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

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.

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

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!!


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

Friday, 12 June 2015

Back on restorations!!

Well finally after a bit of a gap we are back on restorations! The gap was caused by the overload of commercial work that hit us in the winter, a large chunk of which was open top conversions. But as the sun shines and those vehicles go out to earn their money for their new owners we are able to turn the regular restoration team back onto bringing the past back to life. So first up is an image of the complete RM1843 which debuted way back at our running day in December but I don't think the finished item graced these pages, so here she is in February going out on her first commercial job since restoration. Recovered from Missouri USA in a dilapidated state a near two year restoration has provided a superb example of a Leyland engine'ed RM back on the road. She still wears her old Missouri plate on the back as a reminder of her years overseas...

 But as one finishes another major continues... The utility Damiler, that was new to London Transport in 1944 before post war being rebodied by Massey's for Southend Transport continues to progress. Sadly the cab was in a really poor state and has needed reframing as have areas around the fuel tank.

 With the side framing coming on well the panels will shortly be refitted and prepared for painting. The nearside appears to be in far better shape and does not require the same level of work.

 The cab and blind box area, however require significant work and this is the area being tackled now. Hopefully no more really nasty surprises are going to literally come out of the woodwork and that even with the extended 'winter break' this years running day is a realistic target to return the Daimler to the road.

 Poor old DUF had a poorly engine some six moths ago. It has been fully reconditioned and went back in last month. A supreme effort was made to get her to Southsea for the Southdown 100 event but sadly it was not to be. The timing chain is worn and appears to be slipping, so a new one will probably need to be made unless anyone knows where an original might be?

'The joys of running old buses' as the saying goes in these parts...

OK more next month now we are back!