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Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: April 13, 2016 07:27AM

I have just finished the job of making flowmotor needles. I am sorry if this is a bit of difficult detail but many White owners I am sure have struggled with these needles. This is my way of making them in my workshop allowing for a 75% failure rate in this first batch for several years.

I started with twelve rods of 3/32inch silver steel which was 0.09364 inch on my electronic micrometer.
The first job after cutting to length was to thread the ends, one long threaded end for the fixing and adjustment and the other end about 6 threads for the head.
I made the first three heads out of silver steel but found that on drilling it, the very small drill was running off center and tapping was difficult with the tap fragile. I then decided to use brass for the heads which made the job much simpler as it drills, threads and gets its final skim more easily on these tiny sizes.
The heads I shaped with the donor rod in lathe collet with the taper and I made them longer than the drawings (attached to last entry). After the rods were screwed into the heads, I heated them and put a tiny blob of silver solder on the top of each.
I then ground an approximate square on the end of the head so that it fitted an old clock key that I have (my improvement on the White design!). This is used when having to rotate the needle 180 degrees for milling the flats to adjust the number of turns and when it is screwed into its mounting rod (one takes up the tension of the spring and adds exactly 5 turns). It makes life easier and one does not need to grip and scratch or bend the shaft with plyers.
Next, I mounted the rod back into the lathe collet and skimmed the angle off again as it is never exactly true at his stage but since it is only mounted on the thin rod, I only want to be taking a very light skim at high speed.
Incidentally, by now my clumsiness had reduced the 12 rods that I started with to 8 as I have bent two and broken the end off two, one when tapping the silver steel thread and one with machining the silver steel head. The silver steel heads had been hardened when silver soldering but of course are now softened using brass making the final machining much easier.
The next job was to reduce the main rod body diameter by 0.0016 inch which is done when held in a collet and I ran the valve head in a well-oiled brass tube held in a chuck in the lathe tailstock just covering blue tape so that I left it alone. This strip of blue insulating tape covered the ¼ inch next to the head that I needed to leave at the original diameter. I took the rod diameter down with fine emery paper and an electronic micrometer which must be clean as working at this level, any dirt registers. It took about 5 minutes per rod to get to the desired diameter ( 0.0920 inch ) using 3 grades of emery.
My next job was to cut the flats which was easiest done for me in the milling machine with the mounting jig looking at me rather than flat as I can use the digital readout on the X and Y axis to get the slots right and use the calibration on the machine vice for the angled face. I was cutting with the side of the mill.
I did several dummy runs on the rods that I had already damaged to get the exact depth of cut, using the digital read out on the milling machine as a guide but my micrometer as the accurate result.
Having cut the first parallel cut (losing two more needles as the cut still went too deep), I then rotated the vice and set the angle for the tapered cut, again not believing the vice angle but using it as a guide. I then cut the tapered flat.
Unfortunately, I got it wrong and messed up three more needles before my quality control picked up the fault. I had cut the flat too long using the measurements on the drawing and not allowing for the width of the milling cutter (1/8th inch). I may be able to fill the gap a little with soft solder and use these last five needles on Billy as it is a bit hit and miss on the amount of fuel that this car needs, one of them could be just right! This car has a 20hp engine and 30hp steam generator and fire and I have been using 30hp needles but have had some overheating although when used in anger the fuel needs to be full on.
The next job was to take a thin skim off the thread, and the end of the rod just by it, with fine emery to allow the bronze bush to pass over it cleanly. The thread of course must be absolutely clean before going through this bush. The bronze bush must be a very good fit up near the head to low no fuel through (or air when shucked on it). It needs to be clean and slightly tight as it is pulled on and moved about when well-oiled to make a free fit.
I finished off by making 6 new copper rods with brass heads which the needles screw into using some 1/8th inch fine thick walled tube that I found in my metal reserves. These rods were changed as service parts with the flowmotor needles presumably as the threads needed to be good and the shafts straight and not scratched going through the small packing glands.
Q.. What is the result of my three days of fine graft?
A.. Three good 20hp needles and possibly five that can be adjusted for Billy. At least the latter have good tops and threads and should shut off well which is essential on Billy to prevent blowbacks.

I found in the past that hand filing the needles took a day for each needle, so scores are about even but I think that if I proceeded to do more the way that I have done these I should now get most of my dozen as good quality needles having worked out a lot of the errors.
I am sure that there is someone somewhere who would make them at a good price but some I purchased from the USA a number of years ago were useless as the threads were not good enough.
Anyway it is very satisfying to tackle a difficult problem. The White Sewing Machine company I am sure would have found them a doddle as this is sewing needle type technology.

Attachments: My flowmotor kit.jpg (249kB)   Needles mainly ready for the flats.jpg (202kB)   Machining the head. The brass in the tailstock protects the head for thinning the body.jpg (154kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: April 19, 2016 04:33AM

I am busy catching up with what should have been my winter’s work. Billy and my 1903 White are ready for steaming. The next problem was to make new hubs for my 1902 White.
I ordered two 4 inch diameter X 5.5 inch lengths of EN8 steel and some 5/16 key steel.
I first set about making new brass hubcaps. The original hub cap that remains had a very poor fine thread (32TPI ) on it. I had lost one when the hub split despite intensive searching. I decided to thread the hubs 18 tpi which is a popular White size and easy to do on the lathe. Unfortunately, I made a milling error on one of the flats on the hub. I am not sure what happened but I ended up a flat too small and had to adjust the rest. It will be functional but I might just silver solder a new end cap on it or remake another. The bronze for these came from the metal rack that I had purchased from Monsons who were a marine warehousing company packing up after over 100 years of service in Falmouth. I think that I paid £200 for the steel and many lengths of bronze and brass most sizes up to 6 inches diameter – the latter I can no longer lift off the floor as it is about 18 inches long and very heavy. It has been a great source of steel, brass, bronze and even a couple of lengths of aluminium (about 2 and 4 inch diameter). I still have about 3 ft of the 3inch diameter bar from which I made the hub caps.
I made a false hub end to mount the hubs on when machining and threaded with the correct thread to fit the right hand hub nut. The left hand hub nut thread has obviously been stripped sometime in the past and machined with a coarser smaller thread. The hubs needed a considerable amount of dressing largely with a small hammer to shape the edges of the keyway. They seem quite soft steel. The hubs had been only keyed on the inside and outside half inch of the four inch key way, so most of the hub keyway was unused and good. These half-shafts were copper plated by Whites.
I started on the hubs by boring them out to 1.375 inches and then turning the threaded end and machining the threads to fit. I then turned the hub around, got the correct internal length and machined the inside of the hub.
After this I made up a slotting tool and mounted a hub in the shaping machine to cut the keyway. This is a long cut of 4 inches down a tube and I had to cut it very slowly -I did other work like dressing the axle ends and fitting the other hub on the axles while I did the slotting. I also found that I had to wedge the "clacker box" rigid on the shaper head. This is an x-school shaping machine that I seldom use but it did a good job!
Next, the hub was mounted on the small new false axle end and I was free to true up the outside and cut out the center section. It did take a couple of days to machine these hubs as there was a lot of swarf –two dustbins full of it! At one stage I had two lathes running together with one hub in each.
I was going to drill the holes for the spokes after that but I chatted to Richard Bros of Cardiff who are going to do the re-spoking and they were happy to do that job. Apparently the twenty holes at each end need to be staggered and chamfered correctly.
The hubs slide on with their keys and are just tight as they go home. All seems well so far so they are being posted off to Richard Bros today. I am not going to plate them but just use black paint to match in with the original rims.

Edited 1 times. Last edit at 04/19/16 04:43AM by Steamcarbob.

Attachments: Right hub.jpg (223kB)   New hubs and dummy axle end.jpg (222kB)   Shaping macine tool for slotting hubs.jpg (175kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Rolly (216.255.244.---)
Date: April 19, 2016 06:53PM

Nice work Bob You don’t waste time.

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: April 22, 2016 04:59AM

Thank you, Rolly. I tend to work in stops and starts as age creeps up. I had a busy few days last week machining and this week I sorted out the postage and sending off the wheels which now seems to take almost as long as doing the job!
I will have three cars ready to run when my wheels for the 1902 White return from spoking. I have the 1908 White in trouble and my son’s Stanley needs the boiler replacing with the one that is sitting in front of the car.
The workshop needed a clean and sort and the family and my new phone needed attention as I prepare for the next job. This is a bit of a marathon and was planned to be part of my winters work but I find that I am no longer able to work out in the cold so easily, so it will be a summer job between events hoping that I can treat Whistling Billy gently and keep him running.
Incidentally, although the MSA now let me compete, the VSCC are now holding things up and I still have not got an entry for Whiscombe Park Hill Climb on May 8th while they work out if Whistling Billy can be an Edwardian steam powered entry.
I am taking the 1908 White apart, replacing the wood in the chassis which has burnt out around the steam generator, rebuilding the rear axle with two speed gear-box and rebuilding the engine which was working quite well up until two years ago. I then I mistreated the car on a rally where we were sent up ridiculous hills with no escape to easier slopes which were too much for a very original car with many original bearings. I think that the rear axle needs new bearings but the crown-wheel and pinion could be in trouble too. It is several years since the engine had any attention.
I hope to get started today by putting the body on its trolley that I made last year for it when the original upholstery had some professional attention. I can then wheel the body into a corner and leave it safe for the duration of the chassis work. I will clean all the joints, repack all the glands and adjust any play in such things as the steering box and brakes while I am doing the work. I also hope to remake the steam generator casing which I had remade in stainless steel when I first restored the car in 1987. I hope to remake one like the original out of galvanized steel as the stainless one absorbs too much heat and I think is responsible for the wood part of the chassis smoldering away where it is next to the steam generator cover.

Edited 1 times. Last edit at 04/22/16 09:52AM by Steamcarbob.

Attachments: Lucy in France (S).jpg (109kB)   May26 2014 002.JPG (240kB)   May26 2014 007.JPG (235kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: April 29, 2016 12:42PM

This was a busy week as Lucy, my 1908 White Model “L”, came apart. The body came off first and then I took the fuel out and the tanks off. The large tank holds about 14 gallons of fuel and is much larger than the 1909 and 1910 smaller Whites but there is only one compartment so I have a second tank fitted under the left front floorboard, where the later cars have the water tank, which holds 4 gallons for hexane. The water tank on this model is in front of the dash and behind the bonnet.
After removing the dash and most of the pipework, the engine came out soon followed by the steam generator. The engine on this car is mounted on a large aluminium casting and one needs to jack apart the chassis after taking the fan off which is mounted on the front chassis member (a weighty casting). I use a length of wood between the chassis members or the weight of the engine bends down the aluminium casting. Once the engine is out this can be dispensed with but the aluminium bracket cannot be removed until the springs or front suspension is removed because of its shape.
I removed the rear axle next and the rear springs before removing the front suspension as a single unit. I may have to take the latter apart to get the new chassis wood well fitted into it.
I now have the chassis frame as a unit and am removing the wood from the inside metal frame (the flitch plates). I am taking this slowly as the new wood for this does not arrive until the middle of next week. It is American white oak and should be cut to fit apart from being too long. The present wood is burnt out around the area of the steam generator on both sides although I had fitted a layer of fire protection between the steel and the wood on the last occasion that I did this about 20 years ago. I hope to remake the fire hood as original in galvanized steel instead of the stainless steel to cut down the chances of this happening again although it is unlikely to be me doing the job!
I will start stripping the back axle soon to see if the bearings are damaged as it sounds as if they could be and the car started jumping out of gear. The 2 speed gearbox is part of the rear axle. I do not believe that I have bent the front shaft as quite often happens but there was bronze in the oil which suggests that the 3 inch long bronze bearing in the center of the axle has worn although this can also come from the gear selector blocks. On this model one has to split the axle to see inside it where the later ones one has a top to inspect it through. It is a very heavy lump to operate on!

Tomorrow we are having a day off and going to Trevithick Day in Camborne where there are traction engines parked along the roads and we do a parade around town. Coming with me in the 1903 White are Chris Relf (1909 White) who has given me a hand this week with some of the heavy work, Chris Everett our navigator especially when in Germany ( and my trumpet teacher – poor fellow) and Fred Buckingham who is yet to ride in a steam car. At least the weather forecast is reasonable as we expect to travel about 50 miles during the day.

Attachments: Lucy coming apart.jpg (249kB)   Front axle, engine, steam generator & aluminium engine mounting tray..jpg (249kB)   Burnt out chassis wood.jpg (195kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Mike L Clark (
Date: May 1, 2016 04:49AM

Bob I don't follow the logic of this:-

"I hope to remake the fire hood as original in galvanized steel instead of the stainless steel to cut down the chances of this happening again although it is unlikely to be me doing the job!"

Surely stainless has a lesser thermal conductivity than galvanised steel? I think better insulation and great care to ensure no hot gas leakage is the answer.


Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: May 1, 2016 11:12AM

You could be right, Mike, but in this case there are some problems.
1) The stainless steel from which the burner cover is made is heavier than the original galvanized steel as I was told that anything thinner could not be welded. There is an inside layer, then an inch of Kaowool (originally asbestos) and then an outer layer. The original one would have had folded joints.
2) The constructor unfortunately joined the two layers together at the bottom so heat can conduct between them.
3) The rear chassis-covering part goes over the chassis and tucks onto the chassis wood held below a 1 inch thick hardwood plate which has numerous bits cut out of the bottom for bolt heads so that the body sits on a flat bed. This is the upper layer of the tail part which has again insulation and an inside part. Obviously there is some conduction onto the wood from this part but not enough to burn the chassis there.
4) I believe that one of the major problems is where the round part has been joined onto the back section, with a bit of extra stainless added for strength and keeping the heat out which is not really necessary. It increases the mass of stainless conducting heat onto the chassis around the steam generator.
5) Where I think that the mass comes into it is on long trips where the whole structure gets very hot and takes a long time to cool off afterwards. I think that this weighs almost twice as much as the original.
6) I am not certain but from what I remember the original was in two parts. The round part, and then, the rear cover, just slotted onto it and not actually joined. This takes the exhaust heat out over the fuel tank and out of the back through a grid. I would like to see a complete original generator cover for the 1907/1908 Whites.

It may be that others such as my late father with his 1906 White did not get the same problem as they have not had the use that my car has had over the last 25 years. The chassis member was in fact burnt out in the middle when I got it and the car had never had a great amount of use (nil from 1916) but unfortunately I did not keep the disintegrating original cover and cannot remember exactly how it was made.
The only cooling for the steam generator hood is four holes top and bottom in the body on the outside of the front seats. The large metal chassis flitch plates conduct the heat and burn the wood. Once it is burnt there is some air cooling. I had put some insulating mesh between the chassis and the wood but it gave minimal improvement. At least when it is burnt out it makes little difference to the car as there is plenty of other support around this area with the rigidity of the steam generator and the body timbers.
One other thing that must have made a difference was the old generator coil. This was really too small in diameter and more heat escaped up the side of it than I would have liked. It was made for me in Colchester in 1988 before I had much knowledge about the car because it had been fitted before that with a coil with no structure as were several Whites in England in the 1960's.
When I made Whistling Billy's 30hp coil in about 2011, I made a new 20hp steam generator for this car and this certainly seems to let less heat through it than the old one so there is hope that the situation will improve anyway.

Edited 1 times. Last edit at 05/02/16 04:13AM by Steamcarbob.

Attachments: Steam generator cover (s).jpg (202kB)   Genorator cover lef tside (s).jpg (194kB)   Generator cover underneath (s).jpg (212kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: May 1, 2016 11:58AM

Yesterday we had a trip out in the 1903 White Model “C” up to Trevithick Day in Camborne. My passengers were Chis Relf (restoring a 1909 White), Chris Everett (my patient trumpet teacher plus our navigator and tour organizer especially for Germany) and Fred Buckingham who was new to steam car touring.
We had a good run each way apart from a couple of episodes where I managed to get the hand water pump shut off and not usable. It hydraulics leaving the shaft up. One then has to stop and loosen it on its bottom thread to let it shut before one can unscrew the shut valve at the bottom. It then will operate normally. One way of curing this is to put a little water release valve on the stem but the old taxi drivers who operated these cars apparently used to leave the tap only hand tight on its thread. It must not leak or the water will not go to the steam generator. A well placed “O” ring could do the job.
The other stop that we had came after a day standing in Camborne, the pilot light went out on leaving the town and the generator was flooded with fuel. I carefully tilted the car with the wheels higher on the left allowing the fuel to run out of the venturi on the right before moving the car off the leaked fuel. I then lit up again and burnt the last of the fuel off before lighting the main burner. I should have checked the pilot light before starting back towards home!
We all had a great day with good weather and a large crowd. The traction engines really look their size in town! The Cornish pasties and local ale were excellent. I was kept busy all day chatting about the car while running the engine much of the time and meeting many old steaming friends. This is an advantage of the dog clutch which was fitted by the previous owner.

We probably covered about 50 miles mainly on the minor roads. Unfortunately I forgot to set up my new phone navigator giving exact miles and speed.

Attachments: Trevithick Day (s).jpg (220kB)   The engine runs with the dog clutch open(s).jpg (213kB)   Daniel's Fowler (s).jpg (150kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: May 7, 2016 06:36AM

This week has been one of incidents. It started well with a good article in the Western Morning News put in by Chateau Impney as advertising for their event where my Whistling Billy’s first official timed runs should take place.
Yesterday I also had a newspaper encounter when the Cornishman photographer came along to get some pictures of Billy for a similar publicity effort. They are pulling out the stops at Chateau Impney!
I had not steamed the car from the last engine rebuild and it also had a new flowmotor needle in it, new smaller jets for Kerosene at 49 thou X 3 with paraffin in the fuel tank and the short hot White vaporizer (6 inch x 6 holes casting) with rods in it. A lot of new things for a photography event!
The car did not like the paraffin and flames came out of the chimney top. Clearly it was not vaporizing properly and I had not more time for fiddling. I drained the paraffin out and put in the old petrol/diesel mixture 70\30 mixture that I last used leaving the same jets on the car.
It then steamed with the fire cycling on and off well with no blowbacks for the day although the steam did overheat while on the correct pressure.
But on starting the engine there was clearly an hydraulic incident as it started suddenly too fast and with a crack. It started leaking at the top of the engine on the HP side. Had I split the cylinder, cracked the head or just blown out a machine screw? There are no drain cocks on these White engines (but there may be soon on Billy’s).
Anyway Billy steamed away leaking and blew steam around the place and the photographer who knew nothing about steam cars was happy even if I had to wear a reversed cap and goggles in the workshop on one occasion!
When he had gone I let it cool over my lunch and then took the top cover off. No cracked cylinder head. I let it tick over on compressed air and it had the most extraordinary intermittent whistle like a birds warning note if there is a cat about. Soap revealed that the leak was from the HP cylinder head joint near where it lays beside the simpling valve. Taking the head off revealed a crack in the copper gasket from a machine screw going into the steam entrance/exit to the cylinder to the outside. I could find no other damage but I did note that the cylinder head was not a good fit but my spare, possibly really off this block, fitted well. I will reassemble it today cleaned with a new gasket but I think that I have been very lucky and got away with it! Perhaps I will make new cylinder heads with drain cocks in them when I put the new blocks on that are being made at present.
This week brought, via our historian George, some lovely old pictures and documents on the 1902 White which I will how soon.
The new American oak arrived prepared to size for my 1908 White’s chassis. I will replace one side at a time to make it easier to remember how all the fittings go back and where the holes are.

The VSCC have really stitched me up for hill climbing Billy even though I have their buff form wrongly fitting me in with the aeroplane engine class. We should have been at Whiscombe Park this weekend.
In their advertisement they say "The VSCC is primary concerned with the preservation and competition of sports cars built before 1931" ---so long as you fit in their boxes. This is almost like race discrimination. Although 10,000 Whites were made, they are not considered cars!
Steam cars are not welcome at VSCC events!

Edited 1 times. Last edit at 05/07/16 07:09AM by Steamcarbob.

Attachments: VSCC letter- no steamcars to compete.jpg (237kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: May 11, 2016 05:21AM

This week I have been working on the 1908 White. I have one side of the burnt out wood chassis now with new wood in it. I am still using most of the original fittings like the coach bolts with threads rejuvenated but I am finding that I have to abandon many of the old square nuts to be replaced with modern hex nuts. The area where the chassis was burnt out left many of the fixing solid and needing more heat to shift them or even cutting out of the wood. That American oak is really hard material! I am soon going to start on the second side but it takes me a good two days for a side.

My brother John was down here yesterday with his flowmotor from his 1910 White. He had replaced the fuel needle with a spare that had come with the car but it was blowing back and not shutting off the fire. He had not realized that there is a bronze bush in the fuel end in which the needle must be a good fit because it is here that the fuel is cut off and not by the valve head. It was a poor fit and one could suck air past the needle and bush on testing it. His original needle seemed a better bet than the spare that he had fitted as it had a clear step increase in size for the ¼ inch near the head which the other lacked.
I had made several bushes when I last made needles a month or so ago and one was a slightly tight fit on his original needle, so I cleaned and polished that out with just oil to a good fit rather than Brasso, my usual fine grinding compound. The needle needs to screw in 5 turns after being initially screwed in until one feels the tension of the large piston spring in the flowmotor body. Unfortunately the needle would not reach its rod at all before tension was taken up. It turned out that the bush that I had fitted which is a press fit had 2 thou too large an outer diameter and would not press in fully home so a little polishing with emery soon sorted that and the needle fitted as it should.
After the flowmotor was assembled, we decided to check the water flow through it as John feels that the car does not get enough water on climbing steep hills but it tends to overheat the steam. I keep some kit prepared for this. It tends to be a wet job so the flowmotor is mounted outside the garage on an old thread cutting vice in a Black and Decker work bench and a hose pipe connected via a bayonet fitting with a short bit of hose onto the inlet with its correct fitting. The thermostat by-pass needs blocking with a half inch ball and the nut to stop the water from flowing out of it (this junction is not on the earlier flowmotors but on the pipe further along).
One can then see the joys of how the flowmotor works. As one turns up the hose pressure (i.e. increase the water pumping through it with increasing engine speed), the flowmotor needle moves along (so slowly increasing the fuel to the burner) and with it the water flows out of the outlet (or to the steam generator). As it reaches just under an inch, the water starts flowing out of the bypass at the back end of the flowmotor, increasing as the fuel needle goes down to about 1 ¼ inches (stopping the steam generator flooding).
We checked the flow of water coming out of the outlet pipe when the needle was just under 1 inch down (15/16 officially). Our flow was just over ¾ gallon in 1 minute and 40 seconds. It needs to be 1 gallon of water in 1min 40 secs for the 20 hp cars and 1min 20 secs for the 30hp cars. Do not forget (as I had not worked out the first time that I calibrated a flowmotor) these are American gallons.
The answer that we got was probably why John had not enough water in his car and too much heat. He took the flowmotor end off again and I scraped a little out of the groove with its soft solder in it beside the piston in the cylinder wall. After reassembly, we tested it again and the reading was right on the gallon in 1min 40secs. Let us hope now that the car runs better.

This set up is a vital part of getting the Whites after 1907 running properly. The problem that I have with Billy is that it is a mixture of the 20hp and 30hp systems and I too still tend to get overheating. I have a poor connection on the outlet side of the flowmotor which needs a new nut and thread fitting onto it so when it is off I will re-test it. I may also have the bypass on full fuel flow too large on this car.

Attachments: Chaasis wood half replaced.jpg (216kB)  
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