I just took the normal, boring route. c2c to West Ham, Jubilee to Stratford, Central Line to Epping. From there, it was time to board the 339 to North Weald...
Upon arrival at Epping, I was greeted by 3 modern vehicles, a surprise for a Sunday! They were 2 Trustybus vehicles on the Sunday equivalent of the 420 (the 420A) and an Arriva Optare Solo operating the 418B, a route that they recently took over from Trustybus. However, after a few minutes, RCL2260 arrived on 339 shuttles to/from North Weald.
|Change your blinds and go!|
Our blinds got set to 'North Weald Station' and we were off! Sometimes, the 339 service operates beyond North Weald to Ongar and even stretching out as far as Shenfield. This is when the Railway itself is running a high-season timetable, but it seems like the kind of thing that would be perfect for the bus event. The conductor came round and issued us all with a date-stamped Gibson ticket to signify that it was valid for the event and we met T1 coming the other way, with the well-known Trevor Wright driving. It was supposedly running a 339 shuttle, but I believe this was an extra - our bus was definitely busy enough to warrant one!
|You're not supposed to be here!|
|A squash and a squeeze!|
|First arrival in preservation!|
|Red Arrow bus, Red Arrow experience, not a Red Arrow route!|
I boarded the RMA to head back to North Weald as a 175 - it was only its 2nd run in preservation, so I felt rather honoured! We passed DM1052 at Ongar Station and made our way back along the road almost parallel to the railway. When we arrived, one of the surprises (T1128 in 'Forest Ranger' livery) was sat there - I wasn't too interested in it, so decided not to alter my meticulous plan to get on it.
|Nice bus, but I'll pass!|
In came T1 again, still running back and forth on the 339. It would continue to do this all day, apart from one route 175 trip that was planned. After a rather short wait, V3 - the Ailsa - pulled out of its parking space and into the middle of the action. As it loaded up, I didn't get a chance to take a photograph and nor did I when it set down at Passingford Bridge! As we passed through Ongar, I was crammed up against the window as a Father and 2 children had taken the seat next to me. The adult even had the audacity to let one of the children urinate in a pot on the bus - it was not a pleasant experience and I shall be travelling on an Ailsa again as soon as possible. The Greenway National was already sitting opposite, as expected, when V3 arrived, so I headed on over to catch it! Although I was standing all the way, it wasn't as busy as the MBA first thing - the GLS is like the current Red Arrow buses, with room for around 24 seated passengers and the rest standing. Obligatory photographs were taken by some people as we made our way through Abridge and over the River Roding, but I wasn't one of them. A quick run through the countryside took us to St Margaret's Hospital, where the rear doors failed for the photo stop!
After that, it was a short distance through Epping High Street to the terminus at North Weald Forecourt, where the rear doors failed again - everybody disembarked from the front instead. It turned out that the GLS was rather late and by the time we had arrived at North Weald, RF180 had already departed on her route 381A journey to Passingford Bridge via Tawney Common and the back streets. Therefore, when T1 pulled up to just before the stand (which was, again, occupied) operating a 339, I decided to deviate from my plan and not just wait about 2 hours for the next 381A. It was a pleasant run to North Weald Station and back, but the Titan was rather full on the way there; the way back was fairly empty, as nobody was going to the event at about 14:00!
On this trip, I also saw the 2-hourly 501 for the second time that day. I would go on to see it twice again! NIBS Buses run the Sunday-only route and the allocation on 18th February was a Dart Pointer - namely SN55DVR. I've travelled on the 501 in the past from Harlow to Epping (but not all the way to Ongar) on an unliveried Wright Streetlite. It's a lovely, fast ride through the Essex countryside and is actually very useful - I recommend it!
After that short round trip of about 30 minutes, the bus stopped short of the forecourt and dropped us (by which I mean about 4/5 people) off there to avoid unnecessary further congestion. During the wait for the RF, MBA582 pulled round and I was surprised to see people on board, as it was only supposed to be a static exhibit. However, it was operating trips around the local area for which they could not charge - the bus wasn't Class 6 or something like that, so they couldn't advertise them.
|An Extra Extra!|
|An unexpected second MBA!|
RF180 then pulled in, having completed a 'High Beach Tour' service. Instead of just turning the blind as usual, the crew had to all heave a picnic bench out from near the bus stop and three grown men climbed on top of it to remove the temporary 'insert' blind!
Very gently, the driver set the blind to '381A Passingford Bridge', which surprised me. This particular RF had worked the 381A's first journey and wasn't scheduled to run either of the other two: the GLS and MBA were booked for those. However, this worked in my favour - I hadn't caught the RF and I planned to catch the second 381A anyway, so I hopped on board and off we went. After about 5 minutes, we were already on the country lanes and I was frankly surprised that they even decided to run a bus down there, let alone a more modern National or Merlin!
After a very pleasant 30 minute run through the countryside, we arrived at Passingford Bridge around 10 minutes late. Luckily, as expected, V3 was standing there ready to run a 175 back to North Weald and the bus I was getting back to the Station (RF401) looked almost ready for departure, so I quickly took the colour change and we set off back along the 500 route via Abridge. London Bus Company really have done a good job and it looked as if it had recently been reupholstered. When we pulled back in to North Weald, there was a choice to make... 718 to Harlow or High Beach Tour? On the basis that it would be the second 'surprise' guest vehicle, RP21, I chose Harlow. Annoyingly, when I went to check, the bus was full and there was no space for me - I wasn't complaining though, as RF401 - about to run the High Beach Tour - really was a lovely bus and I knew the conductor! It was probably for the best anyway, as the run to High beach was rather scenic - Harlow would've just been residential. Upon arrival at the lovely High Beach, two minutes were spent obtaining a quick photograph.
From there, we ran round a loop before returning the same way as far as Epping, where this particular final journey ran into the Underground Station, where I alighted to head home.
|There's something you don't see every day!|
|Even the RF struggled!|
|Get your blind sorted!|
|Goodbye for now!|
Apart from standing around at Epping Station waiting for some more buses, I was about to go home... but wait! As T1 pulled in, I heard the words 'North Weald and Back'. The Titan had been running extras all day, so I wouldn't have been surprised if it continued - and it did! My suspicions were confirmed when I enquired to the crew (whom I also knew) and I boarded for a quiet little round trip to North Weald and back with around 3 other people on board - the 'icing on the cake', if you like.
Apart from getting stuck at North Weald Forecourt for almost quarter of an hour waiting for other buses to move out, it was a pleasant run and, on the way, I saw some other buses returning - they were T1128 running the last 175, which also served Epping Station on the way to North Weald:
and DM1052, also blinded for a 175 run from Passingford Bridge.
|You're not where you're supposed to be!|
|Into the distance!|
The return trip was just like the outward, except mainly in the dark - very uneventful. All in all, it was a great day. Very well organised and no major hiccups. Well done EOR.