Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Its all about Leyland engines...

 So we are a month off running day and its time to focus on getting what we can set and ready. First up is RM1843. A rare Leyland engined RM she has started to breathe heavily and is the policy here at such moments vehicles are 'grounded' until they can be rectified. Much better to have a running example taken out that can be repaired than one that blows or seizes and is little more than junk, so engine out time...

 In its place another Leyland engine was readied. It went in last week and was road tested, so pleased to report 1843 is now back on the road.

The next Leyland  that is poorly and has been for sometime is RTW335. The engine is out (further away unit) and the new one is being prepared to go in. It is from a provincial PD2 and is set up differently with the ancillaries so there is a fair bit of moving and movement required to get everything in place and also ensure it still fits the engine bay.  Hopefully by next week the newly constructed unit will be going back into the vehicle and with any luck its enforced long lay off will be over...

 Another long awaited Leyland engine is for the Jersey TD. Well I'm delighted to say its back with us now and being reconstructed by the team here. The bottom end is done and gasket alignment is being ensured before the head is bolted back on and the ancillaries all added. Its a slow and meticulous process and not one that can be rushed but fingers crossed for next week and if all goes well the bus can be presented for its COIF before running day and be legal to carry passengers for the first time since it left Jersey in 1960.

On the plus side the engine for the Leyland Cub is now in and running and apart from a charging defect is just about set. The Leyland TS7 engine is now away and is a Spring target for return so that DUF can return to the road for the summer season. Lets hope that will be the end of our poor run of luck on Leyland engines...

And lastly a little tease of one being readied for running day, a little off the radar. Here's a front door, but from what? The wood was rotten as was the pillar that held the door framing so these all being replaced, the interior tidied, seats retrimmed and then a repaint. Hopefully one of at least two single deck 'surprises' for this year....

Saturday December 2 is running day and all will be revealed then. Hopefully see some of you there


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Summer in the city

 It's fair to say its been busy... In fact our busiest year on hires ever. So before the season really kicked off there were some jobs that needed doing on some of the front line fleet. One such job was RML2588 which had the start of some floor rot above the rear axle. The only way to complete the job was to remove the whole frame that holds the axle which as you can see was dropped down in one piece.
 The area thus in need of the work was thus exposed and this slightly unusual view taken from underneath looking into the lower saloon was I thought a little different and thus worth including.

 Of course you cannot work in such congested areas and not once in a while be a victim of driver error. In this case the bus clearly wasn't big and red enough to be seen and the rear end was damaged. Fortunately the framework was not stoved in and its therefore largely superficial, albeit frustrating but by the time you are reading this RML2405 will be back on the road.

 One of the easiest things in the world to do is to get a vehicle 'almost there' and then fail to go back and do the jobs that otherwise will never get done. The pre war Bedford WTB was in risk of going that way but we decided not to allow that to happen and to spend a fortnight doing all those final jobs. The jobs include things like, finishing beadings, painting the interior areas of the sliding roof, repositioning the mirrors, fitting original seat numbers and ash trays back in, a temperature gauge and warning buzzer now fitted, a minor water leak corrected, resetting one front wheel arch that was to low when the bus was fully loaded and correcting one front spring that was less tensioned. So she should be done by the end of this week and has her first wedding booking later this month.

 Another job tackled and completed was the side framing around the emergency exit of the ex East Kent Royal Tiger. As can be seen it was rotten in places and on safety inspection it was pulled from further use as the exit was sticking due to the framing being warped. Of course no point in having buses around that cannot be booked in, so we had to come off the St Helens RT to reframe the offside rear. At this early stage the scale of works is obvious and the bracing pillar wholly necessary. This work though is now all complete and the Royal Tiger is again fit and cleared for service.

 Engines... we've had our fair shares of issues over the past few years but with the addition of a new member of the team we are working hard to get all the long term VOR's back on the road. As a recap they are... The Cub, DUF179, RTW335 and the Jersey TD. The TD engine has been away now for six months and should be back fully reconditioned within the next month, DUFs engine and various other units are all being examined to see what can be reused from what we have found and then a decision made, whilst the RTW should be more straightforward...
 And that leaves the Cub... Well this is the engine back and then being built up. I am pleased to confirm that the engine is now in and running well and the vehicle has moved around under its own power. We are awaiting a heat sensor and gauge to discreetly fit and then mechanically she can come off the above list. Sadly however it suffered some front accident damage here, which will delay its final return to the road...
 With all of the above going on progress on BDJ is perhaps slower than otherwise it would have been, but still we progress. Ive added a few images here taken over the past couple of months to show the progress. As can be seen here, the framing was in a poor state both sides and...
 ...the rear, which is probably the worst area of all..

 The lower side reframing was completed in June and the cab area also tackled.

 The offside lower was also tackled...

 And the front was next. As can be seen the canopy was completely rotten, steel and wood all rusted and rotten
 However by this week that area was completed and secured and she is starting to look like an RT again.
 The upper deck framing is now completed on both sides which means just the rear to do...

 ...And as already mentioned the rear is in poor shape but is the last part we need to do complete the framing and reach a landmark point in the restoration. Hopefully and all things being equal this will be done in August, if we can get a clear run from other issues and all the joys that accompany running old buses!

 But of course, there is the positive side and its not all rot and rust!! We are lucky enough to own, safeguard, run and operate what are global icons of our proud city. One of our regular clients hire vehicles to use in and around town to help teach photographers how to take specific shots, often night, or at speed or indeed like they are period images. All way above my photography skills of pointing my phone at something! A great demonstration of their skills is this wonderful image of RTL453 taken by Peter Zabek and kindly shared with us, is there a better or more iconic view, not that I can think of...

Enjoy the summer

Monday, 27 March 2017

Season starts

 So with the busiest season about to start and be upon us, jobs small and large are being finished to the front line fleet to ensure they are ready. RMLs are always favourites due to their capacity so winter time was the time to take on a major job on 2588. To treat some rot under the floor the ent5ire B frame needed to be dropped out. This done it became apparent the job was larger than we thought as the rot was not just on the floor but a torsion bar just above. This had in the mists of time had a temporary fix which had not been good and allowed water to corrode it more easily. The bar was removed and a new one is now being made before the B frame will go back in.
 Thought I would add a snails eye view looking from below, through the removed area of rot and into the lower saloon.
 As always a major project is on the go and taking shape....
 The reframing is going at a pace now as these images show with just a week or two between them. The lower deck has now been largely done, the braces are no longer required and attention is turning to the upper deck on the offside.
 Meanwhile the nearside is taking shape and the lower saloon floor is now all in. New steelwork has been made where it was rotted through and ever so slowly the vehicle is starting to get some rigidity back and the risk of collapse has passed. Thus one more saved from oblivion albeit some way yet from gracing the roads again.
April is a busy month for our hires particularly with a lot of film work, so some buses being dressed for all kinds of periods. I will see photo opps present themselves on the forthcoming month!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

And the end of another year!

 And so as the year comes to an end we have our final hurrah with our Running Day and as always we do our best to time completion of major projects to allow them to debut at the event. After some two years of restoration pre war Bedford WTB EYE599 hit the road. We used it for local tours around Lakeside to bed it in as it had not run for over 50 years in service and thus the long routes we cover are not ideally suited for a gentle reintroduction into service. By PM she was struggling a bit with a distributor issue and was thus limped home to be on the safe side but is seen here returning to Lakeside bus station in a photo taken by John Lidstone.
 The vehicle has an interesting local history, hence our desire to save it. It was new to Underwoods of Orsett, who as local landowners used it for trips out for staff amongst other things. During the summer it would often be hired out to Harris of Grays. Initially delivered in a green and cream livery, it went to the RAF in 1939 for the duration of the war. It was said it served at Hornchurch which was a Battle of Britain fighter station and then in Norfolk at a bomber base as the tide of war turned. Many bomber bases had small coaches that were used to pick and drop off servicemen at the station when going on leaver or coming back as well as dropping crews off at the bombers before missions. Sadly we have no pictures of its military service but perhaps one day one will turn up.
 The interior finish is spectacular. The moquette pattern was specially commissioned based on a small section of the original we had. The roof lining the same and all the art deco wood pattern on the sliding roof is the original stuff restored. As to the exterior livery, well I guess thats where we as an operator perhaps differ from enthusiasts as whilst we also would have liked to use the Underwoods livery, the grey, dull green and dark blue would have meant bookings would have been very thin on the ground, so we went for a more attractive red and cream. We did however use an Ensign logo based on the design used by Underwoods all those years ago.
 Another major project, that whilst not complete we readied for the running day was J6332 or 6332J as we have managed to have it licensed as on the UK regsiter. The engine is away still being reconditioned and thus out of our control as to when exactly its ready, so she was towed to Lakeside for static viewing and will have to wait until 2017 before becoming an active member of the fleet. 
 And as the Jersey TD moved from Lakeside we brought down a left hand drive vehicle that could then load on the 'wrong side' where the Jersey had been. Yes our MCI MC9 had been repainted in the 'Pepsi Cola' Greyhound livery of the 1980s. Being only on a Class 5 it offered members of the public some free tours around the area as seen here in Grays in an image taken by Russell Young. It wears the UK plate YYR832, the 'Yankee-Yankee-Romeo' prefix being the best we could do for its heritage and an Oklahoma and California plate also showing its UK identity complete the image.
And lastly, whilst we await the TDs engine its time to start a project that initially we condemned as being to bad but had a rethink and decided to bite the bullet and do. BDJ807 was a London type RT built for St Helens Transport before later being sold to independent operator Harpers Buses of Heath Hayes Staffordshire. Its in a pretty poor state as can be seen from this first image with sides being removed to view the extent of the decay. This is another quandary for final finish much like the Underwoods Bedford. Clearly we want to keep the Harpers later fetaures such as the doors and lighting as to remove them would be to remove a big part of the vehicles history, but the exterior livery of Harpers, the rather washed out green, would mean the vehicle would likely see little use, so perhaps the St Helens livery keeping the Harpers features means a nicer looking vehicle that is only ever a lick of paint away from being depicted as eiher operator is the compromise to make. Who knows but as we are some-way-away from having to worry about that we have plenty of time to consider the options...

So thats it for 2016 and chance for me to wish everyone out there a happy new year from all at Ensignbus.


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Getting ready for Running Day 2016

Its always frantic before running day as we like to try and get out the best of the fleet to offer lots of variety and provide something for everyone. Of course to get things ready takes a lot of planning and some things being worked on off site are beyond our control. One such vehicle this year is the Cub, which suffered a major engine failure on its way to the London Live event back in the summer. The engine has been out and being worked on for some time now but whether its back in time remains to be seen and we can only hope and cross our fingers...

 Another vehicle we wanted to get out this year was RTL1014 so in readiness it was inspected mechanically as well as the body. The mechanical side was good but sadly the offside of the body work is not safe and the extent of the work is to great for us to complete in the timescales we have as can be seen from these images.
 As with any such job you end up having to chase the rot forwards to find somewhere that's still solid before you can repair and clearly next pillar isn't! As you can see the horizontal strengthener has completely rotted away and thus ever more strain is put on the pillar and other strengtheners which will lead to other collapses, hence the fact the vehicle was condemned from the operational fleet until extensive restoration can be carried out. On the plus side this means 1014 will get some proper attention in the new year.

 But then onto more positive news... Of course to get new things out for running day takes a lot of planning as any major restoration takes years to complete and needs to be within sight of the finishing line in the summer so that resources can be scheduled to get things ready that can be finished in time and not 'wasted' on projects that realistically cant be done. Now I know lots of people like surprises so I wont show pictures of the full bus or indeed the spectacular interior but as a taster the image above gives you a feel. The only other time this vehicle featured on this blog was when we collected it in my December 2013 post... Its changed a lot since then...

 And then back to my last post about the livery on the Jersey vehicle and the quest of finding the line out colours and original green Jersey wore on their early 30s livery. Well the image above shows the one piece of line out we found of the cream. To be honest its all we needed as it gave us the colour (some thought it may be gold) the width and the exact placement. The image below gives a sneak preview but again I won't ruin it for running day but will add the caveat that she almost certainly wont make it into service for running day as per the Cub she is waiting for external contractor to finish some engine work, but if everything else goes according to plan we hope to have her visible as a static.
Other defects this month include 2588s B frame, 1513 fuel pump, RT8 steering box, all of which are now getting attention.

To those of you coming down for the Running Day look forward to seeing you on December 3, where not only the vehicles covered in this post will appear but also some guest vehicles and one of our own that has recently changed colour....

Friday, 16 September 2016

Summer passes to Autumn

 So first up and popular request is the latest vehicle to join the fleet! It is of course an iconic US Greyhound coach, to be more precise it is an MC-9, the type built between 1978 and 1990. Ours came out of the factory in Pembina, North Dakota in 1982 and was destined to spend most of its life based in the southern states of the USA. It was new to Kerville Bus Service in Kerville, Texas which was a subsidiary of Greyhound. From there some years later it passed to Herrera Coaches of Alburquerque, New Mexico. Its next operator was Kraft Tours in Tulsa, Oklahoma where it gained the fleet number 478 and worked as a touring coach until withdrawal early in 2016.
 The reason for acquiring it was the additional film work we have been doing and its first job was soon after it landed and had been been MOT'ed. Of course the Metropolis name is fictitious and is the home of various super heroes and in whose livery it then worked. Because the of the door arrangement the bus is not on a class 6 MOT and thus is very much restricted to what it can do work wise but in the case of most of the US type films they are all on private studio property. All things being equal it should be in a different livery again by the December running day....

 So as always a take a look at the work that is done to keep the old girls running. Our recent engine jinx continues this time the Cub. A piston shattered on its way to the London Live event which has meant the engine is now away being looked at to see what can be done to fix. Hopefully we will know more shortly and for can update the situation on the next blog post.

 And sick engines also mean the Jersey TD, which is now away being painted, yes it was towed down as we are now at the point if we don't crack on with it we will lose any chance to have it ready for running day. The problem we have is that we want to paint it before putting windows back in, the windows need to go back in before the interior trim can go back and all that needs to happen before the seats go back. Hence the need now to get it painted and back so interior work can continue. Even whilst its away though we continue to work on her as can be seen here with the seats being refurbished and any split wood being replaced. This restoration is going to come down to the engine being returned and ready to go back in as to whether it takes to the road in December...
And talking of Jersey and painting and further to the last archaeology post, the one thing we were missing was a section of the lining that went on the green. The question was the colour of it, gold or white... Well we found one section hidden behind the gravity tank on the original darker green was some 3mm of it surviving. So with all that we have found on the bus tied in with images of J6332 when new we now have all the colours and layouts as she would have been in 1932. Clearly it will be somewhat different to the later and better known JMT livery of olive green and cream, so will doubtless raise a few eyebrows but personally I think its going to look wonderful.

Its back here next week, so sneak preview or nothing until its finished...???

Cheers or now

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Time for some Bus Archaeology!

 You reach a point in a restoration where you have to start looking at the end finish you want to achieve and of course livery and layout are perhaps two of the most important things to consider. This becomes harder when the project in question is over 80 years old and no colour shots of it when new are likely to exist so you have to work off what you can. Below is a photograph of our Jeresy TD2 taken when new at Leylands. A very good quality print for the day but of course in black & white but what do we see that can help.

So we want to put it back to its as new livery so what do we need to consider. Firstly the JMT letters are clearly far further spread apart than they are later in life with each letter on its own panel. Next the livery is 'lined out' note the thin darker lines in the white where the colours meet and the thin lighter line in the dark. Next though is the colours... Now whilst B&W pictures can be notoriously hard to work from a quick glance at this image compared to later post war images seem to show it the green is much darker, the what we would expect to be 'cream' is actually an off white, and look at that mud guard... looks black, or is it an even darker green?

 Its always a brave man who will paint a bus in a well known companies livery but not to do it in what are the 'accepted' colours, we are no different to that and wouldn't go for any old dark green on the basis of one B&W picture, so we are start looking to see if the archaeology of the bus can be tied back to period images. In the shot above, looking in at the platform we found the fifth, or actually first time the fleet number was painted on was on a far darker green. You can see the difference in shaded clearly. As the bus has only been owned by ourselves Michael Banfield (who restored it once in 1961) and JMT it cant be under five layers of paint an enthusiasts version, it has to be an early part of the buses story, but enough for us to base the whole livery on?
 Next we went hunting for the line out stripes. No sign at all on the near side but a photo we found in Michael's file explains why as the whole side was repanelled in 1961, so the offiside was where to look. Lo and behold exactly where it should be the line outs were visible. They were a little battered from various rub downs but on this one we can be sure they were in green This far we haven't found the light line out on the green, but this has to be most likely cream or just possibly gold....

 Above is the livery that everyone thinks of with JMT but should it be darker for when the bus is new is our dilemma...

 We then moved to the front, looking for the line out again around the bonnet that wasn't re-skinned in the 60s. After the various fleet numbers were gone through we go to the last two. One was on the darker green we had found at the back, whilst the other in gold font was on a burgundy! Far more Portsmouth than Jersey! A spare part, a change of buyer for the bus, anyone fancy explaining this away as no sign of it anywhere else so not an undercoat or protective layer?

 But they need to run so engines need to work. The crack in the block has been resolved but sadly putting it back together showed the shells were cracking up and would without doubt lead to a spectacular failure down the line. So its engine apart again and back to the drawing board....

 Meanwhile other work goes on as the fleet gets busier and busier. The Leeds PD was found to be suffering from corrosion in the front mud guard so she has been released from active service to get the repairs done. Should all be finished tomorrow and then back to the weddings at the weekend for the old girl!

 And finally some successes! The MW has been off the road with a major engine problem. The engine has twice been away and twice come back out again. Finally when we though we were set a number of the ancillary units could not be reused and had to be remade. Fellow MW owners Ian and David came to our rescue here and supplied some parts we needed to copy and to them our thanks go as without their help we would be scratching around still for a solution. However first road test was A1, a couple of minor leaks to resolve and shes back in service.

And then of course were our two Leylands that were both of with issues. The RTW was finally repaired just in time to take part in the 50th anniversary runs on the 95 of the RTW withdrawals, whilst RTL453 also got the thumbs up to be operational again. Seen here with the other stars of the day in Brixton tram shed in a photo by Peter Zabek.

Those of you who follow EnsignVintage on twitter will have seen the latest acquisition, those of you who dont will have to wait until my next update.

Cheers for now