This first part of this article appeared in the April 2001 newsletter and the article was concluded in the August 2001 newsletter.
NEBPT's Chairman Ian Findlay summarises another rash decision!
This vehicle has dominated part of my life for the past few weeks, however, it all seems to have been worth it, with the vehicle about to be transported to the new owners Chris Pearce and friends at Horsham. The story began when we heard that the car breaker's yard at Shildon was being cleared, and the former Southdown/OK PD2 was likely to be broken up.
We first visited the yard back in January, and some of us thought the vehicle should be saved, whilst others said it was only fit for spares. None of the NEBPT Members showed any interest in this 1952 vehicle, which ran for OK Motor Services from 1967 until 1971 after 15 years service with Southdown. So we decided to spread the news and we made contact with the Southdown people, locating Chris Pearce, who owns a Queen Mary PD3 and a few others!
The nearside - Now all we need is some wheels!
The Engine is unearthed – It’s bound to start first time!
Chris asked that we negotiate the purchase of the vehicle, and we entered into discussions with Davie Rowland, the 82 year old yard owner. A price was agreed, and work began to make the vehicle ready for the long journey south. First of all, we needed some rear wheels, as these had been replaced by bricks! A set of four wheels was located in the yard and fitted with some degree of difficulty. The bus was parked on some very soft soil, with apparently no hard standing underneath, so when the jack was inserted underneath the offside axle and jacking commenced, the bus stayed put and the jack moved downwards. The jack was removed and a large thick metal plate located within the yard. This was placed underneath the jack, and work commenced again. The plate began to curl at either end, with little movement of the bus, until eventually we saw some lifting. Thick wooden blocks were inserted under the axle and the jacking began again, this process must have lasted a couple of hours until we had the axle sufficiently high enough to accept the wheel. The wheel studs has been exposed to the elements for many years, but a die nut was available to tidy up the threads, and the wheels were duly fitted without too much trouble.
The process was repeated on the near-side, when a suitable left hand thread die nut could be obtained, courtesy of Ted Heslop who borrowed it from Tyne Valley Coaches, (they didn't know they had one, but Ted showed them where they kept it), and the vehicle was then ready for movement. We decided to try and start the bus, an optimistic idea, but one which would allow us to move the vehicle in the yard to a suitable collection point for the transporter. Batteries were borrowed and connected, after we checked the engine was free to rotate, and had oil in the sump. The starter button was depressed, and...nothing! Further investigations revealed that the starter motor was missing, which explained a lot. Why did no one check this before we fitted the batteries? Anyway, we found out that the sidelights still worked!
Now for the offside rear wheel
Brian Smith presses the starter!
Next stage, - to locate, or borrow a starter motor. No suitable starter could be purchased in the time available, so we borrowed one from Derek Thompson, which involved me collecting the rather heavy item and delivering it to the yard. The job of fitting the starter seemed to have been delegated to me, as I had jacked up the front of the bus to allow access underneath. I should have cleaned all the muck and dirt off the cross members before I began the job, but I didn't, and I regretted that throughout the afternoon, as every movement seemed to shower me with thirty years of rust and grime.
After much lifting, grunting and groaning, I managed to get the starter into place, and the button was depressed again. The engine fairly whizzed around, suggesting very little compression. Brian Smith had rigged up a drip feed of diesel into the appropriate orifice, but no joy! Then he appeared with a rag soaked in diesel, which he set alight, and the flaming rag was inserted into the air intake. More whizzing of the starter, but no life, so we admitted defeat, and packed up for the day.
The vehicle was still full of treasure as it had been used as a storage area. Much of the contents were unrelated to motor vehicles, but items which Davie must have taken in as part of his trading over the years. The upper floor was collapsing in places where heavy tyres and wheels had been stored, so we asked if we could help to unload the vehicle in readiness for the move. Davie insisted he would supervise the job, and we formed a human chain to remove the articles from the top deck. It was all very much like the Generation Game with electric fires, jugs, ornaments, brass hearth surrounds, army haversacks, and so on appearing from the top deck. No cuddly toy appeared, but there was a good selection of rubbish. A skip had been in service in the yard for several months, and most of the stuff found its way into here, but old Davie was seen later in the day checking through the skip to see if anything was salvageable!
All this work had been done without Chris and friends actually seeing the bus, but working on photographs we had taken and sent to them. We decided that the next step was for them to visit and see what they were letting themselves in for. The visit duly took place over the weekend 17/18 March, when Bob Kell introduced them to their prospective purchase. Apparently there was a long period of silence! A detailed inspection took place, and the lads departed promising to ring Bob and confirm that they would still go ahead with this acquisition. The following evening the call was received, confirming that the deal was still on, and we were asked to make arrangements for the removal of the vehicle. Bob has spoken to Ritchies of Hetton-le-Hole who have a low-level transporter, and a price was agreed for the journey south.
We had discussed the movement of the vehicle to the South coast with Stewart Ritchie, who owns a low level transporter, and a price was agreed for the journey south. Since the PD2 is 14ft 6” high, normal transporters were not suitable, due to motorway bridge heights. A suspended tow was considered, but the thought of a trail of body parts down the M1 put everyone off that idea.
Work continued to make the vehicle move under its own power, and on 11th May, Brian Smith tinkered with the valves, tapping them firmly onto their seats, to dislodge any build up which had occurred in the 30 years the vehicle had stood in the yard. A starter motor had by now been provided by Chris Pearce and again I won the job of fitting it. Amazingly, the bus roared into life after Brian’s exploits under the bonnet. The clouds of smoke were seen for miles, but the engine sounded remarkably good, and it made Brian smile a lot. It was assumed that the hard work was over, as Brian engaged first, and reverse gears to free off the brakes, but sadly there was no rotation of any wheel, and it was obvious that the brakes did not intend to free themselves of their own accord. A burnt out clutch was a distinct possibility, so the engine was stopped and more head scratching began.
The following week, wheels were removed and large solid bars were employed to endeavour to rotate the wheels but nothing budged. Brian dismantled the nearside front wheel and made that turn, but no such luck with the rear wheels. The nearside drum had a crack in it and would have needed replacing, so that was attacked with a large sledge hammer, until the hub moved. The offside rear wheel hub was attacked in every conceivable way, but would not budge an inch. In an act of desperation, a grinder was used to cut away a chunk of the drum, and eventually the hub began to rotate. The wheels were re-fitted, and the moment of truth dawned. Would LUF move under its own power? The front off side wheel was still locked, but it was hoped that it would decide to play the game and turn, if and when the bus stated to move.
No more than a couple of turns on the starter, the engine fired up, and wheel movement was apparent. The stuck front offside wheel did free off and gradually LUF trundled backward through the yard. It was turned to face the gate through which it would move to its new home and a few people breathed a sigh of relief. Several weeks of very hard work were complete and Southdown 742 was ready for the journey home.
The collection was made early on Sunday morning, 10th June. Colin Ritchie and his colleague turned up, as promised, at 8 am. We had notified the police that we would need to close the road, and asked them to authorise us to drive the vehicle for a short distance on the main road, on to the transporter. They confirmed that we could do that, but did not turn up to hold up the traffic during manoeuvres so we did the necessary, and closed the road for ten minutes while Brian fired up LUF and inched it out of the yard.
LUF 242 inches out of the yard for the first time in 30 years
The tractor had been moved forward of the trailer, and Brian moved LUF across the road, then reversed it on to the trailer. Without too much trouble, it was chocked in place, and tied down. A few ropes held the flapping panels down, and the windows which looked ready to fall out were removed, then off she went, the job taking no more than half an hour.
LUF 242 is loaded onto the transporter
Bob Kell supervises the operation
LUF 242 is safely loaded
LUF 242 heads South
It was off-loaded at Ritchies’ yard for a couple of weeks until they were ready to make the delivery, and then off it went, 350 miles south to Bognor Regis. Ritchies’ driver met up with the Southdown lads in a lorry park, where they off loaded it and then drove the bus around the yard and everyone seemed pleased! Brian suggested we go and see it in a couple of years time, but I have this feeling it may take just a bit longer to fix this one!!!!
A good example of two preservation groups working together to save an important vehicle from the breaker’s torch.