Trolleybus and Tram Stop sign My Local Tram Route

Written by your Webmaster, David Bradley

There are several pages to this section [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 ]

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 Ex works B3 Class London Trolleybus

Photographed ex-works is one of the new B3 class
Leyland short body vehicles for the new trolleybus
route 542 to replace tram route 42 in April 1944

The surprise with the penultimate conversion of south London's tram routes to trolleybuses was the news to extend the 542 trolleybus route to Crystal Palace from Thornton Heath High Street. This was part of a public transport infrastructure improvement to cater for passenger demand for the Festival of Britain that was to be held at Crystal Palace in 1951.

Whereas tram routes 16 and 18 would have the new Q2 class trolleybuses the 542 route was equipped with 30 trolleybuses of B3 class which were basically similar to the B1 class but with improved electrical engineering equipment supplied by British Thomson-Houston. There was insufficient room in the new purposed built Thornton Heath Trolleybus Depot so a dozen of these vehicles were assigned to South Croydon Garage which was especially equipped with a turntable traverser for the trolleybuses. A prolonged strike prevented any substantional overhead wiring of the extended route to Crystal Palace and with the decision to re-locate the Festival of Britain on the South Bank, plans for the extended route were abandoned in February 1948.

542 map
Proposed Trolleybus Route 542
Click on map for entire South London Proposals

To the south, the original terminus of tram route 42 at Coombe Lane provided no facilities for a turning circle so the new trolleybus route continued under the wiring of routes 516/518 until South Croydon Bus Garage. This slight route extension meant that sixteen trolleybuses were required to maintain a weekday service frequency of 3/4 minutes on route 542.

By 1962, each of the class B3 trolleybuses had run something like a million miles in service and were among the oldest in the fleet of almost 3,000 trolleybuses now serving London. As route 542 was effectively flat, the need for run back and coasting brakes, provided for the aborted extension to Crystal Palace, was not required. It was therefore possible to renew all the vehicles on routes 516/518/542 with the current R1 class to give the same level of comfort and ride experienced elsewhere in London. With the further renewal of the fleet with Z6's between 1981-3, operation of environmentally friendly vehicles seemed secure until well into the next century, but, there was a thresh hold to cross before then - deregulation!

[Toby & John's WEB site has more information on the South London tram to trolleybus conversion programme that was never implemented because of the outbreak of WWII]