Omnibuses and Cabs/Part I/Chapter X

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Omnibuses and Cabs by Henry Charles Moore
Chapter X
Chapter X
The Motor Traction Company's omnibus—An electric omnibus—The Central London Railway—The London County Council omnibuses—The "corridor 'bus"—The latest omnibus struggle—Present omnibus routes

On October 9, 1899, the Motor Traction Company, Limited, placed an oil-motor omnibus on the roads. No horseless omnibus had been licensed in London for over sixty years, and naturally, considerable interest was taken in the new venture. A trial run over the course, from Kennington Park to Victoria Station, viâ Westminster Bridge, had been made a week earlier. On that occasion the weather was very unpropitious, but the passengers were cheerful and drank success to the trip in a glass of wine. Then, midst cheers and blowing of trumpets, the motor omnibus started on its journey. It was a successful run, and, as already stated, on October 9, the omnibus began to earn money.

In appearance it resembled an ordinary omnibus robbed of its horses and pole. The driver had a covered seat low down in the front. The body of the vehicle was painted white, and the lower and storage part blue. While the omnibus was travelling no great fault could be found with it, but its warmest admirers could not say truthfully that when it stopped the sensation was pleasant. It vibrated abominably, and when I had my first ride on it, I echoed inwardly the hope expressed by a fellow-passenger that there was no bilious person present.

In the spring of 1900 the motor omnibus was running from Kennington to Oxford Circus, but, towards the end of the year, it disappeared from the London streets.

Some months before the Motor Traction Company's omnibus was placed on the roads an electric 'bus, belonging to a company which was bring floated, ran, on many afternoons, from Marble Arch to Notting-hill Gate. It was not licensed, and therefore all rides were free. This omnibus carried no outside passengers, an omission which would have doomed it to failure had it entered into competition with other omnibuses.

The proprietors of horse-drawn omnibuses have been accused of want of enterprise because they have not yet adopted motor vehicles, against which they are said to have a prejudice. But these accusations are absurd. Omnibus proprietors are convinced that when a really reliable electric 'bus has been invented, it will pay to adopt it. So far that omnibus has not been discovered although for two or three years the proprietors have examined carefully every vehicle brought before them.

In the spring of 1900 the Central London Railway was opened, and proved to be the most formidable rival that omnibuses have had since the introduction of tramways. The new electric railway runs from Shepherd's Bush to the Bank, the fare for the whole journey being twopence. The omnibus fare for the same distance was fivepence. The London General Omnibus Company, which has practically a monopoly of the road between Shepherd's Bush and Marble Arch, soon felt the effects of the Central London Railway's cheap fares and quick travelling, and found it necessary to transfer many of their Shepherd's Bush omnibuses to other routes.

With other electric railways projected, it is said, by some people, that the long-continued prosperity of omnibuses is drawing to a close. There seems however, to be no real reason for such an assertion. The District and Metropolitan Railways, when first opened, inflicted greater damage to the omnibuses than the Central London has done, and yet to-day their directors complain of omnibus competition. Railway directors bemoaning omnibus competition! Shillibeer was not, after all, wrong in believing that omnibuses could compete successfully with a railway.

The prosperity of electric railways by no means implies ruin to omnibuses. In fact, omnibus proprietors will, no doubt, before long, regard electric railways as their benefactors, for having removed a difficulty which has faced them for many years. The rapid growth of the population of London has made it necessary for the number of omnibuses to be increased every year, but the streets are already uncomfortably crowded with vehicles, and it will be impossible to continue adding to them at the same rate as heretofore. The electric railways, by carrying a portion of the public, will make an increase of omnibuses unnecessary.

The Central London Railway is not, however, the only formidable rival of omnibus proprietors which has recently sprung into existence. In 1898 the London County Council, authorised by the Tramways Act of 1896, took over the business of the London Tramways Company, Limited. This company, having failed to obtain statutory powers to run their trams over Blackfriars, Waterloo, and Westminster Bridges, started a service of halfpenny omnibuses connecting their termini with, respectively, Farringdon Road, Somerset House, and Trafalgar Square. The London County Council, on taking over the trams, extended the two latter omnibus routes by running their vehicles along the Strand, thus connecting their tram terminus south of Westminster Bridge with the terminus south of Waterloo Bridge. Until then the lowest fare for a ride along the Strand was a penny, but the County Council omnibuses took passengers from Trafalgar Square over Waterloo Bridge for a halfpenny. Naturally they were well patronised, and the old-established omnibus proprietors found an alarming decrease in their profits. The two big omnibus companies were the smallest sufferers by this competition. The London Road Car Company has no omnibuses crossing the bridges referred to, and the London General Omnibus Company is less represented in the south of London than in any other part of the metropolis. The action of the County Council was, therefore, felt chiefly by individual proprietors, who objected strongly to the rates, to which they contributed, being used for the purpose of injuring their business. They contended that the County Council had no more right to become omnibus proprietors than they had to start business as linen drapers or tobacconists, and, after taking counsel's opinion, sought an injunction to put a stop to the competition. Mr. Justice Cozens Hardy decided that the County Council were only authorised to purchase and work tramways, and as they could not confine their omnibuses to tramway passengers—for omnibuses came under the regulation applying to hackney-carriages, and were bound to take any passenger who paid his fare—their service was unlawful. He refused to grant an injunction pending the hearing of an appeal, but ordered the London County Council to pay the costs of the action.

In the Appeal Court. Lords Justices Rigby, Vaughan-Williams and Stirling held that the Council had no power to run the omnibuses, and the appeal with costs. An injunction was granted restraining the London County Council from continuing the omnibuses, the operation of the injunction being, however, suspended, provided that notice of an appeal to the House of Lords was given within a month.

After this decision the proprietors offered to take over the London County Council omnibuses and run them at the same fares and times, but the offer was declined and the appeal was carried to the House of Lords. At the time of writing the appeal has not been heard.

To the London County Council belongs the credit of having started all-night omnibuses, which were a great boon to many scores of workers in Fleet Street and Covent Garden. It may, however, be taken for granted that the venture was not a profitable one.

A new omnibus, called "the corridor 'bus,' was placed on the Putney and Liverpool Street road in 1900, by William Berg. From the outside the vehicle appears to be similar to the ordinary omnibus, but the inside seats are arranged crossways and some of the passengers sit back to back. The windows are fitted with blinds—a much-needed innovation. I have heard that one of the smaller omnibus companies intends to adopt "the corridor 'bus."

One of the keenest struggles between rival omnibus companies that has been witnessed for some years began in May last. It originated in the following way:—some twelve years ago the London General Omnibus Company opened a line of omnibuses from Kilburn to the Redcliffe Arms, Fulham Road. These omnibuses, which were painted blue, tapped Harrow Road, Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill Gate, Kensington High Street, and Earl's Court, and, before long, the line became one of the best patronised in London. But about a week before Whit Monday the London Road Car Company started a service of twenty-five orange-coloured omnibuses from Putney to Brondesbury, which traversed the entire route of the blue 'buses. The London General Omnibus Company immediately extended the journey of some of its "blues," making them run from Brondesbury to Putney, and its drivers at once began to oppose their "orange" rivals. The London Road Car Company then displayed in its omnibuses a "No Monopoly" protest, stating that a determined attempt was being made to run its cars off the road, and appealing to the public to "rally round the flag". A few weeks later a leaflet, headed "No Surrender!" was distributed in the districts through which the "oranges" and "blues" passed. It bore an illustration of a smart, well-patronised Putney and Brondesbury Road Car being followed by an almost empty knife-board omnibus. Beneath this amusing, but somewhat misleading, illustration were the following lines:—

"Welcome, welcome London Road-Car, beard the mammoth God of Shares,
Pioneers of all improvements, handsome cars and cheaper fares;
No more 'tube‘ and foreign gee-gees, onward, Road-Car, spread the light,
No more sixpence any distance after eight on Sunday night

"’No more turning back‘ said Buller, to the gallant rank and file;
No white flag was ever hoisted by the ’Dubs‘ from Erin's isle;
Strike no flag, and give no quarter, for with them it's 'outing-due.'
Good luck to the 'orange blossoms‘, for we've long since had the 'blues.‘

"Stand no nursing, Road-Car drivers, you've a right as well as they,
Forward, valiant standard-bearers, bravo "D" and "B" and "J."
Come to stay's the public verdict, bull-dog pluck cannot be beat,
Men and masters, pull together, no surrender ! no retreat!

"To the public I'm appealing; forward help this gallant band,
'Neath the grand old flag of England in your thousands take your stand;
Trace to them all known improvements, now, as in the days of yore,
When a change is really needed, they'll send five-and-twenty more,"

"Cead a Mille Failthe"

"D" and "B" and "J" are Mr. Duff, the manager of the Road Car Company, and Messrs. Bristow and Jones, two other officials.

The London Road Car Company has certainly, during its comparatively short career, been more enterprising than its rivals in providing for the comfort of the omnibus-travelling public; but it is scarcely entitled to much sympathy in connection with the Putney and Brondesbury struggle, considering that, not many years ago, it meted out to a small company treatment similar to that of which it now complains. It compelled that company which also issued an appeal to the public to submit to its terms, in spite of the fact that, unlike the London General Omnibus Company and other companies who are members of the various associations, it does not pay compensation for placing its omnibuses on a route which another company has planned and worked into success.

It is somewhat surprising that the London General Omnibus Company and the proprietors associated with it have not thought it advisable to publish periodically, for the convenience of the public, a list of their routes. Visitors to London are frequently in need of such a guide. The following is a list of omnibus lines which run through or into London.

Acton and Charing Cross (viâ Shepherd's Bush, Bayswater Road, Oxford Street, and Upper Street).

Baker-street Station and Victoria (viâ Baker Street, Grosvenor Square, and Hyde Park Corner).

Baker-street Station and Waterloo (viâ Baker Street, Bond Street, and Westminster Bridge).

Barnes and Uxbridge Road (viâ Hammersmith Broadway).

Barnes Common and Liverpool Street (viâ Putney Bridge, Walham Green, Brompton Road, Piccadilly, and Strand).

Barnsbury and Brixton (viâ Liverpool Road, General Post Office, and Blackfriars Bridge).

Battersea and South Hackney (viâ King's Road, Chelsea, Sloane Street, Piccadilly, Strand, Bank, and Bethnal-green Road).

Blackwall and Piccadilly Circus (viâ Commercial Road, Shoreditch, Bank, and Strand).

Bow and Oxford Circus (viâ Mile End Road, Bank, and Strand).

Brixton and Gracechurch Street (viâ Kennington and London Bridge).

Brixton and Oxford Circus (viâ Kennington, Westminster Bridge, and Piccadilly Circus).

Brixton and Paddington Station (viâ Kennington, Elephant and Castle, Blackfriars Bridge, Gray's-inn Road, Euston Road, and Marylebone Road).

Camberwell and Camden Town (viâ Elephant and Castle, Waterloo Bridge, Strand, Oxford Circus, and Portland Road.

Camberwell and Clapham Common (viâ Loughboro' Junction and Brixton).

Camberwell and King's Cross (viâ Elephant and Castle, Waterloo Bridge, and Gray's-inn Road).

Camberwell and Shoreditch Church (viâ Elephant and Castle, London Bridge, and Liverpool-street Station).

Camden Town and Kent Road (viâ Elephant and Castle, Waterloo Bridge, Strand, Oxford Circus, and Portland Road).

Chalk Farm and Victoria (viâ Hampstead Road, Tottenham-court Road, Charing Cross, and Victoria Street).

Child's Hill and Charing Cross (viâ Finchley Road, Baker Street, Wigmore Street, Oxford Circus, and Piccadilly Circus).

Clapham Common and Victoria (viâ Battersea Bridge and Buckingham-palace Road).

Clapham Junction and Hyde Park (viâ Albert Bridge, King's Road, Chelsea, and Sloane Street).

Clapham Junction and Shepherd's Bush (viâ Albert Bridge, King's Road, Sloane Street, Kensington Church, and Notting-hill Gate).

Clapton and Elephant and Castle (viâ Dalston Junction, Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, and London Bridge).

Clapton and Finsbury-park Station (viâ Stoke Newington, Green Lanes, and Brownswood Park).

Cricklewood and Charing Cross (viâ Kilburn, Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus).

Ealing and Tottenham-court Road (viâ Acton, Shepherd's Bush, Bayswater Road, and Oxford Street).

Earl's Court and Elephant and Castle (viâ Cromwell Road, Sloane Street, Victoria Station, Vauxhall Bridge, and Kennington).

Elephant and Castle and Islington (viâ London Bridge, Bank, General Post Office, and Goswell Road).

Farringdon Road and Blackfriars Bridge (viâ Ludgate Circus).

Finchley and Charing Cross (viâ East Finchley, Highgate Archway, Junction Road, Camden Town, Hampstead Road, and Tottenham-court Road).

Finchley and Oxford Circus (viâ Church End, Child's Hill, Swiss Cottage, Baker Street, and Wigmore Street).

Finchley Road (North Star) and Fulham Road (viâ Kilburn, Harrow Road, Westbourne Grove, Notting-hill Gate, Kensington, and Earl's Court Road).

Finsbury Park and Kent Road (viâ Highbury Barn, Upper Street, New North Road, Bank, and Elephant and Castle).

Finsbury Park and Victoria (viâ Seven Sisters' Road, Camden Road, Hampstead Road, Tottenham-court Road, Charing Cross, and Victoria Road).

Fulham and Bethnal Green (viâ Walham Green, King's Road, Chelsea, Sloane Square, Victoria Station, Whitehall, Strand, and Bank).

Fulham and Liverpool Street (as above).

Fulham and Oxford Circus (viâ King's Road, Chelsea, Sloane Street, and Piccadilly).

Gospel Oak and Victoria (viâ Ferdinand Road, Hampstead Road, Charing Cross, and Victoria Street).

Gower-street Station and Edgware-road Station (viâ Tottenham-court Road, Oxford Street, and Edgware Road).

Hammersmith and Caledonian Road (viâ Kensington, Piccadilly, Tottenham Court Road, and Euston Road).

Hammersmith and Liverpool Street (viâ Kensington, Piccadilly, Strand, and Bank).

Hammersmith and Walham Green (viâ Fulham).

Hammersmith and Wandsworth (viâ Fulham, Walham Green, and Wandsworth Bridge).

Hampstead and Oxford Street (viâ Haverstock Hill, Hampstead Road, and Tottenham-court Road).

Hanwell and Oxford Circus (viâ Ealing, Acton, Shepherd's Bush, Bayswater Road, and Oxford Street).

Harlesden and Charing Cross (viâ Kensal Green, Harrow Road, Paddington Station, Edgware Road, and Oxford Circus).

Hendon and Oxford Circus (viâ Golder's Hill, Child's Hill, St. John's Wood, Baker-street Station, and Wigmore Street).

Highbury Barn and Putney Bridge (viâ Upper Street, Rosebery Avenue, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly, Sloane Street, King's Road, and Parsons Green).

Highgate and London Bridge (viâ Holloway Road, Upper Street, and City Road).

Highgate and Victoria (viâ Junction Road, Camden Town, Tottenham-court Road, Charing Cross, and Victoria Street).

Holloway and Baywater (viâ Camden Road, St. John's-wood Road, Maida Vale, Westbourne Grove, and Queen's Road).

Holloway and Fulham (viâ Caledonian Road, Euston Road, Portland Road Station, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly, South Kensington and West Kensington).

Hornsey Rise and Sloane Square (viâ Islington, Euston Road, Baker Street, Park Lane and Sloane Street).

Hornsey Rise and Victoria (viâ Seven Sisters' Road, Upper Street, Gray's-inn Road, Chancery Lane, Strand, and Victoria Street).

Islington and Kensington (viâ Pentonville Road, Euston Road, Marylebone Road, Westbourne Grove, and Notting-hill Gate).

Kensal Green and London Bridge (viâ Harrow Road, Paddington Station, Edgware Road, Oxford Street, Holborn, and Bank).

Kentish Town and Elephant and Castle (viâ College Road, Gray's-inn Road, Holborn, and Blackfriars Bridge).

Kentish Town and London Bridge (viâ College Road, Gray's-inn Road, and Holborn).

Kilburn and Charing Cross (viâ Maida Vale, Oxford Street, and Regent Street).

Kilburn and Liverpool Street (viâ Maida Vale, Oxford Street, Holborn, and Bank).

Kilburn and London Bridge (viâ Maida Vale, Oxford Street, Holborn, and Bank).

Kilburn and Victoria (viâ Maida Vale, Edgware Road, and Park Lane).

Kilburn and Willesden Junction (viâ Willesden Lane and Harlesden).

Knightsbridge and Battersea Bridge (viâ Sloane Street).

Mile End and West Brompton (viâ Bank, Holborn, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly, and Brompton Road).

Moorgate-street Station and London-bridge Station (viâ Bank).

Muswell Hill and Charing Cross (viâ Highgate Archway, Camden Town, and Tottenham-court Road).

Notting Hill and Liverpool Street (viâ Westbourne Grove, Paddington Station, Oxford Street, Holborn, and Bank).

Notting Hill and London Bridge (viâ Portobello Road, Westbourne Grove, Paddington Station, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Strand, and Cannon Street).

Old Ford and Bank (viâ Bethnal-green Road, and Shoreditch).

Old Ford and Oxford Circus (viâ Bethnal-green Road, Bank, and Holborn).

Paddington Station and London Bridge (viâ Praed Street, Edgware Road, Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Strand).

Peckham and Oxford Circus (viâ Camberwell, Westminster Bridge, and Regent Street).

Peckham and Victoria (viâ Camberwell, Kennington, and Vauxhall Bridge).

Putney and Brondesbury (viâ Fulham Road, Earl's Court Road, Notting-hill Gate, Westbourne Grove, Harrow Road, and Kilburn).

Putney and Liverpool Street (viâ Walham Green, Brompton Road, Piccadilly, Strand, and Bank).

St. John's Wood and Camberwell (viâ Baker Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Westminster Bridge, and Elephant and Castle).

St. John's Wood and Kent Road (as above).

St. John's Wood and London Bridge (viâ Baker Street, Oxford Street, Holborn, and Bank).

Shepherd's Bush, and Burdett Road, Mile End (viâ Bayswater Road, Oxford Street, Holborn, Bank, and Mile-end Road).

Shepherd's Bush and Liverpool Street (viâ Bayswater Road, Oxford Street, Holborn, and Bank).

Shepherd's Bush and Walham Green (viâ Olympia and West Kensington).

South Hackney and Bank (viâ Hackney Road).

Stamford Hill and Elephant and Castle (viâ Kingsland Road, Shoreditch, Bank, and London Bridge).

Starch Green and Liverpool Street (viâ Shepherd's Bush, Bayswater Road, Oxford Street, Holborn, and Bank).

Stoke Newington and Victoria (viâ Newington Green, Essex Road, Angel, Gray's-inn Road, Chancery Lane, Strand, and Victoria Street).

Summer's Town and Hammersmith (viâ Earlsfield, Wandsworth Bridge, and Walham Green).

Tollington Park and London Bridge (viâ Seven Sisters' Road, Upper Street, City Road, and Bank).

Tollington Park and Victoria (viâ Seven Sisters' Road, Upper Street, Gray's-inn Road, Chancery Lane, Strand, and Victoria Street). Another route (viâ King's Cross, Bond Street, and Piccadilly).

Tulse Hill and King's Cross (viâ Herne Hill, Loughboro' Junction, Camberwell Green, Elephant and Castle, Waterloo Bridge, Chancery Lane, and Gray's Inn Road).

Turnham Green and Clapham Junction (viâ Goldhawk Road, Bayswater Road, Notting-hill Gate, Kensington Church, and Sloane Street).

Turnham Green and Liverpool Street (viâ Hammersmith, Broadway, Kensington, Piccadilly, Strand, and Bank).

Victoria and King's Cross (viâ Hyde Park Corner, Piccadilly, Long Acre, Southampton Row, and Russell Square). Another route (viâ Hyde Park Corner, Piccadilly, Bond Street, Oxford Street, Tottenham-court Road, and Euston Road).

Victoria and Liverpool Street (viâ Victoria Street, Strand, Fleet Street, and Bank).

Walham Green and Islington (viâ Brompton Road, Piccadilly, Regent Street, Portland-road Station, Euston Road, and Pentonville Road).

Walham Green and Highbury (viâ Piccadilly, Euston Road, Pentonville Road, and Upper Street).

Wandsworth and Liverpool Street (viâ King's Road, Chelsea, Victoria, Strand, and Bank).

Waterloo Station and Liverpool Street (viâ Blackfriars Bridge and Bank).

Waterloo Station and Westminster Bridge (viâ Strand)

Westbourne Grove and Victoria (viâ Praed Street, Edgware Road, and Park Lane).

West Hampstead and Elephant and Castle (viâ Abbey Road, Eyre Arms, Baker Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street, and Westminster Bridge).

West Hampstead and Fulham Road (viâ Kilburn, Westbourne Grove, Notting-hill Gate, Kensington, and Earl's-court Road).

West Kensington and London Bridge (viâ South Kensington, Brompton Road, Piccadilly, Holborn, and Bank).

West Kensington and Shoreditch (viâ South Kensington, Strand, Bank, and Liverpool Street).

West Kilburn and Charing Cross (viâShirland Road, Edgware Road, Oxford Street, and Regent Street).

West Kilburn and London Bridge (viâ Shirland Road, Edgware Road, Oxford Street, Holborn, and Bank).

West Kilburn and Victoria (viâ Shirland Road, Edgware Road, and Park Lane).

West Norwood and Oxford Circus (viâ Kennington, Westminster Bridge, and Piccadilly Circus).

Westminster and Liverpool Street (viâ Moreton Street, Great Smith Street, Whitehall, Strand, and Bank).

Willesden and Charing Cross (viâ Willesden Lane, Salusbury Road, Shirland Road, Edgware Road, and Oxford Street).

Willesden and Victoria (viâ Willesden Lane, Salusbury Road, Shirland Road, Edgware Road, and Park Lane).

Wormwood Scrubbs and Liverpool Street (viâ Notting Hill, Westbourne Grove, Praed Street, Oxford Street, Holborn, and Bank).

Wormwood Scrubbs and London Bridge (viâ Notting Hill, Westbourne Grove, Praed Street, Oxford Street, Holborn, and Bank).


During the summer months many omnibuses are taken off the City Roads on Sundays, and run into the suburbs. The chief of these Sunday routes are :—
Bank and Romford Road (viâ Bow and Stratford).

Charing Cross and Richmond (viâ Kensington, Hammersmith, Chiswick, and Kew Bridge).

Kensal Green and Richmond (viâ Shepherd's Bush, Barnes, Mortlake).

Oxford Circus and Hayes Common (viâ Shepherd's Bush, Acton, Ealing, and Hanwell).

Oxford Circus and Welsh Harp (viâ Kilburn and Cricklewood).

Stoke Newington and Hadley Woods (viâ Wood Green and Southgate).

Tottenham-court Road and Stonebridge Park (viâ Kensal Green and Harlesden).