A hundred years ago new bus routes were opening in London every few weeks. After launching its new B type motor bus in 1910 the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) had replaced its entire fleet of horse buses with the new petrol driven wonder in just eighteen months. The B type was the bus equivalent of Henry Ford’s Model T automobile. It was cheap, sturdy and could be mass produced very quickly. But unlike Ford’s car it was not only available in black. The B types were all red, and this has been the distinctive colour of London’s buses ever since.
With motor buses the LGOC could extend its routes into the suburbs and out into London’s country. There were soon open top buses running as far out as Windsor, St.Albans and Dorking. When very few Londoners owned a car, they suddenly had cheap and easy access to the countryside with a Sunday bus trip, sometimes on the same buses that had carried them to work in central London during the week.
Some London bus routes have hardly changed over the years. The 24, for example, was already running from Victoria to the edge of Hampstead Heath 100 years ago. It still does, and appropriately enough it was chosen as the first route to use the brilliant New Routemaster buses designed by Thomas Heatherwick when they went into service last year. So, try taking a leisurely trip to Hampstead Heath on the top deck of the latest London icon.
Post written by Oliver Green, London Transport Museum Research Fellow