Red RF routes

Route 234A

Page last updated 30 January 2016
 
A very long-lived RF route, converted from the last scheduled LTLs at the start of 1953 with new buses.
 
RF392, on the stand at Wallington Belmont Road in the mid-70s, is about to return to Croydon garage.
Photo © Paul Redmond
 
Dates of RF operation
12 Jan 53 to 29 Jan 77
Converted to OMO 7 Aug 66
(total 24 years 1 month, of which 13 years 7 months crew operation)
 
Destinations
PURLEY Old Lodge Lane and HACKBRIDGE Elm Road (daily to 6 Aug 66, daily except Mon-Fri peaks 7 Aug 66 to 16 Feb 68 and from 20 Apr 70, Sat-Sun 17 Feb 68 to 19 Apr 70)
PURLEY Old Lodge Lane and WALLINGTON STATION (Mon-Fri peaks from 7 Aug 66, also Mon-Fri off-peak 17 Feb 68 to 19 Apr 70)

 

RF Garages
TC    Croydon
 
Reason for single-deck operation

There were low bridges at both ends of the route in the early days, at Wallington Station and on Old Lodge Lane by Reedham Station.  Whilst the road was lowered beneath the railway to Wallington, the 13'6" bridge over Old Lodge Lane remains.

 
Route history
 

Southbound and northbound S-types pass on route 87 at Hackbridge Triangle in about 1925.  S780 on the left heads down London Road bound for Purley via Wallington, whilst S892 leaves from the LGOC bus stop for Streatham.  This location became the northern terminus for the 234A, with Elm Road behind and to the right of the photographer.  The area is somewhat changed today (view looking north, photo © Peter Larkham).

Photo Sutton Local Studies & Archives Centre collection

 

As Purley developed, early in the 20th century, the central part of this route had a slow introduction to bus services.  The first horse bus service up Foxley Lane ceasing in 1908 after three years as 'it was not supported by the wealthy Purley residents who have their own carriages', but was restarted with support from the developer of Woodcote Grove, between there and Wallington.  From 1914, the route between Purley and Woodcote Park Golf Club was being operated by a motor bus.  The route operated during at least part of the first world war, but may not have been reintroduced thereafter.  In 1921, there were reports locally that the General were planning a route through the area.
 
This came into being as the first service on the north-south route between Streatham and Purley via Mitcham and Wallington Green, route 87 commencing in September 1921.  Initially Merton garage (AL) provided B-type single-deckers, with Streatham (AK) taking over in March 1922 and replacing Bs with Ss a year later.  The 87 was renumbered 234 in 1934, by which time Sutton (A) had taken over the route and replaced the Ss with LT Scooters in 1931.  In 1937, the 234 was cut back to operate south from Carshalton Park Lane, and a year later extended from Purley Railway Hotel to Mitchley Avenue replacing part of the 203.
 
The 203 was another manifestation of the development of Purley to the south and east, running in a horseshoe-shape from Riddlesdown Mitchley Avenue in the east (where the turning circle was just east of Buttermere Gardens) to Old Lodge Lane to the south-east.  It commenced operation in September 1935 using the only two Gilfords operated by the Central Area.
 
LT1090 runs south to Purley in the early 50s, carrying one of the bodies rebuilt by Marshalls in 1949 and having had its petrol engine replaced by a diesel (from a scrapped STL) in 1950.  This is Manor Road, Wallington, at the junction of Clifton Road.  In the background, one of Merton's utility Daimlers emerges from Parkgate Road on either the 77 or 157.  It will terminate by turning left into Clifton Road, before the road reaches the low bridge at Wallington Station.
 
Introduced on 3 Aug 38, the 234A replaced the southern part of the 203 between Old Lodge Lane and Purley, then ran along the 234 to Carshalton Park Lane, from Wallington Station taking Parkgate Road, terminating just before the junction with the High Street and returning via Acre Lane.  At that time, the Old Lodge Lane service terminated at Colescroft Hill, and turned by reversing into Whitefield Avenue.
 
The route also used LTL Scooters from Sutton garage, initially with a separate allocation but jointly with the 234 from December 1939.  Wartime constraints also led to a slight shortening in October 1942, to Wallington Station, for the first two months using a terminus in Grosvenor Road before moving to the well-known Belmont Road stand over the road.  On 19 Apr 44, the joint 234 operation moved from Sutton to Croydon garage (TC).
 

On 22 Feb 50, the 234 was double-decked (and therefore turned at Beddington Gardens, south of the low bridge at Wallington Station), whilst the 234A was extended to Hackbridge with its own allocation of 5 LTLs.  This section reintroduced a part of the former route of the 234 to Streatham, which had been replaced by the 115 in 1937.

 

New RFs arrived in January 1953, allowing the last scheduled allocation of LTLs to retire (not quite the last in operation - see the 208).  The first RF was licensed on 12 Jan 53, with the allocation complete four days later; the last day of Scooter operation was Friday 16th when LTs 1024, 1090 and 1129 were delicensed.  The RF allocation was unusual (but not unique; Old Kent Road was in the same position for the 202) in containing no spare buses, whereas there had been six LTLs to cover the five-bus requirement.  In Croydon's case, it seems likely that buses were borrowed from Bromley to cover maintenance work undertaken during the week.  Newly overhauled post-war T767 was delivered to Croydon on 11 April 1953 to provide a spare bus, until a sixth RF was found in September 1954.  This spare then allowed Bromley to borrow an RF on Saturday for the 227.

 

Seen during the mid-1950s, before it has been fitted with trafficators, RF412 was one of the original allocation.  It is picking up in London Road, north of Wallington Green, followed by RT4620 on the 115.  The RT will follow the RF all the way to Wallington Clifton Road, and no doubt be careful to let the RF take all the passengers.

Photo Peter Osborn collection

 

The RFs went quietly about their business with no changes until 1 Jul 64, when the route was extended to the end of the housing in Old Lodge Lane, some 500 yards further from the old terminus.  Apart from two minutes extra allowed in each direction, there was no visible change to timetables, maps or blinds.  

 

In January 1966, the route was temporarily withdrawn at weekends, due to an overtime ban.  An emergency service was operated between Purley Fountain and Old Lodge Lane by Capital Coaches until March.

 

For many years, short workings between Old Lodge Lane and Purley Fountain had operated in addition to the through route.  In June 1966, to cover the withdrawal of the 234 between Purley and Wallington on Saturdays, these shorts were extended on that day to cover the whole route, with an overall frequency reduction.  One extra RF on the 234A replaced one RM on the 234 - presumably this was done in anticipation of imminent OMO conversion.  The tangled history of the 234 and 234A over the next few years are described in the next paragraph, but at this point it is worth noting that the total withdrawal of the 234 at weekends followed on the last day of 1966, with the Purley to Selsdon section (covering the northern part of the original 203) being replaced on Sundays by the 57A, then in 1969 by new OMO route 234B, using one RF from Croydon spare from the 234A (and 233) on Sundays.

 

OMO conversion came in August 1966 and the frequency increased with one more bus required on Mon to Sat.  However, the route was cut back at Mon to Fri peaks from Hackbridge to Wallington; the RT-operated (on weekdays) 234 was extended in exchange, presumably as this section was too busy for OMO operation in the peaks.  In February 1968, the whole Mon to Fri service north of Wallington was replaced by the 234, which by now was Mon to Fri only but still RT operated.  The extension of the 234 survived, but the 234A was reinstated to Hackbridge Mon to Fri off-peak in 1970.

 

RF404 in Purley

Crew-operated RF404 in Purley, probably just after its overhaul in late 1964.  The route number holder over the door is now out of use.

Photo Peter Gomm collection

 

It was not until 1977 that the RFs were ousted, on 30 January, the same day as the 251, leaving only four routes, at Hounslow and Kingston.  They were replaced by same-sized, but less comfortable, Bristol BLs, which in 1981 saw the route extended back over the pre-war territory of the 234 to Streatham, and were replaced by Leyland Nationals a year later.  The route was withdrawn in 1984, with the original 203 section to Old Lodge Lane then being covered by the 12A.

 
RF route in detail, with timing points

PURLEY Old Lodge Lane, Old Lodge Lane, Brighton Road, Purley Fountain, Banstead Road, Foxley Lane, Woodcote Smitham Bottom Lane, Woodcote Road, Wallington Station, Manor Road, Manor Road North, London Road, HACKBRIDGE CORNER Elm Road (daily 12 Jan 53 to 7 Aug 66, Mon-Fri off peak and weekends 8 Aug 66 to 16 Feb 68, weekends 17 Feb 68 to 19 Apr 70, Mon-Fri off peak and weekends 20 Apr 70 to 29 Jan 77)

 

PURLEY Old Lodge Lane, Old Lodge Lane, Brighton Road, Purley Fountain, Banstead Road, Foxley Lane, Woodcote Smitham Bottom Lane, Woodcote Road, WALLINGTON STATION Belmont Road.  (Mon-Fri peaks 8 Aug 66 to 16 Feb 68, Mon-Fri 17 Feb 68 to 19 Apr 70, Mon-Fri peaks 20 Apr 70 to 29 Jan 77)

 

Terminal workings:

Hackbridge - arrive via Longfield Avenue to the Elm Road stand, depart via Hackbridge Road to London Road.

Wallington - arrive via Clifton Road, Bridge Road, stand in Belmont Road (also, earlier, in Bridge Road); depart direct to Manor Road.

Old Lodge Lane (Colescroft Hill) - believed to involve a reversing manoeuvre into a side road.

Old Lodge Lane (Canons Hill) - turning circle.

 

1955 bus map © London Transport (1969 map of Croydon RF routes here)

 
Frequency
Year Mon-Fri

Sat

Sun

1941

20-30 mins

20 mins

30 mins

1946

20-30 mins

20 mins

30 mins

1951

15-20 mins

15 mins

18-30 mins

1953

15-20 mins

15 mins

18-30 mins

1959

15-20 mins

20 mins

24-34 mins

1964

20 mins†

20 mins†

40 mins

1969

20 mins*

15 mins

40 mins

1971

24 mins*

20 mins

40-70 mins

1976

24 mins*

20 mins

40-70 mins

* Off-peak frequency; peak journeys Wallington and Purley Old Lodge Lane every 10-11 mins
† Plus peak and Sat journeys Purley Fountain and Purley Old Lodge Lane every 10 mins
 
From Purley Old Lodge Lane, the route took about 29 minutes to reach Hackbridge.  The November 1959 timetable is here and the July 1967 one here.
 
Faretable
The 1965 faretable is here.
 
RF allocation

New RFs delivered Jan 53: 408, 410, 412 + 299, 300 ex-trainers (total 5, no spares).  RF485 was transferred into Croydon in September 1954 to provide a spare.

 

PVR 1953 (Jan): Mon-Fri 5, Sat 5, Sun 3
PVR 1953 (May): Mon-Fri 5, Sat 5, Sun 4
PVR 1953 (Oct): Mon-Fri 5, Sat 5, Sun 3
PVR 1954 (May): Mon-Fri 5, Sat 5, Sun 4
PVR 1954 (Oct): Mon-Fri 5, Sat 5, Sun 3
PVR 1958 (Apr): Mon-Fri 5, Sat 4, Sun 3
PVR 1960 (Oct): Mon-Fri 5, Sat 4, Sun 2
PVR 1962 (May): Mon-Fri 5, Sat 5, Sun 2
PVR 1966 (Jul): Mon-Fri 5, Sat 6, Sun 2
PVR 1966 (Aug, OMO): Mon-Fri 6, Sat 7, Sun 2
PVR 1966 (Dec): Mon-Fri 6, Sat 5, Sun 2

PVR 1970 (Oct): Mon-Fri 6, Sat 4, Sun 2

 
Memories

Doug Ely has now retired from London bus work, but recalls his time working from Croydon in the 1970s:

 

'I transferred mid-1972 to South Croydon garage (TC) thus being trained for RMLs and learning 59, 68, 130A/B, 190 and 197, quickly getting a place on the 130/59 rota.  Early in 1973, I trained as an OMO driver and type-trained on the RF, finding a spot on the 'C' group rota and learning 166, 233, 234/A/B (see map here).  Now, much to the annoyance of the senior drivers on the 'C' group who with their fareboxes did not have to handle money, TC's small allocation of six duties on the 154 was placed on the same rota, this time I was happy to allow my seniors to do my late shifts on the 'Cs' in exchange for their early shifts on the 154.

 

Unfortunately the mid 1970s were not a happy period for the DMS class, with often 50% of the pvr for the C1/C2 having no serviceable bus resulting in us drivers sitting in the canteen for hours on end, which personally I hated.  Changing to the 233/234/A rota cured that and gave me the chance to drive the RFs and later BLs, which were not as bad as people would have you believe, particularly in the winter when the heaters were much appreciated. 

 

I always found the RF comfortable to drive as long as one remembered to duck getting in and out of the cab; many a driver off the DMS routes regretted working a rest day on the 'scooters' when he cracked his skull the first time!  One thing that stood out was that the RF's performance did not seem to be affected by a heavy load, but the steering was another matter. We had Dunlop cross ply tyres at TC, which seemed out of all the major tyre manufacturers to have the largest tread area on the road, thus making the steering as heavy as could be. Towards the class’s withdrawal we had a few temporary transfers in from either K or NB which were fitted with radial tyres (Michelin I think) and were very much easier to manoeuvre.

 

I started on 234 group in the summer months, quickly finding that the RF could suffer from overheating (boiling) on hot days and when caught in heavy traffic in the Purley area, probably due to the underfloor engine and various water leaks. You could always tell when the bus approached, by the position of the filler half roundel flap, if it was down you were going to be broiled in the cab. One bus, RF380, was particularly bad for this and was often driven with the actual filler cap loosened, resulting in a very steamy time at bus stops.

 

Of course the opposite was true in the winter months; saloon heaters were often poor and the cab heater design meant that, at the very time you needed the heat when stationary with the doors open at a bus stop, the blower stopped as the engine was not revving. Couple that with the thick rimmed steering wheel and collection of coins for fares, which meant it was impossible to keep your hands warm in gloves and you can see that we had quite a tough time compared to DMS or RT/RM drivers.

 

Generally the 234 group was pleasant to work on without the hassles of Central Croydon traffic and the various rough estates, one thing however was a drag. Meal reliefs were, unless scheduled to run a bus in or out of TC, allocated at Purley Crossroads itself for about 45 minutes. Not enough time to get a bus to TC, have a meal and get back to take on your next bus. With no cafes in the local area to get a cuppa we had to sit on a bench at the bus stops or wander the local shops and bring sarnies to eat during turn around times at Old Lodge Lane or elsewhere. Needless to say the Trade Union at TC was not a very strong one!

 

A few of the regular drivers lived on the Wallington end of the route and, when schedules worked out, would nip home for their break and return on the bus they were due to take on at Purley. As a "new boy" I left one such driver behind because he had neglected to warn me to look out for him and was not at the stop so did not make the bus. Fortunately their were no passengers on board at Purley, and he came back on the next bus and spent some time chasing the clock to get back on time! One other character we had used to clean windows in his spare time and utilised the RFs to get his ladders to and from his house (back door open, slide in, place bucket and tools in and mount up at front).

 

Prior to the 166 going over to DMS, its SMSs were used on Sundays for rail replacement work needing single deck buses; subsequently we occasionally got allocated such jobs for the RFs, believe me working round narrow, unfamiliar and congested streets without power steering and poor demisters at night was not something you volunteered for twice unless desperate for a crust or two.

 

I can recall a couple of incidents that occurred; one was RF380 shooting out it's engine dipstick and oil over a car whilst the bus was stationary at Old Lodge Lane traffic lights, presumably the engine had pressurised up as it was well worn. Another concerned RF529 which, whilst in Wallington in June 1975, suffered a loss of power, then started to pop and bang loudly. I was instructed to take it to Sutton garage (A) for them to look at (pointless really as driving to TC would have taken much the same time and put the bus in its own shed if serious work was need). One listen from the engineers’ foreman at A resulted in an instruction to take it back carefully to TC as they could not do anything for me. On the journey back the bangs developed sparks and smoke, probably the timing had slipped, and the bus was left in the dead vehicle area and it was a few months before it re-entered service. I guess the work was undertaken in the old 'top dock' at the back of TC.  [Editor's note: RF529 survived to be exported to Mauritius, but RF380 did not last the course and was scrapped in 1976.]

 

RFs were replaced by BLs on 234A in January 1977, but the BL being used for type-training was also used each evening (provided the driver was trained of course) for the second half of the last duty. The driver using the normal Ultimate ticket machine for his first spell of duty and a spare Almex for his second spell. Doing this meant two waybills at the end of the day but had the plus of not having to catch a service bus to Purley as you took the BL, with the other driver bringing the RF back as he was finished anyway. So you see, partial conversion could be said to have happened before the last day!'

 

Peter Taylor (like so many others) used RFs to get to school.  He remembers: 'I used the 234 (and more usually the 234A) to travel to school from Wallington to Purley, between 1966 and 1971.  I have a lasting memory of us prim grammar school boys in our bright blue blazers and caps waiting politely to board the RF in Belmont Road while the scumbags from the secondary modern helped themselves to a free ride by clambering in through the emergency exit!  The poor old drivers never seemed to understand how the bus filled up so quick!'  [Ed note: as a 'senior road', maybe some of the drivers weren't as alert as they might have been while concentrating on the new task of collecting fares.  Where was the Inspector?  See the attached photo of an RF in Uxbridge in the 1970s, provided by Mike Nash - perhaps they had the same problem?  (no health & safety here...)]

 

 

Re-creation
The 60th anniversary of RFs was marked by operation on 17 March 2013.  The 234A was also operated by RFs during our 2007 Carshalton Running Day
 

RF406 is passed in Old Lodge Lane by the modern equivalent of the 234A.  The 12A was replaced by the 412, then by route 455 which runs from Wallington via Croydon and is operated by Arriva from Beddington Lane with Wright-bodied Cadets.  This is DWL60.

Photo © Steve Whitelegg