Regent Street Bus Cavalcade 2014

  • AEC B type bus came into service 1914
  • Regent Street Bus Cavalcade 2014

    I’m discovering my “inner bus spotter”!  Earlier this year, back in April, I went along to see the 75th anniversary celebrations of the RT double decker London bus.  And there I saw quite a number of people, who like myself, were really excited to see these lovingly restored vintage buses travelling from East London to Piccadilly Circus and back.  We could even take a free bus journey into town!

    2014 has been designated Year of the Bus by Transport for London. And one of their celebrations involved a display of vintage and modern buses along the complete length of Regent St, in Central London.  I don’t understand why it was called a cavalcade because the buses did not move.  But there were 48 different models to admire.  This event took place last Sunday, 22nd June.

    The buses were displayed in chronological order and I began with the oldest vehicle which required 2 horses to power it. Surprisingly it wasn’t called an omnibus, which is where I think the word bus comes from, it was called a Horse Bus. And it was in service from 1829 – 1914.  The First World War ended their service because the soldiers needed the horses to fight the war.


    first london bus called Horse Bus


    It looks a lot like a stage coach with its large yellow wagon wheels, open top and coach driver.  And its mostly coloured in yellow.

    The bright colours and advertising hoardings made the next bus look more like a gyspy caravan.  This was the first motor driven bus mysteriously called an X-type. It was designed specially for London in 1908.  And only 60 of these buses were made.


    Early London bus Leyland X2 model


    And here is a glimpse inside the X-type which we weren’t allowed to board. Interesting to note there were very few seats.  Just two padded benches which ran the length of the carriage rather than rows of shorter seats.


    a view inside the carriage of the Leland X2


    The X-types must have been expensive to make because the 3rd model, the AEC B-type  was the first mass produced bus in 1914. And many were used to transport troops to the front line.  Its hard to imagine this from the photograph below.  With its bright red livery, this specific bus must have been designed to transport people around London.


    AEC B type bus came into service 1914


    By the 1920s, the AEC B-type was replaced by the K-type.  This model had a more powerful engine.  Here are two views of it.  I was rather taken with the paint work!


    side view of AEC S type bus


    Along with the actual buses, I loved spotting the routes and names.  And I was amazed to see how littled the routes have changed. Today the no 12 still runs from Dulwich, over Westminster Bridge and along Regent St.  But it now terminates slightly earlier at Oxford Circus.

    In recent decades London has become a city choked with traffic and many of the bus routes got shorter.  For example in the 1960s and 70s, the no 2 ran from South London as far as North Finchley in North London. But now it terminates in Marylebone. And the 82 covers the rest of the old route.


    rear view of AEC S type model 1920 to 1932


    This next bus is called the Chocolate Express!  Its a Leyland LB5 (1924-34).  Thanks to the London Bus Museum’s website, I now know that there were 200+ private operators of buses during this period.  The Chocolate Express prided itself on its cleanliness and reliability, even in bad weather.  The link will tell you more.


    side view of Leyland LB5 bus


    I had arrived about 3pm when the number of visitors probably peaked.   People were continuously lining up to have their photographs taken by their loved ones by each bus.


    man photographing bus Leyland LB5


    I didn’t photograph every single bus by the way. Only those that caught my eye.  This next bus was called the AEC Renown LT165.  Its the first one with a roof on the upper deck I notice. And apparently it is the first model with a diesel engine.  It began service in the 1930s.  And its shape and design is starting to look familiar.


    An AEC Renown bus for London Transport 1930s and 1940s


    Much to my surprise there were quite a few single decker buses.  This one is also an AEC Renown but model no 1076. They were used on either quieter routes or ones with low bridges.  But you gotta love this litte fella. He looks so cool.


    single decker bus AEC-Renown



    And you could queue up and look inside many of the vehicles.  Only some of the very old open top ones were off limits.  This next single decker bus was called a Leyland Club C4 (1935 -1953).  Later owned by London Transport, it was originally used on fruit picking farms to transport their staff.


    single decker bus Leyland Club C4


    Well I never!  This next bus is called a Tree Lopper which makes sense of its green livery.  But until writing this post I had no idea that buses were used to trim London’s tree lined streets to keep them clear for buses. I’ve just watched this 1 min film clip, Lopping Trees for London Buses British Pathé.


    Forest green bus called a Tree lopper


    And now for a close-up!


    boy photographs detail of Tree Lopper bus


    The RT1 was not on display but the RT8 looks so similar to my eye, that I would have said they were the same. This model bus was in service from 1940 – 1960


    AEC pre WW2 bus RT8


    This young boy’s smile says it all for me. His pleasure shows how we all felt that afternoon, climbing on board old and new buses. He’s “driving” a Leyland RTL453.


    boy driving a bus RTL type


    The RTL453 was in service from 1949 – 1966


    Boy pretending to drive Leyland RTL453


    By this period of bus history, the only differences I could see was variation in the colours of the livery.  This model is a Guy WWII G351 (1946 -1952).  What you can’t tell from this photograph is that there was a shortage of buses after WW2 and this was a utility bus painted to look like a London bus to make up the numbers.


    back of bus model Guy WWII


    Hamleys Toy shop.

    London’s famous toy store created a bus stop and a bus shelter made out of Lego!  This was a very popular display for tourists. In amongst the crowd I spotted this young man, employed by Hamleys to keep us amused.


    bus stop make out of lego outside Hamleys toy shop




    The next bus to catch my eye was an airport coach.  AEC BEA Coach (1953 – 1973) was used by British European Airways to take passengers to Heathrow Airport.  And I used a Holga filter on this shot to give it a vintage feel.


    Airport coach BEA model 1953


    By this point of the display, I seen all the really old buses.  Beyond were the more familiar 1960s Routemaster buses, plus all modern models, right up to the brand new routemasters which are in service now. But as I regularly travel on them I decided to have a last look at the vintage models and board a couple.

    First I chose this one, an AEC T-type (1938 – 1954) because the queue was short but it was really fun inside.


    Green line bus 1938 AEC T type


    interior of AEC T-type bus Green Line

    Rear view window AEC T-type bus

    Rear windows of T-type bus man


    Finally I had to board one open top bus. And I chose the 37 bus because it was the bus route I grew up on and travelled for about half my life time.  I queued for about 15-20 minutes.  It was the AEC K-type (1920s) which you saw at the start of the post. As I sat on top deck and looked at the hard wooden seating and sign about wet weather, I realised how hardy our ancestors must have been.  I took a lot of detailed shots which I’ll save for a separate post, as this one has become longer than most.


    Front view of AEC K type 1920s


    A roof with a view – looking out at the Regent St Bus Cavalcade.

    view from open top bus of Regent Street Bus Cavalcade


    Before I went, I expected to be impressed by the vintage buses but I didn’t realise how many other people would be as equally excited as myself. All walks of life were there, the young and old, all colours and creeds.  I spotted plenty of Londoners in amongst the tourists.  This was a superbly unifying event showing London at it best.




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