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Journeys on Early Public Transport

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What it was like to travel in early London buses

By the webmaster’s mother, 1906-2002

The top decks of old buses

Buses and trams had open tops, and it was fun to sit on the top deck to see the scenery as it passed by. It could be cold though, part­icularly in a strong wind.

early 20th century bus

Detail from a photo in the London Transport Museum

Open top bus and trolley bus in Fore Street, Edmonton, in the early 1900s

Detail from a photo in the effects of Ena Cole

Buses in the early 20th Century

Weather protection on top decks of old buses

There was some weather protection on the top decks. Waterproof covers for passengers on the top deck for use in the rain. They were attached to the seat in front and could be unhitched to go across our knees - see the photo below.

Waterproof covers for passengers on the top deck of a bus or tram in the early 1900s, for use in the rain

Waterproof covers which could be unhitched in the rain for covering knees and laps.

early 20th century open top bus advert

As the photo shows, it was common for adverts to be placed on the backs of seats.

Photographed in the London Transport Museum

Covered top uses and trams came into service sometime during the 1920s.

Safety on top decks of old buses

There was a rail round the top decks to stop standing passengers from falling out. In this, they served their purpose, but anyone determined, including children larking around, could fall out. The rail can be seen in the photos on this page.

Seats on old buses

The seats were just wooden slats, but they weren't as uncomfortable as this may sound because the slats were profiled to fit a seated person. Being slats they let water through to the floor when it rained.

slatted wood bus seats

The profiled slatted wood seats and waterproof seat backs

The backs of the seats were made of some sort of waterproof material which could be clammy on a hot day.


If you can add anything to this page or provide a photo, I would be pleased if you would contact me.


Text and images are copyright



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