|January 2006 news|
Happy New Year everybody, usual apologies for the long overdue news update. The last couple of months have been busy with a lot of engines coming in and out of the workshop - working on these has occupied a good deal of my time, the remainder has been taken up planning yet another workshop move (of which more below) hence the website (and correspondence) has suffered.
Original plans on moving back up to Lincolnshire in Autumn of 2004 was to work from the fairly capacious outbuildings and stables at the new house. We quickly got an office up and running, a decent sized store room racked out and pressed the stables into service as workshops for the larger models. Best laid plans and all that, but six months after arriving here I couldn't move for engines, at one point the stables contained three four inch scale traction engines (including a Showmans weighing in at nearly a ton) and half a dozen big 7 1/4 narrow gauge engines (including my Tinkerbell). It was a bit of a relief when a unit came available to rent on a nearby industrial estate - it also allowed me to get the bigger machine tools out of storage. This was ok for a couple of months, although when the unit next door came available I rented that as well, just to be on the safe side.
By the end of last summer, I was well settled in with all the electric, plumbing and alarmage I needed - I thought I would be there for the long term (although things were looking a little cramped at times) when everything was thrown up in the air again when a notice went up on a complete block of units across the way on the same estate. The company that had been renting them had left in somewhat of a hurry and the council, who owned them, somewhat unexpectedly took the decision to sell rather than try to find new tenants. Now this block is 6000 square feet, three times the size of the current units with, best of all, a large fenced compound at one end (I could already see it in my mind's eye stuffed with little old two foot gauge locomotive repatriated from far-flung parts of the world, possibly the odd pair of ploughing engines which I've never had room for until now...).
Really, the last thing I was looking for was yet another move - the sheer hard work of getting all the machinery and engines moved and fitting out a bare workshop was still a recent (painful) memory - however, the chance to buy was too good to pass up. The units had been put up for sale on a sealed bid basis by the council - after buying a steamroller this way (again from a council) fifteen years ago, I vowed I'd never do it again - it's a fraught process in the extreme. Renouncing the vow, we set to and came up with a price which, by good fortune, was enough to have clinched the deal.
The move is next week (Monday 16th January) - the actual physical transportation of everything isn't too big a deal, basically just shuttling to and fro with the fork truck from one side of the estate to the other. The real work will be the unwiring and dismantling at one end and then attempting to reassemble at the other, whilst trying to keep the workshop operational for as much of the time as possible. If it takes a while to get a reply from me on the phone or by email for the next couple of two weeks, you'll know why.
I managed to do something stupid in the workshop before Christmas. A large traction engine had come in for boiler test which was done by my inspector. A couple of days later, having put it back together, I needed to run the motion to test a modification to the lubricator drive. Rather than push it out into the cold December afternoon and steam it (I was short of time, light and motivation for same) I took the blowdown valve out intending to replace it with a air fitting so that I could run the engine from the workshop compressor. I had a root around in the boiler plugs box to find something suitable, but to no avail - the nearest thing was the right diameter but wrong pitch and would only screw in half a turn. At this point it should only have been the work of five minutes to turn up another plug from a piece of hex bar and screwcut the right thread on, drill for an air fitting and job done...
Unfortunately, at that moment the phone rang, I talked for twenty minutes, then went off to find the subject of the conversation, then noticed the time and adjourned home for supper. Next day I was out delivering a locomotive, it was two days later I got back to the job where, early in the morning and with a mind only half on the job, I saw the fitting screwed into the boiler and put the air line on it. It took some time (it's a large boiler) but as the pressure rose to 50psi, I noticed air leaking from around the plug so put my hand down behind the back wheel to tighten it. As soon as it turned, the plug disengaged from its half a thread of engagement and, with a mighty bang flew about eight feet across the workshop, after first making hefty contact with my middle finger. The dog leapt out of his skin at the noise and I went dizzy - for the first few seconds I was convinced I'd lost my finger, such was the pain. When I did finally have a look, the brass plug, which probably weighed a couple of ounces - had raised a great lump at the base of my finger, after which all the grit and rubbish on the foundation ring had been evacuated at high speed and shot blasted the rest of the fingers, resulting in a constellation of little blood blisters. Sitting typing this a month later, they are just fading and I can still feel gritty bits under the skin. Yuk.
Apart from being three parts deafened (the dog as well probably, although he often pretends so I have no way of knowing for sure) and losing the use of my left hand for a couple of days until the swelling went down, I got off very lightly. It did rather focus the mind on the stored energy in a boiler - this happened at 50psi on air, if it had happened at working pressure (which is three times that on the engine in question) with steam I am sure that I would have lost at least one finger (and probably had a poached arm as well). So I'll keep telling people not to fiddle about tightening up boiler fittings when they're under pressure (as I always have done) whilst trying to remember the advice myself in future.
I delivered a Southern I3 tank engine before Christmas, it went down to a chap in the deep South (that is, somewhere South of Newark) to run on his garden railway. As regular readers will know, I have a pet theory about inside cylinder engines being particularly smooth running - as a result they always seem fast, I think it's simply that you can run them that much quicker without it feeling as if bits are about to start flying off.
The I3 was due a boiler test before it went, so was duly put into steam on the rolling road for the boiler inspector. We had a lot of engines to test over a couple of days, so David had come up to help - it was the first time he'd seen this engine run. Given everything I'd said about its smooth-running characteristics, he thought he'd put it to the test - the engine running at speed is pictures below.
A couple of years ago I had a very nice Romulus come in (it was this one), living near Reading at the time it seemed like quite a trek when I delivered it to Lincoln. Now that I've moved up here, it's a local engine - it lives less than ten miles from my house and is a regular performer at Lincoln SME's public running days. It came into the workshop some weeks ago for boiler test and I took the opportunity to get a quick picture of a well-used engine which, at the same time, is kept in super condition - it's a real credit to its owner.
13th January 2006