diamond geezer

 Sunday, June 29, 2014

The largest bus garage in London is at West Ham, built on brownfield land beside the Jubilee line. It was completed in 2010 to solve the Olympic problem, namely how to replace two bus garages on Waterden Road wiped clean to stage the 2012 Games. The solution involved knocking down a Parcelforce depot and remediating the toxic land beneath, courtesy of a gasworks which once existed on the site. West Ham Bus Garage is now home to 350 buses and more than 700 staff, and one of the most bioefficient sustainabletastic structures in TfL's portfolio. And it was open to the public for tours yesterday, neither of which sold out. I assume you had something better to do. [25 photos]

These tours were part of the London Festival of Architecture, and also part of celebrations for the Year of the Bus. The building's been open for Open House before, but yesterday's were serious multi-faceted tours involving being on site for three hours, and therefore damned good value for money. The site's a little remote, accessed via a poorly-maintained sideroad near Star Lane DLR, but the buses trundle in and out via the neighbouring trading estate so don't suffer too much chassis trauma. Any member of the public can walk this way, because West Ham houses the lost property office for every Stagecoach bus in London. But to get any further within you need to be staff, or to be one of yesterday's fortunate fifty.

First up we were treated to a 45 minute talk from LT Museum Researcher Oliver Green, in a concrete-walled meeting room off the main suite of offices. He ran through a century of bus garage design, fully illustrated, from horse bus depots to large-span spaces such as Stockwell. Many of London Transport's bus garages in the 20s and 30s were every bit as striking as the tube stations we more usually celebrate, heights more rarely scaled of late. And then we got to listen to West Ham's architect explaining how the four-arch concept had been developed not as protection from the elements but as sound insulation. There are long-term plans to build residential blocks on the land to the north of the garage, linked to a second exit from West Ham station, but the money's not there so the housing plan's stalled.

Then for the main part of the visit we toured the garage itself. It was fascinating seeing the everyday facilities for bus drivers, from the clocking-in desk to the machine where they throw their cash at the end of a shift (that's for another week at least). You might have seen the staff canteen on Celebrity Masterchef last week, although it's clearly busier here midweek than on Saturday afternoons, which have more of a tumbleweed feel. Every route served by the garage has its own risk assessment posted up, plus a precisely timed list of shifts, now churned out by computer rather than fretted over by hand. And when it's time, the two external arches lead out to the buses, and the inner two arches to the maintenance area.

Around two dozen vehicles can be driven into the inspection pits and given a good once-over. Mechanics were stripping down engines as we passed, and a couple of Routemasters had their bonnets up to aid internal poking. West Ham is home to ten RMs used on the number 15, soon to be the only heritage route in town once the 9s are terminated next month. But most of the vehicles are more mundane, yet no less important, checked out every three weeks to ensure they run in optimum condition. From the top of the office/workshop block we could look down on the lot, and observe the pile of generic seat covers and cushions waiting patiently to be fitted and repeatedly sat on.

The yard out the back is huge, and relatively empty during the middle of the day. A few buses that weren't out servicing shoppers were parked up, along with those returning for a wash or mid-shift layover. The bus wash is down the far end of the site near the diesel tanks, where most of the driving is done by bespoke shunters in orange overalls. Close by is the 100kW wind turbine, a massive structure that contributes around 10% of the energy the garage needs to run. You can keep an eye on its performance here, constantly updated, including windspeed and current turbine power. It may be an eyesore to some, but it's a lot nicer than the pylon which stood almost precisely here before being packed off underground by the Olympics.

And they may not be based here, but Stagecoach had wheeled in a couple of New Buses For London now to be found in service on route 8. They'll more normally be garaged in Bow, but a silver bus and a red bus were lined up as a little day one treat. I was more chuffed to see the old Routemasters, those not off plying the streets of the City, what with West Ham Garage about to become the last stand for these splendid 60-year-old vehicles. But I was most chuffed to have been allowed inside this facility at all, and for so long, to get some idea of the effort it takes to make part of London's vast bus network tick. And if you never made it, I can at least share 25 photographs to give you some idea of what you missed.

My West Ham Bus Garage gallery
There are 25 photos altogether [slideshow]

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16
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    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

What's on this weekend?
Wed 19th - Sun 23rd October
Bloomsbury Festival
It's free to visit the Foundling Museum this weekend.

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
city metric
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
london museums
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
The DG Tour of Britain
Comment Value Hierarchy

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

diamond geezer 2015 index
diamond geezer 2014 index
diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards