RT1705 at Potters Bar

Potters Bar Running Day

Sunday 20th May 2007

Prepared by Ian Smith, 4th June 2007.

Arrivals at Potters Bar

When I arrived at Potters Bar aboard STL2377 there were already a handful of buses in the working bus park, an industrial estate next to Potters Bar Station. The day was a 60-year commemoration of the entry into service of the postwar RTs in 1947. The first bus in the run-out was the saloon contemporary of the postwar RT: a postwar Country T. T792 boasted many of the modern features of the RT, including the engine and gearbox, being built in 1948 immediately before the tide of RFs began to appear. Looking wonderful in the second postwar livery, T792 gleamed in the sunshine. I determined to be aboard at some point in the day. The blinds were for the 342 to Essendon, a route which in early postwar days linked New Barnet Station with Broxbourne via Potters Bar, Essendon and Hertford.

T792 at Potters Bar. T792 at Potters Bar.

Behind it was Greenline RT3254, one of the batch of RTs built for the Greenline services between Aldgate and Romford, and treated to Greenline livery without adverts. Unlike Greenline RFs these RTs had no Greenline extras other than the paint scheme - no deep cushions or luggage racks. RT3254 has been restored to Greenline condition in private preservation, and gleams like a Greenline should.

Red RT624 is another special RT - inasmuch as it was the last to run in ordinary London Transport service, back in April 1979. It had started off as a green Country Area bus in August 1948 with a Weymann roofbox body but gained a standard body at an early overhaul. It went to the Central Area, with a red body, from overhaul in 1965. After withdrawal in 1979 it had been preserved in the Midlands. Ensignbus bought it in 2004 and restored it to 1979 appearance (complete with period adverts) in time to use it on various London routes during the Routemaster farewells. It too gleamed in the sunshine.

RT3254 at Potters Bar. RT624 at Potters Bar.

For a bus to reach those parts that other buses could not reach London Transport had its Heineken Bus, the Guy Special. A twenty-six seater, it was LT's only one-man operated bus amongst the postwar designs (at first), and was only allowed to work in the Country Area. GS13 was sitting quietly wearing blinds to remind people of the upcoming Hemel Hempstead Running Day.

RF406 arrived, purring up the slope from Darkes Lane. This was LT's main postwar big saloon design: a forty-one seater in the maximum length allowed by Law: 9.0m, the same as a short 29-seater Dart. Originally all operated by driver and conductor, they were mostly later converted for one-man operation, as crewed single-deckers could not carry enough passengers to pay their way with the cheap fares of the time.

GS13 at Potters Bar. RF406 at Potters Bar.

I went down onto Darkes Lane - the main road past the station, where the bus stops for the day had been erected. Not that the signs stopped cars parking there. GS17 was sitting on the stop ready to go to Essendon once its driver returned.

I found my way to the Manor Road parking place, where the static display of RTs was to be held - and found that just Greenline RF269 had arrived so far. But the shining coach represented the standard Greenline vehicle of the 1950s and beyond: comfortable and reliable.

GS17 at Potters Bar. RF269 at Potters Bar.

I went looking for a toilet. None in the carpark. None in Sainsbury's. None at the station. The station was closed for the renewal of the canopy. Trustline's Dart Evolution DML4 was at the station, but I cannot remember whether it was on ordinary Sunday service or Rail Replacement.

Back on the street RF308, representing the Country Area bus version of the saloon, was arriving, ready for the 342. This particular RF started as a Country Bus (RF527) and was converted to Green Line to receive its new number. Later it reverted to Country Bus status when the Routemaster Coaches took over its Greenline work, and went to Chelsham to displace GSs.

DML4 at Potters Bar Station. RF308 in Darkes Lane.

As I walked back up into the running buses base I was passed by RT1702 arriving. Strangely I hadn't heard it coming. Two of its claims to fame was its tour of Europe for London Transport to promote the Festival of Britain in 1950, (hence the GB plate on the rear), and its subsequent year-long sojourn in the Dome during 2000.

More buses had arrived, and I made another circuit of inspection. RF486 had now been fitted with blinds for the 242, the red RF route of the day. RMC1476, the only Routemaster allowed on this older-buses day, was having its blinds for the day fitted.

RT1702 at Potters Bar RF486. RMC1476.

Now parked was an example of the very early postwar roofbox RTs. RT190 has been restored to early livery, including the cream upper window surrounds, restricted blind displays and the white spot on the tail. It does sport too the legally required reflectors (mandatory from 1954), as well as modern rear light clusters. It also appears to have a restored power auxiliary socket flap under the drivers step. And a fleet number to match its early body (this bus was withdrawn as RT1173).

RT190 at Potters Bar. RT190 at Potters Bar.

Another early-condition roofbox RT was RT3496, but in Country Area green and cream, with restricted blind displays. The high number is a reflection of the way that early bodies received more or less random fleet numbers on emerging from Aldenham overhaul.

RF457 arrived too, already dressed with 242 route blinds.

RT3496 at Potters Bar. RT3496 at Potters Bar. RF457 at Potters Bar.

Representing a yet earlier episode in the RT history was RT113, one of those built early in the war years. These reverted to a traditional body-chassis relationship, with the platform carried on the chassis rather than cantilevered from the body like RT1 and the postwar RTs. The bodies were wood-framed too. But RT113 has been substantially rebuilt to avoid the worst ravages of passing time, and wears wartime livery of red and white with grey roof and white blackout trims. Just one headlamp too. Most striking, for most people, is the rear roofbox. Today it was to operate on a Country Area route, as seven green and one red members of the class did from Hertford in 1955-57.

RF4 was also notably different. One of the first RFs built in 1951 for the Festival of Britain, it was so urgently needed that LT could not wait for a legislation change to permit 30ft four-wheelers. So it was to the older, shorter maximun length, with a correspondingly shorter wheelbase. Made for tours and private hires, it sports cant-rail windows (with venetian blinds), and a specialised tours livery of green and grey, with red fleetnames.

RT113 at Potters Bar. RT113 at Potters Bar. RF4 at Potters Bar.

Also scheduled for tour work today was RF281, looking smart in the modernised Green Line style adopted in 1967, with dual headlamps, aluminium trim, refurbished interior and lime green cummerband.

An altogether different beast was represented by BL49, just arriving. One of the RF's replacements, the Bristol LH was a lighter, noisier, altogether less-refined bus. But with an attraction all of its own. Today it would operate extras on the 242.

It was followed in by another of Claire Green's buses, another modernised Greenline, RF48.

RF281 at Potters Bar. BL49 at Potters Bar.

Having completed the round of service buses, I was back at T792. I enquired when they were going out. Almost immediately, was the reply, on a 313 to St.Albans. I asked if I might join them, and climbed aboard...

Part Three: St.Albans and back

Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.

Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part One Part Three: St.Albans and back