diamond geezer

 Thursday, December 01, 2005

Prime Movers
Route 2: Baker Street - West Norwood
Location: London south, inner
Length of journey: 8 miles, 65 minutes


According to Travis Elborough's fine new book, The Bus We Loved, London's very first Routemaster journey was on Route 2. On 8th February 1956, very nearly fifty years ago, passengers travelling from Golders Green to Crystal Palace were surprised by the appearance of a strange-looking new prototype bus with a rear platform and chugging engine. Little did they know, that cold snowy morning, that they were the first passengers to board a future London icon. History does not record whether any old men in wheelchairs or young mothers with perambulators stood cursing at the kerbside as this new inaccessible omnibus pulled up. But the story that ends next Friday began here, with bus RM1, on route 2.

Route 2 no longer runs all the way from Golders Green, starting instead outside Transport for London's Lost Property Centre on Baker Street. Just across the road from the very first stop is one of the most famous non-existent addresses in London - 221B Baker Street. Tourists attempting to visit the site of Sherlock Holmes' London residence have been disappointed in the past to find nothing more than a feeble window display in an Abbey building society window. Now they're probably even more disappointed to discover no building at all, because the whole of Abbey House has been demolished (except for the very top tower) and is awaiting rebuilding. Never mind, enterprising entrepreneurs have set up a Sherlock Holmes museum-cum-shop just up the road, complete with 221B plaque, although the fact that the shop is located between '237 Baker Street' and '241 Baker Street' should suggest that the whole emporium is a bit of a fiddle.

To be honest, the 2 doesn't take the most scenic route across town. Baker Street itself is a bland one-way rat run lined by offices, restaurants and insignificant shops. Along Orchard Street you can peer down from the top deck into Selfridges' food hall, but only a very tiny sliver. Park Lane may be historic, but the hotels and posh car showrooms are less than attractive. Past Hyde Park Corner there's a bus stop called 'Buckingham Palace', but it's a long way from the Queen's house (and rather closer to the retail outlet of bravalingerie.com). Heaven knows what sports they play in the Queen Mother Sports Centre, but I don't remember gin drinking and corgi racing in the last Olympics. Vauxhall Bridge ought to be charming, but MI6's ugly HQ and the owl-headed apartments of St George's Wharf detract from the glorious view along the Thames. The 2's not for tourists.

South London kicks off with the startlingly modern Vauxhall bus station, hovering in midair like a giant silver tuning fork. And then, after the rail bridge, the real world begins. We're entering Stockwell - onionbagblog territory, and an area which appears poorer, leftier and more emotional than previous northern neighbourhoods. You may know Stockwell only as the site of 'that shooting', but the brightly coloured murals painted around the Deep Level Shelter in the Stockwell Memorial Gardens tell a much fuller story (which onionbagblogger tells in full here). Alas the latest painted memorial to Jean Charles De Menezes has been painted over by an over-zealous 'knobber', and a succession of Brazilian flags removed because, apparently, this is not the sort of thing that Londoners should be remembering - an argument which deserves to be shot down.

Next up is bustling Brixton, a high street thronging with bargain hunters busy buying nothing expensive. The distinctive tower-topped Town Hall is very nearly 100 years old, in sharp contrast to both the grim bleak expanse of Windrush Square and the bold bright glass frontage of the newly-renovated tube station. Route 2 climbs southward and upward, past vast brick council estates and leafier suburban homesteads, before descending the crazy-paved slopes of Tulse Hill. And finally to West Norwood, past a Woolies and a Wimpy, and the gates to one of London's premier Victorian cemeteries (last resting place of Mrs Beeton and Sir Henry Doulton). Well worth a look round, just so long as you get off the bus in time and don't end up getting trapped inside the garage instead, sheepishly waiting to be let out of the terminated vehicle by a sarcastic driver. Oops.

2 links
Route 2: anorak-level route information
Route 2: timetable
Route 2: anorak-level bus information


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream