the Last RLH - Reminiscences


by K. Mumford of Swindon, January 2009

" A storm of protest greeted the announcement of the closure of the 178 bus route (in April 1971) to the transport-starved Hackney area of London as one local North London newspaper once put it. Discussions were going on between London Transport and Hackney Council when I went along to take part in the final journey on this route. Below appears the report I wrote for a North London newspaper – the HORNSEY JOURNAL [which was published with a photo of the last RLH at Hackney Wick].

On Friday evening, April 16th 1971, there were two ‘lasts’. There was the last London Transport Lowbridge route – 178 – and the last crew-operated Central Area single decker bus in operation on route 236. Part of the 178 route was going to be replaced by a flat-fare one-man-operated bus route – S3, and route 236 (Finsbury Park to Leyton) was having new one-man operated buses. "

" ...Large numbers of bus enthusiasts and two preserved London buses [RT 1173 and GS 67] turned up for this last day of RLH type buses in public service for London Transport. [A special slipboard was made to fit by the front nearside downstairs passenger window proclaiming that this was the last day of RLH type buses on route 178 – [in the] photo of the last RLH on route 178 ... the hand written slip board is at the front of the RLH peeping out of Dalston Garage]. Indeed for the last 178 journey to Stratford [Maryland Station] not all of those who wanted to board RLH 61 were able to do so. However one of the preserved buses [GS 67] picked up those remaining enthusiasts and set off towards Stratford – I was one of those unfortunates!

We were treated to a sort of ‘cops and robbers’ chase around the twisting, narrow roads of the 178 route. After a short wait on the bus stand at Stratford, RLH 61 set off with a very full complement of passengers. I was able to get on board because a group of pupils from my school got on board and as one of the inspectors stopped me getting on that crowded RLH, I indicated to my pupils that I would see them at the end of the route. I was quite confident that they were able to conduct themselves in a satisfactory manner even without ‘sir’. Maybe he thought otherwise, but he needn’t have had any worries – my pupils knew how to behave. So I joined them upon the upper deck of RLH 61. Indeed we were standing upstairs in the narrow off-set gangway for that last journey!!

On its last journey RLH 61 had an escort in the form of a London transport squad car carrying two LT inspectors. On board our RLH were another two LT inspectors.

I believe that the reason for FOUR inspectors were twofold:-

  1. the large numbers of enthusiasts that were expected to turn up.
  2. when the RLH type buses finished on another Central Area route – the 248 (Upminster to Cranham) in September 1970, the last bus into Hornchurch garage (RLH 68) was badly vandalised by so-called bus enthusiasts. Neither London Transport nor the real, seriously-minded bus enthusiast wanted this repeated on the last 178 RLH.
" ...Back along the twisting 178 route via the low bridge that has made London Transport operate this route with RLH type vehicles and also via Hackney Wick we went to Clapton Pond. Here, for the last time, the destination blind was changed to read –

Dalston Garage via Hackney Station.

For this last garage journey RLH 61 was again preceded by a London transport squad car and followed by another squad car plus the two preserved buses. Outside Dalston garage everyone alighted and took their last photographs of RLH 61 – a type of bus that London Transport claims is obsolete and in need of replacing.

RLH 61 was put over the pits, although it had made its last public journey. It had two more journeys to make:-

  1. the following day involving a staff outing covering the majority of routes in the Central and London Country areas over which these buses had operated.
  2. on returning from the first journey, it would then travel from Dalston garage to another garage where it would be stored.

... After the end of the 178 route, several enthusiasts made their way further east to ride on the last crew-operated single-decker bus route – 236 – but that’s another story. "

by K. Mumford, February 2008

" ...One thing I do have is THE last RLH 178 blind and fare chart because I picked them up from Manor House a few days after the last 178 - this was official as some of my pupils (from St. Thomas More R.C. Lower School, Tottenham) and I were going to spruce up the last RLH at D ... for the last trip. However the Garage Manager at D phoned me up ... and said that there had been some sort of objection about non-union labour being used!! But the fare chart and blind were to come my way ... [from] an official source. "


On 18th April 2021, Timebus is co-ordinating a spectator event over the route to commemorate 50 years since it finished, called LT RLHs 50 Years Later.

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