Never in a million years would I have expected to own a portable steam engine. I picked up the bones of the steam engine from St George in southern Queensland some 18 months ago. Many parts had been used to restore another larger model which Ab Brimblecombe of Toowoomba, Qld restored many years ago. It was sad to see the little 4hp rusting away amongst the trees for years. The tubes were out, the brass bearings, eccentrics, pump, glass and gauges were all missing. The stack, smokebox and funnel all needed replacement, as well as the lagging and outer sheeting. The crankshaft was off and laying to the side. I made up my mind to purchase the hulk and if worse came to worst, it would make a good garden ornament in my front yard.
Unrestored: As found on Ab Brimblecombe’s farm where it sat for 25 years.
Many hands make light work; everyone got a job!
It was a while before I could get Bob Kluck, our local steam inspector, to give a verdict on whether or not I should scrap it, but when he finally did inspect it, we found the boiler was in very good condition. This was mainly due to the fact that when Ab originally purchased the engine, he decided to release the outer covering and lagging so that the rain would run straight through instead of sitting and rusting. The engine bore was also in pretty good condition, and a good hone brought it up nicely.
With the OK given, it was time to start in earnest. It was May, and the Steaming Under The Southern Cross Rally at the Jondaryan Woolshed was coming up in late August 2006 - time was running out. Cliff had some leftover boiler tubes, which went pretty well straight in. Owen “I can turn up anything” Mesken made the eccentrics and any sleeves or bearings that were required. Paul “Mr Fabrication” Kruger and I started on the smokebox and funnel assembly, and prepared the outer sheeting. Timber work, which is not my forte, was thankfully taken over by Dad who enjoyed planing and sawing the lagging timber.
I talked to Bob Kluck and read a few books on steam engines. There were still many unanswered questions, such as types of stays and how to replace a few that needed it, how to even time a steam engine? How did the governors work? What if it doesn’t seal? Where will I get a water pump for a 1912 steam engine? All which were answered over the next couple of months.
Taking shape: The meccano set is finally ready to start assembling.
Many hours were spent on refaced mud doors, cleaning parts and generally inspecting and freeing up every piece, usually under the watchful eye of our Secretary, Elvin who, like me, never thought he’d ever have the chance to operate or work on a steam engine.
Ebay was sourced for finding oilers and other items. It was then time to start putting it all together. Whilst I have rebuilt many things, steam was still very foreign to me. Everything was very heavy and very well made. Slowly, bit by bit, the 4 tonnes of Meccano was reassembled. The lagging was in place, and now it was time for the engine bits to go on. This was a great time for all the mates to come and help. Before long, it was taking shape, particularly when the flywheel was mounted on top. A few minor bearing adjustments and it actually moved the way it should! After a couple of coats of 2-pack and some newly polished brass bands, the once rusty hulk was starting its new life of graceful retirement.
Making good use of my other restored tractors by using them to
help fit the flywheel to the crankshaft
The water pump was still a worry - without it, it was still a garden ornament. I had no luck in finding one, so I had to manufacture one. I borrowed Phil and Meryl Graham’s pump, which was the engine that was rebuilt from mine. After taking a few measurements and with time flying past, it was quicker to make it from a steel block. After working out the internal valves, Rod Salter, our general “Mr Fix-it and home-taught machining man”, offered to bore and make the valves to suit, and within a week I had a fully operational water pump.
The first test case was to fill it with water. Cliff Robinson, our local guru, had restored 23 steam engines and was a guiding influence on tube replacement. After his advice, there was not even one leak -this was a great start! Only minor bits and pieces were required to be adjusted or fitted, and a date was made for the first firing.
All was ready; the water was right, and the fire started off small and remained gentle until everything was warm. It took quite a few hours of slow gentle heat until the first movement of the gauge. All who were involved in this mighty effort were in attendance with coffee, beers and anything else we could celebrate with. Slowly, the gauge built up and after some deliberation, the flywheel was eased into a slow and steady canter. Many movies and photos were taken at this point, and we all gave a sigh of relief.
The maker’s plate on the Clayton & Shuttleworth portable, showing the serial number.
Slowly getting there; only one week to go until festival time. What’s the hurry?
A few more steamings were undertaken in the final weeks leading up to the Festival, then finally there was only the pinstriping and finishing touches, then off to the Woolshed for a week of fun and nostalgia. The engine is currently being used to train other potential boiler operators. I often joked that it has cost me more in cups of tea and coffee than that of the restoration, but it was truly a mammoth club effort, certainly one of which I am proud.
I am very proud to show this off as a completed project. Six club members achieved their steam tickets on the Clayton & Shuttleworth during that weekend.
Thanks to many members of TADOMS including Elvin, Cliff, Owen, Paul, Rod, Reg, Graeme, Nev, Damian and my Dad. Special thanks must also go to my great wife, Christine, who put up with us all!
*Warren Buckley, Toowoomba, Qld
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