RLH32 on 420

Cobham Prehibernation Day

Sunday 28th October 2007

Prepared by Ian Smith, 13th November 2007

Part One: Getting there

I cannot remember the last time I reached Weybridge by rail on a Sunday without using a rail replacement service. It adds interest, I suppose, for bus enthusiasts, but adds time too, without in any way reducing the cost. So instead of heading to Clapham Junction I caught a tram to Wimbledon, and there went to see what the offering was on the road beside the station. It was London United's Trident/Alexander TA273.

2534 at Sandilands TA273 at Wimbledon

I secured an upstairs front seat, and settled back to watch the stream of rail replacement buses coming the other way. Only there did not seem to be any. Nearing Raynes Park we caught up with sister bus TA278 on route 57, and crawled along behind it for a while, until an opportunity arose to escape. Aha! A rail replacement bus coming the other way: Alder Valley Transport's M1067, looking quite smart despite the weather.

TA278 on 57 at Raynes Park M1067

We reached Surbiton, with quite a while to wait before the "connecting" train departed. This at least gave a chance to look at the Rail Replacement Buses on the station forecourt. Leyland Olympian L351 still has its roof, unlike nearly all the rest of the class that went to Arriva TOLST. It also has an EM plate in the nearside window, I noticed. This livery, together with polished nut covers, looks quite good on these buses. It was operating the non-stop service to Clapham Junction. More mundane was Arriva TOT's Volvo Alexander VLA58, presumably used on everyday contract work.

L351 at Surbiton VLA58 at Surbiton

The train trundled me down the quiet main line to Weybridge. All the long-distance trains were rerouted via Staines, rejoining the main line just to the west of Weybridge, leaving just this half-hourly service to shuttle backwards and forwards.

Prototype RM: RML3

At Weybridge it was wet. I trudged up the station approach to the bridge, and crossed over to the station stop. RML3 rushed up too quickly for me to get my camera out. I climbed aboard the uniquely Weymann-bodied prototype Routemaster, securing a seat behind the bonnet and the Leyland engine.

We rumbled off through the rain, round the station roundabout and back past the Brooklands airfield and Vickers works. A Mercedes-sponsored Citaro swished past in the other direction, heading for the Mercedes Centre I think. The trip to Cobham Bus Museum is short, so very soon we were turning in to Redhill Road, where RF326 was loading on the stop for a 420 trip to Woking.

RML3 at Weybridge Station Redhill Road RML3 at Cobham

The Museum

RF326 was just pulling away as I alighted from the RML, so I resolved to catch it next time round and headed into the Museum to see what was on display, or hidden away. Reliance RP90 was lurking round the corner of the Museum shed.

RF326 at Redhill Road RP90 at Cobham

Inside the shed the lighting conditions for photography were even worse than outside, of course, but few vehicles were in a position to be seen clearly. One that was was 738J, the tool lorry converted from STL169. SMS369 was standing against the wall at the other end of the shed, with the chassis of RT2213 clearly on display in the doorway.

738J at Cobham RT2213 chassis at Cobham

Outside the shed stood family favourite ST922 (family favourite because Dad helped substantially with the initial restoration, and originally worked at the Tillings Lewisham works). Next to it stood RT593.

The next bus had a definite WOW factor. RLH32 has been repainted by Timebus Travel in the livery of The Executors of Samuel Ledgard, the Leeds company that bought RL2,4, 6 and 8 after their LT service. In their blue and white it looked superb. It was having a wheel changed, having suffered a rear-tyre puncture on the way here.

On the road side of the yard stood a pair of Routemasters, the RM family being the theme of the day. One was a standard red Routemaster, RM1033.

ST922 at Cobham RLH32 at Cobham RM1033 at Cobham

Next to it stood RMA1. One of the short forward entrance Rotemasters built for the BEA airport services, it is in process of being restored, and currently wears faded London red and a white bullseye, having been one of those used by LT on route 175 before use as a staff bus.

RMA1 at Cobham RMC1461 on 497, Redhill Road

I went round to the back of the museum to look at the various chassis stored among the weeds, including an AEC Regent III (I think) and Q69. The weeds seem to be winning. I bought a lunchtime bun, and went out onto Redhill Road to watch the buses in service. Greenline RMC1461 arrived on one of the shuttles to and from Brooklands, where the Museum's licensed runners were on display.

Part 2: 420 to Woking and back

All photos by Ian Smith. Click on most of them for a larger picture.

Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part 2: 420: Woking and back