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LT Country Buses Around Amersham

I am grateful to Frank Phillipson for providing the following article

History

Amersham and District Motor Bus and Haulage Co. Ltd. was set up on the 15th September 1919 by a local doctor and some friends to serve the surrounding area. Initially it had three vehicles and started operating from the yard of The Griffin before opening a garage in The Broadway, Old Amersham.


Now B&M Garages, this is the original bus garage in Amersham

Its first route was from Chesham to High Wycombe running via Amersham (route 1 evolving into LT route 362) and used two buses. In 1922 it started a route from Chesham via Amersham to Slough and designated it route 3 a forerunner of LT route 353. The Company's symbol at this time was 'Pride of Bucks.'

In 1923 the Slough route was extended to Windsor. 1924 saw the introduction of routes to Beaconsfield, Holmer Green and Chalfont St. Giles.

In December 1932. The Amersham and District (A&D) took over the routes of the Chesham and District Bus Company to Berkhampstead, Tring and Hemel Hempstead.

The London General Omnibus Company (LGOC), which dominated the central London area, bought a financial stake in the Amersham and District in August 1929. At this date the A&D had thirty vehicles.

Amersham and District had a High Wycombe garage opened in 1929 which in June 1930 was in charge of LGOC services from High Wycombe to Uxbridge, a route which competed with the Skylark Motor Coach Company.

In August 1920, the National Omnibus and Transport Co. Ltd. started their 'N6' route to Chesham via Rickmansworth operated from their garage in Watford. This route was the forerunner to LT's route 336.

From early 1920, Thames Valley Buses operated a service from High Wycombe to Amersham and Great Missenden until 1928.

Picture Courtesy of Nick Vince.
RLH33 going under Black Horse Bridge circa mid 1960s on route 336



Thames Valley had an agreement with the LGOC to run and develop services on their behalf from the newly opened (1922) LGOC garage in Uxbridge. A Great Missenden via Amersham service (route W23) was in operation by the summer of 1922. The route was cut back to Amersham by January 1923. The service ran until December 1928 when the agreement with the LGOC expired. They took back the service and had the A&D run it. It became an express coach service run by the A&D as Service 17 Amersham to Oxford Circus in January 1931. This later became a Greenline route (route 'R' (via Uxbridge?)). Another reference suggests that bus route W23 became LT route 504.

Frederick Lewis started a bus service in 1923 from Watford to Rickmansworth. Lewis took over North West Land Transport buses to form Lewis Omnibus Co. Ltd. This firm in 1930 started running a service to Berkhampstead via Amersham which was almost the same as the Nationals N6 Route. Lewis Omnibus Co. Ltd. was taken over by the LPTB on the 1st October 1933.

The Rover Bus Service (J.R.Dell) for a long period ran a service between Hemel Hempstead and Chesham which it shared at one time with LT. The route was from Chesham to Hemel Hempstead via Bovingdon and Lye Green and was allocated the route number 316. LT found that it was unremunerative and pulled out of the joint operation  altogether from 6th May 1964. At the same time this route number was being used for a Sunday service from Amersham to Ley Hill!



Green Line RF Service 710 outside Amersham Bus Garage

With regards to limited stop express coach services from or through Chesham or Amersham into London there were a number of operators.

West London Coaches started a service in May 1928 from central London to Aylesbury via Rickmansworth and Amersham. In October 1929 they introduced a service to Chesham. In June 1931 Chesham became served from the Amersham-Aylesbury route by a shuttle bus to / from Amersham (Sycamore Corner) where it met the coaches on the main route. West London Coaches continued their service until acquired by the LPTB in January 1934. The service became Greenline route B from London via Rickmansworth and Amersham to Chesham and Aylesbury alternately.

The Premier Omnibus Company were bus operators from Shepherds Bush. They entered the coach operation field in January 1930 and set up a separate company in October 1930 called Premier Line Ltd. In summer 1931 they commenced a service from Aylesbury to Slough and Eton via Amersham (route F) which although worked by coaches ran as a bus service with frequent stops and bus fares. The Local Traffic Commissioners felt that this service duplicated the A&D service. Agreement between the two companies led to Premier operating two hourly from Aylesbury to Slough and A&D two hourly from Great Missenden to Windsor (route 19) with a co-ordinated timetable. Premier Line was acquired by the LPTB in December 1933 and route F became country bus route 19, later route 369. In May 1936 route 369 was withdrawn in favour of a revised route 353 from Windsor to Berkhampstead.

The LGOC started limited stop coach services in other areas into London in 1929 and formally set up Greenline Coaches Ltd., in July 1930.


GS Type Bus at the Amersham Bus Rally 2006


Greenline had an application to run services from Chesham and Amersham to London via Rickmansworth in November 1930 turned down by the local councils. A&D, with the financial interest of the LGOC, successfully applied for a licence for the service and the LGOC transferred five coaches to the A&D to run the service. They ran an hourly service from Chesham to London via Amersham and Gerrards Cross with it first starting from Amersham (Oakfield Corner) in January 1931 and from Chesham in February the same year.

In February 1931 the Southern Area Traffic Commissioner reviewed the A&D service and made them start and finish the route from Amersham garage. He believed that West London Coaches service already served that town's needs. The A&D service was continued until October 1933 when it was taken over as Greenline route R.



Service 359 at the side of Amersham Bus Garage mid 1980s

At this period the LGOC had services in the country areas run on its behalf by companies it owned, or had an interest in or agreements with. In January 1932 it formed the London General Country Services Ltd., (LGCS) which took over most of these companies or routes. Initially their buses had the LGOC red livery but with the fleet name "General Country Services". In May 1933 LGCS buses first appeared in green livery.

In April 1932 Greenline Coaches were transferred from the LGOC to the LGCS. It was at about this time that Greenline coaches were painted in two-tone green livery. A year later Greenline services were all organised into a lettered route system.


The London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) was created under the London Transport Act of 1933. Its purpose was to create a more efficient public transport system with less duplication and more standardisation under one body.

On the 1st July 1933 the LPTB took over all bus, tram, trolley-bus and underground railways in London (including the Metropolitan serving Amersham) and the surrounding Outer London areas. It was a publicly controlled organisation but had to be self financing. The LGCS and Greenline Coaches, as well as some independent operators, were taken over in the London Country area on this date by LPTB's Country Bus and Coach Department. Some other independent operators were taken over in the following months. From 1934 the 'London Transport' fleet-name began to be used.

On the 24th November 1933 Amersham and District was bought by the LPTB although the company name was still to be seen on their garage in 1934. At the date of take over A&D had 48 vehicles and its well planned services lasted until 1936 before being altered significantly.

LPTB opened a new garage in Amersham in 1934 which was adjacent to the former A&D garage. The LPTB introduced codes for each garage and Amersham was designated MA (AM having already been allocated to Plumstead (the reason why Plumstead has code AM is described here ) and High Wycombe was allocated HE.


Amersham Bus Garage in about 1960.
Now demolished and replaced by a super market (Tesco) and petrol station


In July 1934 Amersham was served by terminating Greenline route Q (which also ran alternatively to High Wycombe), terminating route R and by route B which terminated in Aylesbury. Route B also ran alternatively to Chesham. Route B ran to London and Kent via Rickmansworth and Wembley while routes Q and R ran via Gerrards Cross and Uxbridge to London.

In December 1924 the London Traffic Act directed that all country bus routes entering the London Metropolitan Police area be designated in the 300 and 500 series north of the Thames and 400 series south of the Thames. This system was called the 'Bassom' scheme after the acting chief constable of the Met. Police. The LPTB seems to have extended the numbering series to country routes wholly outside the area so as to have a single system of route numbering. The 500 series routes were eventually renumbered in the 400 series.

On the 3rd October 1934 the LTPB allocated the following route numbers in the Amersham area:-
A&D route 3 (Windsor-Gerrards Cross-Amersham-Chesham-Ley Hill) became route 353.
A&D route 19 and Premier line service (Windsor-Amersham-Aylesbury) became route 369.
A&D routes 1&2 (High Wycombe-Amersham-Chesham (The Sportsman) OR Ley Hill) became route 362

Re-organisation in the Amersham area was introduced on the 13th May 1936. Routes 369 and 369A, Aylesbury to Slough and Great Missenden to Chesham via Amersham respectively were both discontinued. A modified Greenline route B service was substituted with bus fares on the Great Missenden-Amersham section with the route diverging into Little Missenden to cover the former bus route.

The 13th May re-organisation also saw the extension of route 353 to Berkhampstead.

The reorganisation saw Greenline service route L (from Bookham in Surrey) extended on summer weekends from Uxbridge to Chesham as Route L1 during 1936 only.

In the summer of 1937 Route L was discontinued altogether with an increase in services on routes Q & R from central London to High Wycombe and Amersham respectively.

On the outbreak of the Second World War the all single decker Greenline coach services were discontinued when all the vehicles were converted to ambulances for anticipated casualties.

Bus route 393 was introduced on the lst September 1939, to replace part of suspended Greenline route B, from Amersham (Oakfield Corner) to Great Missenden. In January 1940 a limited route R Greenline service was reintroduced from Chesham and Amersham Garage to Oxford Circus.

The casualty situation did not materialise and coach services were reintroduced on some routes in 1939 and 1940 with a full service in December 1940. This was to help counteract disruption to the railways. The routes were all given numbers up to No.59A and all terminated in central London.

Chesham was served by Route 34 via Gerrards Cross and Amersham and Aylesbury by Route 35 via Rickmansworth. Greenline services were totally withdrawn in September 1942 when rubber and fuel shortages became acute. They were not resumed until February 1946.


Picture Courtesy of Frank Phillipson
A view of the staff area of the Amersham bus garage


The withdrawal of Greenline route 35 saw the introduction of an Amersham -Aylesbury service designated route 359 which was worked jointly by LT and Eastern National (later United Counties). The joint working ceased in 1964 and LT worked the service until 1972.

When resumed in 1946 the Greenline routes were numbered in the 700 series, with yellow route blinds and black lettering. Aylesbury lost its Greenline service via Amersham, with Amersham itself being served by route 703 via Rickmansworth and London to Kent. Chesham was served by route 725 via Gerrards Cross and Uxbridge to London.

In November 1947 the Greenline routes were revised with route 725 deleted and the following routes added:-
709 Chesham to Caterham via Gerrards Cross, Uxbridge and Oxford Circus
710 Amersham Garage to Crawley via Gerrards Cross, Uxbridge and Oxford Circus.

In October 1954 route 710 was withdrawn for three weeks due to staff shortage. In 1956 route 709 lost its Amersham to Chesham section outside peak hours and weekend mornings.

From 4th November 1964 the whole of route 703 which now ran to Chesham was withdrawn because of loss of traffic after the Metropolitan Line electrification. In an attempt to speed up and attract traffic route 709 to Chesham was re routed between Shepherds Bush and Uxbridge via Western Avenue and had reduced stops and didn't run on Sundays, Chesham being served on that day by an extension of route 710 from Amersham. However, this failed and from 1st November 1965 route 709's northern section from London was totally withdrawn with route 710 extended to Chesham on all days.

On the 31st December 1966 new schedules were introduced because of the new five day working week. On this date route 710 was cut back from Chesham to Amersham on Mondays to Fridays and lost some additional peak hour "short" workings from Amersham to London.

On November 1968 route 710 now Chesham-Amersham-Gerrards Cross-London-Crawley, was altered to run from Amersham Garage to Baker Street only and was converted to 'One Man Operation' (OMO). In October 1972 this remaining section of route 710 now running to Amersham via Uxbridge was deemed to be uneconomic and was withdrawn.

On 10th July 1966 a new London peripheral route was introduced from High Wycombe to Romford. This service was numbered route 724 and ran via Amersham-Rickmansworth-Watford-St Albans-Hatfield-Welwyn Garden City-Hertford-Ware-Harlow and Epping. It was the first Greenline route to be One Man Operated and in a modified form was still operated in 1998

The Transport Bill of 1947 saw the LPTB dissolved and on the 1st January 1948 the nationalised London Transport Executive (LTE) took over. They were responsible to the British Transport Commission (BTC) who oversaw all forms of nationalised transport.


Picture Courtesy of Frank Phillipson.
Frank's great Aunt Mary "Moll" Grove worked as a conductress from Amersham garage from WW2
until the late 60's. Frank recalls she mainly worked on the Greenline coach services.



From the beginning of 1963 the London Transport Board (LTB) took over London Transport from the LTE. The LTB was more decentralised and free to operate as a specialised undertaking only answerable to the Minister of Transport.

The peak of LT Country Bus services occurred in the mid 1950's after which there was a steady decline due to car ownership, television with loss of traditional evening and weekend traffic. Low staff morale at the falling passenger numbers led to staff shortages which affected service reliability. To try to counter this trend and run a reliable economic service "One Man Operation" (OMO) was increased. The small GS type single deck bus had operated in this form from its introduction and the RF single deck bus were converted during this period.

Towards the end of the 1960's new buses (at Amersham single deck Swifts(SM) and Merlins(MB) ) started to appear but they were generally unreliable and classic 50's buses soldiered on into the 1970's.


Picture Courtesy of John King
MB Merlin in central London Red livery, this type of bus (and the similar SM Swift), with an additional
set of central doors was based at Amersham in the green and yellow London Country livery


In 1970 control of London Transport was handed over to the Greater London Council who had no interest in managing the Country Area buses and Greenline coaches. These were therefore formed into London Country Bus Services Ltd.

Crew operations finished at Amersham on the 15th February 1971 when eight conductors were displaced. Routes 353 and 362 were taken over from the RT double deck buses by SM type Swift single deck buses. The rural routes from Amersham, at this date, were all operated by RF type single deck buses.

Bus Types

RT Type Double Decker

Initially designed and produced in limited numbers in 1939, production resumed with some modifications in 1947. The large majority of these RT buses (including most of those in the Amersham area) had an AEC Regent III chassis with an AEC 6 cylinder, 9.6 litre, 125bhp diesel engine. The 56 seat bodies of this group were constructed by the Park Royal and Weymann companies.

The origin of the "RT" designation of this type is not known but could have been derived from RegenT or R-type. By the 1950's the RT had become the standard double decker bus for the whole of London Transport's Central and Country areas. Production of this version of the RT type ceased in 1954 with nearly 5,000 of them constructed.

Some RT's were allocated to Greenline coaches and these appeared with the Greenline fleetname, no advertising posters, a Greenline bullseye motif centrally between upper and lower deck windows, a pale green line above the lower windows (instead of the cream of the country bus version) and deeper seat cushions. At times Greenline RT's stood in for country bus RT's and vice versa.

The RT type bus lasted in LT service until 1979 when the last was withdrawn from public service.

The RT's successor was to be the Routemaster (RM) which was designed as a chassisless 64 seater initially with bodywork by Park Royal and an AEC or Leyland engine. A longer version with 72 seats (RML) and a coach version (RMC) were produced. Mass production of RM's started in 1959 but were not seen in Country Bus and Greenline service until 1962. As far as I can recall I don't remember seeing RM's in the Amersham area in the 1960's. No RM's were ever allocated to Amersham garage.


RT 2083 - Courtesy of Ian Smith


Rear View of an RT 593 - Courtesy of Ian Smith


Interior views if RT - left lower deck, right upper deck - courtesy Ian Smith




Successor to the RT - the Routemaster (RML) - Courtesy of Ian Smith

RLH Type Low-bridge Double Decker Bus

RLH stands for "Regent Low Height" bus. It was originally designed and built for "Midland General". Of the contract for 30 buses 'Midland' only required 10 buses and in 1950 the rest were diverted by the government to LT who urgently needed them to replace its existing elderly low-bridge double deckers. LT ordered a further 56 RLHs which were very slightly different to the initial batch.

The RLH had a RT chassis but with a 53 seat provincial bus style Weymann body (13ft 4ins high) which had a sunken upper gangway on the offside of the bus with 4 seater bench seats stretching across to the nearside windows. This arrangement made it difficult for conductors collecting fares from the passengers furthest from the gangway. Passengers on the lower deck offside seats had to mind their heads as the sunken gangway projected downwards from the main ceiling of the lower saloon.

Whilst RT, RF and GS type buses were built to a recognisable LT design standard i.e. straight topped seats and in the RT a straight window across the width of the interior saloon behind the driver the, RLH had provincial style curved topped seats and a curve to the window across the width of the saloon behind the driver.

Amersham required low-bridge double deckers for route 336 which had to negotiate Black Horse Bridge (13ft 6ins) at Amersham Common. All of the first 20 RLH's were painted green and the first six were allocated to Amersham in June 1950. On occasion they were used on other routes. After 1965 the Amersham RLH's were replaced on route 336 by RF single deckers. The last RLH to run in LT public service was in April 1971.


Picture Courtesy of Ewen Pring
RLH 32 going under Black Horse Bridge in Amersham



Picture Courtesy of Malcom Crowe
RLH 48



Picture Courtesy of Ewen Pring
RLH 29



Interior views of RLH.
Left lower deck courtesy of Ewen Pring. The right hand side of the deck has a low ceiling caused by the lower gangway on the upper deck.
Right upper deck courtesy of John King. The lower gang way and 4 across seat together with low ceiling give the impression of being very claustrophobic

GS Type Single Deck Bus

In 1951 a new single deck bus was introduced which had a normal control layout (a normal bonnet ahead of the driver) for LT. It had a Guy Motors Ltd. chassis (Guy Vixen) with a Perkins P6, 65bhp diesel engine and a 26 seat body by Eastern Coach Works. The combination was known as the Guy Special (GS).

From the outset they were designed for One Man Operation on narrow or sparsely trafficked country routes. It had electrically operated folding front doors and the bonnet design was the same as the Fordson Thames lorry. On the front of the bonnet was the distinctive Guy Red Indian Chiefs Head bonnet mascot.

The last GS in LT service operated finally in March 1972.


Courtesy of Ian Smith GS type bus


Courtesy of Ian Smith rear view of GS type bus


Courtesy of Ian Smith interior views of GS type bus


RF Type Single Deck Bus

In 1951 LT's standard single deck bus the RF appeared. It had an AEC Regal IV (Regal Four = RF) chassis with an AEC 6 cylinder, 9.6 litre, 125 diesel engine mounted horizontally beneath the floor. The body was by Metropolitan-Cammell with a 39 seat Greenline version with folding air doors, luggage racks and heater or the 41 seat with folding air door country bus version.

263 were built as Greenline coaches, 185 as Country buses and 225 as Central (Red) buses.

From 1956 to 1959 country bus RF's were converted to OMO operation with a reduction to 39 seats. They supplanted the GS type in many areas.

Beginning in 1965 Greenline RF's were modernised with twin head lamps, other front and rear modifications, lighter interior colours, fluorescent lighting and a revised two tone livery with a wide light green band beneath the windows. In 1968 country bus RF's started to be modernised with a wide yellow band beneath the windows. In later years Greenline RF's were demoted to country bus operations.


Courtesy of Ian Smith RF type bus


Courtesy of Ian Smith Green Line RF


Courtesy of Ian Smith Green Line RF in late 1960s livery


Courtesy of Ian Smith RF



Interior views of RF courtesy of Ian Smith (right side picture is interior of a Green Line version of the RF, it has luggage racks and no vertical poles from the end of the seats

Heaters

From 1962 heaters were fitted to the passenger saloons of many country area RT,RLH, RF and GS buses. The Greenline RT's had been equipped with them in 1959. The Routemaster had heaters fitted as standard.

Tickets

Before 1953 the standard LT bus ticket was the Bell Punch type where the conductor would have a rack of tickets and a Bell Punch cancelling machine strapped to their uniform.

The Gibson ticket machine was introduced in 1953 and named after George Gibson a former superintendent of LT's ticket machine works. Different denomination tickets could be printed onto a plain paper roll by adjusting the wheels on the side of the machine and then winding the handle on the left-hand side to issue it. A meter recorded the number and type of tickets issued.


Gibson Ticket Machine courtesy of John King

Conductors on Greenline coaches from the 1950's used a 'Setright' machine which also involved a ticket roll. On driver only operations LT introduced the 'Ultimate' ticket machine which could issue six different denomination pre-printed tickets.

In 1967 the 'Almex' ticket machine was introduced for use by drivers or conductors. The tickets were smaller and had a larger fare range and therefore could produce more tickets than the Gibson.


Gibson Ticket courtesy of John King

Appendix 1 - Amersham & District Routes Taken Over by LPTB on 23 November 1933

Appendix 2 - Amersham Area London Country Routes 1968

Appendix 3 - Bus and Coach Allocation

Appendix 4 - Some London Country Maps and Fare Charts

Garage Codes In & Around London

Amersham Bus Rally 2004

Amersham & District Motorbus Society

Photo Credits / Copyright, Web-page links.

Ian Smith Ian's Bus Stop http://freespace.virgin.net/ian.smith/buses/index.htm
Ewen Pring Timebus/RLH http://www.timebus.co.uk/rlh
John King Transport History http://www.transporthistory.co.uk
Malcolm Crowe Oxford & Chiltern Bus Page http://www.oxford-chiltern-bus-page.co.uk
London Transport Museum http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/
London Country Bus Services http://www.ampyx.org.uk/lcountry/

Bibliography

The London Country Bus by JS Wagstaff, Oakwood Press 1968
The Motor Bus in London Country by Kenneth Warren, Ian Allen 1984
ABC London Transport Buses, Coaches and Trolleybuses, Ian Allen 1955
London Buses Past and Present by John Reed, Capital Transport 1994
London Country in the 1970's by Steve Fennell, Ian Allen 2003
Greenline by A McCall, New Cavendish 1980
Timebus/RLH website Ewen Pring (see above)
London Country Bus Services website (Jonathan Wilkins) (see above)
London Buses in the 1960's by Ken Glazier, Capital Transport, 1998

Any additions, corrections, alterations, please email the web master

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