Red RF routes

Route 250

Page last updated 23 January 2016

 

One of the Central Area's most rural routes, relatively unchanged for nearly 50 years but not surviving the retraction of outside-GLC services.
 
The epitome of a rural bus service - RF530 and passengers in Theydon Bois in 1964/5.
Photo Peter Osborn collection
 
Dates of RF operation
1 Jul 59 to 23 Apr 76
Converted to OMO 18 Nov 64
(total 16 years 10 months, of which 5 years 5 months crew-operated)
 
Destinations

HORNCHURCH GARAGE and EPPING TOWN (1 Jul 59 to 15 Jun 73)

ROMFORD STATION and EPPING TOWN (16 Jun 73 to 29 Nov 74)

ROMFORD STATION and EPPING St Margaret’s Hospital (30 Nov 74 to 23 Apr 76)

 
RF Garages
NS    Romford North Street
 
Reason for single-deck operation

Not known, but as there is no obvious physical restriction, it may have been due to the rural and infrequent nature of the service.  It is notable that all of the G-series routes operated in the Romford area in the 1920s and early 30s were single-decked.

 

RF415 sits in Victoria Road, Romford, on the stand used for the 250 and 86 in the early days of the Romford Ring Road.  This is soon after the route had been cut back from Hornchurch in 1973, at which point short-workings to Passingford Bridge were added to replace journeys on route 175.  Thanks to SCT61 for helping identify the stand!

Photo © Paul Redmond

 

Route history

The 250 has its beginnings in an un-numbered independent route, started by Capitol Omnibuses on 1 Sep 29 and running from Romford to Abridge.  The company used two single-deck TSMs, and extended the route from Abridge to Epping Town in March 1930.  However, a fire at their South Street depot caused a suspension of the service in July 1931; on re-introduction two months later, the route was managed by LGOC and using their S-class single-deckers.  The route was formally taken over by the General in November 1931, allocated to Hornchurch (RD) garage and numbered G7 in the special Romford area numbering system; the two Ss were replaced by a one-year-old T.  In the 1934 renumbering, the G7 became the 250.

 

The location of the southern terminus changed several times while the Epping Cock to Romford Station section remained constant.  From the beginning, certain journeys commenced from Romford Rainham Road/Gordon Avenue, about a quarter mile south of Roneo Corner.  This became the full-time terminus on conversion to the 250, until extended another quarter mile down Rainham Road to Laburnham Avenue in 1936. 

 

RF440 at Abridge in 1969December 1939 saw the section south of Romford Station dropped, replaced by an eastward extension to Gidea Park Station and (Monday to Saturday) Emerson Park Wingletye Lane (replacing the 256).  On these days, the Epping journeys ran only to Romford Station, with a separate section from Romford Parkside Hotel (close to the later site of North Street garage) to Emerson Park - a curious arrangement this, with one part a long, infrequent rural route and the other an intra-suburban service.  It didn't last - the Sunday section lasted six months and the Emerson Park journeys only until November 1940, when the Gidea Park to Emerson Park section was covered by new route 238 (to become one of the last OMO Cub workings in the Central Area).  The Gidea Park section was in any case covered by the Scooter-operated 247.

 
OMO RF440 passes the White Hart and crosses the River Roding at Abridge, on its way to Epping, in June 1969.
Photo © JGS Smith, Peter Gomm collection
 

Meanwhile, in October 1934, the 250 had a partner route 250A, also from Gordon Avenue, which diverged at Passingford Bridge for Ongar.  As would be expected in such sparsely populated country, the routes were infrequent even then, with about six through journeys each day on each. The 250A became the 123 (and later still the 175) when double-decked in December 1936, whereupon the section south of Romford Station was replaced by an increased service on the 250. 

 

Improved frequencies in 1943 and again in 1946 increased the vehicle requirement to 4 (5 on Sundays), still met by the now elderly petrol-engined 1T1s, occasionally supplemented by ex-Tilling 3T3s.  In October 1948, the first four of the second batch of TDs went to Hornchurch for the 250, with a single 1T1 retained as a spare and for the Sunday service until a fifth TD became available (on conversion of the 247 single-deck workings and 248 to TD - from LTL and T respectively - in April 1949).

 

RF440 in EppingIn May 1950, the route was extended to Hornchurch Garage, an arrangement that was to stand (except for Sundays in that first winter) for 23 years.  At the same time, the introduction of Sunday short workings between Epping and Theydon Bois increased the vehicle requirement, leading to the reappearance of two Ts (from the 252 allocation) on Sundays for that first summer.  For the summer of 1951, the shorts were replaced by an increase in frequency of through journeys from 30 to 20 minutes.  The Sunday requirement was now 7, the extra 3 TDs being available from the 248 and newly-converted 238.  These extra summer Sunday journeys worked each year until 1954.

 

RF440 again, on the same day, now waiting in Epping to make its long journey back to Hornchurch.
Photo © JGS Smith, Peter Gomm collection
 

The next change was the re-allocation of the 250 and its four TDs to Romford North Street (NS) garage on its opening on 12 Aug 53; the 238 and 248 did not move across and it is presumed that the extra Sunday buses were borrowed from RD. 

 

In November 1958, the route was rerouted south of Epping away from the direct 20 route to serve Ivychimneys Road, opening up new bus territory.  The next change was a curious extension, of certain Monday to Saturday afternoon journeys and just for eight weeks from February to April 1959, to Upminster and over the old 249 (withdrawn the previous year) to Corbets Tey.  These ceased on the reintroduction of the 249, now renumbered 248A and operating Monday to Friday peaks only.

 

Conversion to RF operation came a few months later, in July 1959, by which time it was the only single-deck route operating in the Romford area.  The route was obviously suited to OMO conversion, and it was one of the first four in November 1964.

 

Two weeks before the end of RF operation, 10 Apr 76, RF461 stands at St Margaret's Hospital.
Photo © John Parkin
 

The route continued unchanged (other than local rerouting on the redevelopment of Romford centre) until cut back from Hornchurch to Romford Station on 16 Jun 73.  On the same date, Monday to Saturday Passingford Bridge to Romford Station shorts were introduced, in replacement for these journeys on the immensely complex RT-operated 175 (whose through journeys to Ongar were covered by the new 175A).  The final change during RF operation was an extension in Epping to serve St Margaret's Hospital from November 1974. 

 

The route was finally converted to BL operation in April 1976, lasting less than eight months before discontinuation on 8 January 1977.  During their early days, the BLs were very unreliable, leading to gaps of up to three hours on this hourly route.  Consideration was given to bringing back RFs, but this was not actioned.  The 250 was replaced by joining the route end-to end with BL-operated 247 (Romford to Brentwood), making it then the longest route in London, with a journey time of around 100 minutes.

 

The 247 was itself to be finally withdrawn in July 1981.  Following the withdrawal of TfL from the area north-west of Passingford Bridge, the service between Abridge and Epping has become embroiled in the turmoil of Harlow's bus services.  After a period of no provision, the Greater London part of the route has been covered with one bus (except Sundays) by TfL route 375 between Romford and Passingford Bridge (still in the middle of nowhere); see Robert Munster's London Bus Routes site.

 
RF route in detail, with timing points
HORNCHURCH GARAGE (until 15 Jun 73), Hornchurch Road, Roneo Corner, South Street, ROMFORD STATION (from 16 Jun 73), South Street, Western Road, Mercury Gardens, Romford Town Hall, St Edwards Way (E), North Street, Romford North Street garage, North Street, Havering Road, Collier Row Lane, Collier Row Clockhouse Lane, Chase Cross Road, North Romford Chase Cross, Havering Road, Orange Tree Hill, Havering Green, North Road, Stapleford Abbots Royal Oak, Oak Hill Road, Stapleford Road, Passingford Bridge, Ongar Road, Abridge White Hart, Theydon Road (now Abridge Road), Theydon Bois Station, Coppice Row, Piercing Hill, Theydon Road, Ivychimneys Road Theydon Road, Ivychimneys Road, Central Drive, Station Road, High Street Epping, EPPING TOWN Grove Lane.  Extended from 30 Nov 74 via Palmers Hill, The Plain to EPPING TOWN St Margaret’s Hospital.
 
1949 map © London Transport.  Not the RF period, but the map has the advantage (denied later) of showing the whole route to Epping.
 
Frequency
Year Mon-Fri Sat Sun
1936 120 mins 120 mins 120 mins
1938 120 mins 120 mins 120 mins
1941 120 mins 120 mins 123-138 mins
1946 30-60 mins 30-60 mins 30-60 mins
1951 30-60 mins 30-60 mins 30 mins
1953 30-60 mins 40-60 mins 20 mins
1959 60 mins 60 mins 30 mins
1964 60 mins 60 mins 75 mins
1969 60 mins 60 mins 75 mins
1971 60 mins 60 mins 80 mins
1976 60 mins * 60 mins * 72 mins
* more frequent Romford - Passingford Bridge
 
The route took about 60 minutes from Romford to Epping Town, another 6 minutes from Hornchurch.  The July 1967 timetable is here.
 
Faretable
The faretable for May 1965 is here.  Note the minimum fares in operation for northbound journeys from central Romford.  Peter Crabb-Wyke confirms that the RFs did indeed carry 'Minimum Fare' slip plates.
 
RF allocation
PVR 1959 (Jul): Mon-Fri 3, Sat 3, Sun 5
PVR 1963 (Jun): Mon-Fri 3, Sat 3, Sun 2
PVR 1964 (OMO, Nov): no change
PVR 1973 (Jun): Mon-Fri 4, Sat 4, Sun 2
 
Memories
Whilst working the 250 in September 2006, a former North Street driver (unfortunately he didn't give us his name) came aboard and shared some memories of working RFs on the 250 in the early 70s.  One of the earliest was of a regular passenger, an old lady who boarded at Hammonds Farm, by the Rabbits pub north of Stapleford Abbots.  Her payment for the fare to Epping would be either 3/- or half-a-dozen eggs.
 
He also recalled that the Hornchurch terminus involved turning in the garage, except for the last journey at night by which time the garage was too full to turn and surrounding streets were used.  These became increasingly blocked with cars and he wondered whether this was a reason behind the route being cut back to Romford from 1973. 
 
Seeing the mounting for the Ultimate ticket machine on the cab door, he recalled that these had originally been situated on the inside of the door, but this allowed unscrupulous drivers to reissue old tickets and pocket the fare, so was changed.  Generally, his memory of the RF was of a nice bus to drive, and much nicer than the BLs that followed them.
 
Re-creation
As part of the NLTS Theydon Bois event in 2006, RFs worked the 250.
 
RF486 in Abridge, about to turn right across the River Roding towards Theydon Bois.  Such short-workings were not part of the the LT service, shorts from Romford turned at Passingford Bridge.  The forecourt of the Blue Boar in the distance was the terminus for RTs on the 10.
Photo © Peter Osborn