Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Apprentice

I promised earlier that I'd be carrying out all the restoration work on 270 KTA myself. But after another weekend of good progress, I'm mindful I should pay tribute to a previously overlooked but constant supporter of the project.

Here he is today, giving a second opinion on how best to progress with 270 KTA's front brakes. It's likely that recommendations will include a short nap wherever I happen to be working, followed by some enforced tummy tickling and a break for tuna sandwiches. They usually do...

The apprentice is, of course, Partridge: resident hunter gatherer, ornithological terrorist and, it would appear, bus enthusiast of great taste.

Since we've been working together at his farm, I've observed that he too is rather keen on 270 KTA, and stalks its every move as much as its owner.

A part of me is convinced he recognises the sound of a Bristol SU, flocking to the barn within minutes of one starting. Could it be that the SU holds a certain feline appeal?

So a cat's appreciation of buses is more discerning than you could ever imagine. Right down to knowing which drivers are silly enough to leave their lunch on on the driver's seat...

Ah. Maybe there's your answer.

Betwen fur balls this weekend, I've finished stripping down the nearside front brakes, unseized the two adjusters and steady posts, cleaned up the back-plate and prepared most of the area for painting. Photos of all that coming soon...

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


Here's a reassuring sight that 270 KTA's driver won't have seen for years, perhaps even decades.

It's a gauge showing a full tank of vacuum.

After weeks of isolating pipes in search of a likely hairline hole, followed by the fiddly removal of the exhauster (the bit that generates a suction which ought to evacuate the tank), followed by the refitting of another... and another... and... etc., I've finally managed to establish why we've been struggling to build up vacuum to operate the brakes.

The answer was a simple spring and ball bearing, missing from inside 270 KTA's original exhauster, which acts as a crucial non-return valve to prevent suction being 'wasted' through the pipe which is supposed to drain off excess oil to the engine. Essentially, the thing was sucking through its arse and not through its mouth.

The valve was missing from one of the replacement exhausters too, and back to front in the other, so it's no wonder it took a while to trace.

One thing's for sure: 270 KTA can't have built up a safe vacuum for as long as the valve has been missing, a fact worryingly confirmed by this photo of her in use with previous owners, showing the gauge barely reaching the halfway point. I'm glad I wasn't on board...

Now mended, the brakes not only work pronto, but vacuum replenishes so quickly after each operation it would be impossible for the needle to crawl this low with the engine running.

With the vacuum issue resolved, I started work this weekend on stripping-down the front nearside brakes. Other than two seized adjusters, everything seems to be working, if badly in need of cleaning and adjusting.

The brake drums, apparently well-silvered when viewed through the wheel, speak of quite a different maintenance philosophy to my own. Look closely with the wheel off, and you'll see that a paintbrush had been poked through the holes just to cover the visible bits...

Inside, meanwhile, the brakes themselves are long overdue some 'silver service'...

Ironically, the drums should be green, not sliver, and will be when they go back - hopefully with original-style wheels to boot.

As I write, I'm about to revive an old tradition of the Sheppard household. The kitchen sink has been primed to receive its first bus part for cleaning - the centre hub cap which, instead of green, will emerge in original polished aluminium condition. Unlike the sink, I suspect...

It's a long road, but we are making progress.

Friday, 14 January 2011

No Cameras!

Happy New Year!

Ahead of my first weekend of hard work on 270 KTA in 2011 (the first of many), I thought I'd share some photos from the past which have presented themselves over the festive period.

Keith Jackson has kindly shared his shot of '1220' (as she'd then become), lurking behind LS 1728 at Bridgwater depot. This is the only shot I've seen during her days at Bridgwater, home to several SULs over the years, including 270 KTA between October 1971 and March 1973 - oddly, a lesser chronicled era in its history.

Thanks also to Peter Delaney for alerting me to a shot of her in early preservation days, taken inside her new home at Western National's Laira Bridge Depot (Plymouth) in 1997.

Perhaps the most revealing of all has been discovered by Luke Farley, a colour shot taken at Newton Abbot bus station c.1974 during her days as the lone poppy red SUL coach, Devon General 1220. Close examination will reveal that headrests have been lopped off as part of the downgrading from dual-purpose to bus status and, interestingly, additional seats have been added to increase capacity from 33 to 37. She was the only SUL to be so treated. (See right.)

Many have suggested, given the uniqueness of the conversion, I should return her to poppy red B37F condition - but I'm bound to resist, at least for now. Of course, it's true to say the 'red fleet' holds a slightly lesser place in my heart than Western and Southern National, but that's not the only reason I'm keen to stay green. As probably the best-travelled SUL coach in terms of allocation, most notably finding its way to Trowbridge in 1968, 270 KTA has an equally interesting and unique history through its Western National days, too.

Speaking of which, I've recently acquired a well-loved copy of the 1968 timetable for WN's Trowbridge area services, some of which would have been operated by 270 KTA in the era I'm aiming to to recreate in her restoration.

As you'll see, the timetable carries dual branding for Western National and Bristol Omnibus, a sign of what was to come in January 1969 when the depot and its buses were transferred to Bristol Omnibus. As a comparitively modern vehicle, 270 KTA escaped and fled to Taunton with days, or even hours, to spare...

If you have any photos of 270 KTA in service, I'd love to see 'em. Please contact me at