The Curly Bowl was now only a week away so I decided to give Helen a run at the club on the Tuesday before (2nd September) to make sure everything was ok. I had noticed at the last run on the club track that the front bogie still occasionally jumped off. I had a feeling that this was due to our very rough track but didn't want this to happen again if possible (makes a mess of the paint on the wheel rims!). I decided to slightly reprofile the front pair of wheels on the leading bogie as I think the radius between the tread and the flange was too large and could possibly cause the flange to ride up the square (ish) edge of the steel rail on a tight curve, leading to the bogie derailing. This probably would not matter on aluminium track as the top edges are rounded.I did this before going to the track on the Tuesday and had no trouble with the bogie over a dozen or so laps.
One thing that did become apparent however was that the motion was again getting very tight after a short run and this pointed at the lubricator. Panic stations! This was all I needed a few days before the Curly Bowl! As soon as I got home again, I steamed her on the rolling road and there was no sign of any oil at the chimney. Even more panic stations! I eventually disconnnected the oil feed pipe from the lubricator and ran the loco backwards and forwards to check the lubricator output. There seemed to be water droplets in the oil and the problem eventually turned out to be water in the bottom of the lubricator tank. This was preventing the pumps from feeding oil to the cylinders. I drained the tank, put fresh oil in, and another rolling road test showed the lubricator was working properly again. Phew! Something to look out for in the future.
I also decided to have a quick look at the injector feeds to see if I could find any problems and tried blowing through the feed clacks on the boiler to make sure there were no obstructiond hindering the flow. The left hand clack seemed ok (with the 12oz injector) but the right hand one was ok if you blew gently but became restricted when blowing hard. This was probably why the 8oz injector was not working. It turned out that when I had increased the lift of the balls in the clacks, they were now lifting so much that they partially blocked the outlet to the boiler! I turned up a couple of new tops to reduce the lift again and also reduced the size of the ball from 3/16" diameter to 5/32" diameter to give more flow around the balls. Blowing through the clacks again showed no restrictions this time so the injectors were refitted and given a steam test. This time the 8 oz injector worked perfectly and actually ran dry most of the time. The 12oz one also seemed to work better than before. I now had two reliable injector feeds for the run at the Curly Bowl! It is possible to run the 8oz injector without dropping the boiler pressure if the blower is used as well but the 12oz steam demand is still more than the boiler can handle. Fortunately, it squirts the water in pretty quickly so doesn't have to be used for very long. Pressure soon picks up again though after it is turned off. Ideally, I need to replace it with the other 8oz injector that I made but I can't find it! Heaven knows where it has gone!
The next few days were spent touching up the paintwork, (especially the wheel rims!) and finishing off the rear detachable section of the cab. I had started this a long time ago but never completed it. This is purely for 'show' and is removed for driving. It consists of the rear half of the cab, a section of roof to fill in the cutout to give access to the controls, and a tray at the rear of the cab which contains some coal.
Removable rear section of cab for 'show' purposes
On the Thursday night I suddenly thought that it would be nice to give Helen a set of name plates for the Sunday and wondered how I could produce them in the time available. I had the facilities to etch a set of brass ones, but how to produce the mask to do this? After a bit of searching on the internet, I decided to try a process based on a method of producing printed circuit boards and the results turned out to be far better than I expected. Rather than describe the process here, I'll do a separate section detailing the process as it is so simple and produces such good results that I am sure it will be of use to others.
The 'quick and easy' nameplate
The 'Curly' Bowl
September 7th finally arrived and I was having doubts already about the wisdom of entering. The weather was very wet as we left Derby and did not look very promising for the event. However, when we arrived at Little Hay the rain had stopped and it held off for most of the day, just the odd small shower now and again. I had been allocated the last run of the day so it was very nerve racking watching the other 5 entrants ( the 6th, a Lion, did not arrive, possibly due to the very bad weather). When we arrived, Carl (Jones) was just completing his run with his Hielan Lassie and was putting up a very good performance. He continued on the track for some time after the judging and I thought he stood a very good chance of winning. The next 4 engines were then put through their paces and all seemed to perform very well, making me feel even more apprehensive!
Helen's turn eventually came and I went through the proceedure of describing the loco to the judges and outlining the modifications to the original design. It was then time to raise steam and this seemed to take for ages. What made it worse was that everybody is watching you! The blower did not seem to be working very well and not drawing the fire, but after switching from my battery to the steaming bay supply, steam was very quickly raised and we were ready to take to the track. Both injectors worked well and after a quick oil around, we ventured on to the track and I did a couple of laps to make sure everything was ok. Helen was running well so I handed her over to the three judges who all took their turn at driving. This was by far the worst part for me but they all seemed to get around ok with no problems. Helen behaved perfectly and the third judge seemed very reluctant to hand her back! I drove her for another few laps after the judges had finished and retired to make their decision. Friend Dennis Ede, a fellow member of the Association and the NWLSME had a drive for a couple of laps as well.
We were then all called into the presentation Marque and I must admit to being very nervous! The results were announced in reverse order and I was very pleased to hear that Carl and his 'Lassie' were at least the runners up. At this point I suspected that Helen may have won but it was still a bit of a shock when she was announced as the winner!
In all the rush to get Helen ready for the event, I forgot to take my camera so I am indebted to various people who took photos and sent them to me.
Ready for the off! (photo courtesy Peter McMillan)
Nuff Sed! (photo courtesy Peter McMillan)
The Curly Bowl
The proud father!
I wonder what this knob does! - Chief judge Steve Eaton on his run
(photo courtesy of Tony Durnford)
Judge Michael Law at the controls
(photo courtesy of Tony Durnford)
Michael trying to get the injector to work!
(photo courtesy of Tony Durnford)
Fellow club member Dennis Ede has a turn
Well, that's pretty much it I think. All that is needed now is a proper wooden box to carry Helen around in and I'll try and get that done before the rally at Warrington this Saturday (13th).
I can't believe that I first started work in November 2005 and Helen has been nearly 3 years in the making. It's been frustrating at times but the end result has made it all worth while and winning the Curly Bowl is really the icing on the cake! I hope that you have enjoyed reading about her as much as I've enjoyed writing about her and hope my ramblings may help some of you out there.
If there are any updates on Helen I will post them but it's time to move on to the next project/s, probably the Simplex although I may carry on with the A1 from time to time. If anyone is going to the Midlands Exhibition at the Fosse in October, Helen will be on display on the 2½" Gauge Association stand, possibly along with the Curly Bowl.
Fame at last!
I think a bit of an update on Helen is long overdue!
She's still going strong but hasn't been run much over the last couple of years due to spending far too much time messing about with other peoples stuff! Also, I've been running Ayesha at most of the local rallies.
The piston valves still seal perfectly with no leakage at all so I think I can call the design of those a success. I did have more problems with the lubricator not working all the time so I eventually replaced it with a single plunger Jim Ewins type which has performed faultlessly since fitted.
The major problem that I have just repaired is that the injector water valves seized up solid due to the loco not been run for the last year. This involved having to remove the top of the rear bunker which made a bit of a mess of the paintwork around the edges. I made the mistake of painting the rear bunker after the top had been fitted when I should have painted the top separately before it was fitted so there is a bit of touching up to do.
I thought that the problem was due to the PTFE plugs in the valves sticking but it turned out to be that the stainless operating shafts had seized in the brass bodies of the valves. I had to knock one of them out with a hammer because it was so tight. I cleaned eveything up and reassembled the valves with some silicon grease on the shafts and they are good to go again.
Whilst I had the rear bunker in bits I took the oportunity to do what I should have done in the first place - connect the injector valves to a separate water feed from a tank on the truck so they could be fed with cold water all the time. The injectors worked fine to begin with when fed from the bunker tank but would stop working as soon as the water in the tanks got warm which is always going to happen with a tank engine.
I had already fitted a connection on the rear buffer beam for a water feed to keep the tanks topped up so I just diverted this to the injector water valves instead.
The hand pump also received a new O ring on the ram as it wasn't working as well as it should. It's now back to normal.
I ran the loco in early September at one of our local Get Togethers at Whitwick but neither injector would work. When I got home again, I took the injectors off and gave them a good clean (which I should have done before!). One had a piece of muck in the delivery cone which explained why that did not work and the other injector failed because the boiler clack was stuck. Better luck next time!
I've now bought a 2.5 litre plastic fuel tank for mounting on the back of the driving truck and that will be ideal for the water supply.