I thought I'd seen some pretty clean engines and well-sorted trailers until this Ruston arrived last month - to say it's moved the goalposts is something of an understatement.
This is an exhibition quality Ruston Proctor in 6 inch scale, the work of a prolific, highly-regarded engineer with several other good engines to his credit. Normally with engines of this kind of quality (the 7 1/4 inch gauge 9F that was in recently comes to mind) I simply take a lot of pictures and write a few words - it's easy to judge the quality from the photographs.
However, in this case, whilst you can still see exactly what the thing looks like - and you'll have to take my word for it that the motionwork turns over as smooth as silk and the engine runs beautifully - it really does need a bit of descriptive stuff to show the standard that some people can achieve and maintain with what is, in this case, a regularly rallied outfit.
The engine itself is built to a high standard - fit and finish is excellent throughout, everything that isn't painted is polished. It runs near-silently, the exhaust beats spot on. The steel boiler is by Valentine Engineering, it's had hydraulic and steam tests in the past month, construction is welded steel with expanded tubes. Working pressure 120psi, feed by injector and pump - there is an auxiliary hand pump under a removeable plate in the tender, which also gives access to a drain tap, avoiding the need to grovel about underneath the engine to empty the tender.
Cylinder is in cast iron, slide valve actuated by Stephenson's gear with pole reverser on the footplate. Mechanical lubricator, steam siren mounted on the block.
Two speed transmission with differential, winch behind nearside rear wheel with fairleads mounted on tender. Wheels are on rubber tyres, the engine is road-registered with V5 document.
There is a high level of detailing, much of it both ingenious and functional, such as the brass funnel beneath the water pump, piped to direct any leakage past the gland down the side of the hornplate and to the floor rather than splashing about on top of the firebox. There's a felt pad mounted in a tray at the end of the trunk guide so that oil wiped out doesn't drip onto the boiler cladding. Main bearing caps are double-nutted, there are well-proportioned oilers just about everywhere. The oil can has a carrier turned from a lump of polished brass mounted in the tender, beside a holder for the poker. The fountain has a steam take-off allowing connection, by flexible pipe, of the Windermere kettle (or "steam tea urn"), an elegantly converted antique copper kettle which will boil a pot full of water in seconds.
In addition to the tender-mounted driving seat, there are a pair of passenger trailers, taking two people apiece.
The trailer is as well thought out as the engine - it's designed to make rallying the entire outfit single-handed a straightforward, comfortable affair.
Starting off with a four wheel Ifor Williams box trailer, it has been fitted with a mammoth-size lorry battery, from which an inverter provides mains sockets and fluorescent lighting around the van, along with 12 volt sockets for ancilliary equipment. There is a built-in charger, operated from a timer - when at home, the trailer is plugged into the mains which charges the battery. In case of emergency (the owner confessed never to having had one) there is a smaller, spare battery installed.
A 12 volt winch with remote cable control allows the engine to be loaded and unloaded - marks painted on the loading ramp ensure correct alignment in the trailer. Once inside, permanently installed ratchet straps lock down the rear wheels - when the engine is unloaded, the spare straps are fed through slots in the floor into lockers beneath, so that you don't trip up on the loose ends.
There is a radio-controlled electric clock at the rear of the van, above the fire extinguisher, with a stereo radio-cassette mounted on the front wall. At the rear is mounted a thermometer and hygrometer - too much humidity and the built-in extractor fan will vent the damp air, keeping the engine dry.
There are water storage tanks sufficient for a weekend's steaming - a pipe and tap led through the side of the van allows drawing off water for handwashing. Down the side of the trailer is mounted a rail onto which the gazebo, included, fastens, allowing the engine to be placed under cover (and, if required, the trailer itself to be used for sleeping quarter). Twin-barrel tyre pump is hung on the wall, along with lockers for spares, variable speed steam-raising blower, stainless waste bin, paper towel dispenser, mirror with light alongside for emergency smut-removal from eyes... If there is something, anything, which might make life a little easier or more comfortable on the rally field, it's been included.
The engine and one trolley pack into the trailer, the other is mounted on a carrier on the rear - it's cleverly designed to allow single-handed loading, once installed on its bracket there is a fitted waterproof cover to keep the road muck off it.
I don't think there's a better kept engine with such well-thought out
transport being rallied at the moment - I'm sorely tempted to book in for some
rallies next season myself! My only word of caution would be the work involved
in keeping the whole outfit in the condition you see here - the previous owner
managed to get cleaning down to a day's work after rallying for the weekend,
with, in his words "an early start, a full day's work and a short lunch
Hydraulic test @180psi for 120psi working, 27-Sep-2011
Steam test 27-Sep-2011
|scale||6 inch & larger|