I've often thought that the best bit of my job is having the opportunity to meet some seriously capable engineers and share a cup of tea in their workshop (makes up for some of the incapable ones).
The gentleman who was building this Foster is still working in the same workshop he moved in to fifty years ago. He had a working lifetime of building, tuning, repairing and selling motorbikes, including twelve years working for Tom Arter in the 1950s and early 60s, with visits to the Isle of Man each year with the team's bikes. Now retired, the workshop is still buzzing with activity with several bikes currently under restoration and more, completed ones lined up along the back wall. He had a diversion for a while into stationary engines and has a small collection (including a lovely little open crank Ruston that his father bought), then got into building Stuart engines. Having done a sufficiency of steam engines, he is now nearing completion of a third scale open crank oil engine.
He started the Foster in the 1980s, buying all the castings and setting to in the workshop. In due course, the design was sold on to Live Steam Models, the current owners, from whom he ordered a boiler. Work has progressed on and off since but now the whole project has become too big and heavy for a man well into his retirement years. He's actually been talking about passing it on to a younger builder for some years - we first spoke about it when I was still at Reading and, each time we talked on the phone he worked on for another few months and completed a bit more. If he could have hung on for another couple of years I'm sure I'd have bought a cracking finished engine!
So, this is a part-built four inch scale Foster, work to date comprises:
Steel boiler with expanded steel tubes by Live Steam Models, with
hydraulic test certificate
Hornplates complete with all bearings and caps
Complete set of gearing, including differential
Rear axle with keyways cut
Set of wheel rims with T-rings welded in, laser cut spokes
Rear hubs machined
Front hubs machined with spokes fitted
Set machined hubcaps
Cylinder block machined, finished liner to be fitted
Crankshaft complete with valve eccentric straps and sheaves
Water pump part-machined, complete with ram
Connecting rod complete with big end assembly
Second shaft complete
Smokebox, door with maker's plate, door handles and dart, perch bracket, spud pan and front axle assembly
Trunk guide with piston rod and crosshead
Tender plates cut, to be formed
Expansion link, die block, lifting links, weighshaft lifting lever
Reversing lever assembly, stainless steel handle
Regulator handle assembly
Weighshaft bracket part machined, reach rod finished
Ashpan with damper
Firehole door with inner baffle and hinge
Safety valve assembly complete except for valve bobbins
Spectacle plate and rear bulkhead
Steering shaft, worm and wheel
There is a large quantity of small completed components, a Foster boiler transfer and a complete set of drawings.
Work is to a high standard throughout, as to be expected a man who started as an apprentice machinist sixty years ago and has been in the workshop pretty much continuously since.