|News archive - August 2005|
I'll start with what is fast becoming my routine apology for lack of website updates and late news. Although from the website July may have looked very quiet, behind the scenes here I've been flat out!
The main news this month is that the business is now moved into a pair of nice industrial units down the road from home, all the machinery is finally out of store and wired up and the "warehouse" side of the operation is decked out floor to ceiling in pallet racking which makes moving engines in and out so much easier. The CNC mill had a fit of the sulks after two moves and almost a year in hibernation, but re-seating all the circuit boards and blowing the fluff out of the back seems to have got it back on its feet.
More pictures of the workshop under construction
A major benefit of the new premises is that everything is now more or less out on display, which makes viewing engines a darn sight easier than when I had to pull them out of the stable loft or assorted outbuildings at home. In addition, because the fork truck can now get to everything, loading and unloading is a breeze (and even alleviates the curse of 5 inch gauge locomotives and the single-handed worker!).
For the time being, although there is a telephone down the unit, the works number comes through to the office, where much of the time you'll either talk to the lovely Mrs P, or the rather less glamorous answer machine. If you leave a message I will get back to you - usually the same day - but not having a phone ringing in the workshop all day does should mean I can get engines out slightly quicker than previously. I'm currently head down on a 7 1/4 Hunslet to the 3 inch scale "Elidir" design and the 5 inch gauge "King" which was pictured on the site recently - I'm hopeful that both will appear within the next month or so.
After its appearance at the Cleethorpes Railway's "Seaside Engines" Gala, the Thurston Pacific is coming back here for some much-needed fettling before going back to the Fairbourne Railway. It has desperately needed some new tyres since I got it and also needs a slightly more satisfactory arrangement by way of a lubricator (it was jury-rigged last summer with an oil nipple in the main steam line, with a shot of cylinder oil pumped in at each end of the line!). I've looked at several small mechanical lubricators, none of which have been entirely suitable and was considering building a replica of the original (which still exists, on another Thurston engine). However, the Hunslet currently on the bench has sight feed lubrication, which has got me considering that for the Pacific - it's a form of lubricator I like, it keeps the clean oil away from all the muck and grit up the front of the engine and you can easily see whether its working or not.
As you may by now have seen, last month's sad boiler story has been resolved, the owner of the locomotive resold it at eBay with all faults stated and the dubious nature of the boiler paperwork declared. It is heartening to see somebody behaving with decency and integrity on this matter - one can only hope the original vendor blows himself up in the near future and does us all a favour. An interesting postscript to the story is, as often happens when these sorts of things are publicised, other stories crawl out of the woodwork. Another fellow was taken for a ride in similar fashion - engine described as the best thing outside the British Museum, it arrived with a "home brewed" boiler certificate and, surprise, surprise, the thing leaked like a sieve. Funnily enough the two sellers involved with these two engines live in adjacent roads in the same town; one signed his own "boiler certificate", the second used a third party who lived in the next road along (and shares a surname with one of the sellers). Now there's a coincidence…
Some years ago a friend of my father's acted a executor of a friend's estate, an elderly gentleman who had died without relatives. The local model engineering society had helped to clear the workshop and the solicitor involved had got a valuation for the complete engines which the chap had completed, all of which I bought. However, this is where the job started to get a bit more difficult. The late model engineer, in a spirit of great generosity, had left his entire estate to three charities. In his innocence however, he had omitted to make any provision for executor's expenses and the beneficiaries wouldn't agree to grant any from the estate. The end result was that father's friend and his wife had spent almost a week shuttling stuff to the local tip six miles away because they weren't allowed to hire a skip (or even a house clearance place to come and clear up forty years worth of old newspapers and junk). To give you an idea of quite how rambling and overgrown the house and gardens were, there was a complete 7 1/4 inch gauge line in the garden which I gave up trying to dig out - it was like jungle warfare!
Click to enlarge
I couldn't really leave the poor souls with another month's
worth of ferrying bin bags about so arranged to go up the following weekend with
the pickup and we cleared the lot down to the tip in a day. During the cleanup,
lots of old engineering magazines and photographs were being "bin
bagged" - far too many to save, but I kept a handful of pictures, most of
which are on the walls around the place here. In a break with my normal policy I
reproduce here a picture which I can't credit - I believe it was taken some time
in the 1950s in the back garden of the house I've described. The builder - our
man in earlier times - is, I believe, the chap driving. I think it's a lovely
image from a different era.
Now and again I get a visit from one of my more high-tech customers - he's always got something interesting to talk about and we usually manage to wile away an hour or two over a cup of tea talking steam engines. In addition to a keen interest in steam, by day he's a computer whizz. For the last few months (and, it appears, the forseeable future) he has been working in the USA, from where he keeps in contact by email. On his last visit over here he told me that, having tired of checking the website every day he has written a program which checks it automatically and bleeps at him when it changes. Clever enough, but what really impressed me was he then uses his little organiser widget thing to browse the site - no idea how much time he actually spends working at the office...
27th July 2005