We were very lucky to be invited to this event near Cahors. A significant number of the engines were Polly designs and the owner of the track has had a long standing relationship with Polly Model Engineering.
The track has two loops and a very significant incline which tested not just the engines but also the drivers. One very encouraging aspect of the weekend was the number of young people, both male and female who were enjoying driving the track.
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Last Sunday was a members steaming day at the model club. I told all the family I would be there and to bring the grandchildren along for a ride.
I arrived early with a view to getting steam up and be ready to go … in theory.
First problem was that the connecting rods had stopped in a position that was blocking fitting the fire tray holding pin. This immediately got worse in that the cylinders had seized since my last run. The more experienced members told me not to worry and if I could move the wheels enough then fit the fire tray and get things warmed up. After some rocking I managed this slight movement …. but forgot I hadn’t filled the boiler and the fire was burning very brightly. Mad panic to get some water in quickly.
Steam pressure up to 90psi but no joy on the cylinders. Gentle tapping on the con rods lead to heavy tapping on the con rods and lots of slide dragging back and forth on the steaming bay. Still no joy. Cylinders locked.
Now running out of water in the boiler. Grandchildren arrived. “Why can’t we have a ride grandddad ?”. Grabbed the handpump leaver and rapidly pumped away to get water into the boiler …. too rapidly in fact and broke my hand pump leaver. Still had a few PSI of pressure and thankfully the injector kicked in … for a short while until the pressure dropped.
How bad can this get ?
Some slight movement on the cylinders now. Grabbed some blocks of wood and got the engine airborne so the axle pump could be used … if I could just get the wheels to fully turn. More tapping/thrashing at the con rods and suddenly the wheels jumped into motion. Phew. Water now flowing into the boiler, fire good, pressure good. Get out on the track quick and keep the grandchildren quiet.
Back home in the workshop I made a new hand pump handle and fitted new oil port plugs on the top of each cylinder each with a M3 feed hole. This means I can syringe oil into the valve and cylinders a lot more easily after future steamings.
It is a hobby after all but this was one of the most stressful steamings I have ever experienced – all because I was in a rush last time out and did not do the end of day drain down processes correctly because it was tipping down with rain. Lesson learned. Thankfully no long term damage to the cylinders.