RF399 stops at Sutton GranadaRed RF routes

Route 213

Page last updated 18 March 2017
 
Known on the timetable as Belmont California, the blinds referred to Belmont Station, just across the road.  Here Sutton's RF399 stops at Sutton Granada - and appears deserted, perhaps awaiting a new crew up from Sutton Garage.
Photo Peter Gomm collection
 
Another early single-deck route and one of the initial RF routes, the 213 operated from Kingston to Belmont via Sutton for many years.  Its last reason for being single-deck, the bridge at Worcester Park station, was removed when the road was lowered in 1963, whereupon the route converted to RT operation.
 
Dates of RF operation
12 Dec 52 to 7 May 63
(total 10 years, 5 months, all crew operation)
 
Destinations
KINGSTON Bus Station and BELMONT California (daily 12 Dec 52 to 2 Jan 62, Suns 3 Jan 62 to 7 May 63)
KINGSTON Bus Station and SUTTON GARAGE (Mon-Sat 3 Jan 62 to 7 May 63)

 

RF Garages
NB   Norbiton
A     Sutton
K     Kingston (Sun from 16 Aug 61)
 

Spring of '63

Reason for single-deck operation

Low rail bridges on the route at Norbiton, New Malden and Worcester Park.  In 1962, the route was diverted to serve Kingston Hospital, thereby avoiding the Norbiton bridge.  Also at about this time, the road was lowered beneath the New Malden bridge, leaving Worcester Park as the only obstacle to double-deckers.  This bridge was rebuilt in 1962 and the route was double-decked the following year.

 

Treelopper 973J (formerly STL1512)  tackles its last job in March or April 1963 - Andrew Hicks tells us that the job was completed by a new lorry, one of the Thames lorries purchased that year, no doubt.  973J was working from Hammersmith Riverside at the time, and was then stored at Aldenham until sold that September.  About to pick up the gentleman carrying his raincoat after a spring shower is RF532, notable for carrying blinds with lower-case intermediate points, which had only just been introduced to the fleet before the 213 converted to RT in May 1963.  The treelopper is of course preparing for exactly that.

Photo © Andrew Hicks

 

Route history
First introduced in September 1921, the General's route 113 ran from Kingston Horse Fair (near Bentalls) to Kingswood via Sutton, bringing buses to a large swathe of newly developing suburbia.  The route used some of the expanding fleet of B-type single-deckers.
 
The Kingswood section was withdrawn in January 1922, soon to be replaced by the 80, and in January 1923 the 113 was extended instead to Banstead Victoria.  Ken Glazier describes the journey between Belmont and Banstead as hazardous, with overhead obstructions, trees and a road so narrow that only a single bus was allowed in the section at a time.
 
Cheam in the 1920s.  Single-deck S439 operates the 113 to Banstead via Sutton.
 
In rapid succession, the route was operated by Putney (AF), Merton (AL), Kingston (K), Sutton (A), then from February 1924, by A and K jointly, the arrangement that continued until Norbiton (NB) opened in 1952.
 
The buses used were single-deck due to low bridges at Norbiton, New Malden and Worcester Park.  The B-types were replaced by S-types in 1922, then at Kingston by new K-types with pneumatic tyres, in 1925-26.  Operation was shared by Ks and Ss until 1929, the Ss meanwhile being fitted with pneumatic tyres, resulting in 1928 in the journey time being reduced from 70 minutes to 55 minutes due to the consequent raising of the speed limit from 12 to 20 mph.  New AEC Regal Ts were first introduced from Sutton in January 1930, when a few only were available from the original batch.
 
In May 1930, the Belmont to Banstead section was replaced by the rerouted 164, which was thereby withdrawn from Reigate Road without replacement (leaving a later generation of schoolboys shivering on the football fields at Priest Hill with nothing to look at but Margo's of Streatham RTLs on private hire duties), and the 113 terminated at Belmont California.  In June 1931, the route was restocked with new LT Scooters, still with one S (or later T) on Sunday.  The number 213 came into existence with the 1934 renumbering, when the weekday allocation was K 4 and A 6 LTLs.  
 
In June 1926, the General built 20 new single-deck bodies and mounted them on former double-deck K-type chassis.  These 22 seat buses were allocated to Sutton for operation of the new routes 155, 156, 157, 164 and 165 serving Morden Station when it opened that September, and were painted silver to make them distinctive.  Here, Sutton is running K396 on the 113 instead.  It is believed that the whole batch were painted red on (or by) first overhaul in 1927.
Photo © EGP Masterman
 
With the Kingston terminus having changed from Horse Fair to the Bus Station in 1928, there were still some route changes to come at the Carshalton end.  First, in February 1935, the direct Belmont to Sutton routing was replaced by an easterly route using Banstead Road and Cambridge Road, but not yet serving Carshalton Beeches and the Windsor Castle, which came in May 1941. 
 
In 1938, the route was altered at the eastern end by sending every other journey down Sutton High Street to terminate at Sutton Garage.  At some later stage, possibly just after the war, that part of the route was adjusted to approach the garage via Vale Road rather than Bushey Road.
 

During the war, the Scooters were modified to perimeter seating, to increase the standing capacity.  Whilst the Scooters provided the main bus allocation through until the RF era, other types were also officially allocated, including Ts then Qs from K in 1936 and Ts in 1939.  After the war, one T was used Monday to Friday from the 215 allocation and Sutton provided Qs, then Ts, in 1948/49 to supplement its Scooters.  However, before the RFs the route was well known for running almost any single-deck type - Ts of all classes (and condition), CRs, Qs, TDs.  Kingston's Scooters were replaced by Ts in early 1950 and the allocation moved to Norbiton on the opening of the new garage on 14 May 52.

 

The Scooters were past time-expired before the RFs arrived.  Sid Huxford was a conductor and then driver at Sutton Garage and worked on the Scooters.  He tells a story of a colleague who was driving a Scooter on the 213, going flat out down the steep hill of Staplehurst Road and reached the bottom with a bump, whereupon some of the panels fell off.  Sid also remembers that the RFs were taller than the Scooters, so the trees along the whole route needed to be cut back.  This was undertaken by a converted petrol-engined ST - probably 651J, ex-Tilling ST870, which was based at Reigate.

 

Ian Danks lived in Carshalton Beeches from 1950 to 1963.  He recalls that on snowy or icy winter days the 213 was diverted from the steep Staplehurst Road to use Banstead Road; John Parkin adds that (at least later on) the diversion was from Cambridge Road into Banstead Road (the route of today's S3).

 

No larger image available!
CR16 is an example of the wide range of buses that worked the 213 in the years after the war and before the RFs arrived in 1952.  Others are pictures here, here and here.  Unfortunately, the little rear-engined Cubs had not had the service life before the war for their revolutionary design to settle down, and they remained unreliable.  Here, CR16 working out of Sutton Garage has broken down by the Kingston Bypass in New Malden. Fortunately this bus has survived.
Photo © Alan Cross
 
That winter RFs were introduced, at A between 12 Dec 52 and 20 Jan 53 and NB 17 Dec 52 and 1 Jan 53.  The route was selected for an experiment with semaphore trafficators, for which 24 RFs were so fitted.  However, it was soon found that these were dangerous to cyclists (or, in Colin Curtis's words, it was found that cyclists broke them), so the experiment was discontinued.  To this day, RFs carry a plated-over aperture for semaphores (as do many RTs).
 
Alongside the RFs, a supplementary allocation of Ts continued from NB at weekends until October, and on Saturdays until 1955 when they were briefly replaced by TDs.  Unofficially, it seems that TDs also worked prior to then.  A reallocation between A and NB in November 1957 saw one T again scheduled for six months.  Kingston regained an (RF) allocation on Sundays in August 1961, when Norbiton took on part of route 14 on that day. 
 
Shortly afterwards, in the changes of 3 Jan 62, the route was diverted to serve Kingston Hospital and, except on Sundays, curtailed at Sutton Garage, the Sutton to Belmont section being covered by an extension of RT route 151.  The diversion to Kingston Hospital had the effect of avoiding the low bridge in Coombe Lane, which is still there, and was perhaps prompted by the benefit of having drivers used to the new routing before the route converted to double-deck the following year.  At about this time, the road was lowered beneath the New Malden bridge, leaving Worcester Park as the only obstacle to double-deckers.
 
Life before the underpassRT3308 crosses the Kingston By-pass at New Malden in the last months of RTs on the 213.  For some of us, it comes as a surprise to find that RTs worked the route for less than 10 years.
Photo © John Parkin
 
Over the winter of 1962/3, the road was lowered under the bridge at Worcester Park station enabling another high traffic route to be double-decked with RTs.  This duly came about on 8 May 63, along with the introduction of the 213A, which took a slightly different route between Norbiton and Malden and took over the Sunday Belmont workings, and the reintroduction of Kingston as one of the operating garages.
 
In January 1966, Routemasters made their appearance on the route on Sundays, working from NB, until the Sunday service was withdrawn in 1969.  Weekdays remained RT-operated until the route converted to OMO with DMSs on 5 Aug 72.
 
The original 213 shrivelled and died in 1978, being replaced by the 213A.  In 1984, this was renumbered 213, and apart from some early variations eastwards from Sutton Garage, the route has run with double-deckers between Kingston and Sutton ever since.
 
RF route in detail, with timing points
KINGSTON LT Bus Station, London Road, Coombe Road, Norbiton Station, Coombe Lane, Traps Lane, Coombe Road, New Malden Station, New Malden High Street, Malden Fountain, Malden Road, Worcester Park Station, Central Road, Cheam Common Road, North Cheam Queen Victoria, Malden Road, The Broadway, Cheam Station Road, Cheam High Street, Cheam Road, Sutton Carshalton Road High Street, Carshalton Road, Park Hill, Carshalton Beeches Station, Beeches Ave, Staplehurst Road, Banstead Road South, Downs Road, BELMONT California (12 Dec 52 to 2 Jan 62)
 
KINGSTON LT Bus Station, London Road, Norbiton Church, Kingston Hill, Galsworthy Road, Coombe Lane, Traps Lane, Coombe Road, New Malden Station, New Malden High Street, Malden Fountain, Malden Road, Worcester Park Station, Central Road, Cheam Common Road, North Cheam Queen Victoria, Malden Road, The Broadway, Cheam Station Road, Cheam High Street, Cheam Road, Sutton Carshalton Road High Street, High Street, Bushey Road, SUTTON GARAGE (Mon-Sat). Extended Sundays from Sutton Carshalton Road High Street via Carshalton Road, Park Hill, Carshalton Beeches Station, Beeches Avenue, Staplehurst Road, Banstead Road South, Downs Road, BELMONT California (3 Jan 62 to 7 May 63)
 
KINGSTON to SUTTON GARAGE (usually alternate journeys): from Sutton Carshalton Road High Street via Bushey Road, High Street, Vale Road (return via Bushey Road), SUTTON GARAGE.
 
Based on 1955 bus map © London Transport
 
Frequency
Year Mon-Fri Sat Sun
1936 10-15 mins 10 mins 10-15 mins
1941* 6 mins 6 mins 7½ mins
1946† 3-6 mins

3-6 mins

3-6 mins  
1951* 4-6 mins 4-6 mins 4-6 mins
1959* 5-10 mins 4-6 mins 5-8 mins
* of which alternate journeys terminated at Sutton Garage and Belmont.
† of which Belmont journeys were every 8-12 mins.
 
From Kingston, the route took about 45 minutes to reach Sutton Garage and 55 minutes to reach Belmont.  The 1959 timetable is here.
 
Faretable
To view the faretable for 1965, by which time the route was RT-operated, click here.  This includes route 213A, note that the Kingston to Sutton Garage journeys on the 213 are covered by 213A.
 
RF allocation
New RFs delivered Dec 52-Jan 53: Sutton: 372, 374, 381, 386, 388, 393-407, 415, + 298, 340 second hand (22 + 1 spare), Norbiton: 375, 379, 383, 389-392 + 293, 296 second hand) (9, no spares), plus 499 to Sutton 3/53

 

PVR 1952 (Dec): Mon-Fri 30 (21 A, 9 NB), Sat 31 + 5T (22 A, 9 + 5T NB), Sun 28 + 1T (19 A, 9 + 1T NB)
PVR 1953 (May): Mon-Fri 29 (20 A, 9 NB), Sat 30 + 5T (21 A, 9 + 5T NB), Sun 27 + 1T (18 A, 9 + 1T NB)
PVR 1953 (Oct): Mon-Fri 29 (20 A, 9 NB), Sat 31 + 4T (21 A, 10 + 4T NB), Sun 29 (19 A, 10 NB)
PVR 1954 (May): Mon-Fri 29 (20 A, 9 NB), Sat 32 + 3T (21 A, 11 + 3T NB), Sun 29 (18 A, 11 NB)
PVR 1954 (Oct): Mon-Fri 29 (20 A, 9 NB), Sat 32 + 3T (21 A, 11 + 3T NB), Sun 28 (17 A, 11 NB)
PVR 1955 (Mar): Mon-Fri 29 (20 A, 9 NB), Sat 32 + 3TD (21 A, 11 + 3TD NB), Sun 28 (17 A, 11 NB)
PVR 1955 (May): Mon-Fri 29 (20 A, 9 NB), Sat 35 (21 A, 14 NB), Sun 28 (17 A, 11 NB)
PVR 1955 (Oct): Mon-Fri 29 (20 A, 9 NB), Sat 35 (21 A, 14 NB), Sun 29 (23 A, 6 NB)
PVR 1956 (May): Mon-Fri 29 (20 A, 9 NB), Sat 35 (21 A, 14 NB), Sun 28 (21 A, 7 NB)
PVR 1958 (Apr): Mon-Fri 26 (18 A, 8 NB), Sat 32 (23 A, 9 NB), Sun 22 (18 A, 4 NB)
PVR 1958 (Nov): Mon-Fri 22 (15 A, 7 NB), Sat 28 (20 A, 8 NB), Sun 21 + 1T (13 A, 8 + 1T NB)
PVR 1959 (Mar): Mon-Fri 24 (16 A, 8 NB), Sat 28 (20 A, 8 NB), Sun 21 + 1T (13 A, 8 + 1T NB)
PVR 1959 (May): Mon-Fri 24 (16 A, 8 NB), Sat 28 (20 A, 8 NB), Sun 22 (13 A, 9 NB)
PVR 1961 (May): Mon-Fri 24 (16 A, 8 NB), Sat 28 (20 A, 8 NB), Sun 19 (11 A, 8 NB)
PVR 1961 (May): Mon-Fri 24 (16 A, 8 NB), Sat 28 (20 A, 8 NB), Sun 19 (11 A, 8 K)
PVR 1962 (Jan): Mon-Fri 23 (15 A, 8 NB), Sat 26 (18 A, 8 NB), Sun 20 (12 A, 8 K)
PVR 1962 (Oct): Mon-Fri 23 (15 A, 8 NB), Sat 26 (18 A, 8 NB), Sun 16 (10 A, 6 K)
 

The Belmont statnd was on the west side of the road in 1953

Belmont stand on 2 Aug 53. Merton's RT2958 and Norbiton's RF293 await departure on the 88 and 213 respectively.  RF293 was one of the two 'second-hand' RFs delivered to Norbiton for the conversion of the 213.  The fifth red RF, it was one of the batch delivered to Muswell Hill for the 210, soon replaced by a further batch and sent out as trainers prior to the introduction of the remainder of the fleet.  RF293 went to help prepare Sidcup; later, it was one of the batch converted to Green Line (but not renumbered).

David Roland-Shrubb (below) refers to the staff canteen at Belmont.  Here 693J, the former Tilling ST922, sits in the background.  Both the RT and the RF are less than a year old, illustrating the renewal of the bus fleet after the war that enabled the withdrawal of buses such as the ST, which dates from 1930.  ST922 is now restored and resides at the London Bus Museum ('Cobham').

Photo © Alan Cross

 

Memories 

Derek Fisk provided an excellent history of buses in North Cheam, including most importantly the 213, for our Worcester Park running day.

 

David Roland-Shrubb commented on a previous version of this page - when it had said “in 1938, some journeys were terminated at Sutton Garage” - 'it almost reads as if this happened on a whim - the conductor needed the loo, the driver fancied a cigarette, or neither fancied the tea on offer in the ex-Tilling ST staff canteen at Belmont.  In fact every alternate bus terminated inside Sutton Garage, normally entering through the refuelling/washdown bay and parking adjacent to the offices just inside the garage exit facing the direction of the High Street to which they returned via Bushey Road.

Originally they travelled to the garage this way also, but sometime in, I think, the late 1940s all buses returning to the garage were diverted along Vale Road - possibly to avoid the 654 trolleybus turning circle at the junction of High St and Bushey Rd. However, I seem to recollect that for some reason the 156 was excluded from this diversion.

As a boy I lived in Cheam (1939 – 1955) and the 213 and 156 passed our house on Malden Road. I knew that if a Belmont bus came along the next one would be going to the garage and (more important) would be passing the Marks & Spencer’s bus stop on the High Street where us Grammar School boys would alight.  In those days the headway between Kingston & Sutton was 4 – 6 minutes and 8 – 12 minutes between Sutton & Belmont.

I remember once coming out of the Granada cinema in North Cheam (where Sainsbury's is now) to discover a blanket of fog so dense that when a 156 did appear the conductor was walking in front of it holding a flare!  I also remember the top shed of Sutton garage (it might well have been 1947) full of Daimlers all with their engines running at around midnight to prevent the radiators from freezing. The night staff apparently had to start them all up every two hours but I don't know for how long they ran them. The atmosphere thus created is better imagined than experienced!'

 

Re-creation

The 213 was operated by RFs at our Worcester Park running day in 2008.  RFs will operate again on 2 Dec 2012 to mark the 60th anniversary.