logo Woolwich Area
Written by Roly Wilcox

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

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Woolwich itself. What a place. I will never ever forget my first visit. Having spent my formative years living with the trolleybuses allocated to West Ham [WH] and Walthamstow [WW] Depots my Ian Allan ABC had numerous gaps between the trolleybuses, particularly the older lower numbered vehicles, yet I kept seeing and travelling on the same vehicles over and over again.

Click on picture [cr103] for an enlarged version

Suddenly it was a spotters dream. I alighted at the ferry berth and walked a short distance to Woolwich High Street. It was a place full of buzz. There were only two trolleybus routes, 696 and 698 operated by Bexleyheath Depot [BX] but the service interval, even in mid morning, meant that there seemed to be a constant procession of elderly vehicles heading East. And surprise, surprise they were all "cops". I had never seen any of these vehicles before. Due to the isolated nature of these routes these vehicles were restricted to this part of London. What a sight.

I followed the road along the trolley wires, the surroundings, away from the shops, becoming dingy and then I took a sharp right hand turn near the terminus for the 75 into Beresford Street towards the market. And still the trolleys kept coming. Cop after cop. At times I had difficulty in keeping up with recording the numbers. It was the equivalent in the 21st Century of finding an undiscovered internet site, such "David Bradley Online".

Click on picture [168] for an enlarged version

At the market by the Woolwich Arsenal there were still traces of tram track. In fact that track was still there over 20 years later in the 1980s. I was clearly excited, as I still am at the memory; perhaps overwhelmed. I felt slightly guilty that my mother would be worried if she could know that her son was wandering the streets alone in a strange area. We all had at least one person say to us "What are you doing son? Collecting trolleybus numbers are you". In fact if you study the photo at Bakers Arms, my local main junction, [Picture 168] it looks as if the man on the right is just about to say exactly that to the boy who seems to be taking numbers. But most of us were safe and there were even one or two girls interested. Where are they now?

Like my own part of London there were vehicles that had been rebuilt or re bodied after the war - Bexleyheath Depot, like West Ham suffered extensive damage and casualties during the war and many bore 'A', 'B' and 'C' suffixes. Most, if not all, the rebuilt trolleys at Bexleyheath were 'B' and 'C'.

Beresford Street was the site of an early multi storey car park where cars were shunted mechanically into position by traversers than being driven into a parking space. This car park did not last long in this form. I believe it was the subject of regular breakdowns which meant at times you were unable to recover your car.

In later years I would cycle to these parts of South East London and Kent and still remember the mild thrill of seeing green country area RTs on suburban routes mingling with trolleybuses and red RTs. To an East Ender the green RTs were a reminder that you were approaching the country. But you felt uncomfortable that perhaps these should be red routes as they passed through built up semi-detached areas.

Unlike my part of London this was a very hilly area. Really the trolley was in its element here, as were the fast efficient green suburban electric multiple units that seemed to put the North Woolwich steam engines to shame.