A Picture in Focus
Hammersmith Broadway, 29 December 1938

Working out the location of a mystery picture
  Picture U28718

Notes by David Bradley

Surfing the NET recently I noticed this picture on the London Transport Museum Site at www.ltmuseum.co.uk with the simple caption "Trolleybus on rainy street, c1960". Seeing that it was on route 630, I tried to figure out where it was taken, assuming at first it was at West Croydon. Enlarging the picture shows this not to be the case; so enlisting the help of some friends, this is what they had to say about the picture.

red line

28 researchers have so far offered their opinion. Thank you all for your comments.

From: Terry Russell

Location - not West Croydon there is a frog ahead of the bus which means wires coming in from the right. Mitcham no, Tooting was a straight crossing not dog legged, Wandsworth? Hammersmith Broadway - BIG possibility. The Bush, no corners with all sides built on, Harlesden, I have no recall at all as I never went there. Where did they turn incidentally, not round the clock I guess?

Like you, I see where the likeness to West Croydon comes in and having enlarged the picture I came back to it with a fresh eye and BINGO look at the position of the trolleybus logo on the back of the bus - on the lower panel which takes the date way back. May I suggest before all the West Croydon buildings at the London road crossing were modernised? I see that the tobacconist was rebuilt after the trams had gone and all the other 4 corners were modernised at some point prior to that [late 30's]. Maybe the overhead work is a tram/trolley crossing, the picture is not very clear. Do you have the original print? So when were the roundel's moved to the back window?

So maybe the shot is looking from Station to Tamworth Road [the conductor would have been castrated for not changing the blind] about 1946{?], not 1939-45 Over to the experts! Mind you I am not convinced as the other trolley looks to be on your fantasy tram 42 replacement.

 Click here to enlarge [GB They turned using Waldo Road and Letchford Gardens. The adjacent picture shows a 630 turning out of Letchford Gardens into Harrow Road. This was the (in)famous NR WILLESDEN JUNCTION of fabled memory].

From: Dave Wilsher

 Hamersmith in 1938
  Click on picture for an enlarged version
From 'London Buses Before The War'

It's very much pre '60. The bull's-eye is in its pre-war location below the rear poster, by the sixties they had migrated to the rear window. It's not Harlesden, they never made it to the clock. Just before the end of Scrub's Lane they turned right into a side street and then left into another to terminate, to head south they continued forward to the Harrow Road, left and ever so briefly joined the westbound trolleys from Paddington and immediate left again into Scrub's Lane [where the trams before them terminated].

The trolleys always made where possible anti-clock turns, one right ant three left's being considered safer than three rights and one left. At Harlesden there is no Cross roads only T-junctions.

I reckon it's southbound at Shepherd's Bush where it crosses the 607 and the other trolley is a northbound 630. The Green would be out of view beyond the left hand building, all other corners being built on.

Before the one-way, southbound 630's went straight over.

There is an interesting picture in the book 'London Buses Before The War' on page 128. It is of Hammersmith in 1938 and shows very similar railings. If this is the location of the mystery picture, then it dates the picture between 1937 [The start of Route 630] and 1939/1940. Further research on the Web indicates Hore-Belisha introduced 'Belisha Beacons' in 1936, so nothing amiss there providing Hammersmith was an early adopter of these 'crossings'.

Oddly, trying to find another trolleybus picture with low logo and a brown roof has proved elusive. Brown replaced white at the onset of war.

From: Geoff Banister

I would be inclined to agree with Terry - it has a feel of Hammersmith Broadway to me. It is certainly not on the Harlesden side of Shepherds Bush.

I have a strong feeling that it could be well pre-1960:

  1. The Hammersmith one-way system involving the construction of Butterwick was in place by then and the distant road is two-way.
  2. When was the Trolleybus logo shifted from the back platform wall to the window?

Looking at the picture again, a further thought occurred to me. Zebra crossings were introduced while trams were still operating - about 1952 I think. The crossing by the trolleybus is an old style one. The plot thickens!

From: Chris Veasey

I'd say Hammersmith Broadway looking west towards King Street [obscured by the trolleybus] with Shepherds Bush Road corner at right and the original Hammersmith Bridge Road [which later became Blacks Road] at left distance, probably '50s or even '40's shot. I first walked through Hammersmith Broadway one evening in 1972, when there were still some old decrepit old pre-industrial age buildings on West side between Blacks Road and King Street looking a bit like those in the blurred picture background, though they must have gone or been about to go by the time I coincidentally started a 12+ year sentence working for Hammersmith Council a year later.

If I'm right the building on the Shepherds Bush Road far corner is still there so should be possible to identify from recent photographs or visit - will see if I can fish out, or look next time I'm passing through.

From: John King

Can't tell you of the location, but a few clues as to the date besides those mentioned. Is that a silver roof on that trolley, a bit difficult to see, I don't think the silver/white extended down past the rear window like the brown did on later trolleys That would make it before about 1940.

Zebra crossings were introduced in 1951 and it wouldn't have taken 9 years to reach all parts of London.

Dave Wilsher says about the railings being similar to those in the book 'London Buses Before The War' on page 128, well this type were used at many locations. However if he looks closer at the picture dated June 1938, he will see that Hammersmith was an early adopter of 'Belisha Beacons' as there is a similar one in the picture.

From: Simon P Smiler

I think this picture is from before my time; however one observation which I'd like to share is that I did not see any road markings for the Zebra crossing. Yes, the Belisha Beacon is there - but maybe the crossing was not yet in use?

From: Peter Golds

 1521 as restored at Carlton Colville

Had it been wartime there would have been a white line blow the platform [see adjacent picture]. Because of the trolleybus logo position I would place it before the war.

From: Keith Hawes

I will be seeing my elderly mum over the new year break, although in her late 70’s she is as bright as a new pin and having lived in Hammersmith all her life can name all the shops on both sides of King Street and the Broadway from about 1935 to date, I bet she can recognise the location if it's round here, I shall also see my Aunt Vera now 82 this week and ask her what she thinks, must say it looks like the Broadway end of King Street to me, the long gone Palmers Stores on the right [I'm 47 and can also remember the old road layouts] but I may be wrong as the road layout doesn't look quite right somehow?

Hmmmm, the only other place that comes to my mind is at Maida Hill [Westbourne Park] multi-junction of Harrow Road, Fernhead Road, Walterton Road and Elgin Avenue, This would mean that the trolley was heading south from Elgin Avenue at the Harrow Road junction, that said I am unaware of the route the 630 took so this may be gibberish, its just that the shop on the right resembles the 'seven-eleven' that still exists on the spot, the two obelisks in front of the store look correct for this site also.

[24 hours later]I have spent today doing a bit of detective work, the results of which are in this document. I look forward to hearing other readers comments on my conclusions.

I'm always interested in trolleybus stuff and in particular location puzzles as I know London quite well, mainly West and Central [but only north of the river]. I did mini cabbing in my 20's to help pay for my much loved Cortina Mk2 1600e [gone but not forgotten!]

I find that if I catch a glimpse of a row of shops or a skyline when watching films made in London from about the late 60’s to date I can usually recognise the location immediately, please continue to ask on anything considered of interest.

From: Terry Russell

I think we all did very well. Brownie points to all. I just wonder how much people really LOOK at pictures as this exercise has shown what the difference between a scan and real look can reveal. ASSUME makes an ASS of U and ME is a very good Maxim and I have fallen in the trap a few times.

There was a dreadful lot of detail to solve when I tried to research the colour scheme for the proposed St Petersburg Tram Co. trolleybus in 1/43rd scale. Incidentally it is going to be a K class when it does come out.

From: David Bradley

I think this is rather like a single piece of a jigsaw puzzle – it appears to fit until the whole puzzle is almost complete and then it is not right! So far the consensus of opinion is that you are right in your document but I would rather wait until the jury of two ladies returns with their verdict.

From: Geoff Bannister

Having read Keith's document, it can't be right. The 630s only touched Harrow road between Letchford Gardens and Scrubs Lane lights, a distance of about 100 yards. Since the trolley appears to be a service bus and not out of service running with 630 blinds, it cannot be Maida Hill.

From: Keith Hawes

Sorry to Geoff, but having just returned from Mum and Vera sufficiently full of jam sponge and cucumber sarnies the consensus is that this is indeed Maida Hill during 1938, mum reckons she can see with the help of a magnifying glass and much digital enhancement a pair of galosher type overshoes on the woman which were all the rage in the wet at the time, the crossing has studs but no stripes, the trolley has no white line round the platform so just about pre-war, the cut and tilt of the men's hats also apparently point directly at 1938 and the shop on the left I am assured was 'Littlewoods' and the shop on the right was a 'Co-Op' and 'Victor Values'. It seems that busses 'turned round' here which may account for the mis-location. Also, is it possible that the wrong number is on show in the rear destination blind?

Whatever is said the location is definitely at the Elgin Avenue junction With Harrow Road - Of this there is no doubt. If you load the picture into a suitable paint package and adjust the Brightness/contrast and gamma the buildings on the far side of the road fit exactly with my snap of the Elgin Avenue junction!

Anyway, what exactly was the route of this Trolley?

I can tell you what, I'll find out where this is now if I have to drag Mum and Vera all over London and snap every inch of the route! Not Elgin Avenue indeed...

Far be it from me to disagree as I was but a twinkle in my fathers eye at the time.

Now here's a sight you don't see every day!

From: David Bradley

It would seem that the nearest that the 630 trolley route came to the Maida Vale area was some 2 miles away, so despite all the 'evidence' the location still remains a mystery/unconfirmed. A small part of the 1946 Trolleybus and Tram map, issued by the LTPB, has been scanned in to show the northern part of the 630 route.

 Map of northern part of 630 trolley route Map

From: Geoff Bannister

There seems to be a body of evidence disagreeing with the Maida Hill thesis, although I think we are all agreed that it is pre-war.

Looking at the enhanced image, I do not see an immediate similarity between the facades of the building on the right hand side and the block of buildings beyond the side turning seem to be at slightly different angles - allowing that the modern shot is not quite at the same position and angle as the original.

Re destination blinds etc. It is not only the service number which doesn't match but the terminus. The Harrow Road routes were 662 [Edgware-Paddington] and 664 [Sudbury-Paddington]. The 630 [Nr Willesden Junction-West Croydon] came no nearer than a mile and a half north-west of the suggested location. Vehicles allocated to work the 662/664 would not have 630 displays on their blinds.

The other point which I query is that, in the photograph, there appears to be a set of points just ahead of the vehicle. According to wiring information I have seen, there were no points etc. between Letchford Gardens [where the 630 re-emerges onto Harrow Road] and the terminus at Paddington Green.

From: Alan Pearmain

The photograph appears to be on ortho chromatic film, not the panchromatic film which would have been normal in later years. This is why the Belisha beacon globe is black instead of grey. This also points towards pre-war.

From: Peter Wright

Sorry, I can't help. I would have had an intimate knowledge of the West Croydon to Tooting section of the 630, but at age 7, no good reason to venture further!

From: Chris Cook

Like another of your correspondents, I never went north of Tooting in the 'old days' - Dartford yes, Hammersmith no!

So I have nothing to offer as regards the location - except perhaps to wonder, why are the railings there? Is there a busy crossroads or a tube station just behind the photographer? Are they are clue?

From: Paul Tibbles [ESD]

Although I can't help it all makes fascinating reading and viewing. Can't make my mind up if the scene is Hammersmith or West Croydon.

I spent as much time as I could in 1962 travelling the entire route of the 667, with a break of journey of course at Fulworth. Now we take the bus from Carshalton or tram from Mitcham Junction to Croydon, whenever there is any decent weather!

PS - is there anywhere at the moment in the UK where there is the remotest possibility of trolleybuses making a return?

From: Peter Coventry

This is a good one, as you have said its well before 1960 as the Trolley Bus logo is not on the staircase glass but near the rear number plate. I'm a North London buff, and only travelled south on Red Rovers to the garages.

One of your replies states the Croydon Area which could well be, by looking at the trolley wire it's at a junction near Croydon perhaps?

From: Chris Hall

I am afraid that I cannot give the location for sure, but is it a different view of the cross roads near West Croydon station? Hopefully the shops may give something away. The date of the picture is earlier than 1960 as the bullseye is mounted on the lower panel of the trolley, and not on the rear window where they ended up.

Hope you get the answer soon.

From: Geoffrey Morant

I cannot help: my immediate reaction was Reeves Corner but no one else seems to have even mentioned it so I give up.

Best of luck with the search!

From: Mike Chumbley

The 630 Christmas picture has my vote for Hammersmith, but I'm not 100% sure.

From: Graham Boseley

I have had a look at the picture and don't think I can help. I remember the 630 route in Croydon and through to Mitcham.

From: Chris 'fufas' Grace

Sorry, I cant help with Shepherds Bush. My only memories of the 630 were between Mitcham and Tooting including the neutral section near Amen Corner.

From: Laurence Baker

I would have said the trolleybus picture was taken at the crossing of North End, Croydon near West Croydon Railway Station but it is now so long since I have visited that area that my memory of it has faded somewhat and I may well be wrong. I hope you eventually solve the problem.

From: Bob Campbell

This is a letter I received from a friend who currently lives well south of London, but does remember the 630 route. So, I hope this throws some more light on the subject.

"I have studied the photograph of the trolleybus on the 630 route and it could be at the junction with Tamworth Road and London Road near West Croydon station? The station entrance would be just behind the bus on the left. This would explain why there are not many passengers left on the trolleybus as most would have got off at the previous stop which, if this is the correct location, would be just behind the photographer. This stop was the nearest to those in the photograph and the others in London Road and North End. The latter was, and still is, one of the main shopping streets in Croydon and now mainly pedestrianised.

My guess is that the photograph was taken after the war possibly in the early 1950s just after the old trams ceased in April 1951. If this is the correct location, the trolleybus would be right on the present route of the Croydon Tramlink trams which follow the old 630 [and also the former 654 Sutton to Crystal Palace] trolleybus route from Reeves Corner up Tamworth Road and past the 630 trolleybus terminus outside the side of West Croydon station."

From: Ian Smith

I have scrutinized the pictures with an intense scrute, and this is my four penny worth.

My instant feeling was that this was indeed Hammersmith Broadway, with the 630 proceeding southbound into Queen Caroline Street from the Hammersmith Broadway/Shepherds Bush Road Junction. Now having compared and contrasted the photographs, I am pretty much of the same opinion.

Period - I would agree that it is either just pre-war or very early on in the war before the craze for white paint had struck the vehicles. The vehicles themselves look as if they've been in service for some time. It is hard to tell from the photograph given the evident filthy day it was taken on whether the roof is silver or brown, close, but my vote goes for a well worn silver. The rear dome looks quite grease splattered and is the front dome red? Could be just.

Location - The vehicle appears to be in service with a small number of passengers, who all apparently prefer to be downstairs. The position of the trolley and the following car seems to be in accordance of them proceeding from the direction of Shepherds Bush Road. The railings appear to be the same type and locations in both pictures provided. The 'zebra' crossings in both pictures are of the studded type and the beacons are painted in exactly the same style.

The Overhead visible in the pictures seem to concur with each other. The mystery picture has three poles on the near side, the furthest supporting the 'blades' of the point and the span wire terminating on the pole located on the traffic island, all but one of these poles can also be identified in the comparison picture of Hammersmith, the remaining one I think is either in direct line with the building frontage or hidden by one of the other poles. On the mystery picture the attitude and location of the distant trolley is highly suggestive of it waiting at the other 'zebra' crossing visible in the comparison picture. Lastly just in front of the said trolley there appears, to all intents and purposes, to be a long or double hanger that supported the separated northbound overhead routes at this point. One last thing I have to consult, the excellent overhead wiring layout books for the dates of any changes to the overhead layout and fittings in the Broadway and also check the details of the trailing point as the picture seems to show an equal 'Y' point with the wooden insulated leg left [looking from the toe of the point]. Unfortunately the rear dome of the STL on the 93 just hides this item in the comparison photograph.

So there we have it for now, but if this had been a mystery picture of a 604/605, now that as they say would be a different story.

Pictures like this remind me very much of similarly wet days, waiting in Kingston with my mother for a 604 to come to whisk us back to Raynes Park, but there always seemed to be an abundance of 601's and 605's to Malden, and no 604's. Ahh! one almost always seem to remember it in black and white.

From: Keith Hawes

I found the 'scrute' of Ian to make most interesting reading, his detail and clarity of recollection are outstanding, I concede that the suggested location of Harrow Road / Elgin Avenue MUST be incorrect despite the initial similarities, there is just too much evidence against this being the location [I don't know what Vera will have to say about it!] although Mum is a little more accepting of the Queen Caroline location, apparently that would make the shop on the left a 'Freeman, Hardy and Willis' but she still has doubts, accordingly I have invited her to visit me this weekend to review an enhanced version of the mystery picture on my Tosh 28" Hi Rez flat monitor used mainly for BBC graphic work which does add hidden detail for even more 'scrute' than Ian seems to have enjoyed.

Looks like more jam sponge for me this weekend then. David...I hope your happy now you've ruined my Christmas!!!

Researcher pauses for a picture.

From: Geoff Bannister

I'm sorry Keith feels his Christmas has been 'ruined'. I would have thought that jam sponge and cucumber sarnies would have made for a delightful time! The exchange of views has been very stimulating; it's always interesting to go over something like this as it jogs so many memories, not just the picture concerned.

I probably knew the 630 as well as anyone in the discussion. I lived 100 yards off Garratt Lane at the Wandsworth end from 1949-71 and travelled to school in Tooting from 49-51 using the 630 [and the 612 when it was still extant]. I have used both the HB "maverick" trolleybuses 445 and 484 on numerous occasions and, in the 1950s up to the end of trolley operation, I travelled around on my LTE spotting excursions and visits to Old Oak Common and Willesden loco sheds took me to Scrubs Lane terminus on many occasions - so the whole route from Scrubs Lane to Croydon was very familiar, my memory of the Croydon end beyond the barracks being perhaps a bit hazy mainly due to the redevelopment in the central area in more recent years.

Geoff Bannister, Reviews Editor, Railway Observer

From: Keith White

I would also go for the north end of Hammersmith Broadway, heading south. It is certainly not south of Putney Bridge and not 1960's either, with the transfer on the rear lower panel.

From: Andrew O'Brien

Before I read any comments from others I opted for Hammersmith Broadway straight away, and I see others had done the same, King Street would be the next turning on the right, again I am not 100% sure.

Thanks David, nice to hear from you.

From: Hugh Taylor

I have looked at the actual photograph, reference number U28718, and although blurred, I think it was taken at the bottom of Wood Lane with the 630 is turning into Shepherds Bush. The clue to it is that the photograph shows two sets of wires coming in from the right from Uxbridge Road.

The picture should be dated as late forties but I will check the museum records for more information when I am next there.

From: Ian Smith

Just another strand of thought over this 'mystery' 630 picture. I have just checked the excellent publications on LT Trolleybus wiring layouts that I keep under plain wrapper, and they reveal that the trailing point leading southbound into Queen Caroline St was a 25 degree 'Y' point with wooden insulation on the negative leg, which seems to agree with the point visible in the photograph.

Sketch of the layout during the late thirties, early forties, which I hope will be of interest.

I shall now retire to my couch where my slaves will peel grapes for me and I'll await the next Trolleybus mystery.

 Hammersmith Broadway From: Keith Hawes

Having just recovered from the second round of tea and cakes this week [two stone heavier!] I have been given by my aunt Vera a picture that I have scanned which it shows an even earlier shot of the Broadway with a tram in about the same spot as that mystery trolley. [The overhead wiring seen is going in all directions!]. In this shot however the ancient Palmers stores and corner of Bridge Road [Blacks Road] are shown in all their glory as is the traffic island, St Paul's and that shop on the left which we now believe was a jewellers, indeed years later in the web page 'comparison' picture the jewellers clock can be seen high up on the façade.

I just can't see Hugh Taylor's reasoning - no way is this the Bush, that would make the left hand building my late fathers local pub 'The Beaumont' [now Eddies] which it clearly is not and the picture is no later than 1939 because of the trolleybus livery. That said, I think another excursion with the digicam and a rummage through aunt Vera's album draw could be on the cards!

I think Mums given up on it but I just wanted to put the finishing touch to this most intriguing Christmas puzzle you have presented. Great fun.

From: Mike Chumbley

Like a dog with an old bone I couldn't let go of this one until I was 100% convinced and I am now sure the trolley was turning into Queen Caroline street from Hammersmith Broadway. The photograph that clinched it for me is printed on page 6 of "Trams in West London" by D.W. Willoughby/E.R. Oakley published by Nemo Productions, 27 Dickens Close, Hartley, Dartford, Kent, DA3 8DP published in 1978 price 95p.  Hammersmith Broadway showing trolleybuses In this picture showing a northbound No.30 tram at the Broadway with trolleybus wiring in place the shop on the left of the trolley with it's distinctive lettering together with the two traction poles and bollards can clearly be seen. There is also another nice photograph on the L.T. Museum website of a 628 trolley in almost the same spot but viewed from the opposite direction.

One question I would raise is why the picture was taken in the first place, after all it's a lousy day, not ideal for photography, was there something significant in the picture not yet mentioned?. That said it's a lovely atmospheric shot ahead of it's time.

From: Ray Wilkinson

I've followed this fascinating correspondence and the excellent detective work by your contributors in unraveling the mystery of this picture. Unfortunately I didn't know the 630 route and so I couldn't comment. But, when it seemed certain that the mystery photograph was at Hammersmith Broadway, I was going to send you the photograph looking the other way along the Broadway, which Mike Chumbley has now included in his email [pipped at the post!].

However, the version I have is in the well-known Paul Hamlyn book of some years ago "Buses, Trolleys and Trams", by Chas.S,Dunbar [p.106]. This print shows a little more at the right hand side of the 628 trolleybus, in particular the shop "Saqui & Lawrence" which, I think, are the jewellers that Keith Hawes mentions. I think [although I may be imagining it!] that I can see a part of the word "Lawrence" in the lettering on the shop at the left hand side of the mystery photograph; if so, it would add further confirmation to the location being Hammersmith Broadway.

Fascinating puzzle, David - you'll have to find some more!!

From: John King

May I suggest a different line of research? There seems to be a lot of controversy about trolley overhead layouts, it seems indistinct to me. Perhaps if somebody can enhance the picture better than me they could make out the part name on that shop. To me it looks like the last four letters are WOOD and the one before either a K or X.

Now if somebody could look up in Kelly's London Post Office Directory, or a local directory of some sort at the roads for the suggested location of the junction in the probably time period for business containing those letters we may find out for sure where it is.

From: Hugh Taylor

The mystery photograph is undoubtedly Hammersmith Broadway. I have spent some time with Keith Farrow, helping to compile his next wiring book; I asked to look at his London Transport overhead wiring plans and pole 135A which can be seen in the left foreground is at Hammersmith. The exact location is Queen Caroline Street and the frog that can be seen in the top left hand corner is the 655 link from Hammersmith to Clapham.

From: Keith Farrow

Hugh Taylor suggested I look at your website and asked if I could confirm his thoughts regarding the location of the "rainy street c.1960" trolleybus photograph. I met him yesterday and we now both agree what the true situation is.

Reference to the original photograph, together with extracts from LT's Special Work Diagrams and pole diagrams [link below] confirm that the location is indeed Hammersmith Broadway. The trolleybus is turning left out of Hammersmith Broadway into Queen Caroline Street, heading South.
Traction Support Poles at Hammersmith Broadway.
Overhead at Hammersmith Broadway.

The photograph in the left foreground displays - about 8' above ground - the number 135A [in a stencil style that is definitely early and perhaps pre-war]. Reference to the pole diagram shows three closely spaced poles at this corner, in sequence 135A, 136 and 137. [NB Whilst the base drawing is an extract from an original, the approximate track of the wires I have added myself to illustrate the point]. Reference to the Special Work Diagram reveals the 25 B0Y junction frog anchored to pole 137.

Like Mike Chumbley I, too, wondered why the shot was taken. And why was the photographer in the road? Was there a parked vehicle behind him, protecting his back? The premises on the left is Lockwoods, by the way.

From: Simon Murphy

The photo was taken at Hammersmith Broadway, 29 December 1938.

Simon Murphy
Curator (Film & Photos)
London's Transport Museum
39 Wellington Street
London WC2E 7BB

From: Studio19

The name Lockwood's as the property on the left in the trolley picture went down a treat with dear old aunt Vera [she thought Littlewoods] who has been transported 70 years back in time by the 'guess where' project, most enjoyable. I will take a present day shot from the same place when I get a chance or at least when the weather won't fuse my digicam!