RF453 in Ealing

Red RF routes

Route 211

 
Southall garage's Ealing to Greenford route, which saw a wide range of types during its 35 year life.  Its history is closely linked to that of route 97.
 
Looking rather the worse for wear, RF453 working HW166 sets down a good load at Ealing in 1960.
Photo Eamonn Kentell collection
 
Dates of RF operation

26 Nov 58 to 30 Jun 64

(total 5 years 7 months, all crew operation).

 

Destinations

EALING BROADWAY STATION and GREENFORD Red Lion

 

RF Garages

HW   Southall

 

Reason for single-deck operation
Single-deck operation was required due to low trees, which the local authority declined to cut until finally persuaded in 1964.  See also the notes by Keith Williams at the foot of the page.
 
London Transport's smallest bus.  14-seat Bean BN1 was one of three with specially built narrow bodies for the start of the route in 1931, and survived into the London Transport era.
Photographer unknown, photo thanks to Friends of Classic London Buses of the Fifties
 
Route history
Introduced by Mrs VFA Sayers ('Royal Highlander') in May 1931, the route originally ran from Greenford Hare & Hounds to West Ealing Station, but was rerouted to Ealing Haven Green in September of that year.   The route was purchased by LGOC in September 1932 along with Highlander route 225, which ran from Ealing to Greenford Rutland Road; the latter was suspended while the buses were made fit, then in November 1932 replaced between Greenford and Ealing by an increased service on the 211.  Sunday services on the 211 were withdrawn during 1933.  The route number, having been issued in the independents' series, did not need to change in the 1934 renumbering.  
 
The routes were started with three one-man operated Beans, specially built to a narrow 6’6" width due to projecting trees in Gordon Road.  These were classified BN by LGOC and allocated to Hanwell Garage (HW, renamed Southall in 1950).  Two were replaced in May 1933 by new Dennis Darts DA41 and 42, also built to a 6'6" width.  Both Beans and Darts had longitudinal seating (for 14 and 17 respectively), similar in layout to the wartime conversions of the LTL Scooters, but one or two of the Beans continued to work alongside the Darts until all were replaced by new 20-seat Cubs in May 1936, still one-man operated.  
 
The route became crew-operated with five 30-seat 11T11 AEC Regals in May 1939.  These were Ts 208, 213, 215, 216 and 223, the first of 24 out of the total of 31 of these Country Area buses to be painted red; more followed later.  It was a sign of how busy the route had become.
 
The history of the 97 and 211 are closely linked.  Southall's RT3571, having worked a southbound 97 from Ruislip, boards at Ealing Haven Green.
Photo © N Rayfield, Ian Armstrong collection
 
The primary reason for this growth in traffic was the extensive building programme that was covering the fields of west London during the thirties.  As Keith Williams (see below) points out, one such area is the large Cuckoo Estate, east of Greenford Road, built between 1933 and 1939 (see the Cuckooites web site).  The only other bus along Greenford Avenue (the 55) went to West Ealing and Acton via Northfields and thus by-passed Ealing Broadway.
 
The Greenford terminus changed several times, first in 1933 to Eastmead Avenue, about a quarter of a mile short of the Hare & Hounds, then in 1937 a quarter-mile beyond to Adrienne Avenue, then the route was cut back to the Red Lion at the start of 1941.  In October of that year, the route was extended over new bus roads via Yeading and West End Road to Ruislip, terminating initially at the Lido, shortened after two years to Ruislip High St.  In 1946, Sunday working was reintroduced, along with a summer Sunday service to Ruislip Lido annually until 1951.  At Ealing, the Haven Green terminus involved a clockwise circuit of the Green to stand on the east side, returning via Central Road direct to the north-west corner.
 
During the winter of 1948/9, many of 11T11s succumbed to the second batch of new 33-seat TDs, with Ts working on Sundays only by April 1949.  A further three were replaced temporarily by 35-seat 14T12s from June that year.  From then on, the bulk of the service was provided by TDs, but with a handful of Ts scheduled until the route was shortened in 1952.  
 
Weymann-bodied post-war T760 sits on the stand in Windmill Lane, Greenford in front of RT4466 on the 55, also from Southall Garage (as Hanwell had been renamed in 1950).  Behind is the market (now demolished), and the sign for the café (see below) is just visible.
Photo Peter Osborn collection
 
John A Gray writes that the first two TDs to replace the 11T11s in the autumn of 1948 were TD51-52, followed after a short gap by TD59-65, another gap, then TD103 and finally TD124 as a spare.  His neighbour, a driver, was disappointed in the TDs - disappointingly sluggish uphill and 'just as much a handful as the Ts'.  The older Ts were replaced in 1951 by a batch of repainted Country 10T10s, then they and the TDs were replaced by post-war 14T12s in January 1953, part of the ripple effect caused by the arrival of RFs at Sidcup.
 
The whole Greenford to Ruislip section, including the summer Sunday extension, passed to Brentford to Greenford via Ealing route 97 from April 1952, so the 211 reverted to its pre-1937 length, running to Greenford Adrienne Avenue in Monday to Friday peaks for a further two months, but otherwise terminating at the Red Lion.  It would appear from the later change back (see below) that this was necessitated by the need for greater capacity on the northern section.
 
One of the contributors to the Cuckooites site (see above) noted that 'the River Brent used to flood and we couldn't get through to Greenford on the 211 bus, then later they redirected the road [Ruislip Road East] and it was much better.'   
 
In November 1958, Sidcup routes 228 and 241 were double-decked, releasing RFs to replace the Ts at Southall.  After so much change, the route settled down to a regular service for five years.

 

RF453 again, at Ealing again, this time working HW165.

Photo © Vectis Transport Publications

 

Given LT's clear preference for double-decking routes wherever possible, the 211's was a late conversion to RTs.  LT's Central Area Traffic Committee identified a problem in November 1963 which provided the impetus.  The 97 crews took their breaks at Brentford, but the local café closed in 1963 leaving them with no refreshment facilities.  The Committee noted that it might be possible to persuade the local authority, Ealing Council, to cut the trees along the 211 thereby allowing it to be double-decked and extended to Ruislip, in turn allowing the 97 to terminate at Greenford where there was a café. 
 
Refreshment facilities at Greenford used to be provided by canteen  689J, the former ST969, as shown in the late John Hambley's 1949 book (p.108); latterly the crews used the café in the market adjacent to the Windmill Lane terminus (why that café couldn't be used earlier is not known).  Talking of canteens, the shorts on the 97 used to terminate at Ealing Perivale Lane, an area now much changed but located a few hundred yards north up Argyle Road from the famous terminus of the 65.  At which point, the HW tractor used to leave a two-tone green canteen trailer (see the YouTube video) each day, just behind where the STL stands in this 2009 photo, © Peter Osborn.  This was HW's only canteen trailer, and HW did not provide buses for the 65.  Keith Williams recalls it from 1964 to 1966 and that is was only there Monday to Friday.  He remembers one morning a 65 NB crew refusing to take their bus back south until the trailer turned up.
 
After work by the schedules department identified that the change to the 211 and 97 was feasible, Ealing Council agreed in February 1964 to make a test with a double-deck vehicle along the route, to see what work was required.  This was carried out in April, ready for the conversion on 1 July.
 
Other reasons for the 211 not being double-decked earlier are suggested by Keith Williams in his notes below, which may well have also formed part of the discussion, although not mentioned in the minutes.  In advance of the change, from 1 Dec 63, the westbound routing in Ealing was changed to remove the sharp turn off Haven Green.
 
The RTs arrived on the 211 on 1 Jul 64, at the same time swapping the Greenford to Ruislip Station section with the 97 on Mondays to Saturdays as planned.  Sunday workings continued unchanged, the 97 retaining its Sunday working through to Ruislip Lido in summer and Ruislip Station in winter. 
 
MBS225 working from Hanwell on the 211-replacement route E1, again seen at Ealing Haven Green.  An elderly passenger seems unsure about this new-fangled form of transport, one hopes she wasn't required to stand.  This is a Sunday - behind is Alperton's MB621 working the short-lived Sunday-only 83A  to Wembley Empire Pool.
Photo © Cliff Essex
 
In November 1968, in phase two of the Reshaping Plan, both 97 and 211 were replaced by the flat-fare MBS-operated E1 and E2 between Brentford, Ealing and Greenford, with new Southall RT route 273 taking a third route from Ealing and covering the section beyond Greenford.
 
RF route in detail, with timing points

EALING BROADWAY STATION, Haven Green, Gordon Road, The Avenue, Sutherland Avenue, Sutherland Road, Drayton Green, Drayton Bridge Road, Greenford Avenue Drayton Bridge Road, Greenford Avenue, Ruislip Road East, The Broadway, GREENFORD Windmill Lane  (return via Otter Road, Greenford Road to Ruislip Road East) (26 Nov 58 to 30 Nov 63)

 

EALING BROADWAY STATION, Haven Green, Castlebar Road, Longfield Road (return direct to Haven Green), Gordon Road, The Avenue, Sutherland Avenue, Sutherland Road, Drayton Green, Drayton Bridge Road, Greenford Avenue Drayton Bridge Road, Greenford Avenue, Ruislip Road East, The Broadway, GREENFORD Windmill Lane  (return via Otter Road, Greenford Road to Ruislip Road East) (1 Dec 63 to 30 Jun 64)

 

The 1961 bus map shows both the 211 as it was as an RF route, and the 97 from Brentford via Ealing and Greenford to Ruislip; the Greenford to Ruislip section highlighted was covered by the 211 both before and after RFs, but not during.  1961 bus map © London Transport

 

RF allocation
PVR 1958-64: Mon-Fri 8, Sat 8, Sun 6
 
Memories
Keith Williams remembers using the 211 to go to school in Drayton Bridge Road, Hanwell:  'RFs never had anything other than the Ealing Broadway - Greenford "lazy blind" used - the drivers never even bothered to change it for use on Southall Garage journeys (always to - from Greenford via Greenford Road, although "via Uxbridge Road" fares were included on fare charts).  The driver turned left into Greenford Road, stopped outside the main Post Office in Greenford Road and told everyone to get off, whereas in those days, ordinary journeys crossed over the Greenford Road, passed the Red Lion and then turned left into Windmill Lane stopping outside the market, sharing the stand with short working 55s.  Short journeys on the 97 terminating at Greenford Red Lion were unknown, although there were regular 97 short workings to Ealing Perivale Lane from Brentford.
 
In RF days there were NO short workings on the 211, (although of course there were both pre- and post- RF operation of the route). As the “Southall Garage” display was very rarely used, and HW never had any other RF route, I am sure that some RFs never had their blinds turned even once during their stay at HW. The 'Ealing Bdy and Greenford Red Lion' lazy blind created a feeling of permanence and stability.  The single deck OMO Flat-fare E1s, after the 1964-68 RT interlude, came as a major and unwelcome shock to the locals.
 

As a lad I remember that the 211 was HW's only single deck route and it seemed to keep its own squad of regular crews for years, through the TDs, 14T12s and then the RFs.  These were probably HW's oldest crews, shunted onto a single deck route that was far from onerous [much in the way that the local single-deck route was 'the old man's rota' at other garages - Ed].  But l clearly remember one of the oldest of them all, a conductress, one day telling all her passengers that she was retiring on the day that the double deckers were coming, because she "wasn't running up and down stairs at her age". We never saw her again.  But we never saw most of them again either.  I think the majority of the 211 crews went at the same time, for as soon as the RFs went, it seemed that HW shared a lot of 211 staff rosters with those of sister route 97 on a sort of alternating basis.'

 

He adds that the reasons for single deck working the 211 were originally twofold.

(1) The poorly-fenced weak bridge by Drayton Green Halt, which was on a snaking bend and had a very dodgy camber.  It was the rebuilding of this bridge that finally permitted RT operation.

(2) Ts and TDs were used because of their length.  Buses originally started from Ealing Broadway with a 120 degree right turn to cross Haven Green. Then with Haven Green passed, there was a sharp, narrow approximately 120 degree left turn to get on a short southbound stretch before another narrow right turn into Gordon Road.  This section was rerouted 6 months before RTs were introduced.

 

Re-creation

The Ruislip Lido section of the 211 (which never saw RFs in LT service) was operated by RFs at the 2008 Uxbridge Running Day.

 

RF486 worked an extended service south from Ruislip to reach the old terminus at Greenford Red Lion - now clockwise, the reverse of the old working.

Photo © Peter Osborn