The London Bus Page In Exile

Wednesday 13 December 2006

Funny sort of place for an Almex E

Filed under: Equipment, Historical — londonbuspageinexile @ 9:09 pm

Almex E ticket machine Almex E ticket from box 5880 Almex E ticket from box 7100 Almex E ticket fitted to Long Beach Transit bus

The most famous ticket machine on London’s buses may have been the Gibson used by London bus conductors from 1953 to 1993, but the Almex E designed for OPO buses ran it a creditable second with approximately twenty years of service. The last of them came off at the end of 1987, and indeed had come into their own once the accompanying self-service ticket machinery had been abandoned in 1979.

They issued a little square ticket with a resounding ‘ptatka!’ sound made possible only by the machines’ being powered by an electric current; otherwise, a lever had to be fitted to snap the ticket out manually. A couple of London Transport garages issued their conductors with Almex Es as an experiment, the most familiar in my experience being Norbiton, whose 65 and 71 were treated during 1983. The ticket on the left is from box 5880, which at the time of issue (Friday 26th June 1985) belonged to Southall and was allocated to route 232. The stage number (10) is next, which for this route was Southall Broadway. Underneath you get the usual London Transport ownership markings, and then upside down is the fare code (A), which that year was the child fare of 15p, and beside that the ticket number (9004). When I was a kid, we used to consider tickets that added up to 21 lucky, and there were fairly reasonable odds of getting one with tickets that only ran from 0000 to 9999.

This ticket is from a batch of Almex Es that were actually acquired from Strathclyde Transport in Glasgow, and while broadly similar to the traditional version could be set to display part of the date – in this case 18th October (1985). Box 7100 (showing the last three figures inherited from its original owner) was allocated to Victoria garage for the 39.

An unusual postscript revealed to me recently by former London bus driver and California expatriate Malcolm Allan, who was kind enough to send me the final picture in today’s post, is that some of the Almex Es found new owners once redundant from London Buses. This one is seen fitted to a Long Beach Transit GMC, and is unusually mounted pointing down, baseplate and all! The driver would issue the ticket and then hand it to the boarding passenger.

Thanks to Malcolm for providing this subject matter – readers are more than welcome to send me pictures and information that you think might be worthy of inclusion in these pages.


  1. Conductors at K used Almex E which were unpopular with females. I was a TPO driver at K in 1975 when these machines were in use on 65/71. When transferred to OPO work at NB we also used Almex A for compilation duties on 215/216/218 often working three routes per duty. These were necessary for the issue of return tickets on route 218. There was usually a groan when a driver was issued with the larger M/C box in the output when signing on. These duties were listed under the lowest numbered route i.e. 215 and so an anomally existed on Sundays when when the early driver might come in and request ‘one on the two one fives’ as this route did not operate on Sundays at the time.

    Comment by Graham Burnell — Saturday 16 December 2006 @ 6:19 pm

  2. I was a conductor at K when the switch was made to Almex and thought they were an excellent machine. I believe they were slightly heavier than the Gibson but I felt they sat better because they were not so bulky. This made it easier to get round the bus (especially RTs).

    Comment by Paul Wheeler — Tuesday 19 December 2006 @ 10:11 pm

  3. Anyone know where I can get a motorised base unit for an Almex E type?


    Comment by Keith Nason — Tuesday 19 December 2006 @ 11:10 pm

  4. Three comments:

    How did the joint compilation at NB work in terms of when a particular type of machine was used on each route? In other words, were Almex As by default the standard equipment on all 215 and 216 journeys or only on certain journeys?

    Regarding use of crewed Almex Es, while sleeker and so easier for the conductor to negotiate crowded buses, I understand that Almex Es were less resistant to the sort of everyday knocks that Gibsons tended to take in their stride. A technically minded friend tells me that Almex Es are somewhat complicated and oversensitive hence better suited to the stability of motordrive operation.

    Finally for Malcolm, are the Long Beach Almex Es definitely ex-LT; any chance of a ticket scan?

    Comment by Andrew Jeffreys — Thursday 21 December 2006 @ 8:16 pm

  5. If a duty comprised only 215/6 journeys the Almex E would be issued in a standard sized box as far as I can remember. The larger boxes containing the Almex A would only be issued if a duty contained a 218 journey thus enabling S.C.C. returns to be issued. A duty may have only included only a single 218 journey as buses changed from 216 to 218 and vice versa at Staines.
    If a driver was seen asking for bronze or wearing a rubber band on the wrist it was a good guess that he/she was on the ‘eights’. The bronze was required for S.C.C. scale fares as LT routes were rounded to the nearest 5np only requiring silver. The elastic band would be needed as extra security for the ticket roll door on the Almex A. It was quite an intricate procedure to thread paper through this T.I.M. and experienced drivers always checked the paper quantity in the output when signing on. The 215 bifrucation at Coverts Road, Claygate (unserved by K3) could easily result in the Almex A door opening and the paper roll escaping due to the poor road surface.
    Some drivers would exchange duties to avoid the Almex A and rather drive along Putney High Street twelve times than do a couple of rounders on the 218’s.
    Sometimes the Almex E failed on the ‘hot plate’ but this could often be rectified by the insertion of a cash bag between plate and T.I.M. The Almex A was secured to the plate by two wingnuts. One morning my brother and I both had Metrobuses on the 216 Kingston-Tolworth shorts and soon got fed up with the continual re-setting between child and adult flat fares with dominoe loads at Surbiton.
    By the time I reluctantly went O.P.O. the £1 wheel on the Almex A had been sealed because drivers had previously paid in short due to this wheel not being completely cleared and thus registering an additional £1 to each fare.
    You certainly needed your wits about you at NB. The 213 had four different eastern destinations and even the journeys to A differed in the evenings!

    Comment by Graham Burnell — Saturday 30 December 2006 @ 3:54 pm

  6. Thanks for that Graham. Ah yes, the Almex A mounting bracket was an ingenious affair in that it was designed to fit on top of the Almex E motordrive stand.

    Almex A doors are lockable but presumably drivers were not issued with keys. The elastic band thus joins another staple component of the Almex A set-up – a paper coin bag – which LCBS drivers often resorted to in order to secure their Almex As to the stand and reduce rattles from the machine!

    Comment by Andrew Jeffreys — Sunday 7 January 2007 @ 10:02 pm

  7. A further thought – if anyone’s interested!

    The Long Beach arrangement is certainly unusual but I’d apply a fairly significant caveat: when electrically powered Model Es are used in the conventional door-mounted position facing away from the driver, as they were in London, the information (route, stage etc) displayed through the little window in the top of the machine and changed by the yellow and red ‘stepping’ keys as they are known would appear the right way up from the driver’s perspective. However, if a standard London Model E were put in the Long Beach position facing towards the driver, this information would appear upside down and so less easy to see. This could only be alleviated if the wheels inside the machine were to be reversed as on Model Es that were produced by Almex to order specifically for a driver-facing mounting.

    This doesn’t mean that the Long Beach machines aren’t ex-London but is merely intended to provide one clue as to how they might not be. Another is that from the Model Es I’ve seen LT was also relatively unusual in specifying red and yellow stepping keys but, on machines of other operators, both these keys are red. It is not impossible that the stepping keys would be changed as part of a programme where machines are being modifed for the requirements of a different operator but it is also relatively less likely. So my first assumption on seeing a machine sporting red keys would be that is it probably not ex-LT. Can Malcolm recall any other features which would confirm/deny such an assumption?

    Comment by Andrew Jeffreys — Tuesday 15 May 2007 @ 3:14 pm

  8. At Leyton we always had a key and a lever in the machine box, in case of the need for manual operation, which did happen occasionally. The first route to use Almex machines was the 236 from 1971. Leyton’s first OPO route, the 235 introduced in 1968 with MBs, had larger ticket machines (I’ve forgotten what they were called), but these were phased out with the MBs.
    When working on “out county” services, it might be necessary to issue three tickets per passenger to make up the fare. We often had large parties of Foreign schoolkids on the 235 from Chigwell Station to Grange Farm and I can well remember the look of amazement on their faces when about 5 metres of tickets was issued for 20 kids for a journey of three stops.

    Comment by IsarSteve — Wednesday 16 May 2007 @ 10:29 am

  9. #7, regarding my comments about the colour of the stepping keys, I’ve recently seen a photo of an ex-Strathclyde Model E as acquired by LT / LBL and the stepping keys are red and yellow whereas on Strathclyde Es they were both red so LT evidently did take the pains to modify this innocuous feature on the second-hand batch in the interests of standardisation.

    #8, the larger ticket machine used on OMO routes before the Almex E was introduced was the Bell Punch Company-manufactured Ultimate.

    Comment by Andrew Jeffreys — Tuesday 29 May 2007 @ 8:30 am

  10. #8&9, oh joy!, the Ultimate t/m! I remember using these on OMO RFs before the BL class and Almex E’s replaced both. We had some in tin boxes, in which were not only the heavy t/m but also a spare roll of pre printed ticket, sticky tabs used to fix the new roll to the last part of the old one (before it ran out), paper cash bags, any any other odds and sods you caollected. Unlike our colleagues on DMSs, when going for a pee, we could not just stuff our emergency ticket pack and “E” keys in our pocket after locking the t/m up, but had to take the whole darn lot with us otherwise some nasty tyke may well have either made off with our tickets or issued several off the t/m in our absence. It was not hard to end up with “monkeys arms” carrying that lot.
    On the subject of Almex Es, I am pretty sure that some were modified with different values for issuing tickets on the various multiride ticket experiments, but that was a long time ago and memory is a bit hazy!

    Comment by Doug Ely — Wednesday 30 May 2007 @ 11:25 am

  11. Oops, slight gremlin attack above; I meant to say spare ticket rolls for the Ultimate as each separate fare value had its own roll of tickets. And yes, I do know how to spell collected.

    Comment by Doug Ely — Wednesday 30 May 2007 @ 11:29 am

  12. #10, interesting that drivers were apparently issued with keys to lock their Model Es up; wouldn’t an alternative have been to put machine, box, ETPs etc inside the cubby-hole under the stairs on DMSs if having to leave the bus unattended for any reason or was there a belief that the nasty tykes probably had T-keys as well?

    Ultimates were heavy beasts when boxed up and which included a little metal rack for holding all the spare ticket rolls; this could take about 18 rolls but I don’t know how many were actually carried day-by-day. LT Ultimate rolls are the stuff of legend for collectors due to their rarity value (I’ve only got the one!) although the machines themselves surface occasionally.

    On Almex Es with different values, some old cash total sheets show the multiride code as M or MU so I wonder if MU was ever printed on tickets. I’ve also seen Almex E tickets with J and R codes on, maybe multiride, maybe something else like the Airbus routes.

    Comment by Andrew Jeffreys — Thursday 31 May 2007 @ 11:10 am

  13. #12, I can’t ever remember personally using the cubby-hole on a DMS to store a machine box and can’t remember other drivers using them either. It was “the norm” to either lock the machine on to the base or even take it with you if you left the bus on a stand e.g. for “T” drivers on the 236 at the Finsbury Park (Plimsoll Rd stand). Later of course, on LSs we always stored the machine box in the space between the instrument console and the fare-chart holder which held it in place. There, it was also at hand if the pack of emergency tickets was required at short notice.

    Was the value of ticket from Almex E machines always shown as a letter? I seem to vaguely remember that at the end of the seventies there was a changeover from numbered values to lettered values or am I confusing that with the Gibsons?

    Comment by IsarSteve — Thursday 31 May 2007 @ 7:41 pm

  14. #13, the changeover to Alpha codes on all manually operated ticket machines, crew and OMO, took place in 1978 so Almex Es had printed the fare in numbered values before then. One thing I don’t know, though, given that Almex Es were first introduced in the late 1960s (ie: before decimalisation) is whether they ever printed in ‘d’ values? Gibsons did, of course, and had to have their farewheels changed (except for those Gibsons being used by LCBS where the ‘d’ was simply ground off) when d-day came. Something about Swedish efficiency suggests that Almex Es probably did not print in ‘d’ values but it’s only my hunch…!

    Comment by Andrew Jeffreys — Monday 4 June 2007 @ 3:24 pm

  15. My LCBS Gibson prints with the value with a D still! Not all were ground off therefore

    Comment by Ray — Monday 4 June 2007 @ 5:38 pm

  16. #14, I seem to vaguely remember tickets used what we nowadays in computer language call “a slash” .

    1/6 for one shilling and sixpence (7,5 new pence) or 0/11 for eleven pence (4 new pence), 0/8 for eight pence (3 new pence).

    Therefore a “d” pence sign would not have been necessary…

    Or am I just dreaming it all up?

    Comment by IsarSteve — Monday 4 June 2007 @ 6:55 pm

  17. 12#, each Ultimate t/m box contained a spare ticket roll for each value in use on the route(s)worked by that duty; say 7 keys in use equalled 7 spare ticket rolls. These tickets rolls are extremely rare due to the fact that they were in effect identical to the driver’s emergency ticket packs and, unlike Almex or Gibson rolls, had a value before they were inserted in a ticket machine and were subsequently validated when issued from the machine. Their issue was therefore controlled as was their withdrawal when these t/m’s ceased to be used. Each day after use, should a spare roll have been used, the Counter Assistant’s (staff who checked and prepared the t/m’s for their next duty)would replace it. Us mere driver’s had no control over the number of spare rolls carried. And also driver’s were never personally issued with Almex keys as they were part of the equipment in each box, however I suspect many did as I did and got a copy cut for their own use as soon as possible!

    Comment by Doug Ely — Tuesday 5 June 2007 @ 8:10 am

  18. #15, so far there seems to have been two types of LCBS Gibson: those withdrawn before decimalisation which did indeed print the ‘d’; and those that survived for a few more years where it was judged more cost-effective to grind the ‘d’ off all relevant values on the farewheel. However, these post-decimalisation machines also included some shilling values and these were not ground off; instead they were used as proxies for decimal values and had to be included on the fare indicator strip inside the farewheel which was how conductors knew what values to select. In due course the LCBS machines passed back to LT and some were sold off, usually after having had the LONDON TRANSPORT titling and even the machine number ground off as well.

    #16, the slash was possibly on pre-decimal Almex Model A tickets.

    #17, another example of LT’s concerns over security. With Ultimate tickets, though, I guess there’d be a few ways of recognising fraudulent use: the lack of a printed fare stage number, how the ticket had been torn off (Ultimates had serrated edges) and the ticket roll number(s) which would have been publicised within traffic circulars or similar if there were any incidents of dodgy / stolen rolls.

    Comment by Andrew Jeffreys — Tuesday 5 June 2007 @ 11:23 am

  19. #17/#18 Although a TPO driver at K during 1975 I wondered why RF drivers unravelled their Ultimate rolls across the output when signing on and was told they were looking for missing tickets. It seems that somebody was on the hey diddle diddle and presumably most passengers did not examine these small dark coloured tickets too closely.
    When transferred from SBC to RBK in 1965 I was put in charge of controlled stationery in internal audit and Automaticket commenced their numbering with 00000. This kept me alert when checking cash returns. Did anybody else commence their numbering with zero?

    Comment by Graham Burnell — Wednesday 12 September 2007 @ 7:05 am

  20. As a child I was fascinated with the Almex E in terms of it’s physical appearance and the way it was mounted on the drivers cab door, as well as the sound it made when issuing tickets.

    Most of all though, I loved the tickets themselves and mostly with the aid of one my parents in-tow I went all around London collecting samples from pretty much every route that used them.

    So contrary to 99.99% of bus enthusuiasts who lamented the demise of RTs and RMs in favour of DMSs (and their successors), I considered OPO conversions as something to celebrate, in particular the mass wave of conversions in 1985 that included my local route of the time, the 118 between Morden and Clapham Common.

    As for the Kingston area, I remember the introduction of Almex E to routes 218/219 in their last year of RF operation in 1978, the only instance of RFs using Almex instead of the ‘Ultimate’ machine. I remember the unusual way the machines were mounted on the cab door with a backwards lean towards the driver, presumably made necessary by space limitation.

    I also remember the experimental use of Almex E on crew routes from around 1979, which utilised the last 600 or so machines made for LT.

    Routes that I know of that used them on crew operation were 122 (AM/PD) & 207 (HL/UX) both using amongst others machines in the 62xx number range, 65 & 71 (K/NB)- using 66xx range) and 86 & 193 (AP) – using 68xx range.

    The experiment with Almex E on crew routes ended by 1984, with all routes concerned reverting to Gibson ticketing. The main reason for this became apparent with the aforementioned wave of OPO conversions the following year, as the manually-operated ‘crew’ Almex machines magically re-appeared as conventional motor-driven OPO machines on many of the converted routes.

    Routes known to have used these ex-crew machines in notable quantity upon OPO conversion were 4 (HT), 33 (FW), 45 (Q), 47A (TB), 69 (WH), 71 (NB), 76 (AR), 77A (SW), 118 (BN), 119 (TB), 133 (BN), 141 (WN/TL), 176 (WL/Q), 190 (TC), 208 (TL), 243 (AR)

    Routes known to have used at least a few of them included 37 (AK/SW), 40 (Q), 41 (AR ex-76), 49 (AK/S), 68 (N), 77 (AL), 109 (TH) and 260 (AC).

    I also recall the Strathclyde machines that LT bought in second hand although until reading this page I didn’t know where they’d come from. I remember these as being numbered around 7000 onwards (LTs own machines ending 6904 or 6905 I believe) and appearing from late 1985 onwards, again to provide additional machines to support further OPO conversions.

    I was not a fan of these machines as fundamentally they printed what I considered was a crap ticket.

    I came across them operating at the following garages –

    Chalk Farm (Routes 24 and 46)

    Wood Green (Routes 41/141 plus others)

    Thornton Heath (Routes 60, 64 and 194B, but not 109)

    Going back to LTs own machines, one thing that in my opinion drastically reduced the asthetic quality of an Almex E ticket was when the original ‘LONDON TRANSPORT NOT TRANSFERABLE/STAGE/FAIR’ print plate (outputting as per machine 5880/Route 232 example above) would wear out and be replaced with one with the much smaller lettering. Worse still was the circa 1986 version that read ‘LONDON BUSES NOT TRANSFERABLE’ as shown in the ex-Strathclyde sample above. (If I was able to upload a few comparitive examples you would hopefully see what I mean).

    It also seemed to me that some garages would install these inferior replacement print plates as part of routine maintenance rather than as a necessary replacement for a worn original. Using the crew Almex machines as an example of this, virtually all of the ex route 65 & 71 machines (66xx batch ) had the smaller plates by the time they were in use on OPO routes in 1985, whilst no more than 50% of the ex route 86 & 193 (68xx batch) had gone this way by 1985.

    Anyway, sorry if this has been a ramble but I’ve been looking for somewhere (or someone) to talk Almex E for ages.

    Comment by Geoff Mayoh — Friday 22 February 2008 @ 9:41 pm

  21. Are you interested in having guest bloggers?

    Comment by epub books — Saturday 27 August 2011 @ 1:56 pm

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