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Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: December 15, 2014 06:21AM

We are just back from our French boy’s jolly to Vannes, about 2 hours down from Roscoff. We went down with my Land Cruiser a day late because the boat had been cancelled due to the weather and returned with Francois de Backer’s 1909 White which he has just sold to Chris Relf who lives about 5 miles from me.
Francois lives near Narbonne and brought the car up to Vannes on its trailer. He rescued the car in the 1980s from Ecuador as just the chassis, engine, axles and most of the mechanical parts and I have helped him over the years to get the mechanics sorted. He had found the work too much for himself in last year or two and has decided it is time to part with it just as he got it running well.
Francois has built a very French body on the car which Chris will probably start rebuilding when he retires in March. He intends to leave the present body on the car for a year or two. We believe that this was the only White in France.
I am attaching a couple of pictures of the car.

I steamed the little 1903 White again. I first tried to adjust the running pressure to a little higher with the pressure regulator but it was at its highest adjustment so I will have to take it apart and readjust the central rod. This could just now be a major factor in its problems.
I again tried a run to the Rabbit Ground and again had to be towed up my drive. It is running gradually better but my drive is very steep and it needs to be on top form to get up it.
I think that I will probably have to make new inserts for the water and main line pump clack valves. The mating surface seat edge where the ball sits needs to be almost 90 degrees and there is a large surface of about 45 degrees at present. I can now hear them coming in but the pressure has dropped too far when they do.
The spare water being pumped through on this car is very little as it only has one half-inch pump (the bottom half of the double acting pump is for the condenser return water). It makes it essential that the pump is working near 100% of its capacity.
In 1905 White used both ends of the double acting pump on the water line and used the front (LP) cross-head to drive the condenser return pump. At this time one could turn off the top pump manually returning the water to the water tank.
By 1907 the pumps were both going all the time but of course the flowmotor was then in use controlling the fuel and water.

I again have some more sorting to do on the 1903 car before steaming again. I am still not sure if the modified now spring-loaded thermostatically controlled fuel valve can work agilely enough but I expect to have to return that to White’s original design. This could be part of the problem why the pressure drops too low before the fire comes on again.

Attachments: 15 June 2010 Francois\' White at fete (Medium).jpg (88kB)   15 June 2010 163 (Medium).jpg (92kB)   15.12.2014 002.JPG (238kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: December 30, 2014 04:09AM

I am sure that you are all full of Christmas cheer and dinner, as we are!
Two days ago I had a little steam up in the morning as I had finished restoring the pressure regulator. This has a diaphragm separating the steam line, hopefully filled with steam oil, from the rest of the structure which is part of the water return line. There is a very strong spring which only compresses about 0.5 inch but is made from 0.375 inch wire. This stops the little Finnegan pin valve opening via an adjustable lever rod and a 4 to 1 geared lever until the pressure reaches where it is set.
My problems were that this seemed to be not adjustable to make the pressure high enough –it was at the end of its adjustment at about 250psi. Rarely could I get the pressure up to the full 350 psi and pressure recovery is very slow.
I took it all apart. The old spring was shorter than it should have been and not even in the spacing between each coil. There was some pitting on the surface. I had some new ones made a couple of years ago for Billy and still have some remaining. I measured the new springs up and although slightly long, they were the same. I machined about 0.2inch off the spring with a carbide tool in the lathe. It now fitted with no pressure on nil adjustment. I readjusted the center rod so that it opened at the correct place. One uses a set square across the pressure face of the diaphragm and adjusts the rod until the Finnegan pin valve is just shut. Now, as the diaphragm bends, the valve opens as the surface is tapered back towards the flat plate in the center to allow some movement. The movement is magnified at the pin by the lever. This is advancement on the 1902 White which does not have the magnifying lever. I had already gently ground in the Finnegan pin. It is designed to save any damage to the diaphragm if the pressure goes too high.
Paul had added an “O” ring to help to seal the diaphragm. I left this in situ grudgingly – it does no harm but I have never found a problem without it! I reassembled the unit and put it back on the car.
The steam up initially got me nowhere and I could get no pressure until I remembered that I had not readjusted the pressure regulator from zero (am I getting too senile for this game?). About 100 turns anticlockwise (this is a worm adjusting a worm adjustment giving about 5psi per turn) and the pressure started building. Soon I was up at 350psi switching off and it coming back in about 325psi with adjustment available to raise the pressure. One disconnects the pipe from the pressure regulator to the top pump for this and plugs the top pump hole which is only a low pressure connection. The pipe must be dry up until 325psi and at 350psi it is passing large quantities of water. Success!!!!

The next problem came when I found that I am over heating to about 900psi with the fire not shutting off properly but going on slowly. When the pressure does drop and more water is pumped in, the temperature is then too hot and the fire does not come in fully.
I have now made a proper thermostat valve from bronze without Paul’s spring-loaded stainless steel modification. One could argue that there should not have been a problem as it was but it is not nearly as sharp working as my Bessy (1902 White) which uses no spring. Bessy also gives a little chortle when sitting still which I like (still probably caused by a very slight leak through). It reminds me that I have not turned the fuel off manually!

I try to do a test steam up after each job is done to see what progress is being made. This picks up other problems along the way and gets me accustomed to the cars quirky ways.
It is below freezing this morning but I will try steaming as it warms up.
The picture is of the pressure regulator from Billy's spare engine -it is the same as that of the 1903 White.
Happy New Year

Edited 1 times. Last edit at 12/30/14 04:16AM by Steamcarbob.

Attachments: H383 pressure regulator.JPG (203kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: December 30, 2014 04:09PM

I do not often do two notes in a day! I steamed up this morning with the new gravity-powered bronze fuel needle replacing the sprung loaded stainless one.
It turned off the fuel smartly at about 200 deg F! I screwed the adjustment down two turns and tested again repeating this about three times before I was getting 800 deg f. I then dropped it back a little so that it was regulating at near 750deg F.
The most impressive thing was the speed at which it reacted to cooling and raising the temperature of the steam. The fire would sometimes only be in for about three seconds where before it was in twenty or more and the pressure now did not drop so far. Soon after one heard the clacks banging the fire would come in and then shut off completely.
After lunch I ventured out onto the road. I struggled again and was very disappointed. I had to stop and try to regain pressure, even hand pumping.
There had to be another problem and I was still a mile from my place.
I took the bonnet off and put the engine into neutral with Paul’s dog clutch which is still fitted. (That seems a very helpful modification and it may stay!) Then I let it run. The problem was obvious.
The top water pump is held on with a large nut on the packing gland thread. This had come loose and the pump with the clacks etc. was going up and down. I had noted when I took the engine apart that there was no lock nut or locking device on it but assumed that it had not been a problem! It was now!
I tightened it up with an old hard centered screw driver and used an adjustable spanner as a hammer –“needs must---” on the road! It requires an almost impossible spanner at the best of times!
I ran it again. The pressure almost jumped up to 300 psi. I set off and returned through the village probably over the speed limit but still being overtaken by modern cars and up the steep hill to my old farm. The first time that I have made the drive with this car (it is probably about 1 in 4 at the steepest). The engine is very smooth and quiet at speed. I did note that the steam temperature had dropped to 450 deg F but I still have some work to do on the venturi and main jets so I hope to rectify this.
Anyway, it is great when one gets these cars to function somewhere near where they should!

Repeated testing has thrown up several other problems such as a still leaking and non-functional mechanical air pump, the throttle is too loose and comes open too easily, the blow back problems with the absent lower fire door and venturi, an howl which needs removing, the rear of the engine seems to lose a lot of oil, there are no mirrors, lights or hood fittings or leather grease covers on the joints etc., etc.
Happy New Year

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Rog White (
Date: December 30, 2014 04:35PM

Your description is so much like what goes on with the Landy.
One has to get EVERYTHING right.
Did you ever carry out a CO test at the burner exhaust?
All the best for 2015
Rog White

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: December 31, 2014 03:59AM

No Roger, I have never had a CO tester. Is a suitable one easily available?
I know that the fire is not correct at present -the flame is too far off the grate unless it is turned down. It should be a case of too much air now.
There should be a tube fitted inside the venturi on this model and it is not fitted. I am going to sort that first. The fuel needle needs re-shaping to more of a point and then I need to sort the jet size.
It has a few blow backs and the bottom door of the burner has been left out. I need to find the correct design for this for the year. My 1902 White has a lovely spring loaded hinged bottom door and the later cars had a separate viewing hole. What should be there in 1903/04? I will try to get it right and go from there.
When you build your own car (or Landy) your do your own thing first but I like to go from White's design because it invariably works the best especially with the other correct parts.

I think that the vital thing at the stage that I am at is to steam almost every day to get all the problems sorted and most are what you have not seen before. Also you find if the job that you did yesterday made a difference.
I see too many people with these old steamers trying to do everything in theory and then test once the day before a tour - they are always in trouble on the tour. I keep a blackboard and write down the problems when I get back from steaming. I then try to eliminate them - some take several steamings to get them right.
Happy New Year

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Mike L Clark (
Date: January 1, 2015 05:22PM

Bob you are a hero!!

Thanks for giving us these reports on your progress - sadly you seem to be the only one of us who has something to say on the forum - pity if it should peter out. Perhaps you are the only one doing anything?

Will we get reports on François de Backers car which has landed in your patch?

I'm guilty of not posting but that's because I've nothing to say as I am not doing anything steamy, not lack of interest.


Edited 1 times. Last edit at 01/01/15 05:22PM by Mike L Clark.

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Rog White (
Date: January 2, 2015 04:22PM

A battery CO tester is about £10-15. Farnell, Maplin, CPC sort of people.
Wave it around a bit in the cooler parts of the exhaust. Indication is by speed of flashing red led.
Could the extra pipe in the venturi be for a small steam jet to prevent blowback?
Good New Year
Rog White.

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: January 3, 2015 05:39AM

Thank you for the info – I was not sure if you were using a posh x-garage tester. Yes, I think that the smaller tube in the venturi could well be for reducing blow-backs especially in windy weather. It seems to be the same size as my earlier car's venturi and is just taking in a little extra air around the outside.
On my 1908 White when I head off to Penzance, I invariably get a blow-back on the roundabout at the west end of the Penzance by-pass. I am sure that it is just the way the wind catches the jet in the venturi as one rounds that bend. I can go miles without any more problems but this car does not have the inner venturi tube as White did not use them after 1905.

Yesterday, I had another steam with the 1903 White hoping to get in quite a few miles. I got down to that same roundabout at the end of the Penzance by-pass. I had lost the temperature in the steam although much of the 3 miles is downhill. The fire was howling still much of the time. At least I could run it in neutral to bring the temperature and pressure up again. I could then steam back part of the way before repeating the process. As I said before the fire does look very thin and comes well off the grate which is a sign of too much air.
On getting back I decided to have a good look at the burner and refit the inner venturi tube which had been left out by the previous owner. I took it off and examined it in more detail. The venturi seems very large.
Its inside diameter is 2.88 inches giving a surface area of 6.158squ.ins.
I measured the old one. It was 2.4ins ID giving a surface area of 4.524 squ.ins.
The present one is 37% larger so that is probably from where the weak mixture is coming.
This “old one” was a remade probably by Alan Betteridge who ran the car for about 40 years. I am not certain if it is the same size as the original.

I am now trying to work out what to do about this. I am considering making an adjustable insert rather than cut out the present venturi and make another which I could well do in the end anyway.

In the mean time I am going to make an inspection hole in the body for looking at the fire, it should be just behind the brake lever. Also I need to make a bottom fire door.

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: January 9, 2015 07:08AM

Things are improving! I managed to travel about 10 miles but still loose temperature on the hills although more slowly than before.
I have added an air reducer into the venturi and put back the small inner tube and that has made what looks to be a much stronger hotter flame. Unfortunately my air reducer is not adjustable yet, but may be so later as I left off the front adjustable rotating door at present. I had a slight problem with machining it! The burner still blows back at times but the lower fire door that I made slips and needs to be larger. I have also cut the hole in the body behind the brake lever for looking at the fire. I have yet to make a little liner for this.

My next problem came when I was out on my run just about to descend a steep little hill to a stop at a junction. I heard a tinkling and found that I had no foot-brake. I stopped in a gateway where the road was about to get steep and discovered that the transmission foot brake drum had been lined (I had not noticed this before). The steel liner had come off and been bouncing down the prop-shaft. It had been made a press fit and had obviously got hotter than its metal underneath. No attempt had been made to pin or weld it on!
I borrowed a copper hammer from the house where I had blocked the drive and tapped it back on. It is a good lesson in some ways as I use both brakes together to stop the car and then the brakes are reasonable but I must improve the hand brake which is the main stopping brake. The lever opening the shoes looks as if it is worn too much and needs renewing.
While I am sorting the braking system, I will check that none of them are binding on even slightly which can be a problem on these old steamers and cause unnecessary loss of power. The foot brake, with its engine oil on it, could be a problem.

I think that I will soon have to start looking at the fuel. The modern fuel with ethanol in it is clearly not burning as hot as the older petrol. This might just make the difference and my car could now be otherwise alright. On easy ground it now runs on temperature and pressure.

Mitch Gross came over from the USA for the London to Brighton Run. He has a similar car. He found that it would not run at all well on the fuel with ethanol in it but when he obtained ethanol free petrol, it was fine.
I really struggled with my 1902 White in the summer to get it running well. This has almost the same burner but is slightly smaller. I did eventually get it going well and we climbed switch-backs in the hills in the South of France. This car has always been very tolerant of any fuel.
As I run in the new block and the various modifications returned to original on the 1903 White, I am hoping that it will be up to full power and hold its steam temperature up almost any hill.

I am going to try adding some diesel to the petrol with ethanol to see if that makes a difference, first in low quantities as the pilot light might not cope with it as this runs the main and pilot burners off one tank. I have difficulty getting ethanol free petrol down here near Lands End.

I have added a couple of pictures of the spy hole and the venturi as it is now and one of the remade original fuel needle which I have fitted together with the incorrect spring loaded one that I removed. The bronze gravity powered one is more sensitive.

Edited 2 times. Last edit at 01/09/15 03:08PM by Steamcarbob.

Attachments: Venturi and spy hole 005.JPG (205kB)   Venturi and spy hole 007.JPG (163kB)   The new bronze fuel needle & Paul\'s.JPG (166kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: January 12, 2015 06:39AM

The foot brake liner is now fixed back on the 1903 White.
The next problem was sorting the hand-brake. I never know what I am going to find on this car. This was certainly a surprise.
I took off the right wheel and drum. The lever operating the brake shoes was a left hand side one with the lever to the handbrake pointing 10 degrees forwards at rest before it started working.
I took off the left hand side not knowing what I would find. It was alright. So I have two left hand side levers. I found some good steel and made a new right-sided lever carefully making sure that I had the 10 degrees eccentric tapered hole for the tapered pin the correct way. I cut the flats which are in fact rather nicely shaped with a file and Dremel after milling the basic shape. I then found that the brake rod was too short so I had to make a new one of those about 3 inches longer.
I now have two rear brakes that come on together and seem to lock the wheels if required. I will road test them when the weather improves.

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