficient slack in the allocations for the programme, Enfield lost its SMSs on the 107, these being replaced by DMSs.

Through the seventies

Both London Transport and London Country had problems with their Swifts, possibly because of the mechanical excellence of the previous generation. The RT and RF era had built up an expectation in management that buses would BE reliable, and their longevity and mechanical simplicity had produced a maintenance regime that just was not prepared for the new buses. More complex systems, interlocks, indirect cooling systems and electronics were not in the Manchester screwdriver handbook of bus maintenance. So too few maintenance staff were overwhelmed by buses that did what most buses do, while management were also caught in the trap, unable to magic new technical staff, and to some extent throwing new buses at the problem. These buses had not had the five year gestation periods of the RT and RM classes, (and remember they too had had horrific problems in their early days).

drawing of London Country SM

But also in this period British manufacturing industry went through a period of serious malaise, which resulted in a chronic lack of spare parts. Buses went into store in droves due to lack of spares. In December 1973 alone London Country put twenty-three of its SMs into store!

The writing really appeared on the wall when the Merlins and Swifts proved not to be amenable to the Aldenham style of periodic reconstructions, and when Leyland Nationals appeared at the right moment. The Merlin/Swift classes were doomed to a short existence with the London companies.

In the meantime they appeared on a variety of bus duties. Liveries were updated, with the roundel replacing fleetnames in London, and NBC green washing over the Country fleet.

photo of SMS775 at Victoria

SMS 775 at Victoria Station on the 507 Red Arrow service to Waterloo, 23/01/81.
Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter

The SMD debacle

The automatic fare collection equipment continued to cause problems and delays, and SMS routes were subjects to many complaints about overcrowding and "cattle-truck" conditions. So in 1974 an experiment was made on SMS 75: to remove the afc equipment and install more seats, both doubling the single seats in the forward section and utilising the afc space. At the same time the centre exit doors were sealed shut. SMS75 went to Fulwell to join the SMs on route 90, and was reclassified as SMD75 in April 1976 after it had been joined by more conversions.

In 1975 a programme was adopted to modify another 115 buses, with the idea of replacing the MBs and MBSs. Route 103 was converted to DMS in August 1975, with the idea of converting route 90 to SMD operation by the end of the month. In practice the released SMSs all went to patch up gaps in SMS allocations due to non-availability. It was 1976 before wide-spead SMD conversions got underway. In practice only 104 were done. The modified buses were classified SMD. That the experimental nature of SMD75 - just sealing the doors - was repeated on this larger batch, rather than installing a proper panel, floor and window, was indicative of the rather desperate state of affairs in LT at the time.

It was February 1976 before SMSs (released from route 244 at Edgware) headed to Poplar garage for conversion, and March before they took over from SMs at Fulwell on route 90. Fulwell suffered again in April, with more SMDs arriving for the 270. Catford was the next garage to receive them, again in place of SMs. The displaced SMs went to Leyton, along with more SMDs, to replace MBs on the 235.

The SMD programme petered out when it became obvious that no-one really wanted the modified buses. Their seven year certicates were rapidly expiring and only a few achieved an overhaul to extend their public existence. Some stayed in store after modification. Some found work as Aldenham staff buses - and ventured out as far as Reigate and St.Albans, but even these were swiftly replaced by some of the first batch of red SM Swifts. The SMDs were withdrawn from public service by mid 1978.

Decline and Withdrawal

preserved SMS369 - rear The unaltered SMS were not in better state. First sales were in October 1976, with the buses just six years old. In the Central Area they were replaced as rapidly as possible by Leyland Nationals. The Swifts had had a repaint in 1974, but not an overhaul. By 1977 their seven year tickets were expiring, and perforce many had to go into store to await their opportunity for a light overhaul. Victoria garage's basement bulged, and other places in the system with covered accommodation did too. The light overhauls, taking about two months each, recertified the buses, and gave them another couple of years of London service in most instances.

Swifts took over from Merlins on Red Arrow duties, but this was only until the Mark II Nationals took over in 1981. The last Swift on ordinary bus duties went from Edgware in January 1981, and the last Red Arrow went in July. In the Country they rapidly dwindled during 1981 too.
Most were sold. Other users around the country made good use of some of them, and others went abroad - to all corners of the globe. Malta and Belfast were two places where many found good homes. Many gave good service, when given the TLC that London's harassed bus engineers didn't have the time to give.

A page of Merlins and Swifts in service after London.


Some of the LT Swifts were converted for the service fleet in their latter days:
SMD 91 became a Video-bus, with some of the forward window-spaces blanked over;
SMS 300 became a mobile classroom;
SMD 441 became a Mobile Recruitment Centre;
SMS 730 became a Mobile Recruitment Centre;
SMS 753 became a Shop and Information Centre for use at Rallies and Events.

photo of Video-Unit photo of Recruitment Unit photo of Shop/Info Unit

Click image for larger pictures. Photos, used with permission, by BusSpotter

Preservation / survivors

Just eighteen of the 838 seem to have survived in the UK, some in working preservation: photo of SMS321
  • SM 1 : Blue Triangle (in store, 2000)
  • SM 3 : Blue Triangle (in store, 2000)
  • SM 30: Emsworth & District
  • SM 32: Blue Triangle (in store, 2000)
  • SMD 88: Blue Triangle
  • SMD 91: preserved, ex Video Bus
  • SMS 97: preserved, London
  • SM 106: preserved by RM835 group
  • SM 114: preserved, London
  • SM 120: "Nigel the Newsbus": caravan
  • SMS158: preserved
  • SMS320: Blue Triangle (in store, 2000)
  • SMS369: preserved, Cobham Museum
  • SMS443: Blue Triangle (in store, 2000)
  • SM 498: Willy's Wheels: Film Location Vehicle
  • SM 502: preserved
  • SMS637: Emsworth & District
  • SMD753: preserved, West Wickham

SMS 753, previously a LT recruiting bus, now restored to its former condition and
livery. Re-registered too - an American plate?. Click image for a larger picture.
Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter

Merlins and Swifts in service after London. Swift histories photo refs

Bus Stop Merlins. Swifts. SMW.