SPRING seemed slow to arrive here in the Styx. It’s been cold for quite a while, and the bud burst on the trees is slow, first the Elder, then the Hawthorne, and now the beautiful clusters of emerald green Horse chestnut leaves have arrived to brighten up the lanes and woodlands. Hazel buds can be picked and add a delicious nutty flavour to a salad.

We have the builders in (!) and although they are really good, there’s no denying the disruption to the daily routine and rhythm. One of them started life as a precision engineer, so it’s good to have someone take a knowledgeable interest in the workshop. His former occupation shows up clearly in his building work.


Boxhill continues steadily, if somewhat slowly. I have finished the boiler and given it a preliminary hydraulic test up to 100 psi and nothing untoward happened, no leaks or detectable deflections, so I’m feeling quite pleased with myself. Having found a source of oxygen that carries no annual cylinder rental, I made use of oxy-propane heat for some of the soldering, in particular the firebox stays. The finished job shows some over enthusiastic application of solder, but rather that than too little, (despite the fantastic cost), and once the blobs have been carefully removed, a gentle application of Brillo will give me a boiler to be proud of, given that it is the first one I have made on my own.

Work is progressing somewhat haltingly on the smokebox. I decided to roll it up in brass sheet and in pursuit of strength and rigidity chose  rather too thick a piece which led to some difficulty in forming the cylinder. I have a set of rolls acquired for use in the forge, but the surfaces have become rust pitted and would have left the brass damaged so I opted to bend it round a former. I found it difficult to anneal, so the operation became a bit of a tussle, with lots of spring-back to deal with. Working with brass has never been my thing, except when machining it, so I was relieved to finish up with a cylinder of the correct diameter, AND round ! I am following my Mentor’s modifications to give better access to the smokebox pipework. This allows for the wingplate and smokebox door to be removed as one unit giving a bigger opening if there is a need to use spanners on the pipe joints.

Steam Day

One reason for the lack of workshop time is that we are holding a Steam Day at the old LSWR station in the village in May. Anyone who has organised an event will know what an enormous amount of time and mental energy  is soaked up;  the devil, as always, is in the details, and sorting them all out is what makes for a good occasion for all, but seems to take over one’s life to the exclusion of everything else. With the weather having been unremittingly foul for the last three weeks we are hoping that it will have blown itself out by 12th. I hope to post a report not too long after it has taken place.

The Internet

I am a computer / mobile ‘phone / anything-containing-a-microchip dinosaur, but how essential a computer with internet link is when you live out here in the Styx. Under the guidance of my in-house computer boffin (43 years experience) I keep in contact with the outside world, using it to find the best prices and obscure suppliers of all that I need. Here’s an example. I wanted some 10mm/1/2” od x 6mm/1/4” id braided pvc hosepipe. A search revealed dozens of suppliers all anxious to sell me 30m. when all I needed was a couple. After going through 7 pages of sites I found just the place, Hose World Ltd. who sell it by the metre at a sensible price.

The West Country is a suppliers’ desert and so being able to order online is a godsend, to avoid long journeys to collect, or several days for orders by post to be delivered. I know that mail order has always been available, but online it’s quick and most firms offer a very fast service as standard, often next day, so I am very glad that it means that living in a remote location does not mean that fulfilling needs is slow and cumbersome. Lets hope that the postal service is not allowed to decline any further.

May 27

Steam Day was a great success. All ran as planned and the old LSWR station provided a very atmospheric venue. In addition to a portable track, we had a Station Buffet with a railway themed menu, a display of the history of the Station and steam on the line, displays by local heritage groups, a display of locos from my club, a raffle, and a “guess the weight of the engine” competition, a 5”g. LBSCR Gladstone, for which the prize was an iced Dundee cake with a cake topper  photo of  Gladstone at the N.R.M., York. Train tickets were sold from the original station ticket office, and the ‘Mamod boys’ from the village put on a display of their models and steamed some of them up. We raised £740 for Village Hall funds which they are planning to spend on new play equipment at the Playing Field.

The weekend following Steam Day we went to the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways for a ‘behind the scenes’ tour. This ran over three days and took us to all those parts not normally open to the public. This included the workshops at Boston Lodge and Dinas, the Civil Engineering and Permanent Way Yard at Minffordd, the signal box at Rhiw Goch, and an unscheduled stop to see the ospreys in flight. This was the first time that this has been done so we were all on our best H&S behaviour! The weather was perfect, the mountains of Snowdonia were truly beautiful and it wasn’t difficult to keep away from the tour’s bore, you know, the one who ‘knows’ everything!


It’s mid June now, the rains have eased for the time being and war has been declared on the rabbits in the veg. garden. Happily this still leaves plenty of workshop time and I’m off there now.

You can’t be too meticulous.

Well, having got to the workshop I set to work to mount an ER40 collet chuck to the spare camlock backplate on my Myford 254. The chuck is  flanged mounted with a 2” diameter recess on the back  for the concentric register. I duly machined the matching shallow spigot on the backplate and faced off to make a snug fit for the chuck mount, and drilled and tapped the holes for the fixing screws.
On choosing the appropriate collet to accept my test bar, 19.5mm., and assembled the whole, I switched on to find the bar running off centre. I was somewhat baffled as I had taken great care to make a really good fit. Several dismantling and re-assemblies and careful cleanings later things were no better so I decided to use  my ML7 with Myford collets to check from a position of known accuracy. I mounted a 7/16” piece of silver steel in the ML7 and checked it for truth, put the ER40 chuck assembly on the outer end of the silver steel using the nearest fitting collet and all ran true.

The only thing left was the 19.5 collet itself, was it a dud? It had been unwrapped from new and in one of those precious moments I took a close look at it  and saw what looked like original packing grease. A quick clean inside and out and re-assembly on to the 254, and Bob’s your uncle, a beautifully true running test bar. It all goes to show that small bit of muck can lead to significant inaccuracy.



Model engineering in the Styx -

Part 1    Part 2     Part 3   Part 4   Part 5

Part 6    Part 7   Part 8   Part 9



PART 10 from the Styx

by Journeyman