London celebrations

Inside London’s Lost Bus Graveyard where iconic old red buses were sent after retirement


Londoners love their buses. So much so that every time a new model comes out and older ones are retired, there’s a huge debate about the pros and cons of each.

There’s something charming about London buses, especially the vintage models. We can always count on these beasts of the road that take us from A to B, through our overcrowded city. But what happens to London buses when they finally retire? Well, many, as we know, are sold to collectors who run them through heritage routes and display them at festivals.

Some end up in private hands where they have become anything from cafes and libraries to homes and wedding venues. Others, however, are scrapped to die. They are looted for parts that can be reconditioned and resold, then the scrap metal is sold as scrap metal.

READ MORE: Incredible footage shows how London buses have changed over the years



Have you ever wondered what happens to London buses when they retire? (Tim Clayton)

The UK’s biggest bus breakers are in Barnsley owned by Geoff Ripley. Here, in what used to be the heart of industrial England, you can see rows and rows of London buses lined up at building sites.

A harrowing video shows lines of London buses scrapped at Wombwell Diesels in Barnsley between 1979 and 1981. This sorting no longer exists, but for those familiar with the types of buses it shows models including RTs (AEC Regent III two-decker RT) Swifts (AEC Swift single-decker), some DMS (Daimler Fleetlines rear engine double deckers) a red Merlin (656) and a rack of RF (single deckers).



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Bus enthusiast Christopher Dalton poignantly comments on the video: “The years 1979-80 were particularly sad for the enthusiast. Although the Routemaster continued to tackle the busiest routes in central London and some commuter services, the bus scene had knocked a lot out of it when the single-deck RT and RF ceased to operate in the spring of 1979.

“On the other hand, isn’t it nice to see those beautiful early 50’s single-decker RF buses preserved, and even better, to have the ability to drive on them.”



Here you can see the buses body has been removed and the chassis is empty (Tim Clayton)

Another wrote: “Sad to see this. As with most things I guess everything has its day, first trolleybuses then RTs etc. I can’t help but think that these ancients were in fact much more comfortable and spacious than the types in service today, which are uncomfortable, have less space and are very difficult to ride.”



The buses on their side are scrapped (Tim Clayton)

Arguably the most famous bus to have been removed from London routes is the Routemaster (RM). These beloved buses were finally taken out of service in the early 2000s and many were sent to Barnsley yards for scrapping.

You can see how many Routemasters have been refurbished and are rented out for events here. This company has a superb fleet of restored Routemaster buses that you can hire for weddings or special events in North Wales and North West England.

These businesses have popped up all over the country and a similar London based hire can be found here.

So it’s certainly not entirely disastrous for many of the buses pulling out of London’s roads.

Do you have any interesting videos, images or stories about London buses that you can share with us? Please email [email protected]