Saturday 12th April 2014
Prepared on Wordpad by Ian Smith, 17th April 2014
Part 1: Ash Grove GarageI alighted from the 48 at Cambridge Heath Station. Now where was Ash Grove Garage? I consulted my map. Ah yes! Mare Street was just north from where I stood. By way of confirmation, RTW185 came up the road and headed in that direction.
Greenline-liveried RT3491 swung round the corner under the railway bridge and also headed north. I followed on. I didn't hear RT3183 coming up behind me. Suddenly the Country Area bus passed me and went on. I grabbed my camera for a quick rear shot.
RT1798 went past just as I approached the entrance to Ash Grove garage. I pulled in. So did the Central Area bus.
There was a short queue of buses waiting on the short access road: RT1798, RT3183, RT3491. People were filing in through the public gate, where a welcoming committee greeted us and offered hi-viz jackets for people to use while in the busy yard: not so good for photographers, but an essential safety tool in this environment.
Inside the garage the yard was being used for the display of RT family buses, with Leylands at the east end next to the busy railway, red RTs in the centre, and green RTs at the far end. The line was still filling up as buses continued to arrive. Already at the "Leyland End" were Catford's RT1702, Ensignbus RTL453, London Bus Company RTW75, and privately-owned RTW185.
Buses were still arriving, and queuing for a parking spot. Next in were RT3871 (London Bus Company), and RT1777. The latter was new to me - and many others here - and arrived dressed as a Clapton trainer (its last role with LT).
Privately preserved RT3775 was next in the entrance queue. I turned back to the line-up, passing by RTW185, RTW75, RTl453 and RT1702. The war-time build of RTs was represented by RT113, wearing its wartime livery, including single headlamp.
The small batch of RTs bodied by Cravens of Sheffield was represented by Ensignbus' RT1431. Their standard RT - RT4421 was standing next to it in the later post-war livery of red with cream cant-rail band.
Next was privately preserved RT1798, another in "standard" Central Area livery. I turned away from photographing Saunders-bodied RT3062 in early post-war livery to watch RT1 arriving. It turned and backed up next to RT3062, parking in front of a Borismaster that was standing by the yard wall.
Brand new buses were lined up on both sides of the yard, some not yet registered, with number plates covered up. One was LT198, parked next to the north wall, and about to be hidden as further buses arrived to join the line.
I turned my attentionsto the beautiful line-up of green machines: first were two of the GreenLine-liveried RTs, RT3491 - for twenty years a red bus with London Transport, and for forty years a green bus in preservation. RT3254 was an original Romford Green Line bus from new and for just over twenty years, before a spell as a red bus that lasted until the last day of RTs with LT at Barking. Now it is back in GreenLine green in preservation.
Recently restored RT4779, which served for ten years in green followed by ten in red, now wears green Country Area green again, albeit today with GreenLine blinds. RT1700, conversely, started as a Central Area bus in red, but after seven years joined the Country Area. Preserved as a Country bus, it now earns its keep with The London Bus Company and is often to be found servicing the Epping Ongar Railway.
RT3183, looking every inch the kind of bus on which I spent so many happy Country Rover days, completed the row for now.
Back on the red row, RT1777 was carefully backing into position.
Next up was RT3775, which had been queuing beside the railway. This RT had always been red whilst with London Transport, but had been bought from preservation by London Country in 1994 to work the connecting service from East Grinstead to the Bluebell Railway at Kingscote. They painted it in Country Area green. After four years, looking its age, it was withdrawn, and then sold to Ensignbus. They restored it, and repainted it first into their silver and powder blue livery, and then into Central Area red and cream, before selling it on into preservation.
Still they came: RT3028, a seldom seen bus, arrived from Old London Bus, Hawkhurst. This bus also had an interesting LT history, starting and ending as a Central Area bus, but with nine intermediate years in Country green too.
RT2293, a more familiar sight on the London preservation scene over many years, had always been a Central Area bus.
RT1784 arrived. This is one of the early post-war RTs, with a RT3 roofbox body. That's the body with no cut-out over the chassis offside dumb-iron, a valance round the canopy above the bonnet, and a route number plate holder on the nearside front pillar, not up under the canopy. RT1784 wears the early post-war livery too.
Also making an entrance was RLH48, one of the low-height members of the RT family. This bus actually worked locally, from Dalston garage, in green, when one of its red brethren was away for overhaul. Now it was back again, wearing its route 178 blinds and Dalston garage plates.
Two more Leylands came in. 8 foot wide RTW467, the last RTW in London Transport service, now privately preserved, and Brooklands-based RTL139 of the narrower class. The former squeezed into the line beside the other two RTWs, while RTL139 had to head for the west end of the line.
The next entrant I had definitely not seen before: BDJ67 was one of the batch bought new by St.Helens Corporation.
Behind came RT2177, a London Transport RT wearing the later flake grey cant-rail band, and without rear-wheel dust-covers (as appropriate for the livery).
Two more RTs came in: RT2688, also with a flake-grey band, but with "dustbin lids". (I gather that there is photographic evidence showing that RTs did indeed run with this combination - as on the front cover of "RT"! Thanks for the imnformation, David).
RT935 is always recognisable by its unpainted cab window surround.
A final two buses arrived from The London Bus Company: GreenLine-liveried RT3238, and RTL1076, one of the RTLs repatriated from Canada.
(I have not so far mentioned RT2775, standing apart. This was one of the trio of buses that toured the USA and Canada when new, with London Transport).
The crews of the service 22 buses were given their running time-sheets, directions and duty plates. It was time for the service to begin.
I joined one of my favourites: Saunders roofbox RT3062 - another bus that I had caught only peripherally in pictures today.
RT Family buses that I saw at Ash Grove: RT1*, RT113*, RT935*, RT1431*, RT1700, RT1702*, RT1777*, RT1784*, RT1798*, RT2177*, RT2293*, RT2688*, RT2775*, RT3028*, RT3062*, RT3183, RT3238, RT3254, RT3491, RT3775*, RT3871*, RT4421*, RT4779, BDJ67, RTL139*, RTL453*, RTL1076*, RTW75*, RTW185*, RTW467*, RLH48.
All photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.