First in the row was RT1784, with Gill Hinson. It transpired that John, who usually organises the event, was not well, but Gill had come down with the RT anyway. It wore the old London Tour service J blinds, that predated the TOLST operation, together with their usual "Ovaltine Works" destination blind. Then came a Central Area red RF, and RTL1163.
Behind that was RF486, with Peter Osborn and Steve Whitelegg. I went to say hello and they promptly invited me to join them and their families aboard the Central Area RF. I stowed my bag, and walked along the line in the fading light, looking at the splendid line-up: Central Area RT2177, Green Lane's RT3491, Memory Lane RT1709, RT2688, XF1, DM1052, RML2499 and Greenline RF269.
But it was time for the off. A whistle blew, and engines rumbled into life up and down the row. More buses were still arriving: an RTW and an open-top RT were seen to be on their way, but the head of the line was already departing. We turned round the roundabouts at Marble Arch and headed down Park Lane behind RT2177. Aboard the RF refreshments were being handed round.
We turned east into Piccadilly, and rumbled along to Piccadilly Circus, where the lights were bright. We went on, into Shaftesbury Avenue, and into High Holborn, where we found ourselves behind the lead bus, RT1784. On into the City of London - and then stop. It seems that there was notice of a road closure on the intended route to Aldgate. Our driver, Peter Osborn, consulted with Gill Hinson on RT1784, and offered to lead the way round a diversion. So we took the lead for the short distance to Aldgate, where we let Gill past for the turn left off the roundabout system past the Tower of London onto Tower Bridge.
We crossed the Thames, enjoying the views: the Tower, St.Paul's, HMS Belfast, the London Mayor's building..., then wiggled round through back-streets to Bermondsey Street, underneath London Bridge Station. There we pulled in tight to the curb as the line-up of buses reformed - with some missing and some new ones. RT1784 and RF486 headed the line.
Then RT3491 and RT2177 pulled up behind, before shuffling forward to make more room in the confined lay-by. They were followed by RT1790, then RML2499, which was baulked by a projecting kerb and bollard.
Where were the others? I walked back up the line - I like the backs of buses, as well as fronts. Then more arrivals drew me back through the tunnel. RF269 had arrived, followed by RTW467, RT2688 and Blue Triangle's open-topper RT3435. By the time that I walked back through the tunnel they had switched off (so no: that young man had NOT been driving!)
But we could not stay indefinitely: the drivers of the wide Mercedes Citaros on the RV1 get twitchy at having to squeeze past so many buses in the tunnel. So it was soon time to move again. I rejoined RF486, and we followed RT1784 out onto Tooley Street and up onto London Bridge. We recrossed the river, enjoying the new set of views, and promptly dived left down onto the Embankment. We trundled along to Westminster Bridge, enjoying the illuminated riverbank sights as we went, culminating in the spectacular London Eye. We turned up onto the bridge, and crossed towards Waterloo. We negotiated the County Hall gyratory, and headed towards Borough Road, only to turn up Blackfriars Road and pause under the railway bridge by Waterloo East. This was so that a charity bucket could circulate between all the buses.
We went on, recrossing the river by way of Blackfriars Bridge, and turning left up Fleet Street to Aldwych, where we turned left again to cross Waterloo Bridge. Another circulation round the traffic system saw us heading to Lambeth Bridge, where we crossed the river for the sixth and final time. We motored up past Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament to Parliament Square, where we met up again with RT3435, which preceded us up Whitehall. There we were intrigued to see STL2377 parked in a coned-off zone in the centre of the road, near Downing Street and the Cenotaph.
We continued up through Trafalgar Square, and up Lower Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus. Progress slowed down up Regent Street to Oxford Circus, and even more so westwards along Oxford Street. But about three hours after we had started we returned to the North Carriage Road at Marble Arch, to say our farewells after a superb evenings's entertainment.
Many thanks to Gill and John Hinson and all the folk in the RTRF Register, and especially to Peter Osborn and Steve Whitelegg, who with their friends and family made me so welcome.
Bus Stop Part One: Ensignbus X80 Day.