The red RFs

This page created 28th December 1997, updated 7th February 2002.

The Central Area buses: 2RF2/2

RF 289 - RF 513, or RF 314 - RF 532/8, Total 225

Central RF drawing The Central Area's red RFs were all of the longer, 30ft, variety. They differed from the Green Line RFs most obviously in having no doors at the front, at the insistence of the Metropolitan Police (who seemed more concerned at possible delays to traffic than at the risk to the public). They were also red, of course, with the trim picked out in cream. Above the entrance door there was a block to hold a route number stencil. Internally the seating was arranged to give a standing/circulating area at the front, with sideways-facing seats over the front wheel arches: for four behind the driver, and five on the nearside. The other seats were spaced slightly more closely than on the GreenLine version, giving a total seating capacity of 41, with five standing allowed. Alternate rows of seats had handrails to the ceiling, reflecting the increased passenger movements in the urban bus compared with the semi-fast coaches.

Into service

RF350 on 227 They went into service from 10th September 1952, replacing TDs and 6Q6s on the hilly 210 route in north London, operating from Muswell Hill (MH). Next to be replaced were LTL "scooters" on the 208A (Dalston, D) and 227 (Bromley, TB).
More LTLs went from Hounslow (AV), on the 237, a route which earlier had been served by diminutive 20-seater Dennis Darts.
The next round of RF placements initiated a complex shuffle: RFs went to Old Kent Road (P) for the 202, and to Merton (AL) for the 200. This allowed their 5Q5s to go to Sidcup, from where postwar 14T12s went to Southall, allowing their TDs to go to Kingston (K) to displace 4Q4s for scrap!
RF350 on the 227, at Crystal Palace
Photo by BusSpotter. Click for larger image.

RF366 at Cobham Open Day, April 98

The 213 lost its LTLs from Sutton (A) and and 14T12s from Norbiton(NB), the latter allowing some of Kingston's old 1T1s and their remaining 4Q4s to be retired. Croydon (TC) also lost its Scooters from the 234A, and Dalston lost the last serving members of the type from the 208 in January 1953.
Sidcup (SP) received new RFs to displace their remaining 14T12s to Southall and Uxbridge(UX), in turn sending bus 10T10s to Kingston.
RFs replaced 5Q5s from West Green (WG)- route 233 - and from Dalston's 208, completing the change on that route.

RF366 with blinds for Sutton's route 213. It is now preserved with doors and stencil
and is seen at Cobham Open Day, April 98. Photo by Ian Smith, Click for larger version.

Muswell Hills allocation of 1TD1s were ousted by RFs on the 212, but found new homes at Loughton (L) and Kingston (K): 10T10s were the losers there, and at other garages involved in the shuffle of older types.
Finally the 241 was converted at Sidcup, replacing 5Q5s.
This still left the postwar 14T12s operating at Kingston, Uxbridge, and Southall, and postwar Leyland TDs at Edgware, Leyton, Tottenham, Harrow Weald, Muswell Hill and Kingston. Pre-war 10T10s survived in the short term at Kingston and Enfield (EN) (the latter awaiting RTs once a bridge was replaced), but these last 10T10s for Central bus services also went once Enfield's 2TD2 routes were double-decked.

Summary of initial allocations:

Dates Route No Route Garage Displaced types
Sept, Oct 52 210 Finsbury Park-Golders Green MH TD
October 1952 208A Maryland Stn-Clapton Pond D LTL
Nov, Dec 52 227 Chislehurst-Penge TB LTL
December 1952 237 Hounslow-Chertsey AV LTL
December 1952 200 Wimbledon Stn-Coombe Lane AL 5Q5
December 1952 202 New Cross-Canal Bridge P 5Q5
Dec 52, Jan 53 213 Kingston-Belmont NB 14T12
January 1953 234A Purley-Hackbridge TC LTL
January 1953 208 Bromley-by-Bow-Clapton Pond D LTL
January 1953 228 Chislehurst-Well Hall Stn SP 14T12
February 1953 233 Finsbury Park-Northumberland Park WG 5Q5
February 1953 208 Bromley-by-Bow-Clapton Pond D 5Q5
February 1953 212 Finsbury Park-Muswell Hill Broadway MH 1TD1
March 1953 241 Welling Stn-Sidcup Garage SP 5Q5
October 1953 254 Loughton Stn-Buckhurst Hill L 5Q5

RF336 on Oct97 RF Running Day As the RFs settled into work, they were noticeably faster than their predecessors. This allowed some reductions in numbers of buses allocated to some routes, as schedules were adjusted, and so Loughton received an allocation of RFs to replace TDs. These were stored for a while, then replaced 14T12s at Norbiton, these last being sold.

(RF 366 at Cobham Station, operating a service on the 1997 RF Running Day. This RF has been equipped in preservation with semaphore indicators. The slot can be seen behind the doorway.
Photo by Ian Smith. Click on image for larger version.)

The 1955 survey of fleet requirements showed a considerable extra need for Green Line RFs, while the Central Area was deemed to have surplus single-deckers. So after some bitter wrangling Central Area was forced to give up ten of the Private Hire RFs and six buses. The latter were converted to Green Line specification, with doors, luggage racks, extra lighting and revised seating.

In order to keep the numbers of RFs in tidy blocks by usage, the buses converted were the first six numerically, RF289-294 (MLL926-931). But 19 Country buses were also being converted, so the next nineteen Central buses (RF 295-313) were renumbered to the end of the Central bus block, becoming RF 514-532.

But that was not the end of the argument. Central Buses were incensed at losing modern RFs when they still had old-fashioned (if not terribly old) 14T12s and 1TD1s to operate. The trades unions considered it a grave breach of faith, and threatened industrial action. Central Area won back six buses, which were extracted from Country Area and sent to Sidcup complete with doors and green livery. (Six red RFs went on to Muswell Hill, displacing TDs on the 251) Another twelve green RFs were borrowed by Central Area to cover during the 1956-7 overhauls, and these too were allocated to Sidcup, which therefore had a total of 18 green RFs for a year or so!

(Meanwhile Kingston borrowed three (or four) 15T13s from the Country Area - but that isn't really part of this story!)

Renumbering was as follows:

Old numbers Old typeWork doneNew numbersNew type
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 533-538 Country Bus transferred (still green) RF 533-538 Central Bus
RF530, offside RF530, rear
RF 530, one of the re-numbered Central Area RFs, on duty at the 1997 RF Running Day, Cobham. Click for larger images.


In 1958 Sidcup lost its RFs when Sidcup station bridge was rebuilt, allowing RT operation of the 228 and replacement of the 241 by RTs on an altered route 51. The RFs from Sidcup (all red by now), were allocated to garages still operating 14T12s: Uxbridge (222), Southall (211), Leyton and Tottenham (236), eliminating the type from service.

Three more spare RFs were found early in 1959 to allocate to Norbiton for the 201, allowing Central area to send back the three green 15T13s to the Country Area.

Meanwhile, Old Kent Road garage had closed, so that its RF allocation for the 202 went to New Cross (NX).

Summary of re-allocations 1956-59:

Dates Route No Route Garage Displaced types Replacements
December 1956 251 Arnos Grove-Burnt Oak MH TD RF
November 1958 228 Chislehurst-Well Hall Stn SP RF RT
November 1958 241 Welling Stn-Sidcup Garage SP RF RT (on 51)
December 1958 222 Hounslow Central-Uxbridge UX 14T12 RF
December 1958 211 Ealing Broadway-Greenford HW 14T12 RF
December 1958 236 Leyton (High Road)-Stroud Green T/AR 2TD2 RF
January 1959 201 Kingston - Feltham NB 15T13 RF

One Man Operation?

The London Transport Board proposed to extend one-man-operation of single deck buses to the Central Area, and in preparation for this started a programme of conversions to RFs. The single-man versions were to have doors fitted, plus a reversing light and cab modifications, as on the OMO Country versions.

Routes identified for OPO conversion were the 216, 218 and 219, all operated by Kingston with TD2s. Enough RFs were found by pulling together the rest of the Sidcup allocation, converting West Green's route 233 to RTL operation, and altering the 208 to the 178 with RLH buses.

But the Unions wouldn't play. Whereas the Country Area had an existing OPO agreement, the Central Area had had no OPO working since Central's Leyland Cubs disappeared in 1949. Negotiations stalled.

Meanwhile Central RFs 502 to 538 were converted. They were stored for a while, then deployed as crewed buses to eliminate other pockets of TD operation, from North Street (250), Uxbridge (224,A,B) and Norbiton (206 and 264). The 216 from Kingston was also converted from TD operation to crewed RF.
Five of the red OMO RFs were loaned to Reigate (RG) in the Country Area, during the summer of 1959, for use on the 447, releasing further Country RFs for conversion.

RF534, nearside RF534, nearside

RF 534, seen at the 1997 RF Running Day, at Cobham station. RF530 at North Weald Rally in June 1998.
Both RFs were converted for OPO in April 1959, and RF530 wears the blinds for the non-OPO route 250 where it was diverted.
As one of the last survivors in service RF534 acquired the white bullseye livery when re-certificated in 1976.
RF530, on the other hand, still wears original livery in preservation. Photos by Ian Smith. Click on images for larger version.

Summary of the 1959 re-allocations:

Dates Route No Route Garage Displaced types Replacements
March 1959 233 Finsbury Park-Northumberland Park WG RF RTL
May 1959 208 Bromley-by-Bow-Clapton Pond D RF RLH (178)
June 1959 224,A,B Uxbridge-Laleham UX 2TD2 RF
June 1959 206 Claygate-Hampton Court Stn NB 2TD2 RF
June 1959 264 Sunbury - Hersham NB 15T13 RF
July 1959 250 Hornchurch-Epping NS 14T12 RF
July 1959 216 Kingston - Sunbury - Staines K 15T13 RF

At about this time the entire RF fleet was equipped with "trafficators", direction indicators mounted on swivels at the front cant rail level of the buses. In conjunction with this they had the double-headed rear arrow supplemented by a separate arrow on the nearside (the near-pointing offside arrow-head being painted over).
RF486, offside rear RF486, nearside front

Preserved RF 486 shows the rear arrow arrangement, plus the front trafficators, at Showbus 97.
Photos by Ian Smith. Click for larger versions.

RF retractions

Although the RF and RT both weighed 7.5 ton empty, the RT carried 15 more passengers. So bridge strengthening works in the late fifties and early sixties allowed some heavily used RF routes to be double-decked.

RF319 at Brooklands, April 98 In 1960 the 212 had its RFs replaced by RTs. This released twenty-one RFs, which went to Kingston to replace TDs on routes 218, 219, and some 215 workings. (Route 215A had to wait another 2 years until agreement was reached with the Traffic Commisioners about using RFs on this route on weekdays.)
Further RFs became available when 222 (UX) was absorbed into double-deck 223, and the 224 group (also UX) became RT operated in May 1962.
Route 213 (NB) also lost its RFs in favour of RTs at the same time.

RF319 with route 219 blinds, Cobham April 98. Click for larger.

Suddenly there was a surplus of red RFs.
The last TDs, at Edgware (240A) and Kingston (215A) vanished, and some RFs went into store.

The 211 from Southall (HW) also went to double-deckers in 1964 (being extended to Ruislip at the same time), and the 200 from Merton (AL) in 1965.
Some Central RFs were loaned to the Country Area to cover during the 1964-5 overhaul round.

Summary of the early 60's changes:

Dates Route No Route Garage Displaced types Replacements
January 1960 212 Finsbury Park-Muswell Hill Broadway MH RF RT
January 1960 215(Sun) Kingston - Ripley K 2TD2 RF
January 1960 218 Kingston - Laleham - Staines K 2TD2 RF
January 1960 219 Kingston - Weybridge K 2TD2 RF
May 1962 222 Hounslow Central - Uxbridge UX RF RT (on 223)
May 1962 224,A,B Uxbridge - Laleham UX RF RT
May 1962 213 Kingston - Belmont NB RF RT
May 1962 240A Edgware - Mill Hill East EW 2TD2 RF
May 1962 215A Kingston - Downside K 2TD2 RF
July 1964 211 Ealing Broadway-Ruislip HW RF RT
August 1965 200 Wimbledon - Raynes Park AL RF RT

One Person Operation

The severe staff shortages in the mid-sixties, particularly of conductors, paved the way for agreement on one man operation. This time it was tackled rather more sensitively by management, with a small number of crews affected at a larger number of depots.

A side effect was the conversion of some RT routes to RF, and the creation of some new routes.

OPO Route conversions:

201 NB Nov 64 206 FW Nov 64 216 K Nov 64 250 NS Nov 64 237 AV Jan 65 251 EW Jan 65 203 AV July65 (Sundays) (new to RF) 20B L Oct 65 (cut from 20): Epping Forest-Loughton 254 L Oct 65 291 BK Oct 65 (cut from 129): Ilford Stn - Barking 215 K Jan 66 215A K Jan 66 264 NB Jan 66 121 EN Aug 66 (new to RF) 234A TC Aug 66 136 HD Aug 66 (new route: Harrow-on-the-Hill and Sth Harrow Stn)

Transfers from Country Area

By the mid sixties all was not well in the Country Area, as bus ridership plummeted. Unrefurbished Green Line coaches had become buses. All their RFs were OMO. Now even modernised RFs were being demoted to bus duties. So now that the Central Area was finding a new need for single deckers, the opportunity was taken to transfer some Country buses to the Central Area. Buses transferred, still green, to Muswell Hill, (MH) on New Year's Day 1969, were: RF315, nearside

RF 545  NLE 545
RF 563  NLE 563
RF 570  NLE 570
RF 580  NLE 580
RF 598  NLE 598
RF 602  NLE 602
RF 603  NLE 603
RF 608  NLE 608
RF 617  NLE 617
RF 627  NLE 627
RF 632  NLE 632
RF 685  NLE 685

No, RF 315 was NOT one of the transferred Country RFs. Converted for OPO in the Central area in August 1966, it was withdrawn from Fulwell (FW) in February 1973. It has been operated by Memory Lane on Surrey Sunday routes, and private hire, in Country Area livery, as worn by the 1969 transferees for about 6 months. Photo by Ian Smith, at 1997 RF Running Day. Click for larger image.

Further route changes: the Bus Reshaping Plan

In a bid to halt declining public transport use, the Reshaping Plan looked afresh at patterns of travel. Many routes were historical, having been lengthened or abbreviated for one operating reason or another, with seldom a coherent look at the overall pattern. The Plan looked to reshape the network into local feeder services serving trunk route exchange points, which might be railway or bus interchanges. The Central RFs had a part to play in this, particularly on the local feeder services. The part they were actually to play, propping up the new unreliable generation of buses, was not foreseen.

In the end historical and local inertia, allied to the rolling stock short-comings, killed off the Re-shaping plan, and the final pattern of RF operations closely resembled the 1950s single-decker situation. One significant difference was the use of RFs for one-person operation on lightly loaded Sunday workings of otherwise double-decked routes, such as the 285.



The advent of the London Transport Executive in 1970 made little immediate impact. The LTE inherited 233 Central Area RFs (8 more than were originally built!), despite odd casualties. A few were loaned to the fledgling and beleaguered London Country, and worked in red livery from Crawley Garage for some time. More were converted to OPO specification, until by late 1970 there were only 46 left in two-crew format, for use on the 227 (TB) and 236 (D and T). Most of these were called into works in late 1970 for conversion to OPO format, prior to route conversions to SMS Swifts in January and April 1971 respectively. The converted RFs then moved on to Uxbridge for the 204, 223 and 224/B, and the remaining unconverted examples were withdrawn.

Aldenham overhauls for RFs restarted in February 1971.

RF385 on the 227. Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter

The OPO buses continued stalwartly, operating reliably while the new generation came to smoking halts by the roadside, or sagged in the middle when fully loaded (a big problem with centre-exit single-deckers: it stopped the centre doors shutting fully, so the bus could not move!) Many RFs were overhauled in the 1970-1 cycle, but when others came due in 1973 it was decided to withdraw them. Immediate replacements came in the shape of DMS double-deckers and SMS single-deckers. Ninety-five Bristol LHS buses were bought (the BL class), and a large number of standee SMS buses were intended to be modified to properly-seated SMD versions, to act as RF replacements.

RF502 RF534: front

The RF was found to be a difficult act to follow, especially in the Kingston area. Some routes (215, 251, 264) should have received SMDs according to the plan, but proved too narrow in practice. Others, like the 212, 254 and 258, allocated BLs, suffered from lack of capacity. Finally, the position of the inspection pits at Kingston prevented the use of larger vehicles there! This meant that either RFs or a larger number of BLs were necessary for the 218 and 219 routes.

Left above: RF 502 on the 218 to Staines (K). Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter.
Right above: RF 534 in late livery, with extra spotlight for training SM drivers. Photo by Ian Smith.

OPO RF drawing RF486 at Esher, June 2001

Right above: RF 486 recreates the 219 atmosphere at Esher during the RF50 celebrations, June 2001.

Enough BLs were not available, so 25 RFs were overhauled in 1977-8 and given 3-year certificates to keep these two services going. The new buses were re-painted too, in the new style with flake-grey trim-lines and white bullseyes in place of the fleetname.
It was the ubiquitous Leyland National that finally killed off the RF. Although also too long for the Kingston garage pits, the Nationals were given a home at Norbiton, to work the 218 and 219 from there.
The RF bowed out from LT passenger service with proper ceremony. Seventeen turned out for the last day of operation, 30th March 1979, with the last run being performed by RF 507, restored to 1953 livery. The following day another three of the class made a commemorative run over the 218 and 219 routes before retiring into Kingston garage.

Some continued for a while with LT as trainers or staff buses, but the rest went mainly for scrap or preservation.

Surviving Central Area RFs

RF534 (Please let me know of others that you know about.
Thanks to John Hinson for most of this data.)

RF315  MLL 952
RF319  MLL 956 
RF326  MLL 963 
RF332  MLL 969 towbus
RF333  MLL 970 
RF337  MLL 974 
RF341  MLL 978 
RF351  MLL 988 
RF354  MLL 991 
RF355  MLL 992 
RF366  MXX 8 
RF368  MXX 10 
RF381  MXX 23 
RF382  MXX 24 
RF383  MXX 25 
RF392  MXX 280 
RF395  MXX 283 
RF401  MXX 289 
RF404  MXX 292 
RF406  MXX 294 
RF415  MXX 392 
RF421  MXX 398 
RF423  MXX 400 
RF429  MXX 406 
RF433  MXX 410 
RF442  MXX 419 
RF444  MXX 421 
RF447  MXX 424 
RF453  MXX 430 
RF457  MXX 434 
RF458  MXX 435 
RF459  MXX 436 
RF462  MXX 439 
RF463  MXX 440 
RF465  MXX 442 
RF468  MXX 445 
RF479  MXX 456 
RF480  MXX 457 
RF486  MXX 463 
RF489  MXX 466 
RF491  MXX 468 
RF495  MXX 472 
RF503  MXX 480 
RF504  MXX 481 
RF507  MXX 484 
RF508  MXX 485 
RF511  MXX 488 
RF512  MXX 489 
RF515  MLL 933 
RF517  MLL 935 
RF518  MLL 936 
RF522  MLL 940 
RF525  MLL 943 
RF530  MLL 948 
RF534  NLE 534 
RF537  NLE 537 
RF538  NLE 538 

RF453 at East Grinstead

RF 453 at the East Grinstead Running Day, April 98
Photo by Ian Smith. Click for larger version.
Bus histories Photo Refs

RF Contents Green Line RFs Red RFs Country RFs