Monday 8th November 2021
2020 marked thirty years since the closure of Muswell Hill bus garage in north London and as Covid restrictions decimated plans for running days last year, organisers waited until yesterday to bring out the RTs, RFs and RMs plus some surprise guest appearances to celebrate this anniversary. It was well worth the wait on a glorious November day.
Yes, it was another London bus running day, but for me it was also a dose of personal nostalgia as Muswell Hill garage used to operate one of the routes I travelled on to school – the 244 operating between Winchmore Hill and Muswell Hill with peak extensions to Archway Station.
So I couldn’t miss the opportunity for another ride on an RT back in its rightful place on this wonderful route for old times sake.
I also have fond memories of one of my two conducting spells at nearby Palmers Green bus garage in the early 1970s which included being loaned to Muswell Hill when they were critically short of conductors one Saturday for a duty on route 43 to London Bridge with an RML which was great fun as I’d never done the route before so knew none of the fare stages, fares or bus stops on what proved to be a very busy day for passengers.
Muswell Hill had a reputation for being a very friendly bus garage and I can confirm that. It was a great shame when it closed in 1990.
Yesterday’s running day saw five routes operating to a well set out timetable and clear route map enabling easy planning for a day’s travels across the network proving Journey Planners are so ‘last year’, thank goodness – all the information you need nicely contained on two sheets of paper.
Compared to the running day on long routes 65 and 93 earlier this year it was handy to have the routes all connecting at Muswell Hill’s delightful terminus in the middle of the roundabout where five busy roads converge.
This brought the buses right into the heart of the local community in Muswell Hill’s commercial centre which is bustling and thriving even on a Sunday and once again it was lovely to see members of the public, young and old, taking an interest as the buses passed by.
At one point in the build up to the guest appearance of TD89 there were so many photographers encircling the roundabout that many people unaware of what was happening kept asking what celebrity or member of royalty was about to pass through, even motorists were winding their windows down and asking what was happening.
This is why I really like these running days and all credit must go the organisers and owners of the buses who give their time to produce an enjoyable experience for free – all rides were once again free yesterday, although donations to the Poppy Appeal were available and an A5 printed programme for the day. It’s really heartening to see these events creating interest and raising awareness of buses in the community. For me, they’re much better than a static bus rally on an old airfield or show ground, and dare I see it, even Salisbury Plain.
Muswell Hill must be the best yet for generating public goodwill with many members of the public just jumping on board for a ride with smiles all round.
TD89 proved hugely popular and I believe managed to complete two of its three planned rounders on the short route 212 between Muswell Hill and Finsbury Park. They operated the route between 1947 and 1953.
Two RFs were operating the main timetable on this busy route as well as an RT providing replica journeys of the old peak hour limited stop 212 Express (which ran between 1955 and 1969) …
…. such was the demand in those days for this popular route connecting the unserved-by-rail-and-Underground Muswell Hill with main line trains and the Piccadilly and Northern Lines at Finsbury Park to access central London and the City, and of course, from 1968, the Victoria Line became available too.
The route was converted from single deck RF to double deck RT in 1960 and I seem to recall this was introduced after the strengthening of the weight limited bridge over the former railway line from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace which closed in 1954; although my memory may be playing tricks on me as someone told me yesterday an RF weighs more than an RT. I’m sure someone will enlighten me in the Comments below.
In 1969 the route became part of the flat fare W routes taking the number W7 which it still uses unchanged today.
Sadly the RT on route 244 was only going as far as Southgate Station yesterday rather than on to its original terminus at Winchmore Hill but it gave a great opportunity to photograph the iconic RT design bus alongside the iconic Charles Holden designed Underground station on the Piccadilly Line.
In the old days the bus road operated only in the clockwise direction around the station building with the odd arrangement for passengers alighting or boarding buses on route 29A (later 298A and 125A on Saturdays) to Oakwood having to step out into the middle of the roadway with the bus stop on the offside.
Todays two way arrangement does away with that and makes for easy access.
Route 244 only ran Mondays to Saturdays and stopped running in north London in 1982. It had already been replaced by an extension of route 125 between Southgate and Winchmore Hill (which had long been the arrangement on Sundays) and between Southgate and Muswell Hill was replaced initially by an extension of the W9 which in turn was later replaced by a revised route 299.
Route 251A running yesterday was a made up route especially for the day with 2 RTs providing a link from Muswell Hill to …
… Friern Barnet then via North Finchley to Whetstone from where it joined the long standing 251 route (from Edgware, Mill Hill and Totteridge) to Arnos Grove Underground station – another Charles Holden designed icon.
A link between Muswell Hill and North Finchley was only introduced coincidentally when MH closed in 1990 with an extension from Friern Barnet ‘round the corner’ to North Finchley albeit this might have been more to do with the route being transferred to Finchley bus garage than for passenger convenience!
The other routes being covered yesterday were part of the busy 43 between Friern Barnet and Archway (the normal route continues south to London Bridge) and the longer 134A between Muswell Hill and Barnet Chesterfield Road which used to run as far south as Victoria but actually ceased as long ago as 1969 although its parent route 134 very much still exists today running between North Finchley and Warren Street. At one time this route ran from Potters Bar station all the way to Pimlico; ah, those were the days..
Both routes 43 and 134 are today operated by electric powered buses …
… the former using BYD ADL E400EVs and the latter Optare (now Switch) Metrodecker EVs but yesterday there was a mixture of heritage vehicles plying their way including some not quite as heritage as others …
… although as I found when chatting to younger keen enthusiasts Tom, Michael and James, it’s very much a personal age thing with most of us naturally holding dear to our hearts the buses we knew as youngsters usually from taking us to school.
A huge thanks to everyone involved in putting yesterday’s wonderful show on the road. It was much appreciated and good to see so many people enjoying the buses out where they belong, on the road carrying passengers. You’re never far away from photographers either on the streets as the bus passes by …
… or on board recording the road ahead.
Looking forward to the next running day event – maybe celebrating the 32nd year since MH closed next year? And don’t forget that celebrity appearance again.