I knew a little of her history when we purchased her back in 2000, but hopefully this page may fill in some missing links and also add to the great story behind this amazing bus nicknamed Marina.
By Roger Busby for: Warships International Review 2001
Roger Busby: Tells the extraordinary story of the London Routemaster Bus (RM1357 Reg No: 357 CLT) that became a submarine.
When is a bus not a bus? When it’s a sub, of course! Such was the thinking behind the first mobile Sea Cadet Unit when an iconic 1960s London double-decker was converted into a realistic submarine simulator.
The reborn AEC Routemaster, which once plied London’s commuter routes, proved to be an ideal recruiting vehicle for the Corps, travelling to events the length and breadth of the country promoting the junior image of the Senior Service, with an added dash of Das Boot. Visitors stepping aboard found themselves transported into the world of the submariner, complete with the dive-dive-dive screech of the klaxon and the pinging echo of searching sonar. Shoehorned into the lower deck of the bus-cum-sub were two computerised ‘weapons systems’, the ‘ planesman‘ helm console and, further forward, a Trafalgar Class attack periscope, programmed to search out and destroy ‘enemy vessels’ with state-of-the-art ‘weapons’ from Tomahawks to Tigerfish torpedoes.
And, as if this was not enough to capture youthful imagination, the upper deck boasted a replica torpedo, GPS navigation position and a sonar station complete with an authentic sea soundtrack, on which budding sonar operators could pit their detection skills against sounds of whales and shrimp shoals and the screw signatures of enemy destroyers and lurking U-boats. For the final touch of realism, the bus operated with a traditional submarines propulsion system – diesel electric power!
Designed and built by a former chief set designer for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and equipped with RN submarine simulators, among the high profile venues visited during its two year tour of-duty were: The birthplace of the submarine, Barrow-in-Furness, centrepiece in the first BAE Systems’ Festival of the Sea; county shows and air and sea events; a month long stint at the National Maritime Museum; commemorating Trafalgar Day in Trafalgar Square; ‘berthing’ alongside Drake’s statue on Plymouth Hoe; a ‘voyage’ across the Solent to take part in the annual Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight.
Soon the Sub-Bus racked up a total of more than 150,000 visitors, many recording their comments in the ‘ships log’, including ex-submariners who swore they had been transported back to their days below the waves. In a more mundane guise the Sub-Bus achieved yet another notable first, taking top prize at the Routemaster Owner and Operators’ Association annual gala. But like the many subs that had gone before, the days of the Sub-Bus were inevitably numbered.
When it had completed its primary PR mission, the veteran Routemaster was pensioned off, with a heartfelt commendation from the Corps, and handed over with a further flourish to its spiritual home, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum at Gosport, telling the tale for The Silent Service.
Trafalgar Square | Camden Town | Isle of Wight | Greenwich | Portsmouth HMS | Bisham Abbey | Barrow-in-Furness | Doncaster | Wakefield | Birmingham | West of England Show | Plymouth – Hoe | HMS Raleigh |
During her working life she covered some of the following routes:
- London Transport
- 15 – Aldwych – Fleet Street – St Paul’s Catherdral – Tower Hill
- 285 – Heathrow Airport Central
- 9 – Kensington High Street – Trafalgar Square – Piccadilly Circus
- 19 – Trafalgar Square – Hyde Park Corner – Piccadilly Circus
- 11 – Charing Cross
- Blackpool Transport
- 12 – St Anne’s
- 40 – Gynn Square
- Reading Mainline
- F – Calcot – Town Centre
The red Routemaster has become internationally recognised as an icon of London. It made its first public appearance in 1954 at the Earl’s Court Motor Show. In 1956 it was trialled on Route 2 between Golders Green and Crystal Palace.
Text: London Transport Museum