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Routemaster Bus Enthusiasts' Manual.
ISBN 978 1 84425 938 0
Published 2011. (Hardback, 164 pages).
Review date 2011.
UK RRP £21.99Buy this Book:
|The Routemaster is as much an icon of Britain, as the QE2, the Mini or the E-Type, and despite being withdrawn from the majority of routes in the Capital, continues to be represented in preservation to this day, thanks to the determined efforts of preservationists and enthusiastic nostalgia operators alike.|
|This book, published in November 2011, can be considered an ideal introduction to the subject of buying, owning and running one of these classic London buses, and one very worthy of consideration by anyone thinking of buying a Routemaster for themself. The book considers both the history of the Routemaster design, and the current position with reference to the practicalities of owning one today.|
|Chapter One recalls the beginnings of the story, a story that began in the years following WW2, when ideas for a bus to replace the AEC Regent III RT were being discussed, over cups of tea in smoke-filled rooms at London Transport's offices. The criteria required the design to be of the chassis-less type, measuring 27 feet in overall length, with an emphasis on providing an improved ride, for both passenger enjoyment and also to extend the working life of the vehicle's structure. Given how poor some London roads were in the years following WW2, this was to be a key requirement throughout the design process. Over the following pages, the design's progression from drawing board to the build of RM1, the first Routemaster bus in 1954, is explained. Accompanying the text is a large number of period black and white and later colour images, capturing not only the details of the vehicle's design, but also - thanks to contemporary street views - the environment in which these new buses would be operating, mixing it with family cars, pre-war RTs, and trolleybuses.|
|A fascinating series of colour shots reveals the interior of the Aldenham Works, a facility where Routemasters would undergo routine maintenance and repair. The operation of RMs into the 1960s and 1970s is also covered in this section of the book, with many images - of both standard red London buses and special one-off anniversary colour schemes - represented within this chapter. The 1980s and 1990s witnessed an increasing interest in sight-seeing, or "heritage" trips around London, some offered by London Transport itself, and others offered by rival upstarts, often using former LT vehicles. Nothing lasts for ever of course, and the wind-down of Routemaster operation by LT is adequately covered, leaving just a token heritage route in operation at the time of writing, operated by re-engined buses that, for now, comply with increasingly-stringent emissions regulations.|
|With the story of Routemaster operations in London dealt with, Chapter two peels the aluminium outer skin away and takes a closer look at the bus' inner workings, starting with the subframes, engine, cooling and fuel systems, before moving on to subjects such as braking, electrics, upholstery and paintwork. Cutaway drawings and detailed recent photographs accompany the text, explaining the technology and providing a real insight into how these buses work, and the reasons for their durability while in service. Few preserved vehicles of any type are covered in this level of detail by a newly-published book, I know I'd have benefited a great deal from just such a book with my own lorry. Pages 74 and 75 contain an interesting set of period photographs showing the key sections of bodywork as they come together to produce a complete body. The chapter ends with a table explaining the different variants of RM produced, their dimensions, weight, and seating capacities.|
|The following chapter then takes a look at preserving Routemasters today. Questions such as "Who buys a Routemaster?" are tackled, and advice is given on how to go about buying a survivor. Problem areas to check are given, as are photographs explaining the areas to check when viewing a prospective purchase. Buying a bus is of course just the beginning of the journey, as it were, and other topics of equal importance, such as the costs of running such a sizeable, and tall, machine are discussed. An idea of values with regard to Routemasters is also given. Interestingly, credit is granted to owners of buses wearing their original, and correct, registration numbers, this can also make a significant difference to a given vehicle's value.|
|Most owners will be keen to maintain their vehicle's authenticity. But deciding at which moment in time that authenticity should be set can be quite a headache for a bus that may have been in service for many years, undergoing changes and improvements as time and regulations move along. Advice is given on this, accompanied by reference photos of, for example, interior appointments and signage.|
|I found the section within this chapter on the subject of restoration very interesting. A number of recent photographs showing RMs undergoing lengthy rebuilds are reproduced here, and act as a reminder that not only is a large building required for working on these vehicles, but that a significant amount of floorspace is required for all the loose parts that pile up as a bus is gradually dismantled.|
|Moving along, the reader is taken to the happy situation of owning a fully-functioning Routemaster. There then follows a breakdown of maintenance tasks that any owner can expect to face. A table lists the recommended lubricants for the different versions of bus out there, some still fitted with AEC or Leyland engines, others now propelled by replacement units by manufacturers such as Scania, Cummins or Iveco. Later pages explain some of the foibles of each engine in turn, again a useful thing to read up on prior to searching out a bus to buy. Service advice for the remainder of the running gear, including the brakes, suspension and gearbox, is presented in both written and visual form, written with both the private owner, and those looking to run their vehicle(s) on heritage bus routes, in mind.|
|Naturally not everyone with an interest in these magical machines can actually contemplate owning one. To appease their need for involvement in the Routemaster scene, advice on where to find - and hopefully grab a ride on - preserved buses is given. With so many classic vehicle events taking place throughout the year, and operators maintaining at least one RM on their fleet for pleasure rides in the summer, there appears to be no end in sight for limited Routemaster operations in the UK and overseas, where some 600 ex-pat examples are believed to now reside.|
|Within the Appendix section, notes on surviving RMs, and the various types produced over the years, along with statistics covering other aspects of the RM's history are presented, along with a useful Contacts list listing various operators and preservation groups involved with this machine.|
|As an up-to-date view of RM operations today, incorporating advice on their purchase, restoration and their maintenance in a fast-changing world, this book is well worth a look.|
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