Double-decker bus - fast facts
CW columnist, Malcolm Street, talks about the design of this iconic bus.
An item that’s readily associated with London (UK) is a red double-decker bus – specifically a Routemaster bus, characterised by the rear open deck by which passengers get on or off, and the single cab for the driver. The Routemaster originally appeared in 1954 and was produced until 1968. It was a design sensation when it first appeared and indeed has outlasted several replacements, remaining in official service until 2005. Because of an outcry at their demise, Routemasters still run in London on two heritage routes for the tourists.
When it first appeared in 1954, the Routemaster had some considerably advanced features (most certainly for that time): independent front suspension, power steering, a fully automatic gearbox and power hydraulic brakes. We take these things for granted now, even in commercial vehicles, but they were very innovative in postwar Britain.
The other major feature of the Routemaster was that it had a fully aluminium body which made it considerably lighter than its predecessors. It was also designed in a monocoque sort of arrangement so that it could be fully lifted off the chassis for major overhaul purposes. London Transport had a very large factory just for that purpose.
The thinking was that the bus bodies tended to last longer than the mechanicals underneath. During a major overhaul, the mechanicals were fixed separately to the bus body, and neither body nor chassis ended up in the same vehicle.
Read Malcolm Street’s Street Talk column in the April edition of Caravan World magazine, out March 18, 2009.