23 January 2018

Winter 2017 restoration update

It’s been a long time since the last restoration update, but that does not mean that work has not been happening. On the contrary, a lot has been achieved.

The goal is to work around the entire lower area (e.g. below lower saloon windows) and ensure that the bus has sound foundations. Although the vehicle was a great big bucket of rust, the lower areas were by far the worst, due to water flowing downwards and being splashed up.

The good news is that the lower areas are 95% completed now. This includes a new riser (arguably the most important part of an RT), new battery riser (there’s no point in doing one riser and not the other), completely new platform, reconstructed rear end, stripped back both sides of the lower saloon to the centre section (replacing pillar foot brackets and outrigger timber, floor channels, floor, longitudinal seat footrests and floor, valance support timber and valance panels), repaired or replaced waist rails and brackets, repaired front bulkhead, repaired front nearside panel and front wings, replaced bonnet, replaced 75% of cab timber, new rear wheel hoops and made a new battery crate (from two crates). All that remains is the completion of the offside section around and ahead of the offside rear wheel hoop and the offside rear corner. It is clearly questionable about whether the bus should have been saved, but the answer is that it could and has been. No bus was more worthy of a complete restoration than this one, which would otherwise have been lost forever (which would have been a loss of a piece of significant history).

When I last posted an update, I was confidently working on the cab. I was a bit too ambitious as it turned out that the parts did not fit back on the bus as well as I thought they did. The final tolerance expanded to about an inch (25mm) out. That was totally unacceptable as that is when glass gets stressed and breaks or the door or windows won’t shut. So the cab had to be dismantled again. With the use of a bottle jack, clamps and braces, it was slowly put back together. Some wood pieces were made again from scratch and there was lots of measuring and double checking of the fitting of adjacent parts.

Although it was a lot of work, it was worth doing again. The cab wood was treated once more to ensure the best possible protection has been applied to resist water damage and rotting.
Most of the lower panels have been fitted and work was done on the outriggers. The ones ahead of the rear wheels were very badly corroded and the wood was crumbling to dust. I have strengthened them with 20mm steel box sections bolted through and welded on, with new pillar feet brackets. These are unique brackets and difficult to make and are left and right handed. The near side has been fitted, allowing the floor channel to be added. This in turn, meant that the floor section for the outer third of the lower deck in bay 3 could be constructed - it seems like forever since there was something to stand on here. Over the festive season, the pillar was refitted along with the coving panel for this bay and a new lower panel. This section required the adjacent one (the wheel arch) to be done at the same time. It was a lot of work, but has been a long time coming. Completing the nearside was a fantastic milestone, celebrated with a well earned cup of tea!

I’ve had to work my way up as well. The inter-deck strengthening brackets were found to be wrong. The holes for the wood support brackets for the top of the cant rail are in the wrong place, thus putting the top of the can’t rail 15mm too high. I have consequently had to remove the ones that I have fitted, drill new holes in all of the brackets and refit them. I hate having to go back and do things twice and I seem to have had to do quite a lot of that. It means that I am unproductive and that really bugs me. But ending up with the right result is far more important and I’m not going to bodge it.
On re-doing these, I observed that the contours of the body were not straight. Certain assumptions are made, such as: by using the original holes in pillars etc., everything will line up. That is one wrong assumption. I bought a reel of white elastic and pinned points along the bus to establish the datum lines to work out what was wrong. I finally found that the problem was with the nearside pillar between bays 3 and 4, which had shunted upwards (probably due to upward jolts from potholes) and had forced the body out of shape. I can overcome it by creating new holes for brackets all the way up and trim the top of the upper pillar. This is more favorable than doing a cut and shut on the lower pillar and the body has been bent out of shape for so long that it is not even possible to pull it back into shape (I tried but the pillar was simply going to buckle, so abandoned it).

The good news is that I have completed the hard bits. Whilst there is still a lot to do, it gets easier from here, with the exception of no longer being at ground level (and I don’t like heights - which is a bit odd for someone restoring a double decker, but is something that I must simply overcome). Hopefully, Winter will be over soon and the cold weather will stop hampering efforts.

17 September 2017

End of summer 2017

The Summer Holiday season is over and the nights are drawing in again. My focus switched to the driver's step, the panel that it fits in and the structure that supports it. The absence of the step was not only making it difficult for me to get into the cab, but also anyone else who needs to move my bus. To save on repetition, the next section is an update posted to Facebook.

This panel took in excess of 60 man hours to do; Ken sandblasted and prepared the actual step; I cut off the bottom fifth of the panel and welded on a new section that I made from an old fluorescent light fitting. I finished it off with some Isopon P38 (duly sanded) and then Ken etch primed the whole section and fitted new screws. I had to create new wood framing from scratch and rust treat and refit the supporting metal brackets. The bulkhead wood insert bracket had to be modified as it was not an original and was too wide for the wood (more welding). That bracket was welded to the new bulkhead lower channel and both were treated to prevent rust. The parts underneath and the wood were treated with black bitumen paint to resist the effects of water that will get thrown up into this area (the main reason for having to re-do so much of it). Finally, pre-drilling the hardwood for the panel securing screws and fixing it in place.

The next thing on my radar was cab wood, as I was getting a bit concerned about the risk of cab wood pieces already prepared being accidentally broken. I was a bit surprised at how quickly I was able to finish off the pieces for the front of the cab, with the bandsaw coming in particularly handy. These were mostly a case of reverse engineering them from the bits that came off, which were old but for the most part, intact. The long, intricate corner piece was a brand new old stock that I sourced, which would have been hard to remake. After screwing and bolting it all together, it has been painted and awaits finishing off with the side cab wood pieces and refitting of the front/corner panel. I have some work to do inside the cab though before I close it up. I've also just got the wood to complete the rest of the lower panel wood supports and will be working on those too and a replacement front offside mudguard that needs a bit of tidying up. I think I need to clone myself.

09 August 2017

Summer 2017

It’s the middle of 2017 and here is a progress update on the restoration of RT3316. It is not going to be finished this year.

Everything takes a very long time to do and there’s always going to be setbacks. My assistant (Ken) has suffered with health issues that have taken him out of the picture (wishing him a speedy recovery for his own sake, not mine). That does leave me completely on my own to work on the bus - I don’t mind working alone, sometimes listening to music, but there are a lot of things that need another pair of hands to hold the other end and it makes it ten times harder when you don’t have that. Which means things take ten times longer. An extended period of no work has also meant that I cannot afford to spend money on the bus, so I have had to work on bits that require no expenditure at all and most things require money. This perception that you have to be rich to afford an RT is incorrect, but you do have to recognise that they are 'money pits'.

This time has given me an opportunity to get acquainted with my router, which involved taking it and the router table apart and putting them back together in a usable format. That means removing all the Health and Safety aspects, something which I can do when it is just me using it. The band saw got the same treatment and the grinders had already been “tweaked”.

One thing that just needed time and effort was the bonnet. The one that came on the bus had weld spots along the bottom of the vertical face (as many do) and required some work. So I sourced another, which in fact also required a lot of work and I wasn’t happy with it after the work was complete. Fortunately I was able to swap it for yet another, which (you’ve guessed it) required work. This one had about ten layers of paint and some of those clearly indicated that it had been on a Lesney RT. After rubbing all the paint off and carrying out other repairs on it, I ended up with a bonnet that suits my requirements. It still needs some hinge accessories and finishing work, but it is done, for the most part.

Working on the bonnet required removal of the wing and front nearside mudguard again and also uncovered a worn out water pipe. I’ve had to perform a temporary repair on this as I have no money to get it replaced – it will need replacing as it has rusted through along the pipe.

Whilst the bonnet was off, the timber along the bottom of the cab (beneath the sliding emergency window) needed dealing with. I was going to patch a section in, but decided to replace the whole length. This turned out to be a very time and effort consuming piece as the old wood was extremely hard and difficult to remove. The trim attached to the wood had to be repaired and treated and the timber at the front of the cab needed to be finalised to fit with it. All in all, about 100 man hours required to achieve the desired results. There is no rushing these things and the best that I can hope for is that I only have to do something once. Having to redo something is wasted time and effort and sometimes expense too.

I had hoped that the work on the bus would be finished by early next year. That is clearly not going to be the case and the best that I can hope for now is the end of next year. Getting the outside of the bus painted will take a couple of months and my distant goal is to present it at RT80 and be involved in the event. That is a long way off, but I need to keep up the momentum as there is so very much still to do.

20 June 2017

Photo update

I'm going to do a simple blog update with a set of photos.

I have been working on four coving panels as shown. Each took an average of 5 hours to install, with at least 20 nuts and bolts and 10 screws used per panel. I probably could have fitted each one in an hour if I wasn't trying to do it single handed (and if I wasn't drinking lager at the same time too).

13 June 2017

Early summer 2017 update

June has finally brought some warmer weather and it’s full speed ahead with restoration work. I finished the flooring in the lower saloon with the exception of the outer thirds in bay 3. This is because the brackets for the pillar between bays 3 and 4 are still not complete, although the parts have been sourced so they will be ready by the end of the month. I repaired the kick plates for the long seats as they were badly corroded and it was necessary to remove the rear half of each in order to fit the riser. Now reinstated, I also spent a few days underneath the rear end, applying rust treatment to corroded parts and painting the underside of many of the parts (chassis and mechanical bits excluded). The riser received another protective coat along with some of the underside of the platform.

The front bulkhead offside received a new coving panel support bracket as the old one came off in several rusty pieces. New steel coving panels for the lower saloon were cut a while ago and I have now had these rolled. They were oversize, so also had to be trimmed to the correct dimensions and have received a coat of primer on the reverse. The next step with them will be to apply primer to the inside surface before turning them over once again and finishing the reverse with paint. The reverse is not seen, but is indirectly exposed to the elements from below and they have a history of corroding here, so will get extra attention from me to prevent that going forward. Once finished, these coving panels will be pressed into place using some shaped blocks of wood that I made and clamps, before fixing with screws and nut/bolt combinations as appropriate.

Following on down with the wood from the pillars, I started on the vertical supports for the lower panels. The nearside front bulkhead was first, the supporting bracket had not been removed from the bus and was treated in situ. The wood needed to be fitted before the front wing could be added back to the bus. This also had further treatment as immediately after it was done the first time, the bus was shunted and parked under a hole in the roof of the shed and it rained heavily that night, leaking directly down onto the freshly primed wing. This caused the metal beneath to flash rust. The wing has been sanded down again and had further body filler added, resanded, coated with primer, sanded and coated again. The front mudguard has received a lot of my attention (not the same one that was on the bus when I bought it – this one was in Aldenham primer, but not brand new as first thought – this one had been repaired and painted in primer to await use). I rubbed this down and filled blemishes with body filler (sand down and repeat a whole bunch of times). When I was happy with the result, I drilled holes for the retaining bolts and sprayed with etch primer. The mudguard was connected to the bus with some temporary bolts through the reconditioned rubber strip. It will be added permanently at a later date.

I also repaired the cant rail support channel over the canopy and the same on the offside.
The support wood for the lower section on the nearside between bays 1 and 2 was cut and shaped and I opted to trim back the outrigger wood to allow it to run unhindered to the bottom, which in my opinion provides a better and stronger panel support (and a smoother, better finish). Each of these has a metal bracket which connects to the outrigger and only one of the four from the central sections of the bus was salvageable. I tried sourcing some more, but was unsuccessful, so I fabricated three new ones. Cue the sound of me blowing my own trumpet, as these new brackets are pretty good. They are not exact replicas, but they’re actually stronger than the original ones. They have been treated with a rust inhibitor and painted in red oxide primer. They will be finished off in black bitumen paint before being added to the bus.

I previously mentioned that I was planning ahead to the roof and I used the LT drawings to create some hoopsticks. Unfortunately there are no drawings in the London Transport Museum’s repository for exactly what I want, as the roof was a one piece jicwood roof originally. I do have drawings though for hoopsticks for the front and rear of this and they have enabled me to design a hoopstick arrangement that can be used for each section, connecting with bolts to the tops of the pillars. Version 1 was not rigid enough and version 2 resulted in oversize tags. Version 3 will pair the strength of version 2 with some off the shelf heavy duty right angle braces and should provide me with a solution. Bear in mind that I am having to create something new, something that has not been done before, but something that I consider a challenge. I have also found the wood to sandwich between the hoopsticks and the source for it is not one that you’d expect, but I am keeping it a secret until a later date.

Hoopsticks version 1 & 2