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 

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