Gordon's brother's bus?LT garage codes

In the RF Story is a list of the Central Area garages that received allocations of RFs for service.  Thanks to Jim Andress in the RT/RF Register newsletter and to David Ruddom, we are able to provide some background to the development of the garage code system.  Much of Jim's information was in turn derived from 'The London B-Type Omnibus' by Robbins & Atkinson.
A is for .. er, Sutton.  Sutton Garage opened in 1924, by which time A (Albany Street) had been closed for 8 years, so its code was re-allocated.  Seen here leaving Sutton Garage in 1947 is Bedford OB GBY85, owned by John Bennett and hired to LT for operation of the 213 during the post-war shortage of buses.

Photo © Alan Cross


The LGOC had three-letter codes on horse buses and early motor buses, carried in the same familiar position as the garage plates.  The first letter indicated the area of stables the bus was working from and the other two the route and 'time' (now called duty), see next page.


It was in November 1911 that the system of garage codes and running numbers that (broadly) still persists was introduced.  The first group of garage codes to be allocated were single letters, usually (but not always) derived from the name.  Thus A was initially used for Albany Street.  Slightly reminiscent of motor index marks, I, O and Z were not used (although Q was). 
From 1912, as more garages opened and the existing code sequence was exhausted, two-letter codes were introduced, initially running from AB to AV.  In some cases (such as A), codes from closed garages were reused.  After 1913, codes were allocated that again were derived from the name of the garage (e.g. CF Chalk Farm in 1916).  When Tilling merged with LGOC, their garages received special codes - TB Tilling Bromley, TC Tilling Croydon and TL Tilling Lewisham (Catford).
Trams and trolleybuses did not display depot codes, at least until the trolleybuses were taken under the wing of Central Buses in 1950 when the depots were allocated codes.  Because some names were duplicated, some trolleybus depots (for example Holloway, renamed Highgate HT) and some bus garages (for example Hanwell HW, renamed Southall) were renamed, although bus garage codes remained unchanged. 
For many years, the garage code was carried on an aluminium stencil plate slotted onto each the side of the bus.  In 1959, certain Central Area garages painted the codes in the space between the slots, and this practice became the norm in 1960.  Garage code stencils were however still used for loans between garages and other temporary allocations.
A few of the original single-letter codes are still carried by the same garages 100 years on, such as T (Leyton), although most of the buildings have been rebuilt.  A great many, however, including quite a few of the RF garages, have now succumbed to other uses or to housing development.  For a listing of the codes used over the years up until privatisation, see John Hinson's site
Nowadays, a garage code is not always displayed, but TfL still have official codes for all garages used by current operators.  For full details, see the London Bus Routes site.
For a discussion of running numbers, which follow the garage code on the side of a bus, see the next page