I still had not travelled on any of the M&D buses. So I walked over to join the queue on the 116 stop. Would the next bus absorb enough of the queue? It turned out to be coach-seated AEC Reliance SC390 that pulled round onto the stand. I climbed aboard and found a seat partway down on the nearside.
We headed down to the station, coming up behind DH159 on its way back from Cobham, and headed for Northfleet along the Overcliffe. We pulled in to the garage, and made our pirouette in the garage yard.
Then we headed back into Gravesend, round the one-way system and out along the Meopham road. We climbed up the long hill out of Gravesend, the Reliance proving capable and quiet on the climb. (Quieter even than an RF). We negotiated the roundabouts that flank the A2, passed underneath the main road and the CTRL and continued on up the hill. I was quite surprised when we turned right into Istead Rise, but the visit to this large estate makes good sense, of course. After negotiating a way through the estate we returned to the Meopham Road, and continued up to Meopham Station. A little further on we passed Hook Green, terminus for LT's 489A, and continued the climb. The 489A route turned off to the right, towards Longfield Station, but our route continued the long climb up over the North Downs, to reach Meopham Green.
There we made a reverse turn, and pulled up outside The Cricketers.
After photos had been taken we climbed back aboard for the journey back down the hill into Gravesend.
There we found the Southdown Titan preparing to depart on the 122 back to Brighton, while RF406 was returning from a late trip to Bean on the 450.
The huge carpark was now strangely empty. The public had gone, many of the buses too, and the stall-holders were busy packing up. I wanted to return towards London, but Eddie Knorn on SNB312 was still out on a turn. So I walked round, watching the departures and looking at the buses still parked.
RF28 was one that I hadn't seen in the morning. Now it was sporting 725 blinds. Next to it was RF269, which had been busy on the 702. RT593 pulled out to head home to Cobham (the Bus Museum, not the Gravesend satellite), wearing 480 blinds.
Meanwhile SNB312 had pulled in off its last trip along the 480 from Dartford, and was taking a break before departing for London and points north. I strolled over to find out if they were going via Lewisham or New Cross on their 702 journey to Victoria. New Cross would do fine.
So a little while later, as the light faded quickly, the Leyland National headed out from Gravesend with a decent load for London (me included). We headed along the Dartford Road, past Northfleet, Swanscombe and Greenhithe, and in through Horns Cross to Dartford. In very little time we were climbing Shooters Hill, then descending to cross the Blackwall Tunnel Approach. Blackheath was jammed up with evening returners to London, but soon we were descending to New Cross Station, where I jumped ship, and watched the big bus roar off into the evening traffic.
Many thanks to those who organised the day or helped make it possible. In particular to Colin Rivers, and Bernard & Pauline Gardiner; to drivers, conductors, dispatchers, carpark/buspark organisers, Gravesham District Council, Arriva Kent Thameside, Northfleet garage folk, sponsors, programme compilers, and to the public, most of whom were polite, patient and apparently enjoying themselves. It was a good day.
Buses (some visitors):
London Transport: STL2692; GS1, GS2, GS15, GS62; RT593, RT604, RT2043, RT3148; RF28, RF213, RF269, RF280, RF383, RF406, RF486, RF633, RF679; RM8, RML2323, RCL2233; RP21; SNB250, SNB312, SNB340; BN61.
Maidstone & District: SO43; DH159; SO224, SO277, SC390; 5385
JMT SV6107 (J4540)
All photos by Ian Smith. Click on most of them for a larger picture.
Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part 1 Part 5: RT3148 to Northfleet and Singlewell