Mobile Uniform Unit: ex RLH44
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Notes About This Vehicle

Built in 1952, what was to become service vehicle 581J started its life as one of London Transport’s ‘low bridge’ buses, carrying the fleet designation RLH44. It was still fulfilling normal passenger carrying duties on 1st January 1970, when all of LT’s country area green bus operations (including 17 RLHs) were transferred to London Country Bus Services Ltd (LCBS), to become part of the newly formed National Bus Company.

Though a new company, it took time for LCBS to develop its own management practices and for a while remained heavily dependent on London Transport for much day-to-day support. That said, the legal lettering changed to LCBS’s headquarters at LT’s now ex garage at Reigate in Bell Street.

RLH44’s life as a bus was short lived under LCBS, running for the last time as such on 31st July 1970. By May 1971 it had been through an extensive conversion by Brewster’s Coachworks of Wrotham into a mobile uniform unit. Most of the windows were panelled over and, as a consequence, perspex skylights fitted to the roof. A nearside central door was added, the platform area too having been panelled over. The upper deck was used as a store and equipped with hanger rails. Inside, fluorescent lights replaced the then conventional light bulbs and all bus seats removed.

After conversion, the unit visited various London Country garages, giving a convenient facility for staff to receive new uniforms. Crews could try them for size in the fitting room to the left of the new nearside door.

LCBS retained many LT’s practices and gave the unit the very London Transport style 581J fleet number. (LT ‘J’ suffixes signified AEC Regent service vehicles, though LCBS also applied the ‘J’ to two ‘Matador’ breakdown vehicles, where LT would have used ‘P’.)

No longer being a Public Service Vehicle (PSV), it was not bound by its legislation that allowed separate dipping and switching headlamps. Now classified as a goods vehicle, ‘double dip’ (smaller) ones were fitted and it also received a second spotlamp, on the offside. A mains electric shore supply was fitted under the canopy, with a spool for the cable (the only detail I have for this is scant and, as portrayed here, should be treated with caution).

581J came to the end of its life in this form in April 1982 and became an office at Stevenage garage. It was sold for preservation the following year and subsequently acquired by Timebus in December 1990.

To make it a working vehicle once again, it was further modified inside and out. Two windows were re-instated on the lower deck: one where the changing room had been and the other at the front. The front upper deck windows also returned as did the destination blind displays, and a minor change was effected to the rear lower panel structure. The mains electric shore supply had long since gone. The whole vehicle was re-painted in a more traditional bus green and with a light grey relief band.

Notes About This Drawing

The drawing is based on an undated Chiswick Works general arrangement drawing ‘RLH.031.Z1’ dated 11th February 1964. This type of black & white sketch drawing, as implied by the name, is not intended to define detail but as a specification guide to builders.

All the detail has been interpreted from a very few contemporary colour photographs that could be found, though none are at all clear. Owing to the age of the photographs, much of the fine detail has been gleaned from restored vehicle 581J, which has notable and understandable differences required to make it a working vehicle again. I have reversed these here as best as possible to depict the originally converted state. 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 November 2019
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