Central Area OMO before the RF


Uxbridge routes 505 and 506 (later to become the 223 and 224 respectively) were the first one-man routes operated by 'the Combine', as the Underground Group including LGOC was known.  Introduced in June 1930 to replace Ks and Ss, the buses used were new Dennis Darts with Chiswick-built 18-seat bodies.  Here, DA6 is seen at Uxbridge (presumably the New Inn terminus, can anyone confirm?) in 1930.

Photo © N Hamshere


It is well known that the RFs were not the first Central Area one-man operated buses.  What seems less well known is that OMO operations continued throughout the second world war and did not finally cease until 1949. 


For the London General Omnibus Company, the story starts surprisingly late, in mid-1930 (it is possible that small operators had adopted one-man operation earlier, but records seem to be lacking.  Can anyone help?).  The seating capacity for one-man operation was limited by law, so special small buses were required and the first were Dennis Darts, the DA class (for more, see Ian Smith's site).  Earlier single-deckers were of the B, K and S classes, with traditional rear-entrance layout.  Initial introduction of the Darts enabled improved economics of lightly used routes, and then the lower-cost introduction of new routes.  The Darts, together with similar buses acquired from independent operators, were joined in 1936 by the C-class Leyland Cubs.


The following routes were one-man operated at the outbreak of the war.



Chingford Royal Forest Hotel to Potters Bar Garage


Waltham Cross to Hammond Street Rising Sun


Esher Windsor Arms to Claygate The Causeway


Barnes Railway Hotel to Richmond Park Golf Course


Kingston Bus Station to Staines Bridge Street


Pinner Red Lion to North Harrow Station


West Drayton Station to Ruislip Station


Stanwell to Staines Bridge Street (daily), to Uxbridge New Inn (Mon-Sat)


Hounslow Garage to Chertsey Station


Romford Birch Rd to Noak Hill Pentowan


Romford Birch Rd to Elm Park Avenue The Broadway


As part of the campaign to reduce the use of petrol, the last remaining Dennis Dart allocations (30 buses on the 205, 206, 216, 223, 224 and 237) were converted to Cubs shortly after the start of the war.  Also in late 1939, the need to reduce mileage led to the (permanent) withdrawal of the 207.  The remaining routes were now operated by 20-seat Cubs.


As part of the continuing campaign during the war to increase bus capacity, many small-bus routes were either double-decked (the 252A, as an extension of the 123, in December 1939) or otherwise upgraded to T or LTL operation.  The 205/A were converted in 1940, the 216 in 1941 (part) and 1942 and the 221, 223, 224 and 237 in 1942.  Later in 1942, the 224 reverted to OMO, lasting until 1945, but Uxbridge to Harmondsworth shorts retained crew T operation.


Two new OMO routes were introduced during the war, the 238 (Emerson Park to Noak Hill) in 1940 and the 225 (Northwood Hills to Eastcote) in 1944, although the American services traffic on the latter meant it was upgraded to crew buses within five months.


By the end of the war, this left the 206, extended during the war to run Claygate to Imber Court, the 238 and the 252.  The 206 was the first to go; OMO operation ceased on 10 Sep 46 when the route was converted to 14T12 crew operation and extended from Imber Court to Hampton Court Station. 


Many withdrawn Cubs were retained.  They operated (with conductors) as relief vehicles on overloaded routes, and also operated shuttle services to and from Wembley for Olympic Games participants in 1948, including (as it happens) into Richmond Park where some of the athletes were accommodated in the buildings of a WWII encampment near Ladderstile Gate.


Not OMOHornchurch ran the last 5 Cubs on the 238 and 252, being finally withdrawn on 19 Jul 49 on conversion of the routes to crew T operation, bring Central Area OMO to an end.  The 252 had also hosted the first (petrol-engined) Cub, C1, in 1935.  In the Country Area, of course, Cub operation lasted until the advent of the GS, meaning that Country OMO operation had an unbroken run.  But in the Central Area, it was to be another 15 years before OMO returned, in November 1964 on the 201 (NB), 206 (again) (FW), 216 (again) (K) and 250 (NS).


No Central Area OMO in 1953.  In August 1953, RF329 was loaned from MH to NB on a Bank Holiday for use on the 201 (an OMO route pre-war) and is seen carrying a blind from a TD (sorry, the scan is poor) in what seems like deepest countryside south of Hampton Court.

Photo © GA Rixon, Peter Gomm collection


This note brings together details from various sources including LOTS route data and Ken Glazier’s books; thanks are also due to John Hinson.