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WHEN ROUTEMASTERS SERVED EWELL
Some notes made in 2016
Route 406 RM-type bus on Country service Apr 1957
We are extremely grateful to London Transport Museum and
Transport for London for the use of their copyright images.
The London Transport Museum and its website http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/ are both well worth a visit.
Over the years, the original Routemaster has become a London icon - painted red with a half-cab for the driver, an open rear platform and with a crew of two - driver and conductor or conductress who took your fare and gave you your ticket. It was designed especially for London and is one of the most reliable buses ever used in London, being designed in the 1950's and after a lengthy test programme, entered full service from 1959. It gave many years of faithful service to Londoners and was only withdrawn from regular service in 2005. However, some heritage Routemasters are still in service and many are on show at museums and attend bus rallies. By using some modern lightweight materials, the Routemaster weighed less than the earlier RT-Type double-decker, but the Routemaster carried more passengers. Also, some Routemasters were bought by provincial bus operators when they were sold from London. These appearing in their home towns in many liveries.
The Routemaster and Ewell are connected as mentioned in the following paragraphs.
The second Routemaster - bonnet number RM2 - was painted in London Transport Country Area green (as it was called then) and it worked from Reigate garage on route 406 to Kingston, passing through Ewell. It must have looked so modern and new to passengers - this was 1957.
Moving on and to 1973, Ewell became served by Routemasters again when a number of RMC types were moved to Reigate garage and put to work on route 406. The 406 used to be worked by two bus garages, - Reigate and Leatherhead, in the days of London Country Bus Services - as the London Transport Country area became as part of the National Bus Company - it later became London & Country. RMC stood for Routemaster Coach as originally they had been built as double-deck Green Line coaches. When one-person-operation gradually took place, these Green Line double-deckers were put on regular bus work. They were fine vehicles and because they had been Green Lines, they had deeper seats, interior fluorescent lighting, bell pushes instead of a bell cord, power operated doors for the rear platform and rear emergency exit. They also had interior luggage racks on both decks for passengers to use below the ceiling and there were notices on the seat backs to warn passengers to mind their heads when entering and leaving seats. When they first came they were in the dark green of London Country Bus Services with a yellow mid-band, but they were later repainted into an attractive light green of the National Bus Company with a white mid-band and with grey wheels. As well as Reigate garage, other RMCs were moved to Leatherhead garage. They served route 406 very well and they were often seen in Ewell. The RMCs gradually replaced the older RT-Type double-deckers on route 406. On RMCs, as with the earlier RTs, the tickets were Setright Speeds.
In time, our local bus routes were converted to one person operation with the driver taking fares when passengers boarded and giving tickets. At first they were Almex tickets and later, Wayfarer tickets were issued.
An Almex bus ticket from the 248 route in Upminster. Photograph by Felix O via Flickr and Wikipedia (CC Licence)
Route 406 became one person operated in 1978 and the earlier Routemaster RMCs were moved away. In place Reigate and Leatherhead garages received brand new one person single-deckers as the 406 was made a single-deck route. The new buses were Leyland National single-deckers and they were rear engine, the earlier ones having a distinctive heating pod at the rear of the roof. In time double-decker buses were put back on route 406 and these were one person operated being of the Leyland Atlantean type followed by the Leyland Olympian type. Again, they were rear engine and the driver issued Almex tickets and later on Wayfarer tickets were issued.
In 1989 the green country buses started to be operated with a new name - London & Country and a brand new and distinctive livery was adopted of two tone green with a red band. They looked very smart in their new livery and a new image became well known. Then in 1993 something very, very, interesting happened. It really was "the wheel having come full circle." A traditional London Routemaster with driver and conductor was put onto the 406 and could be seen in Ewell Village on its way to and from Kingston. The bonnet number was RM1183 and the registration number 183 CLT. After sale by London Buses it passed to Southend and was painted in their smart blue, white and red. I was lucky enough to travel on this Routemaster in December, 1993 when it was working a Santa Special on the 406. I worked in a store in Epsom and one Saturday afternoon I walked up to the stop at Mongers Lane, Ewell and this particular Routemaster came along. Needless to say I was over the moon having the chance to travel on it. On the front lower deck bulkhead there was a poster saying "Welcome aboard this Routemaster which is on loan to London & Country" and it had Christmas decorations put up inside. It was later painted into London & Country's smart two-tone green and red livery. A lovely piece of local history. It became fleet number 4109.
The next sign of Routemaster in Ewell happened in 1997 when Nostalgiabus, based in Mitcham, began a new route - the 306 - between Epsom and Kingston alongside London & Country's route 406. They used traditional Routemasters in red livery on the new 306 route and I can well remember seeing them in Epsom and in Ewell, like many people must do. I travelled on this route and again, it brought back so many very happy memories. It's shown in the 1997 Surrey Bus & Train Guide covering our area:- "New service between Epsom, Ewell, Stoneleigh, Tolworth and Kingston running every half hour Mondays to Saturdays. Buses run limited stop within the London area, and via Surbiton Hill rather than Surbiton Station. Run by Nostalgiabus using Routemaster buses with conductors." It was certainly a very interesting venture but, sadly, it didn't last and was withdrawn some time afterwards. So nice to see traditional Routemasters again though in our local area and to hear the "ding-ding" of the conductor's bell before moving off from bus stops. You still see traditional Routemasters in Ewell from time to time. These are preserved ones by firms and enthusiasts and are The Derby and other race specials. These can be seen on the Ewell by-pass both with closed and open top Routemasters. I really enjoyed putting these notes together and hope so much that they might be helpful.
Routemasters return to Ewell. The ex-Southend London Routemaster, fleet number 4109, registration 183 CLT, that our London & Country operator used on route 406 during 1993. It is shown at the Spring bus stop, Ewell Village in Southend livery, working a Santa Special with London & country.