X55 and X81: Ensignbus Running Day
Saturday 7th December 2012
Prepared by Ian Smith, 17th December 2013.
X55: Upminster to Gravesend (RT 3251)Having paused to take a picture of RTW335 from the rear, I was one of the last to board RT3251. I found a seat at the back, on the nearside long seat, where I could exchange greetings with our conductor.
We headed south out of Upminster towards Corbets Tey, then worked west onto the Aveley Road. As we reached the first houses at Kennington Park I saw RLH61 coming the other way, and managed a picture from the rear platform as it passed.
We continued down Romford Road into Aveley, where we picked a way through the town centre before continuing on towards the mess of traffic, pylons, railways and industry that makes up Thurrock. We negotiated three roundabouts, taking us under the M25 and eventually down into Lakeside, to the bus station.
There I had a minute or two to see my bus from the front. It had emptied out somewhat, so I could find a seat upstairs at the front for the onward journey. The bus station was curiously empty, although I did catch a glimpse of Cub C4 approaching through the shopping centre as we pulled away.
We climbed back up out of the shopping pit, and renegotiated the roundabouts to reach the M25 sliproad up onto the Queen Elizabeth Bridge, to soar high over the Thames.
The views were superb, even in today's subdued winter lighting.
We climbed the slope, then the first slip-road, on the Kent side of the toll-booths, then turned back down towards the river, getting a great view of the bridge swinging down towards us. As we headed east through Stone we could see an RTL coming towards us. A lamp-post persistently blocked the front view as it approached, and still featured in the side view as RTL1014 (the repatriate from Davis, California) swept past.
We climbed up to Greenhithe, where we had a couple of minutes waiting time.
Setting off, we passed under the railway, and then met the London Road at the roundabout, where RM54 from Gravesend turned left to head for Bluewater, followed by Arriva's DAF/Wright 6214 on the 492 from Sidcup. We followed them down into Kent's big shopping pit.
We entered the bus station, which held a scattering of typical modern buses, single - and douuble-deck, including Arriva's AD Enviro400 6467, also on the 492.
We pulled into the stop behind RM54. Elderly Dart SLF 3286 of Arriva Kent Thameside pulled past us to turn at the end of the bus station, probably on route 433.
We followed RM54 through the twists of getting out of the bus station, and up to the Greenhithe roundabout. The RM went straight on, for Greenhithe station, while we turned right up the cutting of London Road. A surprise was Arriva's DAF/Alexander 6235 coming down the bank on a 480 to Dartford. Usually this route is just single-deckers. We continued over the hill, with its tremendous views east down-river, and dropped down to Ebbsfleet.
We climbed up the bank from the Plough, and met RMA50 heading for Upminster as we passed Northfleet Church.
We went along the high ridge road of Northfleet, with the Thames riverside estates occupying the old quarries down on the left, and old quarries also occasionally visible down on the right. We passed a more usual bus on the 480: VDL/Wright 3754, then came up behind older Dart SLF 3285.
We followed it on down into Gravesend, on the way passing Dart MPD 1600 on the back-roads route 455 to Dartford from Valley Drive and Singlewell.
We piroetted past Gravesend Station, and descended to the riverside, to our terminal stop beside the Tilbury Ferry Terminal. There we met RTL453, about to depart.
I swapped buses for the ride back to Bluewater...
Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.