SUNDERLAND CORPORATION 100
ABR 433, a 1949 Crossley DD42/7C
This is a compilation of edited articles originally written for the newsletter of the North East Bus Preservation Trust which outline the restoration of this historic bus.
ABR 433 was the first of a batch of six supplied new to Sunderland Corporation Transport in 1949 and carried fleetnumber 100. It was bodied to Liverpool specification with H30/26R seating configuration. It is thought to be the last surviving ‘Liverpool’ style (as opposed the manufacturer’s usual ‘Manchester’ style) in existence. Its original Crossley engine was replaced with a Gardner 5LW in 1953.
After withdrawal from revenue earning service in 1963, it passed to the Sunderland County Borough Council’s General Purposes Committee for use as a mobile polling station along with older 1947 Crossley no 13 (GR 9007). This stay of execution probably allowed it to survive into preservation. The council disposed of both vehicles in 1972 to Geoff Lister. a Bolton based bus dealer, both subsequently passing to the late Norman Myers, a collector of Crossley vehicles.
I acquired the bus in early 1998 and returned it to the North East after an absence of 26 years. Over the next 13 years I undertook restoration work on it until an unfortunate change in personal circumstances forced me to sell it in March 2011.
My involvement with former Sunderland Corporation Crossley ABR 433 started when I read an article in the Sunderland Echo mentioning that two former Sunderland Corporation buses had become available and that the North East Bus Preservation Society (Now NEBPT) were looking for individuals to take them on.
I responded to the article and, being the only one foolish enough to express an interest, soon found myself the owner (perhaps custodian is a more accurate description) of a Crossley bus.
I had always been interested in Sunderland Corporation buses because they were my main mode of transport throughout my childhood. As a result, owning a Corporation bus, albeit one that I was too young to have known in regular daily service, had been an ambition of mine.
Over a thirteen year period its upkeep and restoration took up a huge chunk of my time and spare cash until the loss of my employment forced me to reluctantly sell her.
1. Bringing the Crossley Back Home
Sunday 7th June 1998 started wet (and far too early for someone who had had a Saturday night on the town) but undeterred, Ian Alderson and myself set off from Sunderland with Ian Findlay’s trailer loaded with two spare wheels (borrowed, with thanks, from John Shaw) and headed for Bolton. Our mission was to prepare the Crossley, ABR 433 for her journey home. Breakfast at a McDonalds in Leeds had us suitably fortified before heading off towards the M62 over the Pennines. Dropping down towards Manchester, the heavens opened (it always rains in Manchester!) and my worst fears about working on the bus in the p**sing rain looked likely to be realised. Nevertheless, by the time we reached the M61 the weather faired up. All we needed to do was to find the farm, a task that was not helped by me leaving the Motorway two junctions too early.
On arrival, we turned into the farmyard and gained our first glimpse of the Crossley sitting in the open fronted barn. The natural urge to get out of the car and have a look was sharply curbed by the growling guard dog jumping up and digging its claws into my Rover’s coachwork. Fortunately, Gordon Southern, the farmer was quickly on the scene to call the dog off and I was soon able to get my first close look at the old girl.
First impressions were favourable. The body panels seemed straight and the frame reasonably solid. The worst areas appeared to be the cab and the rear platform whilst the interior had been stripped for its role as a mobile polling station. Despite the junk in the lower saloon, the fleetnumber 100 and the ‘spitting prohibited’, ‘smoking prohibited’ exhortations on the front bulkhead confirmed this as a Sunderland bus. I was immediately transported back to my last ride on a Sunderland half cab twenty five earlier and the weekly trips to my grandmother’s ten years before that.
Unfortunately, this trip wasn’t about wallowing in nostalgia. First of all the Crossley had to be dug out of the place that had been her home for the past few years. Whilst the barn had provided cover from the elements, the earth floor of this agricultural building was relatively soft. As a result, the Crossley was virtually axle deep in mud.
Gordon was undeterred. He attached chains around the Crossley’s front axle and started to drag the bus out with his tractor. Initially she refused to budge, the tractor rear wheels throwing up a pile of earth behind them. When she did move, she started heading for the right hand door post despite Gordon’s efforts to pull her into the centre of the doorway. Despite our worries and misgivings, Gordon was more skilled in this than we had given him credit and the Crossley emerged into the daylight (indeed the sunshine) for the first time in several years……..
Our main task was to ensure that the rear tyres were up to the journey to the North East. Not having seen the bus since it left Sunderland, I had assumed the worst. In the event the tyres proved to be more than adequate. This was fortunate as the wheelnuts needed heating up with oxy-acetelene to release them when the wheels were subsequently removed. I dread to think of what would have happened had the wheels needed replacing.
Fortunately, our task was confined to ensuring that everything was secure for the journey home. This left some time to look around the buses stored on the farm, some of which had belonged to the late Norman Myers including a pair of Northampton Crossleys, one of which had a badly damaged rear end that we were assured had been running just before Norman’s untimely death. Personally, I found the place rather melancoly, even when compared with the Barnsley scrapyards.
In order to simplify the task of collection, the Crossley was moved to a position close to the other buses in open storage. Gordon was obviously pleased to get the use of his barn back, the space vacated by the Crossley quickly being filled by farm equipment before we left for home.
Once back home, it was time to arrange a suspended tow. A call to heavy recovery specialist Ian Bradley (Eurowrecker) secured his agreement to take on the job. Ideally this would have been a return load but this wasn’t to be. We agreed that, if a return load hadn’t materialised, Ian would go to Bolton to bring the bus back on 27th June. A telephone conversation with Ian on 26th led to me asking the farmer if Ian could pick it up on the Friday evening which he duly did.
With everything arranged, I went to the pub on the Friday evening. I reckoned that I deserved some relaxation. Nevertheless, despite several pints of the amber liquid, sleep didn’t come easily that night. I had visions of a Crossley stuck on the hard shoulder of the M62 with burst back tyres or of bits of disintegrated Crossley being scattered over the Pennines. In the event, I needn’t have worried. Ian had picked up the bus at 9pm and after a run on cruise control along the M61, M62, A1 and A19, had reached Peterlee by 1am. I’m reliably informed that it was even spotted on the M62 near Huddersfield at around closing time that night but then that Yorkshire beer is fairly strong stuff.
My plan was to get to Wardley early on Saturday morning and prepare for the Crossley’s arrival. Getting into my car at 9am, my mobile phone rang. It was Ian. “I’m at Peterlee, I’ll be there in 20 minutes” he said. This just gave me time to dash to Wardley, open the gates, open the shed doors and get WBR 248 out to allow the Crossley to be put into the shed. As I was reversing the Atkinson out, I caught sight of the wrecker, with ABR 433 on the back, coming up the track. The Crossley was home at last!
Ian Bradley demonstrated considerable skill in reversing the Crosssley into the shed, considering how gingerly I had just reversed the Atkinson out. Soon the Crossley was in place in her new home and a large wedge of the folding stuff changed hands. I didn’t get much more done that day as, almost as soon as Ian had left, the first of a procession of fellow preservationists and SCT enthusiasts arrived, calling to see a bus that had left the area some 26 years previously. The level of interest was somewhat gratifying as I anxiously surveyed what appeared to be a huge heap of decaying metal that I had just taken on!
Restoration began quickly but that’s another story for a future installment.
2. A bit of Omnibus Archaeology
Having finally got the Crossley to her new home at Wardley, restoration work on her began almost as soon as she arived. For my own part, I was anxious to get stuck in to what looked like an enormous task and there seemed to be little point in hanging around.
Work in the first week comprised mainly of evaluating and getting a general feel for what needed doing and cleaning out over a quarter of a century’s muck, grime and rubbish. The muck that was swept out of both saloons filled two dustbins whilst other junk, such as bits of old wood and old rope filled Ian Findlay’s trailer. Fortunately, Gateshead Council’s tip is just up Leam Lane from Wardley.
Both wings had been damaged over the years. The offside one had almost corroded away completely, along with the lower part of the cab sheeting, whilst the nearside one was corroded at the four mounting brackets. It was also buckled at the front where the bus had been under a none too careful suspended tow at sometime in the past. In order to ease access, particularly to the engine and the front of the chassis, both wings were removed and temporarily inside the bus.
On the Monday after delivery, I called into the local DIY store and bought a host of cleaning materials including a tin of paint stripper. The latter was to prove fortuitous in that it allowed the removal of coats of paint almost one at a time. With care, it was found that a layer could be removed without damaging the one below. On trying this on an area where we could detect that the Corporation crest lay below the surface, we found that the paint lifted but, if we got the paint stripper off quickly enough, it left the transfer unscathed. Subsequent evenings saw the uncovering of the legal lettering, the ‘Sunderland Corporation’ legend along the sides, the ‘Shop at Binns’ advice so typical of a Sunderland bus and between decks adverts for Palmers and Vernons Pools.
This almost felt like being an archaeologist. The Shop at Binns proclamation had been signwritten by hand and was dated 8/58. Palmers were a local firm that did much to introdce the technological advances of the day to Sunderland citizens through hire purchase. Their advert for Bush transistor radios was dated August 1960. Here was a piece of social history being uncovered before my very eyes! I could almost see mop topped youths dancing with girls with beehive hair-dos to ‘She Loves You (yea yea yea)! (This is all well before my time by the way – the Sex Pistols were my era!). The Vernon’s pools advert tempted punters to the prospect of winning £150,000 for a farthing stake.
The immovable wheelnuts were mentioned in the last installment. Once at Wardley, I was able to remove the front wheels myself. The back ones were a different story. In the end it took some oxy-acetelene applied by Ian Findlay and a length of scaffolding pole to get them loose. Whilst the wheels were off I painted them green. Yes I know, its only cosmetic and a job that could be left until last but the job made me feel better and the bus certainly looked a damned sight better for it. I also wire brushed and painted as much of the chassis as I could using two coats of ‘red lead’ and one coat of silver. This was probably one of the worst of the early jobs and after five successive nights of lying flat on my back with muck falling into my face I was well and truly sick!
As I became more familiar with the bus, how it was constructed and its problems, it became obvious that I would need to learn new skills. A visit to the local library highlighted a vehicle restoration course at the local college and I enrolled on it. Whilst mainly aimed at people restoring old cars, the skills and techniques are applicable other vehicles. The Crossley’s nearside front wing became my college project though not before I bought a trailer in which I could move it around in. The restoration of that wing will no doubt br the subject of a future article.
During the light evenings of July and August, I could be found at Wardley most nights. On most occasions I worked on my own, on others Ian Alderson came along to lend a welcome helping hand and some moral support. As September approached, the nights were getting darker and there was a distinct chill in the air. Suddenly two or three hours at Wardley after a day at work didn’t seem such an attractive proposition whilst a few pints in my local did!
It was on September 1st 1998, the day after the Seaburn Rally, that the Crossley sprung her first nasty surprise. I decided to remove the panel between the drivers cab and the engine compartment so that I could have a look at the offside of the engine. Ignorance would have been bliss. Unfortunately both cylinder blocks were cracked due to frost damage. The damage looked to be quite old, perhaps dating back to before the bus left Sunderland.
Suddenly I found myself in the business of a major engine rebuild or finding a decent Gardner 5LW to replace it. Just to rub salt into the wound, later the same evening, I managed to crack the windscreen whilst removing the windscreen wiper motor.
How I wished I could win £150,000 for a farthing stake. I could do a damned good restoration job on the Crossley with that money!
3. Repairing The Front Wings
Both the front wings required a considerable amount of work. The nearside one was the better of the two with only five holes caused by corrosion. The offside one was almost terminally bad but the bits that would be visible on the outside of the bus were largely intact. The Crossley wings were a fairly distinctive shape with a raised lip or ridge running along the centre line. When viewed from the side, there is a rather huge gap between the tyre and the wing itself. Looking at photographs of various Crossley buses, I quickly realised that the wings are among the defining features in the frontal appearance of a Crossley, as indeed they are in most exposed radiator buses.
This presented me with a difficult dilemma. Do I repair the originals or do I seek replacements? Crossley wings are not exactly the sort of thing that your local motor factor can supply off the shelf! It is possible to get new ones fabricated but could the subtle curves and distinctive styling be reproduced? I decided to repair the originals, and just to prove what a masochist I am, I would do the job myself.
This is where a vehicle restoration course at City of Sunderland College came in useful. The course is aimed mainly at people restoring old (and not so old) cars. To get the full benefit of it, your own project is advisable. At sixty quid it represented good value, especially as you can get use of the college workshop facilities on one night a week for 36 weeks as well as picking up lots of useful tips and making useful contacts. Essentially the techniques involved in repairing a quarter panel on an MGB GT are the same as for a Crossley wing.
The basic technique involves cutting out the corroded metal until you reach some good stuff to weld onto. A patch made from 16 gauge steel is then cut and formed to shape and MIG welded into the hole. This all sounds dead simple when, in actual fact, the repair of both wings took almost seven months, the nearside one at college, the offside one, in parallel, at home. Given that I needed the offside one to provide a datum point for the repair of the cab, this meant that there was a long period when it might have looked like work had stopped on the Crossley. Having said that, Wardley isn’t the most pleasant place to work on a cold winters evening so it was useful to have some quite big jobs that I could tackle in the relative comfort of home.
First step is to remove all the paint on the wing so that the ‘good’ metal is exposed. This is essential as, to get a good weld, the metal has to be rust free. Otherwise the resultant weld looks as if a stray seagull or pigeon has made its mark on the job. Having said that, my early attempts at welding looked like metallic bird s**t anyway! Removal of the paint revealed that the wings on ABR433 had been repaired on more than one occasion in the past, – and not always to a good standard.
The patch is cut slightly over size and the edge is ‘joggled’ to provide a slight overlap with the original panel. Getting the right shape is the difficult bit. This was particularly true of the patches where the nearside wing is mounted. These needed the ‘ridge’ forming in them. This was done with a universal sheet metal working machine, a rather amazing Swedish built contraption that can cut and form sheet metal. The nearer the patch is to the original profile, the less filler (or bodge!) needs to go in to finish the job properly. I confess to having spent a few quid at Charlie Browns……!
Setting the job up for welding can be somewhat tricky and usually takes as long as the welding operation itself, if not longer. Welding clamps are invaluable here but where the clamps can’t reach, a helper holding the thing in place with a hammer shaft until the patch is tacked in usually does the trick. Once a few tack welds are in place, a bit of work with a hammer and dolly will close any other gaps so that the patch can be firmly welded into place.
In all, the nearside wing needed five patches, the offside one took nine, some of which were patches welded to patches! The final outcome is not perfect but is probably up to the standard to which an in-service bus would have been repaired. Late in November 1999, I took advantage of 838’s absence to have work done at Busways to take both wings back to Wardley and reunite them with the Crossley. Just putting them temporarily in place made a dramatic improvement to the appearance to the bus. Bolting the offside one into place meant that, at last, I could start tackling rebuilding the cab. In the meantime I had rebuilt the cab door ready for re-fitting.
4. Fixing the Cab
The cab was the bit of the Crossley that worried me most. Even before I had been to Bolton to see the bus, I was aware from photographs that it was in quite a bad state. One photo taken in the yard at Fulwell Depot circa 1964 shows evidence of the dreaded tin worm doing its worst. Another, circa 1972 in Geoff Lister’s yard at Bolton reveals a hole developing in the front panel just above the offside wing. By the 1980s, when a more recent photo at St Helens Transport Museum was taken, the wing was held in place with ropes tied around the mirror mount and the first window pillar. The rope was still holding it together when the bus arrived at Wardley.
Once the offside front wing was removed, the cab side and dash panel just hung there over a huge great void above the front wheel. With only photographs, one or two remnants of wood framing and the aluminium strip over the wheel arch to go on, I would often go to Wardley, study it, shudder and clear off home (or to the pub!). Those were the occasions when I began to doubt my own sanity in taking on the job!
Nevertheless, with the offside front wing repaired, a major piece of the giant jigsaw puzzle fell into place. Aquisition of a quantity of hardwood meant that I could fabricate a new wheelarch frame and cut out some new panels. I decided to leave the windscreen and offside cab window in situ whilst the lower panels were replaced. I suspect that the window frames were all that was holding most of what was left of the cab together. No doubt an expert would have ripped the whole lot out and started from scratch. As I’m no expert and something of a coward in these matters, I took a more cautious approach.
The panel immediately behind the wheel was tackled first. I had come by part of the waist panel from a modern Plaxton coach which was around the right dimensions and had the advantage of a coating of corrosion protection. There were two distinctively shaped steps in this panel originally and these were cut out using the remains of the original as a template. The shaped backs to the top step was salvaged from the original but that for the lower one was fabricated from scratch and gas welded into position. On reflection I would take the latter course of action if I were to do the job again. You live and learn!
The panel above the front wheelarch was cut out using nothing more sophisticated than aviation snips, the curve at the front being formed around a piece of iron bar. The curved profile of the wing was followed by using the aforementioned aluminum trim as a template
The front panel (or is it the dash panel) was the next to be tackled. After the old one had been extracted a cardboard template was made up and the new panel cut in one evening at the college. This panel had a recess to clear the back of the headlight casing so a 4 inch diameter hole was cut out for this. The domed back to this recess was carefully removed from the old panel, stripped to bare metal, and tack welded into place. There was also a hole cut for the sidelight.
The inside of the original panel also included mountings for the instrument panel and main junction box. Again these were removed from the old panel, cleaned up and carefully tack welded into place to minimise distortion.
I now had a new front panel ready to bolt on (or so I thought). On trying it in place, a problem became apparent. The new panel appeared to be about an inch too short. Surely I couldn’t have measured it wrongly? After all the work involved in creating the new panel I would be feeling pretty angry, not to mention looking stupid if that was the case. Not having the old panel to hand at Wardley to measure against, I took the new one home feeling rather despondent. On checking against the old one the measurements were spot on. Something was wrong somewhere.
Back at Wardley, I decided to bolt the new panel in anyway. Whilst I was busy, John Purvis remarked that perhaps the floor had dropped. This proved to be the case. When the floor was jacked up slightly, everything bolted into place as intended. The thing was starting to look like a proper bus again.
In the meantime, the cab door had been removed and had taken up residence in my garage at home. This was another job that I would think about then decide to leave for another time. With work on the cab progressing, it was now time to get on with it. In the event, I fabricated a new frame for the section below the window using sections folded up to match the Crossley originals for the verticals and square steel section for the horizontals. New panels cut from 16 gauge steel were fitted front and rear whilst an aluminum pocket was salvaged from the old one, cleaned up, painted and screwed to the inside. The window frame proved to be made of brass which I cleaned up and repaired so that the sliding vent worked as intended. The catch, which had seized completely, was dismantled and cleaned up whilst a new locking handle was fitted.
With the cab door reinstated and new lower panels in place, I could now tackle the area around the windscreen and offside cab window. Both were removed and taken home for cleaning and repair whilst the surrounding area was being repaired. The offside windscreen pillar proved the most difficult area and involved welding new metal repair sections into place.
The windscreen frame turned out to be chrome although badly weathered in places. The stays enabling it to open were cleaned up and painted whilst a new piece of laminated glass was fitted to replace the original that I had broken earlier. The wiper motor turned out to be burnt out but I managed to find one with a broken gearbox for 50p at the Greater Manchester Transport Museum. By swapping the gears out of my old motor, I had myself a perfectly good wiper motor for the princely sum of 50p. I wish it were all that easy or cheap.
Where the panels joined at the front of the bus, they had originally been joined with steel rivets. These proved virtually impossible to source but I did find a supply of a similar pattern copper rivet with the correct cheese head. Fitting them involved making a rivet snap tool from a piece of iron bar suitably case hardened. I worked on the theory that when painted the copper rivets will be virtually indistinguishable from the steel originals.
With the windscreen and offside cab window replaced it was now time to turn my attention to the nearside. Both nearside windows were removed and taken back to ‘Fulwell Depot’ to be cleaned up and repaired. Once again new metal was welded in to effect repairs in the sheeting whilst a new curved section was made using the rollers at the college to bridge the gap between the cab side and the bonnet. With the windows cleaned up they were replaced and a new catch fitted to replace the old one which I had butchered when taking the windows out. The handles for the catch were soaked for a couple of days in vinegar (!) to produce a polished brass finish.
The bonnet cleaned up very nicely having stripped off several layers of old paint. Unfortunately the hinge pin was rusted solid into the hinge and no amount of hammering and industrial language was going to shift it. In the event I cut it open to extract the pin then rebuilt the hinge. This involved removing the hinge from the bonnet and refitting it using countersunk copper rivets.
By now the front end was starting to look the part and I was feeling that some progress was evident. One notable missing bit is the bonnet side. This is in Nick Larkin’s possession (how and why is another story) so if you are reading this, Nick, I need it back quite urgently. It isn’t an item that I can copy from another Crossley as it has an aluminium ‘bulge’ riveted on to it to clear the Gardner accelerator linkage, a feature unique to Sunderland. I have photographed and measured No 13’s bonnet side but, as it is shallower, it still doesn’t give me much to work from. If I can get the original back from Nick, it will save me a lot of work.
5. The Engine Transplant
Readers may recall that an early setback was to discover that both blocks on ABR 433’s Gardner 5LW engine were badly frost damaged. I did manage to get the engine started but keeping it running was another matter and it quickly became apparent that a major rebuild or replacement was needed. Whilst a rebuild was possibly beyond my limited mechanical skills, I was also conscious that it would add about a year to what was already becoming an increasingly lengthy project. The answer was to find another engine – either a Crossley or another Gardner. I reasoned that a Crossley would be like hen’s teeth to find but a Gardner, whilst being under-powered, would allow me to paint the bus in my beloved green and cream of the Norman Morton era. It would also be easier to find one….or so I thought!
The year 2002 saw a career change for me into transport planning consultancy. My new job saw me based in Newcastle (quite a move for a ‘Mackem’) but one of the advantages of being in the ‘forbidden city’ is that the Northumberland St branch of WH Smiths has a better selection of transport magazines to pore over in the lunch break. It was during one of those lunch breaks back in November that I picked up one of the lorry preservation rags to find an advert for a Gardner 5LW. I bought it and immediately phoned the advertiser on my mobile phone. Was the engine still available? – yes it was.
The following Sunday saw me heading off down the A1 to Doncaster, a large wedge of the folding stuff in my wallet, to see my prospective purchase. The engine had been used as a fairground generator, as many Gardners had become in their second careers, and thus was mounted on a cradle with a lorry radiator connected to it. It started ‘on the button’ albeit a little smokey at first and, despite no exhaust or silencer, made all the right noises. The price was very reasonable, so much so that I reckoned that, if the worst came to the worst, I could use it as a source of spares. The seller and I shook hands on a deal.
Having bought an engine, I now had another set of problems to deal with. The engine was in Doncaster, the bus at Wardley. Even if I got the engine to Wardley, I didn’t have room in front of the bus to swap engines as 838 was parked nose to nose with mine. To make matters worse, my boss wanted me to work in Italy for a few weeks.
The transport problem quickly resolved itself. Tony Clayton, the man who sold me the engine is a lorry preservationist with a Mercedes pick up complete with 1 ton Hyab crane to service his fleet. We agreed a price for him to deliver the engine to Wardley which he did in late November.
Fate also took a hand in resolving the working space problem. Whilst all this was going on, the Society had agreed to take on Sunderland Guy 139 and 838 moved temporally out of Wardley to allow buses to be moved around in connection with the 139 project. This gave me two, or possibly three, weekends to do the transplant, a deadline made all the more hard and fast by the prospect of my forthcoming assignment in Italy.
Prior to the arrival of the engine, my father and I set about preparing for the transplant by removing the radiator and loosening of the engine mountings. The radiator took up residence in my garage at home where it joined so many other Crossley bits that it has become difficult to get the car in. The job of lifting the engines was entrusted to the Society’s ex Wheatsheaf hand crane, no doubt the same one that put the Gardner in back in 1952.
Getting the old engine out proved to be more difficult than I imagined due to the tight clearance between the chassis rails. The starting motor, dynamo, gear lever and exhaust manifold all had to come off to get it out though we didn’t know that when we started. With Ian Alderson joining us for the big lift, it eventually took us two weekends to remove the old engine but we learned all the lessons the hard way! With a little persuasion and a certain amount of bad language it did eventually come out so that we now had two Gardner engines sat on bogies in front of the bus.
Even at this stage, the two engines were not a direct swap. The ‘new’ engine had been adapted for its role as a fairground generator. The most obvious was a ¼ inch thick steel plate, with a pulley attached, welded to the flywheel. This came away with the hammer and cold chisel allowing us to swap the flywheels and fit the clutch from the old engine. The clutch plate had plenty of ‘meat’ left on it and went back on. The vacuum pump, accelerator linkage and front mounting bracket also had to be changed. The ‘new’ engine came with a radiator fan fitted and I had hoped to retain this but, in the event, it proved impossible because of the mounting arrangement in the Crossley frame. We shall just have to see whether she runs hot on the road.
Installing the replacement engine proved easy compared with removal of the old one, perhaps because we had learned from our mistakes. It took just one Sunday afternoon and rather less bad language! By my target date of 8th December it was in although coupling everything up was to take a little longer. At this point my assignment in Italy was put back until the New Year but at least the transplant job wasn’t getting in anyone else’s way.
The job was stopped for most of January 2003 whilst I was away working in Rome but, on my return to the UK, I was able to get the bus ready to move. The radiator was cleaned up and the grille repaired. There was no guarantee that it wouldn’t leak when filled with water but I reckoned that, having taken it off once, it would be easier to remove it a second time. In the event, a bottle of Radweld cured the few small leaks that were there.
Other jobs involved putting the gear lever and linkages back in place and connecting up the clutch and throttle linkages. Eventually, the day came when it was time to see if she moved. That was Sunday 9th March. Having moved 838 outside I sat in the driving seat, started her up, engaged first gear and let out the clutch. Slowly she moved under her own power for the first time in at least 30 years. Flush with success I drove towards Scotts Court, changing up to second gear on the way. To my surprise the synchromesh still worked making for a surprisingly easy change for a bus of this period.
In the coming months, I hope to work on the brakes so that I have a bus that stops as well as goes and start to look at the electrics. At present the fog lamp works but none of the others do. In the meantime I have been rebuilding the platform as well as having the added distraction of another Sunderland bus, Willowbrook bodied Leyland Atlantean RCU 588S (Sadly scrapped after I sold it), to keep me out of mischief!
6. Sourcing and Replacing the Seats
When the bus was converted into a mobile polling station in 1963, all but three of the original seats and the longitudinal seats over the rear wheel arches were removed. The originals had been on curved top municipal style frames with the seat backs and cushions covered in red leather. They were also somewhat narrower than those fitted to modern buses due to the narrower width of the Crossley. As a result, finding replacement seats of the correct style and pattern were to prove a problem at first.
Initially I managed to create a pair of additional seat frames by using items from a modern Dennis Dart. The curved top to the seat was recreated by hacking around with the chrome handrail. All of this was time consuming and produced an ‘acceptable’ rather than a convincing result.
Eventually sufficient frames for the lower saloon were donated by a member of the Tameside Transport Group. These came from a Stockport PD2 and needed new feet and mounting brackets welding on to them before they could be used. Seat backs for the Stockport frames came from a variety of sources, mainly the Barnsley breakers yards whilst a set of red leather seat cushions of almost the right width came from a former Burnley East Lancs bodied Atlantean also in a Barnsley breakers yard.
Finding fifteen suitable seats for the upper saloon seemed to be a very tall order until a chance encounter at a rally with a former work colleague, Dr JR (Jim) Young of Nottingham. Over the years Jim had found homes for a number of former buses from the Channel Islands. Among these were the pair of Leyland Tiger PS1s which had started out on Jersey, went back to the Chanel Islands to be rebuilt for use on Guernsey and were latterly in use with Mac Tours in Edinburgh. During their period between Jersey and Guernsey they had been with Jim at his Lincolnshire base.
Fortunately, before being shipped off to Guernsey, the seats were removed from both buses and left with Jim. At the time of our chance encounter, Jim was preparing his premises for sale so he invited me to go and take whatever was useful to me.
There turned out to be 17 ex Jersey frames of the right style and width painted in light green with backs covered in a green moquette. Prior to being in the PS1s, these had been in a a former Jersey pre-war Leyland TD. There were no matching cushions but there was a set of the right width items in a red moquette from an ex Guernsey Albion Victor.
A trip to Lincolnshire with a trailer saw us bringing the whole lot back up the A1 and over the next couple of weeks we re-seated the upper saloon. Two spare frames were painted black and the upholstery recovered in red leatherette to replace the previously mentioned Dennis Dart items.
I now had a bus with a full set of seats!