T357 (GN 8242) : new in January 1931 to Queen Line Coaches, Baldock, Herts
- Chassis : AEC Regal I
- Engine : AEC A145 7.4 litre petrol
- Gearbox : manual
- Body : rebodied in 1935 with Weymann 29-seat body, later upseated to 30, front-entrance
- Vehicle Classification: T – code is believed to have simply been the next available letter at the time the type commenced production .
Withdrawn : July 1945 (14 years)
Acquired by Museum : 2003
Status : awaiting restoration - T357 Appeal - donations welcome
The chassis of this coach was new to Queen Line Coaches of Baldock in January 1931 and was fitted from new with a rather old-fashioned 31-seat, rear-entrance coach body built by London Lorries. It was finished in a light greenish-cream livery. In April 1933, the Queen Line company was absorbed into Green Line Coaches Ltd and the coach was allocated fleet number T357, passing to London Transport, still as a Green Line coach, in July that year.
In 1935, T357's old body was discarded and it received a new Weymann metal framed one, a front-entrance body with 29 seats. It entered service in its new form at Watford garage on Green Line duties but was downgraded to a bus the following year. In 1938, T357 received a seating increase to 30 and moved to Hertford Country Area garage. In 1942, it was one of many London Transport single-deck buses to have its seating configuration converted to a peripheral arrangement, in this case 27 seats along the sides, which allowed 20 standing passengers, a vital increase in capacity needed to cope with the large rise in passenger numbers on bus routes serving factories engaged in the war effort.
The shortage of petrol in WW2 saw the bus converted in 1943 for "producer gas" operation, whereby it towed a trailer which burned anthracite, producing gas to power the engine. It was one of very few LT single-deck vehicles to be selected for conversion. The seating arrangement was also changed to a perimeter layout to permit a greater number of standing passengers. At the same time, it lost its green livery in exchange for a drab wartime grey and was transferred to Addlestone garage in Surrey for service on the routes serving the Vickers aircraft factories. One of the Vickers satellite factories was the building in Redhill Road, Cobham which, many years later, became the Cobham Bus Museum!
Towards the end of 1944, T357 was converted back to petrol and, in July 1945, was requisitioned by the Allied Control Commission and transferred to Berlin. When no longer required, it was then donated as a community transport to a French village near the Belgian border. With the availability of new buses, the vehicle was sold to a local farmer, who converted it into a mobile caravan. Apparently he had always wished to see the bus properly rebuilt and after his death, his widow indicated that she was enthusiastic for it to return to Britain for restoration.
Danny Chabaud, a French bus enthusiast alerted Roger Stagg of the Cobham Bus Museum in a phone call to the availability of the bus following the death of its former owner. David Kinnear, Bill Cottrell, John Bedford and Graham Smith were LBPT Members who organised and participated in the evalution and consequent repatriation of the bus after viewing it in its farm barn location in Millam area near St. Omer in the Pas de Calais, in northern France. Transportation across the Channel was accomplished with the use of a low-loading truck / trailer combination and ferry.
On Friday 14th March 2003, the bus re-entered the grounds of the former Vickers building, by then home to Cobham Bus Museum, over 58 years since it had last been there!
The bus is in need of a full restoration but seems to have remained structurely sound as it has been under cover since the 1950s. The T357 Appeal has now been launched to raise the funds for restoration, some of which will be undertaken by an outside professional firm. Donations welcome!
- top-right, top-left and below: T357 after arrival at Redhill Road in 2003. T357 bears its French registration, 59 indicating the Nord departement in the Nord-Pas de Calais region of northern France. [Ian Jackson]
- lower: side and cab views showing the considerable amount of restoration work required