Welcome to the party lufbramatt! Glad you are enjoying it.
Yeah, georgeb, I'm not sure about "any minute". There was a progress meeting a while back and I asked Ian what the plan was. The reply was "Screw it back together before we all drop dead". And none of us have seen it since March 'cos of the bat flu.
I think it could go the same way as my 3 year bumper restoration!
The last time I saw GKE 68 was… I can’t remember. Probably a month or so before lock down. Things were getting back to normal and I know Ian had spent a day or two making a start on things. Eventually we got together on a day I could make… We are off again!
Before I tell you about the work we did lets bring you up to date with other events and what Ian was trying to do when he was working on his own.
The next cunning plan is to get the clutch and gearbox back on. So Ian had been assembling the clutch, the cross shaft and forks. Have a drawing…
I believe the clutch plate and cover went on ok but when Ian looked at the cross shaft and forks he realised they were trashed. The cross shaft (blue) runs in some bonze (probably) bearings at each end. Well the bearings were worn away so badly that it had damaged the cross shaft. Worse still, the forks (red) were bent and twisted such that the trunnion parts weren’t opposite each other and didn’t point at each other. There has been some head scratching as to how the forks got bent. Possibly it was badly misadjusted and a heavy footed driver over pressed it. Who knows? Maybe we’ll find out when we try and reassemble it.
In the mean time the assembly has gone off for ‘gentle adjustment’. The cross shaft will get turned down and over sized bushes fitted, and the forks will get warmed up and realigned.
Back at South Eastern Coachworks the gearbox is sitting on the floor looking, well, bleedin’ heavy.
The other thing you’ll notice in that photo are new road springs. A chap called Paul is planning to replace them, in fact he’s started work stripping the front. I’ve offered my assistance as engineering apprentice but we’ll see if I’m needed. No point in having a gearbox if you can’t change gears. Round the back of the bus was this...
This, frankly, vast piece of engineering is the gear lever. The box at the bottom of the gear stick is aluminium so it’s probably lighter than it looks. I believe it bolts directly to the side of the engine block. The shaft pointing towards the bottom left rotates to go across the gate and goes in and out to select gears. To connect it to the selector on the box is a thin, lightweight metal pipe.
I lied, it’s huge too. All we are missing is Colonel Mustard in the drawing room. But that was definitely the murder weapon.
The other thing in the pictures is the hand brake. I just love the handle.
Lets break off to something I actually got involved in. One problem we noticed while changing the rear wheel bearings was that the outer race of the bearings on the right side appeared to have been spinning around. Not unlike Kylie.
“I know you’re feelng me ‘cos you like it like this…”
Sorry. Got carried away there.
The outer races and spacers should be a fraction wider than the hub such that when you bolt the drive flange on the races and spacers get nipped together. There is a drawing of it somewhere in this thread. They were actually thinner than the hub, didn’t get nipped and were allowed to spin. In order to counter this problem Bristol made three sizes of spacer for the back of the hub. So we popped off the the Bristol bus dealers and… Oh no. Bristol were taken over by Leyland, and so on and so forth… Well anyway, we needed another idea to deal with this bit of unobtanium. I had a thought that if we could find an appropriate thickness sheet of steel we could trap it between two bits of plywood and cut a ring out, creating a nice flat spacer. Ian twigged that the side of an old oil can was about the right thickness and made one.
So off with the drive flange, pop the outer bearing out, slip the spacer in and bob’s a creepy relative.
Sorry, that’s the only photo I took of the exercise. Unfortunately, once you remove the drive flange and half shaft you are so covered in oil and grease that picking up a camera is no longer an option. On the positive side, I’m sure Ian has very soft hands.
The other thing we started all those months ago was to remove the back half of the prop shaft so that we could replace the UJ bearings.
As with everything, it’s not little. So where do you get replacement joints for a 1930s Bristol bus? Well apparently there was a British Standard for universal joints. The ones fitted to this (made by Hardy Spicer) were probably quite common. The blue spiders are apparently military old stock ones.
The book says…
“Hold the joint and tap gently.”
“Ian, how much force do you need to use to get these joints apart?” “Just enough to get them apart” came the answer.
‘Just enough’ turned out to be using two sockets as drifts and thumping it hard with a lump hammer.
Some time later…
If that was me I’d have to paint it. As it happened the old joints weren’t in bad condition so we’ve put them to one side. I think only one bearing was showing some signs of trouble.
Steering box next. Ian wanted to take it with him so he could, at least, make an inspection. In the cab the steering column drops through the floor with the clutch pedal on one side and the brake pedal on the other. These sit on a bracket bolted to the top of the chassis rail. Not too difficult to get them out of the way.
Ian had to remove the bit you put your foot on on the clutch pedal to drop it through the floor - it just bolts on. But the brake one ferreted through the rubber mat ok.
The steering box is also bolted to the top of chassis rail just ahead of the pedals.
The ice-cream tub isn’t an original Bristol part. It’s just got the bolts in for the steering box. But clearly one of the bus’s mechanics is dead posh. Anyway, this is where we came unstuck. The idea was to take all the fixings out, slide it off the side of the chassis and drop the column carefully through the cab floor. The problem is that one of the fixings is a stud that comes out of the bottom of the box and down through the chassis rail. So we have to lift the steering box about an inch to clear the stud. Except… The bolts that were put in to hold the cab floor in won’t let the box go up enough to clear the stud over the chassis rail. I think we’ll have to take the floor out to do this and the nuts they used are nylocks. It’s going to be a curse word of a job.
So we admitted defeat, left it and went home.
Before I sign off, SEC have been making progress too. The interior side panels now have brown ’stuff’ on them.
I was wondering what the brown ‘stuff’ might have been. I thought 1939 might have been to early for some sort of vinyl but apparently it was invented in 1933. Whether it had become a thing in Bristol I wouldn’t know.
Many of the hand rails are in.
Oh look, it’s got a letter box! (It’s for your used tickets really.)
The seat frames are in. Or at least some of them.
The wood is to make up slats for the floor I believe.
Now this is likely to be a problem. Remember that gearbox? There are two ways in. From underneath - which we can’t do because we can’t lift the bus to slide it under. Or through the saloon which is now full of seats. Even if we got the box under the bus we’d still need an engine crane in the saloon to lift it into position.
These are the problems where better people than me start earning their salary. Not that any of them get a salary, they are all volunteers.
Some of the glass is in. And…
Let there be light!
This all happened when COVID was in retreat. Currently more of the country is being locked down. Since moving the gearbox is going to need a few bodies and it’s likely SEC will rethink their policy on visitors to protect their own workforce… Well who knows when I’ll next see GKE.
That said a friend of mine is trying to get me involved in another bus restoration project and it’s a bus that Ian occasionally works on. Luckily for me it’s a bit too far away. But I’ll admit I’m curious… You wait 50 years for a bus and two come along at the same time! They are like, er, well, buses.
I think Rexine has another Weymann connection, also to VdP, and that was it’s use on the bodies of “real”, i.e., Cricklewood, Bentley’s.
Kind regards, John
I started wondering about Weymann as a company. I knew they built bus bodies in Surrey. And I knew that Weymann had merged with Metro Cammell at some point to form Metro Cammell Weymann otherwise known as MCW. You may have seen MCW on the front of buses if you were paying attention when you were younger.
You weren’t? Never mind.
First surprise - Weymann joined with Metro Cammell in 1932, some time before GKE was built. In 1966 the Weymann factory at Addlestone closed and the group started using the MCW brand name. And in 1989 the group was broken up and the various products sold off.
So that was the tail end of Weymann’s existence. Where did they come from? Second surprise…
Charles Terres Weymann - Born 1889 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His mum was Haitian and his dad an American. Charles had dual US / French nationality, was bilingual and lived all his life in France. Oh and he was an aviator, not a bus builder.
Yep. Really. (Photo pinched off Wiki.)
At the time airplanes tended to be canvas over a wooden frame. Charles applied that to car bodies by stretching “leathercloth” over a flexible wooden frame. I’m assuming “leathercloth” is another word for Rexine. It was a success. He had factories in France, the USA and the UK. Coachbuilders Vanden Plas (amongst others) licensed the technique from Weymann and it was indeed applied to some pretty nice machinery.
Eventually by the late ‘20s people wanted shiny painted cars and the technique died out. Weymann’s factories in France and the US closed down and the one in Surrey moved on to building bus bodies.
I got the opportunity to have another day working on GKE. This could be the last time for a while if we all get locked up again. Who knows.
First a round up of stuff that I’ve not been involved in.
I think I mentioned wooden slats on the saloon floor. Well I’ve got a photo.
Not a great photo ‘cos it was dark in there and I needed the flash. But you get the general idea. Also you’ll notice that the seat frames are all in. Downstairs at least. I’ve not been up stairs since before lockdown so I really don’t know whats going on up there.
Spot what’s missing here…
Have you got it yet? Would you like a little longer?
Yeah, the front wheels are missing.
Oh, the road springs are off too. By all accounts a chap called Paul did this by himself. I don’t believe I’ve met Paul. Certainly not more than a passing ‘hello’. To be honest I’m hopeless with names and faces. You could plonk me in front of the pope and I’d be standing there thinking “Well you look kind of familiar. Are you on the telly or summat?” Anyway, Paul must be flippin’ determined to have done that alone. I’m impressed.
As if that’s not enough he also managed to do this…
He got the gearbox under the bus. (By the way, can you see what’s missing from that photo?)
You see, it’s too heavy to pick up and carry. And, although it’s on a trolley it’s too tall to fit under the side. I can think of 2 possibilities. Firstly there is an access hatch in the side where the batteries go. So he could have slid it through there and it may have gone under the chassis rail with the front on blocks as it is at the moment. But SEC have a large truck parked really close so you can barely get down the near side of the bus let alone hump a gearbox around. Or he could have dragged the front axle out of the way and slid it in from the front past the side of the sump.
Either way, Ian and I had the task of getting it back on the engine.
Worked out what’s missing in the photo above? Yep, it’s the bell housing.
In a previous episode of your favourite bus drama Ian had found that the bushes in the bell housing and the clutch cross shaft were worn out and that the clutch fork was bent. Not any more.
Its nice that people still do this sort of stuff.
While Ian assembled and greased the clutch assembly I had a job inside. Remember all the seat frames, lovingly bolted down to the floor, waiting patiently for their new upholstery and a steady stream of happy bottoms off for a trip round the town? Well the front two rows are right in the way and needed to come out.
You call that a clutch? This is a clutch!
Ian bolted this back on a few weeks ago. A couple of things to notice here. Firstly the cover plate is only loosely bolted to the flywheel. Normally you use a plate centralising tool, for me a socket extension bar with a bit of insulating tape to get the right diameter. There isn’t enough tape in the world for this clutch plate. So the plan is to fit the gearbox with the cover plate slack and then nip it up through an access hole in the bell housing. Secondly you can see the massive black steel plate (known as the banjo) that supports the back of the engine. It gets clamped between the back of the block and the bell housing. But also that it’s bolted directly to the frame rails. No rubber mounts here! Thirdly, see the holes in the edge of the flywheel… Later!
After some messing about we got the bell housing on the box.
I’ve scribbled some notes on that photo so you can see what’s what. Things don’t look quite the same as they do on a car. What you can’t see is that just behind the release bearing there is a brake shoe that acts on the input shaft of the gearbox. If you overpress the clutch pedal it engages the brake and slows the input shaft for faster upshifts. Remember this is a non-syncro box so you’d normally double declutch on gearchanges. Going from 1st to 2nd you’d be lucky to double declutch and not have the bus stop before you’d done it. The clutch brake gives you a chance to single clutch on up changes and keep the bus moving. The slot in the bottom of the bell housing lines up with the holes in the flywheel… Later!
Dad taught be the correct way to install a gearbox. You lie on your back under the car and shuffle the box on top of you. Then you lift it with whatever appendages you have handy and hump the box onto the splines keeping one hand free to get some bolts in. Or you can use a trolley jack - but that’s for girls! Not here.
Thankfully the front wheels of the engine crane nicely bridged the opening in the floor. Other wise we’d have needed a new plan.
No photos because I was kind of busy but, some time later, it’s on.
I then spent some time underneath putting a bar into those holes in the flywheel through that slot I mentioned earlier to push the engine round while Ian nipped up the cover plate nuts through that oval hole in the top of the bell housing. That would have been fine if it wasn’t for the fact that the big Gardner engine seems to be doing its best to dump its oil on the garage floor so it’s a bit messy down there. I may have to complain to the Friends of Chatham Traction about the cleaner who clearly hasn’t Vaxed the floor under the bus for some time.
Oh, notice that the engine and gearbox appear to be squint in the chassis. This is because the engine and gearbox are squint in the chassis. In order to keep floor flat and low over the rear axle the differential is offset to the left side of the bus. The engine and gearbox point at it.
Normally I write this thread as a very personal account of my tinkering. But the truth is that there is a whole group of people who are committed to getting GKE back on the road and to show people what travel was like 70 or 80 years ago. I’m writing this post on behalf of them.
The Friends of Chatham Traction is a charity that was set up expressly to save this bus. The truth is that if they hadn’t it probably wouldn’t exist now. I’m showing the work of a few people screwing things back together but behind the scenes are a team of volunteers managing the project and raising the money to fund it.
Which is the purpose of this post. We are on the last leg of the restoration and the Friends are having a funding push to try and get GKE finished.
Ages ago I said that owning a vintage bus was an expensive hobby. Well they reckon it’ll take another £40,000 to finish GKE and that’s what they are trying to raise. I’ll bet you are wondering what it’s cost so far aren’t you? Well in just a moment you can find out.
So, if you can make a donation and help finish GKE we’d be very grateful. I promise that, as long as they let me play with their toy, I’ll keep writing this thread so you know what’s going on.
Even if you do nothing else, go and spend a bit of time on the Friends web site www.chathamtraction.org.uk and have a read about the aims of the charity and the history of Chatham Traction and of GKE. Make sure you click the ‘Funding Appeal’ banner across the top of the page because you’ll find a photo of GKE showing what state she was in when she was rescued. You’ll also find out how expensive restoring a bus is. And at the bottom it tells you how to make a donation if you are able to help us.
I was having an email chat with a chap called Richard.
You haven't met Richard yet so I'd better introduce him. He's the chairman of the Friends of Chatham Traction. I suppose you can blame Richard for wanting a few pounds of your money to help finish GKE. (See post above.)
Anyway, he sent me a photo which illustrated just how much work has been done to GKE. I thought you should see it...
Tells a story doesn't it?
In other news. I found some photos of GKE being disassembled. Clearly I can't tell the story 'cos I wasn't there. But I'll have a look through and post some here for you to look at. I doubt if I'll get to play with the real thing until Boris lets me out again. Confined to barracks don't you know. Pip pip, what ho!
There isn't a lot left of it now. A chassis and a cab. It'd be lovely to see it restored too but given how long '68' is taking and how much it's costing I'm not sure it'll get done. I don't know what the long term plan for it is.
I'm a bit at the wrong end of the country but if I'm ever in the area I'll put that museum on the list. I'm not actually sure I'll be allowed back into Scotland despite being born in Glasgow. It's not a Scottish independence thing, it's a wife thing. Last time we were there (we hired a boat on the Caledonian Canal) it rained. Twice. Once from Sarurday to Tuesday, and then from Tuesday to the following Saturday. And to really make matters worse Mrs Sweetpea slipped on some decking at Fort Augustus and hit the floor so hard the bang would have drowned out the bells at the Abbey. (If it wasn't for the fact that some muffin seems to have turned the Abbey into flats for people with lots of money.)
Not short of buses are they. I really want to go now. I might leave Mrs Sweetpea here and go anyway.
I think my missus is some sort of rain god. I used to live in Northallerton before I got deported to the south. On one side of Northallerton is the dales and on the other is the moors. It almost doesn't matter where the weather is coming from, the rain gets dumped on the high ground and Northallerton is pretty dry. Unless my missus goes there, in which case it's torrential stair rod stuff. Last time we went to Croft (just up the road) to watch the rallycross, in the height of summer, we nearly bloody drowned.
Actually I'm sure she's a rain God. The previous time I went on the Caledonian it was me and a mate. Nearly had the boat do Loch Ness on its own when it tried to leave us behind. It was in November and people were asking if the boat was an icebreaker. I had a shovel in the car in case it snowed. It was stunning. I was in a tee shirt most of the week.
But if my missus sets foot north of Watford - Biblical flooding, Noah building boats, animals two by two...