X55 and X81: Ensignbus Running Day
Saturday 7th December 2012
Prepared by Ian Smith, 21st December 2013.
X55: Bluewater to Lakeside (RLH 61)RLH 61 turned up at Bluewater on schedule, and I found a seat behind the tall Regent III bonnet, with its associated deeply curved window. Our driver climbed back into the cab and we were away.
We climbed out of the Bluewater pit, and visited Greenhithe Station before heading north along the riverside road through Stone. Green Cravens RT1499 came the other way.
We turned up the hillside beside the toll booths of the Dartford Bridge, crossed over the M25 and took the slip road down to the toll-booths, before descending into the depths of the Tunnel.
On the Thurrock shore we made our tortuous way round to Lakeside, and descended to the shopping centre bus station. There I alighted and got a better view of RMA50.
Standing ahead of the RMA was another of the day's big surprises: Regal T499 - the repatriated coach from Australia - had completed its restoration with Ensignbus, who, unable to get it into full Greenline livery in time for the event (so I was told), had finished it in the matt grey of the American Red Cross, who had operated some of these buses as Clubmobiles during World War II. They had served up burgers and cola to troops then, and had both cooking and sleeping accommodation. The present T499 does not have those facilities, nor the female attendants, but nevertheless looks great as "Oklahoma". It had been running short trips around Lakeside, but when I saw it was receiving attention from Ensign's fitters.
It provided an interesting comparison with First Essex 69911.
X81: Lakeside to Grays (RT3232)Greenline liveried RT3232 arrived from Shenfield on the X81 to Grays Station, and I went across to join it.
The route east from Lakeside to Grays is not a thrilling one. The bus took me round the edge of the shopping complex, and south to West Thurrock then turned east under the single line of the railway and along the A126 London Road through South Stifford to Grays, where we terninated at the railway station.
The bus went off to turn, and we crossed the road towards the return stop. One of Imperial's MPD Darts (VU52UEG) came in quickly on a local service for Thurrock Council, and as quickly buzzed off.
X81: Grays to Lakeside (RT3232)We walked down to the X55 stop where RT3232 was waiting. Behind it was Ensignbus' Dart/Alexander 739 on a local 33 service from Chafford Hundred and Lakeside.
X55: Lakeside to Greenhithe (RLH61)Back at Lakeside I was just in time to connect onto RLH61 to cross the bridge back to Greenhithe Station.
The ride over the bridge at night is another experience again, with all sorts of lights punctuating the darkness: lights on works, streets and jetties, on trains and ships and road vehicles. Lights on the bridge and the Barrage, the power station and the roll-on roll-off docks. Spectacular.
I said farewell to the Teesside crew on the RLH at Greenhithe, and watched the bus resume its journey to Bluewater and Gravesend without me, then turned and went to catch a London-bound train.
Many thanks to Ensignbus for the day, and to all the volunteer crews who made it possible. Happy Christmas to you all!
Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.