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.

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