Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Bus in Question

click on any photo to enlarge

Albion Venturer m/o 1615 is a model SPCX19GW: that is, a SPecial for Sydney transport, Wide (8 ft.) with Gardner engine. Until February 1940 it was fleet number 615, and registration number m/o 1815, but to remove the disparity between fleet number and licence number (registration number) 1000 was added to the fleet number. The figure 1000 arises because originally N.S.W. motor omnibus registrations (m/o plates) 1 to 1000 were allocated to private operators, so Department of Road Transport and Tramways plates began at m/o 1001 in 1933 when State Government omnibus operations began. However for a short period in the late thirties, the disparity was 1200, and our bus fell into that group.

Manly, West Esplanade, October 1939. A remarkable shot , not of 1615, but of its near relative 1613, in its original condition. It is believed that the occasion is the first day of tramway replacement buses at Manly. It is in that very brief interval when registration numbers of these buses were 1200 out of synch. with fleet numbers, so for the moment it is m/o 1813. photo courtesy Allan T Condie.

An order for 17 CX19s was placed in early 1938, they entered service in 1939, 13 with Gardner 6LW engines and 4 (m/o’s 1611 to 1614) with Albion EN242 diesels. M/o 1612 was involved in a serious incident on the Northern side of The Spit bridge, in 1949 when it failed to take a tight downhill corner, ran over a bank and overturned. Sadly, there were fatalities and the bus was written off.
Bodies, entirely steel framed and seating 28 down, 33 up, were built by the Waddington Motor Body Company, Granville NSW, to a design prepared by DRTT engineers. Originally they were licensed to carry 19 standing passengers (!) but this was later reduced to 13, making 74 passengers all told. They entered service in 1939 at Manly Depot, converted from the tram depot.

Just to the north of West Esplanade, Manly, was a reserved area which was part of the loop used to turn trams at Manly Wharf. When the trams finished, the space was sealed and used as a bus stand. It is now under the new Meridian building: 1615 may be standing on what is now the kitchen of the Allhambra Restaurant! Various differences can be seen between 1615 (now in green and cream livery) and the post-WWII Albion CX19 beside it: notably the absence of an opening lower deck emergency window and the presence of swages in the panels, lined out in black in the pre-war livery. photo courtesy David Wilson.

After 20 years service m/o 1615 was withdrawn from Brookvale Depot where it had been since that depot opened in 1952 . It spent a mere few days at Willoughby depot, and in November 1959 was sold to West Bankstown Bus Service in South Western Sydney, which operated several ex-government CX19s. It and 1619 were purchased in 1975 for preservation and later donated by David Wilson and Adrian Price to Sydney Tramway Museum, on the premise (if one were needed) that each was a “Tramway Replacement Bus”, being used to replace trams on the Manly system which closed in 1939.



A Wollongong radio station sponsored its repainting, into a mainly blue colour scheme, but by about 1980 Bill Parkinson of the Tramway Museum had spent many long hours repainting it back to its 1939 colours of red and cream. It saw some years as a Museum vehicle, but as pressure grew to concentrate on building the new museum site, the bus fell into disuse and was stored out of sight in a corrugated iron shed at the original site of the Sydney Tramway Museum in Royal National Park, Loftus NSW. Through a series of sad occurrences and bad decisions, 1615 is now the sole surviving pre war CX19 in Australia, and almost certainly in the world, but happily its future is now assured. The bare chassis of 1619 is at Loftus, with its engine, and offers are welcome from would-be restorers. A UK-style body could be fitted: the unlikely result would then be an 8-foot wide UK double decker of 1939!.

On an outing for the 50th anniversary of NSW Government buses, 1615 stands in Eddy Avenue below Central Railway Station. Behind it is Leyland TS7 Tiger ex-m/o 1275, also owmed by STM and now on display at Sydney Bus Museum, Tempe. The date is 1983. Photo Bill Parkinson

With the impending visit of the Scottish Albion fans in January 2004 acting as a spur, it was extricated, fired up, dusted off and tarted up for display. The major effort for this exercise was provided by Craig Parkinson, son of Bill who kept the bus alive in the 70s and 80s.
After seeing some service as a demonstrator at Sydney Bus Museum, Tempe, during the Albion Tour Down Under, 1615 returned to Loftus where room was found for it in the new depot buildings, and Craig got stuck into removal of panels to see how bad the steel framing of the body was. Answer, it’s pretty awful, with major rust in the pillars of the firewall behind the driver, as well as all the usual trouble sites under the fixed panes of glass which were “sealed” with glazier’s linseed oil putty, and along the sills of the sliding windows.
But steel is cheap, and with access provided by removal of all internal and external panelling, and windows, the frame will be renovated. Above all the vehicle is complete, with all its original seating, fittings and trims, and largely unaltered structurally from its 1939 condition. The bus has even recovered its rear destination display box: these were removed by the DRTT in the 50s and simply thrown away, but a Tempe (and Loftus) member, Brian Mantle, made one from scratch, including winder mechanism, which was fitted at the time of the 1980s repaint.

The bus after its first repaint into Government colours from the West Bankstown livery. The setting is at La Perouse, and the colour scheme is the later, wartime, version of red and cream, with fewer black bands and reduced use of the cream colour. Photo Bill Parkinson

Craig’s plan is to lift the whole top deck away, using the overhead travelling crane at the Tramway Museum’s workshop. Seeing virtually all the feet of the top deck pillars are rusted away, just taking out the seats and cutting the wiring to the top deck lights should free it up!
By this means, work on the top deck frame can be conducted at ground level, not 10 or 12 feet up on a shaky scaffold, and the roof, which is hail damaged, can be reskinned. Craig will transport the whole top deck by truck to his home where he estimates it will fit in his garage in Wollongong: what a perfect set-up for restoration! A good deal of the top deck framing will need new metal welding in to replace rusted sections: front corner sections, waist rails, pillars and skirt rails as required.
When the top deck is done, and reskinned but not painted, it will return to Loftus, and the bottom deck can actually be driven to Wollongong to get its treatment. As was done at Waddingtons in 1939, the two will be reunited using the overhead crane. Using new aluminium is a great saving in time, avoiding arduous paint stripping and panel beating, as new panels can be created in a matter of minutes with guillotine and swaging machine. The roof is a toss-up: setting hundreds of solid rivets will be a chore, but so would tapping out hundreds of hail pock-marks, sometimes with dubious results.
It is estimated that about 35 sheets of 8x4 and 6x4 aluminium sheet will reskin the whole bus. Cost: about $1000. Armed with the experience gained on my Waddington-bodied Leyland TD4, I will attempt to keep Craig supplied with some of the necessary frame components: the angle gussets for the top deck pillar feet are already made.
The re-entry of 1615 into Museum activities will be eagerly awaited: it is not only a unique Albion, but a very charismatic vehicle with its many distinctly pre-war features such as swaged body panels, (visible as black lines in the photos) and a much darker-feeling interior with lots of dark brown trims. The Gardner engine gives a very different sound to the EN242B in the post war CX19s, and the “silent third” gearbox with its helical gears from clutch shaft to countershaft in third and top sounds much quieter, but also sweeter.. And because people were smaller of stature in the 30s, pre-war Sydney deckers are 2 inches lower in height than the post war buses, at 14 feet 2 inches.
And finally, an appeal: does any reader know where Craig might obtain a fair sample of the radiator enamel badge? 1615’s is very battered.


Blogger Paul said...

Hi Craig & David,

Great to see this unique old Albion is getting the treatment it deserves.

I see the b&w pic of 1613 (and also the one behind it) shows the headlamps in the standard UK position. Are you going to return the headlamps to that position?


4/29/06, 7:01 AM  
Anonymous John Hardman said...

I tried to enquire by e-mail about the CX19 restoration projects but had server problems.If anyone is still 'there' in 2014, could I get some info.on the design of that iconic busbody which is probably still as much a Sydney trademark as that bridge, decades after the last ones were retired.Why the pronounced fore-and-aft sloping:was it just styling or did structural/streamlining/safety/stability considerations come into the picture:?

3/7/14, 3:24 PM  

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