Thursday 29 December 2016

And the end of another year!

 And so as the year comes to an end we have our final hurrah with our Running Day and as always we do our best to time completion of major projects to allow them to debut at the event. After some two years of restoration pre war Bedford WTB EYE599 hit the road. We used it for local tours around Lakeside to bed it in as it had not run for over 50 years in service and thus the long routes we cover are not ideally suited for a gentle reintroduction into service. By PM she was struggling a bit with a distributor issue and was thus limped home to be on the safe side but is seen here returning to Lakeside bus station in a photo taken by John Lidstone.
 The vehicle has an interesting local history, hence our desire to save it. It was new to Underwoods of Orsett, who as local landowners used it for trips out for staff amongst other things. During the summer it would often be hired out to Harris of Grays. Initially delivered in a green and cream livery, it went to the RAF in 1939 for the duration of the war. It was said it served at Hornchurch which was a Battle of Britain fighter station and then in Norfolk at a bomber base as the tide of war turned. Many bomber bases had small coaches that were used to pick and drop off servicemen at the station when going on leaver or coming back as well as dropping crews off at the bombers before missions. Sadly we have no pictures of its military service but perhaps one day one will turn up.
 The interior finish is spectacular. The moquette pattern was specially commissioned based on a small section of the original we had. The roof lining the same and all the art deco wood pattern on the sliding roof is the original stuff restored. As to the exterior livery, well I guess thats where we as an operator perhaps differ from enthusiasts as whilst we also would have liked to use the Underwoods livery, the grey, dull green and dark blue would have meant bookings would have been very thin on the ground, so we went for a more attractive red and cream. We did however use an Ensign logo based on the design used by Underwoods all those years ago.
 Another major project, that whilst not complete we readied for the running day was J6332 or 6332J as we have managed to have it licensed as on the UK regsiter. The engine is away still being reconditioned and thus out of our control as to when exactly its ready, so she was towed to Lakeside for static viewing and will have to wait until 2017 before becoming an active member of the fleet. 
 And as the Jersey TD moved from Lakeside we brought down a left hand drive vehicle that could then load on the 'wrong side' where the Jersey had been. Yes our MCI MC9 had been repainted in the 'Pepsi Cola' Greyhound livery of the 1980s. Being only on a Class 5 it offered members of the public some free tours around the area as seen here in Grays in an image taken by Russell Young. It wears the UK plate YYR832, the 'Yankee-Yankee-Romeo' prefix being the best we could do for its heritage and an Oklahoma and California plate also showing its UK identity complete the image.
And lastly, whilst we await the TDs engine its time to start a project that initially we condemned as being to bad but had a rethink and decided to bite the bullet and do. BDJ807 was a London type RT built for St Helens Transport before later being sold to independent operator Harpers Buses of Heath Hayes Staffordshire. Its in a pretty poor state as can be seen from this first image with sides being removed to view the extent of the decay. This is another quandary for final finish much like the Underwoods Bedford. Clearly we want to keep the Harpers later fetaures such as the doors and lighting as to remove them would be to remove a big part of the vehicles history, but the exterior livery of Harpers, the rather washed out green, would mean the vehicle would likely see little use, so perhaps the St Helens livery keeping the Harpers features means a nicer looking vehicle that is only ever a lick of paint away from being depicted as eiher operator is the compromise to make. Who knows but as we are some-way-away from having to worry about that we have plenty of time to consider the options...

So thats it for 2016 and chance for me to wish everyone out there a happy new year from all at Ensignbus.


Wednesday 16 November 2016

Getting ready for Running Day 2016

Its always frantic before running day as we like to try and get out the best of the fleet to offer lots of variety and provide something for everyone. Of course to get things ready takes a lot of planning and some things being worked on off site are beyond our control. One such vehicle this year is the Cub, which suffered a major engine failure on its way to the London Live event back in the summer. The engine has been out and being worked on for some time now but whether its back in time remains to be seen and we can only hope and cross our fingers...

 Another vehicle we wanted to get out this year was RTL1014 so in readiness it was inspected mechanically as well as the body. The mechanical side was good but sadly the offside of the body work is not safe and the extent of the work is to great for us to complete in the timescales we have as can be seen from these images.
 As with any such job you end up having to chase the rot forwards to find somewhere that's still solid before you can repair and clearly next pillar isn't! As you can see the horizontal strengthener has completely rotted away and thus ever more strain is put on the pillar and other strengtheners which will lead to other collapses, hence the fact the vehicle was condemned from the operational fleet until extensive restoration can be carried out. On the plus side this means 1014 will get some proper attention in the new year.

 But then onto more positive news... Of course to get new things out for running day takes a lot of planning as any major restoration takes years to complete and needs to be within sight of the finishing line in the summer so that resources can be scheduled to get things ready that can be finished in time and not 'wasted' on projects that realistically cant be done. Now I know lots of people like surprises so I wont show pictures of the full bus or indeed the spectacular interior but as a taster the image above gives you a feel. The only other time this vehicle featured on this blog was when we collected it in my December 2013 post... Its changed a lot since then...

 And then back to my last post about the livery on the Jersey vehicle and the quest of finding the line out colours and original green Jersey wore on their early 30s livery. Well the image above shows the one piece of line out we found of the cream. To be honest its all we needed as it gave us the colour (some thought it may be gold) the width and the exact placement. The image below gives a sneak preview but again I won't ruin it for running day but will add the caveat that she almost certainly wont make it into service for running day as per the Cub she is waiting for external contractor to finish some engine work, but if everything else goes according to plan we hope to have her visible as a static.
Other defects this month include 2588s B frame, 1513 fuel pump, RT8 steering box, all of which are now getting attention.

To those of you coming down for the Running Day look forward to seeing you on December 3, where not only the vehicles covered in this post will appear but also some guest vehicles and one of our own that has recently changed colour....

Friday 16 September 2016

Summer passes to Autumn

 So first up and popular request is the latest vehicle to join the fleet! It is of course an iconic US Greyhound coach, to be more precise it is an MC-9, the type built between 1978 and 1990. Ours came out of the factory in Pembina, North Dakota in 1982 and was destined to spend most of its life based in the southern states of the USA. It was new to Kerville Bus Service in Kerville, Texas which was a subsidiary of Greyhound. From there some years later it passed to Herrera Coaches of Alburquerque, New Mexico. Its next operator was Kraft Tours in Tulsa, Oklahoma where it gained the fleet number 478 and worked as a touring coach until withdrawal early in 2016.
 The reason for acquiring it was the additional film work we have been doing and its first job was soon after it landed and had been been MOT'ed. Of course the Metropolis name is fictitious and is the home of various super heroes and in whose livery it then worked. Because the of the door arrangement the bus is not on a class 6 MOT and thus is very much restricted to what it can do work wise but in the case of most of the US type films they are all on private studio property. All things being equal it should be in a different livery again by the December running day....

 So as always a take a look at the work that is done to keep the old girls running. Our recent engine jinx continues this time the Cub. A piston shattered on its way to the London Live event which has meant the engine is now away being looked at to see what can be done to fix. Hopefully we will know more shortly and for can update the situation on the next blog post.

 And sick engines also mean the Jersey TD, which is now away being painted, yes it was towed down as we are now at the point if we don't crack on with it we will lose any chance to have it ready for running day. The problem we have is that we want to paint it before putting windows back in, the windows need to go back in before the interior trim can go back and all that needs to happen before the seats go back. Hence the need now to get it painted and back so interior work can continue. Even whilst its away though we continue to work on her as can be seen here with the seats being refurbished and any split wood being replaced. This restoration is going to come down to the engine being returned and ready to go back in as to whether it takes to the road in December...
And talking of Jersey and painting and further to the last archaeology post, the one thing we were missing was a section of the lining that went on the green. The question was the colour of it, gold or white... Well we found one section hidden behind the gravity tank on the original darker green was some 3mm of it surviving. So with all that we have found on the bus tied in with images of J6332 when new we now have all the colours and layouts as she would have been in 1932. Clearly it will be somewhat different to the later and better known JMT livery of olive green and cream, so will doubtless raise a few eyebrows but personally I think its going to look wonderful.

Its back here next week, so sneak preview or nothing until its finished...???

Cheers or now

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Time for some Bus Archaeology!

 You reach a point in a restoration where you have to start looking at the end finish you want to achieve and of course livery and layout are perhaps two of the most important things to consider. This becomes harder when the project in question is over 80 years old and no colour shots of it when new are likely to exist so you have to work off what you can. Below is a photograph of our Jeresy TD2 taken when new at Leylands. A very good quality print for the day but of course in black & white but what do we see that can help.

So we want to put it back to its as new livery so what do we need to consider. Firstly the JMT letters are clearly far further spread apart than they are later in life with each letter on its own panel. Next the livery is 'lined out' note the thin darker lines in the white where the colours meet and the thin lighter line in the dark. Next though is the colours... Now whilst B&W pictures can be notoriously hard to work from a quick glance at this image compared to later post war images seem to show it the green is much darker, the what we would expect to be 'cream' is actually an off white, and look at that mud guard... looks black, or is it an even darker green?

 Its always a brave man who will paint a bus in a well known companies livery but not to do it in what are the 'accepted' colours, we are no different to that and wouldn't go for any old dark green on the basis of one B&W picture, so we are start looking to see if the archaeology of the bus can be tied back to period images. In the shot above, looking in at the platform we found the fifth, or actually first time the fleet number was painted on was on a far darker green. You can see the difference in shaded clearly. As the bus has only been owned by ourselves Michael Banfield (who restored it once in 1961) and JMT it cant be under five layers of paint an enthusiasts version, it has to be an early part of the buses story, but enough for us to base the whole livery on?
 Next we went hunting for the line out stripes. No sign at all on the near side but a photo we found in Michael's file explains why as the whole side was repanelled in 1961, so the offiside was where to look. Lo and behold exactly where it should be the line outs were visible. They were a little battered from various rub downs but on this one we can be sure they were in green This far we haven't found the light line out on the green, but this has to be most likely cream or just possibly gold....

 Above is the livery that everyone thinks of with JMT but should it be darker for when the bus is new is our dilemma...

 We then moved to the front, looking for the line out again around the bonnet that wasn't re-skinned in the 60s. After the various fleet numbers were gone through we go to the last two. One was on the darker green we had found at the back, whilst the other in gold font was on a burgundy! Far more Portsmouth than Jersey! A spare part, a change of buyer for the bus, anyone fancy explaining this away as no sign of it anywhere else so not an undercoat or protective layer?

 But they need to run so engines need to work. The crack in the block has been resolved but sadly putting it back together showed the shells were cracking up and would without doubt lead to a spectacular failure down the line. So its engine apart again and back to the drawing board....

 Meanwhile other work goes on as the fleet gets busier and busier. The Leeds PD was found to be suffering from corrosion in the front mud guard so she has been released from active service to get the repairs done. Should all be finished tomorrow and then back to the weddings at the weekend for the old girl!

 And finally some successes! The MW has been off the road with a major engine problem. The engine has twice been away and twice come back out again. Finally when we though we were set a number of the ancillary units could not be reused and had to be remade. Fellow MW owners Ian and David came to our rescue here and supplied some parts we needed to copy and to them our thanks go as without their help we would be scratching around still for a solution. However first road test was A1, a couple of minor leaks to resolve and shes back in service.

And then of course were our two Leylands that were both of with issues. The RTW was finally repaired just in time to take part in the 50th anniversary runs on the 95 of the RTW withdrawals, whilst RTL453 also got the thumbs up to be operational again. Seen here with the other stars of the day in Brixton tram shed in a photo by Peter Zabek.

Those of you who follow EnsignVintage on twitter will have seen the latest acquisition, those of you who dont will have to wait until my next update.

Cheers for now

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Winter Work

 Well its that time of year where next project get down to the real work as problems are found and need to be fixed, whilst the operational fleet gets time to have each bus in and do all the jobs that there is no time in the season to do.

The major project in is the Jersey TD and its cracked blocked is the major engineering job that needs doing. So it was engine out time and then separating top and bottom sections so that the whole top section can be taken away 'as is' and cold stitched off site with a specialist so that we don't have to take a part all the pistons and valves as we know the engine runs smoothly and would refer not to have to reset it all. In short if it isn't broken don't fix it!!

 Of course the plus part of stripping things down is that you get to see and solve what could be later issues... In this case the oil sump with what can only be called crystalised and semi-solid oil residue. Its been that long since an oil change that even a change wouldn't now be enough, so now its apart we can properly clean it, so that when it goes back together its as good as we can make it.

 The interior continues to take shape. Everything has been stripped out and the cracked and peeling ceilings are being stripped back to bare metal. Its a slow task as the paint is layers thick and in places has some form of coating on it that was used to hide dents from the single skin of damage caused by trees and the like. From some of the pictures we have of when the bus was new it looked like the wooden ribs were in natural wood, or stained dark, but there is absolutely no evidence of this in reality so we have to presume that its just shadow on the photos and they were always painted. Perhaps next month I will post up the 1932 images of it with JMT and the later ones where the numerous differences in livery and finishing can be spotted, perhaps an online poll of which we should go for would be fun!!??

 The operational fleet has been getting some TLC as well. Both RM54 and RM1361 had suffered some roof damage that was not pleasing to look at, so both have now been cured.  This is 1361 where the first three roof panels had suffered some tree damage. The last bits being taken off in this image before being replaced with freshly painted panels that will make her look as good as new. Next in is RM25 for a general tidy up followed by the RMLs.

 RT1431 was another that received some work. The upstairs side panels were bowing and had worked loose, the bus was therefore removed from the available list, until it could be looked at and we then removed the panels to diagnose the problem. The panels had been made from poor quality wood that was showing its age and the framework inside had suffered the ravages of time, so was all replaced as can be seen. Next new panels were fitted which were covered in original style rexine, which is something we want to do throughout this RT as currently it has painted ones, so its a start on 'prettying her up' and also gets her back on the fit list.

Lastly its engines...and the constant problem that has been DUF, but shes not the only engine issue we have at the moment, but hers is pretty serious as can be seen from these damaged pistons... We also have the Jersey, with cracked block as mentioned above, the MW which now has its reconditioned engine back with us and the process has begun of reinstalling it and with it getting her back on the road. The RTW is problem number four, with what we hope is a timing issue but could be more serious, but its 'diagnosis day' for the RTW tomorrow so fingers crossed its not to serious and that the four on the sick list we can get down to three!

Cheers for now