100 Years of Merton Bus Garage

Sunday 17th November 2013

Last Sunday I hopped on a 93 towards Putney Bridge, alighted at ‘Morden Road / South Wimbledon’ bus stop and walked into my first bus themed heritage event – the centenary of Merton Garage.

Organised by Trevor Johnson (General Manager at Merton and Sutton Garages) and his colleagues, the event included stalls, tours of the garage and historic buses to board. They were fundraising for charity Mencap, who provide support to people with learning disabilities and their families.  For the garage, it was also business as usual on the day – so there were bus drivers trying to get on with work when we were poking our noses into their Output (a new definition for me – the room where drivers sign on and off).

One of the buses on display included the new Boris Bus. This was the first time I’d been on one, I’m not so sure about the colour choices but otherwise it’s alright isn’t it? I almost bought a Central area bus map from 1934 but decided against it, instead picking up an 1950s picture of an OK Bus, Country Durham for my dad.

Met up with my 213 friend Roger and he paid for me and him to go through the bus wash (on a bus, I’d add – otherwise a bit rough and wet!). We also went on a tour around the garage which including standing underneath a single decker to look at the engine. Mentioned quite a few times was ‘Adblue’ (cow’s urine) used to clean the engine exhaust fumes (I think , ah… apparently ammonia reduces the nitrous oxide emissions from diesel engines). There was quite a bit of discussion on the restrictions involved in bus provision and TfL’s targets etc. I’m surprised there is any money in it at all to be honest! Each bus is serviced 12 times a year, so every 28 – 35 days and the maintenance team service 25 buses a week. A bus is expected to last for around 5 years and it’s engine power is tempered down using the gear box to ensure a smooth-ish travel experience.

On my way home, I boarded an RTL bus from Merton Bus Garage to Wimbledon Village. The Underground sign of South Wimbledon glowed warmth in the twilight; a male clippy in modern dress gave us a ticket from whirring machine then came round with a bucket for donations; I was slightly concerned that the engine might give up the ghost when going up the hill to Wimbledon Village as it got very slow and you could hear it chugging along. When I got out, I had to walk to the front and shout a thank you to the driver as he was isolated in his little driving booth. The bus looked so beautiful when lit up at night, emitting a warm light rather than the blue tinged glare of modern buses. 

Another highlight was the 50p cupcake – yummy!

The actual anniversary was the 20th November. Originally opened in 1913 by London General Omnibus Company, the garage was modernised in 1960 and again in 1991. It is responsible for the maintenance of vehicles also kept at Sutton Garage – so any poorly 213s come here. The 213 (as 113) was allocated initially to Merton Garage in 1921 for 2 months only before transferal to the newly completed Kingston and Sutton garages.

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