The Green Line RFs

This page created 15th December 1997, updated 7th February 2002.

The original coaches: 2RF2/1

RF26-RF288, Total 263

Preserved RF113takes a turn at Hertford Running Day, June 2001 Green Line received the second series of ordinary RFs, the first 30ft long by 7ft 6in wide RFs. It was not that Green Line were in greatest need of new buses, but their arrival on Green Line services would mean that older types could be cascaded onto bus duties, particularly in the Central Area. There was a cunning plan, that carefully switched buses around, with repaints and overhauls where necessary. Of course, like all well-laid plans, it fell victim to circumstance and was modified substantially. (There is an excellent account in Ken Glazier's book "RF", for those who would like the story in detail.)
The first problem was that the new RFs were late arriving, whilst Chiswick's maintenance programme was geared to a prompt turn-round of displaced 10T10 buses into Central red livery, starting in June 1951. Green Line would not allow the red buses to continue operating Green Line express services in the interim, so a juggling act was done, with the red buses operating on Country routes while green Country buses operated the express services.

But better late than never. The RFs entered service on route 704, from Tunbridge Wells to Windsor, from 1st October 1951, four months late. They were well received. The 10T10s had been good, but these were better, from both passenger and staff view-points. They were faster, quieter and more comfortable.

Further deliveries soon replaced all other types on Green Line work, apart from the double-deckers used on the high density traffic from Aldgate to Romford. so that by July 1953 Green Line was virtually a mono-culture service.

Greenline RF drawing The new coaches were 39 seaters, with 38 forward facing seats and 1 sideways seat behind the driver. They had luggage shelves above the seats, below the curve of the high ceiling.
The front platform doors were air-operated.
No signalling semaphores were fitted, but there was a two-headed illuminated arrow over the minute stop and tail lights above the rear number plate. (This arrangement is still legal for unconverted class members!) Signalling was done the old-fashioned way by the driver, who had a 2-part window that would slide open down into the bodyside.
Later the arrangements were upgraded (a bit): rear reflectors had to be fitted from 1954, but the stop and tail lights remained the same until some coaches were modernised from 1966, despite some routes using motorways!

RF271 in preservation

The original coaches were, (in sequence):

RF 26-RF125,  LYF 377-476
RF126-RF225,  MLL 513-612
RF226-RF288,  MLL 763-825
RF271, in unmodernised GreenLine form in preservation.
Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter

The conversions to Green Line

Preserved RF19 visits Dorking Running Day, Sept. 2001 Fortunately the RF was very reliable, (unlike its successors), as well as comfortable, so Green Line business grew substantially. Soon the department wanted a further purchase of RF coaches, but the Executive, in 1956, after looking at the whole pattern of single-deck provision, ordered instead that there should be an internal transfer. Ten of the private hire coaches from Central Area should go, as should a handful (6) of Central buses. The remainder of the requirement was made up by converting Country buses, where changing service patterns and the presence of RTs and GSs made some RFs spare. (There was a row with the Unions about the Central buses, as staff had been promised that any slack would be used to replace older types. In the end Central had six buses back from the Country area*). The convertees were repainted externally, and fitted with fittings to carry the traditional coach-boards. Inside, the buses had to be fitted with heaters, lino flooring and a row of lights along the ceiling centre-line. The upright hand-poles between seats and ceiling were removed, as Green Line coaches did not carry standing passengers. Luggage racks were fitted at the next overhaul, when the seating was also re-arranged into coach format (but with a sideways -facing double seat behind the driver making these 40 seaters. (the buses had long sideways facing seats to create a standing area at the front). The ex-buses were re-classified as 2RF2/3, and the ex-private hire coaches as 1/1RF1/3. The ex-buses were renumbered to adjoin the GreenLine block of numbers, and other red and green buses were also renumbered to keep their blocks tidy:

1/1RF1/3, RF16-25 Total 5

2RF2/3, RF289-313 Total 25

Renumbering was as follows:
Old numbers Old typeWork doneNew numbersNew type
RF 16-25 Private Hire Repaint, roofboards, racks RF 16-25 Green Line
RF 289-294 Central Bus Repaint, doors, roofboards, lights, lino, seats, racks RF 289-294 Green Line
RF 295-313 Central Bus renumber only RF 514-532 Central Bus
RF 514-516 Country Bus Repaint, roofboards, lights, lino, seats, racks RF 295-297 Green Line
RF 517 Country Bus OMO conversion RF 697 Country OMO
RF 518-532 Country Bus Repaint, roofboards, lights, lino, seats, racks RF 299-313 Green Line
RF 647, 649 Country Bus OMO conversion, renumbered RF 698, 699 Country OMO
RF 682-696 Country Bus OMO conversion RF 682-696 Country OMO
RF 697 Country Bus Repaint, roofboards, lights, lino, seats, racks RF 298 Green Line
RF 698, 699 Country Bus renumber only RF 647, 649 Country Bus
* RF 533-538 Country Bus transferred (still green) RF 533-538 Central Bus

The Green Line RFs then settled down to steady, persistent, long-running hard work, trundling back and forwards from one rim of the LT Area to the other, meeting all kinds of traffic conditions from Central Westminster ( I hesitate to say London; did any Green Lines penetrate the City?) through motorways to Country lanes. To add extra richness to their diet, it was common practice to give them an early morning Country duty before mid-morning dashes through the hurly-burly.

There was a mild flurry through the class in 1956 as they received their trafficators and double rear arrows, but for the main they continued in much the same way. Some were unofficially relegated to bus work, then received back into the GreenLine fold as bus duty patterns changed.

pale Greenline RF drawing In 1960 two lighter shades of green made their appearance, on RFs from Reigate (RG) and High Wycombe (HE) on the 711, with black relief on the wheels. It didn't catch on generally, but the lighter relief colour gradually spread through the class. Coaches with the light green were:
RF 33, 36,41, 42, 51, 52, 55, 58, 69, 71, 72, 86, 126, 271, 309, 313.

But in 1962 the RF's near-monopoly of coach operations was shattered by the arrival of the fleet of double-decker Routemaster Coaches. CRL4, the prototype, had been around for a few years by then, but it had been thought that just as RTC1 had been a failure, and the GreenLine RTs never more than repainted buses, that single-deckers had the express bus market for themselves. The RMCs displaced RFs on a more than 1 for 1 basis, being used for maintenance of route capacity at the expense of frequency (a daft economists' idea if ever there was one). Many Green Line RFs were suddenly surplus to requirements. The ex-Private hire RFs were sold, and a batch of 24 longer RFs eventually sold too. The 40 seater ex-Country bus RFs (RFS 298-313) were relegated officially to bus work, and re-converted to OMO bus specification (although retaining the forward-facing seats). A year later the front nearside seat was removed to make way for a parcels rack, making them 38 seaters (2RF5/4) The ultimate losers were the remaining GS buses, which were displaced by bus RFs and sold.

The BEA Executive RFs

BEA executive RF drawing In 1965 BEA hired 8 Green Line RFs to work on an express service between the apron at Heathrow and the West London Air Terminal, for passengers with hand-luggage only. The last eight in the GreenLine sequence (now RF 290-297) were allocated to this duty.
They were housed with the 4RF4s (the BEA RFs) in the Hammersmith trolleybus depot. They stayed in Greenline livery, but the fleetnames were disguised by side-plates bearing the BEA logo and the legend 'executive express' in fashionable new lower-case lettering. The was repeated later on the side-boards, and new blinds with BEA on were provided. The eight coaches remained on the duty for a year, until the new Reliance coaches arrived for BEA at the end of July 1966.
After that they returned to LT duties, being relegated to bus operations. A different coach, RF 91, helped out the Reliances during their settling -in period, until early 1967.

BEA executive RF drawing (Note that these RFs were not those BOUGHT by BEA. Ten redundant coach RFs had been bought by BEA in 1963 for use as "Airside Coaches" between plane and airport terminal. They were painted BEA grey, and stayed at Heathrow, on the apron.)

The modernisation programme

In the mid sixties London Transport's image consultants said that the Green Line needed an image boost, and that the RFs, now staid teenagers, could do with a facelift. A guinea pig, RF 136, was chosen for the makeover in July 1965, and emerged from the chrysalis in March 1966.

Externally it received a broad lime green band around the mid-rif, like a cummerbund, edged with polished aluminium beading (The consultants said this emulated steel, associated in the public mind with modern technology(!)). The headlamps were replaced with the then fashionable dual clusters, and the London Transport bullseye was removed from the radiator filler flap, which was discretely hidden in the design. The front number plate was moved down to the bottom , giving an entirely different look to the front.

Greenline RF drawing RF28 at East Grinstead, April 98

Preserved RF28, East Grinstead 4/98
Photo by Ian Smith, Click for larger.

At the back the number plate and inadequate lighting /indicator arrangements were swept away, replaced by modern lighting clusters and a narrow number plate below the emergency door.
The roofboards were retained, but painted yellow, a welcome streak of vivid colour, which complemented the fleetname picked out boldly in yellow on the lime green band, and the new style LT bullseyes.
On the prototype the rectangular style wheel-arches were replaced with narrow semi-circular ones, although this feature was not adopted for the main batch of modernisations.
Internally the decor was changed to a fashionable grey with everything, with fluorescent lighting tubes replacing the traditional round Chiswick bulbs.

The "modernised" coach was well received, and 174 other coaches still dedicated to GreenLine service went through the process. They were recoded 1/2RF2/3

RF213 offside RF213 nearside RF213 rear

RF213 at Showbus 97. Photos by Ian Smith. Click on images for larger versions.

At the same time London Transport was progressing rapidly with single-manning of the Country fleet, and the opportunity was taken to prepare some of the modernised Green Line coaches for this. They received the internal modifications to allow the driver to handle money and tickets. Externally they received the standard OMO fittings of reversing spotlight and warning indicator at the rear, plus the modified drivers window. This incorporated the two panes into a hinged unit that could be used as an emergency door if necessary. These OMO coaches were coded 1/2RF2/4, and were put to use on the new GreenLine route 724, Express between Romford and High Wycombe.

Another variation was for the coaches on the 727 airports orbital service, from Luton to Gatwick via Heathrow. These OMO-fitted coaches needed extra luggage space, for which the rear pairs of seats were replaced by luggage racks. These 35-seaters were coded 1/2RF2/5.

The remaining 34 unmodified Green Line coaches were downgraded to OMO buses by July 1967, becoming type 1/2RF5/5.

RF280 offside RF280 nearside

RF280, unmodernised and demoted to bus duties, at the Autumn 97 RF Running Day, Cobham station. RF 280 is part of the Wealdstone and District collection.
But transport patterns were changing quickly in the late sixties. Green Line traffic was melting away, so that even modernised coaches were soon demoted to bus duties officially, with their green cummerbund replaced by a canary yellow one. A new London Transport bullseye appeared on the lower front panels.
All the modernised coaches were given the OMO treatment, as LT aimed towards complete one-person operation. Now it was the GreenLine RTs and the RMCs/RCLs that were squeezed by policy, so there were few coach RF withdrawals.

London Country

London Country GreenLine liveries Formed at the start of 1970, London Country inherited all the Greenline and Country RFs (nearly as many as the Country Area had in the first place, but with the proportions of buses and coaches reversed).
But now the RFs started to trickle away, replaced by newer types but held in reserve as these proved unreliable. Many of the coaches had received full Aldenham overhauls in the early and mid-sixties, before their modernisation and one-man conversions, and would soon reach the expiry of their seven year Certificates of Fitness. But they had omo-capability, so were not easily going to go to the scrapman while any RTs remained. So the decision was made to give them Aldenham overhauls as they reached their cerificate expiries during 1970 and 1971. These overhauls did not involve any changes of identity (unlike in LT days), and mostly recertificated the RFs for a further three years. In some cases these had to be topped up by garage overhauls to keep them going on single-year certificates in their old age.
LC bus drawing More and more were demoted to bus work as Green Line changed its image, trying first new high density "coaches", then going for more obviously coach-type vehicles.
Liveries of the increasingly battered survivors also became more erratic, with the basic green gradually lightening towards the official National Bus Company leaf green, and the trim or cummerbund being alternatively green, yellow or white.
RF308, preserved in unmodernised bus condition with London Country yellow trim and later-style yellow roofboards for Green Line duty. The variation of green finish on different panels was typical of the paint finish in London Country days. RF 308 is preserved, and is seen here on a 464 working to the Stone Quarry Estate in East Grinstead , in April 1998.
Even fleetnames showed considerable variation, appearing in green or black on the waistband, in gold or yellow on the side panels, or in white on the roof panels (with a white or coloured NBC symbol).

NBC bus liveries But RFs hung on to scheduled Green Line work until 1975, when in October the last full scheduled RF routes were converted to Leyland National operation - a rude shock for their passengers! They continued as Green Line spares, duplicates and late-running covers, but they were going fast. Some garages seemed to withdraw one a month (did they withdraw them instead of servicing them?).

The last two were RF 221 and RF202. The former, a un-modernised coach, operated from Chelsham in NBC bus livery (green with white trim and coloured NBC logo), but succumbed in October 1978. The last survivor was RF 202, a modernised coach, which Northfleet turned out in NBC green with white cummerbund and coloured logo - but with GREEN LINE in white on the roof! It saw fairly frequent excursions on the orbital 725 and 726, until it expired with gearbox failure in July 1979.
The passenger service days of the RF in London Country were over - almost. RF 202 was preserved by London Country and its successor in the south-east, Kentish Bus. Overhauled and repainted into original livery, it was kept as a preserved service bus. (A picture of RF202 as restored can be seen on the London Country Vehicles pages)
RF255 at East Grinstead But another phoenix arose in the shape of preserved RF255. Decked in the deep blue and yellow of Metrobus of Orpington, RF 255 was to be seen during 1994 and 1995 operating the summer Sunday 746 route between Bromley and Tunbridge Wells, connecting to such tourist high-spots as Westerham, Chartwell and Penshurst. (A specific history of RF255 and more pictures can be found on the Wealdsman pages.)

(Left and below left) RF255 at the East Grinstead Running Day, April 1998, on a 473 service to the Bluebell Railway

RF255 at East Grinstead RF255 drawing

RF167 during preservation

RF167 in an early stage of preservation, at Coulsdon.
Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter
RF26, RF 202, GS10 preserved
RF26, RF202 and GS10 in preservation. (GS 10 does not have a sore roof: there is a green RT in the background!).
Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter

RF28 at Showbus98 histories Photos

RF28 at Showbus 98

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