RF486 on diversion in KingstonRed RF routes

Route 201

Page last updated 14 January 2020
Notable for a while for occupying no less than three garages to run a route needing at most 5 buses, the 201 was also one of first four Central Area routes converted to 'big bus' one-man operation in London, in 1964.

RF486 on the 201, on diversion in Kingston in about 1970.  It is using Denmark Road and Portland Road to reach Villiers Road, instead of Fairfield South.

Photo Ian Armstrong collection


Dates of RF operation

12 Oct 55 to 19 Nov 58 (Sun only)


13 May 59 to 6 Nov 76

Converted to OMO 18 Nov 64

(total 20 years 7 months, of which 8 years 7 months crew operation).



RF Garages

Crew operation:

NB    Norbiton   (Sun from 12 Oct 55 to 19 Nov 58, daily from 13 May 59 to 8 May 62, Mon-Sat 9 May 62 to 17 Nov 64)

K      Kingston   (Sun 9 May 62 to 17 Nov 64)

OMO operation:

NB    Norbiton   (daily 18 Nov 64 to 11 May 73, Mon-Fri 12 May 73 to 6 Nov 76)

FW   Fulwell      (weekends 12 May 73 to 19 Aug 76)

K      Kingston   (Sat 10 Apr 76 to 6 Nov 76)


Reason for single-deck operation

The low bridge at Thames Ditton Station, which remains unchanged to date.


One of the miscellany of types working from Kingston garage in the years after the war was former Green Line 11T11 coach T267, repainted red in 1946.  It is seen here at the alighting point in Wood Street, Kingston, prior to returning to Feltham.

Photo Peter Osborn collection 


Route history
Although known as a Kingston local route, the 201 stated life as Hounslow local route 105.  Registered in 1930 but not started until June 1931, the route ran from Hounslow Garage via the newly-developing areas of Lampton and Heston in a loop round to Hounslow West and Hounslow Central.  Hounslow used two (possibly one-man operated) Darts daily.  In October, the route was extended south from Hounslow Garage to Hanworth, then in the following January to Teddington Station and the Darts were replaced by single-deck Ss.  The frequency had now been doubled as well.
The Ss were in turn replaced by LTL Scooters from November 1932, when they became available from a programme of speeding up schedules following the widespread use of pneumatic-tyred buses.  However, the 1933 summer schedules called for more Scooters at Holloway for the 110, so smaller Ts replaced the LTLs.  Three more were found, then lost again when the 551 (later 251) was extended.
June 1933 saw the route extended again, finally reaching Kingston via Bushy Park and Thames Ditton on the opening of Hampton Court Bridge.  The section between Kingston and Thames Ditton had previously been covered, since introduction in April 1928, by the 171 (later 214) which continued to Molesey, Walton and Chertsey, and which was rerouted from Kingston via Hampton Court Road also using the new bridge.  The extra buses required were initially Ts provided by Twickenham garage (AB), not by Kingston, which brief spell appears to have been AB's only single-deck operation until the 290 in 1968.  These worked alongside LTLs and/or Ts from Hounslow (AV); it is known that AV sometimes borrowed Ts from Uxbridge (UX) at weekends.
Green T788 - a 15T13 and much superior to the red 14T12s - was one of a number loaned to Norbiton for the 201.  It is seen in 1957 at Hampton Court Station.  Note the use of the nearside route stencil - possibly for the only time in the buses' life, as these were not used in the Country Area.
Photo © PM Photography
The section north and west of Lampton was removed on 17 Jan 34, becoming a double-deck circular route that was later absorbed into the 111, which still covers much of the section.  At the same time, AB was replaced by Kingston (K), initially using Ts.  Both K and AV swapped Ts for LTLs a week later, in an exchange with ED and SP affecting routes 109 (later 227) and 195 (later 228).
The 105 was renumbered as 201 in October 1934, the route running every 15 minutes from Kingston via Hampton Court and Hanworth to Hounslow and Lampton.  Now included in the AV allocation were extra weekend buses for Hounslow to Hanworth short  workings; in the spring of 1936, these journeys were replaced by double-deck workings with STs (AV, Mon-Sat) and STLs (Hanwell HW, Sun). 
This section of the route became the 110 when the 201 was shortened in May 1936, with the Hanworth to Teddington section becoming new route 255 and the 201 going no further than Hampton Court.  The route was re-extended, on Sundays from August 1936 then daily from October 1937, via Hanworth to Feltham, replacing the short-lived 255.  The route was cut back again in June 1951 from Feltham to Hampton Court, and in the following year the allocation moved from Kingston to Norbiton when the latter garage opened.
Through these changes, the core route between Kingston and Hampton Court served the back roads east and west of Surbiton that became the 201's trade mark.  The route was one of the recipients of new 14T12s in 1946, when Kingston received the second batch (after Uxbridge for the 223).  As was often the case with the Kingston area's single-deck routes, there was considerable shuffling of vehicle allocations before the advent of RFs, with post-war Ts and TDs both operating in the late 40's and the 50's.  A number of green post-war 15T13s were loaned to Norbiton from the Country Area for the 201, various examples running from 1957 through to full RF conversion in 1959. 

Kingston's RF458 leaving Hampton Court along Creek Road towards East Molesey, on a wet last day of RF operation, Saturday 6 Nov 76.  The nearside route number shows this is a new BL blind.

Photo © John Parkin


RFs were introduced at first on Sundays only, officially from October 1955, by which time the 213 was fully RF operated and the increased RF allocation at Norbiton provided the 3 spare buses required on Sundays.  Briefly in 1958-59, the Mon-Sat allocation reverted to Kingston, at which point the Sunday Norbiton allocation reverted to TD, but the route was fully converted to RF in 1959, again fully from NB.
A Sunday Kingston allocation reappeared in 1962, up to OMO conversion in 1964.  This was one of the first four 'big bus' OMO routes in London (there had been one-man buses before the war, using 20-seat Leyland Cubs and their predecessors), the others being the 206 and 216 in the Kingston area and the very rural 250 out of Romford North Street.

In 1973, the garage allocations started to change again, firstly with Fulwell taking over weekend workings, then in 1976 Kingston took part of the Monday to Saturday allocations, leading to the position when a route needing at most 5 buses was operated out of three garages.  Operations were converted to BL in August (the weekend FW allocation) and November that year, leaving only the jointly worked 218/219 in the Kingston area as RF operated.


The route withered and died not long after, but not before a Mon-Fri peak hour variation to serve Lower Green at the back of Esher, following withdrawal of the 206.  The route ended in September 1980, being replaced in part by an independent operator and by a single extra journey on the (already heavily distorted) 215.


More 201 photos here
1961 bus map © London Transport
RF route in detail, with timing points
KINGSTON Bus Station, Clarence Street, Fairfield West, Fairfield South, Villiers Road, Lingfield Avenue, Beaufort Road, Maple Road, Claremont Road, Surbiton Station, Victoria Road, Brighton Road, Balaclava Road, Effingham Road, Ewell Road, Thorkhill Road, Long Ditton Portsmouth Road, St Leonard's Road, High Street, Station Road, Thames Ditton Station, Ember Court Road, Ember Lane, Esher Road, Bridge Road, HAMPTON COURT STATION (return via Creek Road, Bridge Road) (to 30 Jun 64)

KINGSTON Bus Station, Clarence Street (return via Clarence Street, Wood Street), Fairfield West, Fairfield South, Villiers Road, Villiers Avenue, Lamberts Road, St Mark’s Hill, Surbiton Station, Victoria Road, Brighton Road, Balaclava Road, Effingham Road, Ewell Road, Thorkhill Road, Dittons Winters Bridge, St Leonard's Road, Thames Ditton High Street, Station Road, Thames Ditton Station, Ember Court Road, Ember Lane, Esher Road, Bridge Road, HAMPTON COURT STATION (return via Creek Road, Bridge Road) (from 1 Jul 64)


Garage journeys (Fulwell): HAMPTON COURT STATION, Hampton Court Road, High Street Hampton, Hampton Hill, Wellington Road, FULWELL GARAGE
Year Mon-Fri Sat Sun
1936 15 mins 15 mins 15 mins
1938 15 mins 15 mins 15 mins
1941 20 mins 20 mins 20 mins
1946 15 mins 15 mins 15-20 mins
1953 15 mins 15 mins 15-20 mins
1959 20 mins 20 mins 31 mins
1964 20-30 mins 20-30 mins 30-60 mins
1969 17-22 mins 21-22 mins 30-60 mins
1971 15-18 mins 21-22 mins 60 mins
1976 15-20 mins 24 mins 62 mins
From Kingston to Hampton Court the long way (compare trolleybus 604, or even the 216!) took about 27 minutes.  The July 1967 timetable is here.
The faretable for May 1965 is here.
RF allocation
PVR 1955 (Oct): Mon-Fri [4 TD], Sat [4 TD], Sun 3 (NB)
PVR 1957 (May) to 1958 (Nov): Mon-Fri [4 T], Sat [4 T], Sun 3 (NB)
PVR 1959 (May): Mon-Fri 3, Sat 3, Sun 2 (all NB)
PVR 1961 (Aug): Mon-Fri 3, Sat 3, Sun 1 (all NB)
PVR 1962 (May): Mon-Fri 3 (NB), Sat 3 (NB), Sun 2 (K)
PVR 1964 (Nov, OMO): Mon-Fri 4, Sat 5, Sun 2 (all NB)
PVR 1965 (Aug): Mon-Fri 4, Sat 4, Sun 2 (all NB)
PVR 1967 (Jun): Mon-Fri 5, Sat 4, Sun 2 (all NB)
PVR 1969 (Oct): Mon-Fri 5, Sat 4, Sun 1 (all NB)
PVR 1973 (May): Mon-Fri 5 (NB), Sat 4 (FW), Sun 2 (FW)
PVR 1976 (Apr): Mon-Fri 2 (K), 3 (NB), Sat 2 (K), 2 (FW), Sun 2 (FW)
PVR 1976 (Aug): Mon-Fri 2 (K), 3 (NB), Sat 2 (K), [2 BL] (FW), Sun [2 BL] (FW)


Stan Attewell started work driving the 201 when it was crew-operated.  Read his memories here.
Ian Hogben tells the story of a sweet old lady passenger...
'The Gremlin was an apparently sweet little old lady of some one hundred and seventy-five years of age. At first glance she was everyone’s idea of how you would expect your favourite Great, Great, Great Grandma to look. WRONG! The Gremlin was probably the most argumentative, objectionable, disagreeable, ungrateful being who ever walked the planet. Whatever you did, she would find fault with it, and if you got in her way, you were likely to get a poke with her stick or umbrella. The Gremlin spoke with a squeaky, rasping nasal voice and was equally unpleasant to drivers and fellow passengers alike.

The Gremlin was a regular, travelling from Kingston Garage (forecourt) to Winters Bridge, Thames Ditton (or Thorkhill Road when the 201 used to go that way).  When I first came across her, her preferred route was the 201 (Kingston to Hampton Court via Surbiton and Thames Ditton Village). This enabled her to alight in Thorkhill Road, one stop before Winters Bridge.


When the 201 was withdrawn, and the 215 was rerouted from the Portsmouth Road, to serve Surbiton, Hinchley Wood and Esher, the Gremlin became a regular on routes 218 and 219 to and from Winters Bridge proper. Despite her apparent frailty, she would have given Usain Bolt a run for his money. As soon as she alighted, she would scurry off with the speed of light, waving her stick to dispatch any who got in her way. And (well aware of her unpleasant attitude to the world at large) if a driver saw her coming, he’d be taking fares and issuing tickets like a demon just on purpose to get away from the bus stop before the Gremlin’s legs, whirring like a mosquito’s wings, carried her to the door of the bus, at which time per poisonous tongue would be unleashed. Even the other passengers did their bit, boarding as quickly as they could to avoid becoming the object of the Gremlin’s ire (their mere presence at the stop, or on the bus was sufficient reason).


I remember one occasion when I was working an almost empty Kingston bound 218/9, pulling up at Winters Bridge. I had spotted the Gremlin already waiting. It didn’t matter who was first in the queue, for she would elbow everyone else out of the way. However, on boarding my bus, rather than paying her fare (no freedom passes in those days) she suddenly stood transfixed. Someone was occupying ‘her’ seat and anyone in it was expected, nay REQUIRED to move. (‘Her’ seat was the first lengthways seat immediately behind the luggage rack.) The conversation went something like:

Gremlin, pointing her stick at the middle aged woman said, in her rasping, nasal voice: "That’s my seat."

Woman, instead of moving to another seat, gazed nonchalantly out of the window.

Gremlin, louder: "Didn’t you hear? You’re in my seat. That’s my seat."

Woman, looking around at the rest of the seats in the three-quarters empty bus still said nothing.

Gremlin (banging her stick several times loudly on the rails of the luggage rack and making everyone jump): "You’ll have to move. That’s my seat!"

Woman: "There are plenty of other seats."

Gremlin: "But that’s my seat. I always sit there."

Woman: "Well it’s not your seat today. I’m sitting here."

Gremlin: "It’s my seat. I always sit there." Then, turning to me: "Tell her driver. It’s my seat. Tell her she’ll have to move."

Me: "Sorry luv. I can’t tell her to move. She’s as entitled to the seat as you are. You’ll have to sit somewhere else."

Gremlin: "I don’t like sitting anywhere else."

Me: "Well if you won’t sit in one of the other seats and the other lady won’t move, you’ll have to wait for the next bus."

Eventually, after some considerable delay, the Gremlin paid her fare and went and sat on the first transverse seat (next to the gangway) on the right side of the bus, but the whole of the way to Kingston, she kept up a diatribe about it being ‘her’ seat, bending the ears of each and every subsequent passenger who boarded and banging her stick on the floor in frustration.


On another occasion I was Kingston bound and packed to the gunwales. Three standing might have been laid down in ‘the Rules’, but at busy times we squeezed them in as best we could. This time the Gremlin had boarded and cajoled ‘her’ seat’s occupant in to giving it up, but she was not then best pleased that people were standing along the gangway in front of her and she took it upon herself to lay down the law.

Gremlin (to a young woman propped, half sitting on the rail of the luggage rack beside her): "You can’t sit there."

Young woman: "Why not?"

Gremlin: "You’re blocking the gangway. People can’t get on and off."

Young woman: "No one’s getting on or off at the moment and, when they do, I’ll move."

The Gremlin poked the young woman with her stick. "You can’t sit there. The driver can’t see out."

Me: "Yes I can. She’s behind the glass screen."

Gremlin: "She can’t sit there, it’s dangerous for everyone. Make her move."

Me: "It’s not dangerous where she is and anyway, where’s she supposed to move to? The bus is full."

Gremlin: "Well I want her to move because I can’t see out."

This also went on all the way to Kingston.


Drivers’ revenge:

One afternoon I was up in the canteen, a few minutes before I was due to take over on the garage forecourt when one of the drivers who was always game for a laugh (and who I will call McD) came up and told me the Gremlin was waiting for my bus. Another driver with a wicked sense of humour (CP) then said: "Give us a couple of minutes." With that McD and CP disappeared off downstairs. They gave me no idea what they were planning.


As the 218s and 219s stand was at the far side of the garage forecourt, the buses stood there with their doors closed until the next driver arrived to take over, and he would let himself in through the front doors on the air tap.  When I got down to the forecourt, there was the Gremlin, standing guard across the door to prevent anyone else getting ‘her’ seat. She wasn’t even too keen on the relief driver getting on first (I think she thought the relief driver might be a prospective passenger in disguise).


As I opened the door and climbed the steps I noticed that I already had two seated ‘passengers’, both with supremely confident smiles. CP was sitting in the Gremlin’s seat and McD had taken the only other seat she might be willing, albeit reluctantly, to occupy. They had climbed in through the emergency door at the back and sprinted, doubled-up so as not to be observed, down the length of the bus. When the Gremlin boarded, the scene was an absolute picture. I just stood and listened to the exchange of views that went on between her and her two fellow ‘passengers’, with all the usual: "That’s my seat" arguments. As it happened, McD was himself due to take-over within a few minutes and, once all my legitimate passengers had boarded, vacated the seat before I departed, but CP stayed on until I reached the first stop in Eden Street. As soon as CP got off to return to the garage, the Gremlin was down the bus and into ‘her seat’ like greased lightening.


The Gremlin wouldn’t be helped, the Gremlin wouldn’t be told. The Gremlin knew best.  


Some time after the 215 had been permanently rerouted via Surbiton, Hinchley Wood and Claygate to terminate at Esher, but when it had been on a prolonged diversion of several months via Giggs Hill Green while major road-works were being done in Sugden Road, another incident happened. This diversion involved the bus passing closer to where the Gremlin lived and so she had switched to using the 215 service (giving the 218/9 drivers a break). However, on this particular day, the works were finished and the bus had reverted to its scheduled route.


I was working the 215 that day and the Gremlin was waiting for me when I arrived to take over. Before she boarded I explained that she didn’t now want the 215 as it no longer passed her door, but she wouldn’t listen. She ‘knew’ it was the right bus and, no matter what I said, she was adamant and insisted on boarding. I could hardly bodily throw her off, so off we went.


On arrival at the junction of Effingham Road and Ewell Road (where the diversion had previously started), I stopped and enquired if she wanted to get off there, as it was now the nearest point to where she lived. She ignored my question and despite more explanations, kept insisting: "I want the next stop driver." I again explained that the next stop was in Sugden Road, five hundred yards in the opposite direction from where she wanted to be.


The Gremlin was having none of it.


I therefore turned left (on the scheduled route) instead of right (on the previous diversion), but by the time I stopped at the next stop (in Sugden Road) she was berating me for having "gone the wrong way". She insisted on staying on the bus, saying she didn’t know where she was, and demanding that I take her back and ‘go the right way’. This lasted all the way to Esher, and all the way back. On arrival back at her (now) nearest stop she still refused to get off and still insisted I take her ‘the right way’. She finally alighted at the terminus stop in Wood Street Kingston and made her way back on foot to the garage forecourt.  When I next saw her (ten minutes later) she was busy telling everyone who would listen, what a fool the last driver was because he didn’t know the route and ‘went the wrong way’. As I passed by, she even told me about the stupid driver who didn’t know his job. Meanwhile, she stood guarding the next 215 due out, to make certain she got ‘her’ seat.


I later learned that much the same thing had happened with the next driver. I don’t know how she eventually got home that day but I believe the forecourt inspector may have got her a taxi (as much for his health and wellbeing as for hers). At least the silver badge earned his money that particular day!'


See these pages for more by Ian: 216, 218, Operations.

The 201 was operated by RFs at our Kingston 2009 RF Event.
RF489 was a Norbiton bus and is shown working the 201 in 1975 here.  In 2009, it returned to its old haunts for the Kingston event, and is seen here departing Hampton Court Station.
Photo © Mark James