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If you go down to the woods today, You're sure of a big surprise
If you go down to the woods today, You'd better go in disguise.
For ev'ry bus that ever there was, Will gather there for certain, because
Today's the day the Routemasters have their picnic.
Ev'ry Routemaster who's been good, Is sure of a treat today.
There's lots of marvellous things to eat, And wonderful games to play
Beneath the trees where nobody sees, They'll hide and seek as long as they please
'Cause that's the way the Routemasters have their picnic

(For the original words, and music, see here).

Every year the Cobham Bus Museum, about twenty miles south-west of London, holds an open day. The museum itself is small and so are the grounds, but on another site they have a truly huge gathering of preserved buses and related stuff. In March 2005, inspired by our chance discovery that it was the last day of the Routemasters on route 19 and the happy coincidence of being in London at the right time, we went along. This year the additional site was Wisley airfield, now disused. Much of the full-length runway was occupied with serried ranks of preserved buses, not just Routemasters of course. They were all in wonderful, gleaming condition, and irresistible to photograph.

This is a very personal choice of pictures. I grew up on the eastern edge of the red bus area, in Romford. I started travelling around London on Red Rover tickets when the RMs were still novel. Later I lived in Reading. The pictures reflect my own particular blend of nostalgia.

Star of the show in my personal opinion was RML 2301, still dressed for route 19, which two days earlier had still been in service. Sadly this is the last year of RM operation on normal scheduled routes in London, after 51 years of very distinguished operation.

To see a full-size version of a picture (generally 1000-2000 pixels wide), just click on it.

Star of the show, RML 2301 running until two days earlier on route 19.

RML3, the third prototype RM and the first with a Leyland engine, was another beautifully restored star (not bad for a bus built in 1956). I was lucky enough to get a ride on her, too.

The official star of the show, the first appearance of wartime Guy G351 after many years of restoration. The route is a Romford one although G351 was before my time.

Route 19 from another era, the definitive London bus. The RT was conceived in the late 1930s and built in thousands in the early 50s. They ran until 1977, on a route which happened to pass by my house (the 87 in Romford).

A Green Line RT dressed for route 721.

The RTW was a wider, Leyland-engined version of the RT, common in central London. I used to see them at Liverpool St on routes 9 and 11 when we visited my aunt in Brixton.

Two studies in front ends.

The classic London single decker, the 1950s RF. Later these were used on 250 for my journeys to Epping.

The AEC Q, the 1930s grandfather of all underfloor engine buses.

Another personal favourite, the Leyland TD from just after World War II. My first ever long bus journeys were on these on route 250 from Romford to Epping.

Not even a London bus, but a personal favourite from my 1950s seaside holidays at Dovercourt: a 1950s Bristol MW.

In the 70s and 80s I lived in and around Reading. The AEC single decker on the left was being gradually replaced by new Bristol REs as seen on the right. The Dennis Loline (centre) was used by only a few operators, for whom it was the only alternative to the Bristol Lodekka.

All photographs are Copyright 2005, John Harper. Taken on a Pentax Optio S.