Friday, 3 December 2010

Sitting here today in around 10 inches of snow we have had little choice but to cancel our running day. Most of our staff have worked terribly hard to ensure our regular routes have all performed throughout the difficult conditions and have done a terrific job in keeping services running. However, the running day is about enjoying the day, sub zero temps, awful road conditions, volunteers unable to make it, vehicles that will get covered in salt, and doubtlessly snowballs lobbed at vehicles all helped make the decision. Whilst a great shame we believe the right call...

However work is has continued throughout the month...

RT1499 finally was finished in readiness for the running day. All the rot was sorted, new gear box fitted, serviced and MOT'ed. Some one noted that the rear end of a Craven looks like the rear end of the Borismater, and have to say I can see the resemblance!

Also through for annual test was our 'front line RT' 4421, seen here from the offices looking down onto the test lane as she goes through...

Meanwhile with RT1499 out of the main restoration bay the next job to be done was identified. In this case it was RT3232 which has over the past few years become very tatty. One of its major issues was the upstairs ceiling, which is sagging heavily. There appears to have been a period when RT ceilings were refurbished by way of sticking a foam to the ceiling and the internal wood panels to the foam. A number of the RT's that remained in service into the late 1970's seem to be done this way, perhaps someone out there can add some information on this? Anyway to give you an idea of what I mean here is RT3232 during the strip down...

Earlier in the month, we had a large private hire for a corporate client, and as the buses were being cleaned and readied they looked well, all lined up, so I snapped it and the result is below...

And we did manage to COIF and MOT a suprise vehicle for tomorrow, which sadly now won't debut, and no it wasn't what was photographed inside last month... Was going to post a shot, but thinking about it maybe its good to hold it on reserve until we decide when we are rescheduling the running day for...

Well enjoy the snow, Christmas and New Year, and see you in 2011

Kind regards to all
Steve and all at Ensignbus

Friday, 29 October 2010

October @ Ensign

We'll start off this month with a departure... But in a good sense...

10T10, T499 left us by way of low loader to start her restoration. She is going to be done off site and was swapped with another long term project that was returned to us nearly complete, but more of that in a bit.

T499 was originally based at our nearest garage Grays, and after service as a Green Line coach before the war, she became an Ambulance based at Hendon working throughout the Blitz. After this exciting period she returned to the more mundane country area bus work, spending time at Windsor amongst others.

After withdrawal she was sold via the dealer North's to Australia, where she worked as a school bus for many years. Eventually purchased for conversion to a caravan, that fortunately never happened, she was spotted by an ex pat and recovered from the Western Australian desert and recovered to Perth, from where we repatriated her after a kind donation by the owner, in 2004.

The photo is taken from our main entrance with the low loader behind, like many of the shots on here they are not trying to be great pictures as I am no great photographer but more to give a flavour of what goes on here keeping the old buses on the road, and so are largely taken on my phone as I see something worth adding...

RT 1499 continues to be the main project as the rot is slowly sorted out. Like all these things as you progress you find more and more and where do you stop... This particular shot is taken from under the platform looking up at the conductors storage area, as can be seen the bottom end has rotted away and was no longer held in place but 'floating', so it has all had to come out and be sorted, once and for all...

Looking from the offside rear quarter after a new cross member has gone in gives an idea of the work required. The rear end framework is also being replaced where necessary to ensure all is well under the skin. There is probably a further weeks work left on this and then the axle and gearbox need to go back in. Its tight but possible that she may well return to the road in time for our winter running day in December.

We have also continued to work on finishing touches to RT8. The nearside stencil (by the platform) has gone on, the framework around the conductors area is now completed, as are the treads going up the stairs. We still need to do some minor jobs, such as fitting the front bulkhead advert board, blackout blind and rexine on the emergency exit, but little by little these jobs are getting ticked off. Another job was to improve the hidden indicators that we are obliged to fit. So in the drainage holes we have fitted detachable LED's and inset in the front further lights, that are clear to traffic but not to detracting from the period feel of the vehicle.

.. and finally as I mentioned at the beginning of the blog we have swapped one project for another... This has been under restoration and has been a massive task (despite its size) for a few years now. Its back with us for finishing touches, mechanics and electrics... I am only going to tease you with the interior for now, but it will be a welcome addition to the restored London bus scene when completed, and if you know what it is well done... or is it?

So thats October in a nut shell. If you do have any questions or comments please feel free to add them and if I can I will do my best to answer them.

Cheers for now

Tuesday, 28 September 2010


Welcome back... The August Bank holiday Saturday was the first of our planned summer running days, on a new route, the X81, which ran up to Shenfield and Brentwood. The day dawned under blue skies as this early morning picture shows, where myself and a few others got the vehicles prepared for their day on the road. The summer runnning day allowed us the opportunity to operate open tops, and on our 'feeder' route the X55, some single decks, however it became clear at the end of the day that this route does now require more double decks such were the loads, particulalry in the afternoon, so that is something we will look into for next time.

One of the benefits of running open tops is that they offer a great photo opportunity when run as a duplicate. 333 that was featured last month 'duped' RT8 for a lot of the day so not only did it allow for some great photos but a ride over the bridge on an open top is always fun. Its amazing how that extra 14ft of height seems to make such a difference... or perhaps its just the clarity of view that makes it such an interesting ride, as can be seen from this shot kindly sent in by Alan Moore.

Whilst September is traditionally the end of the peak season for the commercial work for the vintage vehicles, they continue to have bookings which means we have to keep them on our maintenence schedule but we do have more time to catch up on some of the 'niggles'. This month has really been the tale of two Cravens mechanically...

On our running day RT1431, did perform 100% and had a few niggles that needed to be sorted. First off was an intermittent starter motor fault when the bus was warm, this was rectified by removal and replacement, with the defective unit been sent away for reconditioning. The bus had been running in our opinion to hot on the day, so the radiator was removed, drained and flushed before being refitted and to top it off a first gear issue meant that after further examination the gear box needed to be changed. In order to get it out on the 77A running day later that week, the gearbox from the other Craven (1499) that is in for body rot was removed and fitted to 1431, with its gearbox going away for reconditioning and on return going on to 1499.

Talking of 1499 and its problems, the main area of rot is around the rear mudguards, platform and lower deck floor, which has resulted in us having to drop the rear axle out to be able to get to the area of concern. On the positive side the affected area was not as bad as we had feared and progress has been slow due to our restoration guru being off sick for a fortnight.

We have also continued to iron out mechanical issues on RT8, which are to be expected after such a long absence from operating. On the Colindale running day, she suffered a break down from a fractured injector pipe, which was the result of the spacers that stop the vibrations and chaffing of the pipes not being there as they were a later modification. We now know why that mod was done... and it has now been carried out on RT8. She also had a water pump leak which meant the pump had to come off and be sent away... It eventually arrived back, was fitted and tested and thus allowed the bus to be part of the Aldwych Underground Blitz exhibition which was run by the London Transport Museum for four days and was a most excellent event.

We also had a rear hub seal leak on RT8, which resulted in us doing one of our conversions to a slightly later but far more efficient system. We thought we had done this previously, but somehow the rear nearside escaped but this has now been completed.

Another shot taken from our office windows, shows one of the vintage alongside its far more modern offspring. In this case its our PD KTJ204C that is being prepared for its annual class 6 MOT.

And finally a couple of shots kindly sent in by Peter Zabek which in many ways visually demonstrates the whole point and reason we keep these on the road! The first shows RT1431 working in central London on the 77A route/running day that took place a couple of weekends back. The other shows RT8 when she joined up with the LT Museums, LT165 outside St. Pauls to recreate a wartime (albeit without the blackout!) series of shots.

That pretty much covers most of September's bit and pieces...


Friday, 27 August 2010

August Update

Hi all,

Firstly welcome to the new blog, which following on from the RT8 one seemed a natural progression. It is the case that an awful lot goes on behind the scenes to keep the vintage fleet on the road and the idea of this blog is to show you all a little of the 'behind the scenes' stuff that goes on, so apologies in advance for some of the pictures, as many will be taken on mobile phones and from odd angles during the month as things are being worked on, to try and give an idea of the diversity of what gets worked on...

One of our longest residents and indeed second only to RT3232 I believe is DMS33, which is our 333 or more commonly known as 'Treble 3'. It joined us in 1982 and was converted to open top for use on our sightseeing work on hire to LT, (which is by the way when we gained the PT garage code). It then joined our London Pride fleet, and wore various overall adverts, including Marks and Spencers and Royal Britain. It then went red and silver in the standard LP livery and had a jaunt to Spain as a 'Pathfinder' for our later City Sightseeing operations. Then to Blue and Silver livery and in 2007 back to red and silver. Well 28 years of being an open top had taken its toll, and in 2007 when it went back to red it had an extensive rebuild, the top deck was refloored, the sides were reframed and it got a new engine. We also took out the 'MK1' one door conversion and replaced it with a far more pleasing on the eye version, as we have done one or two since 1982!!

However, when up for recent 28 day inspection, it was discovered that the rain water over the years had now attacked the bottom of the stairs to the point that it could no longer operate in the fleet. With a rush at the time to finish RT8 she gathered dust and waited in line, but with RT8 having some mechanical work done (see below) we took the opportunity to squeeze her in for a fortnight to sort out this problem.

Well delighted to say that the work was completed in time, which turned out to be quite extensive and involved taking out the staircase and not only is the floor now done but she also passed MOT this morning, so if the weather is good she will be making a return to the road tomorrow on our running day.

Whilst we are on open tops, is a slightly unusual view of our PS1, which suffered a cracked shock absorber mounting and required some remedial work. It was carried out in the main workshops and was completed in a couple of days, this should be another of our vehicles presnet and out and about tomorrow.

After RT8's debut and then an evening out with the Classic London Bus Society, she went back into her familiar bay to start the time consuming job of all the finishing touches. It will probably be late September by the time we have completed all the little bits and pieces, but we are getting there now One of the first things tackled was the cork tiles that run under the upstairs seats. Alas this means taking the seats out yet again, to get the perfect finish...

Interestingly, the front has a completely different look to it than on the post war variants. The cork is cut and angled to (in theory) assist spilt liquids to find their way to the drain holes. Whether or not it was successful seems open for debate but in the interests of authenticity we have recreated as it was in the period depicted.

Another thing that was on the wartime RT's were signs advising people to lower the windows during an air raid. This was to allow the blast to pass through the vehicle, rather than blow out the windows, again how much difference this would make against a V1 landing nearby is debateable but blast is a strange thing and morale for people thinking they were doing something was also important. One thing we know that people did do during an alert is take the bench seat cushions off the bus and down into the shelter for something comfortable to lie on. Of course many people forgot to bring them back and such was the problem that budget locks were added to these cushions to stop them being 'borrowed'... another small difference between the 2 and 3RT's for you...

So here's a photo taken from our offices overlooking the workshop, which shows RT3232 next to a 2006 Enviro. 3232 has been with us since 1979, so we have had it longer now than LT did! One of the Green Line examples that ran from Romford, she is now needing some interior tidying up, particularly on the upstairs ceiling. This is now booked in and with RT8 coming to the end of its restoration, the opportunity will be taken to bring up to speed all the buses that have niggly problems before we tackle another major project on site.

Another RT that was back in the air for some work was RT8. As with all such projects when you start to run them with people on you find certain issues. In this case it was the springs we were unhappy with. The vehicle when fully loaded was running to low and with speed bumps and the like we took the view that it needed to be sorted. As such the back axle was dropped out and the front springs removed as well and all were changed. It is now quite noticeable that she is sitting more 'comfortably' but the real test will be with passengers onboard where we will see if the problem has been solved.

Sometimes it can be like an old LT garage around here, such as in this view with an RLH, RML, RMA and Carvens RT all sitting together. The vehicles are kept in Class 6 condition and this does involve alot of inspections and checks on vehicles that are in the 'frontline' private hire fleet particularly. Often these inspections lead to vehicles being 'grounded' until specialist work can be done, something that following on from RT8 we need to catch up a little on. First up has been 333 which as we have seen is now done, next will be the Green Craven RT 1499, which has some rear end body rot around the axle, then it will be 3232 in. These will be the jobs that amongst the other more routine comings and goings I will update on next month, that all said though there is one major project that is fast nearing completion and should be back with us shortly...

Until the end of September though , have a good month

Monday, 2 August 2010

July 2010

OK so time for a new blog after RT8 is just about finished. This will be the new blog site so feel free to mark it, or follow or whatever else this interweb thing allows.

The blog will follow both major restorations, much as we did with RT8 as well as smaller jobs, problems, ongoing maintenance and readying them for running days and the like.

As always if theres any questions, suggestions or ideas of what you'd like to see just ask away.

I will update at the end of August which will largely cover some of the finishing touches on RT8