My restoration of my 84 year old model beam engine

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Nov 19, 2009
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This is my beam engine that i restored , i had brought it back in october from a gentleman in the west country whos Grandfather had made it for his final aprentis piece back in 1925, the engine and boiler had not been run for decades and it had been left in his Father's garage covered in metal swaf , the original idea was just to rid the engine of rust clean the boiler and free the engine up as it was a bit tight due to old oil and dirt deposites.

The clean up commensed with the boiler and a liberal dose of metal polish which came up beautifully in copper with brass fittings including the fire box and methalated spirit burner which still has its original wicks in it and in good order too !! while i was cleaning the boiler i noticed the the water gauge glass had a crack in it and maybe this was the reason it had not been run for so long.

Then i started on the strip down of the engine itself which at the outset seemed straight forward enough !!! , i stripped down the beam and all the connecting rods ,crank, excentric (noting where it was positioned on the crank in relation to the position of the connecting rod so that when it went back together the timing is right, it is often forgotten that steam engines need to be timed) and flywheel then took down the dorick collum.

As i cleaned the various steel parts it became clear that the steel had been badly stained by the rust (but not pitted fortunately) but if i were to get rid of the stain marks left by the rust it would have to be remachined (skimming a layer off with a lathe) which is not an option as this would have destroyed the original design, so with much thought and pondering it was desided that as the engine was never to be sold on that i would paint most of the steel parts to finish the engine properly.

With much rubbing down, painting , rubbing down and final cotes of paint the engine was ready to be reassembled, this proved most difficult as remembering which bolt went with which nut and where took a bit of time and a lot of trial and error ( one of the bolts varied by as little as a thousanth of an inch for clearance on the beam) , once assembled i then had to slacken off the dorick collum to get the alighnment right so that the connecting rod didn't foul the crank and the engine ran freely.

Once the engine was back together it was time to oil it up at the proper points. Then it was time to fill the boiler with water to check for leaks which there were none not even where the glass water gauge was cracked!!! . At that point i decided to take a chance on the water gauge and fire the burner up on 1 then 2 wicks to build up heat and pressure very slowly so as not to over stress the boiler too quickly! The boiler has not got a pressure gauge or any indication as to its safe operating pressure so after checking the condition of the safety valve i wound it out to its lowest release point and as the steam built up and the valve blew i tested to see if the engine would turn over with that pressure and if it didn't i would turn the valve down by 1/4 of a turn and wait till the pressure came up to the new higher setting and repeat the procedure again and again untill the engine ran at a steady mid to low range speed with the regulator fully open, in doing this it then became evident that the engine would then run out of steam again very quickly so i decided to empty the boiler and pressure test it with compressed air again building up the pressure slowly , after having a chat with an old engineer and testing with air we discovered that the boiler holds a maximum of 90 psi safely but the engine runns very well on 60psi with the regulator 2/3 open.

There was one mishap with the burner during the testing when the gas built up inside the burner too much and decided to escape with a resulting in a major conflageration with before it could be extinguished had to be taken out of the workshop in a hurry ,because i could not get the burner tray out from the firebox in the panick this involved opening up the regulator and the safety valve to dump the pressure in the boiler which is not advisable for health and safety reasons or the condition of the boiler either !! put on my gauntlet gloves and run outside with the whole engine and boiler at arms length with the flames lapping all around the boiler and about a foot in the air , then place the engine on the floor , take out the burner run grab a towel and beat the whole lot senseless till the flames went out !!!, all this i managed to achieve in record time even Donald Campbell would be impressed with LOL !!!!!

There was no damage to the boiler burner or the engine and all run sweetly now it looks lovely .

I have posted some pictures on here of the restoration , hope you like the results.

P.S. no photos of the fire as didn't get time to take any during my record run !!! lol




Welcome to HMEM Stuart.

Great job on the restoration!

Welcome to the forum Stuart.
That was a great post.
But got me worried reading it. ;D
Glad it ended up okay.

Welcome to our forum. wEc1

Nice restoration. :bow:

Best Regards

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