RFW private hire coach
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Notes About This Vehicle

At the end of the Second World War London Transport (LT) was operating many elderly worn out vehicles and the private hire fleet was no exception. With the country still recovering from the devastation of the war the Festival of Britain opened less than six years later – what an achievement. With this national celebration of British culture, innovation and manufacturing expected to attract many visitors, LT ordered forty new coaches of very modern design to replace its ageing private hire fleet.

The result was twenty-five smart RFs and fifteen RFWs arriving just in time in May 1951. (It may be noted that a further five RFW-type coaches were bought by Tilling’s and painted cream.) The Associated Equipment Company (AEC) built its new Regal IV chassis for the purpose, with Metro Cammell supplying bodies for the RFs and Eastern Coach Works for the RFWs.

Both vehicle types were finished in LT’s country area Lincoln Green, but with the window surrounds and roofs in what was described as Flake Grey. Excellent passenger visibility was provided by the addition of curved glass roof windows fitted with blinds.

Both RF and RFW had front semaphore ‘trafficators’ and were probably the last LT vehicles to be fitted with these, though some other RFs had them as a trial from 1953. A cleverly concealed flap for access to the coolant filler was provided by means of a hinged section to the London Transport logo on the front. Also common to the two was the red lettering used on the exterior. The colour contrast with the green paintwork made it not particularly easy to read and I expect coloured filters were used in order for it to show up at all when the black & white press photographs were taken.

It is at this point that the similarity of RFs and RFWs parted company abruptly. The RFs were 27ft 6ins long and 7ft 6ins wide, seated thirty-five and had standard Green Line interiors. They also had registration numbers that resembled their fleet numbers whereas the RFWs had a series that interrupted those allocated to RTs and did not match – LUC376 to 390.

The RFWs were able to take advantage of the relaxed regulatory length of 30ft now permitted (they were actually 29ft 101/2ins) and 8ft wide, seating thirty-nine. A ventilator was incorporated in each of the large sliding roof openings.

The seating was to a very high standard of comfort in the RFWs, using deep ‘Dunlopillo’ cushions, with a magnificent overall interior finish that still looks rather splendid even some seventy years later.

While, in my opinion, the RFs provided a coherent exterior design all round, the unimpressive front aspect of the RFWs looked like the designer had run out of inspiration. The front window surrounds, though still of a bright finish, lacked the curved corners, making them look harsh and not in keeping with other LT vehicles.

The two doors are worthy of mention. The Regal IV had underfloor engines and so required two steps to reach interior floor level. The emergency exit on the offside had a clever hinged stay attached to the inside of the door which, when opened, pulled out a double step arrangement and folded back in when closed. The front access door was a novelty on LT vehicles, being conventionally hinged to open outwards and not sliding.

RFWs were never fitted with a front destination blind and relied on a label in the front nearside window to inform where the tour was going.

All fifteen RFWs commenced service in May and June 1951 and all were withdrawn between September 1963 and October 1964. Ten were sold to the Ceylon Transport Board (now Sri Lanka) and only numbers 6 and 14 now survive in preservation.

The coach depicted here shows it in its later condition. When new, rear reflectors were not present on LT vehicles but were fitted, as the law now required, from 1st October 1954. The LT bar & circle logo is shown on the rear window and these were added from 1955.

Preserved RFW14 is beautifully upholstered and the seat backs are all-over maroon. The black & white LT press photographs clearly show the rear seat back (visible from outside through the window) to be two-tone. It has been shown here in two shades of maroon. I am not certain beyond doubt if the original colour was maroon, nor what the shades were, whether maroon or otherwise.

The fleet numbers depicted here show the ‘W’ as condensed, as in the press photographs and others of the coaches in service, and not as on restored RFW14. Some later photographs show clear evidence of some additional panel seams and these are present on restored RFW14. I have omitted them here.

Notes About This Drawing

The drawing is based on a general arrangement drawings RF 021 Z1 dated 26th January 1955 and RF 083 R dated 1st March 1963. 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 fine detail has been interpreted from dozens of colour photographs of RFW14 in its restored condition, and contemporary LT press press images. The detail should not be viewed with any certainty in terms of its appearance when in service and none of it 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 2022
 
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