From omnibus to ecobus London's Transport Museum
A social history of London's public transport, 1829-2000
1901-1913
 
       
 
           
Trolleybuses  
Illustration of a Trolleybus from 'Modern Wonder' 1938

Trolleybus illustration from 'Modern Wonder' 1938
click thumbnail to view enlarged image
Trolleybuses are a cross between trams and buses. They were powered by overhead lines, and ran on pneumatic tyres instead of rails in the road. Trolleybuses were a useful replacement for the electric trams, as converting existing equipment was easy, and allowed for the use of much of the existing electrical power system, but saved on replacing the worn-out tram rails.  
Poster, By trolleybus to Kingston, F Gregory Brown, 1933

By Trolleybus to Kingston
F. Gregory Brown, 1933
click thumbnail to view enlarged image
 
 
1901-1913
Introduction of the Tube
Electric trams
Trolleybuses
Trolleybuses
Motor buses
Motor buses
Design for London
Feedback
We welcome any comments you may have regarding this part of our website. You can comment by email by clicking here.
Search the site
Click here to search this site. Java aware browser required.
 
Trolleybuses were demonstrated as early as 1909 in London, and first introduced in Bradford and Leeds in 1911. On 16 May 1931 the London United Tramways (LUT) started London's first trolleybus service between Twickenham Junction and Teddington, replacing the tram service. London Transport's large-scale conversion programme from trams to trolleybuses started in 1935.  
   
The era of the trolleybus was brief. The need for expansion of routes into the growing suburbs, cheap oil fuels and the cost of maintaining overhead wires began to make the trolleybus less viable. The replacement with motor buses began in 1959, and London's last trolleybus ran from Wimbledon to Fulwell on 9 May 1962  
   
Further reading  
Ken Blacker, Trolleybus, Capital Transport, 1981
John Day, London's Trams and Trolleybuses, London Transport, 1977
 
   
related topics  

1901 - 1913 : Electric trams
1901 - 1913 : Motor buses

  top
   
   
   
Motor buses  
   
At the end of the 19th century, most transport in London still relied on horse power. There were various experiments to try to look for alternative forms of power, such as electricity and steam. The development of the internal combustion engine made the motor bus possible and the first motor bus service ran in 1899. Early motor buses were not very reliable and had limited success. However, by around 1910, advances in design and technology had overcome many of these problems, and enabled motor bus operators to run services. The old horse bus associations found it impossible to compete with the new horseless carriages, and many went bankrupt. On 4 August 1914, the last horse bus service in London ran from Peckham Rye to Honor Oak Tavern. It was operated by Thomas Tilling, an independent operator, who also had the new motor buses in his fleet of vehicles.  
  top
Design for London  
Photograph of LGOC X-type motor buse, 1909
LGOC X-type motor bus, 1909
The London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) became the largest operator of motor buses. In 1908 the LGOC bought the Road Car Company, the Vanguard Company, and all its other main rivals, thereby gaining an almost total monopoly in London. It had sufficient resources to design and build its own vehicles instead of buying them from commercial manufacturers. Frank Searle (1874-1948) was the LGOC's chief engineer. He was a locomotive engineer who also had experience with motorised transport. The LGOC formed a subsidiary called the Associated Equipment Company (AEC) at Vanguard's old overhaul workshops in Walthamstow. Searle and the AEC set about designing buses specifically tailored for London's traffic conditions. Searle used this factory to design the X-type bus, a 34-seat double deck bus, which made its inaugural journey on 12 August 1909.  
  top
This was soon followed by an improved model, the B-type of 1910, which was the first mass-produced bus in the world, and by 1913 around 2500 had entered service. Early motor buses had open top decks and the driver, along with the passengers, was exposed to the elements. The next most significant development, the 1914 K-type, had its engine next to the driver, allowing enough space to carry 46 passengers. During the 1920s improved vehicles were developed, introducing pneumatic tyres (instead of solid tyres), and covered tops in 1925. Permission to introduce covered tops had to be granted by the Metropolitan Police, as it was feared they would make the buses too top-heavy. Illustration from 1915 pamphlet, B for B-type

B for B-type, from 1915 pamphlet
 
   
Photograph of the K-type bus, introduced in 1919

The K-type bus, introduced in 1919
Repairs and maintenance of buses were carried out at various garages across London, causing a large number of buses to be off the road at any one time. In 1921 a centralised overhaul works was opened at Chiswick, which reduced 'out-of-service' time for buses from 16 to 4 days. In order to reduce running costs, the LGOC looked at introducing the cheaper and more reliable diesel engines, and in 1932 the first mass-produced diesel bus, the STL-type entered service. Buses would continue to be designed specifically for London up until 1956 when the RM-type (Routemaster) was introduced.  
   
Photograph of the S-type bus, 1920


The S-type bus, 1920
 
    top
Further reading  
J Graeme Bruce and Colin Curtis, The London motor bus, London Transport, 1977
John R Day, The story of the London bus, London Transport, 1973
Charles Lee, The early motor bus, London Transport, 1974
 
   
related topics  
1829 - 1850 : Horse buses
1919 - 1918 : Integrated bus transport
1919 - 1918 : Bus developments
1946 - 1960 : The Routemaster bus
 
  top
Next: 1914 - 1918  
   
 
   

London's Transport Museum Home
Introduction | 1829-1850 | 1851-1875 | 1876-1900 | 1901-1913
1914-1918 | 1919-1938 | 1939-1945 | 1946-1960 | 1961-2000

copyright 2000, Transport for London