London’s huge trolleybus network was planned and built in less than ten years. London United Tramways opened the first routes in the south-west suburbs in 1931.
Soon after London Transport took over. In 1933 they announced a rolling programme to introduce trolleybuses across the capital
Trolleybuses need twin overhead power lines. The second wire provides the electric current return, which with trams runs through the rails.
Tall green metal poles lined every street where trolleybuses ran, supporting the overhead network. Major junctions and intersections required complicated webs of suspended wiring.
London trolleybuses were large double-deckers with seats for up to 70 passengers. They were nearly as big as the trams they replaced and more efficient than buses on heavily used routes.
In the 1930s the latest double deck diesel buses were much smaller, with only 56 seats. Trolleybuses were far quicker at swallowing up large crowds.
Trolleybuses were much quieter than trams or diesel buses. They also had fantastic acceleration. Passengers had to make sure they were sitting down or holding on tight when the trolleybus pulled away from a stop.
The seats were very comfortable.
There were eventually 65 trolleybus routes in London, running as far out as Uxbridge in the west and Dartford in the south-east.
All of them had three-digit route numbers in the 500 or 600 series to distinguish them from tram routes (which were all one).
As trolleybuses do not run on rails, they can be steered around roadworks and other obstructions in the street. But as they have to remain connected to the overhead power wires, trolleybuses cannot overtake each other.
Journeys could be delayed if there were problems with the power supply or if the trolley booms got disconnected from the overhead wires. This was not unusual in London.
This K2 trolleybus is a typical London Transport design of the 1930s. The body and chassis were built in 1939 by Leyland Motors in Lancashire. It has a Metropolitan-Vickers MV206A3 motor and English Electric Controllers.
Trolleybus number 1253 was delivered from the manufacturer, Leyland Motors, in March 1939. It entered service from Hackney Depot (renamed Clapton in 1950), replacing trams on routes in north east London.
Number 1253 was transferred to Wood Green Depot in 1959 and withdrawn from service in April 1961.