London Transport
Central Area Routes 50–55

Last updated 23-08-10.

From July 1971 to May 1988 route 50 terminated in Katharine Street, Croydon—along with a couple of of route 190 Monday-to-Friday morning and evening rush hour journeys—where this “E” plate likely came from.
Timecard from 19.7.1961
◀ A conductor’s timecard for duty BN4 (ROUTE 50 ADDISCOMBE TO EMBANKMENT), dated 19.7.1961.
Leaflet detailing the replacement of RTs with new DMS buses on July 24, 1971. ▶
Route 50 leaflet

Route 50 began operating on 7 January 1951 as a replacement for tram route 24, running Monday to Saturday peaks from Streatham Hill to Embankment (Horse Guards Avenue) via Brixton, Stockwell, Vauxhall and Westminster Bridge. In 1957 the Saturday service was withdrawn, and the routing revised to run Monday to Friday between Addiscombe (Black Horse) and Stockwell Station via St. James’s Road, Thornton Heath Pond, Norbury, Streatham and Brixton, extended during peak hours to Embankment via Vauxhall, Lambeth Bridge and Parliament Square. In 1959 the Saturday service was reintroduced. In 1964 service was withdrawn between Vauxhall and Embankment and instead diverted to Victoria at all times. In 1966 the route was withdrawn between Stockwell and Victoria except for Monday to Friday peak hour journeys. In 1968 Monday to Friday service was withdrawn between Streatham Garage and Addiscombe, partly replaced by new route 289. In 1970 Saturday service was once again withdrawn. In 1971 the 50 was withdrawn between Stockwell and Victoria but extended daily from Streatham to Thornton Heath (High Street) via Norbury and Melfort Road, and further extended on Monday to Friday to Croydon (Katharine Street). In 1982 Sunday service was withdrawn. In 1988 the route was withdrawn between Stockwell and Streatham, but extended from Croydon to Old Coulsdon (Tudor Rose) via Purley and Coulsdon, replacing route 190. In 1990 Sunday service was introduced. In 1998 the 50 was withdrawn between South Croydon (Swan & Sugar Loaf) and Old Coulsdon, replaced by a revised route 60. In 2003 it was extended from Streatham Garage to Streatham Hill Station, and from South Croydon to Croydon (High Street).

Route 190 was introduced in April 1951 running daily between Thornton Heath (High Street) and South Croydon (Swan & Sugar Loaf) via Brigstock Road, Thornton Heath Pond and Croydon. In October 1952 it was extended to Old Coulsdon (Tudor Rose) on Mondays to Saturdays via Purley, Coulsdon, and Marlpit Lane, replacing route 166A. The service on the 190 to Old Coulsdon became daily in May 1956 when the Sunday service was extended there replacing the 159. The Sunday service on the 190 with withdrawn completely in October 1970, and replaced to Old Coulsdon on this day by route 59. The Sunday service on the 190 was reintroduced in October 1978, replacing the withdrawn 59. In September 1987 school-day-only journeys were extended from Old Coulsdon to Taunton Manor School. However, just eight months later in May 1988 the 190 became a Sunday-only service, and was replaced by the 50. Route 190 was finally withdrawn in July 1990, the service to Old Coulsdon provided daily by route 50. The number 190 was subsequently used for a route between Fulham and Richmond via Hammersmith.

Route 51 ran daily between Sidcup Station and Farnborough via Foots Cray, St. Mary Cray, Sevenoaks Way and Orpington. Sunday afternoon journeys were extended on to Bromley Garage via Locksbottom. In 1958 the 51 was extended during Monday to Friday peak hours and on Saturdays and Sundays from Sidcup Station to Blackfen, and further extended on Saturdays and Sundays to Welling Station. The peak hour extension to Blackfen was withdrawn in 1962. In 1963 it was extended on Saturdays and Sundays from Welling to Woolwich (Hare Street) via Plumstead Common, and further extended during Saturday peak hours to Victoria Way. In 1964 it was extended on Mondays to Fridays from Sidcup to Woolwich, also with peak hour journeys to Victoria Way. Some p.m. journeys were also extended daily from Farnborough to Hayes Station. In 1968 it was withdrawn between Woolwich and Victoria Way, and new route 51A covered this extension. In 1977 the 51 was converted to one-man-operation and was extended during Monday to Friday peak hours from Woolwich to Charlton Station. It was also diverted at Orpington to run to Green Street Green instead of Farnborough. The Hayes and Bromley Garage journeys were not replaced. In 1982 it was withdrawn between Orpington and Green Street Green, and diverted to Orpington Station. In 1985 the extension from Woolwich to Charlton Station was withdrawn. In 1986 some Monday to Friday peak hour journeys were diverted to Green Street Green, but these were withdrawn in 1989.

Route 51C was a Saturday-only service between Welling Station and Green Street Green via Blackfen, Sidcup, St. Mary Cray and Orpington. In 1963 it was extended from Welling to Woolwich (Hare Street) via Plumstead Common, with a peak-hour (i.e. mid-day) extention to Charlton (Victoria Way, Woolwich). It operated for a decade, from November 1958 until June 1968.

Just a plain route 51 “E” plate, except that the number are closer together than normal.
This plate would have probably come from Woolwich where the Saturday peak-hour extention to Charlton would have had a different bus stop from the spot where regular journeys turned ’round. Rather unusually, this “E” plate has the SPECIAL JOURNEYS legend in smaller lettering to fit in one line rather than the standard two.
This “E” plate may have come from the p.m. extension from Farnborough to Hayes Station.
This plate is an especially interesting one and is likely to have come from a single stop at a bus stand. Normally, “E” plates along sections of route served only on Sunday—such as to Hayes and Bromley—had the days of operation shown and were red, hence my theory on this one.
This “E” plate would have been erected on a stop in the two miles of Woolwich Road and Church Street between Hare Street and Victoria Way.
Route 51 & 51A bus stop timetable
A full length bus stop timetable panel for route 51 to Bromley Garage (Sunday afternoons) and 51A to Farnborough (daily) and Green Street Green (Monday to Saturday), dated 18th April 1970. It would have been posted at a stop between Woolwich and St. Mary Cray. The opposite side shows journeys in the other direction.
This timetable came into effect on New Years’ Day 1994.


The original 51A operated Monday to Saturday between Sidcup Station and Green Street Green (Rose & Crown) via Sidcup High Street, Sidcup Hill, Foots Cray, Cray Road, St. Mary Cray, Orpington and Sevenoaks Road. In 1958 Saturday service was withdrawn, but Monday to Friday journeys were extended from Sidcup Station to Eltham (Well Hall) via Blackfen. It was withdrawn in June 1968.

Route 51A was reintroduced in September 1968, operating Monday to Saturday between Green Street Green and Woolwich (Parsons Hill) via Orpington, St. Mary Cray, Foots Cray, Sidcup, Blackfen, Welling and Plumstead Common, with a Monday to Friday peak-hours extension to Woolwich (Victoria Way). In 1971 the rush hour terminus was changed from Woolwich to Charlton Station, and in May 1977 the route was withdrawn.

This “E” plate could have come from either of the 52As, but the lack of full-stops after the abbreviations is more characteristic of later plates.

Route 51B was introduced in 1952 running during Monday to Saturday rush hours between Orpington Station and Sidcup Station via St. Mary Cray and Foots Cray. In 1958 it was extended during Monday to Friday rush hours from Sidcup to Eltham (Well Hall Station) via Blackfen. In 1964 it was withdrawn on Saturdays and revised to run all day on Mondays to Fridays between Sidcup Garage and Woolwich via Foots Cray, Blackfen, Welling and Plumstead Common. In 1968 it was withdrawn between Blackfen and Woolwich and reduced to rush hours only. In 1969 the route was withdrawn. This “E” plate would have therefore been used only between 1964 and 1968 when the route ran all day on Mondays to Fridays.


For some reason the 5x-series routes were particularly susceptible to variations in spacing on “E” plates (especially on the route 53 plates below).
After the manufacture of enameled “E” plates was discontinued in the 1980s, vinyl stickers were introduced which allowed for a greater variety of style and colour. Route 52 received a yellow background as it was branded as a tourist route (see below).
Route 52 timetable
This double-sided full-length panel shows times etc. for routes 52 between Victoria Station and Borehamwood, and 52A bewteen Colindale and Borehamwood. The lower section is printed in blue to indicate express jorneys with limited stops. The reverse side shows journeys in the opposite direction. It is dated 21st Jan 1959.
Route 52 timetable
A more recent bus stop timetable, dating from about 1980.
Route 52 blind
This is a screen-printed paper bill, as used on an “LL” blind dating from the 1980s. It shows “via” points and Route 52. It was operated by Willesden Garage at the time and ran all the way to Mill Hill. It was branded as a tourist route, hence the blue and yellow blind panel, which was made to fit the side/rear of the RM- and RML-class Routemasters. The manufacturing process would see the bill—or panel—pasted to the linen along with the other bills to make up the blind for this garage.

Route 52 ran daily from Victoria to Mill Hill (Green Man) via Hyde Park Corner, Kensington, Notting Hill Gate, Ladbroke Grove, Kensal Rise, Willesden, Neasden, Blackbird Cross, Kingsbury and Burnt Oak. It was extended during Monday to Saturday rush hours to Borehamwood (Warwick Road) via Apex Corner and Stirling Corner, with some journeys further extended to Borehamwood (Drayton Road). In 1951 it was withdrawn in Borehamwood between Warwick Road and Drayton Road, and the terminus was changed to Elstree Way Hotel, but in 1954 it was extended to Brook Road. In 1955 it was withdrawn on Mondays to Saturdays between Mill Hill and Borehamwood except for rush hour journeys to Drayton Road, and replaced by new route 52A. In 1956 it was extended on Sundays in Borehamwood from Brook Road to Rossington Avenue. In 1963 the Monday to Friday rush hour service was extended in Borehamwood from Drayton Road to Rossington Avenue. In 1966 it was diverted to run to Mill Hill Broadway and withdrawn on Mondays to Saturdays between Mill Hill and Borehamwood. In 1969 the Sunday service was withdrawn between Mill Hill Broadway and Borehamwood. In 1992 it was withdrawn between Willesden and Mill Hill Broadway.

Route 53 was renumbered from 53A in 1952 and ran daily between Camden Town and Plumstead Common via Great Portland Street, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Westminster, Elephant & Castle, Old Kent Road, New Cross, Deptford, Blackheath, Charlton and Woolwich, extended on Sundays to Plumstead Garage. In 1956 it was further extended on Sundays from Plumstead Garage to Erith via Wickham Lane, King Harolds Way and Bedonwell Road, replacing route 122A on this day. In 1963 it was withdrawn and the 122A reintroduced between Plumstead Garage and Erith on Sundays. In 1981 the Sunday service was diverted to terminate at the new Plumstead Garage at Plumstead Station, and the old garage was closed. In 1984 it was extended on Mondays to Saturdays from Camden Town to Parliament Hill Fields via Kentish Town, but was cut back to Oxford Circus at all times in 1987 when a local C2 route was introduced. In 2003 the 53 was withdrawn between Whitehall and Oxford Circus and replaced by new route 453.

A detailed history of route 53 can be found in Kenneth Warren’s book, The Motorbus in Central London (Ian Allan, 1986; ISBN 0 7110 1568 6).

Olympian in Regent Street
An unidentified Olympian on route 53, trundling down Regent Street during the height of the summer sales in 1993, is on its way home to Plumstead garage.
Photo courtesy dublo19
I don’t think the sign-maker could have put the two numbers any closer together on this “E” plate!

◀ David Woodcock writes: This “E” plate is a most interesting specimen that must have been used for both the 54 tram (note the larger than usual numbers) and 54 bus routes! The words that have been erased from it are GROVE PARK and it was displayed at the loading point at Victoria after changes had been made there in the late 1940s. (Trams reversed at a loading platform—complete with mini-clocktower—at the end of Vauxhall Bridge Road and an extra crossover was put in and the loading points split between routes—hence the need for “E” plates.) After conversion it must have been reused (on the same night) between Catford and Southend Pond where there had previously been no need for split bus stops. I wonder if whoever owns that plate realises just how rare it is?
HR2 class tram number 1896 on route 58 (Victoria Station–Blackwall Tunnel daily via Kennington, Dulwich, Catford and Greenwich), just departed the Victoria Station terminal. The 58 was replaced by bus 185 as part of Stage Five of the tramway replacement on 7.10.1951, so this photo obviously dates from before then. The clock tower referred to by Mr. Woodcock is visible in the enlargement, just below and to the left of the route 66 “E” plate. ▶
Ian Allan photo; LT3362
HR2 1896 Route 54 fare chart.
Fare chart for tram 54 (Victoria Station–Grove Park Station). ▲

The London County Council began running an electric tram service between Vauxhall and Camberwell Green via Kennington on 2 August 1903. Three years later (on 5 August) it was extended across Vauxhall Bridge to Victoria Station when statutory powers were amended to allow electric cars to work across the bridge. By the time London Transport absorbed the LCC system in 1933, the route was numbered 54 and had been extended to Grove Park Station via Peckham, New Cross, Lewisham, Catford and Downham. It was withdrawn on 5 January 1952 as part of Stage Six of the tramway conversions, replaced by bus 69.

Route 54 timetable dated 2.12.1973Although Central bus maps indicated that the 54 ran to Selsdon, this timetable dated 2.12.1973 shows Croydon (Fairfield Halls) as the Monday to Friday terminus. ▶

Bus route 54 ran daily between Plumstead Common (Woodman) and Selsdon (Farley Road) via Plumstead Common Road, Woolwich, Charlton Park Road, Blackheath, Lewisham, Catford, Beckenham Hill Road, Beckenham, Elmers End, Shirley Road, Addiscombe Road, East Croydon and Upper Selsdon Road. In 1959 the Sunday service was withdrawn between Woolwich and Plumstead Common, and in 1963 the Monday to Saturday service was similarly withdrawn. In 1965 some Monday to Friday peak hour journeys were extended at both ends of the route: from Woolwich to Woolwich Industrial Estate, and from Selsdon to Riddlesdown. A couple of journeys ran through from Riddlesdown to Woolwich Industrial Estate, and the timetable shows a running time of 1 hour 45 minutes! In 1969 the route was diverted on Sundays to run to the West Croydon bus station instead of Selsdon. In 1973 the Saturday service was similarly diverted, and the Riddlesdown journeys were withdrawn and replaced by route 12A. The Woolwich Industrial Estate journeys were also withdrawn later that year. In 1985 it was rerouted to run to West Croydon at all times, and the Saturday shopping hour service was extended from Woolwich to Charlton (Asda), although this was withdrawn in 1986. In 2000 the route was withdrawn between Elmers End and West Croydon to “encourage” people onto the new Tramlink service.

54 SAT.-SUN.
I believe this “E” plate would have come from the West Croydon section after 1973.

For some unfathomable reason, the spacing between the figures was always more variable on “doubled” routes (e.g. 55, 88, et cetera).
This “E” plate could have come from the Bloomsbury to Marylebone section, or between Aldwych and Waterloo. Unusually, the text does not have a dash between the words MON and FRI (nor any full stops).
This plate would have probably come from one of the short-working terminals, such as Bloomsbury (Red Lion Square), or possibly between Leyton Green and Leyton (Bakers Arms), as the route never had any special journey sections other than stand workings. It is therefore quite a rare plate.
5d route 55 & 153 ticketRoute 55 tickets
A selection of geographical punch tickets from route 55. The first one is marked LONDON PASSENGER TRANSPORT BOARD, which dates it ca. 1933-34. The other five tickets, all with the later-style small value overprint, were issued in the late 1940s.
RT950, 1972
RT 950 [KGK921] on its way to Walthamstow Garage.
photograph ©J.H. Blake, 1972.
Route 55 timetable leaflet
Timetable leaflet for the OPO conversion of route 55 starting 28 October 1972, with print code 972/3192S/47500. This is a fold-out leaflet with brief details of the changes and a fare table on the front. Inside are the bus stop timetables for the service and on the back are diagrams showing how to use split entrance buses.

Route 55 originally ran daily from Hayes Station to Chiswick (Edensor Road) via Yeading, Greenford, Hanwell, West Ealing, Northfields, Acton and Turnham Green, with a bifurcation to Chiswick (Grove Park Hotel) on Mondays to Saturdays. In 1955 it was extended beyond Hayes Station to Bourne Avenue. In 1968 it was withdrawn and replaced by new routes 274 and E3.

A new route 55 was introduced in 1969 running daily between Walthamstow Garage and Hackney (Well Street) via Leyton and Clapton. It was extended on Mondays to Saturdays, with some early Sunday journeys, via Cambridge Heath, Hackney Road, Old Street, Clerkenwell Green to Bloomsbury, and further extended on Mondays to Fridays via Oxford Circus and Baker Street to Marylebone Station. In 1971 the Monday to Friday extension was diverted at Holborn Station to run to Aldwych instead of Marylebone, and it was converted from RT/RM operation to to one-man-operated DMS buses in 1972. In 1978 it was extended daily to Aldwych, and the Monday to Friday peak hour service was extended to Waterloo Station. In 1981 it was one of just a few routes that were converted back to Routemaster operation, and was withdrawn between Walthamstow Central Station and Walthamstow Garage, and also diverted at Holborn to run via Piccadilly Circus and Hyde Park Corner to Victoria Station. In 1983 it was diverted at Leyton to run to Whipps Cross instead of Walthamstow Central. In 1987 the Sunday service was converted to single-deck Leyland National one-person-operation, and the Monday to Saturday service became opo later that year using Titans. Also that year the 55 was withdrawn between Tottenham Court Road Station and Victoria. In 1990 the route was withdrawn between Clapton Pond and Whipps Cross, and in 1992 was extended to Oxford Circus. In 1998 it was further extended from Clapton Pond to Leyton Green. In 2001 it was again re-converted to crew operation, this time using low floor doored double-deckers as an experiment to see how boarding times might be improved using conductors, but this experiment ceased in 2003 when it again became one-person-operated.

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