666: The Number of the Bus

It will return, home once again… to Hell in a Half-Cab

Graphic image for 666 article
An appropriately hellish choice of vehicle for this image: an East Lancashire bodied Dennis Dart.

At the Deregulation 25 event on Sunday 23 October 2011, some numerical bus indicator based schadenfreude was inflicted on Manchester United supporting bus enthusiasts. Two Manchester City fans used their preserved buses to display the latest score from Old Trafford in the first Manchester derby of the season. From another point of view, it was an entertaining use of the indicator, though purists would have baulked at the use of ‘1 6’ instead of 53 for Old Trafford.

Before 000 became the standard number for Sorry Not in Service, you would sometimes see 007 or 666 in use. Had the 666 route been in use within Greater Manchester, Damian would have been a Wiganer. It may have whisked him towards Wigan Market from Ashton-in-Makerfield or Pennington Flash. Aleister Crowley would have flagged it at North Western station after a few scoops at The Railway opposite. In Greater Manchester, the closest to 666 was Wigan to Golborne service 663. Before you ask, two journeys on the 333 (Ashton – Smallshaw Circular) doesn’t count.

Real Life 666 Routes:

Perhaps the very number ‘666’ exudes negativity among passengers of a religious disposition. Likewise operators fearing that the number 666 means a Bus From Hell in the literal sense.

1. 666: Edgware – Hammersmith Broadway (via Burnt Oak, Cricklewood, Willesden, Acton and Starch Green):

40 years before The Omen hit the box office, there was a 666 operated by London Transport.LT’s 666 route was a trolleybus service inaugurated in 1936, two years after LT’s trolleybus services were allocated numbers in the 500s and 600s. It replaced motorbus service 6 on the 05 July that year. It was a peak hour service with a handful of Sunday journeys. On abandonment of London Transport’s trolleybus system in 1962, it reverted to bus operations as the renumbered 266.

2. 666: Ashford – Challock – Faversham (Kent Top Travel/Chalkwell Coaches):

Is this the sole surviving 666 route throughout the United Kingdom? The Kent County Council subsidised route is a rural route between a town famed for the Shepherd Neame brewery and a town noted for its Eurostar services. It takes in the village of Challock along the Faversham Road. Most journeys are operated by Kent Top Travel with a Schooldays Only return journey from Shieldwick to Faversham operated by Chalkwell Coaches.

The core service operates has 11 journeys between Ashford and Faversham from 0640 to 1900. Some journeys continue to the Ashford Designer Outlet with a couple continuing to Oare. On Saturday, there are six journeys each way with one journey calling additionally at Ashford, Elwick Road.

3. 666: Debki – Hel (via Ostrowo and Jurata):

Our third 666 is a Polish service from Debki to Hel. There are two daily journeys between the two points taking 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete with further journeys from Karwia and Ostrowo. At that point, the service increases to six journeys with services seven days a week. It skirts along the coastline of the Baltic Sea, taking in a part of Poland formerly annexed by Germany. Hel was also the last part of Poland to surrender to Nazi Germany on the 02 October 1939.

The 666, and the rest of Poland’s buses are operated by PKS, which is a consortia of private operators offering bus services. As with the UK, tickets can be bought from the driver and at bus stations. For short journeys, it is seen as a cheaper option (according to Wikitravel) than scheduled rail services.

4. 666: Rochlitz – Colditz – Hohnbach (via Schwarzbach):

Don’t Mention The Route! Passengers on Germany’s RegioBus Bayern network can board route 666 between Rochlitz and Colditz. On weekdays, route 666 operates two journeys in the morning with a further three journeys on schooldays. These extra three journeys omit Seupahn, Schwarzbach and Leupahn. The full journey takes 30 to 35 minutes to complete.

5. 666: WACA [Western Australian Cricket Association] – Wellington Street Bus Station

In Perth, Western Australia, services for special events are allocated numbers within the 600 series. The 666 is a shuttle service to WACA’s cricket stadium which operates from the city’s bus station. This is operated by TransPerth, a Western Australian equivalent to Transport for Greater Manchester, only with powers to operate to regulate buses and operate suburban railway services.

Whereas most of Perth’s buses are operated by private companies, the 666 is a Special Service directly operated operated by TransPerth. It is one of a selection of occasional services for special functions like ANZAC Day or test matches.

6. 666: Royston Vasey – Glossop Depot

Before anybody assumes this route is a short working from York Street to Hadfield, you are almost right. Sometimes, instead of 000 Sorry Not in Service, some Stagecoach Manchester drivers would set the electronic indicators to read ‘666 Royston Vasey’. Typically (and appropriately for fans of The League of Gentlemen), Glossop depot’s Mercedes Varios would see this fictitious destination.

Any More Honorable Mentions?

If you are able to recall other route 666s past and present, anywhere around the globe, feel free to do so. Also, if anybody else knows why 666 seldom features on any route, comment away.

S.V., 28 October 2011

Based on an idea by Jon Warrior.

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4 thoughts on “666: The Number of the Bus

Add yours

  1. I know in Peter Kay’s Max and Paddy’s Road To Nowhere show, they set the number of the school bus to 666, but strictly that doesn’t count.

    I remember a story on QI about how they were talking about 616 was supposed to be the real Number of the Beast but 666 stuck as the more commonly accepted one. They also mentioned that a bus company in Russia changed their number of a service from 666 to avoid the association and changed it to 616.

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  2. Well spotted Shaun,

    Although the 666 on ‘Max and Paddy’s Road to Nowhere’ is a fictitious one. One other thing I remembered about that episode was that Green Triangle/South Lancs Transport minibuses featured. An interesting reference on QI about the number 616 being The Real Number of the Beast. I suppose it is likely as 6 + 1 + 6 = 13!

    In 1983, there was a real life 616 route in the form of a local service from Wigan to Horwich via Aspull (Scot Lane). This has been replaced by the 575 route which continues to Bolton along Chorley New Road (Max and Paddy Territory again!).

    Bye for now,

    Stuart.

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  3. I know it’s some time since the last post here but when I lived in Bradford (1988-95) the 666 would take you out to the Gateway to … the Dales (no really) AKA Skipton, It appears that this has now been reduced to just the 66 I imagine so as not to offend modern religious sensibilities. I had a memorable journey riding the 666 with my boyfriend at the time to the Gateway witnessing a Titanic clash en route between Rita, Sue and a couple of Nora Batttys, but that’s another story…

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    1. Hi Bridget,

      I suppose this would be today’s Keighley and District 66A service, which no longer starts at Bradford Interchange. Instead it begins at Keighley bus station. For the Keighley to Bradford section, you need to catch the 662 service. Thankfully, both services are operated by Transdev Keighley and District, so one of their day rover tickets will suffice.

      The journey time from Bradford Interchange to Skipton bus station is 1 hour and 35 minutes, including connection time at Keighley to transfer between the 66A and 662 services.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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