V3 at South Mimms

St Albans Running Days

Saturday & Sunday January 12th-13th 2008

Prepared by Ian Smith, 23rd January 2008.

Saturday morning

After my comments last year about the Thameslink (sorry: Capital Connect) service from East Croydon to St.Albans perhaps it was inevitable that the powers that be should endeavour to show me that this simple journey could be a lot worse. And so it was. No through trains. Having just got the new Thameslink station at Kings Cross / St.Pancras opened in December, with much public hoo-haa, they are now proceeding to shut it at weekends for three months. So it was the detested tube journey from London Bridge to KXSP. There I discovered another attribute of the new International station. In cold weather the cold air from the (unheated) massive train-shed sinks into the opened-up vault, where it is trapped by all the closed doorways. It is nithering! The Thameslink trains were starting upstairs, in the quaintly named Domestic station, tucked out of sight away in the far reaches beyond the impressive Barlow train shed. Nice to know that the British class system is alive and well. The 3+2 seating was as uncomfortable as ever, but the train ran express to St.Albans, so at least it was over quickly.

This year it was an ex-London Dart that greeted me when I emerged into the sunshine at City Station. Centrebus 144 (ex DRL134) was on the 304 to Hitchin, where these Darts seem to have taken over from the Beavers..

319454 at St Pancras (Domestic). Centrebus 144 at St Albans Stn.

There was also a collection of rail-replacement buses. Despite the excellent half-hourly express service from London that I had used, all the publicity for the disrupted central London train service advised passengers from London to St.Albans to use the Capital Connect slow service from Kings Cross to Hatfield, changing there onto a rail replacement service to St.Albans. Why? In addition to the underused shuttle buses on service, there was a fleet of stand-by buses at both ends too.

On shuttle duty was one of Trustline's newly-arrived ex-Dublin Leyland Olympians, J765CEV, whilst rather smarter were repainted sisters H721PVW and J820CEV, which were on stand-by.

J765CEV on rail shuttle. H721PVW on stand-by, St Albans Stn.

One of Arriva The Shire's massive Scanias (3154) grumbled into the stance and departed on the 300 to Hemel Hempstead. Were these really made from recycled T34 tanks, or do they just give that impression? At the other end of the bus scale, Mercedes-Benz Beaver 458 sort of poured itself down the ramp into the bus station, as if just to prove that the 304 still has some of them on duty. It paused, then clawed its way back up the slope on its way to Wellham Green.

3154 on 300, St Albans Stn. 458 on 304, St Albans Stn.

Centrebus Dart SLF 561 was in charge on local route S1, bustling into the stand and out again, while NV51, now with Sullivan Buses, although still in LT red, loitered in the background on the rail duty.

576 on S1, St Albans Stn. NV51, St Albans Stn.

Two of the longer-distance routes then followed each other through the station yard: Greenline Mercedes Citaro 3901 was on the 724 heading for Harlow, while older Wright Renown 3307 looked good in special Centraline livery on the 301 to Stevenage.

3901 on 724, St Albans Stn. 3307 on 301, St Albans Stn.

Centrebus Dart SLF 571 came through on on the S1, looking like an advert for first aid boxes. Actually the green ads on the sides and rear are for the Hertfordshire add-on bus tickets for rail journeys.

At last the free bus appeared. It was SNB321, wearing 341 blinds for the short journeys between railway station and St.Peters Street. I jumped on, and we headed up into the town. Traffic was not as horrific today as on previous years.

571 on S1, St Albans Stn. SNB312 on 341, St Albans Stn.

As we approached the roundabout onto St.Peters Street we saw SNB449 turn right round it ahead of us. We turned left and pulled up behind the other National on the busy market street.

SNB449 and 312, St.Peters Street.

There was a little while before both buses were due off again, and I chatted to both crews, and took pictures. I decided to go round the Station loop again aboard SNB312. Both buses were due out together at 1120, and we followed the Series B pod-less National south-west along St.Peters Street. We turned left down the hill towards City Station as SNB449 went straight on down Holywell Hill towards Abbey Station.

SNB449 on 361, St Peters Street. SNB312 on 341, St Albans Stn.

After picking up a decent load at the Station we climbed up to St. Peters Street again.

I changed buses onto the younger National, and when it was time I went with it down Holywell Hill to Abbey Station.

SNB449 on 361, St Peters Street.

We waited for the branch-line train, loaded up, then rounded the roundabout to climb back up the hill into St.Albans. After unloading in St.Peters Street we ran on up to St.Alban's garage - or rather, its site, and stopped in the bus lay-by. We then went on to turn round the triangle and come back to the south-bound layby, where the light was better. (Unfortunately I lost these pictures). SNB312 came up to join us, and pulled up behind. Soon it was time to go again, and I took a ride on SNB449 back to the stop in St.Peters Street, where I alighted to find some lunch.

Part Two: Saturday afternoon

Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.

Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part Two: Saturday afternoon