11 December 2016

Pre Christmas rush

It is a busy time of year for all of us and I am no exception to that. However, I still managed to squeeze in three sessions of painting this week. I've mentioned before that the black bitumen paint is a 'challenge' to work with (that's the polite way of putting it). I have had three challenging sessions this week and it is even more of a challenge when cold.

My focus at this point is to give the bus rigidity, reinstating floor channels in the lower saloon, which will allow me to put a floor back in. Along with those comes the waist rails and treated and repaired pillars. I'm still waiting on some brackets for the pillar feet at the rear of bay 3 (just in front of the long seats. Now bear in mind that all of the pillar feet brackets were too corroded to do anything with, as were all of the floor channels, so all of it is brand new. The floor channels are zinc coated steel and the brand new replacement brackets (made to original specifications) are bolted and welded on to each end. With treated ash fitted to the floor channels, I've then proceeded to treat all of it with black bitumen paint. The pillar feet brackets are new reproductions (for which Ken should take most of the credit for) and are welded and now also painted with black bitumen paint. None of this will ever need replacing in my lifetime, hopefully not in the lifetime of anyone who is alive now. The pictures show parts laid out and in the process of being painted. It's laborious as I have to do one side and wait for a couple of days for the paint to dry and harden, do the same for the other side and eventually touch up any bits missed and wait again.

I've also been working on treating the nearside waist rails, attached wood and the waist rail brackets (as seen in the pictures). I have not been idle.

None of it is yet ready to go back on the bus, but the plan is to get some fitted over Christmas. There is lots more work to do and hopefully I will have more spare time to do it as my other commitments are completed. Realistically I envisage completion as two years away, in part because those making the parts are not very interested in straying from their bread and butter work to do small ad hoc pieces like those that I require. This phase has involved a lot of that and I am hoping that there will be less of it going forward, plus I may be able to speed things up as I have now brought the CAD drawing aspect in-house.

I plan to post more info over the festive period, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here are some photos of the bus escaping from the dampness of the cold storage shed and airing in some pleasant December sunshine.

24 November 2016

Autumn 2016

18 months into the restoration and I'd rather be further along than I am. It has been a steep learning curve and there have been some hurdles - the riser had to be replaced (and I had to do it myself) - all of the waist rails needed repairing or replacing - almost all of the waist rail brackets needed replacing - the pillars needed repairing - the floor channels all needed replacing, along with the brackets that hold them on - the inter-deck brackets needed bolstering with a new repair link that I had to have made - the front wing was badly corroded and needed extensive repair - the front bulkhead needed major repair in one section - the platform was non-existent - the back bar transpired to be a failing flimsy repair job and had to be replaced. It certainly has been a rocky road and there is no such thing as 'a quick bit' or 'an easy bit'. Everything takes time and effort.

Repairing and treating a pillar (both sides)

Having now parked the platform and battery crate (both virtually complete), I found myself unable to get to the bus much due to other circumstances, so opted to carry on with some work from home. The front wing was badly corroded on the corner and had a chunk cut out of it by a previous owner, in order to add some bolts to secure an aluminum substitute for a waist rail for bay 1. It was a disaster and the oversized bolts even failed to secure it properly. Consequently, I had my work cut out in repairing the wing. First of all it needed to come off the bus, but that is easier said than done. The fuel pipes and other pipes and cabling pass through an opening on the inside of the wing and then again through the bottom of it. As the bus needed to remain mobile, I couldn't (and didn't want to) remove the pipes and cabling, so the alternative was butchering the wing, which I did carefully and thoughtfully with a plan in my head of how to repair the damage. That I have successfully managed to do with a couple of repair links that I have made, that I can bolt into place once the wing is fitted, thus ensuring the the strength and integrity is maintained.

The damaged wing section cut off

Repairing the wing was easier than I expected. I started by measuring and creating a card template. I then cut off the bad section by determining a line that passes halfway through the side light. The new section was cut with nibblers according to my template and bent at the edge by hand using a vice and a sledgehammer (just the handle to bend around). The curve of the edge of the wing was almost spot on at the first attempt and just needed a little adjustment. My newly acquired welding skills were put to use and I welded a cutoff strip on the rear face to add some strength. I created a tool to flatten the buckled edge of the wing, using a vice with the handle replaced by a short bolt and nut that fit inside a large socket. The air socket wrench is then used to tighten and loosen the vice - a pneumatic press of sorts. It works a charm, so a big pat on the back for me (or it would be if my arms didn't ache so much).

With the edge flattened out, I turned to Isopon P38 to fill the dips and imperfections. That takes a day to properly harden. The next day I would sand the P38 down and then apply some more. This continued every day for well over a week. At one point I etch primed the wing, but still wasn't happy that it was a s smooth as a baby's backside, so rubbed down and filled again. Finally all parts of the wing were good enough to park it (as virtually finished). In my photo I added the front mudguard to add context, but whilst that is brand new old stock (never used), it needs some preparation itself.

Next steps are finishing off waist rails, waist rail brackets, pillar feet, repairing pillars and fitting floor channels. They can't all be fitted yet, but I have made a start by repairing two pillars and I'm putting together floor channels and their brackets. Once these parts are fitted, I can complete the structure for each bay. There won't be any windows or walls going back in anytime soon, but with a solid frame, coving panels and flooring can be added and the repair links to support upstairs can go into place.

Work will continue, even in the cold.

18 September 2016

Offside front bulkhead repair

Most followers of this blog like to see pictures of the RT's sleek curves and iconic design, but there are none of those to post at the moment. Restoring 3316 is a time-consuming process, even with the right tools and pieces available. There are many significant tasks, including the repair of the lower section of the offside of the front bulkhead. This was so badly corroded behind the front offside wheel, that the whole section in bay 1 on the right hand side was hanging loose and could easily have collapsed, dropping anyone sitting there to fall through the bottom of the bus. Well, perhaps that is a bit extreme as even a rusty old bus is held together quite well by the sum of all the parts.

The lower section behind the driver had to be cut out. That's the skin on both sides and the main inverted U channel across the bottom. It was beyond repair and so I cut back to the good metal. A new beefier rectangular box section was prepared with the bottom edge cut away near the outer edge of the bus to permit access to the reverse side (enabling connecting the new floor channel bracket for bay one). This was welded to the front bulkhead and given the 'hit the darn thing with the biggest hammer I have' test, which it passed (but hurt my hand). A section of steel was cut for the front skin and welded to the front edge of the bulkhead. All the surface and minor rust on the rest of the bulkhead section was treated with rust treatment. That had to be left for a day to do its thing. After which the section inside the bulkhead area was painted with black bitumen paint. It may never be seen again, but I don't want it to rust from the inside. The picture below shows this stage.

This needed another day to dry, but I gave it two days to be sure.

Then today the rearmost face (already treated) was welded on. Some seam welding and some spot welding (as appropriate) and also prepared a lower section step to reproduce the original profile. Once welded on and cleaned up, the whole section was painted with black bitumen paint. The final outcome is pictured below.

I can move on to the next bit now.

12 September 2016

Stand back from the platform edge ...

I've been multi-tasking lately, with a new mini-project that I took on alongside everything else. I was able to get my hands on an electric wheelchair that my mother really needs right now. It needed a complete strip down and refurbishment; brackets were missing and it needed new batteries, various bolts replacing, rust treatment and general sprucing. However, in the space of a week I've managed to deliver a fully working, tidy second hand lifeline. Alongside that, I've spent many hours at the bus too. But not all of that time has been productive on the bus. I added stabilizing supports to my cherry picker and in doing so uncovered a problem with the jockey wheels being nearly flat. The trouble is that the valve on one of the twin wheels had disappeared inside the rim. I digress; it needed fixing and was time consuming. Last, but not least, the bus.

The platform edge is now complete. Ken completed the brackets from the stanchion and the outer shaped wood on the platform edge. Supported by a 3 x 1 rectangular steel bar with outward facing support brackets, the perfectly shaped treated ash far exceeds the strength of any other RT platform without compromising on size or shape. It's almost a work of art in its own right.

Today that piece of art was fitted. It was such a tight fit that bolts on adjacent parts had to be loosened to permit everything to slot into place. The outer shaped piece is connected by bolts that have a screw profile at one end that is driven into the ash. The platform itself is still yet to be made (using marine grade plywood) alone with a supporting piece at the foot of the stairs that connects to the battery riser, but here is an indication of what it will look like with the rubber matting.

That's a little bit more achieved 👍

29 August 2016

Summer update #2

I love it when a plan comes together. The plan involved bringing together the pieces constructed for the platform and today (August Bank Holiday), that plan was meticulously implemented. The new back bar that has been constructed as a one-piece replacement for the original (flawed) two-piece arrangement, fits like a glove. A tight glove. One that needs clamps and levering to get into the exact position that you want it to. But once installed, the tolerance over the whole structure is within one millimetre. Which is pretty amazing. This is the exacting standard that I strive to achieve and right now I'm as happy as a pig in (I'll keep it polite) mud.

I owe a huge thanks to my volunteers and in this instance there has been an incredible amount of work done by Ken from the copies of the original drawings that the London Transport Museum allowed me access to.

It took all day to ensure that the components married up together, with minor adjustments here and there, but the platform structure is now all bolted together and can support being stood on. In fact, I jumped up and down (the joy came afterwards when I realized that it all worked) and the whole back of the bus bounced up and down on the rear suspension, the way that it should. Capital Radio once got an elephant to stand on the platform of one of the RTs that they owned and it broke off. Their platform was not constructed like this one. With the new risers and new, reinforced platform frame, I think we could do that stunt again and succeed. But we won't try. Me jumping up and down on it is close enough.

We're not finished, but we have passed a major milestone with regards to the platform area and the other bits will fall into place now. Rubber matting will be fitted but I need to get marine plywood as the base and it won't be the cheap stuff. The next restoration schedule for this bus is planned to be after I am long gone and hence the reason for going the extra mile.


26 March 2016

Offside pillars

As stated in the last update, progress has slowed due to the seasonal weather and lower temperatures. Work is still being done, but when you're working in an environment where you can see your breath, have to wear multiple layers of clothing and you're working on cold metal using cold tools, you're not going to get much done quickly.

The recent work carried out has to included re-working the battery bay and risers and fitting the new batteries in their normal home. This sounds like a nice simple thing, but it involved jacking up the bus again, supporting the body and allowing the chassis to be lowered, welding new pillar channel either side of the battery bay, fixing the outer battery bay brackets and re-welding an edge of the platform riser and a bit of re-welding of the battery compartment. We are now fully satisfied that the battery compartment is complete. One of the batteries also had to be replaced as it was a bad one. The frame for the lower saloon flooring (just forward of the platform riser) has been re-instated and just needs bolting to the top of the platform riser.

Further removal of wood along the edge of the lower saloon ceiling has been done and the offside waist rails have been taken out. These are all being replaced with new ones that we make ourselves, along with purpose made new waist rail brackets. The seat mounting brackets from the old waist rails will be transferred to the new ones. Whilst doing this, we removed one pillar. We will focus on remediation of this particular pillar to use the method to fix the others. All suffer from bracket corrosion at the top (where they marry up to the upper saloon pillar) and at the bottom where they meet the lower saloon floor cross members. I have determined the best ways to connect these at the top and at the bottom, both of which will be non-standard and not feature original parts. However, they will be appropriate given the circumstances, will ensure guaranteed sustainable strength and will not impact appearance. While we were doing the preparation work to remove the pillar that we are working with, an adjacent one fell out. This emphasizes the need to fix them properly. At present the upper saloon framework around the removed windows is only supported by the very foremost bay and the very last one. We have a self imposed ban on going upstairs to avoid any weight being applied to the floor and the ceiling beneath it that might cause them to sag or collapse. It's spider heaven up there.

The bus does look somewhat strange being so open, but I am pleased as it has to go through this to build it up again.

RT3316 steps out between showers in Easter 2016, one year after restoration commenced

Whilst I organize the parts for the pillars, the rotten wood along the offside and offside corner of the cab will be removed and replaced with brand new old stock that has been sourced. More about that next time...

28 February 2016

End of phase

Winter has come and the temperature has dropped to a level that severely inhibits working on a bus in a barn in the middle of nowhere. Despite wrapping up with layers of clothing and burning our way through gas canisters to thaw our frozen extremities, work is slow. The air is cold, the tools are cold and the bus is cold. But we have managed to just about reach the end of a phase. The phase is the stripping of every part of the bus and performing assessment on every aspect. Some parts have received remediation and others have had theirs planned. The bus is currently a skeleton.

With the restriction on being able to perform restoration work, the working area has been tidied up and organised. Tools have their place, the workbench has been made fit for purpose, the new and refurbished stock has been correctly stored and the sustenance department duly stocked and arranged.

The next steps are to work our way through each section and make good what remains. New parts are awaited and they are required before further progression can be made.