However, on Wednesday I was out of bed at 3am like a five year old on Christmas morning. There was a strike on the Central Line and lots of toys were coming out to play. Transport for London were puting on 100 extra buses to supplement existing services to cope with the demand, and my friends at Ensignbus were responsible for a lot of it. I had, by chance, met with Ross Newman, one of Ensign's Directors last week, and he had informed me that Seaford |& District, from Lewes were supplying 3 buses from their heritage fleet, one of which was former Maidstone & District Leyland Leopard 2816, OKO 816G. You may remember it featured as my header picture back in April. I have many personal memories associated with that bus, including one in August 1983 I'll never forget. So the chance to ride it again was a fair few of my increasing number of birthdays put together. Not only that, but Ross arranged for me to meet up with the Seaford crew at Ensign's yard, to be on the "light" run from there to Loughton, Essex, where the Leopard would operate the 167 to Ilford.
So on a wet and windy 5am I was at Purfleet, met Paul Green, the nice, cheery and not to mention lucky chap driving 816, and suddenly lost 35 years!
|The Leopard, interior and cab at Purfleet|
It was then the tone for the day was set. Despite the inconvenience of a tube strike the majority of passengers looked rather happy, and many passed positive comment. I told Paul to note that he was being thanked by people who would normally not even consider thanking a bus driver. All to soon, although I'd been with the Leopard for around two and a half hours, we reached Ilford and I said my farewells as I was transferring to the 25's. I hope it's not another 35 years before I ride 2816 again as those steps that I didn't notice when I was 17, but did on Wednesday, might just be beyond me!
|Arrival at a very wet Ilford|
|MCW Metrobus F292 NHJ|
At Aldgate Bus Station there was a sight to behold. Two Seaford & District ex Southdown Queen Marys, an Olympian coach from Panther, and a certain Metropolitan Scania I may have mentioned once or twice in the last year.
Not only that but the MD was the next bus back to Ilford. No, really? What were the chances! I genuinely hadn't planned to ride MD60 but when it basically lands in your lap it's rude to say no. My word did she sound good back on her old patch. Great to catch up with (another) Paul, her head keeper too. This day was starting to excel itself!
|The MD at Ilford|
|L907 at Barkingside|
So back at Stratford, and a spot of guesswork required. I knew Ross Newman was out in RT8 somewhere, but had no idea which direction he was heading. I guessed wrong, so an interesting gallop along Stratford High Rd was witnessed as I legged it after him, jumped on board, and came face to face with Peter Newman, founder and Big Chief at Ensign, who was doing the conducting! That was totally unexpected, but a real pleasure, as Peter is one of those bus people who enjoys what he does so much it's infectious, and being a clippie again was clearly very enjoyable. Not only that but RT8 has a PA system, which Peter was using to inform passengers about the history of the bus, why it was out, that his son was driving, and that it was all free. Quality.
|RT8 looking magnificent at Aldgate|
|The bottom half of an Ensignbus Director reaching parts other directors fail to reach|
I owe a lot of people a lot of thanks. To David Mulpeter and Paul Green at Seaford & District for allowing me to travel on 2816 and rekindle memories very close to me. To all the Ensign staff and drivers, especially Paul, who always make me feel so welcome, but especially to Ross and Peter Newman. Thank you, you made a good day a special day for me, and put a silver lining on a grotty day for a lot of passengers. I struck it lucky, the passengers struck it lucky. Roll on the next Tube strike!!