This evocative image of a London horse-drawn bus standing in front of a motorised bus comes from a collection of glass plate negatives donated to our archive. This is the 48 service from Cambridge Road to Earls Court Road, according to the sign on the side:
But when was it taken? We thought that horse-drawn and motorised buses can’t have shared the road for long, so we contacted the London Transport Museum to see if they could provide a date. We were hoping to narrow it down to the decade, perhaps even the year.
Year? Piffle – the LTM staff and volunteer researchers are better than that – they narrowed it down to the DAY!
Emily Cartwright from the LTM told us:
“You are correct in thinking the overlap for horse and motor buses sharing the road was rather brief. In the early 1900s motor buses first began to appear on London’s roads. Some of these were not very reliable and horse buses continued to run successfully. The largest bus company in London the London General Omnibus Company (LGOC) decided to develop their own design, incorporating all the best features from the various experimental types in service. The B type bus was born and first appeared on London’s roads in 1910. Within a year all the LGOC horse buses had been replaced, with the last one running in October 1911 between London Bridge and Moorgate Street. The last horse bus service in London ran in August 1914, after which many of the horses were required for war service.
With a bit of help from some books in our Library and the expert knowledge of one of our volunteers, we think we can date the photo rather precisely.
The route 28 motor bus in the photo is B-type bus number B338 with registration LA9926, it was allocated to Middle Row garage in North Kensington. I have checked in the book The London B-type motor omnibus by G.J. Robbins & J.B. Atkinson, World of Transport, 1991 and buses numbered B255-507 were delivered between May and August 1911.
The horse bus in the picture is horse route 48 operated by the London General Omnibus Company. The code YB on the side of the bus tells us where the bus was allocated, ‘Y’ means that the bus operated from the Chelsea depot premises, and the second letter ‘B’ denoted the particular times in the schedule that each bus occupied. For example ‘A’ would be the first one to enter service in the morning, ‘B’ the second, ‘C’ the third and so on. These codes were used until 2 November 1911 when a standardised garage coding system was introduced.
The picture was probably taken on either Sunday 30 or Monday 31 July 1911. Horse route 48 last ran on the Sunday, and motor route 28 which replaced it started on the Monday. We think the Sunday is more likely; as the vehicles, horses and staff would have been available for this posed shot, as on the Monday all the new motors would be needed for service, and the work of disposing of the newly redundant buses and horses would need to start.”
The men in this image are very smartly dressed, so we agree that Sunday is the likely date. All we need to know now is – who are they? Any ideas?
Many thanks to Emily and her volunteers for their brilliant sleuthing. For more information about the London Transport Museum, go to their website or contact the Information Desk: firstname.lastname@example.org .