RCL2229 at Northfleet

Gravesend Classic Coach Running Day

Sunday October 16th 2005

Prepared by Ian Smith, 24th October 2005

Part One: To Gravesend

I walked into Bromley along Burnt Ash Lane. At the Park Lane stop stood a Metrobus Dennis Trident with its emergency flashers winking away. I didn't enquire what the problem was with 424, but the stationary bus at the stop reminded me of my first good look at a STL tree-lopper, parked on this very spot many years ago. Not that there were any houses on the bus-stop side then - this was the vicarage garden. Anyway, I strolled on. A bit further on towards Bromley North past Farwig Lane (consistently altered even forty years ago to Earwig Lane by graffiti afficionados) I met Omnidekka 496 bustling along wearing inappropriate 119 blinds. Presumably this was on the way to take over the 261 turn from 424 - or was it just conveying a fitter?

464 on the blink 496 to the rescue?

A moment or two later along came Metrobus 406 on the next 261 duty, followed by Arriva Kent Thameside Dart SLF 3291 on a 126. I pondered about liveries, and how it must be unusual for two routes from two different companies along the same road to both be still predominantly in non-red colours. There are some red Omnidekkas seen on the 261, but it still seems to be mainly blue and yellow, while I have still to see a red Dart on the 126.

406 on 261 3291 on 126

I walked round the corner to Bromley North Station, where I spent a happy half-hour recording more or less a complete set of the Bromley North bus workings.

725, Bromley to Gravesend (RF600)

Then RF600 arrived on the 725 from West Croydon. It was already quite full, and by the time I had squeezed on there were very few seats left at all. I found one near the back.

RF600 on 725, Bromley North RF600 on 725, Bromley North

Once we had turned the corner at the roundabout onto Tweedy Road I felt more relaxed. This was the old 725 route to Chislehurst (whereas Bromley North is a modern diversion: the 725s, like the 227s, used to stop in Bromley Market Place outside Caters supermarket). We rumbled along. I remembered journeys with Mum to see grandma at Dartford. We oscillated along to Bickley, then dived down into the deep valley to pass under the railway. We ground up the hill onto Chislehurst Common, past where the water-tower once stood to block the road, and on past Chislehurst War Memorial.

Inside RF600 We wound on along Perry Street to reach the vast roundabout over the A20, and eased through the traffic into Sidcup. We passed under Sidcup Station Bridge (originally another reason why the 725 had to be single deck in its early days), and turned right at Sidcup Church. It was at this spot that at the age of about ten that I worked out for myself the Doppler Principle, wondering why if 725s ran every half-hour we passed one every quarter-hour!
We wriggled through Bexley and Crayford, then ran down Watling Street into Dartford. After negotiating the town's one-way traffic-purging system we headed out on London Road to Horns Cross, the road to Gravesend, between all the chalk pits.
Most of the cement works and chalk-workings seem to have gone - some converted into shopping pits instead, reflecting society's changeover from production to consumption. At least it looks cleaner.
We climbed up onto the Northfleet ridge and ran along into Gravesend. A quick flip round the one-way system past Gravesend clock-tower and we were drawing into Parrock Street carpark.

I alighted and watched RF600 purr away to find a place in the Greenline row, next to RT3148.

RF600 on 725, Gravesend RF600 on 725, Gravesend RT3148, RF600, Gravesend

I walked down the row of parked buses to see what was here. There was a short row of red buses: Central Area RF383 was making a visit, in its 227 dress, next to Pete Simmonds' ex-Brixton RM642. On the other side of a large turquoise and champagne-liveried box was RF486, which had arrived in service, as a "London Transport Tour from Dorking" in the best Country Area tradition.

RF383, Gravesend RM642, Gravesend RF486, Gravesend

Green Line AEC Reliance RB51 showed how GreenLine made a serious attempt to upgrade its image after the serious loss of traffic in its Leyland National days, and was dressed for forays on the 725. Next to it RF281 showed how London Transport had risen to the challenge of the unreliability of an earlier generation of Reliances by modernising its fleet of RFs with new liveries, go-faster trims, dual headlights and new interior decor.

RB51, Gravesend RF281, Gravesend

Another visitor was post-war Weymann STL2692, looking excellent in its immediate post-war Country area livery. Beyond that was - surely not RW2? No! It was very similar-looking Maidstone & District Reliance SO 277.

STL2692, Gravesend SO277, Gravesend

On the facing row was visiting M&D Leyland Leopard 2816, and M&D Reliance SC390 prepared for business.

2816, Gravesend SC390, Gravesend

East Kent was represented too, by this fascinating vehicle: FFN446 started off as a Leyland TD5 double decker, but was rebuilt as a coach by Beadle in 1951. Southdown's 1961 Leyland Leopard L2 with Harrington Cavalier body, CD2726, was also here to take part on services and excursions.

FFN446, Gravesend 2726CD, Gravesend

Now it was time to grab some breakfast and a cup of tea from the refreshment truck, and get on the road again.

Part 2: E17 to Borough Green and back: SO224

All photos by Ian Smith. Click on most of them for a larger picture.

Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part 2: E17 to Borough Green and back: SO224