The RF Story
Part 3 - Into service
Green Line RF276 in
original condition at New Malden, operating from Windsor to
Dartford on route 725
Photo © Jim
Before the first RFs arrived in 1951, London Transport's
fleet of large single-deckers ranged from the 1T1s and
Scooters from the days of the General to the post-war stop-gap Ts
and TDs, and comprised 86 LTs, 24 LTCs, 359 pre-war and 80 post-war
Ts, 228 Qs, 76 TFs and 131 TDs, a total of 984. In addition,
there were 74 Cs and 46 CRs, which were replaced in the Country
Area by the GS class of small single-deckers, but not replaced in
the Central Area as one-man operation
(for the time being) with the Cubs in 1949.
Not counting engineering spares and private hire coaches, the
operational requirement of large single-deckers at the start of
1951 was 812, made up as follows:
Within four years, this diversity had given way to 700 RFs
plus the post-war Ts and TDs. The last LT Scooters were
replaced on the 208
at Dalston by
RFs on 31 Jan 53, an advance allocation before this mainly
Q-operated route was fully converted a week or two later. 31
Jan 53 was also the last day in service for the venerable
class, which had been retained at
Kingston due to a weak bridge at Walton, replaced by red 10T10s
themselves replaced by RFs at Sidcup.
RF399 sits deserted at
Sutton Granada when brand new.
Photo Peter Gomm
The 10T10s had been ousted from the Green Line by RFs in 1951,
along with 6Q6s, some of which were also painted red. Other
coaches displaced from Green Line service, including TFs, went to
replace 4Q4s, 9T9s and 11T11s in the Country Area. The last
6Q6s in service were replaced by RFs in October 1952 on conversion
of the first red route to RFs, the 210
. The original red Qs, the 5Q5 class,
were the last buses replaced by red RFs, from the 241
at Sidcup in March 1953.
The following month saw the end in scheduled service of the
original Country Qs, the 4Q4s, replaced at Reigate by the
first Country RFs. Three months later, July 1953 saw the end
of scheduled TF operation, leaving only the large class of former
Green Line 10T10s from the pre-war fleet. The red ones had
already gone, replaced at Kingston in May by TDs displaced by
double-decking at Enfield, but 29 green 10T10s continued in service
after the delivery of the last green RFs. Double-decking and
downsizing to one-man GSs dealt indirectly with these, the last
running on 6 Jul 54.
Key dates of RF introduction were the following:
25 Apr 51: RF2, the first Private Hire RF licensed
for service, to Camberwell for driver training.
4 May 51: first day of the Festival of Britain, with 5
Private Hire RFs and 3 RFWs in service.
1 Oct 51: first Green Line RF (RF26) enters service from
Tunbridge Wells (TW) on route 704.
7 May 52: first BEA 4RF4 (MLL713) licensed at
10 Sep 52: first three red RFs (RFs 289, 291, 293)
licensed at Muswell Hill (MH), entering service on route 210
the following day.
26 Mar 53: first two Country RFs (RFs 514 and 516)
licensed at Reigate (RG) for routes
3 Mar 54: first OMO 'large saloon' service
commenced from Leatherhead (LH) on Epsom local route 419, using RFs
517, 647 and 700. Apart from these three buses, the whole of
the RF class was in service by December 1953.
RT introduction was also completed in
1954; standardisation was complete. Or was it? In
the single-deck fleet, apart from the small GSs, there still
remained in addition to the RFs the 211 post-war
single-deckers. Disposal of the crash-gearbox red 14T12s
started in 1954 and was completed in November 1958, when red RFs
became available as a result of the double-decking of the
Sidcup routes, 228
. A few TDs went at the same
time, but most had to await the next batch of RFs to come
available, being those released by the long-sought double-decking
of the busy 212
. These smaller
buses held on at Kingston, where the 215A
was not thought suitable for
RFs, and at Edgware on the 240A
Meanwhile, in the Country Area, the first of the 15T13s, which
with their pre-select gearboxes were much more refined than the
Central Area 14T12s, had become surplus in the summer of 1956 by
service changes in the northern area. Four were loaned to
Kingston to cover for RF overhauls, at the same time as spare
went to Sidcup.
Reduced requirements in the Country Area saw the withdrawal of the
15T13s until the last left Crawley in September 1962.
Within a month, the RFs would be the sole large single-deckers
in the fleet.
In the Central Area, it was inevitable that almost as
soon the end of the TDs came, a surplus of RFs
arose, resulting in some going into store. With approval
for RFs on the 215A
given in 1962 and the first
double-decking of the Uxbridge RF routes
the last TD ran at Edgware on 9 Oct 62. Completion of
double-decking at Uxbridge (bridge works at West Drayton) and the
double-decking of the 213
at Worcester Park) brought about the surplus in 1963.