PART 12 from the Styx

by Journeyman

November 6, 2012

The sun rose today on the first real frost of winter. As if to confirm its arrival a flock of fieldfares flew over and the blackbirds and thrushes are busy stripping the holly tree of it’s berries, having cleared the rowan of it’s harvest last month. What a year for crummy weather. At the weekend we were in Dorset and woke to a light snowfall which followed torrential early rain. What sort of winter is to come in these times of  atmospheric turmoil?


We all of us use at least one vice, usually the conventional engineer’s bench type, with or without swivel or tilt facilities. The jaws are generally serrated and different sorts of protectors are added to avoid the work pieces being defaced. The most common seem to be the composition ones with ears to hold them in place, but I have always favoured home made aluminium faces made from sheet  or angle. On my large vice I have 1 ½” x 1 ½” x 1/8”angles held in place with ears and the grade seems to be quite tough as they have done quite a few years service without much wear. Those on my small vice are made from soft sheet and are held in place with double sided sticky tape and have proved to be most satisfactory. Keeping them in place firmly avoids having to waste time and energy trying to stop them falling off just as you are about to tighten up.

The other type I use is the carpenter’s bench vice. Faced with well seasoned oak or beech they are good for holding sheet metal while filing,  gently straightening curved bar and copper tube without risk of distortion, and holding small screws and bolts that need the ends restoring with a file after having been cut short – the heads can be firmly gripped without risk of being squashed or the screw swivelling as you file. The knobs on the lids of Boxhill’s tank fillers were tightened by being gripped in this vice and the lid rotated gently. This avoids damage to the knob. When the top edges of the wood faces become too rough to be useful they are easily replaced.


Real progress has been made since my last report. The boiler has passed it’s first hydraulic test and I have a certificate for 200 psi hydraulic with 100 psi working pressure. I’m feeling really pleased with this and just a little bit smug as it is the first boiler I have made entirely on my own, previous experience being limited to one I started under supervision 40 years ago that would not now meet today’s regulations and had a number of faults that would be difficult to rectify even if the rest of it was fit. I have made a start on the side tanks and hope to have them finished  before Christmas. Sheet metalwork is not my strong suit so I am proceeding cautiously; experience from the forge has taught me that it has a mind of it’s own, and that curves which appear from ‘nowhere’ (!) as work proceeds are difficult to correct. Applying heat while soldering demands great care to ensure that it is evenly spread over the whole area to prevent distortions created by differential expansion.

End of season

My club’s running season came to an end on October 21 and we carried an all-time record number of passengers. It was a beautiful day, the station buffet ran out of everything except tea, and it provided a fitting end to a very busy year. Despite the wet summer, most of our meetings were dry which helped to sustain passenger numbers and make for comfortable driving. A new Club battery ‘diesel’ is being built for next year in anticipation of another good season and to provide backup for the two very well used 7 ¼”g Wrens and the two battery diesels, one of which has been out of service for most of the year and, despite work being done to restore it, proved unreliable on its last two outings.

One of the wettest days was Jubilee Day which was a complete washout. The track being over 20 years old, there is a rolling programme of repairs each winter. It was laid on made-up ground, and what with the ensuing subsidence, the crumbling of poorly made concrete and corroded fixings, sections come up for rebuilding each year. Consideration was given two years back to rebuild the entire track in 100 metre sections, but being half a mile long and much of it still being in good condition, the present policy was adopted to do the worst parts first and then gradually improve the rest within the financial and labour constraints available.

Like many clubs most members are the wrong (‘right’ surely - Ed) side of 65 although we do have a very active younger membership without whom we could not operate effectively. Some of them attend the weekly club workshop sessions held at a local school, and one of them has just started an engineering apprenticeship, secured with the help of the oscillating engine he made at the class. Our winter running event will be a Frostbite Special on New Year’s Day.


Well, Christmas looms with all its attendant family gatherings. We have already had ours, and our 4 month old grandson has already started his education with the first three chapters of Thomas the Tank Engine. Railway Rabbits (Launceston Steam Railway) and Peter’s Railway will follow!

Since writing about Boxhill I have finished the side tanks and sealed all the leaks and can now move on to the cab, coal bunker and well tank.