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.