Thursday, 28 November 2013

Winter working....

The bus rally season may be over for 2013, but that doesn't mean buses are parked up and forgotten about for six months!!

Maintenance is of course ongoing all the time, particularly the routine maintenance that goes with owning any vehicle; especially a large commercial type vehicle. Winter is also the time for things like bodywork and painting (even though I did start on 302's body during the actual rally season!).

It is 302's turn for some attention; you'll note from my blog post in August that I'd started the bodywork on the offside, and that the condition of the framework was far worse than anticipated.....

Well having done small bits of work here and there as time permitted, I was finally ready to start the repaneling today. Having invested in some air tools and a compressor, I was actually able to complete the work in one day - somewhat different to the nearside which took a week and nearly crippled my hands as I'd done every rivet by hand (all panels are riveted on at six inch intervals on all sides).

Here is the first panel being offered up, with the use of clamps to hold it in place:

Each panel has polystyrene insulation between the inner and outer panels - I'm recycling the old stuff which although rust stained, is actually ok to re-use. I also run a bead of sealant around the edges before attaching the new outer panels:

Second panel going on; at this point I'm using a couple of special gadgets that hold the panel in place by using the same holes that the rivets use:

Offering up the third panel, again with the use clamps to hold it in position - this is the final check that all the cuts are correct prior to permanent riveting:

The big pain at this time of year is the shorter days (daylight) - by the time I had the last panel on and was ready to go home it was dark. Whilst we do have some lighting at Yeldham, its not good enough to use when working on I ended up working under my spotlight:

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Canvey rally

The traditional end of season rally is Castle Point transport museum's Canvey Island rally, and it's the one I look forward to most as I can run in service on the shuttle service between the display site and the museum as many times as I like.

This year was so wet that the field where the display buses are usually parked was deemed out of bounds. Luckily numbers were down due to the weather and so thankfully is was possible to park everything on the hard standing car park area, all be it with some challenging imagination required photographers in order to get their prized shots.

I took 317 and we did indeed run in service. I lost count but I think we did six round trips. Due to the lack of visiting vehicles and thus those taking part in the shuttle service, pretty much every trip we did was a full load - in fact we twice had standing loads!!

This image was added to the image sharing site flickr by 'parkandride2007', who retains copyright ownership of this image, and shows just how wet the day was!!:

Monday, 7 October 2013

317 back in the stable

Following the latest breakdown with 335 - will it ever behave itself?!! - and some discussion with the person who bought Dart J317XVX off me.....

I'm pleased to say that I have re-acquired 317.

Having thought long and hard about it, fully weighing up the reasons why I sold the Dart and whether I can realistically keep 3 on the this season has proved that an on-the-road back up vehicle is a must to guarantee attendance at all planned events.......well on balance I decided to take up my option of first refusal should the Dart owner wish to move it on.

As a result, and given that 335 remains out of action, I will be taking 317 to the Canvey rally on 13th October.

Saturday, 5 October 2013


If you understand the meaning of the three letter title, sorry for the language!!

335 was booked to take part in the Theydon Bois running day as part of the North London transport society's autumn transport bazaar event.

We got 20 minutes down the road from where she's stored and I got a warning light light on the dash informing me of low engine coolant level. Now I had checked the coolant level prior to departure (I check all fluids as a matter of routine) but I duly pulled over and rechecked it - it was still full.

Being as the temperature gauge was indicating that we were in danger of over heating I made the decision to turn round and return to storage. Upon arrival and having sought advice, I confirmed what I suspected - we have air trapped in the coolant system. To top the day off, the radiator sprang a leak about two hours after being parked up.

Looks like the season is over despite the last event still being a week away - Canvey Island on the 13th....

Monday, 9 September 2013

Yeldham Open Day

We had an open day at the place where I keep my buses on 8th September and 335 was available for service having had the gearbox specialist in to look at the random gearbox-changing-down-a gear-by-itself issue.

I'm extremely pleased to report that 335 managed two runs to Braintree rail station without breaking down - here is an image of her having arrived at Braintree rail station on the first trip;

Thursday, 29 August 2013

August Update

I mentioned in my last post that I was "holding back on recent developments".....

Well 335 has once again been fixed [following the power steering failure] and so I've been taking it out on a few 'proving runs', which gradually get longer and increase the varying road conditions each time. The first half hour run went well and we actually made it back home without breaking down!

We then did a 45 minute run - again no issues and we got home without breaking down. Thinking we might have finally turned the corner and seen the back of the constant breakdowns, I'd planned to do a 1 hour 30 minute run.........this didn't go down well with 335 and it decided, after about 10 minutes of trouble free driving, that once top speed is reached it'll change down to second gear by itself. Arrrggghhhhh!!

I'm currently awaiting a diagnostics specialist to have a look and see what's going on......

Meanwhile, I thought I'd crack on with sorting the offside body and framework on 302 and it I wasn't expecting it to be too bad - should be easily done in a month right? Wrong!!

As the images below show, one of the windows exploded whilst we were taking them out - literally. Whilst we had it partially out, nobody was actually touching it when it went; as I was outside the vehicle getting ready to receive it, I got covered in broken glass and gained a few cuts - lesson learned - in future I'll make sure as much skin as possible is covered when fitting or removing windows! This does however present a serious problem - there's only six of this type of bodywork still in existence, and a couple of bus & coach suppliers have already said they can't help with a replacement........

To make matters worse, it turns out the framework on the offside is actually far worse than the nearside was - in particular there's a structural piece of box section over the rear wheel arch that is completely missing! This may explain why the window exploded.

Sorry about the angle of the two lower images - 302 was blocked in on the day I took them.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Buses Magazine

I'm a bit out of date with this blog but I'm gonna hold back on recent developments for now....

I had a phone call yesterday giving me the 'heads up' that 335 is in September's Buses Magazine, photographed during its visit to the North Weald rally.

Now I was expecting to find it in some sort of panoramic view, or perhaps lurking in the background behind another vehicle that was being featured - so to say I was surprised to see it was the 'main event' was something of an understatement!

Despite all the breakdowns and trouble its given me (and ignoring the fact she actually came back from North Weald on the back of a tow truck), I have to say I'm rather proud to see P335ROO chosen by Buses magazine to appear in their 'Preservation Update' section. It is equally pleasing to read their positive comments and makes all the hard work, time and money that I've invested worthwhile. I wonder if 302 will manage the same feat when its finished????

In the mean time, here's the article in question:

Monday, 15 July 2013

Newbury Rally

I took 302 to Bus & Coach Preservation Magazine's bus rally at Newbury showground in Berkshire - its events this far afield from Essex that prompted me to look at acquiring a vehicle that would be up to the job of long trips.....

I'm extremely pleased to report that 302 performed exceptionally well. Given that it was one of the hottest days of the year and that we encountered several bouts of stationary traffic on the M25 on the way home, a tyre blowout due to the high road surface temperature (a section of the M25 was actually closed due to road surface damage caused by the extreme heat!!) or overheating engine could have been a real possibility. 302 seemed to be very comfortable and soaked up the miles with effortless ease.

The event itself was a bit of disappointment though; given that it had been organised by Bus & Coach Preservation Magazine and that their advert suggested 250 buses could be catered for on site, well I thought the 50 or so buses that showed up was a bit of a poor showing for such an event. The "enthusiasts market" didn't really excite either to be honest.

Will I go again next year? To be honest, probably not.

Next up is the Colne Valley bus rally - will 335 be able to make the 1 mile journey without breaking down?.....

Monday, 8 July 2013

335 naughty again!

335 made it to North Weald bus rally, its first one under my ownership and in its restored original livery (dots excepted!) but only just.....

Just as we came off the M11 to join the A414 for the short drive to the airfield, the power steering failed.

Having found that the power steering pump reservoir was bone dry it was duly topped up with more fluid and the steering "rocked" to bleed the system...........all that actually happened was a massive flood of fluid all over the floor between the rear wheels - we'd found the reason why the reservoir was empty and thus why the power steering had failed.

Given that it will need to be raised in the air to fix the problem pipe, and of course that wasn't practical on the airfield/rally site, the decision was taken to make use of the breakdown cover that I thankfully have in place and get 335 towed back home where the mechanics next door can tackle the latest issue. I'm sure they'll be as glad as I will be one day to see 335 go out on a trip and come back again without actually breaking down - it really has broken down every single time I've taken it out on the road!!

As you can see in the image, she was towed backwards - the reason for doing it this way is that it saves having to remove the half shafts from the the double reduction hubs or disconnecting the prop - this can only be done if the towing lorry has a long enough boom though!

I was already intending to take 302 to the Newbury bus rally on 14th July, though I was gonna consider the possiblity of taking 335 if it behaved for North Weald - this latest incident has definitely made my mind up!!

335 has a lot to prove before I'll trust it to go anywhere........

Saturday, 6 July 2013

None to options....

It is the eve of the North Weald rally and I have a choice of two buses to take!

302's nearside body rebuild is complete and the lop sided air suspension issue appears to be resolved.

335 is also up and running again after a new compressor pipe (different part to the one that was replaced at the MOT station) finally allowed the air to build up thus releasing the safety brake. Of course being 335, you fix one issue and another appears - this time failed gaskets between the compressor and water system meant the compressor was filling the water system with air pushing water out through the header tank. The air dryer pack and filter also needed changing - something we already knew from the MOT shenanigans - and this allowed the air system to "unload" once enough air has built up.

Question is, do I trust 335 to make the 80 mile round trip from storage to North weald???!!!!!

I must be mad, but I'm gonna!!........

Saturday, 1 June 2013

2 down and one gone

It is the eve of the Clacton rally and unfortunately I don't have a bus to take!!

335 still remains to be fixed (not building up enough air), and although 302's bodywork is still ongoing it too is having air problems in that the right hand side suspension isn't lifting as it should. Maybe its decided to keep 335 company!!

So that's the two down, meaning 317 is the one gone.

317 now has a new owner though will still be parked at the same place as it is now. I'm told the new owner is intending to keep 317 pretty much as she is now which is pleasing to know. The reason I ended up selling after a couple of false starts is that trying to maintain three 'commercial' vehicles was proving to be a bit too much.

The next event is North Weald and I will have one on the road by then!!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Busy weekend & 335 misbehaves again

Its been a very busy weekend for me as I was involved in the running of Yeldham Transport Museum's open day.

The open day itself was very successful with good weather and just over 500 visitors. All of the free bus services were well used, with buses often carrying full loads. I operated 317 on two Braintree station trips, 2 Mystery tour trips and a single short hop into the neighbours at Colne Valley railway.

Notice that I used 317 at Yeldham's open day rather than the planned 335? Well the reason is that 335 continues to misbehave - the latest episode being quite spectacular.

We were part way through the MOT test last Friday morning when the air supply suddenly failed meaning the handbrake couldn't be released. A broken pipe from the compressor was quickly diagnosed however it took 7 hours to rectify the problem mainly owing to the fact that the rear wheels were still on the rolling road part of the MOT bay. The difficulty was that the pipe that needed to be accessed is located behind the nearside rear wheel - with the rear wheels sitting on the rollers, clearance was pretty much  non existent. The solution was to await the arrival of the test station's tow truck (out on a job) and either lift the back end of 335 up with its towing boom or provide low level jacks to jack up 335.

When the tow truck arrived it was established that one of the hydraulic pipes on the boom had started leaking on its last job and so the only remaining option was to manually jack up 335. Once jacked up, the brakes were wound off and 335 was moved forward fully over the pit where the offending pipe could be accessed and replaced. Once the pipe was replaced it took a further 40 minutes to get the air to build up enough to get the handbrake to release.

Following further issues with the air failing to build up properly on the way back home from the MOT station, 335 is now once again failing to build up enough air to release the handbrake thus it wouldn't physically move on Yeldham's open day and thus why the "old faithful" 317 was used instead. Having done some investigative work and ruled out compressor failure (ie, 335 is producing air), the suspected issue is either a failed "air dryer pack", a failed "4 way protection valve" or possibly a failed air filter. I'm reliably informed that the air dryer pack is almost certainly the item at fault.

Given that my finances have taken a battering with 335's surprise equipment failures, and that even if the latest issue is resolved in time, I cannot trust 335 to behave for the next event which is the Clacton rally on 2nd June. As 302 is currently stripped down and awaiting body repairs, I will once again be taking "the old faithful" 317 to Clacton......

Friday, 10 May 2013

335, the naughty one...

Well it was planned to move 335 (the double decker) into the workshop so that she could be lifted up in the air to have her new throttle cable installed, but she's clearly happy where she is as the footbrake valve has now failed meaning she can't build up enough air to release the brakes.

I wonder how many new parts will need to be fitted before we end up with a working bus?!!!

It is still planned to have her fixed and MOT'd in time for the next event (Yeldham Transport Museum open day, 19th May).........

Monday, 6 May 2013

Changing plans

Well I said in the last update that I wasn't going to make a start on 302's bodywork till the 335 (the double decker) was up & running, and that I was taking 302 to the first couple of rallies, implying that I was taking 302 to the London Bus Museums Spring Gathering......

In the end I took the old faithful, 317, to the Spring Gathering.

Reasons were various but mainly due to the state of 302's bodywork. As can be seen below, it is as bad as I suspected in the area between the first passenger window and wheel arch. As we go further back things improve dramatically, though the top box section does need replacing under the 2nd and 3rd windows.

I wasn't intending to make a start on 302 just yet, but much like when you have a piece of wall paper starting to peel start picking at it and before long its all stripped off.....

As things currently stand this does mean I'm down to having just 317 on the road - work is progressing on 335 though and it is expected to be on the road in time for the next event, the Yeldham Transport Museum open day (19th May 2013).

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Sping 2013 update

Firstly I said in my last post that the Dart was sold..........well there's been a change of plan on that front.

Given the ongoing issues with the double decker (throttle cable still remains to be fixed thus still no MOT), and with the work which will be required on the Volvo's bodywork (more on that in a moment), I've decided to keep the Dart as my back up vehicle for the 2013 season.  Also, the original reason for sale was that there wasn't enough space to keep all three vehicles together........well that situation has now changed such that keeping all three is no longer an issue.

So, the Volvo bodywork. It has become apparent that the bodywork, in particular the internal framework, is suffering from rust/corrosion issues. I don't believe it is so bad that it cannot be sorted but it does mean that once I start, well it'll be off the road till its dealt with. As it is currently on the road with a years MOT and six months tax, I'm not going to make a start on stripping down the outer panels until the double decker gets on the road. So to that end I am using it for at least the first couple of bus rallies.

I took 302 to the South East Bus Festival, an add on to the Heritage Show at the Kent County showground in Detling near Maidstone at the beginning of April. Aside from the £200 fuel bill she performed very well indeed - I lost count of the cars we overtook on the M25 and M20 - going uphill too!!

There were a couple of photographers on Detling Hill (A249); I could see why they'd chosen the spot as they were able to park in a layby and capture vehicles going slowly as they struggled up the hill........I had to purposely slow down to give them a chance of a decent image as we were still doing the legal limit of 60mph!!

I came across a couple of people who worked for Harris Bus and would have driven 302 when it was new. Not only did they enjoy a trip down memory lane but they were able to share a few points of interest with myself.....all the more interesting as I joined Harris Bus just after the Volvo's left the fleet and so only experienced them as a teenage passenger.

That's all for now - the next event is the London Bus Museum "spring Gathering" (commonly referred to as "Cobham").

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Winter Blues

A few updates....

My latest vehicle, Volvo B10M D302PEV successfully passed her MOT on collection day from Mullanys Coaches, Watford. It performed magnificently on the run home to North Essex, easily achieving the legal maximum on motorways of 70 mph!! I'm think I'm gonna enjoy my long distance runs!!

The same cannot be said of my double decker, P335ROO. After spending three hours getting the back lights to work correctly, I attempted to take it for MOT (on Friday 15th March); but when I first left the storage location it wouldn't go out of first gear. After turning round and going back the gears started to work - too long sat around? possibly.

So attempt 10 minutes down the road and the throttle stuck on. Between myself and a mechanic we've found that at some point in its life the throttle cable has been bodged following a failure; and on this particular occasion the bodge also failed. It was an interesting experience getting it back home again!!

So needless to say that 335 still remains to be MOT'd. Following arrival back home, the final insult was a puddle of coolant on the floor. I'm suspecting the radiator is buggered, though I'm hoping its not that serious.......

In other news, the Dart will soon have a new owner; pending some outstanding remedial work.

And I bet you thought it all goes quiet for preserved bus owners in the winter months!!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The website has now been rebuilt and is up and running at

Work has continued apace over the winter on my double has been repainted into its original Harris Bus Lime Green & Blue livery - just the vinyl stickers to go!!

I'm picking up my third vehicle in a couple of days - former Harris Bus Volvo D302PEV. This vehicle is a manual and has a coach based chassis (B10M) so will suit longer distance runs to the further away rallies and events.

As a result of buying the Volvo, my first vehicle (Dennis Dart J317XVX) is going up for sale in Bus & coach Preservation's  March issue. Main reason for sale is that space at my storage location in North Essex is at a premium and so the Volvo can only be accommodated if space is created for it; the Dart has drawn the short straw.....