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British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 31st July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

All the equipment had been prepared for an early entrance to the Lake bed. We were informed that we had to be off the Lake by 09.30hrs as there was a chance that the Space Shuttle might land at Edwards. We were all excited about that prospect of witnessing it land.

Our first run was purely a rolling resistance test of the surface. The car was very slow to move away and acceleration was sluggish. We only had 90 seconds of fuel on board (the record runs will have 2 1/2 minutes). The car peaked at about 70mph before the burners switched off and I coasted for approximately a mile before coming to a stop. This was good news and demonstrated to the team that the surface of the lakebed is less 'sticky' than the Tarmac we are use to at Thorney.

We practiced a full turn-around, and had just enough time to carry out a return run within the one hour regulations. Jerry tweaked the software to stop the steam going through the bypass system and improve its acceleration. The return run was the best to date and reached 94.9mph with the 90 seconds burn time.

We saw it as the perfect opportunity to take a picture of the team with the car, as a few members are flying back to the UK on Monday (we will post it to the site shortly).

We were off the lakebed by 09.00hrs but the Shuttle landed in Florida which was a disappointment.

The team is getting good practice in loading and unloading the car and turning her around which is vital to the record attempts. It has been a challenging but rewarding few days. On Friday night Charles treated us all to a steak dinner to thank us all for all our hard work.

On Saturday the car had routine checks and maintenance.

Don Wales.

British Steam Car Team carries out successful runs but delay World Record Attempt.
Date: 29th July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.

After numerous technical problems, the British Steam Car team successfully carried out its first test run on US soil, yesterday. The team has been working tirelessly to get the car ready for the record attempts to break the century-old world land speed record for steam-powered vehicles.

The team was in position by 7.00am ready for their first run. Test Driver Don Wales was strapped into the 25ft-long car that he has nicknamed “the lean, green, mean machine” – because of the technical issues the team has had to overcome. The goal was to replicate the test programme that took place in April at Thorney Island. The throttle lag was approx 5-7 seconds but it seemed longer as the vehicle accelerated slowly away.

Project Manager Matt Candy said: "We reached 77mph over a very short distance of just 1km which was comparable to our tests at Thorney. We were due to do a high speed return run but the gas rig had trouble refueling and so we had to abort it. We will replace this gas pump tomorrow and resume the testing programme. The software has since confirmed that the vehicle produced more steam on the test run than in the UK, a bypass valve was open for approximately 1/5 of the test and the majority of the steam was wasted. This can be rectified, and knowing that it not performing to its full capacity is really encouraging news, as we can utilize the steam to generate more power than we thought we had.

Despite the successful test run, the team has taken the decision to delay the record attempt to the week commencing 17th August. Matt Candy continued “It’s important that the technical issues with the support rigs are resolved before an attempt is made, and these things can’t be rushed. In addition, the FIA officials have to leave on the 4th August to attend Bonneville Speedweek. However the FIA are free from the 17th August after they have carried out their duties at Bonneville and can join the team at Edwards to calibrate and record the attempts”

The British Steam Car Team hopes to achieve the official FIA Land Speed Record for a steam-powered vehicle. The current official FIA record is 127mph previously set by American, Fred Marriott, driving a Stanley steam car in 1906.

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 28th July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

At last we had movement on the Lakebed! All teams were in position by 7.00am ready for our first run. I was strapped in by Richard and eventually given the thumbs up my Mike and off we went! The profile of the run was to replicate the test carried out at Thorney Island. The Throttle lag is currently approx 5-7 seconds but it seemed longer as we made our slow get away. I also felt that the acceleration was not a good as Thorney. This is because we are producing more steam than expected and its opening the by pass valves and not going through the turbine.

We reached 77mph over a very short distance of just 1km which was comparable to our tests at Thorney. We were due to do a high speed return run but the gas rig had trouble refueling. So we settled for the one run and will replace this gas pump tomorrow. Jerry found out later that the boilers were not performing to their full capacity so this in theory means that we have at least 20% more power than we had originally thought.

The team has since taken the decision to delay the record attempt to the week commencing 17th August. It’s important that the technical issues with the support rigs are resolved before an attempt is made. In addition, the FIA officials have to leave on the 4th August to attend Bonneville Speedweek. However the FIA are free from the 17th August after they have carried out their duties at Bonneville and can return to Edwards to witness the attempts.

In the meantime, the team will continue fodding (clearing foreign object debris) from the course, and hope to have the complete 6 mile stretch cleared by the end of this week. Further fodding walks will be done the week of the run.

Don Wales.

More last minute news.
Date: 27th July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

Today (Monday) we had some excellent news, we took delivery of an FOD BOSS! (foreign object debris remover) This is a replacement for us manual operators. It’s a mechanical device that is pull behind a truck and scoops up all the FOD, its positively brilliant and is certainly faster than us! We can scrape a 30ft wide track in about 6 passes at 15mph. We now only have 2 more strips to do and will then walk it as a final check.

Unfortunately one of our team members Rob was taken ill and is currently in hospital awaiting tests, get better soon Rob, we need you back for our breakfasts!

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 27th July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

Following the arrival of the British Steam Car team at Edwards Air Force Base on 29 June, there has been a month of intense activity but, unfortunately, a number of setbacks.

The 'Base Camp' was established without much difficulty and initially it was thought that nothing on the British Steam Car had been affected in transit. However, this proved not the case and first a load sensor and then a faulty water filter had to be replaced.

Because of the extreme daytime heat at Edwards Air Force Base (well over 100°F, usually), the team is obliged to begin work at 5.00am; by 10.00am it can invariably be too hot for the car and team to continue.

One important milestone was passed successfully when the British Steam Car was inspected by representatives from the Southern Timing Association and the FIA (the international governing body of motor sport) and declared eligible to attempt the world steam car record.

However, the high temperatures brought further problems, including preventing the refueling rigs from working properly. This took several days to overcome and it was not until 17th July that two static steam runs were carried out successfully. The team has since ordered dry ice and a huge air conditioning unit to cool the vehicle down.

Unfortunately, there was a further setback a few days later when two (of the 12) boilers failed and had to be replaced. Each time a delay such as this occurs the team is hampered by the rising air temperatures – when it becomes too hot to run the car anyway.

While all this activity has been taking place, test driver, Don Wales and fellow team members have spent many hours “fodding”, clearing foreign object debris from the track where the car will run. They have completed 2 ½ miles of the 6 miles stretch and will continue to do so.

The team is working tirelessly to get the British Steam Car ready for its attempt. The time keepers have been booked in from Wednesday 29th July – 4th August, before they depart to Bonneville for 10 days.

The new gas pumps have now been fitted to the car and a successful static test was completed late today. So it’s back on the lakebed tomorrow early to repeat our Saturday schedule of tests but now with more track available we might get a decent head of steam up and see what we get!

So an early night tonight and up at 4.30am again!

Reporting from Base Camp, Don Wales wrote (on 23 July): We hope that the tests tomorrow will be successful and we can move onto the lake bed on for track and car evaluations. I can then hand over the wheel to Charles for the high speed record runs.

Don Wales.

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 25th July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

We were up nice and early, the alarm was set for 4.00am and we were all on the base by 5.00am. All the equipment and the car were made ready for the short journey from our base to the lakebed and our runway.

We had made out a distance similar to Thorney Island where we ran in April to get some comparison data. We had a start team and a turnaround team to do two runs. The second run would be a coast down to find the rolling resistance of the track and I would get the car up to about 100mph.

The sunrise was spectacular and the teams set up their stations. The Edwards AFB fire crews came out and we went through an 'unconscious' extraction from the car, which I always look forward to...NOT!

The refueling process started and I got ready to be strapped into the car full of excitement. Richard was just doing up the seat belts when the run was stopped; the gas was taking too long to be pumped onto the car. So we returned back to our base and aborted the test. It turned out that the pump was partially blocked with a piece of masking tape!

We continued fodding (clearing the track of foreign object debris) and have now completed 2 1/2 miles.

So it was another day of record breakers luck! However, it was still a good day for practicing getting everything out onto the lakebed. We also had a lot of time with Charles getting him familiar with the car and start up procedures.

Monday is another day; the team will be fitting new gas pumps. The time keepers have also been penciled from Wednesday through to Tuesday.

So we need a bit of good luck now!

Don Wales.

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 24th July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

What a day it’s been! We got to the base in good time and got set up ready to run. The early air was distinctly chilly. The car was ready and the team got dressed into their protective clothing. We got well into the start program until the water was pumped on board. Under pressure it found a way out under the car due to a loose fitting.

Once fixed we had another go, a sensor had given up in one of the boilers! A third attempt to fire up the beast got us the furthest, but this time a blocked pilot light stopped that test. My Uncle Donald was 100% right when he said that record breaking was not easy, otherwise everybody would do it!

The Sun was well and truly hotting up. Charles had ordered a massive air conditioning unit that’s the size of small truck and is keeping the desert around the car nice and cool.

We had lunch and got ready for our fourth go! This was the latest in the day that we had tried to run but with the dry ice and the A/C it started well. My task was to get the wheels to spin and spin they did exactly at the right time. I had to keep the turbine revs down to under 10,000 rpm for safety sake. During the test I had to dab the brake and lift off, we had lots of power at last!

The car and rigs have been made ready for an early morning start to get on the lake bed for some test runs. We will be up at 4.00am tomorrow. The team deserved this boost after all the hard work of the past few days. I am really looking to the test drive tomorrow. Hopefully this is the start of what we all came out here for!

If the tests are successful tomorrow and Monday we will be looking at high speed runs with Charles mid week onwards.

Don Wales.

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 23rd July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

This morning was positively cold on the lake bed, a chilly breeze, ideal fodding weather! The mechanics and technicians got going on replacing three boilers and all the plumbing that goes with them.

Whilst I organised or rather press ganged a merry team of Fodders. We managed a whole 4/10ths of a mile before breakfast (a new record.) We were treated to some great air displays from our American hosts. We were Fodding at the start of the main runway where it crosses our track and got to see take offs and landings at close hand.

We came in for a late breakfast and went straight back out again and achieved another 3/10ths! The midday temperature has dropped by a whooping 8-9 degrees F today was only 107 F almost woolly jumper weather!

The mechanical team worked late in to the night to get the car ready for static tests first thing tomorrow morning. It was a tremendous effort, well done!

We hope that the tests tomorrow will be successful and we can move onto the lakebed on Saturday for track and car evaluations.

Don Wales.

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 22nd July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

My family has often told me that I am accident prone and clumsy. Well today I cannot be blamed for all the breakages! The count so far today is two boilers and one broom. The boilers were in the car during our static test before breakfast to establish the throttle position. This time we hoped that the wheels would at least move, and move they did for a whole two revolutions whilst I applied the throttle. The test was declared a success but we needed one more test to open the throttle fully.

Whilst we were having breakfast the puddle of water under the car had widened and it was suspected that a boiler had blown. On closer inspection two had given up. It normally takes two days to do one boiler change. However it looks like the team will do it one; this is a fabulous effort by all the mechanics. They are even considering changing an old boiler for a new one at the same time, as a precautionary measure which might save time later on. We will probably lose all of tomorrow but at least it will save time in the long run. So Fodding again! Hopefully Friday and Saturday will see the car on the lakebed prior to high speed runs next week!

Don Wales.

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 21st July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

Mixed news today! The heat is relentless, everything is hot to touch and that includes race suits and team fire protection overalls, ouch!

We had our usual early start and got into our first test very early, but this was stopped after the steam blew over the Steam deflector, which had not been fastened down properly! The deflector is there to push the steam up into the air and away from scalding anyone.

So we had another go but it takes nearly another hour to reset everything and the heat is increasing. We had installed our dry ice around the inverters, however further modifications were needed to improve airflow. These took another couple of hours! So I thought 'FOD' but we were denied access to the lake bed and our runway because of a test going on from the base! So no Fodding today!

Generally the car seems to work in three's and the next test was the third of the day, but it was getting towards midday and mighty hot. So if the car worked on this occasion it would work out on the lake bed in the severe hot conditions. Success we had a very good 90 second burn and I was able to perform a throttle test. The throttle test was not a complete success and another was planned after lunch.

Rob performed his usual magic and we set up again, but it was now too hot. This time the rigs let us down, fuel in the pumps was vapourising! We were pushing our luck with the temperatures and will have to work earlier on the attempt days. Tomorrow is another throttle test!!

Don Wales.

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 20th July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

It was the team’s day off on Sunday, so I went to visit the Mojave Air and Space port where Voyager took off for the first non stop flight around the world. The airfield is used as storage for unwanted civil aircraft both airworthy and for scrap. Again it was a very hot day! We welcomed cameraman Joe from the BBC who has come over on a fact finding mission to make sure that they don't miss anything for a documentary that they are producing. Our Principle Driver Charles Burnett III also joined us.

Well Joe got the full disappointment of a day with the steam car! It took Joe and Charles over two hours to get clearance through the security check point. When we eventually got to the base camp it was clear that there had been some rain overnight with damp patches clearly visible. I was worried that the track might be soggy.

So we were late starting and the day was hotting up nicely! We went into our static test program, but it became too hot. We had problems with the air valves, and getting the air onto the car and then the inverter began overheating. Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to redo these tests and get back to the plan of running the car on the track mid week.

That meant more fodding in the mid morning heat and an inspection of any water damage. Luckily the track is still very dry. This is partly due to a nice hot wind that has started up, so I now know what a roasted turkey feels like in a fan assisted oven! Joe joined us in our merry band! Jerry and I marked out a piece of track with a GPS ready for the first proper runs on the lakebed.

We were also treated to various aircraft coming in very close to us as we are now very close to the main runway. The reason that this mail is later than usual is because I had to get clearance to send an attached picture of the refueling aircraft coming into land!

(Unfortunately the picture is not allowed to be used)

The weather forecast warns of more hot weather to come in this freakish blip so we need to take extra care and precautions for both the team and the car.

As a result dry ice has been ordered to help keep the car cool and enable us to test for a bit longer during the mornings.

Don Wales.

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 17th July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

At last, the car is steaming and we are all baking 114 f today with hotter forecast again for tomorrow - oh joy! It has been our most successful to date.

We successfully carried out two static steam runs which provided Jerry with a lot of information to sort out for tomorrow!

The early indications are that the car is producing more steam due to the altitude at Edward’s and the high temperatures, it means that there is a bit more power and hopefully a bit more mph once we get running!

We also carried out another foreign object check but it was so hot that we could only managed an hour, however we did clear the worst bit and got going a lot quicker. Just another 5 miles of stretch to go. We also watched a V2 bomber fly around a bit!!

Over the course of the next few days video footage will go live on the website. Please remember to visit it, each day we have been doing a team diary (such as this one) to keep you as up to date as possible.

With best wishes

Don Wales.

Or click here to watch first video of static steam runs.

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 16th July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

Today we were well and truly fried and baked 111f! Too hot, but mad dogs and English men in the midday sun.... We carried on working well into the afternoon!

The car was ready for its first steam test after yesterday’s repairs. We wanted a test before it got too hot; we had a short burst of the' Dam Busters' theme tune to get us in the mood!

But after breakfast it refused to fire up. We found a blocked miser but fixed it, and then a refueling rig expired, so we had to change over rigs. Each time we restarted the refueling process we managed to get a little bit further into the process. However it was now getting too hot for the car. So in future we will have much earlier starts!

Once it was decided the car was not going to be fired up I organized a FOD crew. We have formed a very select team and it’s hard to join without knowing the special 'hand shake' and all the right terminology that Richard and I have made up whilst suffering heat stroke out in the middle of the lake bed!!!! However, we welcomed two new members to our select band today namely Lynne and Mike!! We have a lot more to do; generally the track is in good shape with the odd patch that needs attention to! We drove the whole 6 miles and on the way back managed to get the Dodge people carrier up to 100mph without any police cars chasing us today!

After lunch, which was another feast, we practiced turning the car around. This is vital for us to get the car refueled after its outward run and returned as quickly as possible. By now it was really very very hot and I got a burn on the palm of my hand from the bodywork whilst climbing out of the car!

Tomorrow is another day, but the forecast is for more hot weather peaking on Sunday, oh joy!

Don Wales.

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 15th July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

Third day on the lake bed and so far the hottest! It’s been hot but today was bloody hot! We got to our base camp just before sunrise and I was able to take a few snaps of the car being positioned.

After breakfast we took another trip over the 6 mile course and continued clearing the stones and foreign objects from the' gravel pit'. This Fodding lark is becoming a bit of a habit. 3 miles of Pendine sands was a piece of cake compared to the 6 miles of Edwards. Finding 'shells' is common on both tracks!!

We got called back early because the car was going to be steamed up!

We all got dressed into our nice black protective gear to run through a complete fill of the car and then into steam as a static test. However, the car had other ideas! We expected problems and I am sure that there will still be more before we actually run the car.

On this occasion a new problem reared its ugly head! Whilst filling the gas tanks from the refueling rigs it turned out that the pressure inside the car's tanks was higher than that on the rigs, so the pump could not push the gas onto the car. This was due to the higher temperatures inside the tanks! Hopefully this will be fixed for tomorrow and we will try again.

So it was back to the lake bed for the Fodding team and more sweeping!

Our camp is on the southern side of Edward and its about 8 miles back to the main gate along some very straight roads with various speed limits on them. Needless to say that I was pulled over for speeding, doing 67 in a 55 limit! I guess the lake bed limit might have to be extended for the record attempt! Luckily I was let off with a caution!

Don Wales.

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 14th July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

Another early start we arrived to our base just as the sun rose over the mountains, it was beautiful. The air and visibility was really clear and we sensed that it was going to be hot.

After another superb breakfast cooked by Rob, I don't how he manages it! I was able to drive the course in the hire car and lead a team of 'Fodders' to clear a large area of small stones. We ended up actually sweeping the lake bed but Stuart took it a little too far and turned up with a dustpan and brush! The task was too big for us and we will try again tomorrow but some industrial sized brushes!

The mechanics had another tough day. The car required a new load sensor and Chris Lack had to use the base facilities to adapt a faulty water filter, so we didn’t generate steam. However, these are just little gremlins that the car has encountered during transit and although rectifying the faults is time consuming it’s nothing fundamental and the team is optimistic of steam over Edwards tomorrow.

Every day takes us closer to the first firing up on US soil.

Don Wales.

British Steam Car Team Diary Entry.
Date: 13th July 2009 – Edwards Air Force Base, California.
From: Don Wales – Test Driver.

What a first couple of days! We arrived mid afternoon on Saturday into over 100f dry heat! We got up earlier on Sunday to drive to another nearby dry lake called El Mirage and watched a SCTA sanctioned race event, which is a smaller event than Bonneville but the entrants will be going to Bonneville in August. It was great to soak up the atmosphere and to get us in the mood for our coming event.

Today we were up at 4.30 and in the cars for 5.00am for the trip to Edwards AFB. Its 30 miles away to the base, we arrived before sunrise but it took a long time to get access due to the strict security. We then drove the remaining 6 miles to where our main pit station is and made ready the tents and equipment. An excellent English breakfast was cooked by Rob!

This was the first time that I had seen the car since our April tests. It now has the sponsor’s logos on it and drivers names!

It turned out that a sensor in one of the gas tanks had failed during shipment, so the technicians had to strip it out and replace it! This took most of the day. The temperature was really cooking by midday well over 100f and its forecast to get hotter over the next few days.

Our camp is positioned in the Southern corner of the base just away from the main runway. We get to see and hear all sorts of aircrafts taking off and landing during the day. Maybe we might get a closer look later! We have a nice concrete perimeter track to work on which then leads onto the lake bed course. However, we have to be escorted onto the lake so I have yet to drive on it!

Our plan is to carry out more checks tomorrow and hopefully to get some steam going.

Early to bed again tonight! Will keep you posted on our progress.

Don Wales.

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