27 December 2015

Year summary

As the year draws to an end, it's time to reflect upon what has taken place in respect of the restoration in the last twelve months.

The year started out with RT3316 wrapped in a mega tarpaulin, being stored outdoors. Far from ideal, but storage for a double decker in the Home Counties is not easy to come by. I had determined that the only way to progress the restoration was to take on the work myself (with the grateful assistance of volunteers) and would need to find undercover storage in order to do so. I was extremely lucky and found somewhere nearby that I was able to move into in spring and start dismantling. The seats and seat frames came out and it was assessed that the platform and battery risers needed replacing. These are critical parts in this bus and it has taken the rest of the year to get them made and fitted. Thankfully that has now been finished and this major hurdle has been overcome.

During this time, lots of other work has taken place on the bus. I decided in the end that most body parts needed to come off so the year end sees a seriously stripped down vehicle. This allows me to deal with the rotten wood and corroded metal framework. The outer appearance of the bus disguised considerable decay (this is the case with many RTs) and that had to be chased back a long way. Getting to the root of this and then treating and fitting new is the only way to end up with a proper job that will last years.

There are more hurdles to overcome. Metal brackets between the decks are all corroded and need replacing and I haven't been able to find any anywhere. I've been lucky enough to find many items that I need and they will be invaluable, but some items just aren't available (or elude me) and need to be made. In 2016 I will also have a load of window pans (frames) to repair - the existing ones will be married with donor ones and cut and shut together. The work is planned to continue throughout 2016 with the aim of completion as early as feasible, whilst ensuring that it is done properly and such that it will last and not need to be done again any time soon.

I will finish with a photo of what RT3316 looked like before the restoration work began. This was just 8 months ago, but it seems like a lifetime.

16 December 2015

All systems are 'go'

The riser replacement is getting ever closer. The bus has been lifted and propped on blocks. Supports have been attached to the rear bulkhead pillars with high tensile M12 x 130mm bolts and they rest on new railway sleepers. A test has been done to lift the bus from the blocks and allow the supports to take the strain of the body. It was a successful test, although the riser is yet to be fully split from the body. A longer time period is needed to ensure that the swap out of the riser is completed, rather than chancing it by leaving the body propped up - it's just a case of being cautious. All the preparation is now done.

As if this wasn't good enough news, the steering wheel is back from being refurbished. Originally coated in plastic, it had become brittle and sharp where it had cracked due to age. Electrical tape was used to stop fingers from being sliced open and make the driving more bearable (it really did spoil the fantastic experience of driving as you'd constantly find yourself moving your hands to a different part of the wheel that was more comfortable). The plastic was stripped off, the cast aluminium wheel was sandblasted and baked in an oven to remove impurities and then coated in nylon by a company called Nylospray. The end result is superb and stated to be more hard wearing and longer lasting. So this should still be around and not need replacing decades after I am gone.

Christmas is just around the corner and it will be a good opportunity to crack on and get loads done. I'll take Christmas Day off, as I think I've deserved one day off. I'll leave you with a link to a larger version of the picture of the riser area in case you crave more detail.

13 December 2015

The good, the bad and the naked

There have been some ups and downs recently, which is to be expected of an undertaking of this size. On the plus side there has been good progress in certain areas; refurbished parts have returned to the bus awaiting refitting - the upper saloon has been considerably stripped, revealing the extent of work necessary and panels and many windows removed. Some of the advice that was received was not to be tempted to strip it all down, just work on one part at a time. I started off following this advice, but circumstances determined that I ended up having to do the opposite. I have some sources for parts that may not be around forever, so I need to make the most of those and in order to do so, requires stripping everything back (I was finding that I was purchasing items that I didn't actually need when it came to properly reviewing the existing ones). I also need to determine a plan for refurbishing window pans - most of mine need work and I have acquired a lot of donor window pans, but I still don't know if I have enough or if I now have too many. The refurbishment of these is cut and shut - cut out the bad sections of existing pans and use a donor to make good. This cannot be fully assessed until the windows are removed from the bus for inspection. This is coupled with the need to get on with the new risers and removing as much from the bus as possible reduces the weight, thus reducing the risk of things going wrong when the risers are replaced.

I have a bit of a hard-on for getting the risers done now. I have had them for quite some time and was led to believe that I would be getting assistance to fit them, but it now transpires that is never going to happen. This mammoth task falls back solely on myself to do, which has been a scary thought given my lack of experience with such things. Most people start with something small and easy to do like a car restoration and maybe never progress much beyond some simple car bodywork. I've opted to jump in at the deep end and replace major load bearing parts that sit beneath 5 tons of double decker bus bodywork. Furthermore, there are no instructions or You Tube videos on how to do it. I know what I am trying to achieve but it is far from an easy task. The rear of the body needs to be lifted off the risers so that they can be removed and the new ones fitted between it and the chassis. I need to achieve this without distorting or (worse still) dropping the body. If the latter happens, it's probably game over and I suspect it will be a case of scrapping the bus, having it towed away unceremoniously. I can see why nobody wants to help. But I jumped in with both feet to this restoration so will give it my best shot.

When risers were replaced by London Transport, they lifted the body off the chassis to do so. They had cranes and they had jigs that cradled the body and could tilt or turn it so that it could be worked on. They also didn't have 50 years worth of corrosion to deal with. I don't have those luxuries or benefits, so the plan I have devised is as follows:

  • remove the platform (not that difficult, it was so badly rotted and was not an original one)
  • remove all the connected items on or around the risers
  • remove as much weight as possible
  • brace the inside of the bus body to prevent the sides from caving in
  • lift the bus a few inches using a 10 ton jack (it's an investment required if you own a bus)
  • support parts of the body accordingly
  • lower the body onto the supports, thus allowing the remaining weight of the body to be transferred from the risers to the supports
  • remove the old risers and fit the new ones
  • lift the bus again to remove the temporary supports
  • lower the bus onto the new risers
That is a simplistic plan of how to perform the work. The amount of effort to achieve it is considerable, but I am now progressing it to the key stages of riser removal and fitting. The next restoration updates are either going to be filled with delight regarding overcoming this huge milestone or will be a sad end to disastrous undertaking and the doubters will be able to say "I told you I was going to end up saying 'I told you so'"

And a bit more (bus lifted to start riser work)...