London Transport
Central Area Routes 56–59

Last updated 17-03-10.

56 MON.-SAT.This plate likely came from the original Isle of Dogs service, as by the time the route returned in 1980 new enamelled “E” plates were no longer being manufactured.

The original route 56 ran between Limehouse (Eastern Hotel P.H.) and Poplar (Blackwall Tunnel) via West India Dock Road, Westferry Road, Cubitt Town, Manchester Road and Preston’s Road. Evening journeys only operated between Limehouse and Cubitt Town. In 1961 Sunday service was withdrawn, replaced by route 277. Saturday service followed in 1964. In October 1969 the route was withdrawn, replaced in its entirety by the 277.

Route 56 was reintroduced in June 1980, operating on Mondays to Saturdays between Aldgate (Minories Bus Station) and Limehouse via Commercial Road, Stepney, Limehouse, West India Dock, West Ferry Road, Cubitt Town, Poplar, Blackwall Tunnel and East India Dock Road. During Monday to Friday peak hours it only ran between Aldgate and the Blackwall Tunnel. In 1984 the 56 experienced a major rerouting, now running from Aldgate to Commercial Road via Minories, East Smithfield, The Highway and Butcher Row; on Isle of Dogs via East Ferry Road, Limeharbour, Marshwall and Preston’s Road instead of Cubitt Town and Manchester Road; and diverted at Poplar to East Beckton (District Centre) via Canning Town, Barking Road, New Barn Street, Newham Way and Tollgate Road, the Poplar-to-Limehouse section being withdrawn. In 1985 service was withdrawn between Poplar (Bazeley Street) and East Beckton except for garage journeys to West Ham Garage via Barking Road and Greengate. In February 1987 the 65 was reduced to Monday to Friday peak hours only, then withdrawn completely in November of the same year.

In 1990 the number 56 was reused for a new route between Whipps Cross and West Smithfield (Barts Hospital) via Leyton, Clapton, Pembury Road, Hackney Downs, Dalston, Mildmay Park, Essex Road, Angel and Goswell Road, replacing route 55 from Whipps Cross to Clapton, route 48 from Clapton to Dalston, and route 277 from Mildmay Park to Smithfield. In 1993 it was diverted between Dalston and Essex Road via Balls Pond Road instead of Mildmay Park, and at the same time withdrawn on evenings and Sundays between Angel and Smithfield.


57 WEEKDAY
57 MON.-SAT. - 418
57 WEEKDAY
WEEKDAY plates are always rather more interesting as the expression became ambiguous in the ’60s as more and more people started to work a five-day week rather than a six-day one, and so the wording was changed to MON.-SAT. (or MON.-FRI., as appropriate). ▼ Routes 57 and 418 had no particular link (other than both terminated in Kingston), and the doubling up was purely a space-saver. The 57-418 plate’s exact provenance can be precisely pinned down since 1974, when it was originally displayed on a bus stop in Kingston town centre, and the 57 had recently changed to one-man operation. Route 476 replaced route 418 at the stop from where it came, and the 57-476 plate lasted for a much shorter time than its predecessor, as the Wood Street lay-by was closed as part of the Kingston town centre redevelopment not too long after the service was renumbered in 1979. I don’t think I have ever found any other split Central/Country plates (but I may stand corrected). Information leaflet for the conversion of route 57 from double-deck RTs to one-man-operated single-deck SMSs on 18 September 1971.
New schedule for the 57, effective 13 November 1971.
57 MON.-SAT.
57 MON.-SAT. - 476
57 WEEKDAY

Route 57 was introduced in 1951 as a tram replacement route and ran daily between Tooting Broadway and Victoria via Longcroft Road, Streatham, Brixton, Stockwell and Vauxhall. The Sunday service was withdrawn in 1958. In 1964 it was extended from Tooting Broadway to Kingston via Merton, Wimbledon, Worple Road, Raynes Park, Coombe Lane and Norbiton. It was also withdrawn between Stockwell and Victoria. The service beyond Streatham (St. Leonard’s Church) was reduced to Monday to Friday peak hours and Saturday shopping hours. In 1966 it was withdrawn completely between Streatham and Stockwell. In 1967 it was extended from Streatham to Brixton Garage. A Sunday service was introduced in 1992, and the route still runs today.

Route 418 ran daily between Kingston (Wood Street lay-by) and Bookham Station via Surbiton, Berrylands, Tolworth, Ewell, West Ewell, Epsom, Ashtead, Leatherhead, Great Bookham and Little Bookham. The service is still operated today as part of the London Buses’ network between Kingston and Epsom. The number 418 was later assigned to a summer Ramblers’ service from Sevenoaks.

The original route 476 was a Crawley local service. In the late ’70s the number was reused for the old 418 service between Kingston (Bus Station) and Langley Vale via Surbiton, Berrylands, Tolworth, Ewell, West Ewell and Epsom, with some journeys extended to Bookham Station via Ashtead, Leatherhead, Great Bookham and Little Bookham.


Route 57A was introduced in 1955 as a Sunday-only route, and ran between Streatham Garage and Victoria via Brixton, Stockwell and Vauxhall. In 1956 it was extended from Streatham Garage to South Croydon Garage via Thornton Heath High Street and West Croydon. In 1959 it was extended for the summer from Victoria to Hampstead Heath via Hyde Park Corner, Marble Arch, Baker Street, The Zoo and Camden Town. During 1960 and 1961, the summer-only extension ran to Camden Town. In 1966 it was withdrawn between Stockwell and Victoria, but extended from South Croydon Garage to Selsdon via Purley and Riddlesdown. In 1969 it was withdrawn between South Croydon Garage and Selsdon. In 1971 it was withdrawn between Thornton Heath High Street and Croydon. The route was withdrawn completely in 1978 under the BusPlan scheme.

Sunday-only routes are not at all common. The 57A was operated by RTs and later by some RTWs, with some RM operation later in the 1960s. By the early 1970s it was back in the hands of RTs, and DMs came in 1975.

Route 59 is described below.

57A SUNDAY
57A SUNDAY
Note the subtle differences between these “E” plates.
57A SUNDAY
57A SUNDAY
57A SUNDAY - 59 SUNDAY
This split “E” plate likely came from the common section of routes 57A and 59 between Streatham, Croydon and Thornton Heath. It is rather unusual, being for two Sunday-only services.

58 FARE STAGE

Route 58 ran on Mondays to Saturdays between Golders Green Station and Archway Station via Temple Fortune, Finchley, Falloden Way, Lyttleton Road and Archway Road, but was withdrawn in 1958.

The number was re-used in 1960 and the new 58 ran daily between Walthamstow (Crooked Billet) and Canning Town via Markhouse Road, Church Road, Wanstead Flats, Forest Gate and Upton Park, extended Monday to Saturday peak hours to Silvertown, and further extended during Monday to Friday peak hours to North Woolwich. In 1970 it was withdrawn between Canning Town and North Woolwich except for Monday to Friday peak hour journeys to Silvertown. In 1978 it was extended from Crooked Billet to Chingford Mount to replace part of route 256. In 1981 it was withdrawn between Leyton (Gloucester Road) and Chingford Mount apart from a service to Walthamstow (Crooked Billet) during Monday to Friday peak hours, Saturday shopping hours and all day Sundays, and replaced by new route 158. The peak hour service to Silvertown was extended to North Woolwich. In 1987 it was extended at all times to run to Crooked Billet, and further extended during evenings to Chingford Mount. In 1988 it was withdrawn between Walthamstow and Chingford Mount and rerouted to Walthamstow Central Station, and also withdrawn between Canning Town and North Woolwich, and also withdrawn on Sundays. It was reintroduced on Sundays in 1991. In 1993 it was diverted at Upton Park to run to East Ham (White Horse) instead of Canning Town.


Route 59 was a long-standing route and ran on Sundays only all the way from West Hampstead (West End Green) to Chipstead Valley via St John’s Wood, Baker Street, Wigmore Street, Cavendish Square, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Westminster, Lambeth Bridge, Kennington, Brixton, Streatham, Norbury, Thornton Heath, London Road, West Croydon, Croydon, South Croydon, Purley and Coulsdon. In 1964 it was diverted at St John’s Wood via Rossmore Road instead of St. John’s Wood Road, and later that year was converted from RTs to Routemasters. In 1966 it was rerouted via Westminster Bridge instead of Lambeth Bridge. In 1970 it was diverted at Coulsdon to run to Old Coulsdon (Tudor Rose), replacing route 190 on Sundays. In 1978 the route was withdrawn completely and replaced by routes 159 and 190. The 59 was worked from Croydon [TC], Streatham [AK] and Thornton Heath [TH] garages.

A later route 59—which did not start operating until February 1985, by which time enamelled metal “E” plates had been phased out in favour of vinyl stickers—ran between Brixton Station, Croydon (Park Street) and Purley, with varous peak hour and Sunday extensions.

DMS 447
DMS 447 [OJD447R] at Brixton Station in the late 1980s. The B(C)E6 stop flag has “E” plates for routes 50, 59, 95 and 133.
Mark Pitman photo, courtesy of London Bus Routes.
Route 59 fare charts
Two card fares charts for the Sunday-only 59: West Hampstead (West End Green) to Old Coulsdon (Tudor Rose). They were displayed behind a glass panel at the rear of the lower saloon. One is dated 3/75 and the other 11/75. Both have minor creases and grubby finger marks from the handling they received every week.
59 SUNDAY
Before white on black was used for night routes, that colour arrangement denoted Sunday variations. At that time night routes were numbered in the 2xx series, and their “E” plates were black on white.
59 SUNDAY
59 SUNDAY
59 SUNDAY
For many years the 59 was London Transport’s longest route and ran in parallel with other routes for its entire length, which makes “E” plates for it very common. The subtle differences in colouring and spacing are one of the things that makes collecting “E” plates so fascinating. Although both incarnations of route 59 had Sunday-only sections, these plates are all from the earlier service.

59A MON-FRI

In 1947 route 59A ran on Monday to Saturday between West Hampstead Station and Addiscombe (Black Horse) via St. Johns Wood, Baker Street, Wigmore Street, Cavendish Square, Oxford Circus, Charing Cross, Westminster, Lambeth Bridge, Kennington, Brixton, Streatham, Norbury and Thornton Heath Pond. In 1957 it was withdrawn Monday to Friday between Streatham Garage and Addiscombe except for peak hours when it ran on to Thornton Heath Garage. In 1958 the Saturday service was withdrawn. In 1960 the route was diverted at Lambeth Bridge to operate via Albert Embankment and Vauxhall. In 1963 the peak hours extension to Thornton Heath was withdrawn. In 1970 the 59A became a peak-hours-only route, operating between Streatham Hill (Telford Avenue) and Charing Cross (in the a.m. peak) or Millbank (afternoons). The route was finally withdrawn in 1971.

Originally operated by STLs from Camberwell [Q] and Streatham [AK] garages, RTLs took over in 1951. In 1957 Brixton Garage [BN] replaced Streatham’s allocation, but that was lost after only 16 months. In 1966 the Leylands were replaced by RTs (aside from six RTs than ran on Saturdays in the 1950s). The route saw Routemaster operation for its last 14 months.

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