In China, each year is symbolised by an animal, but in London we do things a little differently. We don't have lovely animals representing us; oh no, we have machines. Last year was the Year of the Underground; this year is the Year of the Bus. And as part of the celebrations, the London Bus Museum is commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of their RT Type Bus.
Standing for Regional Transport, the first RT bus was a double-decker with an open back. It was first built in 1938 with an 8.8 litre engine and an air-operated pre-selective gearbox. It was in operation for less than a year before it was given a refit with a four-bay body, and re-entered service in 1939.
Nearly seven thousand RT models were built, 30% of which were made by Leyland. These ended up being the least well preserved, and only ran until 1968. RT buses as a whole continued to operate until 1979.
My first memory of an RT bus is from watching the 1970s sitcom, The Good Life, when Tom chases his escaped rooster onto the back of a bus. A more famous appearance, however, is probably in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, when it was revamped as the magical purple Knight Bus.
If you have nostalgia for these buses, or have never been on one, and would like to see them up close, now is your chance. On the 12th April, the London Bus Museum will be running RT1 buses on its original Route 22, travelling from Putney Common to Homerton. In addition, other buses from the RT family will be running on the streets of London, including routes 26, 48, 55, 106, 254, 388, D6. You can also see the buses on display at Ash Grove bus garage, on Mare Street in Hackney from 10am-3pm. Apart from RT1, which costs £10, all other bus rides are free.
The following day on the 13th April, will see the museum's annual Spring Gathering. New and old buses will on route 462, while at the museum itself, there will be a showcase of RT buses, a collectors' market, and rides on a horse bus. Children can also enjoy a round-a-bout ride, and Punch & Judy show. Admission to the museum is £13 adult, £12 seniors, £7 children, and free for under 5s.