Welcome to the "Zoo Bus" page where we have attempted to provide you with the information needed to build your own "Zoo Bus". If after reading this material you still have questions, please let us know and we will be happy to try and answer them for you.
It would be beneficial to have access to various tradesman especially an electrician and a welder. The rest of the construction is relatively simple and straight forward.
"The Zoo" Bus, View looking to rear of Bus Showing Puppet Stage and TV.
Construction of the Walls and Floor
Obviously the first step in renovating the Zoo Bus was to remove all the original seats from the bus. The holes left in the floor once the seats were removed, were filled in using caulking. The metal stripping running down the center of the bus was also removed.
The entire floor of the bus, starting behind the driver's seat, was insulated using 2' x 8' blue insulation. The sheets of insulation were placed down with caulking cement. Once the floor was covered, 5/8" tongue and groove plywood was placed down. The tongue and groove ensures a tighter floor.
Panel adhesive was used to adhere to both the Styrofoam and the plywood instead of screws as screws have a tendency to loosen and cause annoying squeaks.
Depending on the type of climate you will be operating in, you may want to consider insulating the interior walls with one inch white Styrofoam. Again use glue not screws. Covering the Styrofoam, use 1/8 inch hard board panelling, again glued on. Indoor/Outdoor carpeting was chosen to cover the wall paneling and the floor as it allows for easier cleaning and more durability. Keep in mind that children love to pick at things. The more you secure and cover the less distractions you will have to contend with.
As the wheel wells tend to protrude into the passenger area, we decided to build a platform to cover the wheel wells. This was to prevent the children from sliding on the wheel wells as well as creating a distinct area between the children and the puppet stage area. Another advantage of doing this was to allow an electric heater with a fan to be installed under the platform to provide additional heating for the bus when the bus engine is not running. As you can see by the above photograph, the area where the children sit is kept clear and uncluttered. This allows the program to be operated with a minimum of distraction and also adds an element of safety.
As you may notice in the above photo, the windows remain uncovered. This was done firstly to allow people on the outside of the bus, i.e. parents, to observe the program in action to conserve extra space for the children inside. Secondly it allows the program to be viewed by the general public to help prevent any possible misunderstandings.
The windows behind the puppet stage area were removed and replaced with metal plates. We then placed blue insulation panels over the back and side walls behind the puppet stage. This provides greater security in the rear of the bus and helps keep it warmer during the winter months. An electrical outlet was also placed behind the puppet stage to plug in a small ceramic heater.
"The Zoo" Bus, View looking to front of Bus Showing Sound Booth
Construction of the Walls and Divider
In order to keep the children from being distracted during "The Zoo" program by people entering the front of the bus, we decided to place a dividing wall near the front door. In order to maximize space to allow more children into the main area of the bus, the dividing wall was installed directly behind the main door. Steel studs were used instead of wood for framing all the walls in the bus. The reason for using steel studs is that they are easily cut and screwed into place and they do not warp. All the screws used to fasten the studs to window pillars, bus floor and the ceiling were the self drilling and tapping type screws. We used 1/2 inch plywood attached with paneling adhesive and drywall screws to cover the walls. As a safety precaution it would probably be a good idea to round out the corners of the walls with a sander to prevent a child from being injured by running into the sharp edge.
"The Zoo" Bus, View looking inside the television compartment.
Construction of Compartment and Securing of TV.
The television/VCR in "The Zoo" bus is used to show various Christian videos and cartoons that go with the weekly theme. It is not set up in "The Zoo" bus to pick up regular TV. channels. Since the bus is obviously mobile and not as smooth riding as a smaller passenger vehicle, it is necessary to secure the television against movement while the bus is in transit.
The TV. compartment has a thick Plexiglas screen in the front to protect the television from unwanted tampering by the children and the chance of something being thrown at the TV. set. Again the construction is steel studding and plywood. Again we recommend removing the window from this area of the bus for security reasons. The TV. is kept in place by sliding a piece of plywood along a wooden track behind the unit and a nylon tie down strap is placed over top of the television and secured by two eye bolts to keep the TV. from shifting.
The area below the television could be used for storage of puppets etc. In the case of our Zoo bus, we placed the TV. compartment directly over the generator box. As a result we had to place sound deadening insulation between the generator box and the compartment to reduce the noise from the generator. Electrical interference did not seem to be a problem.
"The Zoo" Bus, View of Switches and Mike Plugs at rear of puppet stage area.
"The Zoo" Bus, View of electrical panel behind TV. compartment.
Note the wires running from the electrical panel into the conduit.
All electrical fixtures are standard household items with the exception of the lights in the main area. The fixtures we chose are made of exterior marine grade plastic to prevent tampering and breakage.
Ideally an electrician would be a definite asset in this area of construction. All wires, cables etc. must be run in an enclosed conduit. Some buses have a conduit channel running along the top of the windows that are held on with screws. This is an excellent place to run the wires from the sound booth at the front of the bus, to the puppet stage area and electrical panel at the rear.
Exterior lights were placed above the windows on the outside of the bus to provide lighting for those standing outside the bus in the evenings. We placed two on each side of the bus and one at the rear for safety and security.
Another idea that we have thought of but as yet have not tried is to install a backup DC power source. This would be great to help provide emergency lighting if your generator should die on you some evening. This has happened to us on several occasions.
It is a good idea to have dual controls for lighting. One location in the sound booth and one behind the puppet stage.
Do Not run wires or cables where they can be pulled, tripped over, or handled in any way by the children. A little bit of time and effort in this area will go a long way in preventing unnecessary accidents.
In colder climates it is a really good idea to keep the sound booth and television compartment warm to prevent condensation on the electronic components which could result in failure. We chose to use electric interior car heaters for this application.
Another step we took to prevent possible electrical damage to the equipment was to connect the TV. and sound equipment to an Uninterruptible Power Supply.
"The Zoo" Bus, View showing inside of Sound Booth located behind driver's seat.
Construction of Sound Booth
In keeping with our theme of maximizing space for the children to be in the bus, the sound booth was kept as small as possible while still remaining functional. It is a good idea for security reasons to remove the window in the sound booth area and replace it with a metal plate. The sound booth has a Plexiglas window with a blind so that the person operating the sound gear can monitor what is taking place during the program. A small floor vent was placed at the top of the door on the sound booth for ventilation. The sound booth was also equipped with dimmer switches for the lighting in the main area of the bus and two standard 110 volt outlets to plug in the sound equipment.
We decided to use a 2500 watt power inverter instead of the generator and have found that to be a much better solution for our power needs. We have two 8D tractor batteries that we placed in the generator compartment. We use a heavy duty battery charger to charge the batteries. The power inverter converts the DC power from the batteries to 110 AC power for the bus. One of the big advantages besides the reliability factor is that there is no longer any noise. Just be sure to check the fluid levels in the battery on a regular basis.