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Click here to see brief notes about this vehicle and technical notes about this particular drawing >>


Notes About This Vehicle

British European Airways (BEA) had its first central London terminal in Victoria and provided coach services to Croydon and Northolt and increasingly Heathrow. It moved to a new site in Waterloo in 1953. Passengers having passed through customs at these terminals (hence ‘airport’ as opposed to ‘aerodrome’) and aboard the coach, they were already ‘airside’ on arrival at the airport.
With air travel on the increase a batch of 40 of the deck-and-a-half vehicles, as depicted in this drawing, was ordered with the first being delivered in 1952. These 37-seat coaches replaced the earlier 20-seat Commer Commandos. Very quickly the order was increased for a further 10 with the last of these arriving 13 months later. A further 15 were ordered with the last licensed in October 1953.
The fleet was owned by BEA but operated by London Transport, as were the earlier Commandos, and housed at Victoria. LT did not give them fleet numbers and internal records identified them by the registrations alone.
With Heathrow becoming the dominant airport for London a new and larger terminal was built at Cromwell Road in Kensington and opened in 1957; operations were transferred there. The coaches were housed for a short while at Shepherds Bush and then at the, by then, disused trolleybus depot at Hammersmith in 1960.
Earlier deck-and-a-half coaches had a profile of a capital ‘L’ lying on its back, but these new vehicles had a full-height roof at the front, giving a very airy feel inside. They had an AEC engine and a Regal IV chassis, as modified for London Transport’s 15 RFW coaches, but with special body built by Park Royal.
The arrangement of the front lights was similar to LT’s single-deck RF fleet. On RF’s the radiator filler cap was cleverly concealed behind the familiar bar & circle and on the BEA coaches it was likewise hidden behind the embossed shield. Front semaphore ‘trafficators’ were housed in the black vertical panel and popped out horizontally when in use. At the rear, the orange arrow indicators emitted a steady light when the front ‘trafficators’ were out.
There were 16 seats on the lower front deck and 21 on the rear raised one. The raised rear deck provided a large capacity beneath for luggage through rear and side doors. There was capacity for about 100 full-size suitcases and the floor was rubber padded to prevent damage.
These coaches only had one overhaul, during 1957/58, and were replaced by bespoke Routemasters in 1966/67, with one vehicle subsequently re-licensed for continued service until 1973. Four were bought by LT for use as mobile uniform stores and were finally withdrawn in 1976/77.

Notes About This Drawing

The drawing is based on a Chiswick Works general arrangement drawing ‘RF 034.Z.1’ from 1957. These types of black & white sketch drawing, as implied by the name, are not intended to define detail but as a specification guide to builders.
All the fine detail has been interpreted from two restored coaches and a very few black & white and colour photographs of sufficient quality that could be found and attempts to show the vehicle as closely as possible to how it looked when it entered service. None of the detail can be regarded as definitive.
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 March 2018
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