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Old 04-27-2016, 05:08 PM   #1
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Moving a Huge Grand Piano onto a Bus

Hi all!

My very first post, and perhaps the first post ever written about getting a huge piano onto a school bus?! I've not yet acquired my bus but am committed to converting a large school bus into a mobile workshop for doing restorations on grand pianos.

I am a piano teacher and piano technician and I am especially devoted to concert grand pianos made by Steinway & Sons. But here's the thing: each one is 9 ft long - from the keyboard to the end of the tail - and weighs about 1800 pounds.

If you've never seen a large grand piano being moved, it basically works like this: you tip the piano so it's standing up along its longest side and you also take off the 3 legs and the pedal box. Two very strong dudes (not me!) will lift up one end while the third guy (me!) shoves a small but sturdy furniture dolly underneath. So, the whole package is still 9 ft long, but as it's standing on its 'edge' on a dolly, it's only 2 ft wide x 5 ft tall and therefore can be rolled through any doorway.

Obviously to get such a piano into my workshop-bus I'll need some sort of hydraulic lift mounted on the back of the bus (or mounted to one side?). Does anyone have any experience of fitting such an item to a school bus? Just how extensive or complicated would the structural modifications need to be in order to support a hydraulic lift rated for at least 2,000 lbs?

Alternatively, perhaps another solution is a long ramp in conjunction with a winch for pulling the piano up?

I can't take any chance of dropping a piano!

Thanks for any comments or advice! And if you think this is a dreadful idea don't hesitate to say! Cheers!
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Old 04-27-2016, 05:19 PM   #2
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I can see getting it in if the hatch/door is accommodating using a lift or hoist. But...how do you keep it in tune after bouncing around typical roads?
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Old 04-27-2016, 05:24 PM   #3
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Believe it or not, bumps in the road don't affect the tuning too much. Instead, it's changes in temperature and humidity that will knock it out of tune.

Once it gets to its final destination then I'll simply tune it!
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Old 04-27-2016, 05:34 PM   #4
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I moved a piano with my bus once. We used the wheelchair lift to load it. But this piano was just a small console ("spinnet?") and weighed only a few hundred pounds.

As for off-the-shelf possibilities, the Tommy Gate company announced two weeks ago a "Railgate" for step vans with up to 2000 lb lift capacity. Maybe there'd be a way to fit that on the tail end of a bus.

Regarding the ramp: with the piano carried on a single dolly you could potentially need a really long ramp or uncommonly tall dolly wheels to prevent the ends of the piano striking the ramp or the ground as the piano approaches the base of the ramp.

What about something styled like a gantry crane? It could stand on the ground outside the bus, hoist the piano off the dolly up to bus floor level, then roll forward to get the piano partially into the bus. The gantry might have to be built with an inverted L profile so that the hoist point could reach into the bus while the vertical posts of the gantry remain outside.

Perhaps a jib crane or other derrick-like apparatus mounted to the bumper (assuming you're loading through a rear door)? Again, where this sort of thing usually is used to load an open vehicle, the frame of the device might need a bit of an offset so that it can swing through the door. If the doorway were wide enough, then the jib crane could be mounted such that it blocks part of the doorway and no offset in its frame would be necessary.
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Old 04-27-2016, 05:56 PM   #5
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Or you could make you bus open like a lunch box. My doors aren't 5' tall, except for the front door.

It's pretty clear you won't be using propane for heat.

Have you considered one of the toy haulers? Big back door that opens into a ramp.
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Old 04-27-2016, 06:07 PM   #6
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Pfft. Moving pianos is easy - I saw a training video once:

I am an epidemiologist by training, not an engineer. But I would think that you could build some stout supports the same height as your bus floor that you could assemble and disassemble. Then you could use the gantry crane (attached to the bus) to lift the piano onto your temporary platform. And maybe you could even have a roller assembly or a contraption akin to several mechanic's creepers which would let you roll the piano from gantry landing into the bus.

Or a dock lift: you use furniture dollies and a ramp to get it the foot (or two) onto the lift platform. Then use the lift to bring it up to bus deck height. Drop your stout metal bridge over the gap between platform and bus floor, and roll it on into the bus. I've seen lifts like this behind smaller post offices: the staff rolls the cart of mail onto the lift, press a button, and it rises to the height of the box truck bed. See https://www.google.com/search?q=lift...ch&q=dock+lift and http://www.equipmentworld.com/product-focus-trailers-2/ (they have a portable trailer version, about half down the page).


Not as silly as my idea for a medical transport bus. But you're still kinda pushing it. Be calm as you plan this: you'll make better decisions. Prolly ought to just check lift gates: likely they have a model for what you want.
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Old 04-27-2016, 06:55 PM   #7
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BTW - since this would be part of your business you're likely to need a Commercial Driver's License...
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Old 04-27-2016, 08:07 PM   #8
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I'll admit, I have not had a piano in this current bus. My last bus was well initiated and the wheel chair lift made it all happen, but the weight limit is 600 lbs on the lift. Then again my piano wasn't 9' long and wasn't 5' high. If you removed the rear bumper you should be able to purchase a lift gate from a junk yard that would attach to the frame. That would not only lift your piano but then allow you to wheel it into the bus. Besides that it would make a cool back porch for the bus.

There are a lot of small medical transport vans, but I've never seen anything bigger than a cutaway bus, and it had the lift located at the back door.
Still, I don't want to put another piano in a bus. At the same time I do have a pump organ that would look pretty cute in here if it didn't waste so much space. Besides, I don't play keyboards.
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Old 04-27-2016, 08:12 PM   #9
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We once bought a Sentra. The dealer said, "The radio doesn't work, but I could give you a songbook." With a bus, you could bring along a piano and get your wife to play it while you sang.
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Old 04-27-2016, 08:59 PM   #10
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I would strongly recommend a railgate.

Look at race car transporters if you're not familiar with them. They lift entire cars, so it would be possible to lift fully assembled pianos no sweat! You could have a roll-up door installed in the back of the bus and roll pianos straight in from the railgate, just like a race car rolls into a transporter!

Railgates have been around a long time. You don't need to buy a brand new one from Tommylift f you don't want to.

Also, if I were planning to transport fine pianos, I would want air ride suspension - at least on the rear.
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Old 04-29-2016, 11:51 PM   #11
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Are you just loading it and moving it, or are you working on it on the bus? If the latter, do you have to turn it inside the bus to put it upright again? I would check those measurements to see if that could be done.
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Old 04-30-2016, 08:10 AM   #12
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yeah, working on a piano? a bus makes a lousy choice for what you want.

a box truck with a lifgate would be much cheaper and practical. securing a piano for travel inside the bus, on dollies?. you are making this plan way complicated and way expensive.

why not service the piano in someones home? sounds much less damage than hiring 2 people you dont know to lift every one into your bus.

i dont understand the need for you to be driving around with someone else's piano. nothing good can come from that.

are you the same poster that wants to drive a 100 year old lady around with some broken bones?

delicate, fragile people or instruments dont belong in a bus.

if i hire a piano tuner and he comes to my house and loads my piano up in a school bus, i would call the cops.

jus sayin
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Old 04-30-2016, 09:37 AM   #13
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...
are you the same poster that wants to drive a 100 year old lady around with some broken bones?...
Naah, that was me. And I asked long before being able to do so, in order to get my head straightened out. It was, thanks to you folks, and she's going to travel by wheelchair van then fly in First Class. Yes, it was a dumb idea, but do I get points for trying to be creative in problem solving?

But I *do* want to use my (future) bus to haul all of our belongings out west, including a piano...
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Old 04-30-2016, 12:14 PM   #14
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Hey, now I want a piano in my bus.
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Old 04-30-2016, 05:00 PM   #15
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i appreciate everyone's enthusiasm in the skoolie life. it can be lots of fun. but as an owner of one, im just giving you my opinion.

i remember as a kid sitting in the back of a school bus, hoping that when we crossed the rail road tracks, the group of us would hope to be propelled into the ceiling from the bounce.

my bus still rides like that.

if your are choosing a vehicle to transport delicate items, a horse drawn prairie schooner might be a bit more comfy than a retired school bus.

the cost to modify a bus plus parts to make it lift something like a piano will be similar to the cost one of the steinways. it wont be cheap.

most trailers have much lower floor and ramp doors. perhaps you could tow your service?
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Old 04-30-2016, 07:34 PM   #16
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Hey, now I want a piana in my bus. I mean van.
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Old 05-01-2016, 04:48 AM   #17
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As for off-the-shelf possibilities, the Tommy Gate company announced two weeks ago a "Railgate" for step vans with up to 2000 lb lift capacity. Maybe there'd be a way to fit that on the tail end of a bus.
Thanks for the suggestion of the railgate. I think this might be the most realistic. Your reminder that the slope of a ramp must be gentle enough to accommodate the full length of the piano is very important!

I instinctively balked at the idea of a gantry crane but I was thinking in terms of a single point of suspension. Of course, there could also be two. It seems like an awful lot of work, having to drag the crane components out of their storage compartment and then assembling and disassembling every time I want to shift a piano in or out. I think the railgate might be the way to go!
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Old 05-01-2016, 04:51 AM   #18
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Pfft. Moving pianos is easy - I saw a training video once:
Thanks for including the Laurel and Hardy link. Hilarious! I hadn't seen that for years and perhaps it served as a gentle nudge that I am contemplating something equally preposterous. Very good advice to think things through slowly and carefully! Cheers!
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Old 05-01-2016, 04:53 AM   #19
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BTW - since this would be part of your business you're likely to need a Commercial Driver's License...
Thanks so much for your remark. This would not have occurred to me and I'll have to look into this. Cheers!
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Old 05-01-2016, 04:55 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Robin97396 View Post
I'll admit, I have not had a piano in this current bus. My last bus was well initiated and the wheel chair lift made it all happen, but the weight limit is 600 lbs on the lift. Then again my piano wasn't 9' long and wasn't 5' high. If you removed the rear bumper you should be able to purchase a lift gate from a junk yard that would attach to the frame. That would not only lift your piano but then allow you to wheel it into the bus. Besides that it would make a cool back porch for the bus.

There are a lot of small medical transport vans, but I've never seen anything bigger than a cutaway bus, and it had the lift located at the back door.
Still, I don't want to put another piano in a bus. At the same time I do have a pump organ that would look pretty cute in here if it didn't waste so much space. Besides, I don't play keyboards.
Yes, I think a lift gate or rail gate will be the answer. Thanks for the suggestion.
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