Breakdown Tender: Road services: 1950
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Notes About This Vehicle

London Transport habitually used retired buses, or their chassis, for vehicles to maintain and service their vast organization. This practice had begun in 1928 in London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) days, continuing into the thirties and during the Second World War. After the war when new vehicles were in short supply, a total of 43 STL buses were converted for various roles, including towing lorries, tower wagons and breakdown tenders.
From November 1939 various suffix letter codes were 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).
As depicted in the accompanying drawing, 832J was one of six similar ‘auxiliary breakdown tenders’ that received a purpose-built box-van type body with integral crew accommodation, fitted to a petrol-engined STL bus chassis. The rear part of the body was equipped with a workbench and carried tools and equipment for the repair and recovery of failed and accident damaged buses. A substantial towing facility was provided at the rear of the chassis. The bodies were coachbuilt by John Chalmers & Son Ltd., Redhill, Surrey and were delivered between September 1949 and September 1950.
They were operated by the Rolling Stock Engineer (Road Services), the department responsible for the maintenance and provision of buses to the Operating Manager’s Department. Their bonnet numbers and original garage allocations were:
737J (ex-STL197) to Cricklewood (W) 11/7/50
738J (ex-STL169) to Dalston (D) 11/7/50
739J (ex-STL175) to Camberwell (Q) 14/7/50
830J (ex-STL390) to Riverside (R) 8/8/50
832J (ex-STL162) to Merton (AL) 8/8/50       
833J (ex-STL159) to Tottenham (AR) 1/1/53
Each of the above garages also had an AEC Matador ‘master breakdown tender’ equipped with a 5-ton capacity crane, which was used in conjunction with the auxiliary tender at major incidents, such as overturnings.
In 1954, the six auxiliary tenders had their petrol engines replaced by overhauled AEC ‘7.7’ diesel engines, taken from STL buses then being scrapped. Along with the Matador that had accompanied it at Merton, 832J was de-licensed and placed in store at North Street (NS) garage on 1st October 1955.

This was not the end of the story for 832J, for the following year it was re-licensed by London Underground as a railway breakdown tender, in which role it continued until 1977. The vehicle was purchased for preservation in 1978.

A Note on Trade Licence Plates
with thanks to Mike Horne:
Usually referred to as ‘trade plates’, their purpose was (and is) to allow new and unregistered vehicles to be driven on public roads without payment of the vehicle excise duty.

These plates took two different forms, ‘limited’ and ‘general’ and were allocated to a user or company and not to specific vehicles. They usually had two letters and three figures; restricted plates were usually white with red characters whereas general reversed this. More recently only one type has been used, with red characters on white. When allocated to Merton garage, 832J was unlicensed and ran on general use trade plates.

Notes About This Drawing

This drawing has been created from extensive measurements of the vehicle 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.
Despite having searched for over 35 years, no photographs of 832J in its original condition have been found. This drawing is therefore based on images of other vehicles, notably 737J, and so contains elements of interpretation based on Ian Dyckhoff’s years of working closely with these and other related vehicle types.
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 conversion in 1950. None of the detail portrayed can be regarded as definitive of that period.
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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