AEC - Associated Equipment Company - AEC

AEC vehicles have historically formed a significant part of Reading Transport's vehicle purchases, right from Reading's first motorbus in December 1919 to the day AEC closed for business in the late 1960s. Very often with Park Royal bodywork, Reading purchased a number of different AEC vehicles over the years. AEC are however most famous for producing what many refer to as the traditional London bus, the Routemaster. Produced for London, Reading never purchased any of these new, but in a strange quirk of fate they ended up with 40 second hand examples over 30 years after production ceased!

Since their first motorbus, Reading always had some form of AEC vehicle in their fleet until the last Routemasters left in July 2000. The period 1990 and 1998 was the only time when this wasn't in the form of a bus, the only AEC being an AEC Mercury tower wagon, a leftover from Trolleybus days latterly used to maintain the depot roof until withdrawal in 1999.

Now a brief look at some of the products produced by AEC and their links with Reading, including the less well known, but successful 'Regent' series of chassis.

AEC B Type

This was the company's first product, produced in 1912.

AEC Regent

In 1933 the first of 25 Regents arrived in Reading. They had Park Royal bodywork, and were to set a trend for Reading's new buses in the future. Number 8 was the company's first diesel powered bus, and the first with metal bodywork. The last Regent was withdrawn in 1958. Number 47 is in preservation.

AEC 661T

This is a Trolleybus chassis, and was one of six Trolleybuses chosen for trial in 1936. Later another 25 were purchased, all having Park Royal bodywork. The last one, 113 was withdrawn in 1961, and was the last pre-war bus in the fleet. It is now in preservation.

AEC Regent II

The Regent II became available to operators after the war. Reading received 20 in total, again all with Park Royal bodywork. They were replaced between 1961 and 1964. Number 65 is in preservation.

AEC Regent III

In 1956 Reading used Park Royal bodied Regent IIIs to replace the last of their pre-war buses. The first was withdrawn twenty years later in 1976, but two (numbers 3 and 4) remained for a good number of years after this. 3 went 1987, but number 4 stayed until 1990 at which point it became uneconomical to keep. It saw little use in its last days, but would turn up (along with 3 before it went) to provide relief workings on various services across the town. Both 3 and 4 are in preservation.

AEC Routemaster

Probably Britain's most famous bus, this type was designed specifically for London Transport. 2876 were produced in total, between 1954 and 1968, all with Park Royal bodywork. It was produced in 7 different types; the prototypes, RM (1958-65), RML (1961, 1965-8), RMC (1962), RCL, RMF and FRM. Following is how all 2876 were distributed between the models:

0004 x Prototypes,
2120 x RM 27.5 foot standard model,
0524 x RML 30 foot standard model,
0068 x RMC 27.5 foot coach,
0043 x RCL 30 foot coach,
0051 x RMF 30 foot front entrance model,
0065 x RMF 27.5 foot front entrance model,
0001 x FRM a rear engined Routemaster.
The ERM class was created in 1990 when ten open top buses were lengthened to allow more people to sit on the top deck.

Most Routemasters that remain in service have seen at least one refurbishment, and have had their original AEC or Leyland engines replaced with Iveco or Cummins units. Routemasters are expected to remain in London until 2005 working contracts call for their use, beyond that their future looks doubtful. The Routemaster is by far the oldest bus you are likely to see in normal service in the UK, some having clocked up over 40 years service!

The Routemaster came into the Reading fleet in 1998 with the purchase of Reading Mainline. They were all standard RM type, although a RMC was operated for a few days during a vehicle shortage. The Routemasters brought crew operation back to Reading nearly a decade after it was finally replaced. No.36 became Reading's second last ever crew operated vehicle in service (if you ignore the crew operation of MCW Metrobuses that followed for a number of months after the Routemasters disappeared).

Reading's Routemasters

AEC Reliance

These were Reading's first AEC single deck buses. The first arrived in 1957, and 31 more eventually followed. The first had Burlington bodywork, and much publicity was given to their 'continental' layout which put Reading at the forefront of one-person operation. The third batch in 1959 were notable because they were Reading's first buses with matching registration and fleet numbers. The next four had Duple bodywork, similar the Burlington's, and arrived in 1962. The last twelve had bodies by East Lancashire Coach builders Ltd. All versions had been withdrawn by 1979. Numbers 12 and 52 are in preservation, and number 48 is in semi-preservation, providing spares for number 52.

AEC Mercury

Reading purchased a second-hand tower wagon from London Transport in 1964, new in 1958, it was at times Reading's sole AEC vehicle. Originally it was used to maintain Trolleybus wiring, but it also found use maintaining the Mill Lane depot roof. Consequently the decision was made to keep it in the fleet to carry out this task once the trolleybuses were withdrawn. In the 1990s it even moved to the Great Knollys Street depot for the same reason, but eventually it had to be withdrawn because it did not conform to modern health and safety legislation. It was the last vehicle in the fleet to carry the 'RT' logo motif.

See Bus Zone's Reading Former Vehicle Fleet List for full details of Reading's former AECs.

Related sites:

AEC Bus Site
AEC Routemaster Site
AEC Society
RM 254 Group Homepage
Routemaster in Luxembourg
Routemaster Association RECOMMENDED

Last Updated: 26-12-05

Reading Transport
Reading Area Operators