RT1784 Trafalgar Square

RTRFRegister Christmas Lights Tour

Saturday 12th December 2009

Prepared by Ian Smith, 18th December 2009

Although I do not own a preserved bus myself, I am a member of the Friends of Classic London Buses, the organisation which took over from the RTRf Register when Peter Gomm retired. The obvious way to get to Loughton was by the Central Line. The Register has for many years held a Christmas Lights Tour, organised by John and Gill Hinson. I was invited to go along and ride with Jim Andress on RF366, so wrapped up warmly: I have memories of winter journeys to school on open-doorway RFs!

The tour kicks off just after sun-set. I travelled across from Charing Cross to Marble Arch on Metroline's VP511 on route 6. On the way I passed some of the Routemaster remnant that some enthusiasts refuse to admit still exists. RM2089 on the 15 was just approaching Trafalgar Square, pursued by bendi-bus Mercedes MA152. I wonder if the RMs will outlast them?

VP511 at Charing Cross RM2089 and MA152

But RM1641, seen in the Haymarket, was one of a large number of Routemasters seen during the evening on tour and hire duties. VP511 squeezed through the scrum of buses approaching Piccadilly Circus, and escaped into the relative calm of Regent Street. A continual stream of service buses came the other way, typified by VLA154 on the 159.

RM1641, Haymarket VLA154 on 159, Regent Street

We turned left at Oxford Circus into a scene that reminded me of Dante's Inferno. Wall to wall people. Although Oxford Street is buses and taxis only, progress was rather slower than walking pace, mainly due to the numbers of people crossing at the frequent controlled crossings. Buses from all parts of London came past, exemplified by an East London Trident on the 15 and a Transdev one on the 94.

17848 on 15, Oxford Street Transdev on 94, Oxford Street

Perhaps this is an appropriate point to aplogise for the technical quality of the pictures: my little digital copes quite well with poor light, but the effective shutter speed is slow, and the autofocus seems as likely to focus on the bus window as on the scene beyond! So they are not as sharp as I would like. But enjoy them for the atmosphere conveyed rather than despair over their technical failings.

I alighted at Marble Arch Tube Station, and crossed by the subways to Hyde Park. I headed west, towards the North Carriage Drive.

Hyde Park Carriage Drive

There I found the line of buses forming up prior to the Tour. At the front of the line were John and Gill's buses: RT1784 with its Tour J via blinds on the front, with Ovaltine Works as destination (or advert), and Central Area RF453.

RT1784, Hyde Park RF453, Hyde Park

Behind were gleaming RM1033 and unmodernised GreenLine RF269.

RM1033, Hyde Park RF269, Hyde Park

Also displaying the Green Line margue was RT3254, one of the RTs originally selected for Green Line work and given an extra finish accordingly, with no adverts, cast GreenLine bulseyes on the sides and a pale green livery band. That was followed by spotless RM1397.

RT3254, Hyde Park RM1397, Hyde Park

Country Area RF539 looked resplendent too. I look forward to the day when RM14 finishes its repaint to show a similar standard of restoration.

RF539, Hyde Park RM14, Hyde Park

RM2097 is also in the throes of repanelling and preparation for repaint. RML2586 represented the later Routemasters.

RM2097, Hyde Park RML2586, Hyde Park

Another GreenLine RT was the London Bus Company's RT3228, which was followed by Fleetline DMS132 in red with white band. I have not seen the Fleetline around for some time: it was good to see it again.

RT3228, Hyde Park DMS132, Hyde Park

Bringing up the rear of the line was Ensignbus' RT4421. No RF366. But John Hinson passed on a message from Jim, who was delayed on the M4, who suggested that I find a home on another bus as he might be late. I returned along the line to RT3254, where Chris Wills welcomed me aboard. This meant that I got the warm seat behind the engine! Jim did arrive before the cavalcade set off, by the way, although I did not have time (or the light) to walk back down the line to photograph RF366 at that stage..

RT4421, Hyde Park RF269, Hyde Park

The Lights Tour

It was full dark by the time that we got under way, and I really did not expect to get any worthwhile photos at all on the way. The following just provide a flavour.

We circulated round the Marble Arch junction and headed south down Park Lane, following RF269, RM1033 and RT1784. At Hyde Park Corner we turned left into Piccadilly, and inched our way eastwards along Piccadilly with its shops, to Piccadilly Circus with its lights, and Shaftesbury Avenue with its theatres. We escaped into the quieter streets of High Holborn. No trolleybuses.

Piccadilly Circus RF269

We wiggled our way down to Ludgate Circus, and turned up Ludgate Hill towards St.Paul's Cathedral. We passed an early RML on tour duty outside the west front. We continued along into the City, along Cannon Street and down to Monument Station. The Monument itself, brilliantly floodlit, was visible over the rooftops. We turned right over London Bridge, with an excellent view over the Pool of London to Tower Bridge, similarly using up the World's resources to provide us with enjoyment.

RF269 at Monument Pool of London

Underneath the Arches

From London Bridge we turned left into Tooley Street, then right into Weston Street, under London Bridge Station. There we had permission to stop with six buses at a time, the lighting providing reasonable photographic conditions. RT1784, RM1033, RF269, RT3254, RM1397 and RF539 made up our group.

RT1784 in Weston Street RM1033 in Weston Street

RF269 in Weston Street RT3254 in Weston Street

RM1397 in Weston Street RF539 in Weston Street

Tour Part2

From the London Bridge Arches we circled round to Tower Bridge, and crossed the river again past the Tower of London. We headed west to reach the Victoria Embankment, where we pretended to be a tram along to Westminster. We recrossed the Thames on Westminster Bridge, past the magnificent London Eye, and headed east to find Blackfriars Road. We stopped again at Southwark Station for the friendly bears to raid us for small change for charity.

RF269 approaches Tower Bridge RF539 at Southwark Station

RF486 and other buses joined our gang. I commented that RF486 already had blinds set up for the morrow.

Our way onwards should have been to cross Blackfriars Bridge and head west along Fleet Street to Aldwych, and back over Waterloo Bridge. But Blackfriars Bridge was closed. The diverted traffic west to Waterloo was heavy, and slow. We picked our way west to the big roundabout with the I-Max cinema just by Waterloo Station, then escaped from the traffic to head south-west, on course, towards Lambeth Palace.

RF486 at Southwark Station Waterloo I-Max

We finally recrossed the Thames over Lambeth Bridge, and turned north to thread our way past the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey into Whitehall. I think I must have dozed off, for I missed Trafalgar Square altogether, and was surprised to find that we were climbing up Haymarket towards Piccadilly Circus. We missed the obscure turn into Regent Street, and found ourselves rethreading our way up Shaftesbury Avenue. But a turn up Tottenham Court Road and a left turn took us to Oxford Street. By now the crowds had thinned out somewhat, so we made reasonable progress west to Oxford Circus and Marble Arch, and were soon wending our way back into the North Carriage Drive.

I went to say thank you to a few people, then headed for Oxford Street to catch a bus back to Charing Cross.

RT3228 at Hyde Park RF453, Hyde Park

Many thanks to John and Gill Hinson for organising the event, to Jim and Chris for personal invitations to ride on their buses, and to all the owners, drivers and conductors who turned up to make it such an enjoyable evening. It was a good start to Christmas!

All photos by Ian Smith. Click on most of them for a larger picture.

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