I have made mention of my Poly V 5″ gauge live steam locomotive elsewhere on my blog. With lockdown having restricted running the engine on the Club track, the loco has sat idle in the workshop.
The locomotive has always been a struggle to maintain steam over a full running day. It starts off enthusiastically but then begins to struggle. This is frustrating and also embarrassing when I have to push it round to the steaming bay.
I was sent some notes on Lempor Draughting to change the blast characteristics in the smoke box. With time on my hands I spent some time on Fusion 360 drawing up a possible Lempor assembly. This is shown below. It consists of four nozzles each having a cumulative aperture area equal to the original blast nozzle as fitted in the Poly V.
I followed the notes from the article to create the nozzles. These were somewhat fiddly to make but with some jigs to help they came out quite well. I ran a Fusion CNC program to create the cut out in the new blast cap and then silver soldered the nozzles in place. Here is the finished assembly before fitting.
The results have yet to be proven given I can’t run the engine at the Club but a test on my rolling road suggested some improvement. More feedback to follow.
I have been the owner of a Polly V 5″ gauge locomotive for some time now. It has run OK but I have always had some unexplained happenings with it. Things like being reluctant to start and sounding ‘out of balance’ to use a clock making term. I also admit that while I know the overview of how it works I have never got to grips with Stephenson Valve Gear. I decided that some investigation was needed.
New Piston Rings
A bought a new pair of O rings for the cylinders a few weeks ago and decided it was time to fit these as a first step in an engine health check. This was easier to do than I expected. The end face of each cylinder is held in place with eight hex head screws and when these are removed the end plate can be taken off. The cylinder rod can be disconnected and the piston pushed out of the end sufficiently to swap out the O rings. A liberal coating of silicon grease on the new O ring allows the piston to be gently squeezed back into the cylinder and job done. Having completed this exercise I was feeling a bit more confident.
The Stephenson Link
Out of curiosity I decided to have a look inside the valve chests on top of the cylinders. These were a bit more fiddly to get at as I had to remove some of the chassis work but not a major problem. On the bottom face of each valve chamber are two slots. These slots allow steam in and out / to and from the piston cylinder. The timing block moves back and forth across these openings to alternately allow steam in and out of the piston chamber. The movement of the block is controlled by mechanical linkage and each cylinder is out of phase with the other to balance the drive to the wheels.
Having opened the two chests I noticed that both looked to be set up in a different way and as I rolled the engine up and down on the bench the openings in the bottom face of the chest were not revealed in a synchronised manner. Some investigation was needed.
When I bought the engine I also got a full set of the construction notes supplied with it from which the previous owner assembled it from new. I found these notes difficult to follow which was due to the fact that I was not conversant with the names of the individual parts mentioned. I stuck with it and the first thing that struck me as wrong was the gap at the end of the Stephenson Link was not the same in ‘Forward’ and ‘Reverse’ settings on the quadrant reverser. I had no idea why this was important and no idea of this was an absolute gap size that was needed (an actual measured distance) or just a relative similar size. Clearly it was not either of these and I needed to adjust it.
Much gloom followed as I realised the adjustment for this was behind the side water tank. This would have to come off. This looked fairly straightforward except the injector water feed is coupled into this tank in the cab area. The gland nut holding this is inside the water tank and a real pain to unfasten. The amount of arc that is possible to apply to the nut is very restricted. Eventually I managed to free this and the tank came away to reveal the quadrant rod adjuster. It was then a two minute job to adjust the quadrant rod length to balance up the end gaps on the Stephenson link in Forward and Reverse.
Timing the Valve Gear
Having balanced the Stephenson Link, the next step was to adjust the valve blocks. I put the quadrant reverser at its Centre position and rolled the engine up and down on the bench watching each valve block move. The movement of each block was not symmetrical . In the Centre position the block should only just move a small amount back and forth to just reveal the two port openings in the base of the chamber.
This is easy to adjust by removing the valve actuating link arm screw. After some back and form adjusting I got the blocks to achieve the minimal movement needed about the centre position.
If I now rolled the engine back and forth on the bench in ‘Forward’ or ‘Reverse’ the movement of the blocks increased to reveal the full area of the two ports and with each side of the engine leading in turn. I now had a nice action of the valve blocks alternately opening and closing over the front and back ports with no excessive movement. Things looked much better. I cleaned up the valve chamber lid and fitted a new gasket to each chamber. I put the engine on the rolling road and using compressed air ran the engine up. Wonderful ! It now sounded more balanced and was much happier to start in Forward or Backwards. Here is a pictorial representation of the valve action.
Without the balancing in the Stephenson Link this would not have been possible to achieve.
While delving around on the underside I noticed that one of the eccentrics had movement on it and the eccentric arms were sloppy. On the Polly kit the eccentrics are positioned with a grub screw into pre-drilled holes on the axle.
Another major gloom session ensued as it looked at first sight that the boiler would have to come off to work on the eccentric arms. However after playing with positioning of the eccentrics I found I could get the clamping screws out, drop the arms off and so allow tightening of the grub screws. In the process of doing this I found that there were tiny packing pieces between the faces of the eccentric arm halves. Clearly the original owner must have believed the eccentric arms were too tight and had packed them out. I did a trial fit without the packing and the eccentrics ran freely. Perhaps this had been done as a running in adjustment. On completion I did a second run on compressed air with no obvious issues.
Putting it back together
Re-assembling the chassis work was straightforward except replacing the side tank water feed to the injector. The original nut had been mangled by the previous owner so needed replacing. Rather than just fitting another hex nut I made a brass knurled nut. In the confines of the side tank this gave me better grip with my finger ends to tighten the fitting. Once it was finger tight I could use the end of a screwdriver to increment it tighter using the knurling surface to give me purchase.
While having grease embedded under my finger nails I did a few other jobs on the engine.
The whistle valve had always leaked steam and I had bought in a new version of this with a stronger spring action. This was fitted along with a new steam valve feeding the injector.
I re-positioned the pressure gauge to be central in the cab rather than off to one side as originally fitted.
I fitted a new set of drain cocks on the cylinders.
Finally I adjusted the cylinder lubricator which had been a bit too liberal with its feed delivering a snotty chimney edge and a fine mist of oil to my face while driving. The adjustment screw was unlocked and moved back a small amount.
All back together and a good days work. A lot learned which is always a bonus and less fear of the black art of steam engines.
The next day I took the engine down to the club track and made quite a few circuits on the raised level track. The engine sounded and ran quite differently. It ran much better on lower levels of steam pressure. I also did not get a bath of lubricating oil but judging by the edge of the chimney there was still sufficient being passed into the cylinders.
Each year the engineering club I am a member of has a Halloween Steaming evening for families and friends. The 7″ ground level track (1.35 miles / 2.2km) and the 5″ raised level track (1361 yards / 415m) get decorated with spooky stuff and we run with lights on the locos.
I fit a 100mm diameter angel light ring on the smoke box door and have a couple of small LED torches either side of the front running board and a red flashing rear light. The front view is pretty bright as a result but evening running in cold weather means lots of steam and seeing what is going on is difficult. Add to this I need my spectacles on to see the water level in the glass and my specs steam up. Add to this the fact that the oiler is running a bit heavy at the moment so my specs also get a fair amount of oil splatter.
I started the fire using charcoal soaked in white spirit and had steam pressure fairly quickly. I loaded the fire to just below the first line of tubes and set off.
I was pulling both my driving trolley and the passenger trolley and worst case this was 3 adults. I had severe wheel spin if I wasn’t careful with the regulator movement. The raised level rails are aluminium and the weather was damp so this was not unexpected. When heavily loaded the fire was really drawing well but as the evening went on it became more of a struggle to maintain steam pressure. The top of the fire had a crust of darker red on it but when the fire was poked this broke away to an incredibly bright fire.
Analysing this is difficult. Was the fire too deep and the draft from the Rosebud not sufficient ? Were the holes in the Rosebud getting clogged with ash and reducing the draft ? Or something as simple as letting the water level drop too low ?
Lots of questions that I am still working on. That aside I definitely need a session on the rolling road to adjust the oiler.
Picture taken by my son as myself and Dave prepared for another run.
I took the engine to the club on Sunday and did around ten loops with the Rosebud Grate in place.
I made a mess of lighting the fire initially by trying to go to coal too quickly and as a result had to put the external electric blower back on. Once the fire was glowing well I migrated onto the track.
The engine pulled well but was lightly loaded with only me on my small driving trolley. The fire appeared evenly spread over the grate and there was definitely a more noisy ‘drawing’ sound. Other members who had fitted Rosebud’s to their engines commented that they find that they have to leave the steam blower on more than they had been used to when the engine is idle.
So a bit inconclusive so far and more testing needed.
Owners of Polly V locomotives suffer the frustration of juggling the original bar grate into the firebox opening and then getting the ash pan to seat correctly before inserting the retaining pin. With the old bar grate I had mounted some reference blocks on the ash pan floor to keep the fire grate roughly, but still lose, while the ash pan was juggled into the correct position and the retaining rod inserted. On a cold frosty morning at the track, when keen to get steam up, this was always a pain to do. I resolved to fix or at least ease this problem on the new Rosebud Grate.
I have a ball bearing rolling road that fits on my B&D Workmate stand and this allows easier access to the underside of the engine.
I mounted the new Rosebud Grate in place in the bottom of the firebox and threaded some 16 SWG wire through the firebox door and into a pair of the holes in the centre of the new Rosebud Grate. I could now pull the grate upwards and hold it in place in the firebox floor opening. I did a dry fit of the ash pan and inserted the retaining rod. Looking back down into the ash pan from the rear of the engine I could see that with the grate pulled up tightly into the firebox opening (using the wire) there was about 3mm of clearance between the ends of the new grate supporting pillars and the ash pan floor.
Leaving the grate securely in place, held with the wire, I dropped the ash pan out of the engine and cut a piece of card to exactly fit inside the ash pan bottom surface. I painted Engineers Blue on the ends of the Rosebud Grate mounting pillars. Very carefully I offered and fitted the ash pan in place and inserted the retaining rod. I then released the retaining wire on the grate and let the grate drop so that the grate pillar ends contacted the card and left blue witness marks. I tightened the restraining wire again to lift the grate and then dropped the ash pan. I had four usable blue marks on the card showing where the pillars were located relative to the ash pan base.
I drilled out just the two best marked diagonals pairs with 5.5mm holes and then dropped the grate out of the engine and mounted it on the ash pan. I cut the length of the two M5 mounting screws such as to be tight into the pillar holes while not quite gripping the ash pan floor. This gives a degree of movement (aka slop) when offering the assembly into place on the locomotive.
Now only a single integrated lump (grate + ash pan) needs to be juggled in place on those frosty mornings.
This afternoon I ran the Polly up on the rolling road with the new Rosebud grate fitted. After lighting with white spirit soaked kindling, the safety valves were blowing after 17 minutes. The fire looked bright and even on the blower and on no-load running. It is not a true test but certainly looks promising. Following the rain over the weekend, we have been given permission to run steam once again at the Club so maybe an outing is called for on Sunday to get a real feel for the changes.