For a humble transport workhorse, the Routemaster has inspired a wealth of books and become a sought after museum exhibit. This enthusiasts’ manual is in a class of its own, being lavishly illustrated, mainly in full colour, and containing a considerable amount of information on the vehicle, its preservation and restoration in museums and its unique contribution to public passenger transport. Out of service Routemasters have been available for more than thirty years and been purchased for many reasons by second users.
NAME: Routemaster Bus, 1954 onwards (all markets) Enthusiast’s Manual
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: Andrew Morgan
BINDING: Hard back
SUBJECT: public transport, omnibus, diesel bus, double decker, London Bus, British icon, London Transport, commuter
DESCRIPTION: The publisher began a very interesting new series of manuals by launching owners’ workshop manuals for historic aircraft. More recently, the publisher has begun publishing enthusiasts’ manuals which are very similar in concept. The new series title may simply be to distinguish these books from the hugely popular vehicle workshop manuals, which the publisher has long produced to assist DIY mechanics to service, repair and modify popular vehicles. This new manual is an overview and history of the iconic Routemaster Bus that is so strongly identified with London. Very early in the development of the horse-drawn omnibus, a twin deck configuration was adopted to keep the length and width of the bus down but double the passenger carrying capacity. There have been competing claims as to who designed it and where the first double deck passenger vehicle was built and deployed, but London can certainly claim to have been one of the first, if not definitely the first, city to employ this high capacity public transport vehicle. The horse was replaced by the petrol engine and then the diesel engine, but the configuration remained unchanged, the upper deck usually being open. The British climate encouraged the development of the double deck bus into an enclosed passenger carrier and the design was adopted around the world, some vehicles being built locally, but many being purchased from Britain. In 1954, the Routemaster was revealed to the general public at the Earls Court Commercial Motor Show. It followed the established configuration of a lower deck with an open platform for embarking and disembarking, with a curving staircase providing access to an enclosed upper deck. Latter, transport companies decided to dispense with the ticket collector. Physically, this required passengers to enter via an electric door to the front of the vehicle and pay the driver, rather than the original Routemaster configuration with the driver being separated from the passengers in his own cab, and the ticket collector collecting fairs on the two decks. In London Transport operation the Routemaster was painted externally in red and has become an internationality recognized icon for Britain and London. However, other transport companies adopted a very wide range of colours and a number employed several colours in contrast on each bus. London decided to replace Routemasters with Continental ‘bendy buses’ but this was not a successful experiment and one of the early commitments of Boris Johnson, on becoming London Mayor, was to replace them with new ‘routemasters’. British cites are ideal for a short high vehicle because they lack wide boulevards that provide the space for trams and long articulated buses. For a humble transport workhorse, the Routemaster has inspired a wealth of books and become a sought after museum exhibit. This enthusiasts’ manual is in a class of its own, being lavishly illustrated, mainly in full colour, and containing a considerable amount of information on the vehicle, its preservation and restoration in museums and its unique contribution to public passenger transport. Out of service Routemasters have been available for more than thirty years and been purchased for many reasons by second users. In addition to becoming museum exhibits, they have been operated as private transport, used as roadside cafes, used as camper vans, and in at least one instance used by a gliding club as control tower and mobile club house restaurant. One of the valuable services this manual provides is an appreciation of who buys a Routemaster now and where to buy one, together with a list of the potential pitfalls to watch out for.