It's been a very busy couple of months here in Metheringham - the latest batch of twelve "Staffords" nearing completion, the London Model Engineer Exhibition at Alexandra Palace, a major upgrade to the digital steam indicator we first showed at the Midlands Exhibition in October, taking on yet another unit to increase our space. Oh yes, and we had the builders in as well.
Geoff and I have worked pretty much solidly on the latest batch of Staffords since the Midlands Show, we took one of the current build along to London in January, coupled to the new driving trucks which created much interest (indeed we sold out the entire current stock of trucks over the weekend, half to Stafford owners, half to people who wanted to use them for their own engines).
We're due another batch of castings from the foundry soon, having machined up all spare stock into finished components (you get into a bit of a rhythm when the machining centre's running and before you know it the box of castings is empty and there's a bench full of finished bits).
All very well, but for customers of the "Fast build" project version of the engine, we'd then run out of unmachined bits. After several requests, we're also now supplying individual castings if required, so you can buy anything down to a smokebox door if you fancy building a Stafford one bit at a time.
Had we simply produced clones of the previous batch we'd be done by now - as it is neither Geoff nor I can resist fiddling with the design to improve it. The latest specification of engine has all sorts of detail improvements - the all-welded "tab & slot" chassis is immensely rigid and cuts assembly time considerably.
New cylinder patterns have doubled support for the valve spindle and added bosses for larger glands into which we machine large oil reservoirs, improving conditions for both valve and piston rods and their packing; a revised fountain gives steam takeoffs for vacuum ejector and a whistle if required. Over eighty drawing changes in total, all making a good engine even better - but next batch we've promised ourselves no more changes (and I honestly don't think we need any).