09 September 2018

Late summer 2018 update

It’s been a scorcher of a Summer - often far too hot for restoration work. That’s not my only excuse for slow progress - World Cup, work, illness and childcare also played a part. Work on the bus has continued, albeit a lot slower than the previous season. Now we are in our Indian Summer and it is back to forging ahead.

The repairs to the front near side mudguard/wing were completed and it was reassembled. Repairs to the lower saloon platform window pan were done (several layers of Isopon P38 sanded down one at a time until a perfect finish was achieved). This was done 'in situ'. At the front of the bus, the two ‘sweeping back’ timber frame pieces that make the front upper saloon corners had rot channels on their outer edges where the front windows and trim screwed into them. These are large (and difficult to make) pieces of wood, which were still fundamentally sound once the rotten timber was chiselled out. So some Everbuild two part wood filler was used to build layers. It hardens quite quickly to form an almost identical density compound to (very) hardwood. In much the same way as the Isopon filler, it was sanded down and then treated. The end result is a perfect finish that equal to (if not exceeding) the original timber.
The next step is replacing the upper saloon timber, much of which I thought was okay. Upon closer inspection, I was wrong. The only pieces that are okay are the ones that have never had screws in them - two strips either side behind the large side panels. Everything else has perished at some point - mostly at the ends / joins. It’s not the kind of perished that wood filler can fix - it’s rip it out and replace. The rotten bits come out easily, but the rest is solid hardwood. It might be okay if I could remove it and trim down and re-use, but the bolts holding it in are badly rusted and just snap if I try to undo them. It means that the upper saloon will take longer than expected, but it is what it is. No shortcuts - the labour of love continues. With one saving grace - the vertical lift (cherry picker) is a godsend. I can’t imagine doing this with just steps or ladders; I’m already up and down enough with the hydraulic platform.

This restoration lark is tough when you are doing it on your own. Trying to muster the enthusiasm to spend endless hours on what still looks like a burnt out shell is difficult. Every now and again though, I get a sign that helps. For example, the other day whilst I was working on her outside, I went to wash off a brush and met with a gardening services guy who was cutting a nearby hedge. He asked if I was breaking it for spares, which immediately deflated me. I told him that was not the case and what I was doing and he commended me and said that he will watch for the finished product. But he also then went on to tell me that he used to drive them and had respect for anyone who did that for a living. He asked me if I had ever heard of Red Rover in Aylesbury as that was who he worked for. Now that is unusual as they bought a number of RTs from London Transport as they were disposed of and ran them in service in and around Aylesbury in the sixties. They were some of the oldest of the LT RTs, so would not have had heaters and would have been tired, even when new. He said it was hard work and he certainly wouldn’t want to do it now - you needed muscles in your arms to turn the (non-power assisted) steering with a load of passengers at very low speed. Moments like those are what encourage me to continue when my tank is getting close to empty. That plus music.

Milestones help to encourage me to keep at it. Whilst the upper saloon framework is going to take a long time to do, I have broken it down into sections. The first section being the front of the bus. On finishing the timber, it was treated, which helps me to see a completed area. I worked my way back from the front on the near side, working on each bay and it’s neighbour. I have now completed one half of the near side, having treated all the finished metal and wood. That is a quarter of the upper saloon, which has taken a couple of weeks to do. I wish it could be quicker, but I have not been slacking and my productivity is good, so I cannot really ask for more.

Another boost is the initial window pans from my sheet metal fabricator. I worked with them to do them the way that Widney did them for London Transport. All the remanufactured ones that I have come across to date have not been the same as the originals, with the extrusion (the curved part from the window to the outer face) being too sharp. Some were pieces of steel welded together and then ground down. None satisfied my fickle attention to detail and I would never be happy with windows that were not how they should be. I amassed a stock of old window pans that could be ‘cut and shut’, but doing them right takes a lot of skill and time. Getting a sheet metal fabricator to do them would actually cost more than having them make new ones. So new ones it is, especially as I have been able to get the corners pressed, which has not been financially viable for the sheet metal fabricator to do. With some to-ing and fro-ing, perfect corners are now mated with matching lengths. The only issue that I have now is that the new wood fillets that sit beneath the pans (supporting interior shrouds) have been made too large, preventing the new windows from fitting properly. It just means that they will have to be trimmed down, mais c’est la vie.

One last thing. I shouldn’t forget to mention getting the window pans to the bus. It was, shall we say, a little unorthodox :-)

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