Route 121:

Alexander RH-bodied Leyland Olympian RH119 works a 121 service to Drimnagh on the 22nd April 2005. This bus was delivered new to Phibsborough garage in late 1991. This photograph is taken about 4 months prior to RH119's withdrawal. It is surrounded by buses in the then new Dublin Bus yellow and blue livery, the fact it remained in the previous fleet standard no doubt due to its imminent withdrawal.

Route 121 is a main cross-city route from the Northern suburb of Cabra, to the southern suburb of Drimnagh, operating through the narrow streets of the Liberties in Dublin 8. Though this route is a relatively new route on the network, it is important to put the route into context by giving a general overview of the many routes which served the same locations.

Route 121 was introduced as a CityImp route, a branding developed by Dublin Bus for their minibus operations. Dublin Bus had begun operating minibuses in their inaugural year with the MB (MCW Metroriders) class on Tallaght Localink Routes T01 and T02. Other Localink Routes such as the 210, 220 and 230 would follow; all being local routes in the suburban areas of Dublin.

Eurocoach-bodied Mercedes Benz Vario 814D, MV66, is seen operating Route 121 to Drimnagh on the 4th April 1998. The MV-class were the lastof Dublin' minibuses to enter service, doing so in late 1997, early 1998. 25 such buses were delivered to Phibsborough for Route 121 and 122 but interestingly Dublin Bus identified them as MV60-MV84. This was a continuation of the ME-class of minibuses (ME1-59), which were also bodied my Eurocoach in Donegal.

The first city centre route to be converted to minibus operation was the 83 (City Centre-Kimmage). This had been chosen as it had been suffering from declining passenger numbers. Minibuses revived this route, passenger loadings tripling almost immediately after its introduction. The second in line was Route 22, or more specifically the Cabra area itself.

Cabra had originally been served by Route 50A, then renumbered 54A, operating to Fassaugh Road via Quarry Road. This was to be replaced in 1938 by Route 12, a cross-city route from Fassaugh Avenue (Cnr Dowth Avenue) via Quarry Road and NCR, to Palmerston Park on the Southside. The 22 was introduced in the Autumn of 1944, the last new DUTC route, operating from City Centre to Cabra West. It was extended to Drimnagh in 1946 and the 22A was introduced in 1952. These routes served Carnlough Road, the 22 went left up Fassaugh Avenue to the Ratoath Road while the 22A continued up Carnlough Road to terminate on the Boombridge Road, these termini being modified in the late 60s to both be Ventry Park. The 12 would go in the first half of 1986, with the 22A rerouted to serve Quarry Road instead of Carnlough Road.

A trio of Imps on College Street. ME21 on thr 121, passes ME16 on the 123, while ML3 loads at its terminus on Route 83. ME21, a Eurocoach-bodied Mercedes Benz 709D minibus, was devlivered to Conyngham Road for additional capacity on the 123. It was placed into temporary store around Christmas 1996 due to a surplus of minibuses within the fleet. It was reintroduced for the 121 launch. ME21 was converting into a Night Ticket Bus in the Spring 2001, a few months after the launch of the much expanded NiteLink service. ME16 was delivered to Conyngham Road and was placed into service on the 123, but transferred to Donnybrook in the Summer of 1994 to augment their fleet on the 155. It returned to Conyngham Road in early 1995 when the latest batch of MLs arrived. It transferred with Route 123 to Phibsborough/Broadstone depot on the 7th May 2000 and upon the arrival of the WV-class in late-2000 for Route 123 it was sold to Avondale, Greenock. ML3, a Leicester Carriage Builders-bodied Mercedes Benz 709D, was delivered to Ringsend Depot just prior to the Sector 4 changes in the Summer of 1994 and entered service on the then new Route 150 from Fleet Street to Rossmore. ML3 was withdrawn upon delivery of WV47-52 to Ringsend in spring 2001 for Route 150.

The 120 was introduced on 31st October 1993, serving City Centre to Ratoath Road via Carnlough Road and Dowth Avenue, after months of industrial disputes with regards to route 22/A. At this point the 22A was cut short to city only, but the 22 remained operating in the Cabra area, though terminated at Navan Road Garda Station with some buses continuing to Ashington, leaving its old terminus at Ventry Park to be served by the 120. The 22 had originally been meant to avoid Cabra as part of the CityImp changes.

On the southside the 121 serves Kildare Road and Clogher Road. Clogher Road itself was only built in the 1940’s, a while after the main Crumlin developments. It was principally served by Route 81 which was introduced in 1948, operating from City-Centre to Bangor Circle via Clanbrassil Street and South Circular Road. This route survived until January 1985, it being replaced by a rerouted 22A which diverted off South Circular Road to serve Clogher Road, Sundrive Road and Herberton Road to previous routing on Mourne Road. Thus Bangor Circle was without a city-bound service.

Phibsborough's AV43, an Alexander ALX400-bodied Volvo B7TL, is seen on Dame Street operating Route 121 to Cabra in February 2005, wearing the then fleet standard of Blue and Cream with orange stripe. AV43 is now operating out of Clontarf Garage having been transferred in the Summer of 2009.

This proved unpopular and caused a private operator, Lavery Coaches, to ply his trade between Bangor Circle and City during peak periods. No money could be charged, but 50p donations were generally placed in a box at the front of the bus. The 22A would then be reorganised to serve Clogher Road, Sundrive Road, Clonmacnoise Road, Bangor Circle, Bangor Road, Kildare Road to terminate on Drimnagh Road, with the 22 extended there from its previous Mourne Road terminus too.

The other Route with connections to the 121 is Route 82 which served the small narrow roads of the Liberties. It took a slightly different routing serving Dufferin Avenue instead of O’Donovan Road and Donore Avenue. Route 82 operated between City Centre and Terenure via Patrick Street, the Coombe, Ardee Street, Dufferin Avenue, South Circular Raod, Dolphins Barn, Crumlin Road, Sundrive Road, Clonmacnoise Road, Armagh Road, St. Agnes Road, Kimmage Road West and Terenure Road West. This route was withdrawn in 1970 due to a new orbital Route 17 from Blackrock to Dolphins Barn serving much of Route 82’s route. The Fairbrother’s field area would then go without a service until the introduction of Route 121 in 1997.

ML12, a Leicester Carriage Builders-bodied Mercedes Benz 709D, is seen operating Route 121 on the 27th December 1997. Due to the fact that the MV-class buses had yet to arrive, ML11 and 12 were transferred from Ringsend, where they were temporarily in store to Phibsborough to operate Route 121. MV61-64 were put into service soon after this photo was taken and ML11 and 12 returned to store following their brief stint on the 121.

Route 121 was introduced by Phibsborough Garage on Sunday 7th December 1997, operating from Parnell Square East to Drimnagh with the following routing:

Parnell Square East (Returning Parnell Street, Parnell Square West, Parnell Square North), O’Connell Street, D’olier Street, College Street (Returning Westmoreland Street), College Green, Dame Street, Lord Edward Street, Christchurch Place, High Street, Cornmarket, Francis Street (Returning Meath Street), The Coombe, Ardee Street, St. Thomas Road, O’Donovan Road, Donore Avenue, Clogher Road, Kildare Road, Crumlin Road, Cooley Road, Errigal Gardens, Errigal Road, Drimnagh Road.

The 22A was discontinued from this date, and hence once again Bangor Circle had no service from the city. From inception the route was operated by a mixture of MA-class from the 120 allocation, ML11/12, ME22-4; and the then brand new MV60. ML11/12 would last only a short time in Phibsborough as more MV-class buses were delivered and placed into service on the 121.

MA6, an Alexander-bodied Mercedes Benz 709D, is seen operating Route 121 on the first Saturday of operation on the 13th December 1997. MA6 entered service on the 120 in October 1993, though it may have seen occasional use on the 250 on which the MA class were used in rotation until the start of the 120. The MA-class were withdrawn only late 2001, long after imps delivered a year after them, when a large batch of AVs were delivered to Phibsborough allowing the P-class verdes to convert 122.

Route 121 was extended northwards to Cabra on the 14th June 1998, the day the 122 replaced the 22. This was to provide further capacity in the Cabra area due to the replacement of a high capacity, double-deck route, with a minibus operation; something which proved unworkable and was by far the most troublesome of CityImp conversions even with the extended 121. The 121s extended routing saw Eccles Street added to the Dublin Bus network for the first time. The routing was as follows:

Faussagh Road (Quarry Road Roundabout), Dowth Avenue, Cabra Road, North Circular Road, Berkeley Road, Eccles Street, Dorset Street Lower, Frederick Street North, Parnell Square East and as per previous routing to Drimnagh.

RA323, an Alexander bodied Volvo Olympian (Cummins Powered), is seen on Dame Street operating Route 121 to Drimnagh on the 22nd April 2005. The Cityswift livery it carries had not long left within the Dublin Bus fleet, being replaced along with other liveries such as Raillink and CityImp into the new core livery of yellow and blue worn by the RH-class Olympian behind. Such variational liveries were seen to dilute the brand and therefore a single core livery was introduced. RA323 was delivered in late 1996 to Summerhill. It transferred to Phibsborough in the early Summer 1999, with RA317-22 as part of a considerable Bombardier reduction in Phibsborough due to the sub-contraction of School operations.

The 121 was extended once again on the 21st February 1999. The new routing saw it serve the entire length of Fassaugh Road. This move was no doubt required due to capacity issues with the 122 conversion. Its new terminus was on the Ratoath Road, at the entrance to St. Joseph’s School. Cabra routing was as follows:

Cabra Road, Dowth Avenue, Fassaugh Road, Nephin Road, Navan Road, Ratoath Road (terminus), Fassaugh Road, Dowth Avenue, Cabra Road.

AD46, an Alexander Setanta bodied DAF SB220, is seen here operating Route 121 on Parnell Square East on the 16th July 2005. It entered service in Donnybrook in late 1994 prinicpally seeing service on the 54A which had recently been transferred from Summerhill in exchange for the 13s. It then transferred to Phibsborough in the late Spring of 2004 as part of batch of ADs (AD44-50), displaced from Donnybrook due to the transferral of WV4-7,14-16 to Donnybrook. AD46 was one of the last ADs to see service with Dublin Bus when they were withdrawn from service on the 122 in late June 2006. One final appearance was made by AD55 and VA10 on the 122 on the 2nd July 2006 as part of a commemorative run.

Thus the route took the same loop that the 22 took after its extension to Navan Road Garda Station when the 120 started in 1993. However the 121 did not terminate at this location, though  it was quite common at this time to see a minibus parked up on the Navan Road opposite where the Library is now, awaiting its time.

On the 19th May 2002, Route 121 was converted from minibus to Double-Deck operation. This was seen as a surprise at the time, as the busier 122 was single-deck operated only, its minibus conversion lasting only a few years. Due to concerns about the narrowness of Dowth Avenue, the routing was again modified at this time serve Quarry Road in Cabra. A few years later and this concern seemed to have been dropped when Route 120 was made Double-Deck operated serving Dowth Avenue. It is also interesting due to narrowness of the roads in general on the 121 routing that Dowth Avenue was singled out. The routing has not changed since then.

MV65 is seen operating Route 121 to Drimagh on the 18th April 1998. It transferred to Harristown upon its opening on 31st October 2004. MV65 also has the distinction in that it was the last Mercedes minibus to operate with Dublinbus, operating the 2230 departure of the 239 from Liffey Valley on the 11th February 2006, replaced by WV class buses.

Of specific interest to this route is the fact it serves the narrow streets of the Liberties in Dublin 8. The Liberties have a great historical significance. Its name derives from the fact that the Augustinian monks built an abbey here in memory of Saint Thomas Á Beckett in the 12th Century at the bequest of King Henry II. The monks were given liberty from the city laws, basically meaning they did not have to pay taxes. Hence the lands they owned were under Liberty and became known as the Liberties.

The Huguenots moved into the area in the 17th Century, bringing the art of Silk Weaving to Dublin. The cloth had to be stretched out on tenterhooks (from which a well known Dublin phrase is derived though colloquially pronounced 'tenderhooks'), and this was done in fields where O’Curry Road, St. Thomas Road and Clarence Mangan Road now stand. Therefore this area also became known as the ‘tenters’ by which it is still known today. Tenter is derived from the latin verb tendere – ‘to stretch’.

The fields within which the cloth was stretched were owned by a George Fairbrother of Clontarf and hence were known as Fairbrother’s Fields. This was a well known area in the early 20th century though its use has declined over the years. Social housing built by Dublin Corporation in this area in 1923 was designated as Fairbrother’s Fields and this term was then used by the DUTC for their route 82 via points.

Phibsborough's VT42, an Alexander Dennis Enviro-500 bodied Volvo B9TL, is seen awaiting the traffic lights on Sally's Bridge on the 2nd August 2009. The bridge is quite hump-backed, the position of the bus making for a very interesting photo, further signifying how strange an allocation this bus was that day.

VT42 seen awaiting its time at the 121 terminus on the Ratoath Road Cabra, after completing a return journey from Drimnagh.

A very unusual occurrence took place on the 2nd August 2009. Due to the narrowness of some of the roads on Route 121, a shock allocation was VT42. The route operated a few laps but was withdrawn from operation soon after. Thankfully for the bus community, some eminent bus enthusiasts were on hand to record this brief and unusual occurrence. For more photos of VT42 on the 121 that day see Kevin Horgan's latest feature on, Gavin Ward's Irish Decker blog and Tony Murray's VT-class page on which contains a multitude of pictures of the VT class.

Update 8th August 2010:

AX562 seen at both termini on the 7th August 2010.

Alexander ALX400-bodied Volvo B7LD, AX562, is seen operating Route 121 at its southern terminus on the Drimnagh Road on the 7th August 2010. Notice how the bus has its full hazards on but in this instance of time only the left front and right offside lights are on.

Alexander ALX400-bodied Volvo B7LD, AX562, is seen operating Route 121 at its Ratoath Road terminus on the 7th August 2010.

The route shown in two videos. The first video was taken between Granby Row and Ratoath Road. The second video is shot between Dame Street and Drimnagh Road. In both cases the video is sped up to 4x the normal speed to make it slightly more interesting. The sound of the engine is notably more racecar-esque, expected I suppose given that the revs and gear changes are closer together in time.

Video of Route 121 from Granby Row to Ratoath Road.

Video of Route 121 from Dame Street to Drimnagh Road.

The Withdrawal of Route 121:

Phibsborough's VG8 is seen on the St. Thomas Road operating Route 121 in its last days of service on the 7th May 2011.

The 121 was never a very busy route and with the Network Direct cost cutting measures being introduced by Dublin Bus, it was definately one on everyone's mind that would go. And sure enough on the 14th May 2011 it bed farewell after 13 and half years of operation. With it went a number of roads that are now unserved such as Meath Street and Francis Street, Eccles Street, Quarry Road and the section of Ratoath Road on which it formerly terminated on.

Phibsborough's AV25 is seen operating Route 121 on its last day of service the 14th May 2011 on Quarry Road. With Route 121 goes Quarry Road's service.

Phibsborough's AX580 is seen operating Route 121 on its last day of service on the 14th May 2011. Route 121 was the first service on 14th May 2011. The 121 was the first route to serve Eccles Street back in 1997, and with the 121 goes this street's service. AX580 is shrowded by the impressive Mater Hospital.

It was expected that with Route 121 would go the Tenter's routing around St. Thomas Road and Donore Avenue. However, the day after Route 121's withdrawal, the 15th May 2011, the 150 took over the 150 routing from Kildare Road to Ardee Street before continuing along Patrick Street to the city, avoiding Meath Street/Francis Street. Routes muted initially would have saw the 150 continue up Cork Street as per its previous routing, before turning left onto the South Circular Road and then right over Sally's Bridge to Clogher Road. This would have saw it heading a different routing into the city than the 122, which also serves this section of the South Circular Road. Hence another route talked about would have seen Route 150 head up Clanbrassil Street before turning right onto the South Circular Road and then onto Clogher Road.

Phibsborough's AV313 is seen about to turn right at the church on Donore Avenue heading to Cabra on the 7th May 2011.

Phibsborough's AX565 is seen on Ardee Street operating the 121 on the 8th May 2011.

What is evident is that the 150 is both missed on Cork Street, especially with the disasterous 27 change which sees large gaps, and also would have been useful on Clanbrassil Street where the 49 and 54A have been significantly cut. Such a frequent service through the Tenters is completely overkill. However, the fact that the 150 has taken over in this area can only be seen as a success for the former Route 121. It was the first route to enter the tenters in 27 years after the 82 was withdrawn in 1970. And even in its demise the core part of its routing has survived.

Phibsborough's AV31 is seen fading into the crisp January sky at the Ratoath Road terminus as Route 121 entered its last few months of operation on the 18th January 2011.

N.B. This website is not affiliated with Dublin Bus. The information contained herein is intended for enthusiast reference. For all current timetable and route information please refer to the official Dublin Bus Website.