Front Entrance STL first livery
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Notes About This Vehicle

One of the many consequences of the formation of the London Passenger Transport Board (LPTB) in July 1933 was the coming together under unified ownership of disparate fleets from many private operators. London General Country Services was based in Reigate and though now part of the LPTB briefly still had a say in their fleet until the central area management (red buses) based at Chiswick took control.
Historically the mainstay of the central area’s buses was a double-deck vehicle with a rear entrance; the latest being the STL, introduced in January 1933. The STL fleet eventually numbered some 2700 vehicles with many different chassis and body styles. (Large scale fleet standardization was still some way into the future.)
Reigate ordered a batch of twelve ‘low bridge’ (13ft 1ins tall) front entrance country area buses in 1933, with bodies built by Weymann with metal frames and a sliding door. Classed as STL, they were allocated to Godstone garage, where they spent most of their lives and so were (and still are) referred to as ‘Godstone STLs’. Country area buses tended to rely on their registrations for their identity and they only received fleet numbers when Chiswick took control. Identified as STLs 1044-1055, this explains why the numbers were higher and out of chronological sequence with newer vehicles.
Following the success of the Godstone STLs, a batch of 85 front entrance STLs for the country area was ordered in October 1934 and a further four in June 1935 (STLs 959–1043 and 1056–1059); these were the standard 14ft high. The buses had AEC’s Regent chassis, with timber-framed bodies built to London Transport’s design at Chiswick and entered service from February 1935. They had a wide entrance with angled panels left and right when seen in plan, and were regarded as not needing a door. (For clarification, as it is perhaps not obvious in this two-dimensional drawing: the upright panels left and right of the doorway formed a rhomboid, with their outer edges on the nearside closer to the rear of the bus.)
A further 50 such country buses (STLs 1464–1513) were ordered and licensed for service between July and December 1936. Still with AEC’s chassis, as with the ‘Godstone’ buses, the bodies were built by Weymann with metal frames.
The original livery on the first batch of 89 vehicles was two-tone green, as depicted here, and changed in 1939/40 to Lincoln green and off white.
The two main batches were very similar outwardly but not identical. Possibly there were others, but differences noted on the second batch from sources I regard as trustworthy*, and also my own observations, are:
  • stop light added to rear;
  • triple ribbed roof panels per bay instead of double;
  • radiused top corner front windows introduced;
  • front destination above route number and via blinds;
  • front side lights moved down from mid-deck band to below cab and front nearside bulkhead;
  • nearside canopy valance curve moved forward;
  • metal frame raised unladen weight from 6 tons 10 cwt to 7tons 5 cwt.
* with thanks to www.countrybus.org and the books of Ken Blacker and Ken Glazier.
Rear entrance open platform double-deck buses were not required to have an emergency exit, as in the event of them toppling over onto their nearside, escape was still possible from the rear. Front entrance vehicles of this STL design however could not offer this and so an emergency exit was incorporated in the centre of the rear lower deck of the bus. (Escape from the upper deck was possible through the Emergency Exit rear window.)
Despite the confidence of the designers and their wind tunnel tests, in operation the buses turned out to be draughty to travel in and as such not particularly successful.
When withdrawn, STLs 1039 (by then Weymann bodied), 1470, 1494 1503 and 1512 joined London Transport’s service vehicle fleet. Between December 1952 and April 1953 they had their roofs removed and became tree loppers. Those chosen had metal frames as they would be stronger than those of wood. They were withdrawn in early 1963.

Important Notes

This drawing is based on extensive photography and measuring of converted tree lopper 971J in its preserved condition in 2018. From these, I have attempted to depict how it looked when a passenger carrying bus. This has proved difficult and has meant much delving and conjecture, consequently being open to alternative conclusions.
In the absence of contemporary colour photographs, and only very generalized descriptions in the text books of the various colour schemes in which it appeared, this drawing should very much be regarded as an honest attempt than a factual statement. I should add that some areas of panelling detail are uncertain as the only vehicle of this type in existence to consult is converted STL1470, with its roof and most of its upper deck removed.
A very small number of photographs of buses were/are taken showing their rears, and those that were are seldom square on. The rear blinds and surrounding panelling have been interpreted as best as my conscience allows from other STL types – a series of buses which varied enormously.

Aspects to Consider

A few high-quality press photographs have been found, but these are all from the first batch of 89.
Photographs in published works seldom show the front and rear of the same vehicle and so the content and style of the rear blinds here is uncertain; the depiction here is from one photograph of the front of STL1478B.
Mudguards and lifeguards were probably black, as were the rain gutters and between deck bands.
The roof was silver/grey, and might have extended to the bottom of the upper deck windows; rear platform STLs had a roof ventilator on the nearside and probably on the offside on these front entrance buses.
The first batch was ordered from Reigate and so had ‘Bell Street’ legal lettering; the second batch was ordered from Chiswick and so had ‘55 Broadway’ legal lettering; earlier legal lettering was black; the ‘Emergency Exit Only’ transfer at the rear is only clear in a first batch photograph and was black; wartime photographs and many others show LPTB legal lettering in white.
The unladen weight and speed limit transfers were positioned at the lower rear of the offside originally and appear to have moved to front nearside, forward of the rear wheel, though I don’t know when.
When new a nearside driver’s mirror was not fitted but added around wartime.
Tree Lopper 971J has thin wooden beading surrounding its blocked lower deck windows; first batch vehicles had wooden frames and so cannot be used as a source. STL1470 had a metal frame and 971J may, or may not, have had this beading changed/added.
The opening window style and operation has been assumed from other STL types, though these buses went through many design changes; two general arrangement drawings of other (rear entrance) STL types tend to confirm what I have decided to draw.
A (later) roof box STL general arrangement drawing shows a rear roof air intake on the nearside only; photographs showing roofs clearly are thin on the ground but some (undated) show air intake equivalent on offside as well.
Roof ribbing was triple per window bay though one (undated but probably post war) photograph shows a double rib with intermediate flat seam; flat seams at the front and rear of roof existed but how many, and where, is uncertain.
Adverts have been re-created from high-quality black & white photographs of first batch vehicles: Whitbread colours have been approximated from a quite different layout British Library advert found on the Internet and stated as 1888; the Young advert orange has been approximated from an enamel sign with very similar style lettering and the blue from a small model (where the colour was probably guessed); the colours of the front and rear adverts are aesthetic guesswork.
Some of the detail in this realization may be wrong, nevertheless I hope it captures the spirit of what these vehicles looked like at the time.

Notes About This Drawing

It should be understood that all four elevations are seen here as one would see each part of the vehicle at a truly perpendicular angle. In real life this is of course impossible.
 
drawing copyright Douglas Rose September 2018
 
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