RT191 at Greenhithe Station

X81: Ensignbus Running Day

Saturday 1st December 2012

Prepared by Ian Smith, 6th December 2012.

X81: Bluewater to Lakeside: RT1499

Cravens-bodied RT1499 rolled up for the next northbound X81. I climbed inside, glad to be out of the cold Thames-side wind. RT4421, heading east, pulled into the Bluewater bus station as we left.

We made our way along to the Dartford Tunnel, and dived under the river. Odd to think that this tunnel has been in operation for nearly forty years.

We climbed up from the north portal, and wound our way through thecollection of roundabouts towards Lakeside. We met the doyen of the Metrobuses, arriving from Purfleet to take up service.

RT1499 on X81, Bluewater Dartford Tunnel M1 nears Lakeside

I alighted from the Shenfield-bound bus at Lakeside, and paused to look at this RT with a very non-standard body: there were the five bays of windows in the saloon, shorter but deeper, not quite lined up with the windows in the LT standard cab. There was the squarer front upstairs, giving wider windows there, and a top deck slightly overlapping the cab at the corners, due to the lack of taper. Seen from the side, the rear curved over appreciably compared with the upright back of a standard RT. The uneven top to the upper deck windows is prominent too. Round at the back the view is even stranger, with the wide, low-set emergency window upstairs, and the narrow, deep, low-set platform window. Odd.

RT1499 on X81, Lakeside RT1499 on X81, Lakeside

Ensignbus has disposed of its Marshall-bodied Darts, Amongst the replacements are SLDs from Stagecoach London. 731, an Alexander-bodied example, was once Stagecoach SLD 331, later 34331.

RT1499 on X81, Lakeside 731, Lakeside

Behind the SLD stood RT8, set up for a turn on the X81. The war-time RT has been beautifully restored after its return from America, and wears war-time red and white livery, with matt grey roof and white blackout trims.

RT8 on X81, Lakeside RT8 on X81, Lakeside

Another repatriated bus from the USA was next in: RTL1014, fresh from many years of service with Unitrans, the student bus company of the University of California, Davis. The RTL, gleaming in a new coat of paint, retains most of its American features, such as the extra lights all over, the huge nearside mirror and a destination board on the rear. But it does now wear its UK registration plates rather than California plates. It had been intended for service today, but I gather it had been left overlong in gear, thus cooking the transmission. So although mobile, it was here only for show.

RTL1014, Lakeside RTL1014, Lakeside

Also arriving was Leeds City Transport Leyland PD3 5280NW.

RTL1014, RT1499, Lakeside 5280NW, Lakeside

Metrobus M1 was taking over on the run south across the river. Having seldom travelled on any Metrobus, I climbed aboard for a different experience..

Part Five: Ping-pong across the Thames

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

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