09 September 2019

The sun has got his hat on...

It’s been outing time again. This time wearing the desert camouflage livery (second coat of undercoat). Not a short stint – a trek across to the next county, Essex. I consider that to be quite a distance when driving a bus with a top speed of 30, avoiding motorways where everyone drives like a bat outta hell. 

Sunday 8th September 2019 saw Epping Ongar Railway host a special RT / RF celebration event, so I made the 30 or so mile trip all around the houses. Setting off from Watford, Herts on a crisp but sunny morning at 8am on roads with little traffic, I used my planned route via Aldenham (the village, but not actually going through it), Radlett, the old Harpersbury Hospital (now luxury housing), Colney Heath, past the Watford FC training ground (they’re clearly not training hard enough), South Mimms, Potters Bar (past the Bus Garage with many bemused looks) to Northaw. Here I did a pit stop to take a few photos by the delightful village green in this quaint Hertfordshire retreat. Then onto Cuffley, Goff’s Oak (this bus would have operated around here in it’s working life), Waltham Cross, Waltham Abbey to Upshire. Upshire Road shops is a destination that also would have been reached when she was allocated to Enfield, so I stopped for another leg stretching photo opportunity. The final stretch was up to Copthall Green, into Epping Forest, through Epping to the event location at North Weald Station.

@ Northaw

@ Upshire Road shops

Arriving around 10am, before things started to get busy, I settled in and enjoyed the glorious weather gifted to the day. I didn’t count them, but there were something like 30 RTs present. Not as many RFs as I thought there would be, but I’m not their biggest fan so it didn’t bother me (don't get me wrong, I don't hate them). I think most were in service, which makes sense given their ability to navigate some of the rural locations nearby that would be plagued with low hanging trees.

After 3.30pm, the buses made their way slowly (due to congestion) out of the event area to the perimeter road alongside North Weald airfield. Once there, it was a run (as organized) up and down the stretch of road several times. It was quite a sight to see these old buses thundering up and down here before heading off to a nearby Garden Centre where all the vehicles were being gathered for a photo shoot in an adjacent field. This didn’t quite go to plan; one bus cut out when reversing into the line-up and could not be re-started due to dead batteries; another was parked next to it to assist but the jump leads had been left behind. So a bunch of buses at the end of the line-up were obscured. It could have been rectified, but it quickly became too late to do so and with buses scheduled to leave at specific times to make connections with train services, the shoot was held as it had been set up. Not perfect, but it didn’t matter too much – it was still a good end to a great day.

My return journey hadn’t been decided and I headed back towards Upshire to backtrack on the morning’s trip until I reached the turning in Epping Forest which was closed due to an accident. That turned out to be a good thing as I headed south in the direction of Woodford. Fairly familiar with the route across North London, I went along past Royal Forest Hotel. This was another terminus that my bus would have frequented in the early years when allocated to Palmers Green, running on route 102. In Chingford I pulled over and reset the blinds after passing several stops where people tried to hail me. Route 87 never reached this far, but a number on a bus in London means people try to get on. With a private blind, no number and ‘not in service’ showing, my route took me through Ponders End, Enfield, past Enfield bus garage (with more bemused looks), Oakwood on to New Barnet. At New Barnet Station (where the bus would have visited on route 84 out of Palmers Green), I took a quick leg-stretching photo-taking break, and confused the heck out of two gents waiting at the bus stop talking to one another at the top of their voices, after what had clearly been a long day at the pub. They had obviously noticed the presence of the bus but were looking quite panicked as I drove past them and swung around to head away from the station. It would have been short lived as I passed the service bus heading towards them just moments later. Next, on to Chipping Barnet, Barnet Hospital and scouting south of Borehamwood to Elstree, I considered the A41, but on such a beautiful evening, I instead opted for Bushey Heath, Bushey, through Watford Town Centre heading north out of town to the storage, arriving some 12 hours after leaving – weary but having had a good day out.

@ New Barnet Station

Reflecting on the journey there and the journey back - I'm not sure if it was the time of day or the locations, but hardly anyone batted an eyelid in the morning at the sight of a cream coloured old bus (except bus drivers at Potters Bar). Yet on the way back, there was lots of head turning, smiling and waving, thumbs ups and even photos being taken on phones. It just strikes me that the inhabitants of London suburbs are more appreciative of the sight of an old bus than the residents of the home counties towns and villages.

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