London Buses Route 15H (Heritage): Charing Cross/Trafalgar Square (Stop F) to Tower of London (Stop TB) by AEC Routemaster

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 001

Having already seen most, if not all, of the icons of London, there is just one more that I have got a couple of chances to see the private versions of already, but not the opportunity to be on it. Aside from the usual Big Ben and Tower Bridge (also commonly mistaken as London Bridge), the bright red AEC Routemasters, also commonly known as “London Bus” in many parts of the world, also immediately brings to mind the roads of London, iconic to everyone, even to those who have not visited the capital before.

Since I can’t throw myself an instant self-wedding to charter one of those private Routemasters, one heritage bus route sits quietly, unknown to many visitors and locals alike, available for the public to board the AEC Routemaster as a weekend-only regular bus service with regular Oyster fares. With a budget of £1.50 (~S$2.59), that’s exactly what I’m going to spend it on today – on a cheap ride through Central London on the iconic AEC Routemaster “London Bus”.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 002

I got on the Bakerloo Line from London Marylebone where my Chiltern Railways train from Oxford terminated.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 003

The facade of Charing Cross Railway Station.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 004

Just across the station, I see the AEC Routemaster on Route 15H (Heritage) already at Stop F, ready to depart.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 005

A bunch of New Routemasters (NBfL) queuing behind the real Routemaster.

As that 15H was quite crowded and was departing already, I didn’t make a run for it but just waited for the next one.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 006

To the non-transport-savvy tourist, don’t mix it up with the regular Service 15 plying on the same (longer) route, even though it looks red, is a double-decker bus and is in London as that is the New Routemaster, not the classic AEC Routemaster.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 007

Charing Cross/Trafalgar Square (Stop F) is where the Route 15H departs from, towards Tower Hill.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 008

The bus arrival timings as stated on the bus stop. The regular Service 15 is quite a frequent bus route.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 009

Surprisingly, the arrival timing data for the 15H is also available at the bus stop. 15H is reflected as Service 15, but with Tower Hill as the destination rather than Blackwall.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 01015H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 012

Waiting at Charing Cross/Trafalgar Square (Stop F). Don’t mix the 15H up with the regular Go-Ahead Service 15.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 01115H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 018

The facade of Charing Cross Railway Station from Charing Cross/Trafalgar Square (Stop F).

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 013

The next outbound 15H was parked a few meters before the bus stop, so here’s some exterior shots of it first.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 014

Routemaster RM1933 on duty for my bus ride to Tower Hill today.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 015

The classic London Transport logo is still preserved on the bus.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 016

The destination sign also changes for the 15H journey bound for Tower Hill.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 017

ALD 933B, the registration plate number for Routemaster RM1933.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 019

The service information of Service 15 at Stop F. The heritage service is not explicitly mentioned, merely as a small text box saying “*Additional journeys to Tower Hill run between 1000 and 1810.”, making it sound like a short-working trip of Go-Ahead 15 rather than tangible heritage that Stagecoach is running.

The service information also does not mention that 15H does NOT accept contactless. Quite an oversight there by TfL for the lost tourist.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 020

Cash is not accepted on all London Buses.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 021

More regular Go-Ahead Service 15 buses arriving and clearing the crowd.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 022

And here comes the Stagecoach Heritage Bus Route 15H just after that regular Go-Ahead 15 pulled away.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 023

Boarding is done exactly the same way as how Routemasters are traditionally run – with a conductor. Just board from the rear open platform, find a seat, and the conductor will come around for tickets later.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 02415H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 025

The interior of the lower deck of the AEC Routemaster with a mix of regular transverse bus seats towards the front and longitudinal seating near the open platform.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 026

Everything seems to have been restored to its original look.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 02715H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 028

The interior of the upper deck of the AEC Routemaster with regular transverse bus seats throughout.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 029

As the front seat was taken, I settled for a seat somewhere in the middle of the bus.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 030

All the hopper windows were open as it was a pretty hot day in London.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 031

The staircase of the AEC Routemaster is located at the back for easy access to the open platform.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 032

The original AEC Routemaster bell button.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 033

A new TfL-ish No Smoking sign found in the bus.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 034

This CCTV was definitely not here in the 1950s.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 035

Turning onto Aldwych.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 036

The legroom on board the AEC Routemaster. I guess people were shorter 60 years ago?

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 037

A rather tight seat pitch for today’s standards. But kudos to Stagecoach for keeping the bus exactly as it is for real preservation of heritage.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 038

Passing by Kingsway.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 039

Caught up with the initial regular Service 15 at The Royal Courts of Justice (Stop L).

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 040

Passing by the Royal Courts of Justice.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 086.JPG

The conductor then comes around to ask for tickets. As cash is not accepted on London Buses and contactless payment is not available on the conductor’s reader, you must have an Oyster card or Travelcard to use the 15H. The conductor asks if you have one before you board the bus. If you fail to present one during payment rounds, you’ll probably earn yourself a penalty fare.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 042

Overtaking the initial regular Service 15 which is probably being regulated. Go-Ahead’s nonsense is everywhere.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 043

Passing by Club Quarters Hotel, St Paul’s.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 044

Passing by St. Paul’s Cathedral.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 045

Heading on Queen Victoria Street.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 046

A Big Bus Tours bus pulled up beside my AEC Routemaster, with the tour guide explaining to his passengers what my bus was. Glad I’m on this regular public bus instead.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 047

Heading past Bank Station.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 048

Passing by the 16th century Royal Exchange against the modern skyline of London.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 049

This kid on his bicycle tried to foll around with the AEC Routemaster driver by pretending to intend to drive in the bus’ way.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 050

Heading on Eastcheap.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 051

Passing by another Heritage Route 15H towards Trafalgar Square.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 052

Entering Tower Hamlets.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 053

Approaching the Tower of London, where this bus terminates.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 054

Terminating at Tower of London (Stop TB). All change.

The 4.8km ride from Trafalgar Square (Charing Cross station) to Tower Hill takes just 21 minutes. A little bit short, but it’s a heritage route and probably costs more than my £1.50 to maintain.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 055

Heading down the AEC Routemaster’s staircase.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 056

The AEC Routemaster’s builder plate and refurbishment plate.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 057

Two dings on the bell from the conductor later, and the AEC Routemaster is off back to the depot.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 058

Goodbye AEC Routemaster. Thanks for the heritage ride.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 059

The New Routemasters just don’t look and feel as nice any more after riding on the real AEC Routemaster.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 06015H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 061

Tower of London (Stop TB), where the 15H terminates from Trafalgar Square.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 062

Crossing over to Tower of London like a tourist.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 063

As there was nothing much to see at Tower of London without buying a ticket, I decided to head to Tower Bridge instead to finish off the London icons experience.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 06415H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 065

Mandatory tourist shot towards Tower Bridge.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 066

Hello Tower Bridge again.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 06715H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 06815H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 069

The towering Tower Bridge bridge tower.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 070

The skyline with Tower of London.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 071

Tower Bridge’s high-level walkways.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 072

Tower Bridge’s regular pedestrian walkways.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 073

The bascules can be raised to allow ships to pass.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 074

The skyline with City Hall and The Shard.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 075

The middle point of Tower Bridge where both bascules meet.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 07615H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 077

Heading to Stop TA to hopefully catch the last 15H back to Trafalgar Square (Charing Cross).

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 07815H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 079

Lots of regular Service 15s are seen, but unfortunately no sign of the last 15H that was supposed to show up.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 080

The last 15H should depart at 5.55pm.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 081

Stop TA is also a pick up and drop off point for Megasightseeing on certain days only.

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 082

The bus services making a stop at Tower of London (Stop TA).

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 083

A 15H coming in from Trafalgar Square terminating at Tower of London (Stop TA).

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 084

A Megasightseeing bus passing through Tower of London (Stop TA).

15H (Heritage) Charing Cross Trafalgar Square Tower of London 085

As it was already past 6pm with no sign of the last 15H showing up, I decided to continue on my journey from Tower of London instead.

Overall, a fantastic ride on board the well-preserved AEC Routemaster, a true recognisable icon of London which doesn’t look out of place even in 2019 with all the modern skyscrapers rising in London. Definitely a must-do when in London on a weekend or a public holiday. Great job TfL and Stagecoach for keeping this heritage bus service alive.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.