Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

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Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  LiveSteam on Sun 09 Mar 2014, 4:13 pm

Being a copper boiler owner on a small 5" loco I've been wondering about the steel boilers that are on the larger kit.

I hear about "tube replacement" and "water treatments" etc and while I'm currently not on the STW books I have been thinking about it Wink

So what is the life expectancy of say a STW boiler or any steel boiler and what are the do's and donts for these ?

Cheers

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  Tim Watson on Mon 10 Mar 2014, 1:12 pm

Steel boilers begin to rust as soon as they are in service. Boiler treatment will reduce this. The first part of the boiler to be replaced will be the tubes, the need for which will depend upon how well the boiler has been looked after and how much work the. Engine has done. After this parts of the firebox may need to be cut out and replaced depending upon wastage. A boiler should be sound until at least ten years old, but the way it has been maintained will effect its life thereafter: e.g. frequent washouts, careful storing over winter, water treatment etc.

The boiler has to be made of steel on a 4" scale engine for structural reasons.

Tim

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  LiveSteam on Mon 10 Mar 2014, 3:35 pm

Cheers for that, mmmmmm interesting, does sound like theres more to be done when owning a steel boiler compared to a copper one then.

Tube and fire box replacement sounds quite scary and expensive !

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  highpressure on Tue 11 Mar 2014, 12:30 am

I used to think like that but having previously owned a Maxitrak 3" A & P which had a copper boiler it developed several leaks in the tubes plates round the silver soldered tubes which proved to be a much more troublesome problem to solve, dont assume copper boilers last forever either, it was just coming up for 10 years of age. Tube replacement wouldnt be the most fun you could have on a Saturday afternoon but there are so many people on here who would know more, have done it before, would offer help etc including the factory that I wouldnt be daunted by it now. Also having built the engine and fitted most parts at least three times I wouldnt be at all phased by just taking the thing apart and strapping a new boiler in!!! As STW make their own boilers and their pricing is never outrageous and I am a previous customers I expect it wouldnt be a kings ransom either!! I have heard costings of about 1K to have someone do the tubes for you so I am going forward without much fear. After this weekends steam test I will be in position to report on the condition of a boiler after two years hard service with not the best care plan in place!!! ( I may have to remember to treat it better afetr this  Embarassed  Embarassed )

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  lynnr on Tue 11 Mar 2014, 2:21 am

Hi

Golden rule with a steel boiler. Slowely!

"Good housekeeping with a steel boiler is important. Regular proper washouts and fairly accurate boiler treatment routine will not see you wrong". Quote from a retired RSA inspector A.K.A. Father.

Crystal has been wet for over 2 years now and she is still "tickity boo" inside.

When raising steam. No jet turbine perched on top of the chimney! I use a computer fan ducted into the side of my extension chimney and it draws well enougth to stop the fire smothering itself. Everything gets a slow heat up and I aim for 20psi at about 50 minutes from cold. If she wants longer fine. Time for more tea! At 20psi. crack open the blower a very small amount and remove the fan. Remembering to reduce the blower as pressure builds up. I like to just be able to hear it not a roar. Even at 60 minutes you will find the firebox end will be quite hot and the bottom up front at the smokebox will still be stonecold. I aim for 120 to 130 at about 90 minutes. Once I have about 50psi I will start the motion ticking over to warm it all up and make sure everything is correct. Of course drain cocks are still open all the while. Time for more tea. Right where shall I trundle off to?

The showman 4" is a very forgiving engine. You can trundle about for a long time without having to tend to the fire. Just add water when she wants it. I normally have the mechanical pump on about 1/3 to 1/2 and she will trundle about in 2nd at walking pace and hold a concistant water level. On the showground trundle I normally work between 120 and 150psi. This gives an overhead if you have just coaled up and then have to stop. Just close the damper and make sure the blower is off and she will sit docile for 45 minutes easily. Lunchtime is a pleasure. Sitting on the trailer with a quick glance evey few minutes to see the pressure and water gauges. No embarrising loss of fire so far!

My coal shovel has been modified with a longer handle. This allows me to stoke while moving quite easily. After a couple more tests I may put a small lip on the front edge to stop the coal rolling off when reaching in over the manstand.

I washout every 48 hours of running time or 2 weeks of light duty. My area of operations can be classed as very soft so my main problem is peat. It can cause a slight underdose of teatment as the peat will also tint the water a tea colour. I made a lance out of a microbore copper tube with a brass end fitting. Then cut a slot in the side of the brass to make a fan of about 75degs. This is very effective at washing out as it will reach from the smokebox all the way to the back of the firebox to washout over the fire hole. It also fits in via the front bungs at the foundation ring and allows washout from all round the ring and up the throught plate. I just use mains pressure as ours is substancial compaired to down south. All the tap fittings in the house have restrictors!

Swarf in the boiler. As Steve said do not worry. I have not and everything is fine. While I was building Crystal I did steam test runs. This started off as a boiling water excersise as there was a large quantity of holes still in the boiler. No valves, safety valves, no pressure gauge etc. So no possiblity of holding pressure. Gentle fire and boil for 6 hours. Managing water via the left clacks and a hose fitting. Cool a bit and pull all plugs. This was repeated a number of times and I did get some debris out of her. No treatment at this time. Once more fittings arrived the pressure holding ability started to climb. I put a air hose fitting where a second whistle could be fitted. This acted as a restrictor and allowed a hotter boiling to take place. Then due to a resticted opening a small amout of pressure was available to blowdown. This disturbed a bit more crud. By the time she was holding full pressure any debris that could cause problems was already out. I had also trained myself in fire management without the aid of a blower or fan. So when the first road test arrived after certification, no space on the property to move more than 20ft, I was confident in managing her in a safe and efficient manner. So at first run. Got down the end of the drive. Did a trip along the road and lost the fire. House coal grrrr! A quick pile of wood and a relight got her going quick enough.

As Kevin says. It may appear very daunting at first but take gentle steps and everything will go well. Yes at somepoint in the future the boiler will need tending to. You built her so you can take her apart in as large a lumps as possible = great cost saving on labour. The boiler is a very well established technology by strange coincidence. So plenty of experienced fettlers to change out a tube or fix the barrel. STW I hope are still around and would do a good price and job.

On future maintenance. I have opened a savings account for Crystal and put a few pounds in it each month so she has her own operating budget. Any attendance gifts I get go straight into the account as well. So when the "dreaded" day the inspector does a sucking of teeth and declares something needs to be done about "x" then Crystal will have enough money saved to pay for it herself. She is quite independant and does save her pocket money.

Hope my mussings and meanderings are not too boaring!

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  highpressure on Tue 11 Mar 2014, 4:17 am

My only response to this would be no fan assist at all, I just use a chimney extension, I have never had a problem with the fire lighting once yet. Depending on wind conditions it generally takes less than an hour to get to about 100, I leave the blower open from the start it just picks up as the water boils then shut it off at about 60 and let tick over bring the fire up. I always use dry kindling left in an air tight barell with parafin in, build up a good fire on the wood then put the coal in, always Holmes WDS. Havent ever washed anything out ever so may need to think about this after next weeks steam test, lets see what the scope sees and Peters opinion of mine verses Andys.

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Boiler do's and don'ts.

Post  Capricorn1 on Tue 11 Mar 2014, 6:17 am

All boilers need maintenance whether they are steel or copper, there is one thing that has always puzzled me in that why do some owners of minatures insist on blowing down - emptying the boiler at the end of a rally?
The boiler should be allowed to cool down naturally.

Corrosion attacks the plate-work and tubes, this is due to oxygen in the water, the products of combustion and stress corrosion - the expansion and contraction in service.
As the water in the boiler is used as steam any impurities left behind build up and form both sludge and scale, the scale effectivley acts as an insulator on the water side and overheating can occure which causes stress.
Sludge builds up around the foundation ring reducing the water space.

The boiler should be emptied when cold and washed out thoroughly every 2 weeks or so if being steamed regularly.
I plan to use water treatment fluid which has a de-oxygenator and also helps to keep any impuritites in suspension in the water rather than setteling out and forming scale so they can be flushed away when washing out, this is usually added to the tender and topped up as required but this all depends on the quality of water you're using.

The smokebox, tubes and firebox should be cleaned before laying up for the winter - the suplhur in the soot from burning coal will turn to acid and eventually corroded the platework, the water drained out, washed out and either boxed up once dry or left open to allow the air to circulate.

How you fire and drive the engine will also affect boiler life, don't force the boiler into steam by using the blower, if firing while pulling hard or going up hill then shut the firehole door between shovelfulls otherwise you'll be drawing cold air into the firebox and could set the tubes leaking.
Follow the long standing rule when firing - little and often.

My Aveling Barford roller used to take 2hrs to raise steam from cold, during that time you would clean the engine, oil round, fold up the engine sheet and generally get eveything stowed before setting off - not forgetting the wheel oilers. And in 8 years I never once used the blower.

Retubing a 4" engine will probably result in a few bruised knuckles but other than that it would not be too bad a job, I've recently bought a tube expander for an after-cooler with 188 3/8" bore copper tubes which need tightening up.
If looked after I would expect to get 10 years from a set of tubes.
Copper tubes conduct the heat better than steel - full size railway locomotives usually had copper fireboxes.

I recommend "The modern manual for drivers of steam road vehicles" written by Micheal Salmon of the Road Locomotive Society in 1967, this is an excellent book, obviously written with full size engines in mind but equally useful for owners of minatures.



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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  CaptainClag on Tue 11 Mar 2014, 6:36 am

Blowing down can be beneficial on a miniature as washout plugs are smaller than on a full size engine; therefore there's a good chance that a cold washout will not disturb all the sludge that a blowdown in steam would. On full size railways a blowdown under steam would be done while the loco is still in full steam (obviously not down to empty though!) Start with a pot full of water and blow down until the glass shows around 1/4 a glass - this will get the crud out but keep the boiler hot. If you do want to blow down at the end of a day's steaming, it's best to do so with only a few psi on the clock, so the change to the pressure isn't sudden and drastic.

When it comes to disposal at the end of the day, I always try to plan ahead and let the fire die down gently. To be really kind, anything left on the grate can be shovelled out rather than the whole grate being dropped out and cleaned. Again, full size railway practice is to just clean the fire of clinker and then shovel out the remainder when cold. In any event, keeping the grate in place will prevent a sudden inrush of cold air. A metal chimney cover also helps keep the heat in.

Also, if not blowing down the water needs to be filled to the top nut at the end of the day, but ideally you don't want to be putting too much cold water in right at the end of the day as this will cool the boiler plates down fast. Building the water level up gently while still hot is kinder!

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  highpressure on Tue 11 Mar 2014, 8:03 am

Interesting thoughts here, I have always left the water in the boiler between rallies if I do a number on the bounce each weekend, I dont nessecarily fill it up to the top generally because I run till the time at which I decide we need to start packing up and then dont have enough time to fill up without just going for it and pumping in lots of cold. If I blow down its generally with less than 20 on the clock but I always drop the fire as I dont want to stow the engine in the trailer in steam, the damp causes problems in the trailer. I believe either rightly or wrongly you should either fill the boiler up to ensure no air or drop the water as a half and half level is the worst idea causing rust at the water line? I dont know if thats correct but I am open to correction from those who know better but already it seems we all have a differing opinion on how it should be done etc. On the plus side the engine is always in the trailer ( closed IW box type ) so doesnt get a cold wind up its kilt on the way home  Shocked Shocked 

Steve has advised only to put boiler treatment directly into the boiler at the beginning of the day not to add it to the tender as it clogs the injector and pump feed gauze. Once again I shall be interested to see inside my boiler and see how much damage I have done so far or if I am behaving quite well.

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  LiveSteam on Wed 12 Mar 2014, 4:03 pm

Wow thanks to all of you for your input, lots of really useful info and views on the subject, I'm really pleased to have asked the question now.

As someone who is unlikely to buy to build more likely buy to drive this has been invaluable info and I thank you all.

None of the ramblings have been boring, all very useful info I feel.

I like the relaxed firing and running, 45mins without any major input, crumbs our little 5" loco is a fairly frantic affair but then due to its smaller size everything does happen much faster and thus it can seem to be a continual battle of water and coal to keep her happy, one reason why I'm looking for something a tadge larger Wink

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  highpressure on Thu 13 Mar 2014, 1:22 am

LiveSteam wrote:

As someone who is unlikely to buy to build more likely buy to drive this has been invaluable info and I thank you all.


I hope that means you would still buy a kit rather than finished, the build experience is invaluable to give a really in depth undertsanding of how the engine works. I am completely with you, I bought this to drive, its just that a completed RL is at least 25K and well beyond my budget whereas someone living close to me has built two engines and they both get very little use as he wants the build experience and deosnt really get a thrill from running!!!! Weird I dont get it....

LiveSteam wrote:

I like the relaxed firing and running, 45mins without any major input


I would say thats possibly on the low side, over last years summer we had several rallies where we got away with at least an hour or more, especially if you fill up the boiler and fire and have a good head of steam it only really needed an occasional tick over to keep the fire drawing if that depending on the wind direction. And finally no one has mentioned the array of cooking you can do!!!! Andy and I do bacon sarnies mid morning at most rallies and a variety of stuff in the smoke box which I am working on expanding this year to include chicken breast fillets, pork loin, possibly stew/casserole if I can find a suitable vessel and not forgetting the invaluable windermere kettle which I absoultely couldn't be without.  Very Happy Very Happy

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Boiler do's and dont's.

Post  Capricorn1 on Thu 13 Mar 2014, 5:34 am

A variation on the windermere steam kettle is the plain old galvanised bucket... useful for boiling potatos, carrots, brocoli etc. It does Heinz sponge puddings to a tee, and providing you keep an eye on them warming up cartons of custard too, although any longer than 3 minutes and the glue melts and you get a bit of a mess.
My friend did experiment with boiling eggs but the water was boiling too vigorously and the egg was smashed to bits, not to be outdone he cut an empty beer can in two and knocked a few holes in it, hung it on the rim of the bucket and they came out ok.
We used a length of oxygen bagging from some gas welding gear with a rough stainless steel coil on the end fed from the blower valve, plenty of pot and hand washing water too.

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  LiveSteam on Thu 13 Mar 2014, 12:08 pm

highpressure wrote:
LiveSteam wrote:

As someone who is unlikely to buy to build more likely buy to drive this has been invaluable info and I thank you all.


I hope that means you would still buy a kit rather than finished, the build experience is invaluable to give a really in depth undertsanding of how the engine works. I am completely with you, I bought this to drive, its just that a completed RL is at least 25K and well beyond my budget whereas someone living close to me has built two engines and they both get very little use as he wants the build experience and deosnt really get a thrill from running!!!! Weird I dont get it....


I'm afraid I just wouldn't have the patience to build one nor the time these days Sad I'm not totally green with all things steam as the 5" loco was kit built which gave me most of my build experience and understanding of valve gears what does what, also I'm not adverse to working on things, theres not a lot that I cant strip down fix and rebuild with new parts once I've gathered the knowledge, although automatic gearbox's still seem to be some sort of black magic LOL.

I know what you mean regarding folks that build and then don't use, weird as you say but that's what they love, for me its the using of an item that I get the most joy from, that and fettling it to give it my own flavour, where as some its all about the build and nothing more, which is fine in my book.

Hopefully as a non kit builder I wont be treated too much as a leper here LOL

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  LiveSteam on Thu 13 Mar 2014, 3:29 pm

Seeing the 4" currently for sale what are folks views on a copper tubed steel boiler ?

This is a new one on me, I've seen all copper (owning one myself) and of course the all steel ones that most seem to run at this gauge.

My own thoughts are that a boiler with copper tubes is likely to be more efficient at steaming due to copper just being a better conductor of heat, then again that could work against you as it is likely to react far quicker at both ends of the scale meaning if you lose fire heat you'll very quickly lose any residual heat in the tubes which means everything will grind to a halt much quicker and be less forgiving on that side of things, on the plus side once the fire picks up the chances are you'll be back in action again in a much shorter time.

Then there's the issue of differing metals which must expand and contract at different rates which could mean more of a chance of leaks occurring between the end plates and the tubes not to mention corrosion issues possibly which could be troublesome ?

Or am I looking at all this way too deeply ?

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  Tim Watson on Thu 13 Mar 2014, 5:22 pm

Much too deep!

They work.

Tim

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  lynnr on Thu 13 Mar 2014, 10:40 pm

Treat it as "whitemans magic" and have fun!

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Boiler do's and dont's.

Post  Capricorn1 on Fri 14 Mar 2014, 5:42 am

An engine with copper tubes will have the edge over one with steel tubes, but most of the steam is generated around the firebox anyway.
Don't forget fullsize railway locomotives had copper fireboxes and were worked far harder than any road engine without any problems.
Mind you they also had baffel plates and brick arches... and some had thermic syphons ( this'll keep the debate rolling for a while Wink..

The copper tubes would be easier to remove for a re-tube but you'd still end up with bruised knuckles expanding the new ones in the fire box tube plate....

It's personal chioce at the end of the day, no doubt some tyre kicking rivet counter could work out the co-efficient of linear expansion for both materials compared to the growth of the boiler barrel and wag their finger, but so long as it steams well and has a good life expectancy does it matter?

Just remember to put the coal on the grate the right way up...

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  highpressure on Fri 14 Mar 2014, 7:32 am

Capricorn1 wrote:

Just remember to put the coal on the grate the right way up...

 Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing 

I would say go for it, Steve will always try and help you out should the need arise, they made the design and will have spares, the current batch wont be far different. It wont ever loose its value unless you dont care for it and it will give you hours of fun plus the social side too. I have met many friendly people through ownership and now look forward to meeting up again during the summer.

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  LiveSteam on Fri 14 Mar 2014, 11:45 am

Thanks for the input folks Smile

Capricorn1 wrote:

Just remember to put the coal on the grate the right way up...

OMG you mean theres a right and wrong way Surprised must have been just lucky with the 5" loco all this time

LOL

highpressure wrote:

I would say go for it, Steve will always try and help you out should the need arise, they made the design and will have spares, the current batch wont be far different. It wont ever loose its value unless you dont care for it and it will give you hours of fun plus the social side too. I have met many friendly people through ownership and now look forward to meeting up again during the summer.

Must admit its tempting me more and more, its just the initial outlay when you buy outright like this compared to the slow trickle of a kit which puts a lump in ones throat which you have to get over and make sure you get the right engine  !


Last edited by LiveSteam on Fri 14 Mar 2014, 11:57 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  lynnr on Fri 14 Mar 2014, 11:50 am

Well for my case.

If I had to buy outright in one go. Basically it would have never happened.

Buy a kit a month over 3 years, well a few months it was 3 kits at a time. I managed it reasonably reliably and at the end I have a top of the range 4" Showman to show for it!

Go for a kit!

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  LiveSteam on Fri 14 Mar 2014, 12:09 pm

lynnr wrote:Well for my case.

If I had to buy outright in one go. Basically it would have never happened.

Buy a kit a month over 3 years, well a few months it was 3 kits at a time. I managed it reasonably reliably and at the end I have a top of the range 4" Showman to show for it!  

Go for a kit!

If I was retired and I could spend the time in the world building and I had some sort of space to do it in then I think I might, although my patience for this type of thing is fairly short, that and having to work, look after elderly relatives just doesn't lend itself to hours of fettling and painting sadly Sad

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  bjwlancashire on Fri 14 Mar 2014, 12:11 pm

One other option is the control model Foden tractor that is for sale. It has been assemble once but would need stripping to polish the parts for finish for painting and make sure the bolts etc. are all there and fastned with thread lock etc.. a happy medium maybe??

One this is for sure, you will make some nice new friends whichever way you do it, I can vouch for that with the gang on here I met already!!!!  cheers cheers 

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  bjwlancashire on Fri 14 Mar 2014, 12:16 pm

LiveSteam wrote:If I was retired and I could spend the time in the world building and I had some sort of space to do it in then I think I might, although my patience for this type of thing is fairly short, that and having to work, look after elderly relatives just doesn't lend itself to hours of fettling and painting sadly Sad

I went for the kit option purely for that reason, my job is full on during the week with travel in Europe a regular occurrence. I would spend an evening a week (Friday) and possibly a Saturday or Sunday morning getting up early when the rest of the family were lying in bed. My summer weekends are quite often spent away at the rallies too even while I was building due to other commitments but it is important to find a bit of "me time" for your sanity whatever your doing. Also, my dad and nephew would come up on Friday night for a workshop night and help out, sometimes taking bits home to do prep work etc.. it is a family thing here.

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  LiveSteam on Fri 14 Mar 2014, 12:33 pm

bjwlancashire wrote:One other option is the control model Foden tractor that is for sale. It has been assemble once but would need stripping to polish the parts for finish for painting and make sure the bolts etc. are all there and fastned with thread lock etc.. a happy medium maybe??

One this is for sure, you will make some nice new friends whichever way you do it, I can vouch for that with the gang on here I met already!!!! cheers cheers

I have seriously looked at that one, but I'm not a lover of the lorries as too much is hidden away, one reason I chose the 5" with outside cylinders so you could see the action, same applies with a traction unit, all that lovely goodness of moving machinery just does it for me Smile

bjwlancashire wrote:
LiveSteam wrote:If I was retired and I could spend the time in the world building and I had some sort of space to do it in then I think I might, although my patience for this type of thing is fairly short, that and having to work, look after elderly relatives just doesn't lend itself to hours of fettling and painting sadly Sad

I went for the kit option purely for that reason, my job is full on during the week with travel in Europe a regular occurrence. I would spend an evening a week (Friday) and possibly a Saturday or Sunday morning getting up early when the rest of the family were lying in bed. My summer weekends are quite often spent away at the rallies too even while I was building due to other commitments but it is important to find a bit of "me time" for your sanity whatever your doing. Also, my dad and nephew would come up on Friday night for a workshop night and help out, sometimes taking bits home to do prep work etc.. it is a family thing here.

That sounds lovely Smile but it just wouldn't happen if I tried that route as something else would just always get in the way, building the 5" took long enough Sad my me time would the steaming because once started its not something that really can be stopped, where as I just know trying to build the kit up would end up with something else cropping up taking me away from it because it can be left.
I just know that I would end up after 2yrs with a complete kit of parts and maybe the wheels finished Sad
Then theres having the right amount of clear space to do it and as I've taken over most of the house plus the garage/sheds with other stuff I really don't think the wifes going to be too keen with it strewn round the lounge LOL

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Location : Hampshire
Registration date : 2013-09-08

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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

Post  bjwlancashire on Fri 14 Mar 2014, 12:49 pm

Maybe the Showman's engine control model is available for sale now!!!! Just look out for a couple of missing hornplate bolts - I nicked em at Banbury to replace a couple of loose socket head dome bolts  Wink 

If you like to see al the motion, take the roof off and all that bling and turn it into a road loco.

bjwlancashire

Number of posts : 934
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Re: Boiler life expectancy and do's and donts

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