I was invited to go on the RT60 celebration by Mike Dawes,
of TMR Preservation.
He was taking their RT - RT2291 - up to Aldwych in London,
to join as many other RTs as possible for a road-run to Cobham in Surrey,
to celebrate the 6oth anniversary of the entry into service of RT1,
the first of the RT family.
(For a history of the RT family, you could try my RT pages!)
Anyway, Sunday 6th June 1999 started in a grey kind of way.
Mike had prepared the bus during the previous week,
and parked it ready for the off the day before.
Just before 0630 the engine roared into life, and we were off,
through the damp dawn of another Kent morning.
We paused at Sevenoaks station for a PNB (Personal Needs Break),
then wended our way to Westerham and up the notorious Westerham Hill.
Although seldom used, the RT gearbox DOES have a first gear: 5mph flat out!
Once over the top we could drift down the original 146 route (Summer weekends)
to Keston Church, where we joined the present-day 146 route.
We paused briefly at the traditional short-working terminus of Keston Fox,
then continued down through Hayes and up through Bromley.
Passing the Bromley North terminus of the postwar route,
we pursued the original 146 line down to Lewisham.
An amazing number of hands went up at request stops
as we passed through Catford and Rushey Green:
even though it has not been in service for twenty years,
the RT is still "London Bus" in most Londoners' sub-conscious.
(The raised hands were followed by a variety of expressions of confusion,
amazement, self-doubt and delight!)
We followed the 47 route up through Deptford to London Bridge,
and over into the City, where we turned left to Aldwych, at the start of the West End.
There we found a number of other RTs gathering,
although it was an hour before the 1030 kick-off.
Mike parked on the bus-stand
- one of the very few offside stands in London
- behind RT935 and RT3143, underneath the plane trees.
This must be one of the most attractive places for bus photography in London,
especially when the sun shines.
RT2291 at Aldwych
We met up with Peter Penfold, our co-driver, and explored up and down the line of parked buses.
RT935 heads a lineup including RT3143 and RT2291 . There were a couple of RTLs too: RTL1427 (right).
The wartime build of wooden-framed RTs was represented by RT113 in wartime garb.
RT2177 was there with a late, dove-grey band,
while the London Transport Museum's RT4712 appeared in "as-withdrawn" condition.
RT3148 had travelled down from Hertfordhire, representing the Country Area,
while for RT1790 it was another working day.
Parked round the corner was the organisers' bus: RT2043 in the first post-war livery of red and cream.
Catford Garage's RT1702 parked under the trees on the main semicircle. Companion RT227
appeared later, having suffered a flat tyre requiring a wheel change en route.
Green-Lane's RT3491 sported Green_Line livery, but concealed its 11.3 litre engine,
while Cobham Museum's roofbox RT593 was beautiful in Country green.
Presently it was time to go. The idea was a procession at two minute intervals.
The first to lead off, appropriately, was RT113. RT593's green livery without adverts looked superb in the Aldwych setting.
RTL139, recently back from years in a Netherlands Museum, was today joining in the celebration.
We followed green RT3146 west along Fleet Street and across the south side of Trafalgar Square,
and up to Piccadilly.
Regent Street and Oxford Street were relatively quiet on this Sunday morning,
and we were trailed by Blue Triangle's working RT, RT3871.
Park Lane was not choked with lorries today, and 30mph was reached!
The turn round Hyde Park Corner gave RT3871 opportunity to demonstrate
that the RT was not as stable a cornering platform as its succesoor the RM!
Chelsea was a nightmare. A bus had parked blocking the traffic trying to leave a single-lane traffic roadworks.
Sloane Square seized solid for twenty minutes or so until the tangle was sorted out.
Heading for Putney, I realised that the green rear end in front was not RT3146 any more, but RT593.
In Kingston we passed RT935, now sporting a set of route 65 Kingston blinds,
which had stopped opposite Kingston Bus Station for photos.
Hampton Court Station was a brief port of call for several buses, for a PNB.
Stoppers included RT935, RT1702, RT2177, RT2291. After that we pressed on through Esher to Cobham,
where we turned left to Stoke d'Abernon Station.
There, in the almost deserted Sunday carpark, we found the lineup of RTs,
including some that had not made the journey down from Aldwych.
Be careful when clicking on this picture:
it is LARGE, so may take some time to download. It is worth it, though.
At the far end of the line were RT1700, immaculate in a new green paint job,
and roofbox sibling red RT1705.
At the opposite end arrived the three RTs
that we had seen arriving at Aldwych just as we left: roofbox RT1784,
RT1206 and RT1594.
Not all the day's RTs were here though:
some were busy running the service to and from Cobham Bus Museum.
Due to my running out of film we missed a bus to Cobham. Never mind. They run every ten minutes.
Twenty minutes later RT3871 pulled round onto the stop,
and took on a full load. We wondered why it had spent that twenty minutes ticking over,
and found out when it stalled approaching the main A3 roundabout. It wouldn't start.
We de-bussed, and waited for RP90 to come along
(while RTL139 sailed past with another full load).
After a browse round the museum at Cobham,
which gave us a good opportunity to look at an RT chassis minus its body,
we caught another RT - RT1790 - back to Stoke d'Abernon,
and set off in RT2291 on the long journey home into Kent.
My thanks go to all who made it such a super day:
- to TMR Preservation for preserving and maintaining RT2291,
- to Mike Dawes and Peter Penfold for driving,
- to Roger and Dawn Stagg for their organisation,
- to London Bus Preservation Trust for providing facilities at Cobham,
- and to all the owners and preservers who keep the RTs going, year after year.