The Country RFs

This page created 4th January 1998, updated 14th February 2002, best on 800*600.

The original Country buses: 2RF2/2

RF 514 - RF 700, Total 187

Country RF drawing The first Country buses started to appear alongside the last Central buses, in March 1953. The only substantial differences from the Central version - apart from the green livery - were the provision of a pair of opening doors in the front entrance, and the absence of the route stencil holder over the doorway. Livery was Lincoln green with cream trim. The radiator filler emblem was picked out in cream also, with LONDON TRANSPORT written across the central bar in gold letters. A bullseye transfer completed the rear.

Whereas GreenLine and the Central Area had replaced their single-deck vehicles route by route, the Country Area Area opted for replacement of a complete garage at a time. It was the head-quarters of the Southern and Northern Divisions that went first, but that was because they had the oldest buses (4Q4s at RG and TFs at SA). The other garages had had a clear-out of old types during the GreenLine RF introduction, leaving them with demoted 10T10s and Leyland Cubs in charge of single-deck bus work.

RF 626
RF 626 in preservation, at the autumn 1997 Cobham RF Running Day.

Dates Garage Routes No of RFs Displaced types
Mar, Apr 53 RG: Reigate 406C, 440, 440A, 447174Q4, 10T10
Apr, May 53 SA: St Albans 304, 355, 365, 391, 391A2810T10, TF
May 53 HG: Hertford 308, 308A, 329, 342, 372, 384, 384A, 386, 389, 390, 399.1210T10
June 53 HN: Hitchin 308, 364, 384, 399710T10
June 53 LS: Luton 356, 364, 376, 376A.7 10T10
Jun, Jly 53 WR: Windsor 407, 407A, 458, 459. 1310T10
July 53 SA, HN, HG, CY, GF, EP(2), DS(2) Greenline duplicates910T10
July 53 GR: Garston 318, 318A 1015T13 (to GY, CY, TG)
July 53 HE: High Wycombe373 510T10
August 53 LH: Leatherhead419, 422 810T10
August 53 WY: Addlestone 427, 437, 456 610T10
Aug, Sept 53 HH: Hemel Hempstead 322 810T10
Sept 53 DG: Dunton Green 404,413, 413A, 421 410T10
Sept 53 GF: Guildford 425, 432 810T10
Sept 53 DS: Dorking 412, 425 610T10
Sept,Oct 53 EG: East Grinstead 424, 434, 473 1510T10
Sept,Oct 53 CY: Crawley 424, 434, 473 510T10
October 53 EP: Epping 308, 308A, 384, 384A, 399 410T10
November 53 NF: Northfleet 489, 489A 410T10
Nov, Dec 53 WY 435, 462 410T10
Nov, Dec 53 LH 462 410T10
This left three Country RFs unallocated, which were held back for modifications for trial one-man operations.

Preserved RF679 at Limpsfield Chart, March 2000. Preserved RF679 and GS62 at Chevening Church, March 1999.

RF679 demonstrates the Country livery, posing with out-of-area Northern Division blinds for the 398 while at Limpsfield Chart in March 2000, and properly dressed for the 413 at Chevening Church in March 1999, in company with GS62.
T504 at Brooklands, April 1998

The 10T10s had not disappeared entirely either, as not enough RFs had been bought for entire displacement. It was the GS and RT classes that saw them off eventually, with some routes being deemed suitable for the midi-buses, (called small saloons in those days) and some suitable for double-decking. The Green Line RTs caused a reshuffle of the Greenline RFs, so Country bus RFs were no longer needed for GreenLine duplicates.

These changes provided enough RFs to replace the remaining 10T10s on "RF routes", eg the 412 (DS), 413 (DG)and 489/A (NF), and also on the 441 (ST) and the Hitchin works services. The last scheduled 10T10 services were substituted by RFs by July 1954, although a handful hung on as staff buses and for contracts until 1955.

Displaced by RFs: a 10T10 (Actually preserved T504, at the April 1998 Cobham Open Day.)

The OMO Prototypes

RF 517, 647 and 700 were held back for OMO modifications. One Man operation was not legal on 41 seater buses at this time, but a change in the regulations was expected. The Leyland Cubs and their replacement Guy Specials were straightforwardly designed for one man operation, with their normal control layout, and were usually employed in this mode. Their OMO equipment was simple indeed: a money dish and ticket machine on the driver's door sufficed. But for the new OMO RFs much wider modifications were introduced: a full height driver's door had a cinema-style screen with separate trays for payment and change. Two ticket machines were fitted on the drivers side, and a change machine delivered coins to the "change" dish when the appropriate till keys were pushed by the driver. To accommodate all this the driver's compartment was reshaped, becoming larger at waist height, but being tucked in below this.
The penning in of the driver made an driver emergency door necessary, and this was built into the driver's window. Instead of the two piece window, with the lower section sliding down, the whole was replaced by a hinged unit of which the central section slid upwards to open.
There was an unobtrusive emergency handle on the outside also Another change was the removal of the front two sideways-facing seats on the nearside in exchange for a luggage pen. The buses were re-classified as 2RF5. These three also received the newly required reflectors on the rear (as did all the vehicles in London Transport during 1954). With the new regulations in force, the three were placed in service on the 419 local service in Epsom, working from Leatherhead, starting in February and March 1954. They were moved to Hemel Hempstead in August, for trials on the 316, jointly operated with Rover Bus Services.
The trials having been successful, RF 649 was also modified, so that with RF 700 it could operate the 419 again (starting in December 54) .
Inside a country RF (RF626)

Fleet adjustments

Now that all the RFs, GSs and RTs were delivered, (with spare RTs in store), LT took stock of its rolling stock provision for the next few years. The outcome of its deliberations were that the Country Area had a surplus of post-war single-deckers, as did Central area, but that GreenLine needed more to cater for its real expansion. Central Area protested (as we have seen in the red RF section), but nevertheless Central, Country and Private Hire sectors were required to surrender vehicles for conversion to Green Line coach specification.

Country OMO RF drawing The Country vehicles selected were RFs 514 to RF 532 (with the exception of RF 517 - one of the OMO conversions), plus RF 697 to make up for RF517. They were renumbered into the GreenLine sequence, taking numbers from Central RFs which in turn took the RF 514 to 532 numbers. These vehicles were modified slightly to make them quickly suitable for GreenLine operation: lino floors, repaint, roofboard clips (mounted on a metal band rather than individually into the roof, which provided a quick identifier for the conversions). The luggage racks were fitted later, and seat re-arrangements had to wait for the next overhaul.
Meanwhile, fifteen more Country RFs were modified to RF5/1 OMO specification. These were RFs 682 to 696. RF 700 was already converted, so renumbering RF 647 to RF 698, and RF 649 to RF 699 put all the OMO buses together in a block at the end of the numbering system. (These two pairs of numbers required swaps the other way as well, of course).
This second batch of OMO buses also had a reversing light, a modification that was added to the original four conversions.
RF626: rear view RF633: rear view
Rear end changes: RF626 shows the OMO reversing light, plus the added nearside direction arrow and amended offside arrow. RF 633 shows the original double-headed arrow. (The extra banks of lights at the bottom are a modern addition in preservation). Photos taken at Cobham station, autumn 1997, by Ian Smith.

RF534 Central Area's grumbles about losing some of its RFs were reinforced by the Trades unions, and were placated only by the transfer of six Country buses to make up for them. These six, from the start of the Country block of numbers, went to Sidcup garage still in green and with doors, until their overhauls. A further twelve Country buses were loaned to Sidcup at the same time, to provide cover during Central's first overhaul round, but were returned to Country Area in time for its own round of overhauls.

RF 534, one of those lost by Country to Central Area.

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 1956 OMO route changes were like this:
DatesGaragesRoutesbuses lostbuses gained
July 56Amersham (MA) 394/A/B/C 15T13 RF OMO
July 56Hemel Hempstead (HH) 317, 317A 15T13 RF OMO
July 56Hemel Hempstead (HH) 316 RF OMOGS
July 56Hertford (HG), Hitchin (HN), Epping (EP)308/A, 384/A, 399RF RF OMO

More OMO

Although LT had thought that the scope for one person operation of its "large saloons" would be severely limited, it began to have second thoughts as the success of the pilot batch and the improvements in crew wages began to have their effect. In 1957 another 45 Country RFs were to be altered, but this time to a simpler pattern. The cinema paydesk was abandoned in favour of a simpler arrangement of cash trays and machine on a half-door. The revised driver's window and reversing light were implemented, however. So that vehicles could be used for either OMO or crewed duties the Pay As You Enter window transfers were replaced by an orange plastic slipboard in a holder below the front nearside window. These conversions were coded RF5/2. It might have been expected that the buses chosen would all be from the end of the Country series, but it was now expected that eventually all RFs would be made capable of OMO so the conversions came from throughout the series.
Some GS routes were taken over by the larger OMO RFs at this stage, the start of a trend.

The 1957 OMO route changes were like this:
DatesGaragesRoutesbuses lostbuses gained
Oct 57Hemel Hempstead(HH)307, 307A, 33715T13 RF OMO
Oct 57Hertford (HG) 342, 390 RF RF OMO
Oct 57Northfleet (NF) 489, 489A RF RF OMO
Oct 57Leatherhead (LH) 416, 422 RF RF OMO
Oct 57Crawley (CY) 426, 434, 473 15T13, RFRF OMO
Oct 57Guildford (GF) 432 RF RF OMO
Oct 57St Albans (SA) 304, 365, 382 RF RF OMO
Oct 57Hertford (HG) 333 GS RF OMO
Oct 57Epping (EP) 393 GS RF OMO

In 1958 the pace of OMO conversion quickened, with another 70 RF conversions to RF5/2. Some routes were reorganised to take account of the change in operating practice, and some double-deck routes were converted too.
DatesGaragesRoutesbuses lostbuses gained
July 58Hertford and Epping 372, 372A, 393 RF RF OMO
July 58Hertford (HG) 399 RF OMOwithdrawn
July 58Dunton Green (DG) 404, 413, 413A RF RF OMO
July 58Addlestone (WY) 427, 437, 456/B, 462/ARF RF OMO
Oct 58 St Albans (SA) 355 RF RF OMO
Oct 58 Garston (GR) 318/A/B/C RF RF OMO
Oct 58 Hemel Hempstead (HH) 319 15T13 RF OMO
Oct 58 Hertford (HG) 331 RT RF OMO
Oct 58 Dorking (DS) 412 RF RF OMO
Oct 58 Dorking and Guildford425 RF RF OMO
Oct 58 East Grinstead (EG) 428 RT RF OMO
Oct 58 386 GS RF OMO
Oct 58 481 GS RF OMO
The 1958 bus strike caused a serious and permanent drop in passengers, with a following withdrawal of services and increase in single-manning. Some garage closures also followed: some of Hitchin's RFs were transferred to the new Stevenage (SV) garage, while some went to Luton (LS) for the 364. All the remaining Country RFs (35) were converted to OMO in early 1959, and further routes were converted or altered. More RT routes were changed, including the Grays routes and a selection at Reigate. The RTs went to provide duplicate cover for Green Line, which surrendered some RFs for demotion to bus duties. Five Central RFs that had been converted but not yet used for OMO work were also loaned to Reigate for use on the 447 during 1959 and 1960.

Return of the natives

When the Coach Routemasters were deployed to GreenLine in the latter half of 1962 they produced a surplus of coach RFs. The ex-Private Hire RFs were sold, and the RFs that had been Country buses but transferred to Green Line (RF 298-313) were all transferred back again. They had to be OMO converted on the way. This consisted of a flooring change and the cab/light conversions, but the seating was left in coach configuration. Later the front pair was removed to make way for a luggage rack, but this still left them with 38 rather than 39 seats. Their code was now 1/2RF5/4.
(RF 309 and 313 had been painted in the pale green for the route 711 experiments and were left in it on transfer back to bus status, although the trim colour was changed to cream).

GreenLine demotions

By 1965 the effects of car ownership had had a drastic effect on the fortunes of Green Line, and the permanent demotion of 31 original Coach RFs to buses was authorised (Up until then demotions in duties had not involved alterations to the coaches). They were converted to OMO and lost the front pair of seats, making these 37 seaters coded 1/2RF5/5. One, RF 41, was altered back after a few months.

Country RF drawing In 1966 and 1967 another 34 GreenLine RFs (all those not modernised) were officially demoted to bus status and converted.

All these extra RFs were used for further conversions to OMO. All the remaining single-deck Country routes, including the 'town' services were changed over to OMO operation, as were a considerable number of double-deck routes. RLHs as well as RTs were affected, as the 336 was changed to OMO RF operation. More GS routes were changed to RF operation too.

By 1968 even the modernised Green Line RFs were being displaced, by service cuts and new coaches, and 24 of the modernised RFs were downgraded. The usual conversion work was carried out, but repainting involved replacing the pale green band with canary yellow, with 'London Transport' on it in green capitals.


The Country buses were also being displaced by new Merlins, despite the unreliability of the new buses, and by the end of 1968 a surplus of Country RFs was identified. As Central area still had a need for RFs for its own belated OMO programme, 13 Country RFs were transferred to the Central area on New Year's Day 1969. (RFs 545, 563, 570, 580, 590, 598, 602, 603, 608, 617, 627, 632, and 685) This was ironic, as within two years the Country Area was having to hire red RFs.

RT replacement continued (with RFs as well as MBs), especially on Sundays, and some very long-established busy routes saw OMO RFs in place of RTs, such as the 402 (Bromley-Sevenoaks-Tonbridge) and the Essex 371 group.

London Country

London Country RF drawing From January 1st 1970 London Country Buses Limited took over the entire green RF stock, both Country Area and Green Line. This comprised 413 RFs, 150 modernised Green Line coaches and 263 buses (24 of them modernised ex-coaches). At this stage none of the Country RFs had been withdrawn, remarkable for a fleet of buses sixteen years old! London Country also continued the loan (now hire) of 5 Central Area red non-OMO RFs (RF 393, 325, 341, 374 and 388). These returned to LT in November 1970 (393) and March 1971, but were not used again by LT, being immediately withdrawn.

The immediate effect of the advent of London Country was that the legal lettering was changed, followed by the fleetnames. LONDON COUNTRY replaced LONDON TRANSPORT, in canary yellow or black, and the LT bullseye symbol was erased. This was easy enough with the transfers, but not so easy with the radiator filler cover! Mostly this was just overpainted green (in some cases not even matching green).
London Country RF drawing Then the flying polo symbol began to appear, although it was more common on the modernised RFs than on the original version (perhaps because it didn't fit between the mouldings of the old symbol and the original numberplate location!). But after a while the National Bus Company colours were asserted. The traditional Lincoln green had been being replaced by lighter, brighter greens at repaints, but from October 72 the national leaf green began to be applied to the survivors.
London Country RF drawing Trim was in white, either the original trim lines around the windows or the cummerbund of the modernised buses (of which there were more by now). Fleetnames were in NBC type, and the NBC double-N appeared in either white or red/blue form) But this was not applied to the whole fleet, just to those that had to be repainted. In other words, there was not a uniform livery, but a smorgasbord to choose from!

Despite their age, the RFs continued to survive. This had much to do with the unreliability of their supposed replacements, the Merlin MBs, Swift SMs and the coach RCs and RPs. The need for OMO single deckers was still growing too, as the RTs were retired and replaced by OMO vehicles, either double or single deckers.
RF 549, SM119, at Crawley

Transition at Crawley: SM119 alongside RF549,
Photo, used with permission, by BusSpotter.
It was not until the end of 1971 that LC began to retire the RFs, mainly released by the demotion of more coaches to bus work. But the attrition continued slowly. When the Leyland Nationals began to arrive in 1973 the trickle of withdrawals accelerated. This was exacerbated when the Bristol BLs began to arrive for the less heavily used routes, or those where even short Nationals could not go. 28 RFs were withdrawn that next winter. But then 14 of them had to be re-instated because of problems with newer buses!

The thirty Bristol BNs ordered in 1974 were direct RF replacements, their 7ft 6in width allowing them to go anywhere an RF could. They displaced the last bus RFs from Northfleet, and made serious inroads into RF work at Dorking and Guildford. Chelsham, Hertford and Leatherhead received the other BNs, with concommitant loss of RF work during 1974 and 1975.

The replacement of the early Nationals by later coach versions released the former to displace more RFs from bus work: the RFs disappeared quickly at this time. Worse was to come. Short National Buses (SNB) were direct RF replacements.

By the end of 1976 only Windsor and Garston had official duties for bus RFs, on the 458, 446A (SuO), 452(Su) and 309. These were replaced in January 1977. Odd fragments of work kept the RF bus fleet "live" until October 77, but after that the remaining examples were kept just to provide spares cover.

The last active Country bus RF still in Country service was RF684, which somehow had retained Lincoln green. It provided cover at Chelsham, pottering about the North Downs and Kent/Surrey border until withdrawn on 20th May 1978.

RF 684 in the last days. Photo by Mike Dawes.

Service fleet buses

tow-RF drawing London Country converted three of its buses to tow-buses - necessary as the newer buses arrived, with their increased rate of in-service breakdown. Two of the three were Country bus RFs, RF556 and RF 647, converted in January 1973. They were joined in October 1978 by ex_GreenLine RF79. The trio retained their RF numbers, but gained grey and yellow liveries with added warning lights. RF79 at least was cut-away at the rear to simplify towing. RF647 was finally withdrawn in July 1979, RF556 in January 1981 and RF79 in May 1982.
recruiting RF drawing RF594 was converted to a recruiting vehicle in August 1973, with internal tables, seats and cupboards for the task. At first it was unimaginatively painted in overall NBC green, with rallying cries applied in white lettering. But early in 1976 it was repainted, with mainly white sides, but NBC green uppers and wheel-arches. It was retitled, in modern euphemism-speak, as a "staff employment unit". It lasted until 1981.

Preserved Country RFs

Thanks to Mike Dawes, and John Hinson for much of this information.
As it goes out of date, please don't scream, but let me know!

RF534 NLE 534, red bullseye livery.
RF537 NLE 537, red bus livery, Acton Museum
RF539 NLE 539 
RF551 NLE 551, red bus livery, in store
RF556 NLE 556, in store, tow-bus conversion 
RF573 NLE 573 
RF579 NLE 579, Tow-launcher, Lincs
RF580 NLE 580, in store  
RF591 NLE 591, in store  
RF600 NLE 600, original livery 
RF603 NLE 603, original livery, in store by Ensign  
RF626 NLE 626, original livery, 11.3 litre engine, Sussex
RF627 NLE 627, original livery  
RF633 NLE 633, original livery
RF636 NLE 636 
RF643 NLE 643 
RF644 NLE 644, Class VI, private hire, London, Surrey, Sussex 
RF652 NLE 652, spares 
RF667 NLE 667, original livery 
RF672 NLE 672, original livery
RF673 NLE 673, 
RF676 NLE 676, 
RF679 NLE 679, original livery  
RF683 NLE 683, tea-room, Essex

RF626 at East Grinstead Running Day, April 98 RF633 at East Grinstead Running Day, April 98 RF672 at East Grinstead Running Day, April 98

RF 626, 633 and 672 on the East Grinstead Running Day, April 1998.
Photos by Ian Smith. Click on pictures for larger version.

Country RFs Country RF histories Photo Refs

Ian's Bus Stop RF Contents Red RFs BEA RFs