Wednesday 8th December 2021
It was much missed last December due to Covid, but this year’s Ensignbus Running Day held on Saturday more than made up for that temporary absence. It really was a great day out.
It’s become a well established fixture in the calendar and almost certainly involves the most heritage buses from a single source running on public roads for a day.
Ensignbus have an amazing collection of vehicles housed in its garage and workshops in Purfleet from which to choose samples to take part in the Running Day.
There’s always a great selection to please all ages.
Saturday’s event certainly drew the crowds, and not just bus enthusiasts. As I commented when writing about the recent running days celebrating London bus route 93 and routes around Muswell Hill, this one also raises the profile of buses in the heart of local communities. It creates interest as members of the public see the many comings and goings all day across a wide area stretching from Gravesend across the Dartford Crossing through Lakeside and Grays, up to Brentwood and Shenfield as well as Upminster.
Lakeside’s bus station in particular becomes a hive of activity with buses in and out all the time as well as others parked up. Shoppers arriving and departing on TfL and Ensignbus’s normal services take it all in their stride, presumably having got used to the plethora of buses and camera wielding enthusiasts after so many years.
This year a fourth route was added to the customary three route network offering the opportunity to visit both the Purfleet Heritage and Military Centre and the RAF Hornchurch Heritage Centre. This route X54 ran half hourly in line with the same frequency on the other three longer established routes.
Ensignbus even arranged for one of their team to be on hand at the Purfleet Heritage and Military Centre to greet every bus arriving and encourage those on board to pay a visit, just as they do to entice promenaders to board their open top services on Southend seafront – that’s the way to do it, and show active encouragement. It’s the Ensignbus way.
It was good to see a local business working in partnership with these two worthy Heritage Centres and hopefully it was a successful venture. The turning arrangements for the buses in the Purfleet Centre’s car park was also something to see every half an hour in both directions too.
It was also noteworthy how other businesses were aware of what was going on during Saturday and tweeted their appreciation.
As always there was plenty of information available on line about the Running Day, and Ensignbus manage a special Twitter account keeping everyone up to date with any last minute changes, as well as giving details of vehicle allocations to each journey – a great help for those wanting to track down a particular bus.
This being Ensignbus there are also paper copies of both the network map and the timetables available on board the buses too.
Many journeys on Saturday ran almost full most of the time especially the rare ‘vintage’ vehicles.
I met up with my good friend Ray Stenning and we enjoyed a ride on the X54 to Hornchurch and back driven by former B&H employee and now Stagecoach driver Scott McAvoy who fulfilled his long held desire to get to drive an RLH, and did a splendid job of it too, especially as it was quite busy.
Ray and I did remark how in “the old days” passengers on low height buses such as this just seemed to accept you were too high up to easily see out of the top deck windows to say nothing of the awkwardness of trying to get out from the window seat if three other people were sitting to your right between you and the sunken gangway. And don’t seats look so much narrower, or is it that we’re all much bigger these days?
Another quirk of the day is to take a ride in your favourite heritage vehicle on route X55 across the Dartford Bridge – much more exciting than the Tunnel – with its great views either side of the M25/A282.
This annual event involves a huge amount of preparatory work not only getting the vehicles ready for service – especially this year with many being parked up for so long – but also organising all the schedules and timetables, including allocating the many volunteer drivers and conductors.
It’s obvious the drivers and conductors thoroughly enjoy their day too from the appreciative tweets on social media.
On the day itself there’s a need for constant operational control with some vehicles becoming temperamental as well as disruption on Saturday caused by a brief closure of both northbound Dartford Tunnels leading to the inevitable tailback on the M25/A282.
Not only do Ensignbus arrange spare buses to be available at strategic locations (eg this fine bus at Brentwood High Street) but also have engineers on hand at Lakeside ready to help with any mechanical problems that may arise.
This is all so typical of the Ensignbus approach to running buses more generally.
The Newman family will be the first to admit the success of the Running Day and Ensignbus in general is down to it being a team effort working hard to put on a great show for hundreds of people to enjoy. That team is superbly led by the ever hard working Peter, Ross and Steve and we’re all truly grateful for their dedication and amazing efforts to make this Running Day such an enjoyable experience and a huge success. Thanks very much guys.
It’s not surprising their trophy cabinet in Purfleet is so full. And deservedly so too.
Next blog: Friday 10th December 2021