I met up with Colin Rivers, Peter Aves, GS2 and RF679 on Saturday morning, down in the depths of Kent. We were to have a leisurely run up to Hertford, where we would stay overnight, leaving us fresh for an early start on Sunday. Final preparations were made, water, oil and fuel levels checked, the correct sets of blinds fitted to the rollers, then we were off into the Kent sunshine.
The two buses kept each other company up to the Dartford Tunnel. I travelled on RF679 to start with. We passed through the tunnel to the Essex side, where we paused to check everything again. (Note: we'll have to produce some 399 blinds for this) Then it was a stretch on the motorways, M25 and M11, to the Harlow exit, where we turned off and found a cafe for lunch. I travelled this stretch on GS2: the relative crudeness of the GS compared with the RF was most apparent, with conversations difficult above the roar of the Perkins diesel engine.
With lunch inside us we pressed on, threading the net of roads leading across from Harlow to Hertford, in places following old bus routes and in others the modern by-passes. The 390 blind on the RF led the way. I went with Peter on the GS. We stopped on the outskirts of Hertford to top up the fuel tanks. Then it was on into Hertford to find our rendezvous with RF406 and RM1699. The buses had to be checked and cleaned, then tucked away for the night.
But before we could tuck ourselves away we had a job to do. We had to check the 341 route between Hertford and Essendon Mill for double-decker suitability. For this we needed RM1699, a couple of observers, and a cautious driver! Peter Aves and I went as observers. We rode into Hertford on the lower deck, passing the sparkling Dart SLF of Reg's of Hertford on the way. One of Arriva's GreenLine DAFs (3444) on the 724 caught up with us at the traffic lights in Hertford.
When we set off on the route survey Peter and I went upstairs in the RM to watch for low branches. The Routemaster purred out of Hertford on the 341 route, winding its way past County Hall to Horns Mill, and out on the suddenly-rural old road towards Hatfield. We found that the route was OK in the dry, although there were large branches lurking not far above roof level that would render the route a no-go area for double-deckers in the rain. Not that it looked much like rain today. It was a glorious June day of sunshine and warm breezes. We thoroughly enjoyed the ride, and too soon we were past the part that needed checking and were turning back for Hertford. The lowest foliage we found was just outside County Hall (naturally), and on the roundabout turning in towards the bus station. But that was just light froth, and not likely to cause a problem. The Routemaster turned into Hertford bus station to collect Colin, and while it turned and waited I hopped off to inspect the variety of buses on display. Just leaving was the contemporary offering on the 341: an Optare MetroRider of Universitybus. Reg's Mini-Pointer Dart SLF was looking immaculate at the 333 stop, and a brand-new DAF/Wright, Arriva the Shires & Essex' 4521, came in to terminate on a 379.
The previous version of this kind of bus, mounted on a Dart SLF chassis, was 3417, that sat in the bus station wearing a 331 destination blind until a customer approached, whereupon the crew member shut the doors and wound the blind to "not in service". Next to it was Sullivan Bus' first generation Dart with Duple body, DT4, with Arriva Olympian 5119 (erstwhile LR89) representing that company on the 310. Metroline's Metrobus M1189 offered an alternative on the 310A. Another 310 offering by Arriva was Dart/Northern Counties DRN119, in ageing "ice-cream scoop" red Arriva livery. No wonder that the travelling public gets confused.
We returned on RM1699 to collect our belongings from the GS, then walked into Hertford in the warm glow of early evening to find our hotel.
All photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.
Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part 2: Hertford to Hitchin on GS2.