Memories of London Trolleybus Routes 555, 557, 653 and 677

Grove Road

Click on picture [164] for an enlarged version

From: "Roly Wilcox" <>

The location in Picture 164 looks very familiar. I feel it is the north end of Grove Road heading north towards Hackney. On either side of this road is Victoria Park, the lido having just been passed on the right. Grove Road was straight here and the left hand bend in front of the 677 marked the entrance back into a built up area. I think the canal bridge referred to in the caption is actually behind the trolleybus at the other end of the park and is to the Grand Union Canal.

From: "James Forrest" <>

I'm an ex-Londoner, and grew up in the 50's and early 60's on Mare Street in Hackney. Four trolleybus routes [555, 557, 653 and 677] plied this busy thoroughfare, and I used to go to sleep with the sound of trolley booms 'swishing' past my bedroom window. But my nostalgia for the trolleybus is not limited to its heart-stirring sights and sounds, but to the quiet, clean and reliable running they brought to route operation.

Their noisy, smelly diesel replacements brought about a palpable deterioration in air quality along the main roads, in a way that we would now term 'environmentally intrusive'. It is a truism that we often don't appreciate the value of something until it is gone. When the trolleybuses in London were replaced, it was realised too late that something essential - almost elemental in transport terms had been taken from us.

I applaud the [long-overdue!] efforts of the Electric TBus Group to re-introduce trolleybuses to the streets of London. I am also heartened to see a double-deck design being put forward at last - a 'London solution' - rather than a borrowed continental single-deck 'bendy' bus design. I hope the responsible authorities will be as forward-looking as the members of the TBus Group obviously are.

From: "Mike Chumbley" <>

Congratulations on an excellent site that had many happy memories flooding back of days spent travelling all over the system clutching my half crown Red Rover ticket. You never had long to wait for a trolley and if one wasn't in sight you only had to put an ear to the traction pole to hear the tell-tail noise of an approaching vehicle in the near distance, no need for "Countdown" then.

From: "Julian Walker" <>

The trolleybus [1256?] looks like it's heading northwards towards Hackney along Grove Road, on the stretch between Old Ford Road and Lauriston Road; trolleybuses never ran along Old Ford Road itself. The building in the background was a pub, and still is [The Inn On The Park]. This is the northern boundary of the park and there is no canal alongside, however the park is bordered on its southern sides by the Regent's Canal and the Hertford Union Canal.

The 677's successor, the 277 bus, follows pretty much the same route today, except it has been extended from the West India Docks terminus [which has been obliterated by road reconstruction] to serve the redeveloped Docklands; and in 1992 it was diverted away from Essex Road and Smithfield to serve Highbury and Islington Station.

The 277 was extended beyond the West India Docks terminus onto the Isle of Dogs from it's inception on 15th April 1959, but following the river route of West Ferry Road and Manchester Road to Cubitt Town. At times the route ran through to Poplar, but the extension had quite a chequered career, as if the route was never quite sure where it should terminate [was this the much-vaunted "flexibility" of motor bus routes in action?]. This phase of it's life ended in March 1989 when route D7 was introduced and the 277 was cut back to Limehouse [although the Sunday service continued to Poplar until 1993], by which time the route was very much an East End backwater.

The route in it's current incarnation began on 1st July 1991, when it was extended to Canary Wharf, being further extended to Leamouth in 1994. As the redevelopment of Docklands has gathered pace the route has been increased in importance and frequency again, and an all-night service was added in 2003.

As with the 677, the 277 was operated by Clapton [CT] Garage, until it closed in 1987; it then transferred to nearby Ash Grove Garage. From 1961 until 1985 it also had an allocation from Poplar [PR] Garage, another former trolleybus depot. When it was diverted to Highbury in 1990 it was reallocated to Bow [BW] - yet another former trolleybus depot! BW still operates the route today.

From: "Frank McMorrow" <>

I am trying to find a picture of my father who drove the last trolley bus in London in 1961. The route was the 653 and it came out of Highgate Bus Garage and went to the Aldgate Terminus. The picture was taken at Aldgate with my father standing in front of the 653. We had this photograph in the family for years but it has been lost and I am trying to find a copy of it. My father who is now 80 reliably informs me that there was some press there that day but he does not know which papers they came from. I hope you can help me with my quest as I would dearly love to have another copy to present him as he was so proud of this. The details are as below.

Driver Peter James McMorrow
Trolley bus route 653
Picture taken at Aldgate Terminus
Date 31st January 1961

From: "Hugh Taylor" <>

The last 653 arrives at the depot

Of course the 653 was not the last trolleybus route - as you well know that occurred on 8th May 1962 at Fulwell. I doubt if the local press were at Aldgate to see the last trolleybus away and the photograph that you owned most probably came from an enthusiast - so can't help you out on that score.

However, I was at Highgate depot that night, having come in on what was scheduled to be the last 653 [from Stamford Hill] - this was 1362. But a few minutes later in comes another 653. The enthusiasts' on board must have cajoled the driver to hang back a few minutes so that it arrived at the Depot as the last 653.

I took a photograph of the truly last 653, trolleybus 1575, which I was happy to send onto Frank McMorrow. With confirmation that the photograph is of his father, I will be pleased to arrange for an enlargement, direct from the negative, to be made available.

From: "Hugh Taylor" <>

Well what a result! The last 653 was packed with enthusiasts', so can we find and further photographs from this eventful night from other readers of this page?

From: "Roly Wilcox" <>

I actually travelled on the 277 in May 2005 which headed north through the park. This was the first time I had made this journey by public transport for 45-50 years! Upon crossing the canal at the south end of the park I felt I had made an error in suggesting the trolleybus was at the north end of the park heading north as I spotted a similar pub to that in the photo at the southern end. However upon reaching the north end of the park I realised that the pub in the photo is the one at the north end of park. The 677 has already crossed the canal.

What was odd to me was that upon passing the point at which the trolley is photographed I looked to the left and noticed the same swings in the park that I had played on as a child!

One point to correct however. Julian Walker says that Clapton CT depot / garage has closed. This is not so. It is the same Clapton Depot that I visited in the 1950s and from which the 677 operated. CT still operates the 38 RM route and many more and was very busy in May. The blinds show H A C K N E Y / CLAPTON / GARAGE when running back to the garage.

From: "Julian Walker" <>

I have just revisited the page and enjoyed catching up with the new information.

One point: Roly Wilcox, in his last piece, corrects me in saying that CT has not closed and is still in use. In a sense, we are both right! CT did close in 1987 upon the opening of Ash Grove [AG], but was reopened as a base for route 38 on 24th February 1990, the date of the major Hackney area scheme [which also saw the 277 diverted to Highbury & Islington Station], and is still in use today.

From: "Martin Sugarman" <>

I used to travel as a boy in the early 1950's from Kingsland High Street in Hackney, to Aldgate bus garage to see my grandparents in The Minories. I am sure it was a 653 trolleybus - but is this correct?

From: "Jeffrey Marshall" <>

The trolleybus is in Grove Road, heading north towards Lauriston Road [horse-trough & fishmonger's to the left, post-war prefabs to the right], which curves northwards to the Victoria Park Road roundabout.

The pub shown in the background was then called The Royal Hotel [now it is The Inn on the Park]. The Victoria Park Lido has just been passed on the right, while a children's playground ['the swings'] lies to the left of the woman with the pram, behind the trees.

The big road-gates to Victoria Park are lying ahead, a few yards behind the woman, to both the left and right of Grove Road. The wooden fencing shown in the picture which used to surround the park has since been removed. The 277 [which replaced the 677] travelled north to Mildmay Park and south to Cubitt Town - as I remember - in the process going round the whole loop of the Isle of Dogs - which was then a more peaceful place.