The Purley Transport Preservation Group and its Predecessors - A History
The origins of the group go back to April 1977, when the RT2177 Preservation Group was formed with a view to preserving RT2177 (KGU 106) but in the event the bus was not acquired, being sold on by the vendor to Kingston Plant Hire Ltd. A short while afterwards, RT1784 (KYY 622) was purchased from Ted Brakell, the well known dealer in former London buses and the original group was renamed the RT1784 Preservation Group to reflect the ownership of the acquired vehicle. The bus, however, was only retained until February 1980 when it was sold on for further preservation. At the time, the members of the group were Brian Smith, Alan Daniels, Mick Durell, Brian Dee and Jack Honeybourne who also collectively formed Daniel D. Smith Buses as a ‘trading company’ for the purpose of buying and selling buses. One of the first buses to be ‘traded’ was RT2839 (LYF 486), purchased in August 1977 again from Ted Brakell but it was sold on some nine months later. Then followed the acquisition of RTL1427 (NLE701), which was purchased from a fruit farmer at Mereworth, Kent, who had used the bus for staff transport. The vehicle was initially preserved under the auspices of the RT1784 P.G.

One notable purchase by Daniel D. Smith Buses in 1979 was CR36 (FXT 142) an example of the first rear-engined single deck bus to be put into service in Great Britain just at the outbreak of the Second World War. The vehicle was re-patriated from Cyprus where it had been operated for several years along with a considerable number of British buses, which had been exported to the island in the 1950’s. However, the bus was only kept for a comparatively short period as in 1980, it was sold on to Gordon Laming of Coulsdon – the bus has long since been dismantled and the remains scrapped.

The next bus to be traded by Daniel D. Smith Buses was RT3865 (LLU 664), which was owned for about six months in 1979 but sold on to a carpet manufacturer in Banbury, Oxfordshire. Next came RT2449 (KLB 828), which again was bought by the ‘trading company’ in 1979 but it was decided to retain the bus in preservation in view of its general overall condition. Prior to acquisition, the bus had been painted white but repainted into London Transport livery just before it had ventured on a round trip to Libya. It had been fitted out as a ‘hospitality’ vehicle and was kept in this configuration, the number of seats having been reduced to about thirty. Unfortunately, the bus was broken into by three youths on 9th April 1985, vandalised and set on fire, completely destroying the bodywork. The chassis was retained with the intention of it being a source of spare parts but it was found on inspection that it would have provided little of any value. The chassis however eventually found a purchaser and was sold at the end of December 1991 to Tim Stubbs, of Derby.

In the meantime, a Leyland Atlantean, (PSC 341G), was purchased by Daniel D. Smith Buses in July 1984 from Lothian Regional Transport (formerly Edinburgh Corporation) and was hired out to Ebdons’ Coaches of Sidcup for use on ‘Round London Sightseeing Tours’. It was retained for about three years but it was sold in August 1987 to Brown’s Bus Service of Welling, Kent.

A replacement for RT 2449 was found in the guise of RT604 (HLX 421), again purchased by Daniel D. Smith Buses, in April 1986. The bus had originally been bought from a dealer ‘on paper’ by the trading company in 1979 but was sold on to Tony Pink of Chatham for preservation. However, he decided to dispose of the bus through lack of funds and this was the second vehicle to be owned by the present Group. Yet another example of the RT family RT1396, (KXW 495), was bought by Daniel D. Smith Buses in April 1987 to save the vehicle from being converted into a ‘burger bar’. However, the Group decided that it was uneconomical to retain a third bus in preservation and the vehicle was sold in July 1988 to another preservationist, John Bragga of Huntingdon.

The original five group members were joined in 1980 by Maurice Doggett and Alan Funnell and later by Bill Jones, Greg Nardinochi and Len Brown but all except Brain Smith and Maurice Doggett left the two Groups progressively over the following ten years or so. In September 1989, it was decided to re-title the RT1784 Preservation Group to the RTL1427 Preservation Group to reflect the ownership of that bus although the long departed RT1784 is still, in fact, in preservation. The ownership of RT604 was transferred to the newly formed RT604 Preservation Group at the same time. By September 1990, several new members had joined the two groups, Phil Stringer, Mike Dopson, Peter Mason and Ray Dunkley, thus reducing the total number of partners to seven. In September 1990, it was decided that a re-organisation was needed as running two separate groups, together with Daniel D. Smith Buses, had become unnecessarily complicated. And so, the Purley Transport Preservation Group was formed as a new partnership although Daniel D. Smith Buses is still extant but dormant. Paul Green, Mark Bonello and Martin Johnston joined the partnership in January 1991, May 1994 and September 1994 respectively following the earlier departure of Peter Mason and Ray Dunkley who left to form their own preservation group but regrettably Mark Bonello died suddenly on 25th January 1995 at the early age of 38. The partnership, therefore, remained at six although Martin Johnston bought a coach in December 1998, thus fulfilling a long-standing personal ambition.

Maurice Doggett had also nurtured a long-standing ambition to own a bus belonging to the Eastern Counties Omnibus Co. Ltd., an operator in which he has had a life long interest. One particular bus, a Bristol VR, which had been the 2500th vehicle to enter the Eastern Counties fleet, both new and second-hand, in April 1976, was the subject of his ambition. When the bus came up for withdrawal from service in November 1996 and with the consent of the other partners in the group, the bus was purchased in March 1997. Unfortunately, ownership of NAH 135P turned out to be a disappointment to Maurice Doggett due to various mechanical problems but a stroke of luck found the bus being purchased in August 1999 by the Eastern Transport Collection Society for continued preservation.

It was intended that the two buses owned by the group, RT604 and RTL1427 were to be preserved for as long as possible, with plans for the internal refurbishment of both vehicles, but these plans were modified as will be related later.

It is always a problem for individual preservationists and groups to find suitable accommodation and/or parking facilities for their vehicles but the present group and its predecessors have been lucky in finding places to park them, albeit at various locations over the years. In the early days, the vehicles then owned were parked at the site of the former gas works in Purley Way, Croydon and on the premises of Michael Banfield at Staplehurst, Kent. In 1983, RT2449 was moved to the car park of the Lewisham Borough Council’s sports club at Ravensbourne, Kent, to be joined by PSC 341G when this bus was acquired. This was the location where RT2449 was vandalised and destroyed but at the time, PSC 341G was temporarily parked at Ebdon’s premises at Sidcup so consequently escaped being damaged or destroyed - the latter bus did not return to Ravensbourne but the Group were able to find parking space in London Transport’s Norwood garage for a short while until it was moved to Ensign Bus Sales’ premises at Thurrock, Essex for a year or so before being sold.

RTL1427, which had been parked at Staplehurst since being acquired in May 1978, was moved to the South Croydon garage of London Buses Ltd in Apirl 1985 where it remained until January 1986. The bus then moved to the Norwood garage and stayed there until March 1992 but in the meantime, RT604 was acquired and moved from Staplehurst where is was stored by the previous owner, to join RTL1427 at Norwood. When acquired, RT1396 was parked alongside RT604 and RTL1427 at Norwood, but in April 1987, RT604 and RT1396 were moved to London Buses’ garage, at Stamford Hill as space at Norwood was required by the operators for their own vehicles. However, the group was able to return RT604 and RT1396 to Norwood in November 1987, when in the following July, RT1396 was sold. For a short while between April and June 1990, RT604 was temporarily parked on premises of the Territorial Army at Coulsdon because at the time the group had been advised that the parking rent for the facilities at Norwood was to be considerably increased – RTL1427 was under repair at Norwood at the time so in the event, it did not move from that location. However, negotiations with the garage management allowed the Group to continue to park their vehicles there and RT604 returned to Norwood. In March 1992 by when South London Transport Ltd. had been formed and operated out of South Croydon, Thornton Heath, Norwood, Brixton and Streatham garages, Streatham garage was closed and its allocation of buses were relocated to the four other garages. The Group therefore had to move out of Norwood but were fortunate in finding parking facilities at the former London Transport garage at Twickenham in the company of several other preserved buses. The Group’s vehicles stayed there until May 1994 when all the buses housed there moved to another former London Transport garage, this time at Norbiton, as the Twickenham premises were sold for residential redevelopment. However, the Group’s stay at Norbiton was to be short lived as these premises too were sold for redevelopment. So in January 1995, the two buses were moved to the Walworth garage of London Links Buses Ltd., where they were joined by NAH 135P in March 1997. However, in August 1997, Walworth closed as an operational garage and the three buses were yet again on the move but this time nearer to ‘home’, at the Beddington Farm Road, Croydon premises of London Links. For most of the time since the present Group and its predecessors have owned the various buses, they had been garaged under cover but RT604 and RTL1427 were parked in the open at Beddington Farm Road. They remained at that location until November 2000, with NAH 135P being sold in the meantime, when the opportunity arose for the buses to be parked again under cover and both vehicles were moved to a large barn at Lingfield, Surrey shortly afterwards joining a dozen or more other preserved buses being parked at the same location. Although a distance of some 14 miles from our ‘base’ it was hoped that the buses would remain at that location for the foreseeable future. However, this was not to be as the barn was needed for other purposes and for the umpteenth time, it was necessary to find alternative parking facilities yet again. After making several enquiries of possible parking sites, the Group were fortunate in finding premises much nearer to our base to which both RT604 and RTL1427 were moved in July 2002, with the former bus being parked in the open and the latter bus being under cover.

RTL1427 had been scheduled for refurbishment in mid-2000 but circumstances were such that work on the vehicle would be deferred for some time. As already mentioned, RT 604 is also to be refurbished but for financial reasons, the Group decided that they could not afford to have the work done on both vehicles. So the reluctant decision was taken to sell RTL 1427 and the bus passed to Pavillion Coaches of Hove in September 2003. This sale presented the opportunity to undertake the first stage of the refurbishment of RT 604, commencing early in 2005, which is anticipated to be spread over three years, the work being so planned to enable the bus to be used during the rally seasons.

In the meantime, Martin Johnston left the Group in August 2002 due to a residential re-location but the number of partners remains at six as Michael Ellis subsequently joined the Group.

Peter Harwood, who had joined the Group in June 1998, had had a long-standing wish to own a RF type single deck bus and in August 2004, the opportunity arose for the Group to purchase RF 600 from Ray Dunkley, a former partner in the Group. The vehicle was in a particularly good condition and whilst some mechanical attention was needed, the body had been refurbished to a high standard a short while previously, so that financially this was to the Group’s advantage. However, the bus has since been sold in Sep 2010 so that the Group is now back to owning just one vehicle. ‘Running Days’ held in various parts of the old Country area of London Transport, RT 604 already having been entered in such events over the past five years or so.

Peter regrettably found it necessary to resign from the Group in May 2007 for personal reasons and his place has now ben taken up by Steve Cresswell, thus maintaining the existing number of six partners.

Back to top