Breakdown Tender: Railways 1956
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Notes About This Vehicle
by IAN DYCKHOFF

AEC Regent chassis number (O)6612307 was supplied to the London General Omnibus Company at Chiswick on 15th May 1933. A new sixty-seat double-deck bus body, number 13567, was fitted, the complete vehicle being allocated bonnet number STL162. It was registered as JJ4379 on 19th June 1933 and licensed for service at Hendon (AE) garage the next day.
When built, it was fitted with an AEC A140B 6.1 litre, 100mm bore, six cylinder overhead camshaft petrol engine; AEC D124 four-speed sliding constant-mesh gearbox and vacuum servo assisted Lockheed hydraulic brakes. Other features included a self-starter, coil ignition and a fully floating rear axle. The combination of petrol engine and a 61/4:1 rear axle ratio would have given a top speed of around 50mph at 3000 engine rpm on 36x8 tyres.
During its life as a bus, STL162 carried six different bodies, all of the STL1 type.  It worked from various central area garages until withdrawn on 19th July 1948.  Its body was then removed on 5th August 1948 (and burnt!), the chassis being put into storage along with many similar STL chassis.
The newly formed London Transport Executive of 1948 was in the process of re-equipping its ageing service vehicle fleet and where possible buses or bus chassis were converted for further use, new vehicles being in short supply.
From November 1939 various suffix letter codes had been used on service vehicles to identify their genus. Those carrying a ‘J’ suffix signified conversion from an AEC Regent (ST, STL, or later, RT type buses).
On 6th January 1950, JJ4379 was sent to coachbuilders John Chalmers & Son Ltd., Redhill, Surrey to be re-bodied with box-van type body number 9557 incorporating a crew-cab and was allocated bonnet number 832J in the service vehicle fleet. Five other STL chassis were fitted with similar bodies by Chalmers, becoming 737J, 738J, 739J, 830J and 833J.
The completed vehicle was painted in a plain red livery, with the mudguards and waist moulding in black and was used as an ‘auxiliary breakdown tender’ by the Rolling Stock Engineer (Road Services). It carried lifting and jacking equipment, in addition to being fitted with a bench and tools, to assist with the recovery of failed and accident damaged buses as well as for general towing duties. These vehicles also carried equipment to assist the AEC Matador ‘master breakdown tenders’ (746P to 751P inclusive, 753P and 754P) at major incidents such as overturnings. 832J was allocated to Merton (AL) garage on 8th August 1950 and licensed on General Trade Plate 712GF.
In August 1954, the original type petrol engine was replaced by an AEC A173 ‘7.7’ litre direct injection oil engine. (‘7.7’ was the generic name to which AEC referred it, rather than an accurate description of its actual capacity, which varied a little during its years of production.) With this engine fitted the top road speed was reduced to about 30mph at the maximum governed engine speed of 1800rpm.
In 1956, the Chief Mechanical Engineer (Railways) had a need to replace Albion breakdown van 130A; 832J, which at that time was stored at North Street (NS) garage, was selected as a suitable vehicle. It was re-painted at Nunhead into the light red and cream livery then current for Railway breakdown tenders and was licensed on 18th June 1956, carrying its original registration JJ4379. It went to Ealing Common depot for the interior to be modified to carry equipment used at major incidents on the Underground system, such as derailments, before entering service at Neasden depot. At certain times whilst at Neasden it was used to carry miscellaneous equipment that was rarely used, such as broken axle clamps and tunnel ventilation equipment. At some time after March 1965 it was re-painted in plain red livery, with black wheels and mudguards, as carried by the Leyland and Thames Trader breakdown vehicles which were delivered in 1963/4. Photographic evidence suggests that this was done at Northfleet (NF) garage probably in 1965.
When finally withdrawn in 1977, it was de-licensed at Chiswick until bought for preservation on 23rd June 1978 and moved to the Woolwich Transport Museum. It was later re-painted in the 1956 red and cream livery, making its first appearance at the Hyde Park event celebrating 150 years of London’s Buses on 8th July 1979. The present owners acquired the vehicle on 21st August 1982.

Notes About This Drawing

This drawing has been created from extensive measurements of the vehicle when in its current state of preservation in October 2017. All the fine detail has been interpreted from nearly 300 general and close-up detail colour photographs taken around the same time and a few black & white images of it when still in service.
To make it road legal a few features such as rear lights and indicators are now in place on the lorry. The drawing however omits these and attempts to show it as closely as possible to how it looked after its transfer to London Transport’s Chief Mechanical Engineer (Railways) and associated re-paint in 1956. None of the detail portrayed can be regarded as definitive of that period.
Around the time of this re-paint, possibly before (and still to the present day) the front nearside mudguard was damaged with its leading edge missing. It has been depicted here as it should have looked, pre damage or if it had been repaired.
Vehicles of this period had their lettering applied as transfers though some would have effectively been signwritten and possibly made into transfers from that. It is a myth that all Johnston and other lettering for decades was idyllic and faultless; this simply isn’t true. At the time of 832J carrying this livery its fleet number was far from Johnston in style and in fact the ‘2’ was a very close representation of that used on registration plates. I have depicted it as best I can to match the reality of the time.
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, as are architectural building elevation drawings. In real life this is of course impossible.
 
© vehicle history copyright Ian Dyckhoff – March 2018
© drawing and associated Notes copyright Douglas Rose – March 2018
 
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