BUSES AND COACHES


In 2006 Epsom and Ewell local and Family History Centre staged an exhibition on Stoneleigh, at the local library. Visitors were invited to fill in a questionnaire about their memories of the area. Attached to one completed form was this wonderful essay.


BUSES AND COACHES SERVING STONELEIGH AND EWELL COURT AND OUR LOCAL AREA - SOME MEMORIES AND SOME RECENT DEVELOPMENTS


My late Parents were born and lived in South West London, my Father lived in Southfields and my Mother lived in Balham. They were married in 1937 at Morden and they moved to London Road, Ewell, close to Stoneleigh. My older Brother Richard and myself were born in the 1940s, and we all lived as a family until so sadly Mum and Dad died. Richard married and I stopped on at London Road until I moved to my present address in 1992.

BUSES

RT-type bus on Route 93I have always been very interested in our local public transport, and especially buses. I was and am a bus spotter and have spent many happy hours from the 1950s on, spotting, collecting information, maps and tickets. My family, and my friends in Stoneleigh Residents' Association, have been and are very kind, adding to my collection.

I remember my parents telling me when they moved to London Road in 1937 London Transport Route 70 used to pass our home and it ran from Dorking to Morden.

London Transport's busy and longstanding Route 93 was extended and it passed our home, running from Epsom Station to Putney Bridge Station. Route 93 is the route I remember so well as my brother and I used to travel on it to and from Stoneleigh East Schools in the 1950s and 1960s. I still have in my collection some of the pink 1½d child fare tickets my brother collected and gave me from our school journeys from the Organ Inn to Sparrow Farm Road. When we were growing up Route 93 was extended southwards to Dorking on summer Sundays and bank holidays as private cars were few and Londoners and local residents could enjoy a lovely day out in the countryside travelling on Route 93. My father gave me a London Transport 1953 Coronation map, I have it.

Front and back of a used Bell Punch bus ticket
Front and back of a used Bell Punch bus ticket (not actual size)
From the authors own collection

Route 93 continued to run from Epsom Station to Putney Bridge Station through the 1950s and 1960s until 1970 when it was cut back at North Cheam and brand new Route 293 began serving Epsom Station and Wimbledon Station.

Interior View of Lower Deck of RT Type BusWhen my brother and I were growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, the buses used on Route 93 were London Transport's famous and long-lived RT-Type buses. They were double-deck and could carry 56 passengers plus 5 standing passengers. They were crewed by a driver and a conductor, they had front engines and an open rear platform where you got on and off, a staircase leading you to the upper-deck. They were fine buses and looked so smart painted in London Transport's Central Area red livery and they had London Transport's famous gold underlined fleet name on their sides. They had comfortable brown cloth covered seats, wind-down windows, and a long bell cord running along the nearside of their lower-deck ceiling for passengers to request the bus to stop.

My favourite seat was on the nearside lower-deck just behind the bonnet where you had a fine view of the road ahead and could see the Driver in his cab. I also liked the seat just behind the Driver's cab, if you looked through his rear window you could see the Driver steering, braking, changing gears, and his important hand signals. You could see his speedometer needle turning to show 30 m.p.h. when traffic conditions allowed. Early RT-Type Buses had a route number blind box high up on their roofs - these boxes were nicknamed "lighthouses" by Crews. The RT-Type Buses, like so many Buses before and after, carried advertising posters - my favourite was "99 Tea from the Co-op" as our Parents were keen Co-op customers. RTL-Type and RTW-Type Buses could also be seen on Route 93, the RTWs were specially built wider Buses.

Bell Punch ticket machine and a ticket rack in use 1951The Conductor or Conductress (often called "Clippies") on our 93s took your fare and safely put it in the cash bag they carried on a strap. They gave you a "punched" ticket from their Bell Punch ticket machine to show your journey - the Bell Punch ticket machine made a "ting" sound as it punched your ticket, and there was a box for used tickets on the open rear platform but many youngsters like my Brother and I kept ours for our collections. Later the Bell Punch ticket machines were replaced by Gibson ticket machines and these printed you your ticket from a long paper roll inside the machine and made a "whirring" sound when used. With the earlier Bell Punch ticket machines the Conductor or Conductress carried a hand-held rack of tickets in all values and bright colours.

As said, Route 93 was, and is, a busy route, and in the 1950s and 1960s it was worked by buses from Sutton Garage (Code A), Putney Garage (Code AF), and sometimes Merton Garage (Code AL). The Garage Codes were carried on the sides of the Buses along with Running Numbers that showed the buses' places in the duties and timetable. The drivers, conductors and conductress wore impressive Public Service Vehicle badges with their uniforms.

I can remember RT-Type Buses on the 93 road having a poppy or poppy wreath on their radiator grilles as Remembrance Day drew near - I expect their crews had served in the Second World War. I can remember RT-Type Buses on the 93 road when the famous Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race took place, carrying "slipboards" at the rear of their bonnets stated "To & From the Boat Race" as of course the 93 served Putney. My Father took me once on a 93 to see the Boat Race - it was really enjoyable. The RT-Type buses had a sliding driver's cab door which could be left open in very hot weather when the bus was parked. They also had opening windscreens as the driver sat directly alongside his engine. The driver's cab had an impressive brass fire extinguisher. The driver started up his bus by way of a starter mounted above the left of his head, the conductor or conductress would give "two-bells" from their bell-push and the Bus would move smartly away. If the conductor or conductress gave "three-bells" it meant the Bus was full up. Passengers gave "one-bell" on their long bell cord to request the Bus to stop so they could get off. When a 93 reached Epsom Station or Putney Bridge Station the Driver would turn and reset his destination blind for the return journey, the conductor or conductress resetting the rear blind. I really enjoyed seeing the blinds being turned round at Epsom Station - and you could see on the blind many of the destinations served for the 93 and other routes.

DMS Type BusAs said, Route 93 was cut back in 1970 to North Cheam-Putney Bridge Station only. Then a brand new route - London Transport's Route 293 - started and it was One-Person-Operated (then called One-Man-Operated) right from the start with new rear-engine buses. I was at work by then and, used the 293 for part of my journey. At first single-deck AEC Merlins (MB-Type) were used on the 293, then double-deck Daimler Londoners (DMS-Type) were used, and at first Merton Garage (Code AL) worked the 293, then Sutton Garage-(Code A). One bus I always looked out for, and travelled on, was Daimler Londoner ("Londoner" was a name given by London Transport) Fleet Number DMS 1, Registration Number EGP 1J. This was the very first Daimler Londoner and it was shown at the 1970 Commercial Motor Show at Earls Court. It has since been preserved by London Transport and I feel so glad and pleased to have travelled on it when it was in passenger service. For my journeys I bought the Red Bus Pass and as London Transport said you could "Go anywhere, any time, on any red bus with a monthly Red Bus Pass" - it was superb value at £6, later £7.50.

Bus stops in London Road, where you could (and can) walk through to Stoneleigh, were the Organ Inn (where the lovely roundabout used to be), Nonsuch Park Gates, Briarwood Road (near the lovely Arches), The Footpath, and Sparrow Farm Road. At the stops you could see London Transport's sturdy and elegant "terrazzo" bus stops with "flags" specially shaped to be weather-resistant - compulsory stops were white, request stops were red. There were also special Green Line Coach stops.

Bus/coach shelter near the Spring Hotel 1935Some Bus and Coach stops had shelters provided for passengers, and for many years you could see the "Q" shelter built with poles with a flat roof (as at Sparrow Farm Road stops), the later "Adshel" shelters with advertising, and the traditional and handsome "Astolet" wooden shelters which looked very rural some still in use today such as Nonsuch Park Gates, and an "Astolet" wooden shelter stands at the "Spring Hotel" on the North Cheam & Morden side. I can remember when the "Spring Hotel" stop had a London Transport time clock provided (a smart red box on a pole with a clock fitted) and a Bus Conductor or Conductress would stamp their timecard there.

Directly serving Stoneleigh and Ewell Court by way of Kingston Road was, and is, busy and longstanding Route 406 - all through the 1950s and 1960s Route 406 was served by London Transport's famous green Country Area Buses, then in 1970 Route 406 changed to the then new London Country Bus Services who were part of the new National Bus Company and based at Reigate. London Country Bus Services also ran the Green Line Coach routes from 1970.

For many years the superb RT-Type Buses were used on Route 406, they were double-deck buses of course and the same type as used on London Transport Central Area red Route 93. But on Route 406 the RT-Type Buses were painted a Lincoln green livery.

Route 406 RM-type bus on Country service  Apr 1957Route 406 ran from Redhill Station to Kingston Station, by way of Tadworth and it ran along Kingston Road and passed Stoneleigh Park Road where close by stood the old "Rembrandt" Cinema. Route 406 had Buses operated by two Garages, Leatherhead (Code LH), and Reigate (Code RG).

As with red Route 93, Route 406 was crew-worked with the RT-Type Buses, with a conductor or conductress, and they gave you a ticket from a Setright Speed ticket machine when London Country Bus Services took over Route 406 in 1970, Route 406 tickets in earlier London Transport days being Bell Punch and then Gibson.

A very important event happened on Route 406 in 1957. One of the brand new prototype Routemaster Buses was put to work on this route for a trial period. Fleet Number RM 2, Registration Number SLT 57, entered trial service on the 406 from Reigate Garage and was looked out for by many enthusiasts. It was a very new and revolutionary Bus and would have seemed so new and very modern to its passengers - gladly it is preserved today - it is a prototype of what were to become very many of the world-famous London Routemaster Buses.

RMC-type Bus in Green LiveryDuring the 1970s, and after London Country Bus Services had taken over Route 406, the RT-Type buses were still hard at work and sometimes also the single-deck RF-Type Buses could also be seen on the 406. During the 1970s London Country Bus Services put former double-deck Green Line Coaches (RMC Type) for Bus work onto the 406 - again these were very modern, had twin headlamps and power-operated doors on their rear platforms. They were crewed with driver and conductor/conductress of course. Originally Lincoln green livery (like the earlier RT-Type) the RMCs were later painted into the new light green of London Country Bus Services, they became well known for many years and (like the RT-Type) were well liked by crews and passengers, as of course was the single-deck RF-Type.

As with many local routes, Route 406 became One-Man-Operated in time, this being in 1978 with the 406. Brand new rear-engine Buses were put onto the 406 - at first these were the new single-deck Leyland National Buses which had a special air-conditioning "pod" on the rear of their roofs on early examples. Then double-deck Buses were also put onto the 406 and these at first were rear-engine Leyland Atlanteans (AN-Type), and rear-engine Leyland Olympians (LR-Type). (The single-deck Leyland Nationals were SNB/SNCTypes).

In later years, another very important event happened concerning Route 406. I, and so very many other enthusiasts were so very, very, interested in it - and are to this day have happy memories of it. A Bus Operator, Nostalgiabus, from Mitcham, started running Route 306 during 1997 and 1998 from Epsom to Kingston using mainly former London Transport Routemaster Buses which of course were Crew-worked with driver and conductor/conductress. Route 306 ran alongside One-Person-Operated Route 406 - the 406 by then being worked by London & Country the new name for London Country Bus Services. The wheel had come full-circle and it was lovely to see those superb traditional Routemasters on Route 306, but so sadly Route 306 could not last and it was taken off. The 306s were painted in a red livery. I have very happy memories of a Routemaster put onto the 406 Route for a while in the 1990s - it was Fleet Number RM 1183, Registration Number 183 CLT, it came in an attractive blue and white livery but was later repainted into our smart green livery. I feel so glad I've been able to travel on superb Routemasters on Routes 306 and 406. As with the Nostalgiabus Routemasters, London & Country's RM 1183 was Conductor-operated. London & Country Route 406 then returned to complete One-Person-Operation.

GREEN LINE COACHES

Route 727 RF-type coach 10 Nov 1964As well as the red Buses on Route 93, London Road was also served by London Transport's famous Green Line Coaches for many years. We had two Green Line routes pass our gates at home - Route 712 that ran all the way from Dorking to Luton, and Route 713 that ran all the way from Dorking to Dunstable. They travelled by way of Morden, London and St. Albans.

The Green Line Coaches from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, that I have happy memories of seeing, spotting, and sometimes travelling on, were London Transport's famous and long-lived RF-Type. As mentioned they passed our gates in London Road on Routes 712 and 713, and they were superb coaches with deep and comfortable seats for the long journeys often made by their passengers. They had separate individual bell-pushes rather than bell-cords and had front entrances/exits with powered-doors fitted. The engine was placed under the floor and the RF-Type usually carried up to 39 passengers on Green Line duties. They were very comfortable coaches and in the mid-1960s were still in such good condition that many were refurbished by London Transport for a further life of Green Line work. When these coaches were refurbished they were given new modern windscreens, twin-headlamps, new bright seat cloth, new interior lighting, and a brighter green livery including a broad light green band around the bodywork which looked very smart. Other refurbishment work was carried out as well. Destination boards were carried on roof sides.

Green Line routes were, what might be called today, "limited-stop" and their stopping places were less than ordinary bus stops because of the long routes operated by Green Line. Also slightly higher fares were charged on Green Line Coaches in the main, but they were hugely popular with passengers before private car ownership was commonplace. Passengers could travel all the way from one side of London, cross the River Thames, and reach the other side of London by Green Line Coach. I can remember when our Green Line routes were conductor-operated, but in 1969 our Routes 712 and 713 were converted to One-Man-Operation with new Almex tickets. Previously our Green Line Conductors had issued Setright Speed tickets. Green Line routes 712 and 713 were withdrawn in 1975. A new shorter route, Green Line route 703, was put on running from Dorking to London but sadly this was withdrawn in 1976, sadly private car ownership and very busy roads were hitting Public Transport especially Green Line services. Brand new Leyland National Green Lines (SNC-Type) ran on the short-lived 703 route, and they had a special air-conditioning "pod" on the rear of their roofs. Earlier, in 1970, London Country Bus Services had taken over operation of all Green Line routes and the green" Country Buses.

Earlier, in 1967, a brand new Green Line route - the 727 Express - had been started running Crawley - Heathrow Airport - Luton, and was One-Man-Operated from the start with RF-Type Coaches, later Coaches being introduced, over the years, it ran through Ewell and Kingston Road. In later years it also was shortened but was very popular with airport passengers over the years. In 1979 new Green Line route 747 Jetlink non-stop Gatwick Airport - Heathrow Airport started operation. Epsom's Derby Day was and is a very busy time for our Buses and Coaches.

OTHER COACHES

When we lived in London Road as a Family you would regularly see other Coaches owned and operated by private operators. Through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s you would see the immaculate cream and red Bedford and Leylands of EPSOM COACHES, green and cream AECs and Leylands of EDWARD THOMAS & SON of West Ewel1, and primrose and brown AECs of SURREY MOTORS of Sutton.

You would also see Coaches from further a field in South London, Operators like BLUEWAYS OF BATTERSEA, ROYAL ARSENAL CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETY, and UNITED SERVICE TRANSPORT, there were many more of course and coastal excursion runs were very popular, again Londoners and local residents enjoyed happy days out to many places, and evening trips, before mass private car ownership was common place. Today, of course, coaches are still very popular with many people, and our local buses are popular and provide a very good service. Stoneleigh Residents' Association have had some very, very, enjoyable trips out over the years with BANSTEAD COACHES and their attractive pink and white livery Coaches are well known on our roads.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS

Although happening after my memories of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, there have been in recent years a lot of very interesting additions to our local Bus and Coach network.

Very importantly Route K10 was started by EPSOM BUSES now QUALITY LINE from Epsom to Kingston. As known it runs by way of Stoneleigh and for the first time opened up Stoneleigh Broadway and local roads to a Bus route. At first cream Mercedes-Benz midibuses were used on Route K10, then red low-floor Dennis Dart-Type Buses were, and are, used. It is a popular route, particularly with Stoneleigh residents and residents from further a field.

In recent years Epsom & Ewell BOROUGH COUNCIL have started their popular ROUTE CALL service. This again was a very important development, and the special buses which are low-floor carry particularly elderly and infirm passengers, also wheelchairs, for journeys like doctors, shops, visits, etc. Each journey is specially catered for, door-to-door. Route Call Buses are seen a lot on the roads in Stoneleigh, Ewell Court, and further, a number are Citroen 6-wheelers. Also, other Welfare Buses can be seen in and around Stoneleigh and Ewell Court, they all provide a very valuable service. Local Bus and Coach Operators run special contracts for schools and colleges and provide direct transport to schoolchildren and students living in and around Stoneleigh and Ewell Court.

Local Operators put buses, and often coaches, onto special Rail Replacement Services when track work is being carried out particularly on Sundays and bank holidays to keep inconvenience to rail passengers to a minimum. They are seen at Stoneleigh Station sometimes, when track work is taking place between Epsom and Wimbledon.

LONDON GENERAL operate a special free Bus service on behalf of TESCO so that customers can have a trip out, shop at TESCO, then a trip home, and is very popular, the Buses travelling along Kingston Road. LONDON GENERAL operate it with their superb red Volvo Olympian double-deck Buses - I've seen one with superb traditional gold fleet number and a gold Garage Code.

Another popular development have been the SURREY COUNTY COUNCIL - THE SURREY HILLS LEISURE BUSES - on summer Sundays and Public holidays to places like Box Hill and Dorking. Historical route numbers were chosen like 70 and 712 and are a reminder to older people of years past. LONDON GENERAL have operated a superb modern red open-top double-deck Metrobus in traditional "GENERAL" livery, whilst NOSTALGIABUS have operated superb restored vehicles - a GS-Type single-deck Bus once a London Transport vehicle, and a former RF-Type Green Line Coach. Stoneleigh residents could enjoy a trip out on them, they are well-liked, in the 1990s I've seen the Leisure Buses pass through Ewell after they had passed London Road and Nonsuch Park.

Most recently modern low-floor, fully-accessible Buses, making it easier for disabled people, elderly people, people with buggies or heavy shopping, have been put onto many services. QUALITY LINE Route 293 Epsom Morden has them, as does LONDON UNITED Route 406 Epsom - Kingston, and LONDON UNITED Route 467 Epsom - Hook, and QUALITY LINE Route 470 Epsom Colliers Wood, and quite a few other routes also have them.

Whilst writing my essay in 2006, a brand new pedestrian crossing is being built at the junction of Kingston Road and London Road in Ewell. Bus Routes 293, 406 and K10 are on diversion Spring Street/Chessington Road/ Kingston Road/Ewell By-Pass, along with other traffic. Things are happening all the time, and I think noting and recording changes and developments in Public Transport is always worthwhile. Although many of our Buses are in smart red livery, there are variations such as LONDON UNITED's smart red and grey livery, there are also advertisement-livery Buses, and special liveries for Training Buses for Drivers under instruction with recruitment advertisements.

These are some of my very happy, interesting and enjoyable memories of our local Buses and Coaches over the years.

Peter L.
March 2006


Some other relevant images

Atlantean 1972 DMS Interior View Gibson ticket machine Setright Ticket machine 1970 Shelter opposite 'Queen Adelaide' public house 2 Mar 1937 Adelaide Bus Stop 1937 RTL Type Bus 1949 RTW-type bus Apr 1949 AEC Merlin Type


Image Credits

We are extremely grateful to London Transport Museum and Transport for London for the use of their copyright images. The London Transport Museum and its website http://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/ (Opens in a new window) are both well worth a visit.

List of Images (From Top to Bottom and Left to Right)
  1. RT-type bus RT908, reg no JXN286 Jan 1962 on Route 93
  2. Interior View of Lower Deck of RT Type Bus
  3. Bell Punch ticket machine and a ticket rack in use 1951
  4. DMS-type bus 1 July 1981
  5. The bus and coach shelter near the Spring Hotel, Ewell 1935
  6. Route 406 RM-type bus on Country service Apr 1957
  7. RMC-type Bus in Green Livery 1960-1970
  8. Route 727 RF-type coach 10 Nov 1964
  9. Atlantean 1972
  10. DMS Interior View
  11. Gibson ticket machine
  12. Setright ticket machine 1970
  13. Shelter opposite 'Queen Adelaide' public house 2 Mar 1937
  14. Adelaide Bus Stop 1937
  15. RTL Type Bus 1949
  16. RTW-type bus Apr 1949
  17. AEC Merlin Type Bus



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