This page created 22nd December 2019.

In 1919 The London General Omnibus Company was desparately short of buses. Some 1900 had been taken by the War Department for use in France during the Great War, and although 700 had been returned there was still a shortfall of 1200. The use of lorry buses (lorry chassis fitted with open bodywork and steps at the rear) was coming to an end. New buses were needed, to supplement the still enormous fleet of B-types. They were getting old. Some had repaired bodywork after war damage - and they only seated 36. General's designers came up with a new bus that would fit within the current regulations: 23 feet long and laden weight with 46 passengers less than 7 tons.

K1-K1062 double-deckers

The first two, K1 and K2, appeared in the late spring of 1919 for inspection. They had 30 h.p. engines, unloaded weight of 4tons 4cwt, length 22ft 9in, width 7ft 1.5in, wheelbase 14ft 2.35in. The chassis was still the high straight variety, with two long planks as the main members, plated each side with steel. The bus could seat 22 inside (5 rows of forward-facing seats and two single inward-facing seats at the rear) and 24 on top, in 6 forward facing rows. This was possible because the driver was seated alongside the engine rather than behind it, and the body projected forward above him. Livery was red and off-white, with chocolate lower panels until first overhaul, when they became red too. K1 was put into service on the 11 from Hammersmith garage in August 1919, and K2 from Palmers Green on the 25 in September. K3 was an instructional chassis, not bodied until 1928. They were an immediate success, and two orders for 500 each, plus another forty, quickly followed, with bodies by LGOC (North Road), Brush, Short and Strachan. These began to arrive in May 1920, and then proceeded to flood into all the central London garages to take over the trunk routes, pushing the B-types outwards and enabling expansion in the rapidly growing suburbs.
K chassis at Brooklands Museum K424 heads home to Acton from the London Bus Museum at Brooklands .
A bare K-type chassis (21033) at the London Bus Museum. It was originally K767. The chassis was discovered in 2011 in Herefordshire, under part of the body of a LS-type double-decker, intended to be used as a summerhouse (back in 1930!). K424 heads home for Acton after the Opening Day of the London Bus Museum at Brooklands, October 2011.

But even before the last of the 1044 main batch were delivered a newer design with a 54-seater body - the S-type - had come onto the scene, and promptly began to push the K-types off the central trunk routes, the K-types going onto lesser routes and new ones. But nevertheless a further nineteen K-types were built in July 1921, taking the class up to K1062.

The K-types lasted through the 1920s, being instrumental in seeing off many of the B-types and bringing reasonably comfortable buses to a wider and expanding London area. Many were operated by LGOC subsidiaries, in particular the "Metropolitan" and "South Metropolitan" fleets. Some independent operators taken over by the General were also updated with K-types.

K424, K502, S742 at Cobham Museum Open Day, April 2003

Family likeness: K424, K502, and S742 at Cobham Museum Open Day, April 2003

East Surrey 23-34, and loans from LGOC

The East Surrey Traction Company also had an ageing fleet, and needed new rolling stock. In 1920 they bought six K-types (Nos 27-32), followed by another six in 1921 (Nos 23-26 and 33-34). Bodies were built by Brush or the LGOC. They went into service in East Surrey royal blue and cream livery, for a while, but were repainted into General-style livery with East Surrey fleetnames once the loans of many more K-types began in 1922.

The ESTC K-types were put to work on the S5 (West Croydon - Redhill - Crawley - Horsham/Hand Cross) and on the Redhill- Reigate - Dorking - Beare Green (- Horsham)route. These company-owned buses stayed with East Surrey until replaced by new Regents (STs) in 1930, when they were sold.

In 1923 ESTC was expanding rapidly, and reached an agreement with General to operate some routes on its behalf, or jointly. General would loan buses: ten double-deck K-types, from all over the LGOC number range, came in March 1923, and were put into service on the S8 (West Croydon - Guildford), operating from Leatherhead, replacing loaned B-types. A further twenty came in June 1923 for use on the S1, S2 and S2B from Dunton Green, S5 from Reigate and S1 and S7 from Swanley. These wore General red/off-white livery but with East Surrey fleetnames. Some bore East Surrey numbers as well as their K numbers. This became somewhat confusing as bodies exchanged at overhauls. The following year route S25 became largely K-operated too. These thirty loaned buses mostly stayed until Regents began to appear in late 1929 and early 1930. Their routes shifted as larger S-types and NS-types took over where extra capacity was required, but these lightweight little buses proved remarkably useful as ESTC expanded.

Dates Route Route Garage Displaced
March 1923 S8 West Croydon - Sutton - Epsom - Leatherhead - East Horsley - Guildford RG (Reigate) B
June 1923 S1 Sevenoaks - Otford - Shoreham - Farningham - Sutton-at-Hone - Dartford DG (Dunton Green)
SJ (Swanley)
June 1923 S2 Sevenoaks - Farnborough - Bromley North DG (Dunton Green) B
June 1923 S2B Sidcup - Farnborough DG (Dunton Green) B
June 1923 S5 West Croydon - Redhill - Crawley - Horsham/Hand Cross RG (Reigate) B, Y
June 1923 S7 Sidcup - Swanley - Crockenhill SJ (Swanley) B
April 1924 S25 Crawley - Beare Green - Horsham RG (Reigate) B, Daimler

Single-deckers, plus a few more double-deckers

In June 1924 fifteen apparently new double-decker Ks appeared. These had been built up by Chiswick Works using spare parts and spare bodies. K1063-1077 were put into service at Cricklewood.

Then, a year later, in September 1925, twenty-four more new K chassis (K1078 - K1101) were assembled at Chiswick. They were fitted with new single-decker bodies that really looked nothing like their double-decker counterparts. They had pneumatic tyres (the first LGOC buses so fitted), and the bodies had curved-under sides, and shapely rears with rounded corners. Full-depth sliding windows without toplights gave them a much sleeker look. They were much less tall than the single-decker S-class. They had front blind boxes that stood up above the downward curve of the roof. They still had open cabs, of course. Twenty-two were 24-seaters, and two (K1089 and K1093)were restricted to twenty seats for route 111 at Muswell Hill, which had a weight restriction.

K1078 - K1083 were put to work at Hounslow on the 162A between Leatherhead and Slough, and the seasonal extension as 162 to Burnham Beeches. K1084-1088, K1090-1092, K1094-1095 and K1099 were sent to Kingston: single-decker country! K1100-1101 went to Sutton to also work on the 113 to Kingston. The remaining three (K1096-1098) were delivered to National at Ware, where the management was crying out for fast reliable single-deckers, for the Lea Valley routes that General wanted National to compete on.

A further twenty-five K single-deckers were earmarked for new chassis K1102-1126, but the bodies were ready well before the chassis. So the single-decker bodies went randomly onto older chassis as buses came in for overhaul, and the new chassis received double-deck bodies when they arrived. So the single-deckers were scattered across the number range.

Another 79 single decker bodies were delivered during 1926 and 1927. They were not all the same. Out of the 104 seventy-five had solid tyres for use on hilly routes where sprag gear was considered necessary to avoid runaways, fifty-five being 20-seaters for weight-restricted routes 41 and 111, and twenty being 24-seaters for the 104, 110 and 99.

In early 1927 East Surrey were short of single-deckers, so General loaned a pair of pneumatic-tyred rebuilds, K896 and K966, supposedly for up to three months. But the replacement ADC416s were delayed, and the pair remained on loan until June. Whilst at East Surrey they were used on route S25 (Brockham - Dorking), replacing smaller 202 types for use elsewhere. They worked out of Reigate garage.

Of the pneumatics nine for National seated twenty-four. I have not been able to find when these were returned to LGOC, but I suspect that they were exchanged for more powerful S-type single deckers.

Capacity Tyres Route Route Garage
B24R pneu 162A / 162 Leatherhead - Fetcham - Cobham - Weybridge - Staines - Windsor - Slough (- Burnham Beeches)SL (Slough) AV (Hounslow)
B20R solids, sprag 111 Muswell Hill Bdy - Finsbury Park Stn MH (Muswell Hill)
B24R pneu 171/A/B/C Kingston - Staines/Walton/W.Molesey/Chertsey K (Kingston)
B24R pneu 115 Kingston - Cobham - Ripley - Guildford K (Kingston)
B24R pneu 61 Kingston - Chertsey - Staines K (Kingston)
B24R pneu 113 Belmont - Sutton - Worcester Park - Kingston A (Sutton)
K (Kingston)
B24R pneu National WR (Ware)
B20R solids, sprag 41 Highgate Station - Crouch End Broadway MH (Muswell Hill)
B24R pneu 104 Burnt Oak - Mill Hill Bdy - Edgware Stn EW (Edgware)
B24R pneu 110 Archway Stn - Golders Green J (Holloway)
MH (Muswell Hill)
B24R pneu 99C Erith - Dartford CR (Crayford)

Morden Underground feeders and thirty-seaters

Twenty pneumatics seated just 22, giving more circulation space. These were painted in overall silver-grey for use on a series of shuttle routes feeding the new Northern Line Underground terminal at Morden. These Morden routes proved popular. In 1927 the silver buses were replaced in many cases by double-deckers and were repainted into standard red/white for use elsewhere. Some went to Romford for local services (G1, 187, 188).

1928 saw a further eleven K-type single deckers, this time with an extra bay, making them 26ft long (ie 3ft 6in longer), and seating thirty. These went to Hounslow and Kingston, replacing smaller buses. The Hounslow buses were put to work on the busy but low-bridge route 162 (Slough - Staines (later Leatherhead)).

Four of the pneumatic-tyred single deckers (K32, 126, 360, 1097) were loaned to East Surrey in February 1928 for use around Guildford on the 25 to Dorking and the 44 to Peaslake. The three on the 25 worked from Reigate garage, from whence they worked in service to Dorking on the 414. The 44 had alternate services to Peaslake and Ewhurst, the latter supplied by Aldershot and District from their Ewhurst garage. The ESTC bus was based at Leatherhead. These arrangements only lasted three months before new ADC 416 buses arrived and these four Ks went back to LGOC.

Two rather longer loans each brought two more single-deckers to East Surrey: K239 and K639, both ex-Morden buses in August 1928, and 24-seater K1086 and K1087 in November for route 20A (Guildford-Effingham). All four remained until replaced by Regals in June 1931.

Capacity Tyres Route Route Garage
B22R pneu 155 Wimbledon - Sth Wimbledon - Morden - Nth Cheam - Worcester Park AL (Merton)
B22R pneu 156 Wimbledon - Morden - North Cheam - Cheam AL (Merton)
B22R pneu 164 Wimbledon - Morden - St.Helier - Sutton - Burgh Heath AL (Merton)
B22R pneu 157 Morden - Sutton - Wallington AL (Merton)
B22R pneu 165 Morden - Walton-on-the-Hill AL (Merton)
B30R pneu 162 Leatherhead - Slough AV (Hounslow)
195 Sidcup Station - Perry Street - Chislehurst SP (Sidcup)
B22R pneu G1 Collier Row - Cranham RD (Romford)
B22R pneu G2, 187 Romford - Brentwood RD (Romford)
B22R pneu G3, 188 Rainham - Romford RD (Romford)
B22R pneu G5 Hornchurch Stn - Romford RD (Romford)
B24R pneu 422 Holmbury St.Mary - Dorking RG (Holmbury o/s)
B22R, B24R pneu 25 Guildford - Shere - Westcott - Dorking RG (Reigate)
B22R, B24R pneu 44 Guildford - Newlands Corner - Shere - Peaslake LH (Leatherhead)
B24R pneu 20A Guildford - Merrow - Effingham LH (Leatherhead)

Continuing service with LGOC and "Independents"

The K-types lasted through the 1920s, being instrumental, along with the S-types, in seeing off many of the B-types and bringing reasonably comfortable buses to a wider and expanding London area. Many were operated by LGOC subsidiaries, in particular the "Metropolitan" and "South Metropolitan" fleets.

From 1926 some independent operators taken over by the General were also updated with K-types. The first was "Central" in February, which like several other independents competed along the 27 against General's Ks. "Central"'s four Straker-Squires were replaced by Ks, that were repainted in "Central" livery and operated from Holloway. Also taken over on the 27 were "Lonsdale" in April, where two Daimlers were replaced in March 1927 by Ks from Hammersmith. November saw "Alberta" taken over by Holloway. January 1927 produced "Victoria", whose Straker-Squire was replaced in March by a Holloway K. July was "Orange"'s turn to be absorbed. From 1927 General repainted all the acquired 'Independent' Ks into General red/white with General fleetnames.

The largest independent taken over in this way was "Cambrian", where thirty green-liveried Ks wore "Cambrian" fleet names, working from General's Hanwell garage with CA running-number plates. Other independents with K-types originally in their own colours included "Shamrock", "Royal Blue", "Western", "RA", "Olympic", "Ubique", "Horseshoe", and "Primrose". From 1927 these (except Cambrian) were repainted in General livery. Later company acquisitions received "General"-liveried K-types as fleet rationalisation, including "Edward Paul", "Fleet", "Clarence", "A1", "Direct", "Criterian", "Celtic", "Imperial", "Superbus", "Marathon", "Florence", "Grafton", "Legion", "Jockey", "Wellington", "Tower", "Empress", "Invicta", "Brittania", "Atlas", "East Ham", "Grangewood", "Vivid", "Tottenham Hotspur", "Cosgrove", "White Star", "Cambrian Landray" and "PC". Mostly they worked from LGOC garages, but Atlas, East Ham, Invicta and Brittania, with 25 K-types between them on the 15 and 23 ran out of the Invicta garage at East Ham (E), and the Battens garage, also at East Ham (EH). The K's still carried legal ownership, but "General" fleetnames and colours. From January 1928 the companies were wound up and legal lettering changed to LGOC.

Route 90 was the last outpost of double-deck K-types. Most of the class had been replaced by May 1930, except for fifteen retained to continue the operation of route 90 over Chertsey bridge, where only these double-deckers could cope with the sharp hump. Seven of them remained operational until June 1932!

The LGOC single-deckers bowed out in June 1930, as AEC Regals and Renowns supplanted the single-decker fleet.

London Transport

London Transport arrived too late to operate any Ks. But it kept the Chertsey fifteen in store until disposing of them in 1934.

K464 was retained by London Transport for its museum collection. After many years in store at Reigate it went to the Museum at Clapham, and then Syon House. Since then it has been on display at Covent Garden and the Museum Annex at Acton, and has sometimes been seen out on the road at events, even if it travels by low-loader to and from some events!)

K424 at Brooklands Museum K424 at Brooklands Museum

K424 went to the new London Bus Museum at Brooklands for its opening in October 2011. It stands alongside preserved Leyland X2 LN7270.
K502 survived as a hen-house, and then living accommodation on a farm until rescued in 1968 by Barry Weatherhead. It too has been restored to pristine condition and appears at rallies. The engineless chassis and very derelict body of K1077 was acquired by Prince Marshall and then Michael Banfield. It was auctioned - and bought! - in 2014. What awaits it? Another engineless chassis, of K767, was found in 2011 squatting under the derelict bodyshell of an LS (the Southdown demonstrator). It appears in the London Bus Museum at Brooklands, showing the flitched method of straight chassis composite construction.

Bus Stop K text. bus histories photo refs S type