Apart from the SA classes of 8’ wide trolleybuses that required a special Metropolitan Police dispensation to operate, all of London’s post-war central bus fleet was 7’ 6’’ wide. The SA classes were originally destined for South Africa but, following the intervention of World-War II, were retained by London Transport and permitted for use on prescribed routes in the outer north-east London suburbs.
The 500 Leyland buses in the RTW class were London’s first 8’ wide motor buses. They were based on the standard Leyland PD2/3, and along with their 1,000 Leyland PD2/2-based 7’6’’ wide RTL cousins, were introduced by LT largely as a result of AEC’s inability to produce chassis quickly enough for London’s post-war needs.
RTW4 among the first batch of RTWs to enter service in London, and was allocated to Tottenham Garage (AR) for route 41 from new in June 1949, the year it has been depicted in service. It was one of the vehicles from this class used in the 1950 8’ width tests necessary to convince the Public Carriage Office that these wider vehicles could be used safely on the often narrow, and always busy, streets of central London. The vehicle lasted with London Transport until 1970, with much its life having been spent in service as a driver training vehicle ahead of, and during, the introduction of the 8’ wide Routemaster fleet.
The main line of London Transport’s route 41 in 1949 (and it remains so today) was between Archway Station and Tottenham Hale in suburban north London. Always worked by double deck buses, it was a busy route with a three to four minute daytime frequency interval, and remains so today, enjoying a five minute interval between buses.
The first models released off Corgi’s long-awaited RTW casting arrived in August 2006. They depicted a London Transport vehicle in service in the mid-1960s, with all-over red and white cant rail livery. The release generally received less than excellent reviews from collectors (despite a fairly robust defence from the manufacturer), and this latest London Transport model has been eagerly awaited to see if Corgi have responded to earlier criticisms, and put right some of the apparent wrongs evident on the first release. Have they succeeded?
The latest livery is the ‘as new’ 1949 red with cream cant rail and window surrounds. The cream has been well applied, and the cant rail is nicely to scale. The headlights on the model have now been vastly improved with clear plastic inserts now replacing the silver paint. The near side-light might have done better with a little less exuberance with such silver paint (something common to both releases), with the silvered light-glass being properly placed beneath a red hood. Particularly nice to see is another full set of adverts adorning the bus: all bar the back three-quarter ‘Watch your step’ warning are different from the original release (the last-mentioned poster has been repositioned upwards since the earlier release – I wonder which is correct: perhaps both?). I have made no attempt to confirm the historical accuracy of the advertisements.
The previously seen BESI1 plate holder moulded between decks on the nearside front of the vehicle has now been removed. Whilst doing this it would have been good if Corgi had gone two steps further. They might have removed the over-sized mouldings for reflectors at the bottom of the rear of the vehicle: although now not incorrectly tampo’d ‘indicator orange’ as on the previous release, they are chronologically inaccurate, and, like the two over-sized rubber body protectors for the opened emergency rear window, might well have been better represented by tampo printing onto a flat casting.
The opposite might be said of the bonnet release handles, where a delicate moulding overprinted in silver might well have improved the model.
The rear platform has been tidily done, and the white poles that have been applied have been well reproduced. The ‘used tickets’ wording is particularly well done. The whole back end would have looked terrific if Corgi had been able to replicate the passenger grab-handle around the used-ticket bin in the same way as they have on the rear of the platform – an improvement for the future perhaps.
The war-time restricted blinds themselves are correctly shown and nicely portrayed, appearing behind separate glazing units to good effect. That said the lack any moulding on the front three-blind display (between the via, ultimate and route number blinds) leaves the black definition work on the flat surface seem crude – the side and rear blind displays seem more comfortable in this respect as all the mouldings are present. It is disappointing to note that the offside route number box has been tampo’d black, but then left completely blank, although it was a feature that would have been well utilised at the time. The word ROUTE should have appeared at the head of it, even if the route number stencil was depicted as ‘left off’.
The nearside fuel filler cap has been neatly picked out in silver, and is vastly improved by the recess around it now being depicted correctly in red. Disappointingly the offside driver’s toe-hole does not show the silver steel reinforcement surround, something that might have been considered when picking out the fuel filler cap to better advantage. Both this and the nearside conductor’s toe-hole, which helped him reach the canopy route number blind winding handle, should be black inside.
However, it is the fitting of trafficator ears which are arguably the biggest disappointment on this particular model: such indicators only began being fitted to London Transport’s fleet from the late 1950s onwards, long after the demise of the war-time restricted blind sets, and the combination of the two looks completely incongruous. That said, the trafficators have been excellently reproduced, and are a huge asset for those models that require them.
The nearside driver’s mirror is still completely incorrectly positioned – it should emanate from the lower leading edge of the side cant rail, and hang rearwards of the trafficator, not extrude from the leading edge of the canopy - its current position looks quite bizarre! Corgi might well consider a single trafficator cum mirror insert for the future? That said, the mirrors are very nicely to scale. Also incorrect are the front wheels, which should have the very centre hub painted solid silver with the silver ring surrounding it - the rear wheels with the two concentric silver rings are correctly depicted.
Much has already been said of Corgi’s portrayal of the Leyland radiator fitted to its RTW models – to my mind it continues to disappoint with its unduly under-slung length making the downwards and inwards taper far more prominent than was characteristic of the marque. The over-length radiator gives the impression that the fog kerb-light is incorrectly positioned - it is not! The pictures should enable you to make up your own mind.
So: yes, this is a modest improvement on the last London Transport release, but it wouldn’t take Corgi too much effort to look at a number of things once again before finalising the details on the next release in LT colours that must surely be on the cards. As it stands, we have the makings of a fine London model yet to be released.
8th August 2007 - It has been pointed out since the above words were posted that the London Transport Board legal lettering is incorrect. Such lettering for the RTWs only applied between 1963 and 1969, and again from 1970 - on the model reviewed it should read London Transport Executive, which was used from 1948.
There is a precise contemporary photo of RTW4 from 1949 in Ken Blacker’s book RT on p54, and a number of excellent comparison pictures of preserved RTWs available from website resources on the internet. In particular I will draw the reader’s attention to Ian Smith’s Ian’s Bus Stop website (a source that assisted the preparation of this review), which has some useful pictures at: http://www.countrybus.org.uk/RT/RTW.htm#top. Some recent pictures of preserved RTW467 in 1960s livery can be found here http://www.red-rf.com/rf-479.
1 Bus Electronic Scanning Indicator – a system of code plates on the side of buses that were optically read by roadside readers that fed the location of the vehicle to a central control point. The control point was in telephone contact with roadside Inspectors who were able to adjust services to maintain an equitable service pattern in the light of information received.
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