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The end of the Shillibeer contract

To commemorate the 150 year anniversary of George Shillibeer starting `the first London bus service`, twelve RM`s were painted in a special livery late 1978 / early 1979. At great cost, a business would be able to utilise all of the advertising space and choose the location that their bus was used in which included rotating these buses around the fleet for maximum audience potential. The contracts would start in March and run until the end of November.

Here`s RM 2142 at Mortlake on December 1 1979, de-blinded and ready to go to Aldenham for repaint back into red.

With so many of these buses coming out of service at once they were slotted into the repaint programme when space permitted. Some were done quite quickly and others less so. Such as RM 2142 which took several weeks to regain red livery. It came back to Mortlake as it was standard practise for any bus going to Aldenham from Mortlake to always be sent back there due to a special water filling system used there.

Not that RM 2142 had this. As an `odd ball` special livery bus it came to Mortlake (as an AEC in an otherwise all Leyland shed) because the sponsor, British Gas (who took six of the twelve `Shillibeers`) wanted to run them on a variety of routes - many of which were outer suburban such as the 33. A directive required that these buses had to be on the road seven days a week and allocated to the highest mileage running number. Which in the case of RM 2142 at Mortlake meant M63 on weekdays or M76 if required to be on a spead-over running line for garage attention between the peak hours but then continuing on until close of service. Having been allocated elsewhere earlier in the year, by the time Mortlake received this bus it was Autumn and the situation of it having poor heaters that couldn`t be improved by using our unique high pressure filler because it was non-compatible, made it an unpopular bus - especially as it had to be on the road early and late. Not helped by being the only non-radio fitted bus in the garage. It was, however, a really nice bus to drive. But typical of advert buses known to be having a transient progression around the fleet, there was a reluctance to attend to little problems if the garage knew they would soon pass the bus on.

But when it came back to Mortlake in January 1980 it was to cover overhauls of several buses over a few months and thus it gained a radio and had the heating system worked on to make it a bit better. It remained a good bus to drive and several drivers said they liked it because it was much quieter than a Leyland! It looked smart during its time at Mortlake but was eventually transferred to Abbey Wood and when that garage closed it went to New Cross. Needless to say it didn`t stay smart for very long........

Re: The end of the Shillibeer contract

Hi Neil,

Masterful understatement about NX.

I was a driver at Upton Park during this commemoration and we were all given one of those round badges with the green crest on that you see on Ebay every now and then.

For being responsible for establishing buses in London he was always described as George Sillybleeder!

Thanks for another great photo to remember the old days.