London Transport NIGHT
Night Routes N84–N88

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London Transport used black “E” plates with white lettering for night routes to distinguish them from the daytime services. These plates are far less common than the white versions as there were, until the 1990s, relatively few all-night routes. They are rarely seen nowadays, especially as it was such a small network of routes with many “E” plate variations. Unfortunately, the black enamel plates never seem to survive particularly well. Split night routes come in many combinations, and some of them are extremely difficult to find, having often been produced for just a single stop.

N84 NIGHT
N84 NIGHT FARE STAGE N84 NIGHT SEE BELOW
This “E” plate will have come from a stop with a limited service, and is extremely rare.
N84 NIGHT LIVERPOOL STREET N84 NIGHT - N97 NIGHT
Routes N84 and N97 only ran together in the up direction between Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, which is wheere this plate likely came from. Both routes also served Liverpool Street Sttation, but as the N88 only visted there irregularly, that stop probably had a SEE BELOW “E” plate.

Route N84 was renumbered from 284 in 1960, which itself had been introduced only a few months earlier to replace the night trolleybus service on route 665. It ran between Trafalgar Square and Poplar via Piccadilly Circus, Bloomsbury, Theobalds Road, Old Street, Clerkenwell, Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, Aldgate, Stepney East and Limehouse; with a single journey extended to Barking via Canning Town, Plaistow, Upton Park and East Ham. The service was very irregular, and comprised just one bus running along the route. Subsequently the timetable was revised and the Barking journey was extended to Becontree Heath via Longbridge Road, and the service between Bloomsbury and Trafalgar Square reduced to just one trip. Latterly the journeys to and from Liverpool Street for driver meal breaks were “livened up” to run in service. The service has long since been withdrawn and now forms part of 24-hour route 15.

Route N97 was similarly renumbered from 297 in 1960. It ran between Liverpool Street and Turnham Green Garage via Bank, St. Paul’s, Ludgate Circus, Fleet Street, Strand, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Green Park, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, South Kensington, Fulham Broadway, Dawes Road, Hammersmith and Stamford Brook. It was subsequently rerouted to serve Earl'’s Court. In 1977, when the Piccadilly Line was extended to Heathrow, the N97 was extended to Heathrow Airport via Chiswick, Gunnersbury, Brentford, Isleworth, Hounslow, Hounslow West, Cranford and Harlington Corner, and at the same time was introduced on Saturday night/Sunday morning and substantially increased in frequency. This was the start of a steady increase in the night bus network which has resulted in the extensive network that we have today. The route still runs today, but only between Trafalgar Square and Hammersmith, having been replaced to Heathrow by route N9.


Route N85 was renumbered from 285 in 1960. It ran from Victoria Embankment to Grove Park Station via Blackfriars, Elephant & Castle, Old Kent Road, Bricklayers Arms, New Cross, Lewisham, Catford and Downham Way. It was subsequently rerouted to serve Trafalgar Square via Fleet Street and the Strand. The route now forms part of today’s route N36. Routes N86 and N87 are described below.

N85 NIGHT
N85 NIGHT
N85 NIGHT
These three “E” plates show an interesting variation in letter sizes.
N85 NIGHT N86 NIGHT
This split “E” plate is unusual in several ways: it is painted aluminum, there is no dividing line between the two routes, and the figure 8s are of a different style composed of two circles rather than with the lines crossing in the middle.
N85 NIGHT - N86 NIGHT
N85 NIGHT - N86 NIGHT - N87 NIGHT
It is astonishingly rare to find triple split “E” plates at the best of times, and being a night plate makes this one even more unusual. The three routes ran in parallel between Victoria Embankment and Elephant & Castle. This plate would have been produced for a stop which had a great many routes serving it, possibly the Trafalgar Square terminus.

N86 NIGHT N86 NIGHT - N91 NIGHT

Route N86 was renumbered from 286 in 1960. It ran from Victoria Embankment to New Cross Brockley Rise (Chandos) via Blackfriars, Elephant & Castle, Camberwell Green and Peckham. Subsequently a couple of journeys were extended to Brockley Rise (Chandos) via Brockley. Some years later it was rerouted to serve Trafalgar Square via Fleet Street and Strand and now forms part of route N171.

Route N91 was renumbered from 291 at the same time. (The 291 was the first night bus route, starting before the First World War.) It ran between Liverpool Street and Willesden Garage via Bank, St. Paul’s, Ludgate Circus, Fleet Street, Strand, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus, Marble Arch, Edgware Road, Harrow Road and Harlesden. It was subsequently rerouted to serve Paddington Station, and the route now forms part of today’s route 6, which runs 24 hours.


The N87 was a long-standing night-route with its origins as an all-night tram service. Introduced as route 287 after the withdrawal of the trams in 1952, it ran in both directions around a circular route in a figure of “8” from Victoria Embankment via Westminster, Kennington, Balham, Clapham, Tooting, Streatham, Brixton, Stockwell, Kennington, Elephant & Castle and Blackfriars back to Victoria Embankment. It was re-numbered N87 in 1960 in order to free up its original number for the new bus routes which were replacing the trolleybus services from the late 1950s. In later years it was rerouted to serve Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, Strand and Fleet Street instead of Victoria Embankment. Buses ran both ways around the loops every 24 minutes, which in those days made it the most frequent (and regular) night bus. It was replaced in the mid-90s by a number of other routes when the re-organisation and enhancement of the night bus network took place, and is now covered mainly by the 88, today’s N44 and the N133.

Route N88 is described below. Route N97 is described above.

N87 NIGHT
Like many night bus plates, this plate was not manufactured to a particularly high quality and bears a number of small chips and scratches. It probably dates from the 1970s.
N87 NIGHT
Of special note is the smaller-than-usual N on this “E” plate.
N87 NIGHT ALIGHTING POINT ONLY
This plate will probably have come from the bus stop at the entrance to Brixton Garage, served only by buses terminating from the north, which did not make the normal stop outside the garage. As far as I know, there would not have been any other bus stops that would have been served only by terminating buses. I believe this to be an astonishingly rare plate and only two would have been made.
N87 NIGHT VIA STREATHAM
N87 NIGHT VIA TOOTING
This “E” plate may have come from Kennington, where southbound buses ran to Streatham via both Tooting Broadway and Brixton.
N87 NIGHT - N88 NIGHT
This plate likely came from somewhere along the Trafalgar Square–Strand corridor.
N87 NIGHT - N97 NIGHT
Routes N87 and N97 ran together along Fleet Street and the Strand.

N88 NIGHT N88 NIGHT

Route N88 was renumbered from route 288 in 1960. The route ran between Wandsworth (Armoury Way) and Farringdon Street via Battersea, Albert Embankment, Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square and Aldwych. Meal relief journeys to Liverpool Street were “livened up” in 1975, and the route was also diverted to run via Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, Strand and Aldwych instead of Victoria Embankment in the 1970s.

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