RF433, last day of the 236Red RF routes

Route 236

 
This route has served residential areas between Finsbury Park and Hackney Wick from 1926 to date, originally as the 263 and running through to Leyton until 1988.  The route was the last crew-operated single-deck route in London, finally converting to one-man operation on 17 April 1971.  Leyton Garage operated buses on the route for 60 years.
 
The first of two views of the last day of RF operation, 16 April 1971. RF433 from Leyton swings round from Victoria Park Road into Lauriston Road.
Photo © Jim Blake
 
Dates of RF operation
26 Nov 58 to 16 Apr 71
(total 12 years 4 months, all crew operation)
 
Destinations
LEYTON Hainault Road and FINSBURY PARK Plimsoll Road (daily 26 Nov 58 to 26 Feb 63, Mon-Sat 27 Feb 63 to 6 Sep 68)
LEYTONSTONE L.T. Station and FINSBURY PARK Plimsoll Road (Mon-Sat 7 Sep 68 to 16 Apr 71)

 

Peak hour extensions:
LEYTON Hainault Road and STROUD GREEN (Mon-Fri peaks 26 Nov 58 to 6 Sep 68)
LEYTONSTONE L.T. Station and STROUD GREEN (Mon-Fri peaks 7 Sep 68 to 16 Apr 71)
 
Sunday extension:
LEYTONSTONE L.T. Station and GOLDERS GREEN STATION (Suns 25 Jan 70 to 11 Apr 71)
 
RF394 last day 236RF Garages
T     Leyton
AR  Tottenham (to 16 Jan 71)
D     Dalston (from 17 Jan 71)
 
Also on the last day of crew RFs, RF394 from Dalston is seen outside the garage operating the rush hour service through to Stroud Green.
Photo © Roger Newport
 
Reason for single-deck operation
Low bridges in Hainault Road and Grove Green Road required (and still require) single-deck working, and in addition workings to Stroud Green pass under the low bridge at Finsbury Park
 
Route history
The 236 started life in 1926 as independent route 263, running on weekdays between London Fields Albion Road and Leyton Essex County Cricket Ground via Hackney Wick, Leyton Town Hall and Leytonstone.  ARO Omnibus Co started on 1 June with three Dennis single deckers and were joined on 14 June by Havelock Motors with another three.  Short workings from Leyton Town Hall to the cricket ground ran as 263A.  On 27 October, the route was extended from London Fields to Finsbury Park via Ridley Road and Highbury Grove.  In all, six operators worked on the route at various times.
 
LT Scooters worked the 236 for virtually the whole of their lives, from new in 1931 until replaced by TDs in 1949.  Here is LT1125, seen in the late 1940s at Hackney Wick, showing the classic signs of body sag.  It is heading for the rush hour destination of Stroud Green.
Photo Peter Osborn collection
 
The route is an excellent example of the effects of the restictions introduced in 1925, primarily to reduce the number of buses running in competition with trams.  In addition to the requirement of the police to approve routes (which led to the Bassom numbering system), the Minister could (and did) impose Restricted Streets Orders.  This limited the ability to develop new routes, with the direct result that the famously tortuous 263 was developed using back roads along almost its entire length. 

 

The route was obviously busy from the start, as more competition arrived in December with Fallowfield & Knight operating two Maudslay ML3 single deckers, followed in May 1927 by HH Clench with three more Dennises.  Meanwhile, Havelock Motors added two and ARO Omnibus another, in December 1926.  1927 brought consolidation, as Fallowfield & Knight was taken over by Admiral, and then Havelock, ARO Omnibus and Clench merged into London Public, the grouping of about half of London's independents led by Admiral's proprietor.  Not to be outdone, Pro Bono Publico added a Leyland PLSC Lion 32-seater on the route in 1928.  Ironically, the attractiveness of the route let to the route itself being declared restricted.

 

Leyton's TD92 lays over in Plimsoll Road, sometime in 1957-58.  The bus is hiding the mobile canteen, see here.

Photographer unknown

 

In August 1928, an extension of the route from Leyton to Chingford was registered, resulting (under the Bassom scheme) in the 263 being renumbered 263A.  The weekday 263 never operated, although a Sunday 263B to Chingford Mount ran until September 1930, after which Sunday operation began on the 263A.  The now daily route was renumbered back to 263 in December 1932.

 

Meanwhile, after the 1928 Royal Commission on Transport encouraged the co-ordination of services by the General and London Public, the General took over operation of the 263A (except for the Pro Bono Publico bus, which lasted until about mid-1930) in February 1929.  Operation was by Leyton (T) using S type single-deckers and Tottenham (AR) with Dennis 2½ ton DSs on loan from Public and still in their blue livery.  The latter were replaced by Ks in 1930 and all by new LT Scooters in summer 1931 (ten to AR and eight to T); two Ts topped up AR's allocation until October.

 

With most routes now operated by pneumatics tyred buses, for which the speed limit was 20mph rather than 12mph, a programme of speeding up routes using the same frequencies resulted in more efficient use of buses.  This was applied to the 263, where AR's allocation reduced by three from November 1932.

 

The route became the 236 with the major renumbering in October 1934, working daily from Leyton, where the terminus was now known as Leyton High Road Hainault Road, to Finsbury Park, where the Plimsoll Road stand was introduced in 1930.  The allocation then comprised 9 LTLs at AR and 8 at T.

 

Tottenham-based RF474 pauses at the end of Grove Green Road, Leyton, on its way to Finsbury Park.  The photo is dated 1955, but the indicator ears suggest it is rather later.

Photo Eamonn Kentell collection

 

Under London Transport, the route settled to a long stable existence.  The weekday extension to Stroud Green was introduced in February 1938, but reduced to peak-hour only operation in three stages in 1941, 1942 and 1944.  Wartime pressures led to the conversion of the Scooters to perimeter seating for the period 1943-45.

 

The last 23 Leyland TDs to be delivered replaced the Scooters from both T and AR during the summer of 1949, some staying on the route until replaced by RFs on 26 Nov 58.  The RFs were made available by the double-decking of the Sidcup routes, many of the TDs went to the Kingston area. 

 
Jim Blake's "Odd Men Out" book (Capital Transport) reports that during the cold winter of 1962/63, Green Line RF107 was borrowed to help out on the route for a few weeks.  Jim has added that he also saw Green Line RF59 working the 236 in February 1963; the bus was then based at T as a trainer.  [Note that if a bus was taxed as a 'hackney trainer', then it could also be used in service, whereas a 'private trainer' couldn't - the latter paid a lower road fund licence but was subject to an MOT, dipping headlights, etc.]  It may be that these vehicles' use in service was due to red RF overhauls.  Has anyone ever seen a picture of RF59 or RF107 on the route, or remember their operation?  Please let us know.
 

The RF period saw a number of detailed changes to the route, as redevelopment and traffic schemes changed the face of Hackney, Hackney Wick and Leyton.  More dramatically, the interchange with Muswell Hill's route 210 started on 27 Feb 63, when the 236 was withdrawn on Sundays and the 210 extended in its place, running through from Golders Green to Leyton.  Crews and buses from AR and T joined MH in working the through route.  The tables were turned on 25 Jan 70, when the 210 was converted to OMO RF operation and restricted to its weekday terminus of Finsbury Park; the through workings were renumbered 236 to distinguish them as crew buses, over the 210 road, from the OMO 210.

 

Classic 236.  RF379 at the Mare Street lights heads for Leyton High Road Hainault Road.
Photo © Paul Redmond

 

Meanwhile, on 7 Sep 68, the 236 (and the Sunday 210) was cut back from the Essex County Cricket Ground to Leytonstone Station, that section being replaced by new OMO route 235, worked by T using new MBs.

 

Although passing Dalston garage, the route was operated by Leyton and Tottenham garages through to January 1971, when Tottenham's allocation was finally moved to Dalston.
 
RF operation, and crew operation on single-deck buses in London, came to an end on Saturday 16 Apr 71, when the route was converted to one-man Swifts.  At the same time, the route was altered in Hackney away from Victoria Park Road to serve Morning Lane and Wick Road, then the long way round via Kenworthy Road and Marsh Hill back to Hackney Wick, the latter section partly replacing the 178 lost when that route became the S3 on the same day.  However, peak-hour shorts between Dalston Garage and Leytonstone omitted that diversion.  In addition, and presumably due to concern about the SMS's ability to make the sharp turn at Ridley Road, westbound journeys were diverted via Wayland Avenue, this diversion lasting only a year.
 
SMSs in turn gave way to Leyland Nationals in May 1978 and the Dalston allocation, which had moved to Ash Grove in 1981, was withdrawn in 1982 leaving the route to Leyton alone.  1982 also saw a rerouting to serve Newington Green and the withdrawal of the Stroud Green peak hour extension.
 
Shades of the 1928 extension appeared in 1987, when the route was extended north-eastwards, first to Walthamstow then to Chingford.  This lasted only to 1988, when the present day easterly terminus at Hackney Wick was established.  In May 1989, Leyton garage finally lost the route, initially to Clapton, after working it for just over 60 years.  The route continues to this day to operate, using single-deckers, from Finsbury Park to Hackney Wick through the area's back streets.
 
In 1994, Capital Citybus (then with its Hong Kong owner) operated the route with Volvo B6s with Alexander Dash bodywork.  Here 677 is seen having just passed Ridley Road Market.  Charles Jenkins' site has his childhood memories of travelling here on TDs.
Photo © Charles Jenkins
 
RF route in detail, with timing points
To 10 Oct 61: LEYTON Hainault Road, Hainault Road, Fairlop Road, Leytonstone Station, Grove Green Road, Union Road (now Langthorne Road), Warren Road, Leyton Town Hall, Ruckholt Road, Eastway, Hackney Wick Eastway, Wick Road, Victoria Park Road, Fremont Street, King Edward Road Mare Street, Westgate Street, Lansdowne Road, Shrubland Road, Dalston Garage (shown on destination blinds as London Fields The Havelock), Albion Drive, Queensbridge Road, Dalston Lane, Ridley Road, St Marks Rise, Shacklewell Lane, Stoke Newington Road [junction], Crossway, King Henry's Walk, Mildmay Grove North, Grosvenor Avenue, Highbury New Park, Highbury Grove, Highbury Barn Tavern, Highbury Park, Blackstock Road, Rock Street, Prah Road (return via St Thomas's Road and Seven Sisters Rd), FINSBURY PARK Plimsoll Road, extended Mon-Fri peaks: Stroud Green Road, STROUD GREEN Stapleton (daily)
 

11 Jun 61 to 28 Feb 67: LEYTON Hainault Road, Hainault Road, Fairlop Road, Leytonstone Station, (return via Drayton Road, Fillebrook Road from 1 May 66), Grove Green Road, Union Road (now Langthorne Road, westbound only diverted via Grove Green Road, Alexandra Road from 25 Feb 62), Warren Road, Leyton Town Hall, Ruckholt Road, Eastway, Hackney Wick Eastway, (westbound, 11 Jun 61 to 27 Nov 63 only, via Riseholme Street, Cadogan Terrace), Wick Road, Victoria Park Road, Fremont Street (return via King Edward Road (now includes Clermont Road, Primrose Square, Moulins Road), Lauriston Road, Cassland Road to Wick Road), King Edward Road Mare Street, Westgate Street, Lansdowne Road, Shrubland Road, Dalston Garage (shown on destination blinds as London Fields The Havelock), Albion Drive, Queensbridge Road, Dalston Lane, Ridley Road, St Marks Rise, Shacklewell Lane, Stoke Newington Road [junction], Crossway, King Henry's Walk, Mildmay Grove North, Grosvenor Avenue, Highbury New Park, Highbury Grove, Highbury Barn Tavern, Highbury Park, Blackstock Road, Rock Street, Prah Road (return via St Thomas's Road and Seven Sisters Rd), FINSBURY PARK Plimsoll Road, extended Mon-Fri peaks: Stroud Green Road, STROUD GREEN Stapleton (daily to 25 Feb 63, then Mon to Sat)

 

1 Mar 67 to 30 Mar 69: LEYTON Hainault Road (up to 6 Sep 68), Hainault Road, Fairlop Road, LEYTONSTONE STATION, (return via Drayton Road, Fillebrook Road), Grove Green Road, (return via Warren Road, Union Road, now Langthorne Road), Leyton Town Hall, Alexandra Road (westbound only), Ruckholt Road, Eastway, Hackney Wick Eastway,  Wick Road, Victoria Park Road, Fremont Street (return via King Edward Road (now includes Clermont Road), Ainsworth Road, Well Street, Cassland Road to Wick Road), King Edward Road Mare Street, Westgate Street, Lansdowne Road, Shrubland Road, Dalston Garage (shown on destination blinds as London Fields The Havelock), Albion Drive, Queensbridge Road, Dalston Lane, Ridley Road, St Marks Rise, Shacklewell Lane, Stoke Newington Road [junction], Crossway, King Henry's Walk, Mildmay Grove North, Grosvenor Avenue, Highbury New Park, Highbury Grove, Highbury Barn Tavern, Highbury Park, Blackstock Road, Rock Street, Prah Road (return via St Thomas's Road and Seven Sisters Rd), FINSBURY PARK Plimsoll Road, extended Mon-Fri peaks: Stroud Green Road, STROUD GREEN Stapleton (Mon to Sat)

 

The 1968 route, also showing the Sunday extension from 1970. 
Map © London Transport
 
Mar 69 to 16 Apr 71: LEYTONSTONE STATION, (return via Drayton Road, Fillebrook Road), Grove Green Road, (return via Warren Road, Union Road, now Langthorne Road), Leyton Town Hall, Alexandra Road (westbound only), Ruckholt Road, Eastway, Hackney Wick Eastway,  Wick Road, Victoria Park Road, Fremont Street (return via Mare Street, Well Street, Cassland Road to Wick Road), King Edward Road Mare Street, Westgate Street, Lansdowne Road, Shrubland Road, Dalston Garage (shown on destination blinds as London Fields The Havelock), Albion Drive, Queensbridge Road, Dalston Lane, Ridley Road, St Marks Rise, Shacklewell Lane, Stoke Newington Road [junction], Crossway, King Henry's Walk, Mildmay Grove North, Grosvenor Avenue, Highbury New Park, Highbury Grove, Highbury Barn Tavern, Highbury Park, Blackstock Road, Rock Street, Prah Road (return via St Thomas's Road and Seven Sisters Rd), FINSBURY PARK Plimsoll Road, extended Mon-Fri peaks: Stroud Green Road, STROUD GREEN Stapleton
 
From 25 Jan 70, reinstated and extended on Sundays: LEYTONSTONE STATION, Finsbury Park, Hornsey Rise, Archway, Highgate Hill, Highgate Village, Hampstead Heath, Jack Straws Castle, GOLDERS GREEN STATION  (detail as for 210)
 
Tottenham garage journeys: from AR via Tottenham High Road, Stamford Hill, Stoke Newington Road to Crossway (but see Pat Spencer's notes under Memories).  A photo of RF497 in service passing through Stamford Hill features in John Hambley's 1960 book (p.101).
 
Terminal working at Leyton Hainault Road: the alighting point and time clock were by the railway bridge in Hainault Road, then Norlington Road, Belgrave Road, King Edward Road, Hainault Road stand.
 
Terminal working at Stroud Green:
To 19 Jun 61: Stapleton Hall Road, Mount Pleasant Villas (now Victoria Road), Mount Pleasant Road (now Crescent) to stand at Stapleton P.H.

From 20 Jun 61: From stand, via Mount Pleasant Crescent, Mount Pleasant Villas (now Victoria Road), Stapleton Hall Road.

 
RF allocation
PVR 1958 (Nov): Mon-Fri 19 (9 AR, 10 T), Sat 17 (9 AR, 8 T), Sun 13 (7 AR, 6 T)
PVR 1962 (Oct): Mon-Fri 19 (9 AR, 10 T), Sat 17 (9 AR, 8 T), Sun 11 (7 AR, 4 T)
PVR 1963 (Feb): Mon-Fri 19 (9 AR, 10 T), Sat 17 (9 AR, 8 T), Sun -
PVR 1968 (Sep): Mon-Fri 18 (8 AR, 10 T), Sat 17 (9 AR, 8 T), Sun -
PVR 1970 (Jan): Mon-Fri 18 (8 AR, 10 T), Sat 16 (8 AR, 8 T), Sun 15 (9 AR, 6 T)
PVR 1971 (Jan): Mon-Fri 18 (8 D, 10 T), Sat 15 (7 D, 8 T), Sun 14 (8 D, 6 T)
 
Memories
Michael Parsons now lives in Canada, but his long career in UK road transport included a spell driving RFs ‘on the 236 and 210 road out of Leyton Shed’.  He has kindly written his story (here), which provides a snapshot of life in north east London after the war.
 
Pat Spencer was a Tottenham driver on the 236 from 1965 to 1968, before moving on to Wood Green.  He also recalls the route:
 
See Pat Spencer's memories
'The RF rota at AR comprised the 236 Monday to Saturday and 210 Sundays.  I think there were about 14 duties daily.  On Sundays, some duties were worked by the 171/259 rota, as AR didn’t run the 171A route on Sundays (Bruce Grove to Abbey Wood was too long to be worked from Tottenham) [Sunday route 171A Bruce Grove to Abbey Wood ran between 1966 and 1971, operated by NX and WL - Ed].  The rota was called "The old man’s rota" or "The Scooters"  for obvious reasons.  I was the youngest driver on the Scooters in 1965.  I came off the 171 rota as I loved driving RFs and the route was great to work on.  My clippie was Kath Cray (a character if ever there was one, one of the old school).

 

New Cross-based RT2912 is seen at Abbey Wood on the Sunday route 171A.  As Pat Spencer recalls below, AR didn't work the 171 (later the 171A) on Sunday, so some of the crews from the 171/259 rota worked RFs on Sundays.

Photo © John King, Ian Armstrong collection

 

The garage journeys were (early and late) in service AR to Crossway, Dalston then left to line of route (never right turn); Leyton’s T1 went across as AR1 turned left. We used pick up workers for Lesney’s (Matchbox) of Hackney Wick, mainly at Stamford Hill.  The last bus from Leyton would turn right at Crossway.  During other times we would run out of service to Finsbury Park (Blackstock Road) via Seven Sisters & Manor House, returning to Tottenham by the same route. 

 

On Sundays, the 210 was extended to Leyton High Road in place of the 236 and was operated by MH, T & AR.  It had a 2 to 5 minute service between Golders Green and Finsbury Park and a 15 to 20 through service. This was mainly operated by T buses, with MH doing a couple of early and late journeys (which were not popular with the crews!).  AR also did mainly earlies and lates, with a couple of journeys during the day. It was a very busy service (especially on Bank Holidays, when a Sunday service ran).'

 

Asked about terminal arrangements, Pat adds:

 

'At Leyton Hainault Road, the alighting point and time clock were by the railway bridge in Hainault Road.  Buses then ran light to the stand - left into Norlington Road, right Belgrave Road, right King Edward Road, right to Hainault Road.  The stand and pick-up point was on the left by a cafe (I think it called was called "Johns" or similar).  T crews used it as an impromptu canteen, and it even had shelves for T conductors to store their Gibson boxes when on spreadovers (very naughty!).  The cafe owner knew everybody's name and snack/drink preference.  As he also knew who was doing what duty, AR crews' teas were waiting for them.  When it was closed, you could use a chip shop in the High Road for tea.  Toilets in Midland Road station if one was desperate or otherwise at Hackney Wick and Dalston garage on route. 

 

Finsbury Park Plimsoll Road was the alighting point, and also changeover point for AR crews for through buses to Stroud Green (peak hours) or Golders Green (Sunday).  The routing to the stand from Rock Street was left into St. Thomas's Road, left Plimsoll Road, where the LT canteen was on the left [Pat's memory is playing tricks, as there was a clockwise working round the loop - which would then have the canteen on the left, as he says - Ed].  The stand outside was for AR 236s and J 19s whose crews took their breaks here [buses stood on both sides in practice - Ed].  Battersea's 19s turned at Highbury Barn.  From the stand, the routing was left into Prah Road [actually St Thomas's Road, see above], round the station forecourt to Stroud Green Road.  Then through buses turned left, returning buses turned right to the Blackstock Road pick up stop.
 
At Stroud Green, terminating buses continued across the junction where the 210 to Golders Green turned left into Hanley Rd, into Mount Pleasant Road, where the alighting point was outside the Stapleton Arms.  Leave via right Victoria Road, right Stapleton Hall Road, left Stroud Green Road to pick up.  
 
Under the low bridge at Finsbury Park was a stop either side of the road marked  210 Suns, 236 M/F Rush hours only.  On occasion an inexperienced double-deck driver has missed the bus station and seeing the stops ahead has driven on and created another single-decker.'

 

One point from Pat's account that is interesting is the use of the term 'Scooter' for the RF.  This word was originally applied to the single-deck LTs, which ran at AR from mid-1931 to June 1949.  They were succeeded by TDs, which ran until RFs were introduced in 1958.  The term was also in use at Bromley and Croydon, where RFs directly replaced LTs, and was obviously fairly widespread.  One wonders whether the TDs also carried the nickname at Tottenham or elsewhere, presumably they did.  Does anyone know more?  Please e-mail.

 

Re-creation

The 236 was operated by RFs for the 35th anniversary of the end of single-deck crew operation at our 2006 Hackney Marshes Running Day.

 

Doorless RF433 operated the 236 on the last day, 16 Apr 71, and again on 16 Apr 2006.  It is seen here passing London Fields and about to reach the site of Dalston Garage.

Photo © Geoff Ragg