By Journeyman

Thursday March 21

Despite it being freezing, the air is still and the sun is out, and it really does feel as if spring is just round the corner, even though it’s weeks late!


I recently decided to increase the running speed of my lathe by putting a larger pulley on the motor spindle. Using an old Picador catalogue for reference, I duly went to Mr Google in search of a  4”dia. Z-section aluminium pulley of the type that is (or was) so common, but to little avail. Those few that I did find were of the kind that you have to bore out the hole to suit your motor spindle, in my case 5/8” o.d., or were metric or quite expensive. Those other web sites that responded to the search kept offering me pulleys with large holes in the middle, far too big to be of any use, and I was beginning to despair until the old memory stick kicked in and I recalled fitting a two-part pulley to an old Mitchell lathe I had in the forge. This had a split spindle bush with an outside taper onto which the pulley with a matching inside taper slid, and was fixed with two grub screws that pulled and clamped everything together. Bingo, I’ve caught up with the world of pulleys. (We are about a decade behind things here in the Styx!). It’s a good system as it dismantles easily and several pulley sizes will fit the same bush, AND it’s cheaper than the old single size type. The Bearing Company supplied all with great efficiency.


I’m getting to the point where the job looks as if it’s nearing completion until I start to count up all the details yet to be done. The list stretches into the distance, and I wonder if it would help to compile a list which could then be ticked off, thereby giving a sense of countdown to completion. However, the thought of having to work through a list has never been attractive to me, indeed it is usually counter productive, so I shall continue to do things as they come to my attention.

I have machined the cab handrails and the dome, both parts that needed a bit of working out as to how to hold them. I mounted the dome casting onto a tight-fitting wooden arbour held in the four-jaw chuck, drilled and centred the spigot end and supported it with a running centre and then machined the outside curves and the spigot. I then held the spigot in the three jaw chuck on the dividing head on the milling machine, set up two supporting columns fitted with long screws to provide lateral support and machined the underside with an indexable flycutter. Then back
onto the wooden arbour to part off the spigot and drill the steam escape hole, and finally the lower curves were filed to blend in with the bottom edge where they meet the cladding.
For the four handrails, I made the eight threaded spigot ends, and then screwed on two silver steel arbours to each rail in turn.  One arbour was held in the collet chuck, and the other ran in a plain phosphor bronze bush which was made and fitted into a blank-end 2MT arbour held in the tailstock. Using the taper turning attachment I was able to make the four matching handrails quite quickly.

Marking Blue

This can be messy stuff to use. The pot I bought has a pull-off lid and in holding the pot to get the lid off, the pressure inside is raised enough for Blue to spray out onto my hands, and when snapping the lid back on the residual liquid is once again shot out leaving a mess on everything within a foot’s range. Then the brush I use had to be cleaned. If left to dry without cleaning it goes hard and is useless until it has softened. I got fed up with all this, especially on those occasions when I only needed a small dab of the stuff and needed a better way. Answer, a redundant clear nail varnish pot complete with it’s built-in brush. My daughter-in-law supplied me with an empty one, and after a wash-out with acetone, it was filled with Blue using a small syringe, which was then washed out with meths, ready for future use, and now I no longer ever have blue fingers!

Soft solder

The platework for Boxhill involves significant use of soft solder, and inevitably it sometimes finishes up a bit lumpy (my lack of skill) or fills corners that need cleaning out to accept the edge of an adjacent piece of plate where two meet to make a corner, the two pieces being held together with a piece of angle brass. Files are not much use for this job as they quickly clog up and they are difficult to clean up afterwards. Some sort of scraper is better, but rather than devote time and effort to making one I use a very sharp woodworking chisel. It can be used as would a carpenter, or as a scraper, and by these means a solder-filled corner can be cleaned out right down to its’ root. In the woodworking workshop at school there was a notice that read “You will not cut yourself if you keep both hands behind the cutting edge”, self evident but frequently forgotten!

April 18

We drove up to North Devon last Sunday week, and to see the countryside in a state of drought in early Spring was amazing. At a time of year when one would expect to see verdant greenness across all the pastures there was a grey bleakness across every living plant, more like the winter scenes we saw in New Hampshire in the U.S.A. many years ago. Some recent rain has yet to take effect as it is still unseasonably cold, and the necessary growth for good spring grazing has yet to develop.


Have you ever had that situation where you want to turn an item off the end of a long thin rod, and the free end whips round in an ever increasing circle threatening injury to eye and limb, but at the same time are reluctant to cut a shorter length to avoid this hazard, which would then produce two wasteful offcuts ? Well, a cork can be the answer. Drill a hole through the centre of the cork a close fit for the rod i
n question. Then slide it along the rod and into the tail end of the mandrel and it will steady the flexing as the rod rotates. You may also need to turn down the o/d of the cork to fit the mandrel hole and this is best done on a taper to make a snug fit. There are three useful types of bottle cork. Cork corks, plastic corks, and sherry bottle corks. The first two are becoming scarce as the ubiquitous screw cap’s relentless takeover of even good quality wines marches forward, but they are still to be found. Sherry bottlers still seem to favour corks and the plastic top adds rigidity when the bar is rotating.


It’s amazing what a roof can do to the appearance of any kind of shelter, be it a palace or a hovel. It’s what makes the structure seem finished  and ready to provide warmth and comfort and so it is with a locomotive. Boxhill’s roof is on and despite the absence of a number of details, my loco looks finished and ready to do it’s work. The Stroudley pagoda roof is especially characterful and unites all the parts of the engine into a very handsome whole. One reason, indeed  THE reason why I decided to build it, is that in my opinion it is the prettiest tank engine ever to have graced the metals of any railway in the World. In doing so I embarked on a project far beyond my capabilities, at a time that I was attending a model engineering evening class when all the help I would have needed was on hand in the form of the college engineering tutor. So thanks once again to my mentor who has been so generous with his time in guiding me through.

It’s May 29 and it’s still cold, wet and windy. Who would have thought that the weather  would have been little different from when I started this instalment on 18th March ? However, the countryside has greened-up and my son now has plenty of grass for his dairy herd.