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

21 April 2017

Two steps forward (2017 remix)

April has been a chilly month, more so than the months in which Winter is supposed to fall. With chilly nights and winds from the North and North West, it has taken until lunchtime for the temperature to pick up enough at the bus to be able to get work done. Starting at that time is not ideal for me as there is the school run to do in the middle of the afternoon. Starting later, the temperature begins to drop off during the evening and prematurely end my work, as I most definitely do not want to get ill from trying to force things.

I've had some parts made - samples which needed some adjustments in the final versions - I am still waiting for those and then there is more work by Ken (volunteer) to finish them off before they can be used. In the meantime, I continue on tasks on the bus..

I had observed that the waist rail brackets were sitting a little proud and couldn't work out why and then I had an epiphany and worked out what the issue was. It was an engineering oversight. The new brackets differ from the originals, whereas LT ones were an intricate shape with what resemble arrowheads at the ends, the new ones were cut straight, forming a cross. The problem with the ends of the arms of the cross not pulling inwards is because there is nothing pulling them in. To make things worse, when the centre bolt at the outermost part of the bracket is tightened, those edges are naturally bending outwards. I realised that the design of the bracket by London Transport was very deliberate, possibly by knowledge gained by aircraft design and manufacture during World War II. The solution is for me to modify the brackets to more closely resemble the originals, marking them up and using a cutting disc with a grinder. The rectification of the proud edges of the waist rail brackets produced immediate favourable results.

It does mean that I am in a phase of 'two steps forward, one step back' - but it's not the first time; it is more important to get this right though, even if it is yet another setback and repetition of work. You can see a bracket marked up for trimming down as well as completed trimming.

Friday failed to struggle up to the forecast temperature with thick cloud covering lingering all day. Having anticipated this, I opted to do some work from home instead. I trimmed two waist rail brackets, etch primed them to prevent flash rust and trimmed a couple of repair plates.

The remaining photo shows a repair carried out this week adding a new piece of angle iron where the original had flaked away as rust dust. It is blue white in colour as it has received rust treatment after being welded on. It is as solid as a rock and the treatment will have turned black already. The wheel hoop cannot be added until the bracket at the front of it is ready.

Next on the agenda is to trim the offside waist rail brackets and finish them all off. There's always a list of things to move on to, but I try to avoid the temptation to have too many streams of work on the go at any one time. I've prepared some fresh music as the old batch was getting a bit boring; indexing the drawings from the London Transport Museum is going extremely slowly as it is boring and makes me doze off in front of the computer; when I need to find a drawing, I whizz through the thumbnails until I find what I need - I will get them indexed eventually.

Roll on some warmer weather.

09 April 2017

Spring 2017 update

I’ve been nudged, prompted, badgered and pleaded with to provide an update on restoration and I know that it is overdue. The delay has not been because I have not been doing anything on the restoration – far from it – I have had more time available recently and much of it has meant that I can crack on with the work at hand. However, as I have mentioned before, everything takes a long time (particularly when you are working alone – I’m up and down ladders like a window cleaner!). Anyway, here is an update and I will try to cover as much as possible so that you have the fullest picture.

The primary aim has been to make the structure sound, as without a good base it would be impossible to ensure that every right angle is actually a right angle and that every straight line along the length of the bus is a straight line along the whole length of the bus and not an almost straight / a little bit wavy line. It became apparent that the bus did have wavy lines when I started the restoration due to multiple points of corrosion. In fact, there were very few points anywhere on the bus that had not suffered corrosion that needed attention. As has been seen, the roof had to be removed as it was beyond repair. The riser had to be replaced (the riser sits on the back end of the chassis, beneath the rear end of the body and supports the body and the platform). The platform had to be replaced. Within the main body, every pillar needed repairing and all of them had perished between the upper and lower decks (a common problem) and the upper deck had dropped by between one and two inches. The pillars are supported by outriggers, which are metal sandwiched between pieces of wood. The wood on the outer one third of the outriggers was rotten and had to be replaced. Between each of the pillars at the base, the floor edge supports (sometimes referred to as longitudinals) all needed replacing along with the brackets on the ends of them. The outer one third of the lower saloon floor needed replacing. The brackets at the base of the floor had to be replaced. Between each pillar (just below the window) on the lower saloon, waist rails needed repairing or replacing, as did nearly all of the brackets connecting them to the pillars and one missing seat bracket. The area around the fuel filler pipe is intricate and took a considerable amount of time, effort and expense to repair and replace components.

Of the above, bays one and two have been completed in the lower saloon. All of the waist rails are ready, brackets to fit the pillars between bays 3 and 4 have held up progress with those bays and are still yet to be received, although progress has been made in that department. The photos show the near completed first two bays along with the completed riser, platform, rear wood and battery compartment. I have also started work on the steel girders behind the cant rail at the front of the bus, of which the lower section on both sides had perished. The metal parts of the cab body have been rust treated. I have most of the wood needed to fit to the cab, but it is not a priority.

I am currently working on reinstating the floor in the lower saloon all the way to the back of the bus and fixing the kickstands around the long seats. The rear wheel hoops are on the agenda and I am thinking ahead to the roof, planning on constructing a new one based upon original drawings. 

For now, many people will look at the photos and hardly notice any difference. I know the thousands of individual tasks involved and I am pleased with progress. With a large group of workers it would get done a lot quicker, but that is something that I don’t have.

16 February 2017

February made me shiver

A reminder of what the bus looked like before restoration commenced:

And now:

Many bus owners (not just RT owners) use their vehicles throughout the warmer months of the year (April through to September) and consequently plan any necessary work outside of that period. However, the colder months are not conducive to working on the bodywork of old buses. The same applies to restoration work. The days are shorter, I tends to be damp and cold and a barn or large outbuilding without heating is not a great place to spend many hours out of season.

I have persevered whenever it has been reasonable to do so, wearing layers of clothing and keeping busy and active. This can be maintained for three or four hours at a time, which fits well after working a full day. The problem that I have had though is that the rust treatment and paint that I have to use are not suited to the cold temperatures. The rust treatment simply won't cure below 5 degrees Celsius and will just stay wet. The bitumen paint drying and curing times can be counted in days rather than hours. As such, it breaks the rhythm of working on things requiring you to move on to something else instead. This has been more apparent this Winter than last as I am keen to accelerate the restoration and I am putting things onto the bus, whereas last Winter was a case of taking things off of it. That's not to say that everything that is to be removed has yet been removed, but it is most definitely a different stage.

To outside observers it might appear that little has been done. However, I am aware of the importance of what has been achieved and how much it means towards completion. It has mostly followed the plan that I had created to tackle this massive restoration undertaking:
  • Once assessed, I realised that the riser needed to be done, a new platform was needed and that the majority of the bodywork needed to be removed in order to rebuild the sagging, bowing and crumbling structure
  • Interior items were carefully removed and stored
  • Parts were sourced
  • Bodywork was removed
  • The roof (that was determined to be beyond repair) was removed
  • The framework was braced to minimise further collapse
  • The riser was replaced (with bodywork removed there was less weight and it made the job easier)
  • The battery area was rebuilt
  • Longitudinal floor channels were removed along with rotten lower saloon floor
  • A new platform was constructed
  • The rear end woodwork was completely replaced
  • The pillars were removed one at a time, repaired and refurbished and refitted with new floor channels
  • Waist rails were refurbished or replaced
  • This is the point in the plan that has been reached

There is still a lot to do:
  • Rear corners
  • Rear wheel arches replacement
  • Upper saloon framework refurbishment
  • 60% cab work outstanding
  • New roof construction
  • Front roof dome repair
  • Windows refurbishment
  • Fitting of new wood
  • Interior panelling
  • Interior finishing
  • Exterior panelling
  • Supplement items and finishing

The bits that I have worked on recently are the pillars (4 pillars needed some welding work and thorough refurbishment), I finished off the wood at the rear of the bus (absence of drawings for this area made it difficult and I was unhappy with my first attempt - I am completely satisfied now), reinstated steps for the staircase (and significantly reinforced the supports), fitted some floor channels and most recently worked on the panel on the offside immediately behind the cab (with step insert). This panel was badly corroded.

On refitting each pillar, the inter-deck repair plates that I had made were used and they exposed the fact that the upper deck had dropped by 1 to 2 inches. Because of the way that I have gone about this, it was easy enough to jack the upper saloon section up and fit the brackets in place, which will keep it in place with the help of some included 40mm square box section bolted in vertically. The bus would have to stand in sub-optimal conditions for 100 years for these to collapse again, whilst I have been mindful not to introduce rigidity that would stress the body elsewhere.

Some pictures are included that show some of these steps mentioned.

I have also rekindled my relationship with LT Museum, who have once again kindly granted me access to their RT diagrams and drawings. I photographed another thousand and have maybe two thousand more to capture. I have noted that I have obtained copies of some drawings that I know that I need.