20 December 2019

Free stuff

Who doesn't like free stuff? And as it is the season of goodwill, here is some free stuff for everyone.

Fancy changing your ringtone or message alert to the sound of a good old London bus bell? Or RT engine starting up? Now you can have both.

Ding - "I want to get off at the next stop" or ding-ding - the conductor giving the starting signal. Plus starting the engine and having it idle. These sounds are gifted to you for the mighty sum of zero from www.rt3316.com/sounds

Recorded from RT3316 in 16-bit full stereo, trimmed and converted into the appropriate format for Apple, Samsung and Android. If you're still sporting a Nokia 8310, jog or hobble along as this is not for you. These are some fun sounds for RT aficionados, but be warned - setting the alarm on your phone to the sound of starting the RT engine should be reserved for the fallback alarm rather than the main alarm, unless you want to be woken up in panic mode!

Feel free to share with anyone and everyone. Merry Christmas to one and all!

24 November 2019

Testing,1, 2

I've been continuing some of the many tasks that need doing and there are loads of them. Yes, the bus came together quickly earlier in the year, but I knew of all the things that were outstanding as that happened. There's still a long way to go but I've been concentrating on making the bus waterproof. The trip to Showbus showed what was bound to happen without the eyebrows fitted above the opening windows; the rain came and in it came. I have finished those now and filled any gaps left by short trimming of panels (it seems fine when you're doing them, but some - especially the edges of the new roof panels - fall a little short). The beading and strap plates will cover most gaps, but I want to be sure and aim to do the job only once, even if it means taking longer to do it.

Saturday 23rd November 2019 provided another opportunity to go on an outing. This one was a heritage bus running day on London route 140 organised by London Bus Museum and I offered to take the bus along to promote the event. The forecast was for some light rain to die away by mid-morning. Boy, did they get that wrong, It rained solidly for most of the day, with heavy drizzle for an hour at a time, with 30 minute dry interludes thrown in. But I looked on it as an opportunity to test the bus and see what leaks. The roof was fine as were the windows (except where the rubber curls and needs to be glued down). Rain got in around the rear emergency exit window, but was expected as the rain run-off rail is not yet fitted. The jury is out on the destination display, but I think the unit will come out and have extra sealing performed on it, just to be sure. Now is the time to test these things, before the finishing parts are added. All tested well.

Despite the dreary weather, the day was a resounding success. Sean Weston joined me as conductor on my non-service bus and after starting at Harrow Weald, we followed the 140 route to Hayes. There we had to use some back roads to turn around and we parked in a bus stop which was closed due to road works. We handed out leaflets and engaged with the public, telling them about the event and pointing them in the direction of the bus stop that they could hop on a bus from. Quite a few of the buses operating in service went past in both directions. As the weather deteriorated again, the foot traffic eased, so we set off northbound on the route. We stopped at every stop that had probable customers waiting and Sean handed out leaflets and briefly told them about the old buses following on behind that they could jump on. We did this as far as Harrow, where we pulled up in the town centre at a high foot-traffic area near the main shopping area. We were quickly surrounded by a crowd wanting to know what it was all about, so we let them know and answered their questions. After a while there, we decided that we needed a break and we made our way to Harrow Weald bus garage and parked up in the back yard with some of the other buses involved in the event.
RT3316 alongside Lee Rose's M1014 MCW Metrobus

RT3316 with Peter Osborn's RT4779

We went back to Harrow to the same place we had stopped earlier and once again drew the crowds, including people we had handed leaflets to earlier in the day who had taken a ride on a bus and wanted to thank us. We gave out the remainder of our leaflets to everybody else and obliged with photo requests with the bus and answered questions about the restoration. Having done our job, it was time for Sean to get off to Central London for a Christmas Lights tour, so I decided to give him a lift, as I had nothing else on. Although traffic was bad, we got to Victoria with time to spare. Still with nothing to rush off for, I chose to tag along with Pete Legg's and Tim Barrington's Routemasters and see the Christmas Lights. As I was driving, there was no opportunity to take any photos or shoot any video, but I was impressed with the lights in Oxford Street - well worth seeing. The crowds I could have done without; they were 15 to 20 deep on each side of the road, overflowing into the traffic lanes. You need confidence to drive in a packed Central London even in a car, but you definitely need it when driving a bus. No worries there though, I can hold my own.
The route was from Victoria up to Hyde Park Corner, Park Lane, Marble Arch, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Strand, Fleet Street, St. Pauls, Cannon Street, London Bridge and finally Tower Bridge (which was traversed at 2mph to allow for all the selfies with the bus in the background).

RT3316 pictured in an office window
An interesting colour scheme caused by red lighting opposite

I decided one direction from West to East was enough, so after a break at Tower Hill, I drove back to the storage, having spent 12 hours out and about and feeling like I'd been driving non-stop for four days. A thorough wash was well earned (for the bus) and that helped to highlight the need for the next coat of undercoat, however I am holding off on that until the beading and trim is added. That progress will be slow as this time of the year is not a great time to be hanging around in a cold barn.

Tucked up safe and sound back at HQ

09 September 2019

The sun has got his hat on...

It’s been outing time again. This time wearing the desert camouflage livery (second coat of undercoat). Not a short stint – a trek across to the next county, Essex. I consider that to be quite a distance when driving a bus with a top speed of 30, avoiding motorways where everyone drives like a bat outta hell. 

Sunday 8th September 2019 saw Epping Ongar Railway host a special RT / RF celebration event, so I made the 30 or so mile trip all around the houses. Setting off from Watford, Herts on a crisp but sunny morning at 8am on roads with little traffic, I used my planned route via Aldenham (the village, but not actually going through it), Radlett, the old Harpersbury Hospital (now luxury housing), Colney Heath, past the Watford FC training ground (they’re clearly not training hard enough), South Mimms, Potters Bar (past the Bus Garage with many bemused looks) to Northaw. Here I did a pit stop to take a few photos by the delightful village green in this quaint Hertfordshire retreat. Then onto Cuffley, Goff’s Oak (this bus would have operated around here in it’s working life), Waltham Cross, Waltham Abbey to Upshire. Upshire Road shops is a destination that also would have been reached when she was allocated to Enfield, so I stopped for another leg stretching photo opportunity. The final stretch was up to Copthall Green, into Epping Forest, through Epping to the event location at North Weald Station.

@ Northaw

@ Upshire Road shops

Arriving around 10am, before things started to get busy, I settled in and enjoyed the glorious weather gifted to the day. I didn’t count them, but there were something like 30 RTs present. Not as many RFs as I thought there would be, but I’m not their biggest fan so it didn’t bother me (don't get me wrong, I don't hate them). I think most were in service, which makes sense given their ability to navigate some of the rural locations nearby that would be plagued with low hanging trees.

After 3.30pm, the buses made their way slowly (due to congestion) out of the event area to the perimeter road alongside North Weald airfield. Once there, it was a run (as organized) up and down the stretch of road several times. It was quite a sight to see these old buses thundering up and down here before heading off to a nearby Garden Centre where all the vehicles were being gathered for a photo shoot in an adjacent field. This didn’t quite go to plan; one bus cut out when reversing into the line-up and could not be re-started due to dead batteries; another was parked next to it to assist but the jump leads had been left behind. So a bunch of buses at the end of the line-up were obscured. It could have been rectified, but it quickly became too late to do so and with buses scheduled to leave at specific times to make connections with train services, the shoot was held as it had been set up. Not perfect, but it didn’t matter too much – it was still a good end to a great day.

My return journey hadn’t been decided and I headed back towards Upshire to backtrack on the morning’s trip until I reached the turning in Epping Forest which was closed due to an accident. That turned out to be a good thing as I headed south in the direction of Woodford. Fairly familiar with the route across North London, I went along past Royal Forest Hotel. This was another terminus that my bus would have frequented in the early years when allocated to Palmers Green, running on route 102. In Chingford I pulled over and reset the blinds after passing several stops where people tried to hail me. Route 87 never reached this far, but a number on a bus in London means people try to get on. With a private blind, no number and ‘not in service’ showing, my route took me through Ponders End, Enfield, past Enfield bus garage (with more bemused looks), Oakwood on to New Barnet. At New Barnet Station (where the bus would have visited on route 84 out of Palmers Green), I took a quick leg-stretching photo-taking break, and confused the heck out of two gents waiting at the bus stop talking to one another at the top of their voices, after what had clearly been a long day at the pub. They had obviously noticed the presence of the bus but were looking quite panicked as I drove past them and swung around to head away from the station. It would have been short lived as I passed the service bus heading towards them just moments later. Next, on to Chipping Barnet, Barnet Hospital and scouting south of Borehamwood to Elstree, I considered the A41, but on such a beautiful evening, I instead opted for Bushey Heath, Bushey, through Watford Town Centre heading north out of town to the storage, arriving some 12 hours after leaving – weary but having had a good day out.

@ New Barnet Station

Reflecting on the journey there and the journey back - I'm not sure if it was the time of day or the locations, but hardly anyone batted an eyelid in the morning at the sight of a cream coloured old bus (except bus drivers at Potters Bar). Yet on the way back, there was lots of head turning, smiling and waving, thumbs ups and even photos being taken on phones. It just strikes me that the inhabitants of London suburbs are more appreciative of the sight of an old bus than the residents of the home counties towns and villages.

12 May 2019

All the love

It goes without saying that the bus gets all the love. But which bits have been getting the love lately?

For starters, side panels. They all came off, one at a time and had some tweaking. This included re-positioning some of the fixing screws that had not gone in straight the first time, leaving protruding screw heads. When London Transport did these buses, everything was designed and planned. Screws and bolts were deliberately positioned to avoid one another. I’ve used the alternative modern method - pot luck. I drill the screw hole and if I hit a bolt, I scrap that hole and drill another close to it. Sometimes I am unlucky and drill just along the edge of a bolt without realizing and the screw goes off at an angle when it is screwed in. So I set about sorting those out. I also added some rubber dampening where new panels are rattling against waist rails. Once the restoration is complete, the panels will have spacers between them and the inner skin, preventing the rattling. But as that is a long way off, I need to take measures now to prevent the rattling panels from working the screws loose.

Next up, the back of the bus needs some love. But checking the measurements tells me that things are not exactly where they need to be. This is because the back end of the bus has been fixed. When I bought the bus, the back end was drooping. With the new platform and back bar, it is now on point. Which meant that the number plate and light box were too low. The challenge is that the space between the stairs and the top of the light box is quite finite, but the light box has to be fitted as high as possible to allow the number plate panel to fit and line up, as well as the ridge on the light box lining up with the horizontal trim that will get added. There’s a lot to consider and the plastic number plate panel was warped and split, so needed repairing as well. Some excess plastic was trimmed from the panel, rubbed down to remove paint and then melted with a soldering iron to repair the split with molten plastic of the exact same type. The heat gun and clamps helped to straighten the warping and some new wood was prepared to provide a more snug support behind it.

Some re-wiring had to be done on the refurbished light box as a new connector had broken (nothing is made as good as it used to be). 

Next, my attention was drawn to the near side indicator box that I had previously made up. I made this ages ago. I was never completely happy with it; it was deeper than it should be. So while I’m doing stuff again, it’s time to rip it out and do it properly.

This time I opted to give it it’s own back plate using some spare steel sheet that I have. The new lens fitted really picks out the light. In fact a little too much. The bulb cannot be directly behind the lens as it picks out the filament and makes the indicator look a bit weird when used. So the bulb has been moved out of direct line of sight and the white painted inside of the unit shows a nice bright indicator when it flashes. It’s actually perfect and a big improvement on the original, whilst remaining true to the design and authenticity. All of this is quite time consuming, but worth doing. Finally the panels were cut and shaped. They have some intricate bits to do, but I was on fire while doing them and even by my annoyingly fussy standards, they are the dogs <superfluous word omitted>.

The used tickets panel was on the agenda whilst I was on a roll. Easily cut from a wheel arch cutoff that I thought would be no good for anything. The inner edge has a double dutch. No, I don’t mean like the skipping rope sport or unintelligible talk; ‘double dutch’ is also the term used to describe a fold, one where the object folds completely back on itself. I don’t see the logic in doing so with this panel edge, but the space exists for it and not doing it will add the potential for the facia that fits over it to move. So I made a double dutch fold - which turned out perfect on the first attempt - it’s nice when that happens.

Before I could fit the used tickets panel (which bends around the front corner of the platform), I needed to make and fit some timber along the top of the riser. A stress panel in the rear bulkhead needed to connect to the other side of the timber and the recess in the top of the riser is huge. More like a canyon than a valley. Time for a challenge with the router table. My super powers are still present and it was an absolute breeze. If only everything was so simple.

Fitting the new timber is where I could have done with another pair of hands. Ones with less fat fingers. Trying to hold a bolt on one side of the partition and put a washer and nut on the other side with arms barely long enough to reach around. I must have dropped a dozen of those nuts before I managed to get one on the end of the bolt furthest away. Eventually the new chunk of wood was fully bolted in and the stress panel soundly connected and I was able to retrieve all the excess nuts from under the bus.

Fortunately for me, things continued to go smoothly with finishing that panel, including beating the bend into it, no mean feat. 

It’s rewarding to end the week having completed some significant bits. The end is a long way off, even for just completing the exterior and it is now likely that each section will be time consuming, but each one done is one closer to the end.

I’m not able to republish it, but the bus got noticed at Barking and got a mention in the June 2019 edition of Bus & Coach Preservation magazine. Well, a bit more than a mention - she got a full page. Probably wisely, they opted to only show me as a silhouette / shadow - the bus is the star. The article refers to the restoration exhibition; if you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, don’t panic - there will be further opportunities this year. Refer to the ‘coming up’ section of the website for more information - http://www.rt3316.com/comingup 

05 May 2019

Accidents will happen

Doing a restoration like this is highly likely to end up with inevitable consequences. You’re going to have accidents and sometimes those will come along in twos or threes. Accident time has come around again. Just two this time and one of those was not my own fault.
Starting with the more serious one, I was carrying one end of a work table when a leg of the table caught a carrier bag of clamps which then got in the way of my feet, causing me to stumble. To remediate the issue, for some reason I thought it was a good idea to kick the carrier bag to get it off the table leg. Bear in mind that we’re still moving with the table at this stage - my foot got caught on the carrier bag (which was now wrapped around the table leg) and I begin the totally ungracious fall backwards onto the concrete surface. All that was missing was someone crying out ‘timber’ and (thankfully) a phone or camera recording it for future embarrassment. The concrete did not budge as my buttock met with it; my leg twisted and my elbows and shoulder found the ground too. No grazes, no blood and fortunately no broken bones.
My tumble impacted my ability to get on with work on the bus. You need to know when to ease up and allow your body rest when it tells you that it needs it. I hobbled around for several days ensuring that I didn’t put much weight on the injured leg and as the pain subsided, I became aware of a sharp digging pain in that foot. Accident number two. Examination revealed that a splinter of wood had lodged itself in the ball of my foot (sometimes stuff gets in your shoes, it can’t be helped) and I had been walking around on it because the pain from the twisted leg was masking the pain from the splinter. Not much fun.

However, these things happen and you have to carry on, albeit at the reduced pace. Time to stop whinging at fill you in on what you came here for.

The emergency exit I was working on has proven to be a right pain in the bit that cushioned my impact with concrete. After rebuilding the timber, I married it up with the bus and it did not fit. I had to sand it down and connected it with the hinges and even without the glass or frame, it almost ripped apart when put through the opening action. It also was looking like it would rip the wood on the bus apart. So I opted for a better way to connect the hinge to the window and also to the bus.

I got some high tensile countersunk bolts to replace the wood screws normally used. I also got some weld nuts and made some steel plates to fit behind the wood in the window frame. There’s not a lot of room, so the plate had to be recessed into the wood and the bolts could not protrude beyond the nuts. Screws were added to hold the plates in position for when it becomes necessary to remove the window in years to come.

There are three hinges securing the emergency exit to the bus. I drilled through the centre one, which allows bolts to be secured with a nut from inside the rear display unit. The other side of the others will be obscured by panels, so I fitted insert nuts in the wood. These screw into the wood but provide a thread to hold the bolts. All lined up and tested and fitted with the aid of the cherry picker.

Well, nearly. It doesn’t want to line up nicely and needs a bit more adjusting. For now, I have secured it and will give it some more love when the weather improves. It is nearly there, bar the final touches. The rain trim can wait until I have finished with the window.

Under the canopy received some attention. Finding the parts was the first hurdle; some refurbishment was needed and then refitting (which is always more troublesome than the word implies). But it looks significantly better. The cant rail around the canopy was refurbished, primed and fitted. An extra piece of timber was added behind it to add some additional support where needed for this now delicate part.

More panels were added. The weather dictates what you can progress with and so panelling can take quite some time. But each panel added is one panel closer to completion. My fussiness though means that panels are also coming off and adjustments made or panels remade. I envisaged this; if I do something that I think is not as good as it could be but is probably okay to everyone else, I move on and see if it bugs me enough to do something about it. It usually does. I constantly get told that it’s unnecessary, but it’s necessary for me. We all have our quirks. A lot of fixing screws are coming out so that their holes can be countersunk further, allowing the screw heads to be more flush.

I updated the website when the weather turned a bit iffy (www.rt3316.com). It needed refreshing as some of it was getting a bit outdated as most of the time it is just the blog and Facebook page that get new content.

Key goals in the coming weeks are to complete the panelling and destination displays and work through the remaining external snagging issues.

21 April 2019

Spring has sprung

Just in time for Easter, the bitter cold wind has finally been forced away, to be replaced by weather that is more like the height of summer. So it’s back to the restoration work, although my motivation has been a bit dampened by the cold snap interlude. Plus the fact that the tasks at the top of my list do not thrill me. First up - revisiting one of the opening windows. This is one of the new ones that I had noticed had an issue. The issue is that with each turn of the handle, it slipped on both ends. That is unusual for a new window, as if it was not put together properly, I would still only expect it to slip on one end. But perhaps I was having a bad day when I put this one together - time to find out. The window was removed from the bus and examined on the bench. It looked as though it was properly fitted and properly tightened. The only thing to do is to remove it and check the cogs and ladders.

I hate it when that happens. Just as the lower pane was being released from the frame, it shattered. Totally unrelated to the issue, but now the problem just got a whole lot worse. With the window now completely out (and a whole bunch of tidying up done), I was able to determine that the original cause of the slipping wasn’t anything to do with the new pan, cogs, ladders or the fitting together of everything. It was actually the handle cog, which is nigh impossible to remove without the right equipment (which I don't have). The handle has a cog behind it which turns against another cog connected to a rod. Those two cogs were where the problem was. Probably a worn tooth on one or the other or both.
The answer was to opt for a backup window mechanism and the last piece of glass that I have. Both were in a terrible state and they were not adjoined. The glass was attached to a faulty mechanism and needed carefully separating from it, significant cleaning and attaching to the other mechanism. All very time consuming, delicate and not exactly easy. The whole process took more than a day, but finally I was able to achieve my goal of a fully functional opening window, which was ,then refitted to the bus. So much pain, but at least there was gain.

Next on the list - the emergency exit. I have two. The one that came on the bus is in a terrible state, so I picked up another, which is better, but still not great. I reluctantly began to assess and partially dismantle it. Who was I kidding? It was clearly going to have to be stripped down to all of its individual components. ‘Not great’ was an understatement. One bottom corner was so badly rusted that most of it had crumbled away and only the bit you could see from the outside survived. There were holes in plenty of other places around the frame and quite a lot of rust. The timber that ran across the top of the window was flaking away in my hands and the whole piece was as light as a feather - a very bad sign. A lot of these emergency exits are actually screwed shut to hide their condition - it is a part that suffers from the elements. It is also a tricky one to repair, as the next three days would confirm for me.

The problem with welding these window pans is that the existing steel has corroded such that even in the good spots, it is thinner than it originally was. Consequently, a lot of holes get blown in them, even on the lowest setting. The only bit to survive in the rotten corner was the curved outer edge. This had to be welded to sone donor steel to complete the outer surface, which can’t afford to have any surface weld. So it’s weld, grind, sand - quite a few times. The recess for the window rubber had to be cut from an old window pan (a regular one) and welded into position, welding up any gaps and ensuring that 1. The depth of the channel remained constant and right for the rubber 2. That the lip to the outer face remained correct, so that the rubber does not sit proud. All of this and I also had to ensure that the pan remained flat and in the right position so that the window would still fit and that the whole thing does not change in size.

The near side edge was completely corroded away and the brass edge trim had been hiding the void. A new piece of steel was added, but the gap will be have filler added as trying to complete this edge by welding will blow away too much of the existing steel. After lots of welds were added and finished off, the whole lot had rust inhibitor applied, which also contains a primer. It was applied liberally in a warm temperature, so that the chemical reaction was assured along with the all important future protection.

A new piece of wood was prepared for the top of the window. This timber has a beautiful aroma, especially when cutting or sanding it. Working outdoors is such a pleasure on warm, dry, sunny days.

The emergency exit window pan was finished off with some filler to cover the imperfections and then treated to some etch primer. The parts then had a nice bake in the sun to cure the paint. I did a bit more on the front dome and fitted the off side panel that wraps around the front corner. The cant piece above the front cab window was etch primed and allowed to cure.

Having taken a look at what I previously posted, I haven’t included that I did some rewiring. The fog light that had stopped working is now working again and it involved rewiring the headlights too and fitting the correct bulbs. The fuse box and starter switch covers were rubbed down whilst I was at it, as they had only been half done.

FaceBook page stats are becoming completely meaningless!

Work continues.

Happy Easter 2019!