Then I phoned Colin Rivers to confirm what he wanted posted on my page. "I was hoping you might do a spot of conducting for me", he said, "on RTW75".
So on Sunday morning, armed with thermal underwear, woolly socks and hat, and boots, I headed for Eltham on the service 126, Dart 3293. I went all the way to the terminal stance at the east end of the High Street. I was crossing by the traffic lights to Eltham Crescent when I saw another 126, 3298, approaching from an unexpected direction - the north. I presume it was arriving onto duty on a garage run from Dartford.
I turned down Southend Crescent. No RTW, no RT, on the stand. "Hello Ian" came a voice. Colin Rivers and John Huxford had arrived to crew the bus. But where was the bus? A mobile phone call elicited the information that it was at Bromley North. It would be brought to us by the ferry driver from The London Bus Company. We calculated that we had time for a cup of coffee before it arrived. Unfortunately the open coffee shops were at the other end of the High Street. So there we went, passing 3293 again, which was still on the stand, thirteen minutes after arrival: it seems that they get more stand time than we were to get during the day. Other buses passed too: PVL18 heading for Lewisham on the 321, and PVL324 heading the other way to Foots Cray. Selkent's little 34248 turned the corner, terminating on the 124 from Catford.
We walked along the High Street. Arriva's long E200Dart 3985 was on the 286. Older Wrightbus Cadet 3955 passed on the B15, while ex-Thames Buses, now London Central, DWL14 headed east on the 132. We bought take-away coffee and walked back to Southend Crescent.
We finally got away about seventeen minutes behind schedule: Colin was driving, John was sitting up front route-learning, and you can guess who was freezing on the platform as conductor. We completed the loop up onto the High Street, and started picking up ordinary 126 passengers. This was not quite as straightforward as it seems, as the modern 126 does a rather different route through Mottingham, so each queue of eager passengers had to be told that it did NOT go via Dunkery Road, that it was a free service and that they travelled at their own risk. This last occasioned a few comments, with people wondering if it was something to do with the age of the vehicle (60 years old, incidentally). We picked up in Eltham and headed for Mottingham. A Metrobus Scania caught up with us at the Mottingham station stop, heading for Chislehurst on the 161.
At Mottingham Village we turned right and pulled up at the stop, to allow anyone who wanted Dunkery Road to change buses, then headed on past Eltham College and along Grove Park Road - now only frequented by trolleybus routes 636, 637 and 638.
RT3871 came hurtling in the opposite direction, and at a closing speed of approaching 60mph I essaye d a photo through the rear window. The camera of course decided to focus on the window. We paused for a photo at the stop before the Marvels Lane traffic lights, then continued over the speed bumps down the dip to the Chin Brook and up to Grove Park. Miracle of miracles, we were through the Grove Park lights without a hold-up. We loaded well at Grove Park Station: "Sorry ma'am, we cannot take unfolded pushchairs", and headed for Bromley. We picked up at nearly every stop: Launcelot Road, Treewall Gardens, New Street Hill (where I hopped off for another picture - this is where I caught the bus to school).
On to Bromley: Southover, Park Lane stops, round Plaistow Green (an innovation since RT days), and on along narrow College Road past St.Mary's and The Farwig. Left at the traffic lights, and empty out at Bromley North Station. Now the announcement task at stops becomes a different one, as from Bromley South we are following the current 162 route to Beckenham Junction, and ordinary passengers need reassurance that we are going their way. We stop at the new (for RTs) Civic Centre stop on Kentish Way, then pass The Glades to regain the High Street. Two stops to Bromley South Station, picking up 162 passengers.
Then down the hill past the station itself, and turn right for Westmoreland Road. Westwards up the long hill out of the Ravensbourne Valley, then turn right again to head for the Chinese Garage and Beckenham. Round the roundabout at the Chinese Garage, spotting the bus reflected in the garage doors.
Into Victorian Beckenham, crossing the traffic lights to reach Beckenham Church. RF429, heading for Crystal Palace, pulls up behind on the 227. We turn right towards the station. They turn left, down to Beckenham High Street.
A few yards up the street, then a left turn at the lights takes us to the station. The 55 minute schedule has taken us 56 minutes. We empty the bus, switch off, and go to find the station toilets! We may only be allowed two minutes on the stand, but we have personal needs too!
The station is busy, with rail replacement buses linking to the Catford Loop stations such as Ravensbourne. These are supplied by Metrobus from Crawley, using two-tone blue Darts such as 218.
Part Two: More journeys on the 126
Photos by Ian Smith. Click on any of them for a larger picture.
Back to Ian's Bus-stop Part Two: More journeys on the 126