Not only had I been given a complimentary day ticket, but I had also been invited to Ensign's Purfleet base to watch the many buses being prepared. So on a grey, damp morning at 0730 I arrived and could immediately sense the anticipation and excitement. Staff still doing last minute cleaning, and buses being started up, producing fumes that would have the Green Party literally choking on their cornflakes, but that in itself evoking memories of the days when no two buses were alike, all having their own unique characters.
|2 of the runners already blinded up|
|The route network|
I had been told I could travel from the yard on whichever vehicle I wanted. As it was a designated spare I chose M1, the Metrobus. I'm pretty sure I haven't travelled on a Metrobus since I last drove one in 1994, so to not only get a ride but help carry out the checks was a rare treat. A solid vehicle but with a surging throttle and very eager brakes they do demand a certain amount of skill to drive without sending passengers everywhere! I will say at this point only one type of vehicle I travelled on rattled, and I will point that out later. So you can assume no other vehicle I travelled on rattled in any way, shape or form.
The main reason I attended was that the Metropolitan Scania was coming out to play, and I arrived at Lakeside some 2 hours early. So after an unsuccessful attempt to buy a battery pack to charge my phone up in Lakeside, an issue that will be revisited later, I joined the merry throng at Lakeside bus station who were taking pics of anything that moved, and there was a lot to choose from. Here is another selection.
There were also some visiting vehicles, one of which was a very smart East Kent AEC Regent. I have strong memories of the Regents in service, from watching them pass St Mary's Bay beach on a family seaside trip, to riding one along Margate seafront in their last days. I was dared to publish a pic of it so Matt, just for you!
|East Kent AEC Regent MFN 946F at Lakeside Bus Station|
I have said before if I could ride one bus again it would be one of these, and now I was. Rather luckily another X55 left just in front and so I was able to bag one of the coveted front seats upstairs. I was slightly nervous as I have such fond memories of these futuristic buses - remember this was built in 1976. Would the ride be as smooth as I remember, would the acceleration be as good, would the engine have that Scania gurgle? Well I needn't have worried. The ride was as I remembered, far, far superior to the huge majority of modern buses. The acceleration would match anything modern so you can imagine how it compared to everything else in 1976, the engine was quiet on inside but roared on outside and I fell in love with it all over again. Just a shame the bodies were awful and prone to rust - told you it was futuristic - now bodies are just awful! Ok, deep breath, and a sentence I never thought I'd write: I travelled over the QE2 Bridge on the top deck of a Metroplolitan Scania! What's more I have the picture to prove it!
After going through Bluewater shopping centre where I spotted the seed that planned my afternoon, and a good natter to some other passengers, including a couple from Ipswich - can't get away from them - we arrived in Gravesend. I'm pretty sure none of the Maidstone & District Metropolitian Scanias ever made it to Gravesend, as Gillingham depot operated the Medway - Gravesend routes while the Scanias were based at Chatham's Luton depot, so MD60 could be the only Metropolitian to ever grace the town, not that yesterday was its first time of course..
|MD60 at Gravesend|
|395003 at Gravesend|
|RT3232 at Bluewater|