Monday 16 December 2013

Its all about the people

The thing is with old buses, its all about the people and memories they hold which is what is so great. Whether it was a trip out with the grandparents to see the Christmas lights, or a summer excursion, going to school or perhaps working on them, memories abound.

So I was delighted when I received an email from a gentlemen whose father, Bernard Allen had driven a staff bus for London Brick Company in Bedfordshire in the 1950s. A recent visit to a transport museum where an RT was on display had made Bernard reminisce about his time driving LBC's fleet number C3. He even dug out a photo to show the family of him proudly standing by his bus, the registration only partly visible was KGK75?. Well some online research by the family showed that the only KGK75? that was owned by LBC was KGK758, the ex LT RT1499 and to their amazement the vehicle survived and was still in use with us as part of our vintage fleet. 'Would it possible to view it' was the question... The answer was 'we can do better than that' and that he must come for a ride in it and sit back in the cab!

So it was that on our Running Day we scheduled 1499 out early so it could pick up Bernard and his family at Lakeside, including his son who had flown in from Australia especially. On finishing its rounder the bus and its special guests returned to the depot where we assisted Bernard back into the cab of his bus for the first time in over 50 years and where we presented him with an RT bonnet plate proudly displaying the number RT1499 for him to put on the wall at home. 

So here is Bernard with the bus in the 1950s...


Whilst here is the recreated image 50 years on...

The story was picked up by the Bedfordshire press where Bernard commented : “It was a very emotional day, I thought that the bus had been scrapped years ago but she was running beautifully and she was in original condition, she even had the same engine.
“I never thought I would sit behind the wheel again. I am very grateful to Ensign and the Newman family for such a fantastic experience”.

And we here were delighted to welcome Bernard and his family to our depot to be reunited with the bus, like I said to start with, its all about the people and stories.

So whilst I am mentioning people the image below shows one of our unsung heroes of the works here Jason, who was integral to making sure the 10T10 and indeed many other vehicles made it to the road in time, sitting in one of our latest restoration projects that was being moved last week for work to commence. Whilst Jay is great with buses his choice of head dress is notoriously poor....

And lastly, its that time where I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and promise to be more active in putting up posts in 2014. So what better way to end the blog and start the festive season than with a festive image. For me one of the best shots I have seen taken of one of our buses for a long time. Taken by John King and forwarded to us it shows RTL453 on our running day in Gravesend, Kent, enjoy!

Tuesday 10 December 2013

Running Day Part 2- The Buses

Well we nearly made it six out of six new vehicles out, which was meant to comprise of three buses and three coaches, however two of our buses didn't quite make it, as we were forced to move resources over to the 10T10 as the completion of that was slipping and time fast running out. However, late in the day an opportunity came to put another double deck out so we got to five new ones out in the end with only RCL2226 and MD60 having to wait a little longer for their debut. So on any 'normal year' surely a newly restored RTW would be star of the show and it certainly looks well in this shot kindly sent in by Graham Smith of it at Upminster Station having just completed its maiden run.

Perhaps a quick reminder of the condition that it was in as it was first stripped down shortly after having been acquired by us is worth looking at...

It was recovered from France in 2004 by a rather well known and dedicated group but before that it had spent many years in Germany with Hywema who used it to demonstrate their vehicle lifts, and its here a family connection to Ensignbus comes into play as it was delivered to Germany all those years ago by our Chairman here Peter Newman ....And for those who perhaps missed its recovery, Leon's blog takes up the story here

The RTW is a great example of the hassle behind the scenes sometimes, as it had no log book, the dumb iron plate was missing and due to the LT body swap scheme the Leyland plate on it would relate to the card for RTW363 that went to Ceylon many moons ago, hence the original application to get its registration back was refused pending more evidence. This we got with help from the LT Museum and Nick Agnew one of the original group who recovered it along with a number of other individuals who sought out paperwork providing an irrefutable paper trail. Thanks to them all and indeed a very helpful DVLA in Swansea and KXW435 was restored back to her... We then had an issue the day before where no DVLA office wanted to tax it as a bus... but 8 hours later that was overcome and she entered service back in the UK for the first time since disposal in February 1966.

The next new decker was somewhat newer as seen in this image by Russell Young...

 One of the last of the Southend Transport Fleetlines that made up part of the Essex scene for so many years with a number of earlier batches as well as these W reg ones. They ran on many different services as well as normal stage carriage work they would venture onto rial replacement and even X1 commuter runs when vehicle shortages demanded. Following sale from Southend it returned to its old stamping ground in the hands of an independent operator seen below looking very sorry for her self at Leigh Station before passing to Stephensons of Southend who restored her in the earlier blue and cream livery, which as a single door vehicle 233 never ran in, so we put her back to the later version that was also worn by the Southend Routemasters. A gearbox problem and new MOT were needed before she ventured out on Saturday and being completely different and unexpected made a welcome addition.

Tomorrow I will add part 3, looking at a few people and tell a little Christmas tale of how one gentlemen's visit to the Running Day was an emotional visit down memory lane...

Monday 9 December 2013

Running Day Part 1- The coaches

So the 2013 Running Day has passed and all in all I think an excellent day was had by all. The event was larger than ever before and saw us put out the grand total of 22 buses of which five were new vehicles to our fleet. I am intending to do a couple of updates this week as there has been a lot going on but this post will concentrate on the 'newbies'.

So first up is T499 our 10T10 ELP223 that was repatriated from Australia by us. In restoration now for some three years a few months back it became apparent that whilst we could be set with it mechanically, and we could recertify in time we had no chance in getting it finished to the required standard, so what to do. Well the answer was to 'undercoat' it grey and run it to look as an American Red Cross Clubmobile. 55 of the 10T10s went for this purpose, each was named after a US state and they were driven by an LT driver with three American Red Cross girls as the serving crew. They would visit US air bases, army camps and hand out a 'taste of home' by the way of doughnuts, coffee, baseball cards, play US music from the speakers and generally give the GIs a cheer up. Every one of them seems to have worn a slightly different livery all based on the same theme, so we took various aspects that we found recorded on film to create a good likeness. We chose Oklahoma as we sold some of our very first export vehicles there many years ago and are still in touch with the family there, who were chuffed to see we used their state for our vehicle. The serial number is the one that the original Oklahoma would have worn, which was by the way T659 in the LT fleet. In this shot taken by Russell Young on its maiden journey, its drab but interesting colour makes for an interesting shot.

Below as a comparison is a shot of one of the original Clubmobiles that had serving windows, a doughnut machine and bunk beds for the crew in it. This one doesnt carry the white mudguards, whereas others do.

Next up and a huge project and impressive in just such a different way is our ex Southdown Tiger TS7 DUF 179. From 1937 she would have plied her trade from the South Coast to London but the war changed all that. Used for the evacuation of children from the coast our vehicle survived the fate that befell the rest of her sisters in being recruited by the RASC for army service... never to return. Having for many years worn the post war 'swoops' we have turned the clock back to the halcyon pre war coaching days and the pre war livery. In this photo taken by John Lidstone she looks content following completing her fifth rounder...

The last coach that ran excursions for the day was ex East Kent Royal Tiger FFN451. New in the early 1950s with Park Royal body there are more than a few similarities to the RFW class LT ran. The vehicle eats up the miles on the fast roads as this was what they were built for and used to be on the run to Paris, no such distance for it to worry about today leaving Lakeside in this image captured by John Lidstone.

 Tomorrow I will do Part 2, and take a look at the double deckers that took to the streets on Saturday. 

Friday 18 October 2013

The race is on...

So we edge closer to trying to get six vehicles ready for our running day and just a quick update to day to show the progress. First up are the last couple of images I will now show of DUF before roll out as I don't want to ruin the surprise for those attending in December.

She left today for repaint so will now be gone for approx three weeks before returning to us for finishing touches and COIF. Of the six we are looking at this is number 'two' in terms of getting ready so am now pretty confident that avoiding any disasters she will be ready.

Meanwhile what I would class as number 4 in line to be ready the 10T10 is taking shape now quite rapidly. This months progress has seen the rear end come together as well as much of the electrics going in, no doubt that it is still some way behind DUF so whilst numbers 1 & 2 looking good, 4,5 & 6 are clearly far tighter.

The interior is stunning and has the distinct LT flavour to it with the added features that Green Line services demanded. Again probably be my last picture of the interior as the seats are slowly now going in and really do finish it off superbly.

Like I said earlier, only a brief up date today as I will do a few smaller and more regular updates here as a few projects near completion. Whilst some of our 'new' vehicles will be known to you, other perhaps won't and I know a lot of people don't want to know and like to see the finished item, and indeed we kind of enjoy the whole 'surprise bus' thing and have got pretty good at it.

So as a half measure to satisfy everyone, the current status is:
Bus 1 is certified and freshly painted, just needing minor detailing.
Bus 2 DUF away being painted
Bus 3 Largely ready but unable to be COIF'ed until DVLA sort out new log book....
Bus 4 The 10T10, furious work being undertaken to get it set
Bus 5 With the departure of DUF we move onto this and hopefully can make it
Bus 6 Not with us and being worked on, we hope timescales will be met.

That's it for now


Wednesday 11 September 2013

Into Autumn- The countdown to running day starts here....

Apologies for the delay in updating but the summer has been a very busy one with more rail, private hire and vintage work than we had ever had. On some days there was up to 25 vintage vehicles out on a single day which was record breaking stuff for our fleet. 

However we now start the work in earnest of getting ready for our annual running day this year taking place on December 7. It is always our intention to try and debut at least one vehicle on our running day although last year I think we ended up with around five not seen before with us, well this year we are attempting to put six completed projects back on the road but the planning to finish, re-certify, paint, check drivers out on, make blinds for etc etc mean that to make it all happen takes months of planning behind the scenes before hand for it to all come together. I know some people like the surprise so I won't list the six here or indeed update all their progress so will in this update stick to two major projects that are inching their way towards completion. First up is DUF179, a 1937 Harrington bodied Leyland TS7 originally new to Southdown.

 As can be seen massive strides have been made with 95% of the body work complete, the radiator and water system all back in, including the long since disconnected heating system being repaired. And of course whilst doing the heating we also reinstated the air conditioning... In this case its a sliding roof controlled by way of a manually operated handle in the cab. Clearly for years this has been sealed closed but is now a wonderful feature and when back out in the daylight I will take some shots of it as we are trying to stop anymore dust settling inside at the moment and thus a photo of a closed roof would not be of great interest I suspect.

 The rear end is also now largely complete. We have had to reframe most of the offside and rear as its days used for towing trolley buses about had pulled and warped pillars in all kinds of ways, in fact the framework of the rear seat was in a terrible condition and warped to the point of near collapse but all is well again now. The rear lights used to have a much later add on of caravan type lights and we have restored back the style that is shown on some of the post war drawings we were supplied with, which added to some modern lights will certainly make for a safe, bright and yet traditional looking rear end. All things being equal she should be going for paint in early October and will allow us to finish the wiring and reinstate most of the interior.

 Meanwhile one of the 'star' vehicles we have coming along is the 10T10. I drove it on a maiden short journey in early August on a private estate where we were checking gears were all good. After fixing the issue with second we were able to test a little more each circuit and she performed very well. That said with no cab seat and no foot brake it was not the most comfortable drive I have ever done but probably one of the most satisfying. New brake cylinders have gone on, and a problem with the master cylinder put us back a bit but a reconditioned one has now gone on, the cab seat is due to go back next week so I am hopeful the next test drive will be a little more orthodox!

 For me though the interior of the T is just superb... There are so many tiny details we have uncovered along the way that we have faithfully recreated that the appearance now really is like stepping back in time to when these were delivered. For example the ceiling is rexine covered, but not just plain rexine it was hand stitched with a diamond pattern that we have recreated and matched. The floor was green vinyl, the luggage racks again covered in rexine, and even the window rubber was made in green so that flaking paint was not an ugly later problem had they just painted the black window rubber green, all of these details we have recreated and I think the final effect when the seats, covered in the correct fabric go in next month.

So attention has now been turned towards the roof. The panels are now all going back in, the destination gear is being fitted, the emergency exit is back in and the distinctive rear end is really taking shape. The only problem is time here, its really tight for running day and the worst case may be that it just takes a display role in December as painting to the livery and standard we want to achieve may be beyond the timescales we have left... Although I have one cunning plan that may see us do something completely different...

I am also told now that comments have been restored to these blogs but have no idea if indeed that is the case until I press the submit button, if so please feel free to post any questions, ideas or suggestions or anything you would like to see added to future updates so I can try to put up what people would be interested in seeing.

Cheers for now

Thursday 6 June 2013

May Update

Well for reasons best known to people clever than I, I have been unable to log on for a while but all issues now resolved so time to catch up a little...

Lets start with the 10T10...

Very late May saw her run up for the first time. She sounded great but required a few leaks solved, these were done and the next longer run up saw the start of the search for gears. None were forthcoming but the problem was diagnosed.... So third time lucky saw her run up, and then drive! No cab seat meant it was a bit of 'dance' and no second gear to start with gave us cause for concern but Jason, one of the resident vintage genuises, tweaked the settings and second was there. So a quick run up through the gears up and down was enough for 'day one' and she was returned to the shed, where a few other leaks can be dealt with and work now started in earnest on the braking system. This will be a stunner when its finished....

Staying with single deck, green half cabs, the Southdown TS7 continues its progress...

As can be seen she is back on her 'feet', the brakes are done, all the winding windows are back in and the interior has started to be put back. Next the radiator and front end will be finished so we can start testing some of the systems and get her ready for a proper road test prior to painting. There is not going to be a huge difference in finishing time for these two classics.

Meanwhile the Cub continues to have finishing touches completed and small issues ironed out that being out and about have highlighted. Something we have long wanted to do is reinstate the air-powered door that these had, which was something that we could not get set up quite right so it has until now been manual. However, we now have the motor in place and its balanced well and operating as it should, even utilising the original switch on the dashboard. It now needs 'boxing' up and this last 'big job' is done and the Cub becomes ever more complete.

In amongst these jobs of course all the routine maintenance and MOT's still go on, such as a new test on our latest open top 2203 which joined the fleet in time for Derby Day and was featured being worked on a few months ago. More however on that later...

Cheers for now


Cub goes back to work!

Leyland Cub C4

For the first time since the early 1950's, Leyland Cub C4 was on revenue-earning duty in London this time at the Chelsea Flower Show in May.

Show sponsors, M&G Investments, were looking for something eye-catching as a principal attraction for the show and they chose C4 to meet that need.

The bus windows were vinyl-wrapped with M&G publicity and the bus was to be seen around the show throughout the week.

On the first day, C4 was inside the grounds of the Royal Hospital for Press Day and really did cause a stir. Many visitors were impressed with the vehicle and expressed their delight at seeing her. Many others came aboard to admire the quality of restoration and some to reminisce. One gentleman recalled travelling to school on a Cub. His mother took him to school at the age of 5 for the first day and from then onwards, he was expected to manage the journey on his own! As C4 operated in the southern Country Area of London Transport, there is a strong possibility that he actually travelled on our bus. He alighted completely entranced and its events such as these that always remind us that personal stories are one of the reasons the vehicles are so special.

For the remainder of the week, C4 made occasional journeys into the City of London to provide transport for M&G staff and then spent most of the remaining time travelling around the Sloane Square area providing mobile publicity for the show or parked up near the Royal Hospital to allow the public to admire the vehicle. 

 So many appreciative comments were passed that it was impossible to keep count and at one point she was rather closely 'guarded'!

 Whilst the interior was seen as being hypnotic...

Thursday 28 February 2013

February Update

For a change thought we may start with a few Routemasters... In two of the three restoration bays currently are RM family vehicles, with 2203 being the open top that is being readied for the summer season and is being tidied up, having the awful cream interior repainted burgundy and has been converted from half top to open top. We have also removed the original type RMC/RCL doors that were fitted as they have been transplanted onto the vehicle next door to her.

RCL2226 has not operated as a bus for many, many years. It's last work was as a on location meal break vehicle for the crews and extras of TV and film work. With the interior largely gutted it has taken some time to acquire all the bits we needed but we are there now and the doors and rear end are being tackled first, although much of the interior is now already finished.

One of the reasons that we are preparing the two RM's for fleet use is purely the current and forward looking amount of work we have on. Some days in the summer will see up to 27 vintage buses out which is a record for us, so we need a couple of additional motors. One such job, in what seems like one of the only sunny days we have had in the month saw eight Routemaster family and two RT's head out. Seen here preparing for departure makes for a pleasing spectacle.

Now the reframing is complete DUF is moving along quite fast, which it needs to as it has work booked in June. Nothing like a deadline to focus attention we find. The paneling is now largely complete, wiring is going back in, the brakes have all been checked over and relined where necessary. The original sliding roof is being put back and all the runners and mechanisms have been made and fitted. The cab has been completed and the front mudguard is now back on having needed some serious repairs.

Meanwhile the rear end, luggage bay and entrance have also been completed. Whilst there is always a compromise between originality and modern requirements we try to blend the two as well as we can. Indicators is a classic example and whilst clearly an absolute necessity these days something brighter and safer yet more subtle is what we try to achieve. In this case we have removed the 'caravan' type modern rear lights that DUF had fitted in preservation and returned to a much earlier type rear end display. However all the rear end lights will be powered by extra bright LED's so whilst subtle looking they will be far safer in the dark and poor weather than what was there, so hopefully a win-win situation.

Offsite, the 10T10 continues to make staggering progress, whilst here at PT, our little Cub did her first job earlier this week now that we have completed 95% of the detail. All in all a busy period as always.