The RT bus first emerged in 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II. Nearly 7,000 of the type were eventually built and they ran in service with London Transport for 40 years, much longer than expected. On 7th April 1979, the RT finally bowed out to great fanfare at Barking Garage. So in the 80th year of the bus which ran in LT service for 40 years up until 40 years ago, the final day was recreated at Barking Garage. Organized by London Bus Museum, the event attracted nearly 50 RT type buses to Barking and River Road Garages (River Road is about 3 miles to the south of Barking Garage). RT3316 was booked into Barking Garage as part of the internal display.
Saturday 30th March 2019 saw an early start with beautifully blue skies and excellent weather for the time of year, although when setting off it was a little on the cool side.
The route taken was a fairly direct one - A41 (past the old Aldenham Works), A1 Apex Corner, North Circular A406 to A13.
First call though was into River Road. “We’re not stopping long” was responded with “Park over there on your own”. It gave me a chance to see RT1347 (the blue and red one) in person and meet the owner, Michael Gamble. This bus found service with Browns Blue in Leicester after life with London Transport, and is restored in their livery.
Then it was time to set off for Barking Garage. Upon arrival I had to wait for parking allocation as my space had been given away (I wasn't late).
Once parked up, I opened up an onboard restoration exhibition to show stages of the restoration and speak with visitors until my voice had nearly gone. The position of the bus, the lack of a cab door and my consent to permit cab access, meant that it was also highly popular for families with children, allowing the children to sit in the driver’s seat and have their picture taken.
I knew that there was going to be a cavalcade at 4pm and packed everything up in time for it. However, all the stewards had left to go and watch, leaving a cordon in place. The procession left the garage for Barking Town Centre (and return) with 3316 struggling to exit the garage. I did manage to do so and consequently found myself at the rear of a line of 29 RT buses. Coincidental and appropriate that RT1 led and the ‘half a broken bus’ brought up the rear, a place that I was quite content to be. There were some sneers, giggles and photographers who stopped clicking and took the opportunity to review all the snaps of the shiny red buses that they had taken, but to me it felt as though those 28 RTs ahead of me were all MY escort. The only thing that was important was that I was proud of my bus.
The cavalcade slowly crept through Barking causing traffic chaos but a sight never seen before and one that may never be seen again as these buses get so much older. Some will fall by the wayside in the next couple of decades; not this one though.
The instruction was that on the return to the garage, we should not enter, but should disperse. Not sure what to do next, I made a spontaneous decision to head down to Creekmouth, a destination served by RTs further down the road from River Road Garage. It was one of those remote termination points from back in the day and I thought a quick visit there to take some photos was a good idea. It seems that others had the same idea and shortly after arriving, 3316 was joined by 4 other RTs.
I didn’t know at the time, but the other RTs were running the length of the old 62 route. I decided to go the other way on the old 87 route towards Dagenham and destined for Abbey Wood Lane in Rainham. This was another remote termination point for RTs many years ago, at the end of a delightful housing estate. She will return one day when she is finished.
With British Summer Time still hours away, dark fell and it was time to make the journey back around London, arriving back at silly o’clock at the end of a very long, very tiring, very busy but also very enjoyable day.
I added a video compilation of photos on the website here.