National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Repairs to the Heavy Workshop RL Bedford

By Roy Robinson

Our team of volunteers usually about 10 assemble once a month to assist the Museum maintain , upgrade and overhaul some of the many vehicles contained in the Museum collection. The majority are stored in buildings within the Military Camp and one building is set up for repair work.

Having completed most of the jobs on the “blackboard” it was decided the next major attack would be on the Heavy Workshop RL Bedford. This vehicle has not run for some 10 years and unfortunately has been in the weather for much of that time. Apart from the usual plugs, points and carb clean, the cab required serious surgery to remove rust. It seemed easier to remove the cab and swap it for another from a donor vehicle. One of the team was sent to the library to see if there was any service manuals available, and to every ones surprise there was. However it was a Bedford manual only and did not cover the ancillaries. Not to be daunted by this an inspection revealed that whilst the workshop cabin had to be removed because of an overhang of the cab it was split half way up the posts.

Perhaps I should explain the setup of this Heavy Workshop. The 2 sides and rear walls are split half way. The bottom halves fold down and rest on supports which pull out from underneath the deck. The top halves lift up and are supported by poles from the bottom. This means that the actual deck space is extended by 4 feet all round and is covered by a weather proof roof. Inside is a Colchester lathe with approx 4 foot bed, a geared drill press, Bramley hacksaw and various hand tools. Power for this unit would have come from a generator and a reel has suitable cable to connect to the generator. A conventional plug has been attached to the cable so it can be plugged into mains power.

Back to the cab removal – Following the instructions from the manual, pipes, wiring, air lines and cab mounts were disconnected. A large pipe was feed through the windows of the cab and the hook of the 816 Crane Truck was lowered through the escape hatch. The cab was lifted quietly from the chassis and placed on the ground.

Some of the team attacked the motor giving it a birthday, plugs, carb overhaul, generator and starter check, compressor check. External compressed air was connected to the truck and air lines, tanks, brake booster were all checked. Others removed the wheels and all brake shoes and cylinders. All wheel and master cylinders were sent away for complete overhaul.

With the knowledge gained removing the cab the donor vehicle received the same treatment to remove its cab. The rusty cab was put back on the donor vehicle and made move safe.

On our next visit we now had the reconditioned brake parts back so these were refitted. External air was connected and the brake system bled.

Reading the instructions in the reverse order the donor cab was put onto the workshop chassis and reconnected. With our outboard motor fuel tank and battery connected the team held their breath as the go button was pushed. A couple of winds and away it went and after tweaking the carb and dizzy it settled into a comfortable roar. The exhaust system was reconstructed to eliminate the roar!!! A problem with the front brakes necessitated the removal of the front wheels. The problem turned out to be we had the wheel cylinders on the wrong sides and once changed, all worked as required.

With that part of the project complete we turned our attention to the roof which has now been hanging from the building for some 4 months by ratchet straps. The challenge was to get it to ground level as it also required some repairs. After some discussion it was decided to use the fork hoist at one end and 2 endless chains at the other. Within no time the top was on the ground and assessed for repairs. One of the hinges on the upper section was completely sized and requires replacement, the paint requires stripping and repainting. A couple of the fold down sides require new ply as the old is badly rotted. The steel frames have been wire buffed ready for primer paint.

All the equipment, lathe etc has been cleaned and the light surface rust polished off. I’m sure after a couple more weekend’s effort it will be already for display.