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Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Sat May 23, 2020 8:30 am
by Big Pete
Dear All,

As some of you will know, since retiring from Sea Life, I have been Volunteering at Nottingham Industrial Museum (NIM) in England.
We have co operated with the Bill Gates Foundation in preparing some films for Students about the Industrial Revolution.
The NIM volunteers who feature in them have already seen them so please feel free to share these with your family and friends.

Film 1 is in London (not NIM)

Film 2 is in Plymouth (not NIM)

Film 3 is partly at NIM (Textiles)

Film 4 (not at NIM)

Films 5 and 6 are in London (not NIM)

Films 7 and 8 are at NIM (Victorian Domestic Life and Nail Making)

Film 9 is about Coal Miners in Yorkshire

Film 10 is at NIM and features me talking about our 151 year old compound, Double Acting, Rotative Beam Engine operating on the Cornish Cycle, that used to supply the City's drinking water, sadly there is only a short segment of it Running on Steam.

I think all the films are well worth watching by anyone with an interest in History and Technology. Happy viewing. ... Fac9wxN9a4

Big Pete.

Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Sun May 24, 2020 3:40 am
by Merlyn
Interesting film, I had my old bearing scraper /leads/engineers blue out from the bottom of my box in preparation together with the flogging spanner and 14 pound sledge but alas to no avail as the film went back even beyond my startout in the trade.
Resurrection thus aborted.
Nice to see you haven't retired from the site as you have from the sea, I tried it briefly but with crap tv and threats of wandering around golf courses for hours on end I went back to slide hammering seized pencil injectors etc as it still seems to be of far more interest than being boxed up with the wife eight days a week.
Plus seized front pulleys etc.
Good hydraulic pullers nowadays too.
Might have missed them had I retired!

Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Sun May 24, 2020 11:52 pm
by Big Pete
Yes Merlyn,
The Technology is well before our time, Thomas Newcomen invented his "Atmospheric Engine" in 1712, James Watt developed it, but locked down all innovation by patenting everything until 1800, the Cornish Engineers then took over, they had all those Tin and copper mines but no Coal so they were desperate for more efficient engines and really drove the development of steam engines forward, better boilers, higher pressures, expansive working of steam, compounding, double acting, larger bore steam pipes and "Double Beat" valves to minimise the pressure drop between engine and cylinder, insulation of all the hot parts.
Our Engine is 151 years old, almost exactly half way from Newcomen to the present, and is in many respects similar to the last beam Engines built in the early 1900's.
Our engine has piston rings, invented a couple of years before it was built, (James Watt experimented with barrow loads of stable manure on top of the piston to make a steam tight seal to the cylinder). General practice was to put rings of "Junk" (worn out old rope) on top of the piston, fill in the gaps round it with Oakum and generously soak it all will molten Tallow (Sheep's fat) at each stage) a "Junk Ring" was then placed on top and screwed down to the piston pushing the junk out to the cylinder to make a steam tight seal. Off with the head every weekend to re make the seal...

The engine is almost entirely made of Cast iron and wrought iron, Sir Henry Bessemer the Sheffield Iron Master, invented the Bessemer Converter to make steel a few months before the engine was ordered.

Before Covid we used to run the engine, and several more engines, in Steam on the last Sunday of every month, but at present we have no idea when we will be allowed to open, and our Annual Steam Plant Surveys are due in August, so I have no idea when she will be running again.

If anyone is interested I will post when we are open again, and if any readers live in the Midlands they would be welcome to join us as Volunteers to help operate and maintain these old engines and explain them to the Public.

Registered Charity (1167388)

Limited Company by Guarantee (09679802)

Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Mon May 25, 2020 3:52 am
by JK
Nice to put a face to the man, BP! I am happy to see you dropping in.
That was a fun video and brings back the recip days. Now I often wish I had an IPhone back when I was on the steamers because I would love to be able and see the machinery running again.

Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Tue May 26, 2020 11:53 pm
by Big Pete
Yes JK, I sometimes regret that I didn't take more pictures in my early days at sea but the cost of film and processing was high, and the photographs that I did take have faded to nothing!!! (Should have used Kodak Ektachrome, instead of Fuji Film) Also, like most of us, a lot of the things that I would find interesting now were so commonplace that nobody thought about them!!
I haven't posted for a while because my Wife and I went on the "Holiday of a Lifetime" at the start of March and got locked down in New Zealand for a month, unable to get a flight home and no access to a PC. Don't get me wrong NZ is a fantastic place but and everyone was very nice, but you don't go on Holiday for everything to be closed in your face and to be told to stay in your RV 23 hours a day, when all the Showers, Toilets and other communal facilities have been closed. Fortunately we were able to pay for a self catering Motel Room for a month, so at least we had a full sized shower and toilet, and room to pace about.


Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Thu May 28, 2020 12:25 am
by Merlyn
Well I always thought that higher houred Marine Engineers gave themselves away with their glaze busted effect foreheads so I can only conclude that BP has always had a top team beneath him in all his sea going travels.
This is indeed a one of in my experiences in life.
Hope the NZ trip didn't change any of the foregoing.
Getting back to the rope type effect piston rings I feel that turning and fitting and gapping rings back in the early sixties would now not appear to be old fashioned after all and as such I feel much younger already.
Amazing stuff the old type engineering, I worked on the old Recip. Engines of 1925 year of manufacture ( John Brown ) casting big ends, mains etc and line boring them and of the unforgettable bearing scraping performed.
I always thought that the whole engine and fittings were over engineered as we used to call it.
Huge castings/webs etc everywhere.
So are you remetalling / boring / shimming etc up there?
Got any workshop facilities?
I see you are downloading all the old info to Joe Public so beware of the person who asks you highly technical questions of things like,
" what's the lead/tin ratio present and proportionate in bearing leads?"
Multi choice answer.
Or 100% lead?
How many dots/markings should be present of engineers blue on the white metal surface based on a square inches basis ( not metric- that's a failure) portrayed?
How many turns ought the crank be turned to display the engineers blue markings?
Why are VLC ( think they were made up your way ) bearing scrapers horns ground hollow?
What diameter grinding stone produces the correct radii?
Plus other important questions I can recall of that old era.
For that innocent inquirer could well be me as when this wretched Virus subject is done it is my intention to visit your good self
( on a Sunday in steam ) in order to get the correct answers to all of the foregoing ( plus others) and hopefully meet your good self.
However I feel I have the advantage here as I know what you look like but I will be in a disguise dressed as a member of " Joe Public "
Beware of Sunday's in steam BP!

Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Sun May 31, 2020 12:32 pm
by Big Pete
Hi Merlyn,

We have a small workshop. Unfortunately the Museum is entirely run by Volunteers and there was a Political Bust up before I became involved and the group of volunteers that did all the engineering walked out. I got the oil fired boiler running and through Survey and then, with a couple of people who had previously had some involvement with running the engines started to train some more people up.
The Guys that left, took all the workshop tools with them, so we are slowly re building the workshop, we could really do with a couple of time served Fitter/ Turners and Engine fitters, but we can't find any. I am much better at systems Engineering than plant fitting.
The engines only run for 8 hours a month so we haven't had to do anything like casting white metal bearings or anything like that, we don't have the equipment or skills to do it and couldn't afford to pay an Engineering Co to do it for us. We have to try and expand our visitor numbers to bring in more income and recruit more volunteers with the skills to do the work. The only income we have is from people paying to come in. i.e. nothing for the last couple of months.
We have several Reeder steam engines, made in Nottingham, one is sectioned so you can see all the working parts and another is a "Twin". Especially built for the local Technical College after the second world war to teach Engineer students. The two cylinders can be run as a compounded engine or as two parallel cylinders, both ends of each cylinder are connected to Indicator cocks so that power cards could be taken to measure IHP, it also had a Dynometer and rev counter so BHP could be calculated, it was also possible to disconnect the engines and rotate one to change the relative valve timing to measure what effect that had. It must have given the students hours of head scratching! We also have a vertical Tangye Engine and a first world war vintage steam powered DC Generator set. We also have a couple of Horizontal steam Engines, a little Greens Economiser Engine and a pair of Steam Powered ploughing engines.
We also have several other old steam engines, Tractors, and little Barn Engines, most of which need work on them to get them running.

You have forewarned me that you are coming! I will be looking out for someone who shines a beam of light off their head wherever they go and asks lots of detailed questions. Hope to see you soon.


Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Mon Jun 01, 2020 5:08 am
by JK
BP, You would be amazed at how often I hear the same story about volunteer infighting.
It happens everywhere ( and, to be frank, stops me cold on the thought of buying a condo.)

The twin engine sounds fascinating. I spent a couple of years working on Uniflows. They were pretty amazing engines and we never got into the power cards at all.

Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Tue Jun 02, 2020 1:35 am
by Merlyn
Blimey BP sounds like you have really walked into somewhat of a situation there to say the least.
And no tools to boot, couldn't be much worse for without tools for me is like trying to tackle the job with no arms.
Furthermore I bet all that steam stuff is BSW and BSF together with the old flogging spanners and sledges, die nuts, thread files and imperial split pins etc of that era.
All torque settings were FT as Mr Torque Wrench was not yet invented and playing about with dry paint brushes and black casting sand was the name of the game.
I fully understand your problem of finding persons who have the aptitude and skills necessary to conduct even basic engineering tasks as for me the marine engineering world seems to consist of a lot of bus conductors out there, i.e. People who dwell in the control room operating the gear but although they have got the necessary tickets to do so have never stripped and conducted major overhauls and diagnostics etc and as such rely heavily on staff underneath them in order to survive.
That idea of spraying cold water onto red hot machinery surfaces in order to draw a vacuum absolutely fills me with horror, that poor casting taking the brunt of that shattering effect must be two foot thick at least.
Like the Victoriana era over engineered at least.
I well remember the old " Heat Engines " in our old Techical College in 1960 and still have all my old studies and some photos of it all somewhere.
Froude Dynamometer?
If you do ever get round to re white remetalling bearings using the faceplate, clamps, boring tool ,flux, white metal,casting sand/brushes, drills, (correct proportion tin/lead in the white metal mind) mandrel, oxy/ac.etc.don't despair if on your final cut you expose a blowhole in your casting finish, give me a shout as I still have my 1/2" 5/8"3/4" and 1" half round chisels to cut the oilway into and beyond your blowhole (so the chargehand will never know) .
As a pounds/shillings and pence man ( i.e. imperial person that is ) I need not explain to you the importance of using imperial sizes V metric as these old engines were all imperial and we have to remember the importance of keeping it all original throught?
Oh and don't forget to machine it with the all the shims in the bearing horns, I have seen a lovely engineering finish attained only for the chargehand to discover no shims fitted which renders the scraping in process impossible and a big bollicking for the apprentice concerned as the job has to be redone from square one.
Now comes the back to the ship job, ( or engine if shore bound) on with the piston rod, out with the flogging spanner and splitpin it up.
Onto the engine, bolt the bottom half on the bearing and out with the bearing scraper, engineers blue and of course the leads.
Now at this point BP discovers his leads box is empty, it's the usual scenario, some ones robbed it and says nothing.
Mr Nobody yet again.
Transferring this problem to his newly found hobby ashore he knows it's Friday night late, and Sunday it's all in Steam, important donators are due in for a look see and as such it's essential to be in Steam Sunday in order to secure more loot for the fund.
Now this is a matter of life and death so to all you Marine engineers out there how is BP going to overcome this problem?
Liken it to a main gone down adrift on a lee shore with not enough chain to go down and rough seas abound together in a war state enemy cruisers en route.
How can he take leads?
How can he save the ship/ day here?
This could be a question in your extra chiefs ticket exam.
Life or death just for bearing leads?


Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Tue Jun 02, 2020 1:37 am
by Merlyn
I know you have scraped bearings on a steamwinch so you have a distinct advantage here (without disclosing your age mind)

Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Tue Jun 02, 2020 9:20 am
by JK
scrapped bearings, overhauled steam glands, rebuilt many, many pumps. The SKinner Uniflows just run, on and on and on. I was there for 4 years, with times I was on other ships and in that time, the work on the mains was inspections for regulatory. The real fact was it probably was totally unneccesary.

Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Wed Jun 03, 2020 12:18 am
by Merlyn
Scrapped bearings JK?
I am sure BP will at times feel that way but what we are seeking here is how to scrape white metal bearings not scrap them.
The absence of the leads is the Prima Dona factor here and this is the answer we seek.
There is a way whereby these leads can be taken prior to scraping not scrapping them.
But how?

Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Wed Jun 03, 2020 4:09 am
by JK
Typing faster then my brain was functioning while on a teleconference.
Yes, I am still a working peon, the unwashed masses, the downtrodden!

Good eye there Merlyn.

Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Thu Jun 04, 2020 1:05 am
by Merlyn
Medals in the post JK even as we speak

Re: Historic Steam Engine + Bill Gates

Posted: Thu Jun 04, 2020 11:07 am
by Big Pete
Plastigauge :mrgreen: