The bus park at Milton Street was beginning to fill up. Along the northern wall were red RF406 and Green Line RF269 with Maidstone & District S6 and RML2306.
I did not wait to look at the others, but hopped straight onto RT604, which was loading for its first trip on the 498 to Northfleet Plough. This is a Gravesend town route par excellence. No doddle along the Overcliffe here. It delves deep into the recesses of the Painters Ash Estate - and on RT604 today we did a little extra delving.
I went inside, where it was quiet. Plenty of families with children enjoying a ride on a proper bus upstairs!
We set off past the Clocktower, into the town then round past the Station, then left into Perry Street, like the GS routes. But we promptly turned off left, due south down a street of road bumps and chicanes.
We crossed a B-road at lights, and continued south through the residential part of town to Woodlands Park, where we turned right, up through the New House Estate to the Battle of Britain pub. There we should have turned right, then first left. Instead, perhaps in a spirit of adventure, we turned left, and after half a mile found ourselves at a roundabout next to the A2 and a supermarket. We turned round. Having located ourselves, we returned to the Battle of Britain and turned left, down into Painters Ash Estate. We followed the road (it had bus-stops so presumably is still a bus route) through to its end, then turned uphill to meet the west end of Perry Street. We turned left, along to the roundabout, where the second exit no longer heads to Northfleet, but into a supermarket carpark! We extricated ourselves from there, and headed north towards Northfleet.
At the next roundabout, with Northfleet straight up the narrow hill ahead, the road signs pointed left for Northfleet, along a new road also not on the crew's map. This took us direct to our terminus by the new Ebbsfleet Station, just down the road from Northfleet Plough.
Resurrected RML2306 came down the hill past the pub and headed west for Dartford on the 480.
The return trip was less eventful. The blinds were reset, and we turned right at the roundabout, and up the hill to Northfleet Church (where the 495, another Gravesend local wiggly road, used to terminate). There we successfully took the turn south, down the hill to the roundabout and up onto Pepper Hill to the end of Pery Street. We turned left at the roundabout, then first right into Painters Ash, and first left again. Hard work for the driver's arms, this route! We bowled along through the New House Estate, attracting some local attention. We turned right to reach the Battle of Britain, then left to descend to Woodlands Park. There we took the road north towards the centre of town, where we wiggled round past the Tilbury Ferry Landing to reach the Clocktower and Milton Street.
I alighted from the RT, and walked round to see what was there, and to collect a programme. RF406 was waiting for a turn on the 450.
RML2306 came back from its run to Dartford on the 480. Another Routemaster on display was visiting RM1397.
The visitors' bus park contained other strangers and/or old friends. LSU 857 was a Bedford from Jersey. WAL872 was a Leyland Titan from Barton's. Also there was post-war Weymann-bodied STL2692, and a Leyland Lioness (although the latter would be carrying passengers later).
Eight foot wide London Transport touring coach RFW14 was also making a surprise visit.
RF600 twirled round the yard behind me, back from a run on the interesting and multi-directional 489A route from Meopham Hook Green.
GS2 came in with Peter Aves at the wheel, with blinds set up for the 451, one of today's special routes. The GS today was the sole representative of its class, several others having gone off-service for repair or maintenance at the same time. But GS2 did have able support on the 451 in the shape of its successor BN61, out from London's Transport Museum at Acton for the day.
RT3148 came in carrying a full load from one of its 480A journeys between Denton and Rosherville. Then RTW75 arrived, looking wonderful as always.
RP21 was loading up for a trip to Crayford on the 725, with RF600 manoevring beside it.
I was slightly distracted from my task of recording the buses present at that point by a request that I went out as a conductor on the 487, on RCL2260. Duty calls...
All photos by Ian Smith. Click on most of them for a larger picture.
Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part 1. Part 3: 487 to Northfleet and Singlewell: RCL2260