September every year the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, plays host to the one day event, Showbus, the "World's" largest modern and old, bus and coach show!
Which e even being so local to us, and with over 400 vehicles entred, we thought it would be a nice easy day out, to promote #London2Japan. Well so we thought!
The day before, I (Matt) popped up to the bus in the afternoon to give the bus a quick clean, set up the Japan or bust destination blind and set our new display board up!
Noticing it was 5pm already, I checked the fuel tank, and decided to pop the bus up the road, to the garage for quick drink of Diesel. 1.5miles there and back, 20mins and I'll be on my way home for tea I thought to myself as I started the bus up and pulled out of the yard. No sooner had I left the yard and the wheels touched the A1 Northbound, Vrummmmmm the engine revs violently as I try to pull away!
Crap I shout, knowing no one can hear me, I had lost all of my gears! A intermittent problem I thought I had previously fixed. You see Routemasters have a semi automatic gearbox, and the gear selector is electronic. I discovered the inside of ours was dirty and damaged, when I was investigating the issue a few weeks ago! Having repaired the gear selector and having a test run, I thought I had fixed the issue, clearly not!
Now with no where to stop safely on this very busy main road, the only choice I had was to limp up the road to the garage as planned. Jumping forward 200meters at a time as the gears engaged for before dying again, I finally limped into the forecourt of the garage as my gears died again rolling to a stop.
Our day at Showbus is now looking unlikely!
Knowing it wasn't the gear selector I flicked through my phone looking for the number of a mechanic I met at Routemaster 60 in Finsbury Park back in July. 1hour 30minutes later and armed with a few things to check, and a oil change (so glad I had all my tools and oil in the bus) on the air compressor for the gears, with a list of thing to listen for and things to try next time the gears die. I start her up talking to the bus,
"Come on old girl you can do this" I pull forward onto the A1 now southbound.
Vrummmmmm, as soon as I reach the point of no retreating back onto the forecourt my gears are gone. Staying calm I have to stick with it as now it's getting dark, I need to get her back to the yard where I have lights.
After a nerve racking return trip I feel relaxed pulling into the yard, knowing while struggling back I have discovered the reason for the lack of gears.
On a Routemaster, the semi automatic gears are held in place using air pressure. The air tank where the pressure is held has a pressure release valve that approximately every minute, releases the excess pressure built up. This was sticking open and releasing all our air until their is nothing in the tank and loosing our gears before the valve closes again.
9pm and I am finally dragging myself out from under the bus having had the valve apart, and my god it was dirty and stiff. Having cleaned and put it back together, I was covered in dirt, oil grease and for extra measure sand from the yard floor! Unfortunately the test with engine running, showed once it got up to pressure it stuck opened, but what ever I did, it reduced the volume of air being release so we retained enough pressure to keep our gears till it closed again!
Now just to get home with out covering my car in oil, degrease myself and just to wait till the morning to see if we are able to do the 50mile run to Duxford!
Well as you can see, we made it, and what's more, we didn't lose our gears once! We had a great day, meeting people, seeing other buses and making lots of useful contacts! Our bus even saw her sister for the first time in decades, another rare RMF Routemaster.
If that wasn't enough, Beatrix our bus met her hero! A 1949 Leyland bus called "Hairy Pillock the 2nd" which spent 3 years driving around the world in the late 1960s. For a old girl she looks good!
So with the weekend over and not a problem on the drive home, on reflection it was a good weekend. As for the issues with the gears, as someone said to me, the problem as good on two accounts:
1) once it's fixed it won't break again for a long time!
2) if it does break again, we'll have the knowledge to know how to fix it on the road side!
Beginning to feel more relaxed when riding in the bus!
Next job, remove the faulty valve and replace, O and get the bus home first!.