Should anyone doubt the popularity of the Routemaster, then the gathering held at Finsbury Park, North London during the weekend July 12-13th 2014. Marking the 60th anniversary of the introduction of RM1 into London Transport service, should prove that the RM is still in people's hearts.
The first large gathering of the Routemaster type would be the 2004 RM50 when Finsbury Park played host to this unique event. Then the chance of having the first ten RM's brought into line was lost because of a lack of RM2s attendance to the rally, which was a shame. However the Routemaster Association started to promote the 2014 RM60 event early, thus gaining the possible chance of having even more Routemasters in attendance. Well for the 2014 event some 140 RM's of various type were entered, plus RT, STL, L, T and the new LT class of vehicle would be on display, with selected RM's in service on the X60 specials. The ROOMA group was in full swing organizing, gathering and creating merchandise and a lavish programme for the two day event, which needed the good fortune of great weather and no problems.
By July 12th only two RM's failed to make it to RM 60, the newly restored RMC4 with it's ECW bodywork and RM10, which had developed a problem. On that day some 89 Routemasters were on display in Finsbury park, with some being used on the X60 service, which included two Routemaster coaches with rear platform doors. The crowds were a mixture of general public, bus enthusiasts and visitors to the park, who were in for a real treat. Several parades were organized for both days as various Routemasters were placed in some kind of order of age or type.
The ROOMA group made this RM60 rally such a success, with help from all it's members and invited Routemaster owners. Naturally the owners do make the event work and this year vehicles arrived from France, Germany and all parts of the UK. The Routemaster in its various guises was on display with RM, RMA, RML, RMC and RMF including the unique FRM1. The stall holders were out in force across the weekend, with official London Transport Museum, ROOMA and friends of London Transport plus other stalls selling all kinds of transport related items. One item of extreme interest were the special RM60 blinds, which some of the RMs on display wore with pride. The RM60 collectors gifts were selling well from the Visions stall, even to the point of some items selling out. The London Transport Museum stall was also doing swift business across the weekend.
RM60 became a record breaking rally as on Sunday July 13th, 2014. Some 124 RM's were on display, with an additional six on X60 service and the eight extra vehicles. Which included LT60, L2, T1, RT113, RT2177, STL2377, LGOC B-Type B2737 and DLA1. The only thing that can not be confirmed is the amount of people who either visited the event on any given day, which by the looks of things was going to be huge. All ready You-Tube has samples of the RM60 weekend out there, while no doubt PMP video, via Dave spencer will be selling his version. Then there could be a ROOMA DVD out in the shops or via their web site, which looks to be in the making during the day. Photographic books will no doubt be produced, along with Buses, Bus&Coach Preservation and other bus magazines all climbing aboard the review of RM60 act.
In basic terms, RM60 was a celebration of last truly designed bus for the old style London Transport. Way back in the early 1950's Colin Curtis ( sadly passed away in 2012), M.A. Durrant and Douglas Scott, with LT engineering all drafted designs that became the shape of the Routemaster. By 1954 RM1 was revealed at the Commercial Motor Show in September that year, then three other prototype Routemasters arrived in 1955-6 all the various elements added, such as RML 3 built by Leyland with Weymann bodywork, RMC4 with an ECW body. By 1958 RM8 and RM5 were placed into passenger service, as production started and lasting until 1968, as some 2700 plus RM's were built for London. Northern General based in Newcastle upon Tyne purchased a batch of 50 RMF type RM's after evaluating RMF1254. 65 RMA class or Airport Routemasters were build for British European Airways (BEA). There were Routemaster Coaches, Long Routemasters and the FRM1. The FRM1 used 60% Routemaster parts, giving a universal feel to the type, an AEC AV691 engine, an AEC gearbox and seats for some 76 passengers gave the FRM1 a unique feel. But during the 1960's AEC found its self being acquired by British Leyland, who by 1968 formed the British Leyland Motor Company (BLMC). This resulted in the dropping of the FRM type of vehicle for London Transport. However the Routemaster outlasted the so called 'Off the peg' products like the DMS Daimler/Leyland Fleetline the AEC Swift saloon. But the RM class was beaten by just a few short months by the Titan and Metrobus T & M class vehicles. The RM saw its withdrawal from 2003 until December 9th 2005 with the 159, as the afternoon change over from Routemaster to ALX400 bodied Volvo B7TLs. The change over took place at Brixton depot, and the crowds gathered for the last final RM service. In true British style the Routemaster was given three cheers and as RML2217 passed into history, a late running RM passed Brixton garage as it headed for Streatham.
You can look at more pictures of the RM60 weekend on my Flickr webpage at 6228 Leeds photostream. Also keep up to date with the Routemaster Association on their web pages and no doubt there will reviews in various magazines in the coming months.