Stories

London General Omnibus Company (L.G.O.C.)
Simple name : Online essay
Collection : Information
Reference number : 2008/653

Introduction

London General Omnibus Company (L.G.O.C) was formed on 1 January 1859. It replaced a joint Anglo-French company called the Compagnie General des Omnibus de Londres, founded in 1855. This began operating horse bus services in London in 1856. By the end of that year it was the largest bus operator in the capital, owning 600 buses - 75% of the total.


The L.G.O.C, under the fleet name General, remained the principal bus company in London throughout the 19th century.


Coming of the motorbus

The opening of the Central London Railway (Central line) in 1900 and the electrification of many tramlines meant that the L.G.O.C. had to compete for passengers. It started to experiment with a new technology: motorbuses. It ordered 50 motorbus chassis from Sidney Straker & Squire Limited and another 54 from De Dion-Bouton in 1905. Accidents were frequent, since the buses were unreliable and the drivers had little training. Horse buses had been painted a variety of colours for different routes. From 1907 all L.G.O.C. motorbuses were painted red and numbers differentiated routes. The Metropolitan Police also insisted that every bus display route and destination boards clearly front and back.


The B-type

The B-type was the first successful bus to be manufactured by the L.G.O.C. The first 60, made in 1910, quickly proved themselves better and more reliable than any other contemporary London bus. By 1913 2,500 had been produced. The secret of their success was their standardisation: the fact that they were built of interchangeable parts. This new bus heralded the end of the horse buses. The last L.G.O.C. horse bus ran on 25 October 1911.


Underground Electric Railways of London Limited (U.E.R.L) took control of the L.G.O.C from 1912, although it survived as a separate company. The U.E.R.L. ran all the Underground lines apart from the Metropolitan Railway. This led to increased transport coordination between Underground and buses.


By 1913 the L.G.O.C. had become one of two major bus companies in London. It had bought up all its rivals including the London Road Car Company, the Vanguard Motor Bus Company, the Great Eastern Motor Omnibus Company and the New Central Motor Omnibus Company. The only other bus company that was nominally independent was Tilling's. By 1914, L.G.O.C. buses were carrying 756 million passengers a year.


First World War

During the war, the War Office requisitioned many of the L.G.O.C's vehicles. Over a third of the fleet, 1,319 buses, were sent overseas to the battlefront, where L.G.O.C. volunteer drivers drove them. Over 10,000 members of staff joined the Armed Forces. From 1916, women were employed for the first time, as conductors, clerks and cleaners. Over 4,600 women worked for the L.G.O.C, keeping London's buses running in wartime. They were dismissed at the end of the war, since the jobs had been kept open for the returning soldiers.


Last years of the L.G.O.C.

Shortly after the end of the war, the L.G.O.C. introduced new K- and S-type buses. Both of these had a larger seating capacity than the previous models. The S-type was the first British bus to be built on a production line.


In 1921, the company opened its Central Overhaul Works at Chiswick. Bus overhaul time was drastically reduced, increasing the numbers of buses on the road at any one time. In the early 1920s, independent operators or 'pirate' buses started to work on some of the L.G.O.C's busiest and most profitable routes. However the London and Home Counties Traffic Act of 1924 helped regulate the bus industry, protecting the L.G.O.C. from competition by limiting the number of buses allowed on each route.


In the 1920s the L.G.O.C. started operating further afield to countryside and towns around London. These subsidiaries were called the East Surrey Traction Co from 1929 (renamed London General Country Services Ltd in 1932). Green Line Coaches formed in 1930. In 1933 the L.G.O.C, together with the rest of the U.E.R.L, became part of the London Passenger Transport Board, under which the same company ran all transport in London.


Record completeness :
Record 90% complete

Related items

The front of the Museum

Visiting

COVID-19 update

London Transport Museum is closed. But for as long as we can we’ll bring you inspiring content and keep our education work going. Thank you for sticking with us!

Find out more

Summer posters at ltmuseumshop

Shop

Summer posters

As the warm weather sets in, why not brighten up your walls with a bright and beautiful vintage poster? Take a look at our collection online.

Shop now

Bicycle in tube line colours collection record

Collections

Object of the month

This artwork was an unused Tube map cover illustration, designed by Jeremy Deller in 2007. All of the different tube lines are shown in the shape of a bicycle.

Discover