I had arrived by ten past eight, but it was forty minutes later that I saw the anticipated shape of an RF heading towards me. Wearing a high visibility jacket, I stuck out a hand and hoped that they saw me. They did.
RF28 drew to a halt, and I gladly climbed aboard into the welcoming womb of a Green Line RF. Warm. Dry. Comfortable. I exchanged greetings with the crew, and we headed off up the Old Kent Road towards Elephant & Castle, followimg the old Green Line 701 route. We continued past the Imperial War Museum, and crossed Lambeth Bridge over the Thames. A left turn took us along Millbank to the Tate Gallery and Vauxhall Bridge Road, then some relatively narrow back streets took us towards Eccleston Bridge.
We were a little early for our 0930 pick-up in Buckingham Palace Road, so we found a lay-by and pulled in for a break. The crew went off to find a toilet, leaving me to mind the bus.
I spotted RF429 coming up behind. It was stopped by the traffic lights, so I was able to see the two RFs side-by-side as it came past towards Eccleston Bridge. Note the two different styles - and colours - of Greenline 712 blind.
The crew returned, and we pulled over Eccleston Bridge and left into Buckingham Palace Road, where we passed a couple of modern Greenline DAFs on the 758 service. 4056 we were to see again, playing hop-scotch with it all the way up to Brent Cross. RF429 was already on the stop, and our St.Albans - bound crowd distributed themselves between the two buses, some preferring the strange experience of a Greenline ride on a red bus, others the greater comfort of the genuine article!
We followed the red RF round through the Greenline coach station in Bulleid Way, and headed north, making occasional pickups. We passed the back wall of Buckingham Palace, and negotiated Hyde Park Corner into Park Lane. At Marble Arch we cut across in front of an oncoming wall of traffic to reach Oxford Street, which we followed briefly before turning north up the A41 towards Marylebone and St. John's Wood.
Soon we were through Finchley Road and heading up Hendon Way to swoop over the North Circular past Brent Cross Shopping Centre and on up Watford Way. At Apex Corner we turned up the A1 to reach Stirling Corner, where we turned left to decend into Borehamwood. Down in Borehamwood we made a deviation from the classical 712 route, turning left to Elstree and Boirehamwood Station, then right alongside the Midland Main Line, rejoining the old route further along for the rural ride through to Radlett.
Now we were into what felt like Green Line customer country: half-timbered houses and narrow villages, as we headed up Watling Street through Radlett and Park Street. The car traffic as we approached St.Albans felt like it too. Unlike the bus routes we did not turn off through St.Julians, but continued to the awkward narrow road junction at St.Stephens (unimproved since Roman times). There we turned right to descend to Abbey Station, before climbing Holywell Hill into St.Albans.
We made our way along the street to the stops, and pulled up behind the red RF. I thanked the crew, greeted Colin and Peter on RF429, and went to find out what was happening and to get a programme.
Part Four: 343 to Markyate and back
Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.
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