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.

09 April 2019

Whirlwind catch up

As has been pointed out to me several times, the blog is well overdue for an update. It has been a busy time and something had to give and writing updates was what fell by the wayside. It was busy because of the anniversary at the end of March / beginning of April. 2019 being the 80th Anniversary of this bus type, but also being 40 years since they came out of normal service with London Transport. More about that in another post, but that was what I was working so hard towards.
So here is a quick whirlwind catch-up through a six month period.

To start with, I spruced up the battery bay valance panel. A 5 minute job, not. But very rewarding.

At this point I cleaned out the lower saloon, which had been used to store the seats, to start to prepare for putting the bus back together. Another 5 minute job - not.

Multiple streams of work ensued next, making the new hoop sticks for the roof panels and preparation of windows. Once I had successfully completed a hoop stick, I then proceeded to make the remainder exactly the same. These are a new design of my own making as London Transport used only a hoop stick at the front and rear of a one-piece roof. Trying to make and fit a one piece roof on your own is not practical, so I opted for the RT2 method of framework. The RT2s were a pre-war design and were fundamentally timber framed and construction. I did not want to rely upon wood alone, so I integrated steel brackets of my own design (based loosely upon LT drawings) which were laser cut in 3mm steel (self taught CAD). It took 3 attempts to get them how I wanted them to be, but the final product is spot on.

I also needed to make my own brackets and to make sure that they were sturdy, I made these from angle iron manually cut into the right size and laboriously drilled out. It’s all worth it in the end, despite the fact that they took about 12 hours to make.

A number of the non-standard windows needed repairing. That is a time-consuming job that I never want to have to do ever again. I was told it was the worst part of the restoration and it most certainly was. But eventually, they were all repaired and prepared in etch primer.

The domes needed my attention. Both front and rear domes were badly damaged and not just dented. Enter a new skill of panel beating. I don’t use paint stripper through choice, so like everything else, they needed rubbing down. It seems to take forever, but it’s not actually forever, it just seems that way. I repaired both of them and finished them off once I had fitted them back onto the bus (single handed!). If I had a pound for every time I went up the ladder to do more work upon the front dome, I could probably pay for a good night out. Except that I didn’t have time for any nights out.

Rear dome damage uncovered

Front dome damage uncovered

Time to teach myself panel beating...

It takes about 4 hours to strip a dome

Christmas was spent making a roof framework and then as the bus had been roofless for at least a couple of years, kept smashing my head (front and back) on the new framework. Sometimes you have to learn the hard way, but it took a long time to teach this old dog. But nothing much in the noggin to damage, so no harm done.

Domes on, roof panels on. All done by a team of one, just in time before the wind picked up. I make it sound easy. It wasn't. Did I tell you that I don't like heights?

A setback in the engine bay by a leaking coolant pipe meant that the already prepared components there had to be done again as they were already beginning to rust through the primer. That was something I could have done without and as rust was now about, rust inhibitor needed to be used. So the bonnet, the wing, the front mudguard and the pieces between the driver and the engine all needed to be stripped down again, treated, rubbed down and primed. A huge amount of work that I could have done without.

Destination boxes – they hadn’t been touched and now needed a considerable amount of work too. The mechanisms needed overhauling and I also worked upon the wheel inner skin (sits underneath and deflects water thrown up by the wheel).

Time to do the main windows and the opening ones needed a complete overhaul. You probably need to allow a day per opening window. I had some help, but some of them were completely seized. We managed to refurbish all of them so that they are as good as new. It is a steep learning curve.

By this time I was into March 2019 with just a couple of weeks until the big event at Barking. The wood to fit above the lower saloon windows needed finishing off and fitting. Before the windows could be fitted to the bus, the small bits of wood that they sit on and that support the interior shrouds needed to be fitted and I hadn’t even made them all. So next up was making intricate pieces of wood, working until about midnight most nights.

The front destination display had all new wood made and treated. All the screw holes were pre-drilled, new glass was obtained and new rubber to fit around it. Sealant was added to the bottom edges and with the securing aluminium strips on the inside stripped and prepared, the glass was fitted. The display supports were repaired at their rotten ends (welding) and the front destination display was once again reunited with the bus, but only after all of the display boxes were rubbed down and given a couple of coats of new white paint.
Fitting windows required holes drilling in the new window pans and countersinking those holes. I had another pair of hands but it was yet another laborious task. Another of those '5 minute' jobs.

Fitting the cab side window proved difficult. It appears that the batch of rubber obtained (it is a special type for this window) was slightly oversized. Unfortunately after 3 hours of making the glass get into the window pan, it shattered.
This meant that I had to obtain new glass. Due to the impending deadline, I got 2 pieces made. The new glass did not fit either and had to be ground down by the glass merchants and then took 3 people to get it to fit. Adjustments were needed to the framing to fit the window into the correct position.

With just days to go, electrical wiring issues had to be resolved and the headlights refurbished. By this time the working days had well passed the 12 hour mark every day and the temperature was not great.

Finally I was able to cut and fit some panels. I took advice on setting up a circular saw as a large scale table saw, but it's not a nice job with tiny shards of aluminium fired at you by the blade, so considerable personal protection was needed. 

Anyone who has any criticism regarding the completeness of the bus at this time - I'd like to know what you did in the last six months.