Easter Sunday morning. The Running Day was not starting until almost mid-day, so there was time to do Easter Morning things before setting off.
Grove Park Bus Station was quiet. There was not much traffic about. A pair of Stagecoach Tridents (17567 and 17527) dozed in the centre, awaiting their turns on the 136 to Peckham. No journeys to the cities these days, as in the long-lost days of the 36B and 141. I visited the Tesco mini-mart next door, and stocked up for lunch-time. While I was there one of the brand new Scania OmniTowns (623), came into the bus station out of service, presumably from Polhill.
The OmniTown went to park next to the Tridents. Another called on the 284, on its way to Grove Park Cemetery.
One of First London's Dart Marshalls (DMS41455) came in, offering yet another way to get to Lewisham from Grove Park. (There had been the 261, which I used to get to Grove Park, the 136, the 181, the 284 and now the 273) It quickly buzzed off on its own meandering route.
One of the Tridents roared off on the 136, and I waited for the OmniTown to pull back onto the stop. I wanted to sample this latest single-decker in the fleet. Bang on time it came round, and I boarded - the only passenger at this point. I found that there is a very useful single seat just behind the front doorway, ahead of the wheelarch. It could use a seat-belt in this location. But it is excellent for observing through the massive front screen. The bus rattled along Downham Way. I say rattled. It rattled. Especially the nearside blind box, just beside me. Even stuffing bits of cardboard in the cracks and leaning against it didn't stop it. For a brand-new bus this is ridiculous! We stopped to pick up passengers along the way (as a bus should, of course). In Bellingham we turned off towards Lower Sydenham, and wiggled around to emerge at Catford Bridge.
In Catford we crossed over the A21 for another wriggle through the back-streets past Hither Green to Lewisham. On the way we passed other Omnitowns, 609 in Catford, and 616 in Lewisham. The driver said that the new buses were a delight to drive, but that there were the usual teething problems with doors etc.
I alighted at the entrance to Lewisham Bus Station, where there was the usual scattering of current vehicle types. East Thames Buses had a small line-up, with single-deckers DWL27 and DWL36 off the 108, and double-decker VWL30 off the 185. Further along was London Central's President PVL51 on the 89, and Stagecoach Tridents 17290 and 17561 for the 208 and 75.
I made my way along the north side of the bus station, and found that another of the long Dart/Wight Cadets, DWL26, was threading its way along the south side to take up a 108 journey to Stratford.
I scurried down to the departures stop on the main road, and boarded the Cadet. It is an awfully long time since I have been through the Blackwall Tunnel by bus (if ever). But the 108 is one of London's long-standing routes, even if the end-points and rolling stock have changed over the years. So I forewent the journey to Stratford by Lego-train, and took the bus instead.
I didn't have the front seat this time. There is no front perch on these, and the low-down seats near the front offer little by way of a view. So I sat up on the raised rear seats, and enjoyed the ride. We climbed from Lewisham up to Blackheath, cruised over the Heath, and descended through Westcombe Park to North Greenwich and the Dome.
That nescessitated a long diversion to get back onto the Blackwall Tunnel Approach. We dived into the Stygian depths. It is a long time since I walked back through the tunnel with my bike after a visit to Poplar garage to see the RMs. I wonder if the 108 crews still get an extra milk allowance, like those from Athol Street did? We soon emerged from the tunnel, and wriggled through Bow and then drove along to Stratford. Buses there conveniently put passengers down next to the station doorway. DWL26 went off to park, and I went to look for toilets and a cafe.
Somewhat refreshed, I still had a half-hour in which to find stop U (out along the road), and look round the bus station before the real fun began.
All photos by Ian Smith. Click on most of them for a larger picture.
Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part 2: 178 (RLH61)