Monday 3 November 2014

October update

It's been a really busy month. There was a time when we used to get to the Autumn breathe a sigh of relief and start pulling vehicles off for the winter as it quietened down. Not so now, as the season and particularly wedding season work is still very busy with some Saturdays seeing us having up to 13 vintage buses out per day. What is especially nice to see is that some of more unusual vehicles are all getting outings now and our biggest increase this year has been on our vintage single deck market.

 One of the single decks that has proven to be a big success this year is the 10T10 now its restored in green. It has been especially useful as DUF179 has had to have its engine removed and new parts made as it had a slight knock on it and we would always rather cure something at an early stage than run it into the ground and despite our best efforts to find the parts we failed, so we have had to make. Anyway I digress, the 10T10 was up with the BBC earlier in the month for the One Show who did a piece on Showbus and the OAP pass scheme and rather splendid it looked to. I have to confess to having a real soft spot for this vehicle, perhaps because its such a joy to drive.

 The last major event in Transport for London's Year of the Bus Event was the operation of RT family type vehicles on Central London route 11. The 11s was known for being an RTW and thus Leyland route so we went out of our way to get all our Leylands out for the day. So not only did RTL453 and RTW335 go out to play but less seen RTL1014 also joined the proceedings. This RTL was sold from fledgling Ensignbus to Unitrans in California way back in the 1960s and when Californian regs meant the bus could no longer operate there it was offered back to Ensignbus, and we gladly brought her home. Restored with her USA lights, reg and UNITRANS logos seen here in a photo by Malcolm Conway experiencing anything but Californian weather!

 Meanwhile the Daimler moves on to final completion but sadly it appears the corrosion around the cab and more reframing than we had originally envisaged mean it wont make our running day this year, which is a great shame as it will be so very close. However, an early decision to not rush it means that we can concentrate on getting some other vehicles ready that perhaps not many will be expecting...

The image above gives you an idea of some of the additional work we have had to undertake but the finished item is going to be a real treat when finished in the Southend blue & cream of the old Southend Corporation 

Lastly September saw Showbus and our very own MD60 win the Shillibeer Award for Best in Show. The team here were delighted to win such a prestigious award and Paul Almeroth who has spent years waiting to see this back on the road and who has been fastidious in getting the detail correct was perhaps the happiest man in Cambridgeshire that weekend!

And talking of awards on November 5 its the RouteOne Awards where Ensign are up for Best Medium Sized Operator and then in mid November its the UK Bus Awards where not only is the company up for Best Independent Operator but also our Engineering Manager Jason Jackson is up in the Best Engineer category. For all he does in not only keeping a modern service fleet on the road but also all our vintage buses working and running safely we are all crossing our fingers his skills will be rewarded.

Cheers for now

Tuesday 9 September 2014

August-Sept Update

No its not my new garden shed, but is in fact the framing for the rear end and platform area of the rebodied Massey utility Damiler. Behind on the bench can be seen the emergency exit area being restored as this had suffered badly from rot and was about to fall apart. Below shows how its all fitted together giving the bus its shape and rear end back!

The next part will be laying the platform floorboards to give the guys an easy place to stand and work from before then tackling the inner panels and staircase. Whilst the rear end of this vehicle was in a poor state working forwards it gets better and a complete reframing is unnecessary, which makes a pleasant change from some of our recent projects. Possible for the December running day...? Who knows, that will largely depend on what else we find from here on but that is certainly our target at present...

Its not always major work, we also have to maintain and improve the current fleet which does take up an enormous amount of time and effort. RM371 lost its front destination gear when working as a sightseeing bus in Edinburgh and initially we were not sure if an open top RM would prove popular in our fleet so didn't reinstate it immediately. Ever since we have regretted that decision but it's always been to busy to pull in and get it done so has suffered on looking a little 'heavy' and ugly with a blank red panel on the front. A few weeks ago we reinstated all the mechanisms behind the panel and having a short gap between jobs last week we managed to get the front panel in, glazed and blinds fitted, which now makes the vehicle look far nicer.

Behind is RT1431 having some TLC on various bits, such as the cab seat and interior fittings. I hope she will also go for repaint as a troll through the records shows it was nearly 10 years ago she was last repainted. This is well over our normal timescale but as she looked well its been 'missed' by us but we will rectify that shortly now as the busiest part of the year for hires just starts to slip behind us.


Thursday 7 August 2014


 Well its always a pleasure when a long term project is completed and turns out as you hoped it would. In this case Metropolitan Scania MD60. Although much maligned in service they are very impressive vehicles and the links between the DMS and the later Metrobuses are everywhere you look inside. Sadly we just missed getting it on show at RM60 and a shortage of test dates now as we approach the new school term and no fixed event we are aiming for means its public debut has been delayed a little.
 The iconic old 'Dunlop' bridge at Silverstone made a great back drop for some of our fleet that were at the iconic circuit operating a shuttle service at the Silverstone Classic event. Over the course of the long weekend the vehicles carried thousands of people, with the fine weather the open tops were particularly popular, it all made for a great weekend!
 Our latest acquisition is this superb 1931 TD2 that was new to Jersey Motor Transport as J6332. She served on the island, including through the occupation until 1960 when she was purchased by the renowned collector the late Michael Banfield who oversaw its restoration in 1963-64. The vehicle remains in fantastic original condition but is just tiring and needs some work to put it back into concourse condition. There is however an issue with the Jersey registration which we are of course desperate to keep with the bus and which we are hoping can be resolved quickly as once that is done we would commence work on her.
Lastly, no it is not a garage door but is the reframed rear end, platform and rear emergency exit for the ex London/Southend Daimler preparing to be refitted to the bus. The whole rear end was in poor shape and is without doubt the worst part of the vehicle so the refitting of this area will be a huge leap forwards for the project and one that I can hopefully update the blog on next month.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Now Available in Green

T499 completed its metamorphosis from American Red Cross grey into the three tone green livery of the pre war Green Line coach fleet. We pulled out all the stops to have her ready for her first trip out in the new colours and indeed her first trip into central London since 1954 to attend the Year of the Bus Cavalcade and display in Regent Street last Sunday. Here she is looking in resplendent on Lambeth Palace Road in a photo by Peter Zabek, prior to setting off in the first tranche of buses on the road run to Regent Street

I'm pleased to report she performed as well as she looks and she now moves onto being an exciting new addition to our private hire fleet.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Projects finish, projects start

 So after a good long while in the restoration bay, having been acquired as an on location cafe RCL2226 has finally been finished and joins the private hire fleet. It was new in May 1965 and having first been stored at nearby Grays depot it then worked from Reigate and Godstone before finding itself in a scrapyard in Yorkshire by March 1979. Saved from oblivion by London Transports needs for some extra Routemasters she was put back to work in the capital for a further five years before being sold and converted to a cafe. Acquired by us, once again from a scrap yard in 2006, she has been an 'on/off' project but the need for an extra Routemaster for summer work saw the final push take place.

 So with the RCL out of her long term bay, there was a gap for something else. So in went 1944 built utility Daimler D27. Originally delivered to LT in 1944 she entered service at Merton, where she operated until withdrawn in 1952. The utility bodies were only built for short life spans but the chassis were still good, so a number of this batch were bought by Southend Transport who rebodied them with Massey's very distinctive bodies in 1953. They gave good service with 'The Corporation' until 1962 when this one was sold to Essex Police and used as a safety demonstration unit. By the early 1970s it had entered preservation but in recent times had fallen into a deteriorating condition and was acquired by us in November 2011. Whilst the body is generally pretty good, the rear end and staircase is completely rotten and is being stripped back as can be seen from this image.

 So another favourite is T499 which for our running day operated in the temporary American Red Cross livery. Well there is a lot of difference between the finish of a wartime look and a pre war coach so much needed doing including the addition of the brackets for the route running boards which as can be seen from this image were just going on at the time. However, this image is a few weeks old and...
 ... now she is back with us in pre war Green Line livery. Now I won't ruin the surprise as she is intended to debut at this Sundays Year of the Bus Cavalcade and display in Regent Street, but this image gives you a sneak preview... 
 And as the T came back from paint, another long term project departed for paint. MD60 is now running well, a number of electrical problems had been found and identified and are now all resolved and she made the 15 mile journey to the paint shop without any issues. The vehicle is an impressive piece of kit and I am sure will be a welcome addition to the preservation scene and will bring back memories for all those who remember these beasts in service.

Of course part and parcel of running such a fleet is the constant tidying up, repairing, replacing and repainting of vehicles. With the Year of the Bus event this weekend we are tidying up various bits and pieces. RT3232 got touched by a van on the very last tube strike day, so that was repaired, RF319 has needed a new exhaust system, whilst three RMs have just gone through MOT. We also have just done an inspection on our latest acquistion which is our oldest double deck to date in the fleet but which does require some fairly significant 'freshening up' but I will add something on that next month...


Monday 12 May 2014

May 2014

 So April 29/30 saw another 48 hour tube strike and Ensign was the contractor used to provide extra vehicles from outside of the normal TfL operators. So not only were modern vehicles from all over the country sourced but suitable vintage buses also re-entered service on routes 2, 8, 25, 29, 38 and 205 to name but a few. One of the vehicles from our fleet that hasn't been seen out as much as some is RT3251. Originally one of the Green Line coach batch based at Romford she was a garage-mate to our 3232 and would have felt very much at home running through East London on route 15 from Blackwall to Trafalgar Sq as seen in this shot by graham Smith heading Eastbound.
 Two projects now in the home straight are MD60 and RCL2226. The MD is being made road legal to be all set for painting, hopefully later this week before returning to us for fitting of windows, seats and details. Very few of these impressive vehicles today survive and whilst perhaps not everyone's cup of tea they are part of the story of London's buses and thus well worthy of being preserved. The RCL is now internally finished and is undergoing mechanical checks prior to being tested, I will do a bit more on her next posting and its been a long project now and she is somewhat the forgotten project here.
 Another being readied for paint is T499. The ARC livery is being removed and the sins it covered up are being sorted out so that next time it is publicly seen it will be concourse condition and a very handsome looking vehicle. Amongst the jobs being done are the route boards for the side and if you look carefully you can see the brackets being fitted in readiness for them.
 But its not all major restorations. As the main part of the hire season kicks off freshening and gradually turning the clock back on Routemasters that have had various types of refurbishments done on them is something we are constantly doing throughout the winter. The last RM this year to undergo it is RM25 as can be seen here. Part of the work sees the yellow poles stripped, seat frames stripped and painted, platform area stripped and back to burgundy rather than red, rexine inserts to the 'advert' boards, varnishing of floors and then retrimmed in original moquette. That will be finished shortly now as this photo is a couple of weeks ago now and the retrim wasn't completed in time for rail strikes, so will get some shots of the finished item.
And talking of finished Routemaster interiors here is RCL2226. When we recovered this bus from a scrap yard in Surrey the interior had been gutted and it was used as a cafe. Since then we have put it back to RCL spec and included luggage racks, RCL trim, deep seated cushions and the original style Green Line lighting. Not the greatest of pictures but I think you get the idea.

Until next month...


Thursday 24 April 2014

Spring is in the air

 Well the last of our fleet buses are having their final 'spring cleans' before the main private hire season kicks off. Over the winter numerous vehicles have had floors varnished, wheels painted etc. One vehicle that has had more done is RM25 which has been stripped down to start the gradual retro look by losing the yellow poles, repainting the platform area and then being retrimmed in old style RM moquette (although it will re-enter service in blue/grey as we are still awaiting delivery of the last of the moquette!).

 Whilst we are on RM interiors, RCL2226 is now just about complete. Its been a long job this as the conversion to film location cafe had seen a lot of the wiring removed and holes cut in various places you didn't want it to have been cut. With all the other jobs going on the RCL is often the one we 'pull off' of. A new compressor has just gone in as well as all the electrics and powered doors, its at the point now where systems are being checked and ironed out, hopefully the next 14 days or so should see a road test and then its MOT time and into the fleet for the summer.

 Another new entry for the summer will be MD60. A long term restoration project that we are now completing here having had much done in Blackpool. We are readying her for paint now with windscreens, wipers and lights all going in to make it road legal, the remaining windows we will leave out for paint to get a better finish. There are some detailed bits that we are redoing to ensure the finish is as accurate as it can be for these rather splendid albeit much maligned at the time vehicles.
The 10T10 appears to have gone backwards but that is sometimes the way with these things to get them finished properly. Now we don't have the running day deadline we can finish it to the standard the vehicle deserves. So as well as the bodywork now being flattened, straightened and prepared for painting, the hooks for the route running boards are being added, some interior trims remade to fit better as well as the bonnet and wings areas being adjusted to fit as they should. Whilst some of this wartime 'shabbiness' worked for the ARC livery, 1930s Green Line would not have accepted it as such! We plan for her to debut at the year of the bus event in Regent Street on June 22, so all things being equal if you are going you will be the firts to see her in the 1938 Green Line livery.

Other jobs we have been on is replacing the engine on the Leeds PD, which sadly suffered a partial seizure but a reconditioning of the original has taken place and is due to be road tested next week.

RT8 spent a fortnight in Hull, which is why it didn't join the RT75 celebrations. It was there for filming for a forthcoming movie. The BBC covered the transformation of Hulls streets to wartime London with some footgae of 8 poodling about here

Lastly we did a major 'refreshing' on RTW467 which entered service back on RT75 22's looking splendid. So all in all a busy period, and with more tube strikes threatened for next week and the week after we are busy preparing many of them to go out and help Londoners get to work or out and about.

Cheers for now

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Back into service

This months tube strike saw the need to put lots of extras out on to London's bus network to enhance the service in areas where the tube would not be working. Special dispensation was given to put vintage vehicles into service as well for the duration of the strikes to help cope with the demand. Ensign was the main contractor for this and were looking after extras on the 25/29/38/91 and 257 routes. The 25/29 and 38 were the routes that got the heritage buses, with the 38 getting RM/RML and RT, the 25 RT/Metrobus/FleetlinePD3 and the 29s RM and RT.

The weather was foul for most of both days, so we are grateful for the photographers who recorded the day and kindly shared their images with us.

RT3232 was new to Romford for the Green Line services that ran into Aldgate, there cannot be many buses that 64 years later are covering the same piece of road in regular all day service. The vintage vehicles were working shorts from Stratford to Holborn and is seen here in a photo by Graham Smith being passed by a Wrights bodied Gemini a regular on the 25s today.

Also on the 25s was RTL453 seen here in Richard Godfrey's shot at Stratford with one of our articulated Volvos also on the 25s in the background. The 25s was one of the busiest routes and at peak times the extra capacity was a welcome and necessary addition.

Another of Richard's photos shows RT4421 pulling away with a good load also on the 25s.

And for something completely different how about Haydn Davies' shot of the ex Southend Fleetline also on the 25s. These vehicles were sometimes used on the X1 service running Southend to London when their were vehicle shortages or ironically train strikes meaning extra capacity was required, so another vehicle that would have plied its trade into Aldgate!

As we are still a little busy out with emergency rail due to flooding and landslips I will endeavour to try and get some more restoration update pictures next week.


Thursday 23 January 2014

A wet start to 2014

So a Happy New Year to one and all and boy has it been a wet one! Which kind of brings me onto my first picture which shows the Christmas weather at its 'finest' and one of the vintage vehicles out working on an emergency rail replacement just before Christmas Eve. We had so many vehicles out all over the place covering various problems that a few of the vintage fleet joined in. As you can see behind it is the ex Southend Fleetline, which must have felt very at home seen here at Southend Victoria Station.

Meanwhile one of the biggest problems in keeping the vehicles on the road and looking well is of course parts. In recent times the Doverite that spirals up and covers areas of the poles and grab rails on London buses has become ever harder to find so we set about looking to see what we could. After some conversations we tracked down one of the machines in Northampton that was used for curling it into shape, although it had no motors and no heat source but we brought it back to Purfleet where its mysteries were gradually worked out. Having fitted a motor, added a heat source it produces excellent results and our Routemasters and RTs are now gradually being refitted where necessary with a new supply. Here's a photo of the machine now fitted to a frame and up and running. Once we have played around a little bit more and perfected the procedure it will be our intention to make it generally available as I am sure other owners are facing a similar shortage.

OK I am going to leave it there as the first post of 2014.