I had travelled on the 384 before, but never on this stretch between Letchworth and Stevenage, from this most northerly finger of the LT route system. I walked right round RF4, one of the short private-hire RFs produced for the Festival of Britain, before thirty-foot four-wheelers were allowed. Peter Penfold welcomed me aboard, and we were ready for the 0900 departure.
We set off through Letchworth. This was the first Garden City, and still displays a harmony of greenery and suburban architecture sadly missing from today's "pile 'em high, pile 'em close" mentality. Soon, from a roundabout, we dived into the greenery of Spring Road. We crossed Baldock Road and headed south along Letchworth Lane towards Willian. There The Fox has lost its elegant painted fox sign in favour of a soulless piece of script.
Now modern safety concerns affected our route several times. We had to turn left rather than right onto Letchworth Gate, the A6141, and do a half-mile north-west and half-mile back again, before crossing over the A1(M). That was no problem, but the right turn to Graveley is also blocked, requiring another half-mile there, half-mile back to the roundabout up the hill. But then we were on the old Great North Road, sweeping southwards over the hills.
The Great North Road followed the line of the old Roman Road almost to Graveley, before swinging left down into the village. We stopped at the bus stop there for some photos. We went on, turning left to follow the old road into Stevenage Old Town. We trickled along the main street, and round the small one-way system at the south end, before having to sweep out onto the dual carriageway of the inner ring road.
Centrebus Dart/MCV Evolution 545 passed through on the Stansted Airport Service. I went for breakfast. I should have had plenty of time to finish it in peace, but RT3254 arrived much earlier than expected on the 390 from Hertford, after unloading pulling round onto the central stand next to Arriva's Dart 3806.
There was another flurry of interurban services: Dart SLF 3237 was on the 301 from Hemel Hempstead, its lack of a destination blind presumably indicating that this is not its usual route.
Volvo B10BLE 3314 was another of the Wright Renowns bought for the 101 to Luton by Sovereign, and taken over with the route by Arriva. Now it wears the interurban livery.
Dart 3806, resting on the central stance next to the RT, is another of the buses taken over by Arriva from Sovereign.
3307, another B10BLE/Renown, occupied the end slot of the central reservation, next to 3806. This WAS the normal rolling stock for the 301, as shown by its Centraline branding, but today was on local route SB7. It pulled out to go to work, and its space was immediately filled with sister 3323, off route 4. This constant coming and going at Stevenage, even on Sundays, is a major reason for the restrictions on Country Bus Rallies' use of this Bus Station, which limit the number of buses we can have there at any time, and the number of service calls per hour.
3407, one of the new VDL/Wrightbus Pulsars, 11.9m long, came in on a SB1.
RT3254 was being prepared for a foray round the town on the 801.
I went to join the crew of RT3254 for the next few trips...
Part Four: Journeys on RT3254
Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.
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