RLH Bus Information Centre

Hornchurch Garage

Last Day of RLHs

Reminiscences of the last day of RLH operation from the garage, 18/09/1970.

by Steve Dean, March 2006

" (I) recall being the last conductor to operate the peak hour service route 248A. I was only 19 at the time and was amazed at how many enthusiasts travelled from far afield to take part in this last journey. Normally the last trip was almost empty but this time it was standing room only. My driver and myself were taken for a cup of tea in the cafe opposite the terminal at Corbets Tey, if you can call it that, more like a plot of waste ground. Upon our return to the bus RLH68 we found many of the 'mind your head' warning discs missing from the back of the seats and a number of other un-screwable parts. I believe if we had been in the cafe much longer the whole bus would have been stripped by collectors. Our picture was taken for posterity but I have never seen a print. My badge number was N108063 and as a driver was N94414. I later became an Inspector and eventually a Senior Garage Inspector. "

by K. Gratton, June 2007

The last vehicle to operate from Hall Lane to the garage (arriving at 2325 hours) was RLH 68. The conductor on this bus, Mr Ken Gratton, writes " my badge number is 113103 and I still have it ... [my mother] was [originally] on the rota to do the duty as a clippy with her driver Joe Wallace... my brother Alan also worked at RD then moved to Leyton ... the last ticket in service went to an inspector in the output when all the public had gone ".

by K. Mumford, Swindon, February 2009

At that time I was teaching as an Assistant Science Master at Saint David's Church of England Boys Secondary School at Hornsey, North London which was situated about half a mile from the ex-L.N.E.R. main line out of Kings Cross and Hornsey locomotive depot [coded 34B]. At this school I had established a thriving transport club centring mainly around trains and buses.

...Originally we (that is - myself and some of my pupils) had planned on July 17th 1970 to cover the last RLH-operated 248 which was to have gone o.m.o. the following day.

It was 8-00 p.m. that Friday evening and I was about to leave my Wood Green flat with some friends for Hornchurch garage. The 'phone rang and it was my bus friend 'PB' who was phoning from Upminster to say that the route 248 conversion was not taking place that weekend.

This conversion was planned for July 17th but was postponed until September 26th because of the delivery of new buses. This delay caused the introduction of a new route - 193A - to cover the section from Upminster Park Estate to Romford (Parkside Hotel) until the extended and converted 248 route was introduced.

Further news stated that the 248 was to be converted and extended at a later date - October 10th - because of a delay in the delivery of some of the equipment for the SMS type vehicles. The final date for the introduction of SMS single deck buses on revised route 248 was brought forward to Saturday September 19th.

So it was on Friday September 18th at 8-30 pm that my green Ford Cortina stopped on a road opposite Hornchurch Bus Garage. Five omnibusologists got out of this car and had a look inside this garage. Outside we mat a young man who told us that he worked as a guard for London Transport and then spent the next 15 minutes, while we waited for an RMC to take us via route 370 to Upminster, telling us what I considered some tall stories. Stories like the time he was allowed to take over the controls of a train of 'Q' stock on the District Line. In the Elm Park area he said that he did 75 m-p-h and was neck and neck with a British Rail electric multiple unit on an adjoining track. Although we were fed up with listening to his tall stories, he was helpful in that he got permission for us to use the 'Gents' at Upminster Station without the need for a platform ticket.

Around 9 o'clock we boarded the last-but-one RLH operated 248. The conductress at once recognised one of my pupils and so we all got a free ride to Cranham. Here we waited for RLH 68 (running number RD68) which was to operate the last 248 that night.

During our wait, photographs were taken of RT 1173 - a preserved roofbox RT partly restored having been bought by the RT 1173 group from Ublique Coaches. In the front intermediate destination blind box was a hand painted blind saying:- 'The RT 1173 group say farewell to double deckers on route 248'.

Also noted at Cranham, alas with disgust, was the action of a so-called bus enthusiast (who I believe was associated with this group) climbing up a bus stop pole to get a metal 248 route number plate! I wonder what he would have said if someone had taken something off RT 1173?

When RLH 68 passed us in Upminster we were pleased to observe that it bore some decorations. However, when we boarded this but later in the evening we were disgusted to note that it had no blinds in front or side destination blind boxes, the fleet number had been taken off the side of the bonnet, the London Transport badge had been taken off the radiator, the 'Mind your head' notice had been taken from the panel behind the driver, the bodybuilder's plate was missing and also the farechart! What was missing form upstairs I don't know - I believe the bell-push had been taken out, but I'm not too sure of this. The last-but-one RLH operated RLH (which we had travelled on earlier that evening) was not quite so badly tampered with although the farechart had been replaced twice according to the conductress and the upstairs bell-push was hanging out.

Such was the condition of RLH 68 (the last RLH to operate route 248) that when we pulled up at Upminster Station on one journey a passenger asked, "What route is this bus on?" Such action as this and the stripping of RLH 68 is to be condemned. These people are not transport enthusiasts but transport vandals and they are making things difficult and sometimes unpleasant for the genuine transport enthusiast.

After servicing, RLH 68 was driven through a pair of double doors at the side of the garage. These doors were quickly closed behind to stop enthusiasts (genuine or otherwise) from getting inside - but there wasn't much of RLH 68 to strip.

We had hoped to cover the last RT on route 193A but this turned out to be a staff cut. However we saw the last-but-on 193A RT [RT 2828] operating as RD66. That night one genuine bus enthusiast (nicknamed 'PB') got home to Clapton by means of a lift in an RT transferred from Hornchurch thanks to a kind mechanic at Hornchurch Garage.

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