PART 9 from the Styx


Short days and overcast skies make living in our little valley an effort to get our daily recommended dose of vitamin D. However, when the sun does come out from the trees it shines straight down onto the house and recreates our summer suntrap. A local sparrowhawk has worked out that he cannot take the small birds off the feeders due to the barrier of teasels that we grew round them for that purpose, so now he scares them off and then sits on a post nearby, patiently waiting for a ground feeder to venture back and quick as a flash, bye bye little bird, and the hawk has his dinner.  Evolution at work – sparrowhawk 1,  Styx defences 0 !!.

Just back from the Model Engineer Exhibition. It was so much better than 2009 and we had a good time. We met up with  our esteemed Editor and also my Mentor and his delightful wife, with whom Mrs Journeyman had a good swapping of notes on the ins and outs of life with a model engineer. Is there no end to the bits and pieces that they seem to need ??  But there we are, behind every successful man stands a good woman and there they have their reward! 

The club stands, and the range of demonstrations staged by The Society of Model and Experimental Engineers were particularly impressive and our thanks must go to all those who worked so hard to bring us such a feast. Let’s hope that MyHobbyStore makes renewed efforts to attract those suppliers who were not there to come next year, and resist the temptation to fill empty stands with stuff that has nothing to do with model engineering.

Continuing the boiler

Work on Boxhill’s boiler continues in fits and starts. I am having to adjust to working on a mass of metal that is much larger than anything I have done before, and that even using ceramic fibre blanket as insulation I must expect the metal to take longer to come up to heat than I am used to. This has caused one or two anxious moments  where the solder has melted ahead of running into the joint, leaving that irritating little liquid ball running around looking for a nice hot place to settle into and “feel” properly at home. My Mentor says that using insulating blanket makes a big difference, and since he is always right, that is what I will do.

Between boiler solderings I have started to make the fittings, and since progress is too slow on the boiler this gives me a sense of moving forward and allowing me to return to the big job, refreshed from the last time I struggled with the heat. I shall solder all the fittings in one session and will include some pictures of those operations.

Soap box.

The news that Rolls Royce is setting up a facility for Trent engine assembly in Singapore only serves to underline the theme of lack of training for our skilled engineers of the future as expounded repeatedly by our erudite Editor. A total lack of understanding among our political masters of the true source of wealth has led to the lamentable decline in manufacturing in Britain, especially within the high technology sector, in complete contrast to the Singapore Government, which is not only solvent, but is investing in training home grown talent to minimize hiring-in skills from overseas, and facilities to enable it to produce both more of what it needs for itself, but also what it can profitably export.

True wealth does not come from shuttling money around electronically at the expense of ordinary people’s jobs and well being, but from taking the Earth’s natural resources and applying skill and imagination to make things that people want to buy, in this case jet engines, at a price  and profit margin that will enable RR to remain the world leader that it is. This country is still incredibly good at the high tech stuff, witness McClaren cars. 

“What does he of politics know that only politics knows ?” Why do we continue to elect to Parliament people who know little or nothing of wealth creation ? People who have gone straight from further or higher education  into some sort of political career that will eventually lead to them making critical decisions about our economic future without the slightest idea of  the origins of wealth, who are so naive and inexperienced that they are effortlessly bamboozled by bankers into thinking that the interests of bankers and the country at large are one and the same thing? Hah!

Order! Order! Again.   

Back in the workshop

Certain bits of the workshop continue to drive me round the bend. I have accumulated collections of drills, reamers and sundry tools that have sat loose on shelves, falling off whenever I pick up something sitting beside them, so a day was set aside to sort this out, together with the other corners that hide things that I suddenly need for the first time since moving in and setting up. Floors under benches gather unto themselves those small bits you have just finished and then promptly drop, never to be seen again despite hours of searching, so a reordering usually reveals them long after you have made another one, as well as at least two steel valve balls that have leaped out of you fingers, such is their will to escape at the first opportunity.

I have also bought three lengths of square plastic drain pipe, and these will be cut to suitable lengths and glued together for storing my metal, which is currently in boxes necessitating a rummage through each time to find what I want.

All this may seem like common sense, but these things don’t always get done in the best order, so a catch up session is needed now and then, and is also very satisfying.


MEWS for the week ending 20th February was of particular interest to me as it featured Alan Tyler’s De Winton coffee pot locomotive. I witnessed the first public steaming of this engine at the Harrow and Wembley MES track at their Headstone Lane track. From first sight it was clearly an exceptional piece of engineering, raising pressure quickly and running smoothly and powerfully.

From this one brief encounter I formed an impression of  Alan as a man of remarkable skill and personality, as was HWSMEE member Jim Hobson. It was to Jim’s house I was invited to help him load his  LNER Mogul Loch Eil No.4692 for transport to the track, where I was allowed to drive it, my first, and for a very long time, only opportunity to drive a model loco. This one also ran like a top and had a terrific turn of speed. In the first picture of Loch Eil, Jim is behind the safety valve steam plume. The driver’s truck on this occasion was the dynamometer car, seen between the driver and passenger in the second photo, that he designed and made for early locomotive efficiency trials, the location of which I believe is now unknown. I would be interested to know the whereabouts of

Loch Eil.

Summer and the running season beckons, and with my club having carried out track repairs this winter I am looking forward to some

good outings.