Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob
Date: May 18, 2016 03:16PM
George Hounslow sent me on some treasures about my 1902 White Surrey (“Bessie”, being a Model “B” White) from the 1950s which were given to him by motoring historian Malcolm Jeal.
Bessie was purchased new by Sir Charles Ross who owned Ross-shire (about 356,600 acres) and lived in Balnagown Castle. He had invented the Ross Riffle and sold some to the Canadian Mounted Police. Watching television 100 years later I was interested to see that the new British riffles suffered from the same problem as these. They were too accurately machined and jammed with dirt and sand on the battle field! Do they ever learn?
I gather that Sir Charles also had land in Canada where he probably saw the White steamers running, as Cleveland, Ohio, where they were made, is not far south of the Canadian border. He had by then divorced his first wife.
I believe that he used the car for only a short time but there were at least three runaways in those early days analyzing the repairs and damage found when I came to restore it. The single band brake is on a bronze drum on the central casing of the rear axle. This is invariably oily as it is rotates beside the chain drive cogwheel and was simply not good enough to hold the car on a steep hill. One also needed to be in reverse gear going down hills but, on one of my three runaways, it simply refused to go into reverse on the Stephenson’s link motion. Much of Sir Charles’ estate was mountains. You will see that a “Sprague” was then added to stop it running backwards on a hill but it had been removed before I got the car. It would have been operated by the rear passenger.
The car was then stored in the castle’s coach house for about fifty years. In the meantime I believe that Sir Charles’ second wife had died, he had remarried and then later he had also died.
Sir Charles‘s third wife’s second husband, the Hon Ross-de Moleyns and the chief gardener got the car out of storage probably in 1956. There is a letter from Lady Ross to the VCC. I think that it was at this time, when tyres were hard to come by, that the rear hubs and rims were changed to fit tyres that were probably available from the scrap yard as they fitted early Model “T” Fords. These hubs were not really designed to have a square key in them and that is why one has just broken when over-stressed by the disc brakes now fitted (there was no keyway in the middle of the hub where it is hollow but the key fitted just at each end). I have remade the hubs with full keyways.
There are two good pictures of the car at this time and then another letter as they clearly also had problems with the one inch block chain. I could not get any either and have changed it now to modern roller chain with no more chain troubles since.
The car at this time had some mechanical alterations such as running on a hand controlled gas burner. It was taken to a couple of local rallies but a tow–rope is evident in the rather poor newspaper pictures! It was even entered for the London to Brighton run but I believe it was never taken down south to it.
The car was sold to George Strathdee, an Aberdeen motor dealer in 1968 and then on his death in 1988 at auction to Count Raben-Levetzau of Denmark where it was in his motor museum. On his death in 1993 it was hurriedly put in auction and not sold but afterwards purchased by Tony Smallbone, a Birmingham dealer, who promptly sold the original Ross-shire registration number (JS 77) and then the car to me. I went to see it on the way to our first steam car tour in North Wales. I managed to get the registration number 76 JS from Swansea!
Luckily, the original very cracked burner made of cast iron with a tin base was kept with it and I machined one out of a solid one inch thick billet of 16 inch diameter 300 series stainless steel and then had a stainless steel base welded onto it with about 100 tubes going through it to scavenge air. It has been a great burner with almost no problems. It could last for ever!
They had taken the thermostat off the car and it was lost with other parts after the auction when the Count purchased it but I was lucky there as my 1908 White came with a Model “B” thermostat fitted; it could never have worked on the later car which had also not run since its early days! The early thermostat opens the fuel needle as it cools and the later one opens the water to by-pass the flowmotor as it heats up.
I really did the first proper restoration in 1996 and got all the parts back working as they originally did for the Centenary London to Brighton Run of that year. We managed it but I did experience the first “pilot light out” incident and mistakenly lit up again before draining the fuel out of the burner causing a fire. All sorted we reached Brighton.
We have done several Brighton Runs since and only failed after the Salvage Squad rebuilt it after I had broken it in half in 2002 after brake failure on a hill. They had missed a crack in the Stephenson’s link motion and we had little power (see the Salvage Squad film!).
The thing about these early Whites is that when one finds that the pilot light has gone out, one needs to stop with the left wheels up a bank or pavement and turn off all the fuel. The fuel will probably have flooded though the vaporizer, which of course is no longer hot, as a liquid and squirted into the burner pan on the right of the car under the driver. If you are unlucky, it will have a lot of fuel in it and one must let it drain out before relighting or you get what I had on my first Brighton Run, a large fire with petrol running down the road on fire. With the left wheels high it runs out and one can see when to light up again, having moved the car off the petrol in the road. I must have learnt something because my 1903 White did the same thing last month returning from Trevithick Day and a quick stop with the burner at the correct angle soon sorted the problem with no fire resulting on relighting the pilot light. We were soon on our way again leaving a little petrol on the road.
Bessie usually sits in my garage and is almost always ready for work with just fuel, oil and water. Maintenance otherwise is a minimum. It is always impressive the way she will keep up with the cars on tours partly as the water tank is about 25 gallons and there is a condenser so we go further between water stops and have a look at the Stanleys as we pass while they fill up. We have taken her on several tours in Europe including down to the South of France last year where she climbed very steep switch back roads with ease. I do sometimes remove the rear seat which suspends the passenger over the road and put a luggage trunk on the back as she will then fit in my trailer together with my brothers Steamobile.
The rear wheels should be back in the next few days with my new hubs and new rims after re-spoking at Richard Bros of Cardiff.
The letter here is the later letter about the car. See my next report for the first letter.
Edited 2 times. Last edit at 05/18/16 03:38PM by Steamcarbob.
1959 Letter from Balnagown (s).jpg (125kB)
1902 White pictures from 1950's.jpg (240kB)
1902 White with Hon. F.Ross-de Moleyns on back.jpg (215kB)