RF411 entersAlexandra ParkRed RF routes

Route 233

Page last updated 1 January 2017
Always a popular route with its scenic section through Alexandra Park, the 233 was operated by West Green Garage until its closure in 1962.
RF411 heads down from Alexandra Palace towards Wood Green in 1958 or early 59, with another RF following behind.   Derek Reynolds and Ken Stevens recall that behind the shrubbery on the left, and set a little lower, was the hut used by Air Cadets; that used by the Sea Cadets on the western side of the hill had a grey painted 2 or 3 pounder gun in front.  Beyond the second bus was the entrance to the Palace.  Immediately behind the bus and slightly to the right stood 'The Dive'.  The road the other side from the Palace, down to the foot of Muswell Hill at Priory Road, passed the entrance to 'The Grove' with some nice tea rooms.  Beside the Western gates at the Priory Road end was a Tea Van, very popular with crews.
Photo © N Rayfield, Peter Gomm collection


Dates of RF operation
1 Feb 53 to 17 Mar 59
(total 6 years, 2 months, all crew operation).
RF garages
WG   West Green
Reason for single-deck operation

The need for single-deckers was two low bridges, one over Station Road, about 300 yards to the west of Wood Green underground station, and the other at White Hart Lane Station.  However, the busy section between Finsbury Park and Muswell Hill Victoria Hotel (also known as Alexandra Park Victoria Hotel) was double-decked on Monday to Saturday from 7 Sep 55, extended to Alexandra Palace The Dive on Saturday afternoons, and Sundays from 16 Oct 55. 


The Wood Green bridge carried the old Great Eastern Railway branch from Seven Sisters that ran to Palace Gates Station located east of the main line station, closed in 1964.  Before the closure of the Palace Gates line, the road under the bridge was lowered in about 1958/9 to permit double-deck operation.  The site of the bridge is still visible by virtue of the dip in the road.


The White Hart Lane bridge is believed to have been rebuilt and raised when the line was realigned and electrified at about the same time, although electrification was not completed until 1960.  The whole route was double-decked on 18 Mar 59. 


Newly repainted T511 at Finsbury Park

Route history

Introduced by the General as daily route 154 on 3 Feb 26, the route ran initially between Finsbury Park and Muswell Hill Victoria Hotel and was operated by Holloway Garage (J) using K-class single-deckers.  In June 1929, the route was transferred to The London Public Omnibus Co at West Green (WG) using Dennises, but Public were absorbed into the General six months later.  The Ds were replaced by Ts in 1933, and in the 1934 renumbering, the route became the 233.  At that time, two tram services ran to Alexandra Palace, one from the Victoria Hotel and one from Wood Green; there was no road from end to end.  Five LT Scooters joined the Ts at WG in February 1938 to operate new route 241 between Wood Green LT Station and Alexandra Palace East Gate to replace the tram service.


Although the 233 was officially allocated Qs in 1952, the Central area received 40 former Green Line 10T10s that had been replaced by RFs, and two were allocated to West Green for the 233.  One of the pair, T511, is seen on 25 June 1952, newly-emerged from Chiswick in red livery but still with the Green Line route board brackets.  It sits at Wells Terrace, Finsbury Park, waiting to depart on a short working for 'Alexandra Park' - also known as Muswell Hill Victoria Hotel.  It was these short workings that were converted to RTL operation in 1955.

Photo © Alan Cross, Peter Gomm collection


Agreement was reached between the Palace authorities and London Transport, under which LT contributed to the cost of a road along the south side of the palace and the removal of the tramlines.  On 1 Jun 38, the 233 was extended through the grounds from the Victoria Hotel to Wood Green, replacing the western trams and the 241; at the same time it was converted to 5Q5 operation, still from West Green.  The peak bus allocation doubled from 6 to 12.  The evening service through the park was suspended during the winters from 1942/3 to 1944/5, the route then working in two sections.


The 5Q5s typified the route for many years, but were not always alone.  T14 of the original type joined them in 1944/45, along with periodic visits by 1/7T7/1s and 11T11s, both during and after the war and 9T9s after the war.  Occasional 4Q4s were allocated, with green Q31 during 1947 and Qs 8, 44 and 53 (red), 67 and 68 (green) in August 1948.  These were not liked by the drivers who said they could not see the kerb, and in November that year they were sent to Dalston for the 208.  Finally, the 5Q5s were supplemented by up to three 10T10s between March 1951 and February 1953.


The route was further extended in October 1949 along White Hart Lane to Northumberland Park.  For many years, both before and during RF operation, additional services were provided on summer Sundays over the winter schedules.   


On 1 Feb 53, no fewer than 20 brand new RFs were delivered overnight from Chiswick and licensed; 16 5Q5s were withdrawn the same night and five more moved elsewhere for further service.  The final two Qs were withdrawn on 2 February and the final RF was licensed on 4 February.


The stand in Clifton Terrace, Finsbury ParkThe need for single-deckers was a low bridge over Station Road to the west of Wood Green underground station.  This carried the old Great Eastern Railway branch from Seven Sisters that ran to Palace Gates Station located east of the main line station, closed in 1964.  However, the busy section between Finsbury Park and Muswell Hill Victoria Hotel (also known as Alexandra Park Victoria Hotel) was double-decked on Monday to Saturday from 7 Sep 55, extended to Alexandra Palace The Dive on Saturday afternoons, and Sundays from 16 Oct 55. 

Shortly after the conversion from RTL to RT, Wood Green's RT4275 stands at Finsbury Park.
Photo John Hinson collection

RTLs from West Green were used for the short workings, replacing RFs one-for-one (with an increase of one on Saturdays) to provide extra capacity.  A significant saving in the total number of buses was however made when the route was double-decked throughout.  Before the closure of the Palace Gates line, the road under the bridge was lowered to permit double-deck operation and the whole route was converted from 18 Mar 59.  The RFs displaced were distributed round the fleet, to permit the commencement of the conversion of the first batch of red RFs for OMO working.  The RTLs were replaced in turn by RTs, just before the closure of West Green on 2 Jan 62, the route being taken over by former trolleybus depot Wood Green (WN).


The route was converted to flat-fare Merlin operation and renumbered W3 in September 1968 (W5 with W6 on Saturdays), as part of the 'Reshaping Plan' scheme for Wood Green.  The W3 became daily six months later, and the Merlins were replaced by DMSs in 1974, then Ms in 1981.  It still runs over the RF route, still with a high frequency, now with low-floor double-deckers.
RF route in detail, with timing points
FINSBURY PARK Wells Terrace, Stroud Green Road, Stroud Green Stapleton, Stapleton Hall Road, Ferme Park Road, Tottenham Lane, Rokesley Avenue (to 6 Dec 55) or Elmfield Avenue (return via Rokesley Avenue), Middle Lane, Middle Lane Priory Road, Priory Road, Muswell Hill Victoria Hotel, Private road through Alexander Park grounds, Bedford Road, Bridge Road, Buckingham Road, Wood Green ER Station (now Alexandra Park Station), Station Road, Wood Green LT Station, Lordship Lane, Perth Road, White Hart Lane, Great Cambridge Road White Hart Lane, White Hart Lane, Creighton Road, White Hart Lane, High Road Tottenham, Northumberland Park, NORTHUMBERLAND PARK STATION
1955 bus map © London Transport
Terminal workings: Finsbury Park - see separate page.  Northumberland Park - stand in Northumberland Park, north west of Willoughby Lane.  Depart via Shelbourne Road, Manor Road, Chalgrove Road, Northumberland Grove.
Short working termini:
Wood Green LT Station - turning point only via Lordship Lane, Redvers Road, Buller Road, High Road; 
Wood Green ER Station - turning circle and stand in Bedford Road;
Alexandra Palace - stand outside café in car park;
Muswell Hill Victoria Hotel - stand in Approach Road close to junction with Priory Road.
Garage workings: as the 1959 timetable shows buses entering and leaving service at both Wood Green Station, ER and Middle Lane Priory Road, we may deduce that buses ran from West Green along Turnpike Lane and High Road, respectively.  It is not known (or is it?) whether these workings operated in service.
Year Mon-Fri Sat Sun
1936 5-6 mins 5-6 mins 7½-10 mins
1938 5-6 mins 5-6 mins 7½-10 mins
1941 7½-15 mins *† 7½-15 mins *† 10-15 mins
1946 12-15 mins *‡ 15 mins *‡ 6-8 mins
1951 6-8 mins * 5-6 mins * 10-15 mins *
1953 6-8 mins * 4-6 mins 10-15 mins *
1959 7-10 mins * 5-15 mins * 10-12 mins *
*  more frequent Finsbury Park - Muswell Hill Victoria Hotel
† more frequent Alexandra Park - Wood Green Und Station 
‡ more frequent Wood Green LNER Station - Wood Green Underground Station 
From Finsbury Park, the route took about 37 minutes to reach Northumberland Park.  Wood Green Underground Station was 23 minutes from Finsbury Park.
RF allocation
New RFs delivered Feb 53: 423-435, 438, 454, 456-461, + 292, 301 second hand (total 22 + 1 spare)
PVR 1953 (Feb): Mon-Fri 22, Sat 21, Sun 19
PVR 1953 (May): Mon-Fri 22, Sat 21, Sun 21
PVR 1953 (Oct): Mon-Fri 22, Sat 21, Sun 19
PVR 1954 (May): Mon-Fri 22, Sat 21, Sun 21
PVR 1954 (Oct): Mon-Fri 22, Sat 21, Sun 19
PVR 1955 (Feb): Mon-Fri 22, Sat 21, Sun 17
PVR 1955 (May): Mon-Fri 22, Sat 21, Sun 19
PVR 1955 (Sep): Mon-Fri 16 + 6 RTL, Sat 17 + 5 RTL, Sun 19
PVR 1955 (Oct): Mon-Fri 16 + 6 RTL, Sat 17 + 5 RTL, Sun 10 + 4 RTL
PVR 1956 (May): Mon-Fri 16 + 6 RTL, Sat 17 + 5 RTL, Sun 12 + 5 RTL
PVR 1956 (Oct): Mon-Fri 16 + 6 RTL, Sat 17 + 5 RTL, Sun 8 + 4 RTL
PVR 1957 (May): Mon-Fri 16 + 6 RTL, Sat 17 + 5 RTL, Sun 12 + 5 RTL
PVR 1957 (Oct): Mon-Fri 16 + 6 RTL, Sat 17 + 5 RTL, Sun 8 + 4 RTL
PVR 1958 (May): Mon-Fri 16 + 6 RTL, Sat 17 + 5 RTL, Sun 12 + 5 RTL
PVR 1958 (Oct): Mon-Fri 16 + 6 RTL, Sat 17 + 5 RTL, Sun 10 + 5 RTL
PVR 1958 (Nov): Mon-Fri 15 + 6 RTL, Sat 17 + 5 RTL, Sun 8 + 4 RTL
Derek Reynolds grew up in Wood Green.  He wrote of his memories in the Newsletter of the Friends of Classic London Buses of the Fifties.  Thanks to Derek for permission to reproduce his recollection of the 233:

Another occasional treat was taking the little red RF on route 233 from outside the dance hall to 'The Dive' at Alexandra Palace.  The bus fare was one penny adult, halfpenny child, and the RF would take off up Station Road, past the corset factory, under the branch line to Palace Gates, past the United Dairies depot ringing with the sound of wire crates full of empty bottles - and the smell of horses, and hay  - up past the common with Barratts sweet factory pouring out some awful smells (what were sweets made of?), over the New River which disappeared into a spooky black tunnel, alongside Wood Green main line station maybe catching a glimpse of clanking steam in the cutting, then over the railway, back up the other side of it, and through the gates into the Palace grounds and the long climb, which the RF had to take in first gear. We boys would run alongside faster, but as the vista opened up the higher we climbed, the RF was better. I don't recall doors on these RFs and subsequently learned many red ones had none.


RF486 at Alexandra Palace

Getting off at The Dive was the start of playtime - a trip on the miniature railway, or in the paddle boats, and some time at the semi-permanent fair. Then a walk around the veranda of 'Ally Pally', roll down the slopes in fresh cut grass, or just sit and spy the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, and the white plumes of steam engines trailing along past the reservoirs and filter beds from Hornsey through Wood Green. ‘The Dive' was a cafe at the top of the hill, just inside the entrance to the palace forecourt. It was built of corrugated iron - or at least ways clad in it, and painted dark green. Shaded under some big old trees it was quite a secluded retreat. In the evenings it was the haunt of Teddy boys and rockers who would roar up the hill on their Gold Stars and Nortons, Vauxhall Crestas and Ford Zodiacs. I loved the sound of those Gold Stars.


Ken Stevens also fondly remembers the RFs, 'the 233 being my commuting route from Priory Road to Finsbury Park Station or, in earlier life, over the Palace to Wood Green either for the pictures at the Gaumont or to catch the Eastern National 251 service from Wood Green bus station for a day out at Southend; occasionally we would take the 233 to Finsbury Park to connect to the 210 for a trip to Hampstead Heath.  Doors were certainly non-existent on that route and sitting in front seats was an experience to be avoided if possible on a winter’s day.  I used the W3 Merlin replacement service for a year or two before moving away from London, but wasn’t impressed – it was a characterless cattle truck!'


RF486 southbound at Alexandra Palace in 2005.
Photo © Peter Osborn
The 60th anniversary of RFs was marked by a road run on Sunday 17 February 2013.  In addition, RF486, which worked the 233 between 1957 and 1959, ran over part of the route in 2005.