London Bus Photos – Route 47

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Route 47 – Shoreditch to Downham Way (Bromley Road)

I was in Shoreditch today (15th August 2017) and thought to myself, its time for the next post in the London Bus route series. And its the 47!
This post begins, not with buses but a cafe! It’s Syd’s Cafe. This was a favourite with the drivers and conductors on the 47 route.
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Syd’s Cafe has been in existence nearly 100 years and can be found in Calvert Avenue, Shoreditch. This was where the 47’s stood between trips to Lewisham, Catford, Bromley and Farnborough (the route was truncated to Downham in April 1985.)
The cafe wasn’t open when I was there, I think it now closes at 3pm so I couldn’t take any pictures of it in use.
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Syd’s is perhaps London’s last surviving cafe still operating from a wooden wheel wagon! Drivers from London’s buses can still use the cafe but they have a longer walk these days from the bus stands which are now much further south, and I would presume nowadays drivers would rather pop into Tesco’s because its almost opposite the bus stands.
1) Munchies. / 2) East London Lines. / 3) Spitalfields Life.
And now, its on to the 47!
I used to live a few minutes walk from Calvert Avenue and Shoreditch had an amazing collection of Routemaster operated routes. Sadly the powers that be decided to kill half of these routes on the same miserable day, 24th October 1986.
Once again the pictures are scanned from the many photo books I collated on the final days of many of London’s Routemaster bus routes.
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RM474 on the 47, with one of the route’s Leyland Titans in front. Calvert Avenue, Shoreditch. Final day 24 October 1986. The Routemaster in fact broke down upon arrival at Shoreditch. It spent the entire morning languishing here until repairs could be effected or a tow back to Catford garage.
If one looks at the picture above carefully, evidence of the area’s former specialty in selling/making footwear can be seen. I think the last footwear specialists closed about 2004 or 2005. The area’s other specialties included haberdashery, furniture/upholstery and ironmongery. All these have gone too.
Since 1984 the 47 had been a Leyland Titan operated route with conductors (contrary to what some sites claim.) 26 buses were allocated from Catford Garage (prior to 1985 it was Bromley garage.) The transfer to Catford in 1985 meant Routemasters were once again seen on the 47. It wasn’t a regular daily occurrence, and if it did happen it was mainly in the morning peaks when the usual Titan allocation was a bit tight!
Fortunately the last three days of crew operation on the 47 saw Routemasters sent out on duty too. For example on 22nd October 1986, RM’s 408, 436, 696, 1049 and 2159 were sent out on the 47 in the am, all returning to Catford garage by 12.50pm.
The Routemasters were mainly restricted to working the Shoreditch to Lewisham/Catford section. Any that managed to work the full route to Downham was almost one purely of chance.
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The aforementioned crew with RM708 at Calvert Avenue, Shoreditch.
I got to know the driver and conductor of RM708, and whom worked the 47 on its final few days. They informed me which RM’s were out and where they would be going, and according to them, the duty rosters could permit a couple of RM’s to reach Downham, before being returned to Catford garage. That of course depended on whether those buses ran on time!
On those final days, Routemaster RM436 did in fact complete the journey from Shoreditch to Downham at the end of it’s morning duty before returning to Catford at 12.50pm on 22 October, whilst RM474 managed this in the am peak on 23 October 1986.
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All pics are 22 October 1986. Top: RM436 stabled at Catford after it’s run to Downham. Middle: Proof of the pudding! RM436 seen at Downham Way, about to return to the garage. Bottom: RM696 at Catford after a trip from Shoreditch. All the Titans seen in the pictures were part of the 26 buses allocated to the 47.
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Top: RM491 at Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, en route to Calvert Avenue. Bottom: RM474 at Liverpool Street. 23 October 1986. Just half an hour or so later I would photograph 474 at London Bridge on the last ever Routemaster working from Shoreditch to Downham.
The 47’s took an unusual route to their Shoreditch terminus which is no longer used by any London bus routes. This was left into Great Eastern Street, right into Holywell Lane, straight across Shoreditch High Street and into Bethnal Green Road. Then left into Club Row, round the bottom of Arnold Circus and into Calvert Avenue. Part of the route was also used by the 8, 8a, as well as the 9 and 11 on extended journeys to Cambridge Heath (Ash Grove) except these continued along Bethnal Green Road.
The present day 135 and 205 use Holywell Lane itself to gain a right turn into Shoreditch High Street (and thus Bishopsgate) because right turns into Bishopsgate are not allowed from Great Eastern Street.
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These are all of RM708. That (top right) shows the very bus crew who were helpful in giving details on which RM’s would be out on the 47 and the turns the crews would be operating. One of the 47’s Leyland Titans can be seen behind RM708.
The 47 had a quirk in its route at Deptford. Buses generally used Deptford High Street, except on market days when it ran via Deptford Church Street. Nowadays it runs via the latter at all times. The 47 today takes a long detour via Canada Water and no longer provides a direct route between Jamaica Road/Rotherhithe and Deptford.
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In the morning of 23 October 1986 I took this picture on London Bridge of a very tatty looking RM474, the last ’47’ Routemaster to work the full route to Downham Way.
(Note: Downham Way continued to be an occasional turn back point for a further three years by RM’s working the 36b bus route.)
On the last day just three Routemasters managed to get onto the 47 route including RM688 and RM973 working to the Riverdale Centre or Catford Garage. The fact RM474 had broke down on the last day ensured no further Routemaster journeys from Shoreditch to Downham would occur.
The crew of RM708 were instead given a Titan for their last day of duty on the 47!
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Newly painted RM688, one of the last Routemasters on the 47 route at rest in Calvert Avenue before working to Lewisham (Riverdale Centre.) 24 October 1986. It would continue work on the 36 a/b group of routes for another three more years.
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RM973 at Norton Folgate on the last trip, the 47’s final day as a conductor operated route. 24 October 1986.
From 25th October 1986, Leyland Titans continued to work the 47, without conductors of course. In 1988 the section from Catford Garage to Downham Way was withdrawn.

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