Visitors 301
26 photos

18th April 1966 saw a significant change in London's bus development when new Red Arrow route 500 was introduced, a high frequency, one-man-operated, flat fare, rush hour commuter route from Victoria Station to Marble Arch using new XMS class high capacity single deck buses - the first AEC Swifts to enter service in Britain. Despite problems with the vehicles and their troublesome turnstiles and complex change-giving machines, the Red Arrows were a great success and by 1968 a network of eight routes feeding London's main line stations and busy shopping streets had become established. The original batch of fifteen AEC Swifts (named Merlin by LT although AEC had dropped the name in favour of Swift 691) were powered by AEC AH691 11.3 litre engines, derated to 147bhp, and bodywork was by Strachans (Coachbuilders) Ltd. These vehicles led a very chequered career from the early Red Arrow days to conversion to MB and MBS types, and finally to withdrawal.

The fifteen Merlins comprised six Red Arrows with B25D+48 multi-standee bodies (XMS1-6) and nine Country Area B45D buses (XMB1-9). Disputes with Country Area staff over the introduction of high capacity one-man buses led to all but one of the XMBs being repainted red and converted to Red Arrows.

XMB1 / XMB15 / MBS15 / JLA57D / NHX15E / SMM15F

The seventh of the original fleet of Strachans-bodied AEC Merlins delivered to London Transport in 1966, XMB15 was at first numbered XMB1 with registration JLA57D and was the first of the nine green Country Area all-seater XMB types (XMB1-9, JLA57-65D) and followed on from the six red multi-standee XMS types (XMS1-6, JLA51-56D).

XMB15 had the most interesting history of all the Strachans Merlins. Originally numbered XMB1 and registered JLA57D, it was renumbered XMB15 when all the other XMBs had been converted to XMSs in 1967. Although new in 1966, XMB15 did not enter service until 15th February 1969, when it replaced an RF on local route 387 at Tring (TG) Garage. Prior to entering service XMB15 was used for pay-as-you-enter experiments and route surveying. London Transport's photographic archive includes some excellent photos of XMB15 with its interim registration number NHX15E. It would go on to lead a short and leisurely operational life at Tring Garage on the one-bus route 387 serving the railway station at Tring and the hamlet of Aldbury. XMB15 was transferred to London Country ownership on 1st January 1970 and renumbered MBS15 in July 1971. London Country sent it to Aldenham for overhaul in 1972 but it was decided to exchange it for the overhauled MBS4 instead, and MBS15 was finally sold for scrap in March 1977.

Fortunately XMB15 was a much photographed vehicle, so here for the first time is an illustrated record of XMB15 from ex-works to the scrapyard, including the elusive NHX15E period. I am very grateful to all the photographers who have given permission for their images to be used. I only encountered XMB15 once, on a visit to Poplar Garage in 1973 where it was stored pending its future, but I didn't have a camera!

Chassis No P2R007
Strachans Body No 52242
LT Body No A79

Further detailed notes about the history of this interesting bus, complemented by additional photos, will be added from time to time. (Neil Fraser 18/7/13)

London Transport, 1966. XMB1/JLA57D

London Transport, 1966. XMB1/JLA57D

London Transport, 1966. XMB1/JLA57D

London Transport, 1966. XMB1/JLA57D

London Transport, 7/11/66. XMB15/JLA57D

London Transport, 7/11/66. XMB15/JLA57D

London Transport, 13/4/67. XMB15/NHX15E

London Transport, 13/4/67. XMB15/NHX15E

London Transport, 15/2/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 15/2/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 15/2/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 15/2/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 22/3/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 22/3/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 22/3/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 22/3/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 4/4/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 4/4/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 4/4/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 4/4/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 4/4/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 4/4/69. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 1969. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 1969. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 1969. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 1969. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 1969. XMB15/SMM15F

London Transport, 1969. XMB15/SMM15F

London Country, 1970. XMB15/SMM15F

London Country, 1970. XMB15/SMM15F

London Country, 23/7/71. MBS15/SMM15F

London Country, 23/7/71. MBS15/SMM15F

London Country, 20/10/72. MBS15/SMM15F

London Country, 20/10/72. MBS15/SMM15F

London Country, 1973. MBS15/SMM15F

London Country, 1973. MBS15/SMM15F

London Country, 1973. MBS15/SMM15F

London Country, 1973. MBS15/SMM15F

London Country, 1976. MBS15/SMM15F

London Country, 1976. MBS15/SMM15F