The Classic Irish Buses website

A tribute to the AEC Routemaster bus, and the many Irish people who worked on them

Last updated 5th July 2015

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Routemaster menu: Home   History Profile   2004/05 rundown   Route 159 finale   RML preservation  

The legendary and long lived AEC Routemaster first saw the light of day in 1954, the beginning of a production run of 2,876 buses which was to continue from 1959 until 1968. In a London career that was to span an eventual total of 46 years (probably never envisaged at the time of building) these iconic buses became known the world over as a symbol of London. Withdrawal of them only commenced in 1982, by which time the half cab rear platform bus had became virtually a memory in most other towns and cities across the British Isles. The withdrawal process itself was also to drag on into the 21st century, until December 9th 2005, this span of 23 years being longer than the lives of many buses.

I first encountered these buses in the mid 1980s, making a few trips to London at that time. Armed with nothing more than a camera, one day travelcard, and a rough list of routes operated by them, I was able to re-acquaint myself with the almost forgotten art of jumping on a bus with no doors, taking my seat, and not having to queue up to pay the driver. The "for" and "against" opinions were also very much in vogue too over their continuing use, with the disabled lobby groups arguing and proving that they were not wheelchair accessible, while at the same time the authorities recognised their design and double manning made them unbeatable as a quick "fill up and go" option for getting commuters on the move, computerised ticket machines and pre-paid ticketing being several years in the future.

However, with deregulation looming, other operators were quick to realise their potential for re-introducing crew operation across the UK. London's loss was to be the gain of places like Glasgow, Perth, Manchester, Carlisle, Blackpool, Bedford, Southend, Southampton and Reading. I subsequently ventured to Blackpool in 1987 and got a few trips between there and Fleetwood, on buses which I would encounter 18 years later on some of the "last day" events on London routes. The overcrowding of Glasgow's Queen Street with buses at this time was another sight to remember, with Strathclyde's panoramic windowed Atlanteans competing with Routemasters. The enthusiast press of the time claimed that Queen Street was seeing 300 buses per hour, something I never bothered counting, but there were certainly a lot, probably more buses than passengers. Commercially speaking, such a scenario couldn't, and didn't, last too long, and the RMs departed once again.

By 2004, it was becoming clear that their days were numbered, with conversions of each remaining (London) route to driver only buses. Only seven routes remained into 2005, so I decided I had to return to London at least once that year to see them run in for the last time. In fact I managed to get to two such events, routes 14 and 22 in July, and route 38 in October, encountering some of the ex Blackpool buses from 1987 on the latter visit.

The contents of this site give a brief history of the type, an overview of some of the route conversions in 2004/05, the story of one bus in preservation, and our photo gallery of 438 different pictures of the Routemaster in action worldwide will be transferred to our new picasa site in the near future. It is not intended to be a definitive history, just a visitor's tribute to a legendary bus type. Any corrections or updates are welcome, as are additional photos.

Links to other sites about Routemasters:

  • The Routemaster Operators and Owners Association by Phill Wilson
  • The Dutch Routemaster Society
  • The Routemaster Owners Club
  • The AEC Society website
  • A site about Southall AEC works by Neil Fraser
  • The AEC Bus site covering later models and examples still in service
  • Graham Hill's site is a tribute to his father Alfred, the chief designer with Park Royal Coachworks.
  • Dick Gilbert's page about the original introduction of the Routemaster in London
  • Matt Wharmby's London Bus Page site

    Links to sites of bus operators who run Routemasters:

  • Confidence Coaches in Leicester
  • Dualway Coaches of Rathcoole, Co. Dublin
  • Irish Omnibus Company of Ashbourne, Co. Meath
  • "Local Haunts" in Portsmouth
  • London Heritage Travel
  • Marshopper of New Romney in Kent
  • Midland Classic in Derbyshire
  • Omnibuzz in London
  • Oxford Bus Tours
  • Party Bus in Guernsey
  • Quantock Heritage in Somerset
  • Red Room Events for V I P travel and exhibitions
  • R M L Travel in Staffordshire
  • in Washington, Tyne and Wear
  • Routemaster Hire of Knebworth, Hertfordshire
  • The South Devon Railway for wedding hire
  • Sullivan Buses of Potters Bar, North London
  • Timebus Travel of Saint Albans in Hertfordshire
  • Irish Omnibus Company of Dublin
  • Yorkshire Belles in York

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