We set off towards the East End, through territory very unfamiliar to me, along Commercial Road to Stepney and Limehouse. I noticed when we crossed the eastern arm of the Grand Union Canal at Limehouse, and when we passed the north entrance of the Blackwall Tunnel. This brought back memories of bicycle journeys over the Woolwich Ferry and up through the Docks to Poplar, where we could peep in at rows of gleaming new Routemasters, before returning south by the footway through the Tunnel.
Somewhere in West Ham we came across RT1702 parked by the roadside. Presumably they were on the way to the event at Chingford. We stopped for pictures, before continuing along Barking Road to Barking.
At Barking the crew indulged in a photo run-past, changing the blinds for the 291 TO Barking, then running up the road a short way before coming back towards the Barking terminus. They then disappeared briefly to turn again, returning to the stop to put up Ilford Station blinds.
We set off again, wriggling through Barking behind an Ensignbus Metrobus (167), to reach Barking Garage. The crew asked permission to take the bus through the garage: in one door and out the other. We paused briefly at the exit for photos. Some drivers offered to swap buses.
We turned north, making the short journey up the erstwhile 291 route to Ilford. Peter negotiated the intricacies of Ilford's attempts to discourage motorists from coming near the town, and pulled up for a blind change to the 179.
Indeed, as we progressed along the short route to Gants Hill, and on to South Woodford, not a few hands went up. Each one necessitated a stop to explain what we were about. The RF still looks modern enough to be a current service bus - until you get to the steps, of course. But we were still bang on time at South Woodford Station, where the bus changed blinds again, transmogrifying into a 254.
From South Woodford Station we wound round to escape from the Central Line trap, and began to parallel the Central Line up the Roding Valley. Plenty of the suburban houses illustrated in Michael Baker's "London Transport in the 1930s". We turned up over the railway to visit the station at Buckhurst Hill, turning into the little square station forecourt.
Then it was back over the railway and turn left to continue our northward course, before turning left again to duck under the railway to reach Loughton Station. We had arrived, exactly on time at 1100, just over two hours from Vauxhall, (and just over three from Dorking). We all alighted, and Peter and Steve took RF486 away for a well-earned break.
All photos by Ian Smith unless otherwise indicated. Thanks to Peter Osborn for the use of those at Aldgate. Visit the Red-rf site for more pictures (including one of me at Barking Garage!) Click on any of them for a larger picture.
Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part 2: Loughton