AEC Routemaster 4/5RM5/4
Park Royal H36/28R
The 630 trolleybus route took over from the former South Metropolitan tramway that ran between West Croydon and Mitcham on 12 September 1937, and was extended northwards over ex LCC tramway routes to a destination that, on the vehicle blinds, rather indecisively declared itself to be “Nr. Willesden Junction”. It was actually about half a mile short of that point, and, many years later, the displayed destination was amended to “Harlesden”. The 630 trolleys ran speedily, quietly and reliably for 23 years, until the cheapness of diesel fuel against the price of electricity, coupled with the costs of overhead maintenance, spelt the doom of the trolleybus, not just in London, but nationwide. The 630 route fell victim to the diesel bus after operation on 19 July 1960, and brand new Routemasters on rebranded route 220 took over the following day. Here is RM 339, delivered to LT on 16 May 1960, approaching the West Croydon terminal point shortly after the introduction of the 220 route – the trolleybus overhead wires are still in situ. Today, the Croydon transport scene has changed beyond recognition, and route 220 no longer serves the town.
Photograph and Copy contributed by Roger Cox
23/10/16 – 13:37
As we know, hindsight is a exact science, and it was probably a mistake to get rid of trolleybuses. They were quick, clean and quiet, but they were restricted to where they could go by the overhead wires, they were capable of traveling short distances when disconnected, and had they been allowed to advance, its quite possible they would now be able to store energy and travel quite long distances when disconnected. They could use a pantograph instead of poles which could be dropped at the push of a button, thus allowing them to overtake each other, or go away from the wires altogether, and a single wire would probably be sufficient. Given the world we live in today, the biggest problem would probably be cable theft, or am I just being cynical?
23/10/16 – 13:37
I bet a lot of people wish the trolleybuses had stayed, given current concerns over pollution in towns, not to mention fluctuating fuel prices. They were quiet, comfortable and electricity could be generated in many different ways.
24/10/16 – 07:15
How would a trolley with pantograph and a single wire work without a return to earth. Surely a conducting strip rubbing on the road surface wouldn’t work.
24/10/16 – 07:16
I have seen photos of early trolleybuses, where the vehicle had a half-cab layout and even a representation of a radiator. Seeing this one under the wires, I wonder why I looked for the poles on the roof!
24/10/16 – 07:18
And it’s a further irony that this section of road supports the overhead wires of the Croydon Tramlink.
The wheel has turned full circle, but I do regret the passing of London’s fabulous trolleybus system.
24/10/16 – 07:19
The 830 route reminds me of my having a girlfriend who lived in Croydon and I used to catch the last trolleybus across to Mitcham – they could do 60mph across the common, according to a driver, with a lot of shuddering! I’d then get a 118 to Morden and walk the last two miles home. It will cause no surprise to learn that the relationship was short-lived! We did go to the Majestic Cinema at Fair Green a couple of times.
London’s trolleybuses were quite sophisticated, with regenerative braking and many had chassisless bodies, not repeated until the Routemaster. LTE had to pay a wayleave on each pole, unlike municipal operators. Also, much of the electrical infrastructure dated back to the trams and was worn out, as were the trolleybuses by the 1960’s. Electricity costs (already mentioned)and limited flexibility with route changes or new, expensive suburb extensions sealed their fate. However, to ride on them with their silence, amazing acceleration and hill-climbing ability was exhilarating!
24/10/16 – 08:58
I think I’m right in saying that in the initial stages of design of the Routemaster there was the possibility of a trolleybus version being made.