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!

13 April 2019

Must be Barking

The blog has been primarily about the restoration and will continue to cover that as it continues, but there was a significant interlude in the form of a major event that the bus attended which should be included.

The RT bus first emerged in 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II. Nearly 7,000 of the type were eventually built and they ran in service with London Transport for 40 years, much longer than expected. On 7th April 1979, the RT finally bowed out to great fanfare at Barking Garage. So in the 80th year of the bus which ran in LT service for 40 years up until 40 years ago, the final day was recreated at Barking Garage. Organized by London Bus Museum, the event attracted nearly 50 RT type buses to Barking and River Road Garages (River Road is about 3 miles to the south of Barking Garage). RT3316 was booked into Barking Garage as part of the internal display.

Saturday 30th March 2019 saw an early start with beautifully blue skies and excellent weather for the time of year, although when setting off it was a little on the cool side.

The route taken was a fairly direct one - A41 (past the old Aldenham Works), A1 Apex Corner, North Circular A406 to A13.

First call though was into River Road. “We’re not stopping long” was responded with “Park over there on your own”. It gave me a chance to see RT1347 (the blue and red one) in person and meet the owner, Michael Gamble. This bus found service with Browns Blue in Leicester after life with London Transport, and is restored in their livery.

Then it was time to set off for Barking Garage. Upon arrival I had to wait for parking allocation as my space had been given away (I wasn't late).

Once parked up, I opened up an onboard restoration exhibition to show stages of the restoration and speak with visitors until my voice had nearly gone. The position of the bus, the lack of a cab door and my consent to permit cab access, meant that it was also highly popular for families with children, allowing the children to sit in the driver’s seat and have their picture taken.

I knew that there was going to be a cavalcade at 4pm and packed everything up in time for it. However, all the stewards had left to go and watch, leaving a cordon in place. The procession left the garage for Barking Town Centre (and return) with 3316 struggling to exit the garage. I did manage to do so and consequently found myself at the rear of a line of 29 RT buses. Coincidental and appropriate that RT1 led and the ‘half a broken bus’ brought up the rear, a place that I was quite content to be. There were some sneers, giggles and photographers who stopped clicking and took the opportunity to review all the snaps of the shiny red buses that they had taken, but to me it felt as though those 28 RTs ahead of me were all MY escort. The only thing that was important was that I was proud of my bus.

The cavalcade slowly crept through Barking causing traffic chaos but a sight never seen before and one that may never be seen again as these buses get so much older. Some will fall by the wayside in the next couple of decades; not this one though.

The instruction was that on the return to the garage, we should not enter, but should disperse. Not sure what to do next, I made a spontaneous decision to head down to Creekmouth, a destination served by RTs further down the road from River Road Garage. It was one of those remote termination points from back in the day and I thought a quick visit there to take some photos was a good idea. It seems that others had the same idea and shortly after arriving, 3316 was joined by 4 other RTs.

I didn’t know at the time, but the other RTs were running the length of the old 62 route. I decided to go the other way on the old 87 route towards Dagenham and destined for Abbey Wood Lane in Rainham. This was another remote termination point for RTs many years ago, at the end of a delightful housing estate. She will return one day when she is finished.

With British Summer Time still hours away, dark fell and it was time to make the journey back around London, arriving back at silly o’clock at the end of a very long, very tiring, very busy but also very enjoyable day.

I added a video compilation of photos on the website here.