Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Gearbox Number Three

click on any photo to enlarge
As has already been described below in "The Mystery Gearbox", once the gearbox had been separated before the engine was lifted out, we were slightly surprised to find it was a post war type GB211P, with all straight-cut gear wheels.
By an extraordinary chance Craig found a real pre-war box at the Loftus tram museum (see the link at the top of the page) , and with top cover lifted off, we found as expected, helical teeth on the third speed gear wheels, but not on the clutch shaft or front wheel of the countershaft. Yet we knew such things existed: I have them in my collection of Albion spare parts, brand new if a little rusty on the surface.
All this time we knew that the bare chassis of Albion 1619 was still sitting forlornly in the bush beside the old shed which used to be the depot building of the tram museum. It carried a 6LW Gardner engine and another pre-war gearbox, this time with an undamaged casing. About a year ago it was moved inside into the old depot building, and late in winter 2008 we arranged to meet there and get the box out (after some dramas with keys to the gate outside the shed, due to a truck owner who, given permission to park inside the gated area, proceeded to lock up with his own padlock, not the jointly operable one).

The box from 1619, out in the weather for at least the previous 30 years, yet the gear wheels are in beautiful condition, with only slight rounding off on the leading edge of the second speed wheel, second from the right. Every time a driver selects 2nd to start off, there is a little crunch here.

With much strong arm work the gearbox which must weigh about 100 kg. came out easily enough, despite the bolts having sat and rusted in the weather for ten years. We whipped the top cover off to discover...... straight cut teeth on all gear wheels.
However the case, of prewar design with no external ribbing, is in near perfect condition. All the available top and third gear wheels with helical teeth and a later type counter shaft with a double-instead of single-row rear bearing can now be used in a sound casing. And yet the two cases are not quite identical. This one below, from an unknown bus has a much smaller aperture for access to the clutch finger adjustment.

Just for comparison: the spare gearbox found loose at Loftus some years ago. It contains the precious third speed helical gears. The damage to the clutch housing is pretty bad, but now there is no need for a very expensive weld job. The smooth curves of the two cases make a strong contrast with the heavy ribbing on post-war boxes. The reason for the ribs is not obvious, either.
See the earlier post: "Engine Out".

Showing the very good condition of the case around the top of the mounting ring. During overhauls these probably got damaged by the use of chains for lifting the box in and out.

From the front, the throwout bearing, incorporating the clutch brake. The hub of the friction-lined clutch disc mate with the splines in the centre, allowing the disc to move in and out slightly when disengaging.

The disc closest to the camera spins with the clutch disc, but the throwout bearing remains fixed, only moving fore and aft to operate the clutch release fingers. So if the clutch pedal is depressed hard, the clutch disengages then the throwout bearing (carrying a small friction lining) hits the spinning brake disc and stops the clutch plate dead. This makes it easier to perform an upward gear change quickly, especially on a hill start.
Next step: dismantle this box, and when funds permit, have the case shot blasted to clean it thoroughly. Then the varied collection of gears, shafts and bearings can be assembled to build a gearbox with helical gears on top and third, which will produce a sound none of us has ever heard.

photos David Griffiths

Spring Cleaning in June

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The trip to Parkes went off without a hitch.
On the outskirts of town in Renshaw Road Phil Dixon's men got stuck into the job, first cleaning off the heavy build up of mud and grease by water blasting, so that the special sand particles used in the abrasive cleaning booth would not be clogged up and rendered useless for future jobs.

It's looking much better already

The greenish undercoat has gone on, to be followed by the silver top coat. It seems an odd colour for a chassis but many British makers followed this practice. Early photos show this to be the case, but after many years' service and many steam cleanings, it became hard to tell. See the first page of 'Albion 1877 Restoration' : click on the link at the top of the home page of this blog.

After the silver is dried and a little hardened outside in the winter sun the tilt tray truck is lined up.

One happy restorer. Now there is a clean slate to work with, which makes all the hard work to come seem a little more attractive.
Our sincere thanks to Philip Dixon.

all photos Phil Dixon


And out of the wilderness stepped a saviour.
Albion Club member and avid truck collector and restorer Phil Dixon offered to do the sandblasting and recoating of the chassis in the original silver, at an unbeatable price: zilch. Phil just happens to own Protector abrasive cleaning, industrial and powder coating in Parkes, NSW, west of Dubbo.
All we had to do was get the chassis there. Towing it was out of the question, and the only practical way seemed to be to load it onto a tilt tray truck. But the chassis is 27 feet long and 17 feet 6 inches between wheel centres. It might be too long to fit on the tray, or the overall length of the loaded truck might exceed limits even for a three axle vehicle.
Craig has a mate: mate owns a tilt tray and there might be a time when he needed to bring a load from say Dubbo, and instead of making the trip out empty could take the bus at a greatly reduced rate. So measurements were made and it was found that all the dimensions would be within limits.
A possible chance came up when a bulldozer might have to be brought to Sydney from Parkes, but the job fell through. Eventually however, in the stars, Venus came into alignment with Mars and Orion was in the ascendant, so the trip was on. I shall have to find out the name of the mate so he can be given a plug on the net.
The pictures tell the story.

Craig's van has done its job of towing the chassis out onto the road, now the cable and winch of the tilt tray can take over.

Despite everything the handbrake still works: the winch and cable can't stop the chassis running down the slope.

Steering on an Albion is never easy but standing up it's even harder.

Looks like it's going to fit.

How lucky is that: within the end of the tray by about 6 inches.

All photos by Bill Parkinson

Monday, December 29, 2008

Ready To Roll

After the main work of dismantling the body was over and dust cleared away, Craig continued on, to remove the front bulkhead (firewall) once it was decided finally to rebuild it . The floor cross bearers had come out too, once he found they were sagging at the extremities. Many other small brackets and fragments of body had to removed.
Finally there stood a bare chassis exactly as supplied by Albion Motors except for absence of front mudguards, the Gardner engine and the gearbox. As noted earlier the original gearbox, after the bus' many overhauls, had been replaced with a post-war type. A prewar version with a somewhat damaged case (see 'The Mystery Gearbox' post) had been found at the Tempe bus museum. And since then we have yet another prewar box. More in a later post.
With no body or engine or gearbox the frame looks remarkably light and racy.

Hauled out of the garage behind Craig's Toyota van, the chassis sits in the driveway ready for sandblasting. The right hand chassis rail looks alarming crooked, but in fact all British double decker chasses featured this narrowing to the front, from the 1927 Leyland TD1 onwards. It gave more room for the front wheels to move from lock to lock, and brought the engine mounts closer in to be more rigid. Perspective alters the impression, but from just ahead of the second cross member to the rear wheel arch, the rails are quite parallel, then they dive up and over the rear axle, then down for the rear platform. There is also a drop down just behind where the firewall would normally sit, to lower the saloon floor a couple of inches.

Closer in can be seen the vacuum reservoir tank (R), the brake servo (L), and the fuel tank (Top L). The lump on the prop shaft is a vibration damper: a kind of flywheel mounted in friction linings so its inertia takes out the twists and shakes in the drive line.

From behind the extensions for the back platform are clearly seen, and the gussets to which the heavy rear cross bearer mounts. On a single decker the main chassis rails would simply extend out straight to the back.

The nerve centre: it seems the driver gets very little room to move, but the cab extends well left of the chassis rail, and outwards over the wheel arch. Albion were very early users of tubular cross members for the chassis: light and very strong.
Fortunately we have two brand new rubber "Albion" tread pads for the pedals.

In the centre of shot is the steering box, held in a bracket at left and steadied by another at right. The steering linkage is very simple and accessible even when the cab and mudguard are in place. Beside the front wheel is the vacuum brake servo, and between it and the fuel tank is the battery box. The stud poking straight out just above the front cross tube is a radiator mount.

all photos by Bill Parkinson

What Body Frame?

click on any photo to enlarge

It's over a year now since the last blog post for which I apologise.
Life is full of distractions such as Craig's need to earn a living as a train driver and pay his mortgage, and my deeper involvement in the running of Sydney Bus Museum at Tempe NSW.
And my old computer now around for at least 8 years has just been pensioned off. It had reached the point where Google didn't support Mac OS9. So no photos could be uploaded, except on my wife's computer, which wasn't always convenient.... Now I have a lovely new iMac with OS10 Leopard and the fun can begin again.
Craig meanwhile however has managed to keep the ball rolling, with occasional assistance from yrs trly. In August 2007 we spent an entire weekend to achieve the complete destruction of the remaining parts of the bottom deck. All was cut up, dragged outside Craig's garage and kept for use as patterns. All very easy and quick; you feel you've achieved something but it's the exact opposite. It's only clearing the way for the hard yards ahead.
With most of the frame components of a new bottom deck already made it was time to clear away the rusty bits of the old. Looking at the photos it seems tempting to keep the many pieces which appear quite OK: trouble is they may have some rust in just one corner which fatally weakens them, and is very slow and difficult to patch and fix. An example is this below: the rear bulkhead of the downstairs saloon which is a major part, holding up the top deck and providing massive diagonal bracing against side to side sway.

The rear bulkhead cut away at floor level and from the side frames. A lot of it is fine, but look closely at the top RH corner and the bottoms of the verticals. Very hard to fix in situ. The extent of the diagonal bracing can be seen.

In between work and living a life, Craig had already removed all the exterior and interior panels, and the flooring of the rear platform. The staircase had gone and all that remained there was the light steel frame of the staircase enclosure.

Craig and I are standing in the doorway to the back platform now cut away from its attachment to the chassis. My hand is on the pillar where I would grab the handrail to jump aboard. A solitary remnant of top deck floor sits behind Craig's head.

Outside the garage, still being help upright by Craig out of shot at right, the frame of the light structure enclosing the staircase, which attaches at left to the rear bulkhead. At right is the aperture for the fixed rear window.

The view from behind of the place where the bulkhead used to sit, on the equally massive rear body cross member. This bit was made by Waddingtons Ltd: the rear chassis cross member, made by Albion, is tubular and just out of sight behind the square section beam.

click on photo to enlarge

The dire condition of the back of the bottom deck. Taken from almost the same spot as above, but further back, a view from floor level of the right hand side of the rear platform, which sits under the staircase. The heavier section at bottom right is one of the two cantilevered chassis extensions which support the platform and stairs. The wood packing is there to raise the offside floor of the platform to create a fall to the left, so that water drains off the platform, not in.

The same area from the offside. The condition of the skirt rail, made of 1 1/4 inch angle iron, is terrible: The burned spot at bottom RHS is where one of the rear bulkhead pillars has been cut away. The heavy section at right forms the step up into the lower saloon and marks the end of the vehicle's chassis. The rear platform and stairs are simply hung off the end, supported on the two extensions underneath.

The tragic remains of the back platform floor. Fortunately not hard to make new, using angle iron and cutting and shutting to get the curves.

Close up, viewed from ahead of the cross beam, the detail of how the U-section end of the back platform extension attaches to the main chassis. The cross beam sits on the chassis ends, and the angled gusset with the hand-sized hole in it is what attaches the beam. At no point is any part of the body welded onto the Albion chassis, because the heat would damage the tempered steel. And supposedly the body could be removed for replacement or overhaul, although this rarely happened.

The main rear cross bearer of the body. It has to support a major part of the entire weight of the top deck and passengers: the rest is taken by the bulkhead behind the driver. and the pillars along the sides, between each window. It is one of the very first items to be fitted by the body builder, by sitting it on the stub ends of the chassis rails. The (Albion) chassis cross tube is visible at top right. The angle gusset with the hole in it (far right) is still attached to the chassis ready to receive the new beam.

The same beam, showing detail of its design; and also, poking off the top, some of the sub frame which supports the floor inside the bottom deck. Although at first glance it doesn't seem to need more than a sand blast and paint job, its outer extremities are rotten and very hard to unpick from the pillars they support. And it is such a vital part of the structure.

Looking pleased with themselves but deep down knowing the real work is yet to come, the destroyers carry out the cross beam. It can be seen to taper from right to left, to provide the
fall on the rear platform floor. It looks complex but is mainly a heavy box section at top, available off the shelf from steel suppliers, and many pieces of 1" and 2" angle.

The process of removing the remaining floor boards begins. Craig has already long ago removed the frame sections from the offside. (See: "Decision: the Bottom Deck Gets New Frame"). The floor has to come up to allow removal of the floor cross supports, so that the bare chassi can go for sand blasting and painting.

The tedious business of chiselling out malthoid and bitumen paint from the screw heads holding the floor down: two screws in every board into every cross beam (at 18" intervals).

Hard to get out an even harder to put back in: the very complex structure around the rear wheel arch. It has a wooden box with a raised floor on which sits a valance (left) and a steel subframe for the longways back seat.

The box over the rear wheel arch is gone, leaving most of the nearside frame standing free after cutting the pillars off at floor level. Rather than try to cut everything into a mass of small pieces , Craig's brainwave was to look ahead and keep whole assemblies as far as possible, so that important small details in construction can be reproduced in the new frame. Note the blue rope at top centre holding the lot up.

Almost the entire nearside wall has been cut off at floor level: sounds easy but we discovered just how much it weighs: a lot. And glass is very heavy. The frame was held propped up as we cut, so that it didn't twist and collapse inwards.
Now, how to get it off the bus and onto the floor. Answer: three men including Craig's father Bill Parkinson. (Who took ALL the photos by the way).

ALL the floorboards are lifted, and almost the only piece left except for the floor cross bearers (which are the bus equivalent of floor joists), is the front bulkhead. It is really very sound and I would have said keep it. But we saw this rust at floor level, and Craig decided it had to go. As can be seen it is sheet steel and some box sections, with some tricky bits where it curves over the flywheel housing and clutch.
Later when preparing to remove the floor bearers, Craig noticed that although mostly free of rust, they were all "banana shaped" i.e. curved downwards, apparently from being overloaded. As they have to come off anyway to bare the chassis fully, they too will be replaced with box sections. Quite simple really.