The Northfleet Running Day was going to be a small event, one of a series of mini-running days to celebrate fifty years of the GS Class. But it didn't stay that way. Lots of owners wanted to come, and the Maidstone & District and East Kent Club became involved too. Gravesham Council put half of the large Parrock Street carpark at the disposal of the organisers for the day, and cranked up their publicity machine.
I arrived at Gravesend Station by train at 0847, and went looking for the carpark. I was not the first to arrive. I had half expected Colin Rivers to be there before me with RF679, and he was. I had been out on RF679 earlier in the year when we made a reconnaissance in preparation for today.
Parked next to the RF was another Northfleet type, represented by BN61, out from London's Transport Museum at Acton for the day. Although BN61 itself was one of the later batch, delivered late in 1977, BNs came to Northfleet in September 1974. So this is a BN30 event as well!
Next in were ex-London Country Leyland National SNB340, and red RF486, in late condition with twin spotlights.
While I wasn't looking Greenline RF28 came in, fiollowed by a couple of Greenlines working in on feeder services: RF269 had travelled from Dorking, operating as a 439 to Reigate, 410/403 to Sevenoaks, 401 to Dartford, and then 702 to Gravesend. RP21 had come down from Billericay to Dartford as a 399, then along to Gravesend as a 701.
The Maidstone & District contingent started to arrive, first in being front-engined double-decker Volvo Ailsa 5385. Then RCL2233 rolled in, adding to the set of Greenline coaches.
GS2 arrived, ready to fill a starring role, followed closely by Maidstone & District Reliance SO224, set up to work the 116 service to and from Meopham.
RT3148 trundled in , ready for duties on the 487, and GS62 followed.
RF633 arrived, having come up from Tunbridge Wells to Sevenoaks as a 704, and thence to Dartford as a 401. Red RF383 also joined the fray. These two required the start of a second line in the operational bus park.
Greenline RF213 came in, (still with undercoat roof), and RT2043 in its 1950 livery (complete with route 487 offside route board). RT604 also arrived.
Now it was time for the first services. RF697 pulled out onto the stands to load for a 450 short journey to Betsham. The 450 used to run by the back roads all the way to Dartford, but the opening of the shopping pit at Bluewater has altered the traffic patterns and landscape so much that it didn't seem worth working beyond Bean. So some buses were going to Bean, and some stopping at Betsham, where there is a reasonable turning point off the main road.
There was already a large crowd gathering for the start of the activities, with queues at all the temporary stops. Publicity in Gravesend brought out large numbers of families to sample the nostalgia trips, and there were plenty of short workings to cater for them, as well as longer runs for enthusiasts.
As RF679 moved to the exit, it had to wait for the entry of postwar Weymann STL2692, arriving as a visitor.
Following the STL was a lovely pair of Bristols: double-decker Maidstone & District DH159, and saloon SO43.
A newer M&D saloon followed, in the shape of Reliance SO277. These are the sort of M&D buses that I remember seeing in service once I ventured out on my bike beyond the reach of London Transport (in the early 1960s).
I was heading for GS2, ready for the trip out to Hartley Court. SNB340 was also heading out for the 489, a reminder that not only small buses threaded the narrow lanes up onto the North Downs.
RT2043 was making its way out of the bus park ready to load for the 487, one of the town services that were a feature of this running day. Red buses were allocated to Northfleet from time to time for these services - even RTLs at one stage! I passed RT604, which had come in while I was visiting the breakfast van. It too (RT604, that is) was ready for a local service journey, this time on the 498. RT604 spent three months at Dartford in 1976 before going to Chelsham (whilst still in tradional LT green, with yellow band).
GS2 was now ready to leave, and I joined Peter Aves aboard to pull round to the stand.
All photos by Ian Smith. Click on most of them for a larger picture.
Back to Ian's Bus-stop Reconnaissance in March. Part 2: 490 to Hartley Court and back: GS2