Other Operators: G–M

Last updated 29-05-2011.

“E” plates for other operators were relatively uncommon and would generally have only appeared on a few stops, generally in town centres on the fringe of London Transport’s Country Area. It is rare to find “E” plates for other operators that used LT stops in the Central area, which for many people brings back memories of childhood holidays to the coast.

Golden Miller
606 MON-SAT

Fred Varney’s “Golden Miller” business—with two coaches and a Twickenham booking office—was acquired in 1955 by F.G. Wilder & Sons Ltd. of Feltham. In January 1967 Tourist Bus Service was acquired, with one vehicle and a stage licence for a service from Feltham Station to East Bedfont. This service, later numbered 601, had been the first since the War to be given a consent by London Transport when it began operation in 1955. On 1st January 1968 two further stage services were started: route 602 from Feltham to Shepperton Station, and the 603 to Hanworth. In November 1970 the Walton-on-Thames to Walton Station service of Walton-on-Thames Motor Co. Ltd.—which had begun in 1923 and unaccountably was never taken over by the LPTB—was acquired by Golden Miller and extended to Oatlands Village as route 604; however, this route was not a success and was withdrawn. Number 605 was intended for a route in the Claygate area which never materialised, while the 606 was started in 1971, linking Staines town centre to Stanwell Moor and Stanwell Village. It was separate from the rest of the Golden Miller network.

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Adapted from Buses of Greater London Fleetbook, 1978 edition.

This “E” plate is unusual in that does not give the operator’s name, and the blue colour would normally be associated with an express route; but in this case I think it was simply a colour used by the operator in their livery and on their publicity. The route has long since disappeared.

Grey Green logoGrey Green logoGrey Green Coaches

Grey Green Coaches, based in Stamford Hill, can trace its origins back over a century to the foundation of George Ewer’s horse carriage business in 1885. The business prospered, and summer-only services were soon operating to many South Coast resorts. Before the end of the twenties, East Anglia was well covered too. The first service to operate throughout the year was the London–Ipswich route, started in June 1928. The 1930s started with the introduction of a London–Harwich route, and operations continued to expand rapidly through East Anglia and to the coast, interrupted only by the War. Routes run by the Prince Omnibus Company of Edmonton were added in the ’30s. Orange Luxury Coaches Ltd. was acquired in 1953, and this long-established company remained as a subsidiary of the main company until finally wound up in December 1975. The large-but-ageing United Service Transport fleet was taken over in 1965. Several of the companies taken over retained their separate identities and distinctive liveries in order to maintain goodwill, but in 1966 it was decided to concentrate the group’s operations on two trading names: Grey-Green and Orange. Subsequent acquisitions included the London coaching business of Birch Bros. Ltd. in 1971, Mitcham Belle Coaches in 1974, and Dix Coaches in 1976 The basic livery became green and white (having evolved from the green and grey that gave Grey-Green its name). The coaching fleets are painted in separate liveries.

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Adapted from Buses of Greater London Fleetbook, 1978 edition.

In 1987 Grey-Green successfully bid for routes 125, 173, 179 and 379 (originally the 179A). In 1988 they began operating the 24, 298 and 313. Route 103 was taken over in 1991, and by 1994 the list had expanded to include the 20, 141, 167, 168, 210, 235, 275, 473 and D9.

1951 Grey Green timetable leaflet
A fold-out leaflet giving details of the coach services operated by Grey Green in 1951. It lists the services for London (King’s Cross), Ipswich, Felixstowe, Clacton, Walton-on-Naze, Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Dovercourt and Harwich, giving times and fares.
Grey Green did not run any normal stage carriage services at the times when enamel “E” plates were used. Therefore, this plate would likely have been used on a stop where Grey Green picked up for their excursions and tours, and the plate would no doubt have come from one of their stops in North London, of which there would not have been many. ▶
GREY GREEN COACHES
Imperial Bus
IMPERIAL BUS

No relation to today’s company of the same name, which only started trading in 1998, long after the use of enamel “E” plated had ceased.

Maidstone & District logoMaidstone & District logoMaidstone & District Motor Services Ltd.
1980 Maidstone & District timetable

Maidstone & District’s origins can be traced back to 1908 when a hired bus made a trial run from London to Maidstone. The first public service commenced a week or so later between Maidstone and Chatham. In July, a further service was introduced between Maidstone’s North Ward and the Athletic Ground, via Maidstone West Station. The venture was not entirely successful, and in 1910 the undertaking was purchased by Walter Flexman French, who named the company the “Maidstone, Chatham, Gravesend & District Motor Omnibus Service” before handing over day-to-day control to his son George. The company was registered as Maidstone & District Motor Services Limited in 1911. Matters improved to the extent that the British Electric Traction Company acquired an interest in M&D in 1913. In 1914 new routes were introduced from Maidstone to Ashford, Faversham, Hastings, Sevenoaks and Tenterden as well as between Chatham and Faversham. By 1917 services “A” through “N” were in operation. (Expansion resulted in letters being replaced with a numbering scheme which survived until 1974.) Tillings acquired an interest in M&D in 1921. The company opened the first bus station in England in 1922, the same year as it became publicly traded. The formation of the London Passenger Transport Board in 1933 required M&D to surrender most its operations in Dartford and Gravesend (together with garages in Dartford and Northfleet). This prompted the company to turn westwards for further expansion opportunities in the ’20s and ’30s. In common with most provincial bus companies, M&D became part of the National Bus Company in 1972. It was one of the first NBC companies to be privatised (on 7 November 1986) when the company was sold to its management. M&D itself was acquired by British Bus, who also owned the neighbouring Kentish Bus (formerly London Country South East) operation. In 1996 the Cowie Group acquired British Bus. Two years later the company was renamed Arriva Kent & Sussex.

Adapted from Nigel Chatfield’s Maidstone & District History.


7 MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT

Maidstone & District route 7 ran from Maidstone to Tunbridge Wells via Tonbridge.

This “E” would probably have been used on London Transport bus stops in the Tonbridge area.


Maidstone & District routes 31 and 32 were Tonbridge locals.

31 32 MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT

68 MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT

Maidstone & District route 68 operated between Sevenoaks and Borough Green, evidently via Plaxtol.

This “E” plate is unusual in that it has both the operator’s name (in smaller lettering) and a destination. It likely came from Sevenoaks bus station.


M&D route 91 ran from Tonbridge to East Grinstead via Tunbridge Wells, Groombridge, Hartfield and Forest Row. Route 93 was a Tunbridge Wells circular service running via Holtye, Edenbridge and Penshurst. The two services were renumbered 291 and 293 in 1974.

91 MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT
91 MAIDSTONE & DIST - 93 MAIDSTONE & DIST
91 93 MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT
The lettering on this “E” plate is somewhat irregular as it was hand-painted onto a square of aluminum.

98 MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT

Maidstone & District route 98 ran from Tunbridge Wells (Ramslye Estate) to Higham Wood via Tonbridge.


Maidstone & District route 98 is described above, while M&D 100 and 101 were Tonbridge locals, so this “E” plate is presumably from Tonbridge (but I’m not an expert on Maidstone and District routes!).

98 MAIDSTONE & DIST - 100 MAIDSTONE & DIST - 101 MAIDSTONE & DIST

101 MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT

Maidstone & District route 101 was a short local service between Tonbridge and Leigh via Hildenborough.


Route 122 was a four-hour marathon Gravesend–Brighton service via Meopham, Borough Green, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells, and used to run daily every hour. It was run jointly by Maidstone & District and Southdown Motor Services, including having one or two vehicles shedded at the other operator’s premises overnight. A unique feature of this service was that the two companies operated similar vehicles, enabling one company’s crews to operate the other’s vehicles, a frequent practice on the route. The route was first bisected at Tunbridge Wells in the 1970s and renumbered 322, then the northern half was butchered out of existence. The area between Tonbridge and Borough Green via Plaxtol was very rural and hardly justified the service offerred. Today the Brighton–Tunbridge Wells portion is alive and well and runs as Brighton & Hove routes 29 and 129; several local routes run thence to Tonbridge, but with no direct service at all north of Tonbridge (’though it is still possible to travel from Gravesend south to Borough Green on an Arriva bus).

This plate is very unusual is that is shows two operators’ names, and likely has come from Gravesend, Wrotham (where the 719 was met), or the Tonbridge–Tunbridge Wells section of route.

122 MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT AND SOUTHDOWN

123 MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT

Maidstone & District route 123 was another Tunbridge Wells local service.


Maidstone & District route 300 came well into the London Transport area. It ran on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Thamesmead (Eynsham Drive/Harrow Manorway) to Leysdown (Bus Station) via Abbey Wood, Plumstead, East Wickham, Welling, Bexleyheath, Crayford, Dartford, Stone, Greenhithe, Swanscombe, Northfleet, Gravesend, Higham, Strood, Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, Rainham, Newington, Bobbing, Queenborough, Sheerness and Minster. The service was designed to take people on holiday, and ran in the late 1970s during the summer months. In the 1978 timetable, buses were shown as leaving Thamesmead at 19.30 on Fridays, and at 09.00 on Saturdays and Sundays, arriving in Leysdown two hours and 47 minutes later. Return journeys from Leysdown departed at 12.30 on Saturdays and 17.30 on Sundays. Journeys on other days ran only between Gravesend and Leysdown. The service was intended for people on holiday.

300 LIMITED STOPS
MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT 300 LIMITED STOP

London Transport rarely produced two-colour enamelled plates—and even then usually only for special circumstances—and likely wouldn’t have done so for another operator, but wouldn’t it have been lovely?
The use of red text on a provincial operator’s “E” plate is hightly unusual, as all EXPRESS SERVICE plates are in the standard green. This plate is especially interesting as it is unusual to find ones with red numbers on white backgrounds which are not for Saturday or Sunday routes. Also, limited stop and express services normally had white on blue “E” plates.

MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT EXPRESS SERVICE MAIDSTONE & DISTRICT EXPRESS SERVICE

These plates would have been used on stops where Maidstone & District express services picked up for their excursions and tours. They could have been from the Gravesend or Dartford areas, or possibly other stops towards central London. It is rare to find “E” plates for other operators that used London Transport stops, and I doubt there would have been many carrying them.

Mole Valley Transport Services

Rick Squirrell was kind enough to explain that “Mole Valley Transport Services covered some rural routes around Leatherhead, most of which had been abandoned by London Transport/London Country Bus Services. Their routes were numbered MV1 to MV6, though I recall that bus stop [timetable] panels showed just othe number. I have a vague recollection of seeing what were almost certainly stickers with MOLE VALLEY 2 etc. around Leatherhead in the early ’80s and the colour of brick red on white rings a bell in my memory. I seem to recall route MV1 replaced the 462 when that was finally abandoned between Leatherhead and Cobham by LCBS (or possibly London & Country).”

MOLE VALLEY TRANSPORT SERVICES
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