Tag Archives: SBA

A Boiler Full of Steam

Well the 10th November 2017 marks a major milestone – the boiler passed its initial inspection and steam test, and is now certified for use. (big smiles all round).

Picture of Engine, Boiler Etc. ready for test

Sadly, everything was too frenetic to take pictures during the steam test – but here it is just before we pressed go!

John, our inspector from SBAS Ltd (the SBA’s Boiler Inspecting Company) had been booked to arrive at 3:00pm – at 9:00am I set about final sealing of the try-cocks on the sight gauge – at 1:30pm I nearly called to cancel the appointment as no amount of fiddling and fitting would make them seal, with a constant drip from each of them at anything above 50psi ūüė¶

Finally I made them seal with a combination of shredded graphite string and a binding of PTFE tape to seal the valve stems – dry as a bone at test pressure of 375spi, big sigh of relief. A final tightening of some of the 60+ joints in the steam circuit and we wound up with a boiler that held over 350psi for over one and a half hours without a single pump being needed. (This is a hydraulic test so the boiler is filled to the top (to exclude all the air and thereby minimise any “bangs” resulting from a failure.)

So the pressure test is complete. Next the steam and accumulation tests. So we wheel the complete set of machinery (engine, boiler, steam pumps, battery and regulator) outside (with a lot of puffing and blowing), drained the water in the boiler down to operating level, and we light the burner.

The burner needed some adjusting to get it to light and burn fairly cleanly (a little more tweaking needed) and we quickly had 10psi on the gauge (5-6 mins)¬† – so we turned off the burner and checked round for leaks or other problems and to let the boiler “adjust” to its new state of hotness.

All looked good so we brought it up to 50psi to check the water gauge (sight glass) was reading correctly and all the various blowdows operated correctly – they did! (more smiles).

The next step is to make sure the safety valve opens at the correct pressure and is able to control the pressure within 10% of safe working pressure with the burner full on.

So, burner on and another 10mins to come to working pressure of 250psi (17Bar) – whereupon I got an impromptu (but complete) hot shower. The safety valve did open OK, but as the water was quite high in the boiler. and had been dosed with washing soda to bring the PH up to 11 (and probably because of all the crud left in the boiler) we got a lot of water carried over into the exhaust steam (what is known as priming) which provided the aforementioned hot shower. There was enough showering down on the 240v wiring of the burner that I decided to kill the power while we dried things off….

So with a little less than a litre of diesel left for the burner we lit it once more and went for the accumulation test. By now it’s getting a little cold and dark, so reading the gauge within the billowing clouds of steam was quite hard for John, but after a few minutes he was happy that all was good – we were passed.

Not wanting to waste all this nice steam we tried the Worthington Simpson steam pump (A post on the restoration of this is on the way) in anger, and it performed quite well – supplying feed water at over 200psi….. and then we tried the engine!¬† after some warming thru this ran too and even the generator seemed to be making 7.5amps at a modest speed – but we highlighted the next (somewhat expected) list of jobs:

  • Two of the relief-drain valves seemed not to want to close (more clouds of steam and investigation needed)
  • The circulating pumps (engine driven) did not deliver enough cold water to the condenser to condense the exhaust steam and create the vacuum. So we are going to revert to the original design of the engine-driven pumps acting boiler feed pumps and the steam pump as a circulating pump.
  • I think I saw a couple pin-hole leaks in the feed pump plumbing which need checking
  • We need to finalise the plumbing from the cylinder drains
  • On the next run we need to get the displacement lubricator running.
  • We need to check the alternator performance to make sure we can generate the 20+amps we need to drive the inverter for the burner.

….then we can think about attempting to install the whole she-bang in the hull!!!! (Spring ’18 Launch – yes,¬† I think we might make it!)

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SBA Event at Windermere

Each year the SBA (Steam Boat Association) has a week long rally at Windemere in the English Lake District.

This year Louise and I arranged to be there at the same time and joined them for a couple of days. This gave us a chance to take a trip on three boats; Arminta (built by Len Williamson), and powered by a Leak compound of the type I am building; Grayling, built by John Maltby – a tribute to his fine engineering; and Imp owned and built by Chris Davis – a lovely traditional river launch, with a Stuart 6A built by himself.

We also visited the Steam Boat Museum, soon to be reopened following a change of management and major refurbishment.

Some pictures below:

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Steaming with the ABV

Louise and I had a fun weekend with the Steam Boat association, at the Rally they organised with the French Steam Boat Association at St. Ives on the Great Ouse.

In a Lock on the Great Ouse

A collection of UK, French and Dutch Steamboats in a lock..

We were fortunate enough to blag trips on Lady Selsey (owned by Richard Mitchell) and Theodore (owned by Pieter Brittijn) – with brilliant sunshine, and good company we had a great time.

It also helped confirm Louise’s and my view of the style of boat we wanted to build, we are very taken with the more open “working” boat typified by the¬†yacht¬†tender from the turn of the¬†century¬†(1900!), as opposed to the¬†Edwardian¬†river launch style. (as Louise commented these could be¬†characterized¬†as the difference between Ikea and the Antiques Road¬†Show.

There is still a long way from here to having to implement our decisions, but my current favorite design is typified by Lady May build by John King.

John King’s Lady May, modeled on yacht tenders for the 1900’s

Sawing Straight (not)

Having clamped a pair of mould-half panels together, I figured I could just cut them out with a jig saw….

The "Offending" Saw - as always it's the bad workman who blames his tools!

The "Offending" Saw - as always it's the bad workman who blames his tools!

So off I set, slowly and carefully sawing along the line – 2 inches in I¬† encounter the first problem – there is so much dust I can’t see the line… At this point I engage “smug-mode” and pick up the shop airline, and with the spare hand blow the dust clear as I saw…

… I reach the end and discover (horror) that the b*&^&^y saw has cut at an angle to the vertical – and (double horror) this mis-cut has resulted in the lower panel being significantly undersize (we are talking about a ~5mm undercut!) grrrrrr….

I check the saw and the blade is square to the foot, so I am mystified…

A number of posts to the Selway Fisher Builders Yahoo group follow… (this really is a great group of people) and a deal of suggestions emerge within a few hours. These range from observations that cutting 1.5inches of chipboard in one go is too ambitious, thru to real Zen-like encouragement to chill more, take up a pipe and cut them with a Japanese hand saw – excellent!

So, I take some of my scrap chipboard (I just made a nice new bit of this) and draw curved lines and practice my sawing (by hand and other approaches) – including sawing it an inch oversize and improving my planing and surforming technique.

In the end two key factors emerge 1 – you cannot saw two at a time (you were right Graham) and 2 – I was going too slow! By setting the variable speed JigSaw to “flat out” and keeping my feed rate slow the desired results emerge….

The first three moulds - halves bolted together, showing the marking out

The first three mould-halves bolted together, showing the marking out (Nos 1,12 and 16)

I leave the workshop with three assembled and very “boat shaped” moulds – life is good again!

 

Where it all began

Being a youth in the ’70s I got swept up in the emergence of the industrial archeology “movement”. Building on basic motorcycle/petrol-head beginnings I became significantly infused with serious doses of Steam and Engineering. This included working on Brindley’s Water Mill at Leek, helping the Northern Mill Engine Society dismantle a cotton mill in Shaw in Lancashire, and going sidecar racing.

Probably the key moment was meeting a retired engineer, who was helping with the sidecar project, and¬† whose house was full of 5-inch-gauge model Steam Locomotives, and I thought “wow that would be a good thing to do when I retire” and then realising that if I waited till then I would not have time to learn the craft – so I bought a Lathe…

About 25 years later (after 2 daughters (Becca and Kathy), a wife (Louise) and building a model of one of Nigel Gresley’s first designs (the O1 for the GNR) (see below) and a lot of swarf and scrap)¬† I ran into the Steam Boat association of the UK at an exhibition in Taunton in 2010. They had a steam boat on the stand… and a couple of blokes who made it sound interesting!

I felt the “obsessive gene” kick in…..

Here is the loco – showing that I can finish something, even if it takes over 25 years!

…and here’s a video of Dave driving…