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
Steve

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
Steve

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Winter Work

 Well its that time of year where next project get down to the real work as problems are found and need to be fixed, whilst the operational fleet gets time to have each bus in and do all the jobs that there is no time in the season to do.

The major project in is the Jersey TD and its cracked blocked is the major engineering job that needs doing. So it was engine out time and then separating top and bottom sections so that the whole top section can be taken away 'as is' and cold stitched off site with a specialist so that we don't have to take a part all the pistons and valves as we know the engine runs smoothly and would refer not to have to reset it all. In short if it isn't broken don't fix it!!

 Of course the plus part of stripping things down is that you get to see and solve what could be later issues... In this case the oil sump with what can only be called crystalised and semi-solid oil residue. Its been that long since an oil change that even a change wouldn't now be enough, so now its apart we can properly clean it, so that when it goes back together its as good as we can make it.

 The interior continues to take shape. Everything has been stripped out and the cracked and peeling ceilings are being stripped back to bare metal. Its a slow task as the paint is layers thick and in places has some form of coating on it that was used to hide dents from the single skin of damage caused by trees and the like. From some of the pictures we have of when the bus was new it looked like the wooden ribs were in natural wood, or stained dark, but there is absolutely no evidence of this in reality so we have to presume that its just shadow on the photos and they were always painted. Perhaps next month I will post up the 1932 images of it with JMT and the later ones where the numerous differences in livery and finishing can be spotted, perhaps an online poll of which we should go for would be fun!!??

 The operational fleet has been getting some TLC as well. Both RM54 and RM1361 had suffered some roof damage that was not pleasing to look at, so both have now been cured.  This is 1361 where the first three roof panels had suffered some tree damage. The last bits being taken off in this image before being replaced with freshly painted panels that will make her look as good as new. Next in is RM25 for a general tidy up followed by the RMLs.


 RT1431 was another that received some work. The upstairs side panels were bowing and had worked loose, the bus was therefore removed from the available list, until it could be looked at and we then removed the panels to diagnose the problem. The panels had been made from poor quality wood that was showing its age and the framework inside had suffered the ravages of time, so was all replaced as can be seen. Next new panels were fitted which were covered in original style rexine, which is something we want to do throughout this RT as currently it has painted ones, so its a start on 'prettying her up' and also gets her back on the fit list.

Lastly its engines...and the constant problem that has been DUF, but shes not the only engine issue we have at the moment, but hers is pretty serious as can be seen from these damaged pistons... We also have the Jersey, with cracked block as mentioned above, the MW which now has its reconditioned engine back with us and the process has begun of reinstalling it and with it getting her back on the road. The RTW is problem number four, with what we hope is a timing issue but could be more serious, but its 'diagnosis day' for the RTW tomorrow so fingers crossed its not to serious and that the four on the sick list we can get down to three!

Cheers for now
Steve

Monday, 14 December 2015

Goodbye 2015!

 So our record of always getting at least one new restoration out for running day was continued, with the completion of the 1944 rebodied Daimler. New to London Transport in 1944 as D27 it was rebodied in the early 1950s by Massey for Southend Transport. Having served with them until 1962 it joined Essex Police and served with them as a training and support vehicle before finding its way into preservation. It had however fallen on hard times and required a fair bit of work when we acquired her in late 2011, but was duly started in 2013 and finished in the week before running day. Seen here in a shot taken by Nick Agnew on its very first run from Upminster, its first full passenger carrying duty for some 53 years. I am pleased to be able to report she performed really well and only suffered a couple of minor issues that have been quickly resolved on her return.

 After running day we fix all the minor issues that may have shown as well as then starting to pull the front line private hire buses over to be 'prettied up' for the next season. All that starts now.The East Kent tiger went out on running day but didn't enter service as a gear select issue needed rectifying, so she is in for that now and followed RT3232 having a minor fuel issue sorted. Once we are on top of defects all the window winders, blind mechanisms, varnished floors etc will get attention to make sure the buses start the season as smart as ever.

However, to keep our annual debuts going you have to plan a long way in advance to have any chance of pulling it off, so already the next major project is in the main restoration bay. This time its ex Jersey Motor Transport Leyland TD2 J6332. New in June 1932, she survived World War 2 on the island under occupation and soldiered on in service until 1961 when it was purchased for preservation by the late Michael Banfield. It remained in his ownership until he passed away and his fabulous collection was sold in June 2014 from where we acquired it. Whilst structurally the vehicle is sound the nearly 50 years since its restoration is now taking its toll and it looks tired. We have started by stripping out the seats, trims and window mechanisms allowing us to free them up and get things working again. More of course on this as we progress into 2016.

 Now for some of my favourite images from recently all with festive links. First up is this fine shot from Billy Birkett of our Leyland RM 1843 under the lights at Gravesend. A great atmospheric shot well done on capturing it so well.

 Next up is the star of the show, also taken under the lights at Gravesend this time by Tom Drake, another terrific shot.

Wednesday December 9 saw the 10th anniversary of the last day that Routemasters ran in normal every day service (Heritage routes aside) and was commemorated by our friends at the London Bus Museum organising the return of some RTs and RMs to the final route the 159s.We had our RT4421 and the very last RM in service that day 10 years ago RM54 out and about. In this image taken by John Lidstone, RT4421 comes out of Regent St and into Piccadilly Circus, in what could be a timeless image save for the fact that ones of London newest class of LT buses can be seen in the background. A few people have asked about the adverts being worn by 4421 (and indeed 1431) both of which have recently starred in various TV and film work and are still wearing their 'makeup' before concluding their film obligations.

So that's almost it for another year. To those who supported running day, left comments and messages or indeed written in with facts and photos, many thanks. Indeed thanks for popping by and just reading and all I am left to do is wish everyone a Happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous 2016.

Cheers for now
Steve

Friday, 20 November 2015

One step forwards...

Apologies for the forced absence... Some kind of security, hack, ID, password, problem left me unable to log in but all now resolved so time for an update on all thats been happening.

 As the title of this post suggests we move forwards in one place and seem to go back in another. The Jersey TD with its engine block issue had to be put aside as a front line private hire fell ill on a job. RF319 had a major engine problem when a bent rod shed its 'top hat' that then proceeded to batter everything in the vicinity as these images demonstrate. You can see the damage to the valve and block above...

 ... whilst above you can see the piston damage. Lots of bits obviously needed to be sourced as none of this would ever 'go again' and following that and putting it all together the vehicle smoked to much... Thus back into the bay, stripped down again and the source of the problem discovered being a valve not sitting quite right within the newly skimmed block, another valve sourced and finally RF319 was returned back to the operational list.

 Meanwhile our major project nears completion, although these images were in fact taken some weeks ago but they do at least keep the story in images complete here. The interior was being fitted out as far as we could go before the bus moved for painting at which time the ceilings were also due to be done. We therefore stripped out all the beadings and trims that will be reused so that whilst the bus was away all these bits could be treated and restored ready to go instantly back on when the bus returned from paint. This is all being done with a debut at our running day on December 5 high in our minds. At one stage it was very touch and go, then the odds hit 50/50 and now we are looking like we will make it... see the last picture... :)

 The cab was all finished and rewired and then the body work and panels all fitted back around. Its amazing how much of this area is the original LT utility vehicle as red paint was visible in lots of places and the heavy duty rivets and metal work stands out against Massey's more refined finish of the 1950s.

Then it was away for paint. Even this proved to be tricky as we prefer to do it without the windows being in as we get more protection and when the window rubbers go in the sharpness is noticeable to those with an eye for detail. The downside of course with this is that when you have an interior that is largely finished you need to do it on a dry day!! Eventually having passed brake and smoke test (and the lights fitted after this shot was taken) the old girl moved away for repaint...

 Meanwhile time for another step back... This time RTW335 which decide its head gasket was done and a very old crack in the block that had been repaired many moons ago decided to reopen. A race against time ensued as the bus is on a PH returning to its old stamping grounds and thanks to the efforts of the engineers here she is running well, sounding good and off on final road test as I type these words.

 But all our buses are kept up to full passenger carrying standard and sometimes they return to their original jobs from their more normal roles of weddings and TV work. The DLR strike was one such day. On such days its all hands to the pump to try and help ordinary Londoners get to and from work, school or wherever else and so these veterans of the past join London's bus network for the day, (or two in this case). As extra buses they help move the crowds on the busiest routes. As can be seen from above the weather at around 0400 that day was filthy, can't remember seeing it rain as hard for as long in a while and so it was soaked to the skin we saw them all away, either to the Excel centre or onto various routes such as the D7 and 474s.

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Thus it was nice to be able to get out of the rain once in a while to see the vehicles away!

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And finally a sneak preview.... Back from paint now as I am sure you will gather. Ready for running day on Saturday December 5.... why don't you come down and find out!!

Cheers
Steve

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Summertime Blues

 Its kind of been one of those months for the vintage fleet with two steps back every time there is one forwards. The long running engine defect on DUF stopped it making the Southdown 100 event. A full strip down (again) of the top end solved one minor issue but alas the more serious knock from the bottom end turned out to be a poor fitting shell that is now worn on one side. So back to the reconditioners who have agreed to put it right. Hopefully by the tail end of next week we will have the newly reconditioned parts back and can put it back together and try once again...


 So with DUF off the road and work once again halted on the Daimler, this time due to the needs of single door converting buses for the new school term, we decided to turn our attention to the Jersey TD2. Having taken off the fuel tank, cleaned it and refitted it we were all set. After a few hours work it was up and running and sounding very sweet. Sadly as the engine warmed up it became apparent that block has a severe crack as water started pouring out. It would appear that at some point in the distant past it has got frozen with no anti-freeze and split it. The crack is hard against the cab bulkhead and hard to see but as can be seen was quickly apparent once water pressure started to build up. Who said running and restoring buses was easy...

 Once success though was the completion of ex Southend Transport Astromega. Not looking its 35 years of age, it was involved in the enhancement of bus routes during the last tube strike and was operating on route 25 between Holborn and Stratford. Seen in this image heading towards Holborn with a healthy load on taken by Russell Young. For the sharp eyed amongst you, RT1431 is also in picture behind the Wrights service bus and is also on the 25's.

RM1843 is another that has now bedded in to life as a working vehicle. Looking resplendent it has been plying its trade on private hire work as seen in this picture by Paul Almeroth it has also had a foray onto the 15's and 25's over the period of the last tube strike. Of course though this month nothing has been easy and 1843 required a new power steering pump, 2588 new seals, 2405 replacement ECU for the gearbox and 882 has recently had a reconditioned engine put in, apart from that its been plain sailing. Lets hope next month is a better one to report on!

Cheers for now