RF319 - MLL956 - 1952
The RF is probably London’s most famous single deck bus and had as much of a monopoly as a single deck as the RT and later the RM had as double decks. First appearing in London in time for the Festival of Britain in 1951 the class soldiered on in service until the late 1970’s. Beautifully restored inside out and carrying an impressive 39 seated passengers the red RF is a classic that can often get into areas where double decks cannot go due to height restrictions or low hanging trees. So if a quality vintage vehicle with real London pedigree is what you are after, but a double deck is not suitable, then this really is the ideal vehicle for you.
The RF was to single decks, in standardisation, versatility and reliability, what the RT and the RM where to London’s double decks. It operated in all kinds of forms from Country Area bus, Central Area Bus, Green Line Coach, Private Hire, longer and shorter versions and even as an airport express version. The need to replace London pre war T class was apparent and soon to become a critical need but it was not for this purpose that the first RF’s were taken into fleet. It was actually for the festival of Britain in 1951 that the first 25 joined the fleet, having to be in service by June 1 at the latest. These known as the Private Hire RF’s were built to 27ft 6in even though the 30ft allowance had just been granted, such was the need to get them into service. With glazed cant panels for better views, the vehicles were distinctive and popular and the RF class was up and running. Alongside these were delivered the RFWs also for the Private Hire fleet, these differed visually massively having been bodied by ECW to an angular coach design.
The next batch of RFs were destined for the prestige Green Line coach services, that allowed some of the still in good condition Green Line fleet to be cascaded down to bus work. Despite being a few months late they entered service in October 1951 and by the end of 1953 the RF would be the standard vehicle of Green Line services being in a complete monopoly of single deck types.
The red Central Area vehicles were next which entered service in September 1952. These differed from the Green Line versions with having no front doors so that people could board and alight like they did from the rear of open platform double decks, however that the door was at the front, directly in front of the wheels meant any slip could be a tragedy, but at the time quick movement was more of the authorities priority than health and safety! Thus the RF class now spread into the Central Area.
Next were the Country Area green livered versions, that were almost identical to their central area sisters other than the addition of doors and some other minor differences, these started entering service in March 1953. Further versatility would be found as one man operation was introduced onto the class as well as the half deck version, allowing for luggage space to take passengers from Central London out to Heathrow Airport.
The RFs soldiered on and were swapped between areas to help fill needs where they arose. By the mid 1970s they were being withdrawn ever more rapidly, and by 1980 they had all gone from London service, having given terrific service to the capital for nearly 30 years.
For more on this class why not visit Ian's Bus Stop
RF319 was new to Muswell Hill in October 1952 where it operated on the 210’s. Following overhaul it returned to Muswell Hill before being transferred to Kingston in early 1960 and thus on to Romford North Street before next overhaul beckoned and it returned to Aldenham in October 1960. Returned from overhaul, this time to Loughton the bus worked on the 254’s. Brief periods at Croydon and Merton were followed by the vehicles conversion to One Man Operation before transferring to Norbiton in March 1965. The late 1960s saw a return to Croydon and then onto Bromley before moving to Dalston before transfer to what would prove to be its last garage, Kingston in December 1968. It would remain at Kingston until eventual withdrawal in march 1976.
Following the end of its LT life it passed directly into preservation with the London Bus Preservation Group with whom it remained only briefly before being sold on for a staff transport bus. It returned to the group who once again sold it on, this time to an individual who only owned it briefly before once again it was returned to the Group. From there it was once again sold into preservation and throughout the 1980s and 90s it passed through various owners, who displayed it frequently at many rallies and shows. Ensignbus acquired it from PB Bus, of Portsmouth in November 2011, it was returned to passenger carrying duties quickly and debuted for Ensignbus at the winter running day in December 2011.
Thanks to Ian’s bus stop for allocations history
Date of first registration: 17 October 1952
Chassis: AEC Regal IV
Chassis number: 9821LT1132
Body: MCW RF
Seating: 39 seats