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Old 04-01-2015, 03:39 AM   #1
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How to flat tow a 40's passenger bus

I need to tow an old 40's passenger bus approximately two miles that doesn't run. How could I flat tow it? A friend has a maybe one ton diesel service truck and we were thinking about taking it very slow.

I would appreciate suggestions on how to do it the least expensive way and still be safe. Would some sort of V or towing bar work?

Thanks.
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Old 04-01-2015, 07:00 AM   #2
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Two miles? I've towed weirder things longer distances without expensive rigging. I'd do it at 1am with a couple of towing chains and a big block of foam rubber on the tow vehicle's bumper just-in-case. Go 2 miles an hour and it's hard to get in trouble. Do the brakes work on the vehicle to be towed?

FYI, UHaul box trucks can tow 8k lbs or more depending on what you rent, and they're cheap if you only need them for a day. Check out the ratings on that service truck - you might do better with alternatives.

I have $5 says nat_ster has some stories about what to do here...
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Old 04-01-2015, 07:20 AM   #3
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saw a guy tow a mobile home with a dual wheeled truck. but he had a hitch. i would go the rented truck route, if ya break your buddys truck, he might whack ya around a bit.
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Old 04-01-2015, 07:57 AM   #4
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thefamilywagon has a post about how they pulled theirs (40 miles?) with a one ton P/U. They had air brakes and stopped frequently to recharge them.
The details start at comment #13
http://www.skoolie.net/forums/f11/th...tml#post105253
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Old 04-01-2015, 08:06 AM   #5
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Old 04-01-2015, 09:14 AM   #6
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Yes Tankswap, I worked in recovery running a 3 ton wrecker for a bit.

Like has been said, pick a time with little traffic.

If it don't run, figure out how to release the brakes. Air and juice are different.

I use a 2 inch wide tow strap, 18,000 pound vs a chain. It will absorb the shock and add a bit of bounce.

Don't go to fast. The bus can weigh 20,000 pounds.

Use a one ton truck or bigger to tow it. Add weight to the truck for traction. At least 3000 pounds of weight. This will keep the bus from sliding the tires on the truck when you stop.

If the buses brakes are not working, have one more truck attached with a strap to the rear of the bus. This is the truck will be to slow the bus from behind using it's brakes.

If you have any hills, be more carefull.

Post pics!!

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Old 04-01-2015, 01:33 PM   #7
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Thanks for your responses. I wouldn't rely on the buses' hydraulic brakes but it does have a parking brake on the drive line that will do a little braking.

I attached some pictures which shows that there is a front bumper support issue complication. In one picture, one of the curved supports was broken off on the left side. (The bumper which is not a real heavy duty one for the weight of the bus is bent on the top and bottom.)

Because my move requires going down a small hill that's not too steep though, the bus is going to push against the towing vehicle and tend to mash the left side into the front of the bus, of course even if we use some old tires as a cushion. All there is directly behind the bumper is thin sheet metal basically so I need to resolve this issue somehow.

Also, in order to get it into a field, it's going to be sort of tight quarters to maneuver it which will help make the move challenging to miss things . Another thing is connecting the towing vehicle to the bus in order to have some slack to turn but not too much. Yes, I suppose a tow strap would work good if we can figure out how to connect it up but with some slack but then again, the bus bumper support is an issue.

Another concern of mine is pulling it up a small not very steep (luckily) grade that has natural vegetation on it after we get it off the road and the 3/4 or 1 ton 4WD truck's wheels might spin. (The bus has, I suppose a ton of stuff inside which won't help.) I do have a 45 HP 4WD tractor--a NH TC45D with a loader (adds weight) but the bus easily out weighs it. I see that it was suggested to add some weight to the towing vehicle which is a good idea and to take it real slow.

Hope to hear some more from you as for suggestions.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Bus Bumper 3-28-15-1.jpg (394.9 KB, 6 views)
File Type: jpg Bus Bumper 3-28-15-2.jpg (315.1 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg Bus Bumper 3-28-15-3.jpg (312.4 KB, 6 views)
File Type: jpg Bus Bumper 3-31-15-2.jpg (300.9 KB, 7 views)
File Type: jpg Bus Bumper 3-31-15-10.jpg (338.5 KB, 6 views)
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Old 04-01-2015, 02:16 PM   #8
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I would forget about using the trucks to move it, and turn right to the tractor.

If your 45 hp tractor is anything like my friends 45 hp kubota, it will be all you need.

I would use the tractor to push it from behind. Still attach the bus to the tractor with a 18,000 pound tow strap, leaving about 4 feet of slack. If the bus takes off, the tractor will stop it far better than a truck.

With the tractor behind the bus, you can lift on the rear of the bus to put more weight on the tractors tires for more traction if needed when pushing the bus up the hill. You can also use a truck to pull from the front if needed to get up the hill.

I would not worry about attaching a strap around that front bumper. Just attach the strap in the center, between the supports that go back to the frame.

Or use a short chain to reach under the front of the bus and attach it to the frame of the bus. Then attach your strap to the chain. This will keep you from cutting your strap.

The tractor is the way to go. It will prevent you from going too fast, and losing control of the bus. Pushing is better than pulling.

You will need someone to steer the bus. VHF radios or cell phones to communicate will be a must.

Please post pics of the buses rear bumper.

I love stuff like this. I wish I could come help.

Nat
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Old 04-01-2015, 02:27 PM   #9
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Am I early?
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Old 04-01-2015, 02:28 PM   #10
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bus in motion type


OH BIG SAFETY POINT

DO NOT stand inbetween the and tractor or etc, you do not want the chance to get crushed......


Hurry up now, we need some pictures
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Old 04-01-2015, 02:29 PM   #11
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Good memory, SassyLass. I did do a long-ish flat tow, used a regular load binding/towing chain (maybe 3/8" link?), towed with a dual-rear pickup. Actually I've towed it a little with my single-rear Ram 2500 as well, but that was a little sketchy because of reduced drive wheel traction and because its cooling system (trans or engine, I'm not sure which) isn't what it used to be.

IIRC we did in excess of 40 MPH at times, but the brakes on the bus were fully functional, working on relatively straight and flat terrain with good visibility, and we literally did do some of the towing after midnight so there was minimal if any traffic.

I'd be uncomfortable about flat towing a bus without its own brakes at least mostly working. Based on my towing of 10-15k pound trailers with my pickup, it'll get the load going much faster than it'll stop the load because the truck's tires lock up and skid easily. My knowledge of 1940s era vehicles is zero but you mention the brakes are hydraulic. Do they have vacuum boost? If so you might use a portable vacuum pump and an air compressor tank, or the Harbor Freight 11 gallon air tank, as a way to build up a reserve of vacuum analogous to the periodic re-pressurizing I did with my air brake system. Either way I think it'd be time well spent to bring its brakes into functional even if not "road worthy" condition.

Once you get off road.... wow. Good luck. I tried to tug my bus (20k pounds) up a very very slight slope with a skid loader. It's slight enough that the bus won't roll down the slope without being pushed. The ground was fairly smooth, and the loader was working on a few inches of 2 inch minus gravel. It dug down through the gravel to the soil below and then just spun. It is 4WD like your NH, however its tires are only about 12x30 inches outside dimensions and the tread is shallow, maybe just 1/2". Your NH with its much larger tires may get much better traction than my skid loader did. I guess you could disconnect the drive shaft from the differential and get under there with a bar and socket to manually propel the bus!

The solid tow bar sounds nice so far as keeping the two vehicles from colliding. However, if the towing truck doesn't have enough rear end traction during a slow/stop, the bus pushing on a rigid tow bar might cause that rear end to break its traction and jack-knife.

If the hill isn't too steep, simple rolling friction might be enough to keep the speed manageable. You could try coasting the pickup truck down the hill on its own and see what speed it reaches.

With the front bumper potentially not being a robust tow point, what about the spring hangers for the front axle? You probably wouldn't want the chain(s) sweeping side to side under the front overhang of the bus though; maybe it could be secured near the front end of the frame rail to prevent lateral movement. Another piece of chain wound around the frame rail and towing chain, for example..?

As always, don't forget weights like a blanket, spare chain, etc draped over the towing chain/strap to dampen its recoil in case it snaps, particularly on the off-road climb where towing forces will be higher.

Taskswap's suggestion to take it 2 MPH sounds extreme, but if your patience can bear it, spending an hour actually doing the tow really wouldn't be so bad. At just 2 MPH it probably wouldn't coast far before coming to a stop on its own.
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Old 04-01-2015, 02:44 PM   #12
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If using a tractor, push, don't pull. You will get far better traction, and no chance of getting run over.

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Old 04-01-2015, 09:26 PM   #13
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More Pictures

Here are some pictures I was able to get of the rear of the bus this afternoon. The rear bumper is made out of metal slightly thinner than 1/8" it looks like so it's not really made to withstand a lot of force. I would need to find some way to cushion the rear before pushing on it. If some sort of frame could be welded to the existing frame and brought back beyond the rear to push on, I suppose would be one way to do it.

Anyway, I'm not an expert on moving these large heavy things very far--especially when the engine doesn't run, the hydraulic brakes don't work and when you need to go down a hill. Without any good solid thing to pull on like a solid bar in the front for the down side of hills and with the problem of pushing which sounds good but I don't want to dent the bus, I will wait and see what your suggestions are!

Thanks for your suggestions.
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Old 04-01-2015, 09:44 PM   #14
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Just curious, are you cash-tight? Because 2 miles... between the tow straps, welding something to something, wondering about the brakes, and whatever else... hiring a legit wrecker to move it would probably only cost a couple of hundred bucks in the right mood and you'd have no angst or effort to worry about... Unless you're way out of the way...
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Old 04-01-2015, 09:58 PM   #15
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Remove the rear bumper so you can push more directly on the frame rails? Maybe replace the bumper with wood somewhere between a 4x4 and a railroad tie and push on that instead of direct to the rails? The bumper has to come off anyway so you can send it out for chrome plating, right? I bet you're excited to work on that bus; it could look really awesome after you restore/convert it.
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Just curious, are you cash-tight? Because 2 miles... between the tow straps, welding something to something, wondering about the brakes, and whatever else... hiring a legit wrecker to move it would probably only cost a couple of hundred bucks in the right mood and you'd have no angst or effort to worry about... Unless you're way out of the way...
That's a really good point. For reference, when my bus had its breakdown two years ago just out of the Salt Lake City metro area, I was quoted $150 call-out plus $5 per mile. I think they were going to count mileage from their door and back again so my 60 mile tow would have been at least 150+2*60*5=$750. But if there's a wrecker based near the 2 mile route, or if they don't charge for mileage to and from the job, it might be quite a reasonable thing to do.
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Old 04-01-2015, 10:17 PM   #16
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If you can't make a tow bar Nat is right .Just push it with the tractor.
Pictures!!
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Old 04-01-2015, 10:21 PM   #17
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I operated a 25 ton wrecker for a lot of years. Guess I'll stop right there.....
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Old 04-03-2015, 04:25 AM   #18
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I don't want to get all preachy but this has train wreck written all over it. I would seriously consider having it towed.
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Old 04-03-2015, 11:56 AM   #19
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i don't want to get all preachy but this has bus wreck written all over it. I would seriously consider having it towed.
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Old 04-03-2015, 01:33 PM   #20
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Get the tractor on it, go real slow, and make sure someone has a camera!

That's what I'd do... Sometimes I can be a bit redneck, but you can do it safely! It's only 2 miles.

One time this janky bus company I used to drive for had a coach bus break down in downtown Denver. The owner of the company (a straight up redneck bus mechanic from Kansas who used his inheritance to start a bus company) came down in an old School Bus with the 7.4 V8 international diesel in it and we hooked up a 30' rope, ran an airline from the skoolie's tanks to the coach's, and he towed me about 8 miles back to the yard in mid-deay traffic down colorado boulevard.

Turning a coach in the city without power steering is HARD.

Was it safe? Maybe--at least I had brakes.
Was it fun? Only after we got back.
Would I do it again? As long as it's not my bus!

Moral of the story? That would be a much better tale if I had pics, so make sure you bring a camera ;)
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