RT604 at Northfleet

Gravesend Classic Bus Running Day

Sunday 2nd July 2006

Prepared by Ian Smith, 13th July 2006

Part One: 401/480: Sevenoaks to Gravesend, RF486

My first picture of the day was mis-timed. A slight problem with my camera makes the first shot after a period of non-usage make an unpredictable pause before the shutter fires. So as Dartford-based Dart 3296 pulled in to the stop beside me it got further than I intended before the shutter clicked. I wasn't catching the 126, but it was a nice example of how the Dartford buses on LRT contract services are gradually being repainted red. I took another picture after it passed me, which worked fine, of course.

AKT3296 on 126, Grove Park AKT3296 on 126, Grove Park

I was heading for Grove Park Station, from where I caught a heavily-etched Networker direct to Sevenoaks. The sun shone, I nearly went to sleep. I woke up properly as we passed Dunton Green and drew in to Sevenoaks Station. It was as well that I was not going further south to catch my bus, as the Rail Replacement buses were in operation between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge. West Kent Buses were on the job, with their neatly-painted Titans. While I waited at the Station stop two passed in opposite directions: T871 "Anna" and T370 "Eleanor".

465169, Grove Park T871, Sevenoaks T370, Sevenoaks

401: Sevenoaks to Dartford, RF486

The usual suspects - some of them at least - gathered at the Sevenoaks Station bus-stop. Soon the bus we were waiting for appeared: red RF486 which had run along from Dorking. Now it was going to travel down the 401 route to Dartford. It was a run I was looking forward to immensely. It was one of my schooldays summer treats to GreenRover with the family to Gravesend, using the 402, 401 and 480. I had covered parts of the 401 route on previous running days, but here was a chance to go all the way again.

We boarded, and Peter Osborn took the bus left up the hill to the War Memorial to join the 401 route northwards. We turned left again, down the bank to Bat and Ball, and continued north to Otford.

At Otford we pulled up outside the pub to take some pictures with the pond in the background.

RF486 at Sevenoaks Stn RF486 at Otford

Then we continued down the Darenth valley, passing blossoming lavender fields on the way, near Shoreham. We wiggled left under the railway, and kept it company to Eynsford Station, where we wiggled back under it. We passed through Eynsford and turned left into Farningham. We rolled down the hill to stop at the bridge.

RF486 at Farningham, 2nd July 2006 RF486 at Farningham, 2nd July 2006

After a legthy pause at the lovely spot on the bridge we set off again, turning hard right up the narrow street to reach the roundabout and the road to Dartford via Sutton-at-Hone. The valley became less rural and more industrial as we rolled down towards the Thames, passing under the LCDR main line at Farningham Road and then the M25 and A2 in quick succession. We rolled into Dartford and wound round the one-way system to reach the station stop, where we stopped to change the blinds.

480: Dartford to Gravesend, RF486

We shared the stop with Stagecoach Trident 17934 on the 96 to Bluewater. Once upon a time this would have been a 696 trolleybus on the easternmost twig of the electric bus system, here reaching out deep into green bus territory.

RF486 at Dartford 17934 on 96, Dartford

We set off as a 480. We managed not to turn on to the new Fastrak from Dartford, but followed the traditional route up the hill away from the river crossing and onto the high road to Horns Cross. We were flagged down several times on the way, by a mixture of people heading for our running day and ordinary passengers who were waiting for the next service bus, and were wondering why their new buses had suddenly gone red and old! We passed through Stone and Swanscombe. The construction yard for the Chammel Tunnel Rail Link had almost disappeared. In the bright sunshine the views of the Thames were rather special. We passed one of the new buses bought by John Prescott's Office for the new Travelink service.

RF486 at Dartford GN06EVJ on B, Swanscombe

We climbed the hill past Northfleet Plough, and ran into Gravesend along the Northfleet Overcliffe. We pulled round the traffic system past the Tilbury Ferry landing, and climbed up towards the traditional terminus by Gravesend Clock. This year our venue had been moved (Parrock Strret carpark had been resurfaced and was not ready to receive buses yet). So we turned left at the clocktower to run down to the Milton Street carpark. On our way we were reminded that this was not just a London Transport event, as we passed a Maidstone and District Reliance (SC390) heading out on the 16A to Harvel, with Hants & Dorsey Bristol 779 as a relief.

RF486 at Gravesend Clocktower SC390 H&D779

We pulled in to the carpark and the passengers alighted. I was conscious that I had spent Hertford Running Day entirely on single-deckers, and went looking for something with a top-deck...

Part 2: 498 to Northfleet and back: RT604

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

Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part 2: 498 to Northfleet and back: RT604