London trains and buses: a double-headed dream and delight for transport enthusiasts


By Geoff Courtney

Many railway enthusiasts of a certain age also have a passion for heritage buses, especially those that plied the streets of London in the 1950s/60s, such as the RTs and Routemasters.

Often the twain – steam and buses – do meet, a fine example being the Epping Ongar Railway.

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The Bard on the South Coast: Britannia No. 70004 William Shakespeare storms through Folkestone Central station with the Up ‘Golden Arrow’ at 6.10pm on August 8, 1952; a month prior to the photograph being taken, a pre-war London Transport RT bus had carried an advertisement for the world-famous train. The Standard Pacific was a regular on the express with classmate No. 70014 Iron Duke. It was built in 1951 and took part in the Festival of Britain exhibition that year. In the station platform is an unidentified Class H 0-4-4T – believed to be No. 31328 – on the Folkestone Harbour service, complete with an SECR birdcage carriage. NORMAN PREEDY ARCHIVE

As a youngster I trod the path that will have been well-used by many Heritage Railway readers – starting by collecting bus numbers and moving on to trainspotting – and a book on the former subject is one of my favourite transport publications. It is London’s Classic Buses in Black and White, written by John A Gray, and published by Capital Transport Publishing.

Within its pages is a photograph that I have always found fascinating – RT51 at Elephant & Castle, close to the River Thames in Southwark, in September 1952. It is nothing spectacular, but the components – including one of only 151 pre-war RTs, which were the Holy Grail for London bus-spotters of the era, a dog standing sentinel at a newsagent’s doorway, and a man reading his newspaper outside Hetty’s exclusive millinery shop – are compelling.

Buses and trains: With British Railways’ Southern Region advertisement on its side, London Transport’s RT51 passes man and dog on route 177 at Elephant & Castle on a September Sunday in 1952. The photograph, by EJ Smith, is from London’s Classic Buses in Black and White.

Since buying the book I have yearned for a reason to submit the photograph for inclusion in Heritage Railway, but, as indulgent as editor Robin Jones is to my whims, I have never been convinced
I would succeed in my quest.

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Until, that is, I noticed the side of the bus carried a British Railways’ advertisement for the ‘Golden Arrow’ and ‘Night Ferry’ trains to Paris.

And so an opportunity has presented itself, appropriately within months of the 50th anniversary of the end of Southern Region steam and the return to the main line of two SR Merchant Navy Pacifics – Nos. 35018 British India Line and 35028 Clan Line.

Read more in Issue 235 of HR – on sale now!

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