London Transport RT-type buses are not often seen out and about in the London Country area so it was with a sense of great honour that I found myself behind the wheel of KGK529 doing just that.
RTW29 (KGK529) has been on loan to the London Bus Museum at Brooklands for several months and I was called upon to drive it back to its home garage in Weston-super-Mare. To give me plenty of daylight hours in which to drive, I stayed overnight with relatives in Surrey so that I could make an early, if rather chilly, start from the Museum.
It also gave me a chance to wander around the historic site, the home of the famous Brooklands banked racing track. The bus museum is right next to the aviation and motoring museums so, being interested in graphic styles of bygone days, I couldn’t help noticing the motorcycle workshop garage doors!
The bus had been moved out of the garage the previous day so, when I arrived, it was parked outside ready to go. The chaps at the museum were very helpful, especially Simon, who owns an RT himself so was the ideal person to help check the bus over. This became immediately apparent when I came to find the dipstick. RTW29 has the same type of engine (a Leyland O.600) as the PD2 that I drive for English Riviera Sightseeing Tours but, where I expected to find a dipstick, there was just a large hollow pipe with a sprung lid on top.
I learned that these had a tendency to go missing in the old days so it became common practice for the dipstick to be kept in a safe place in the depot where the bus was based. It wasn’t long before Simon produced the correct stick for an RTW from the museum workshop, dipped the sump and topped it up with a drop of heritage oil. I later found an identical one well hidden inside the bus. Simon went back inside and came back armed with another dipstick, this one especially designed for RT fuel tanks with a curved end and graduated markings. We soon deduced that the tank was full to the brim and I wouldn’t have to worry about refuelling on the way back.
I was invited to warm up inside with a cup of tea in the museum’s staff canteen. Very welcome it was too! I took the opportunity to take a couple of photos inside the museum while I had the chance.
The trolleybus shown here is No 1812, a 1948 example of the Q1 Class. After service in London it had a second active career in Spain before returning to the UK in 1977. Alongside the trolleybus is a restored Leyland Motors roadside clock. This one came from the A30 near Hook, Hampshire. The museum contains a wealth of London-related artefacts and is well worth a visit. I’d love to go back one day and explore it properly.
Once I had completed all checks I set off, passing the foot of the famous Test Hill in 1st gear before joining the road towards Weybridge. The RTW is very easy to drive, once you settle into the pre-selective gearbox mode. The bus has a fluid flywheel which means no clutch, but in place of the clutch pedal there is a Gear Change Pedal which engages the gear the driver has selected using the column-mounted gear lever.
As I trundled through Weybridge I was conscious that I was in London Country territory and, although RTWs probably didn’t ever appear here, their green-liveried RT sisters certainly did. I was also conscious that the bus I was driving is a very valuable and treasured member of the Crosville heritage fleet so I drove her with the utmost care. Once we were out on the open road I restricted her speed to under 40mph although she is certainly capable of about 45.
And so we proceeded westwards, eventually reaching the M4. I made a couple of stops on the way for lunch and to check all the levels. I had time to admire the recently applied period adverts, which add the finishing touches to an already stunning vehicle. RTW29 behaved herself impeccably and we arrived at the Crosville depot at about 4 in the afternoon. The week in which we travelled had seen plenty of stormy weather and I checked the forecast daily to choose the best day and happily we were untroubled by rain and spray. There were some sidewinds to contend with so I had to be wary of being blown into lane 2 on the motorway. On the other hand, I had to counteract the bow wave from passing trucks to avoid being blown onto the hard shoulder!
On arrival at the garage I parked the RTW in front of a recovery wagon which had Crosville MW435 (NFM67) behind it on suspended tow. This bus is next in line for a full restoration and I presumed that this outing was part of the preparations.
My final job was to reverse the RTW into a space barely wider than the bus itself within the gloomy depths of the garage. How I wished at that point that I had huge rear view mirrors like the ones on the Yutong coach I’d brought back a week earlier!