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Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: June 12, 2017 06:56AM

This weekend I have left steam car technology in the workshop and tried something different. Sorry if this does not interest you but I know many other steam car people like me fiddle with clocks, music (mechanical and otherwise –I make a lousy noise on a trumpet) etc.
About two weeks ago I was sold in an antique shop what the proprietor described as a “French marine thermometer with no mercury in it”. I recognized it as a scientific Fortin barometer in good order and it was in its original case stamped and numbered. £50 purchased it.
From the nearest barometer repaired that I could find, I enquired how much it would cost to replace the mercury: “£450 plus VAT, sir” came the email reply.
Mercury is no longer allowed to be sold except for use in old instruments such as barometers. Everyone has got very excited about its poisonous qualities. In fact, as a doctor, we used mercury thermometers under the tongue to measure body temperature. It was not unknown for children to bite and swallow the mercury. All lived! It is not the metal that is poisonous but the compounds containing it.
Looking for mercury, I had a near miss when the widow of a friend of my brother gave some away three weeks ago, not knowing how else to dispose of it. Enquiries from friends only produced “I did have some” results.
A quick advertisement on Free-cycle brought an interesting reply that one scrap man had emptied the mercury off some of the lighthouse lights which used to float on mercury. Our gardener used to work on lighthouses and apparently after a storm they had to clean up some of the mercury off the floor to the east and the west but not the north and the south! All the lighthouses are now automated of course and that type of light has gone. Hence our gardener had to find work to take him to his retirement.
Last Thursday my wife Sheila and I had a day out walking the dogs and having lunch out at Trelissick Gardens. On the return trip I called in at some scrap yards and workshops in the old mining area at the back of Redruth where one invariably finds treasure. On about the last stop that I knew, from the top shelf of a workshop came a jar almost full of mercury. A £20 gift to charity secured it.
I looked up refilling mercury on the net and purchased a bag of Flowers of Sulphur and some lime (under £10 together) as it said they were essential, before I found a You-tube video with a gentleman refilling a similar instrument to mine from the bottom junction just below the reservoir and unscrewing the leather mercury bag. My instrument is so well made that I had not seen this junction.
While over an old wooden knife tray to catch any spillage, I first injected the mercury down into the glass pipe while it was at a shallow angle which, with the mercury being so heavy, apparently can easily break the glass if just dropped in. My instrument has about a 5 mm tube.
Next with it resting on the floor and gripped in a B & D work-bench I refilled the bottom clear reservoir still using a syringe to avoid any dirt on top of the mercury. Replacing the reservoir and checking the reading, it was too low and obviously I had a few bubbles in it as I was not using fresh triple distilled mercury as one should. I expected this but things were looking hopeful.
Back in the work-bench, I then used a what was described as "a plastic coated stainless steel rod"–actually just about a yard off a roll from my wife’s plant ties- and fed it down into the long glass tube wiggling it and twisting it. Any air was soon dispelled out of it and the mercury level dropped needing a little top up.
Now that the air has gone, it reads spot on according to my barograph and aneroid barometer but I will need to check it properly to find any error. It has found a home by my desk near a grandfather clock that cost me £12.50 in about 1970 from a cellar but took me two weeks to restore. Looking at the picture, the barometer has its admirers!
I do like these old machines even if they are no longer really relevant. A mobile phone can do almost as good a job! I used to read a similar barometer at my old college! It cost me £30 to sort in about an hour instead of the professionals £540 plus postage and collection from over 100 miles and I still have to receive the lime and Flowers of Sulphur from E-bay which I never used! Perhaps our gardener can use them!

Preparation can now go on for Arthur’s tour in Wiltshire. Again I am taking the 1902 White as the other three are still waiting block work etc., away from my workshop. It looks as if my brother John has got his White going even better with a good sort out of that essential apparatus, troublesome to most White owners, the simpling gear. It needs to be right with no leaks!

Attachments: Barometer boxed.JPG (216kB)   The French maker.JPG (215kB)   DSC_0590.JPG (247kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: June 25, 2017 12:39PM

We had a lovely tour organized by Arthur and Pearl Thomson going through the Wiltshire countryside with its pretty villages all around Salisbury. One day, we visited the Museum in Salisbury where they looked after us well. We parked in front of the museum, looked around their extensive archeological exhibits and then visited the impressive cathedral where children were having a leaving service with much acting and dancing.
On the last day we visited the Army Air Museum which was very interesting and well worth a long visit.
Most day’s tours were between forty and fifty miles with many little steep hills often after threading ones way along a small lane, not really suitable touring for Barry Herbert’s splendid X- Howard Hughes Doble which he retired after two days. I do not think that we have had louder explosions than this car produced.
Arthur’s 1910 White Model “OO” and my little 1902 White Model ”B” Surrey kept going well for the week as did the half-dozen Stanleys which all looked very smart. We were pleased to see Arthur’s brothers and family, one driving a Stanley.
My brother John had a firing failure on the day before he was due up to the rally with his 1910 White Model ”OO” so brought his 1934 MG instead to join Les Nelson in his Model “A” Ford. The latter needed a lift home on the last day having lost its exhaust pipe. Nick Howell’s Toledo block had not returned from welding so he hurriedly got his 1908 Cadillac together and got it running by the second day but soon had to retire with clutch and gearbox problems. Nick has never had it on the road before and is still sorting out the problems that came with the car. At present even the Doble probably uses less fuel with Nick almost managing 5 miles per gallon!
My White did have packing problems. For the first couple of days it sounded like one of the four power strokes was completely lost with a hissing leak. I was advised to use this modern PTFE packing but it does not take the high temperature in this car. It tends to go into a hard lump or squeeze out of the gland. The 750 deg F is just too much for it but perhaps my car occasionally goes over this. On the third day, which was a rest day, George Hounslow and I tried to take out the packing and replace it but it is very difficult to do with the engine in the car. We did improve it and with a tweak on the water pump packing gland as well we went much well. I then had to do much less hand water pumping up the steep inclines. We were fairly steady at 25 mph on the reasonable roads; occasionally going up to 30mph but that is not so comfortable after her 115 years. The later cars do not go so much faster along those lanes! I think that we surprised them to always be there for the stops and at the end of the day! Our water consumption was hardly a tank a day although we do loose a few drops with leakage. The problems that tended to stop us were the pilot light going out or the oiler needing a refill as it was like water with all the heat. The pilot-light-out problems on this car come with the ethanol fuel problems again! Funny how it is invariably on a steep hill!
The weather was dry all week but it was extremely hot for the first three days and heat protection was essential especially on the open cars.
Well done Arthur, a great week.

Attachments: Gwynne 8, MG PA, 1902 White.jpg (188kB)   White 1910, Stanley 1914 , Cadillac 1908.jpg (242kB)   Doble and neerly four Stanleys.jpg (229kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: July 9, 2017 05:44AM

I found several splits in the wood on the 1902 White following the Salisbury tour. The first two days were extremely hot and one could hardly touch most of the car for the heat. I noticed that a few cracks had appeared on the third day when we did some repacking of the glands where I had used the PTFE packing. We did climb hills a bit quicker after this!
Back home I tackled the cracks in the wood body with waterproof boat glue and clamps. All is back to a solid structure but I still need to do a bit of cleaning and polishing off any excess.
After this I took a young man and his mother to Padstow rally for a day. The ground was initially very wet and muddy after two days rain and I needed a pull out of the mud as I entered the ground. My BMW X-5 Sport could not cope with no diff-lock where my old Land Cruiser probably would have done. The ground soon dried up and we had a good day pottering around on the firmer parts and chatting with the public. I do feel that owning cars of this great age gives us some responsibility to let the public see these vehicles, so I do attend several local rallies usually now only for one day.
I have now put this car back in its storage space and am working on the 1903 White’s engine. Last week I got the blocks back from the welders. The block that I have been using had the welding done well and I skimmed off the surfaces on the Bridgeport milling machine and drilled and tapped several threads for the steam cover plate machine screws. The heat used when the block is cast iron welded requires all the valves having a grind and polish of the surfaces. I have ground in the simpling valves and polished the bronze shafts to parallel again. They will need renewing next time!
I have made new valve rods as the others were quite worn. I usually hard chrome these but I am just using EN24T steel and will make a batch getting the spares hard chromed on the shafts. I have a few spares still for the 1905-1908 cars but they are a little longer and the piston is screwed on and riveted over instead of just having a pinned locknut. The later riveted system seems to be a step backwards as the piston invariably comes loose on the head and one cannot re-rivet it or it will snap off.
Unfortunately the second block had been welded in the wrong place. It had been on the car when I got it and had a ridiculously worn and curved high pressure valve and valve bed. They had welded the bed of one of the simpling valves! Perhaps I was not clear enough in my instructions to those who do not understand steam engines! One must assume that everyone has no knowledge of this old technology!

I now have the 1903 White engine back in the car and it is ready for testing before being prepared for Les Nelson’s non-tour in the Cotswolds’ based near Chipping Norton. I would like to fit an electric pump on it as I did the 1902 White Model “B” to allow me to cope more easily with the higher pressure needed for the fuel using this unleaded petrol with the ethanol and my 10% added heating oil. This made life much easier when one hits a hill and have forgotten to keep the pressure up the extra 10 to 15 PSI required. This car’s mechanical air pump is not yet as good as that of the 1902 White and it can only be switched on by accessing a valve under the bonnet. Why did White do that? It is a definite step backwards as the earlier car’s valve can be reached from the driver’s seat! I have also temporarily removed the oil separator as it is not very efficient, is better replaced by Drizit in the water tank as used on the other cars, and gets in the way of adjusting the valve glands as it takes up a large space under the left side of the bonnet. Whites had abandoned it by 1904!

My brother came down here with the air/condenser return pump from his 1910 White Model “00”. It had a strange extension on the lower pump for the condenser return pump (which also gives the condenser vacuum) and the piston now ran in a separate extra cylinder bolted onto the lower cylinder! We think that this was done in the early days when it was owned by the number two at Bassett-Lowke using a casting from the firm to lower the pump to stop it sending water into the sump. We eventually worked out how it should be and what to do to get it back to the correct fitting using the 1909 White Parts List and examining Chris Relf’s engine which he has out of his 1909 White as he goes through the whole car. We will use the more normal way of stopping the water getting into the sump by using a copper or brass shim baffle between the pump and the engine just leaving a space for the lever to work. The pump lever had broken and it was extremely difficult to assemble.

With Chris Relf’s restoration, he was quite tempted not to look in his rear axle as all seemed OK when he purchased the car last year. I persuaded him at least to take the top off it while he has the car apart. It soon became evident that the pinion wheel moves all over the place. The crown-wheel and the other gears are not too damaged as yet but they soon would have been. He almost certainly has a broken rear end of the front shaft as the movement is too great for just the bronze bearing to be worn. I have done this 4 times in my 1908 White, Arthur Thomson and John have broken theirs and one of the later cars in the Isle of Man in May had the same problem. This is a lubrication problem for this 3 inch long bronze bearing running on the end of a 1 inch shaft. The bronze seizes onto the shaft and breaks it off with long bottom gear use. The oil on my 1908 car is thrown into a well by the rotating crown-wheel and down a small tube to the middle the shaft thus into the center of the bearing. I have increased the tube size using stainless steel rather than copper but the oil seems to need to be thinner still. Most modern rear axle oils will not run with bronze bearings. The other interesting point here is that the car and the crown-wheel will be going slower on the hill in bottom gear so, just when you need it, the oil supply is reduced (like the old vacuum windscreen wipers that went slower as you went faster).
We hope to see some of you in the Cotswolds’ (July 16th to 22nd).

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: July 28, 2017 06:10AM

We are back from a lovely week in the Cotswold’s for Les Nelson’s “Not a Tour”. For the first three days the weather held and I had a good trip each day covering over 50 miles per day, sometimes lost as the instructions are not always clear and much of the time I was driver /navigator which is not easy on a 1903 White with no windscreen or weather equipment. The wind blows the instructions but ones main concentration needs to be on the car's controls.
On the third day Bill Rich came as my navigator after he suffered another scorched boiler on his Stanley. It was good fun and we still got a little lost but my car was suffering from quite a lot of blowbacks even after I had shut the fire door left open through memory failure. These are easily put out with Paul Morgan’s horn bulb and pipe to blow them out. We usually did not lose time over these except when on a long hill which invariably was on the more main roads. I think that these are caused by the incorrect way the thermostat is brought through the casing allowing fire to escape around the head but I need to do some more investigation. They are usually easily extinguished and the fire comes on normally showing that it is not an internal relighting within the burner. I have done very little so far with the steam generator on this car which usually is reasonably efficient. The rest of the mechanics have required a lot of sorting.
The repair to the blocks on this car just before I went seems a success and that side was working well giving us good water consumption even on the very hilly ground that we were in.
On the fourth and fifth day my team suffered from the weather and driver failure. The very poor road surface with lots of pot-holes for over 150 miles was too much for my aging arthritic frame and the rain had come in although the afternoons dried up.
Nick Howell is gradually getting his 1909 Cadillac running better and managed some touring. He still is not happy with its starting and slightly uneven running. That has cost him a couple of visits to the osteopaths!
One other Stanley suffered a scorched boiler but the remaining four kept going. They had weather equipment! We were a friendly group of people and a good week was had by all!

On returning to Cornwall, Nigel Tamblin has finished my plastic bearings fitted into the three inch bronze one in the rear axle for my 1908 White Model “L”. This turned out to be quite a simple job so l will probably do it in the future. After a couple of days recovery and making sure that my 1902 and 1903 cars are ready to go, I have started assembling the axle and adjusting the overlap of the cogs which needs assembly, measuring and taking apart a few times. Soon I hope to be trying out the 1908 White which has not been steamed for a couple of years.
What oil to use in the rear axle/ gearbox is quite a question but the general opinion seems to be to stick with the Mobil W 600 that I have been using.

Today Rod Burnley is coming down here from Yorkshire bringing with him my two new blocks for Billy, cast but not machined. Rod did the CAD drawings and organized the pattern making and casting. He has been a great help and I could not have managed this job without him.
I have decided to have a go at doing the machining myself as my kit should be up to it. I have already faced off the 1903 car’s block as a practice run. I will just have to work out the order of the process and carefully set up my Bridgeport making sure all is true on each step.

It looks as if I am going to be busy for a while. I have yet to organize events late in the season but I am not sure if Billy will be ready for Prescott and Castle Combe at the start of October. I have entered it more in hope than expectation but I will sort the 1908 White first!

Attachments: 1903 White.jpg (148kB)   Bourton Museum.jpg (250kB)   At the garden centre.jpg (209kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: August 9, 2017 05:07AM

08 2017
The new blocks for 1907 and 1908 White 20hp cars have now reached the cast stage and I am about to have a go at machining the first two here. The castings look superb and are made of Grey Flake Iron in special alloy G250 1% Copper. The latter allows for easier machining and apparently is used in modern air compressors. I will need to machine one to prove the soundness before they are more available.
These blocks would also do for the 1905 and 1906 Whites if one was happy using a high pressure piston valve rather than the slide valve of the earlier cars. The difference between these and the originals is possibly slightly thicker cylinder walls where mine failed partly due to layers coming off with age, heat and rust and there are drain cock lugs which can easily be cut off. I have also found that my old blocks on x-ray have all had cracks in the valve chest area most of which cannot be detected by eye.
I will probably need four of these blocks and I would like to do a run-off of at least ten so that we have some available. The costs to me have been very reasonable and I think that the castings on this number should come out at a fraction of the price for which one could normally get them done. I am not sure what the machining costs will be but my intention at present is to do my own as I have already skimmed most of the surfaces following having the old ones welded. Boring the cylinders and machining valve surfaces will be a challenge but my digital readout should ease the setting of these in a line in the exact positions. I intend to take it slowly!

In the meantime, last Tuesday I took the 1903 White Model “C” to our local Morvah Pasty Day. It is a very low key village outing, meeting friends and holiday makers who are surprised and pleased to see an ancient vehicle at such an event. It is a good relaxing day with stalls, pasties and tea with other food served in the church and live music splayed from the top of an old horse trailer all while looking out over the sea on the north Cornish coast.
Yesterday I attended a yet smaller event taking the 1902 White Model “B” Surrey to a meeting of The St Just Memory Café where those gathered seemed to enjoy something much older than they are. I take the opportunity to pose in the town center for a while which always interests those present by chance.
Today I hope to steam the 1908 White Model “L” which is finally back together after two years off the road having had new American oak in the chassis, restoration of the original seats (mainly the front ones as the rear were still very good) and a rebuilt rear axle with new front shaft and plastic bearings. I see that the paintwork has suffered a few knocks over the last 30 years leaving us more in oily rag condition. I am reasonably happy with that but I might try to tackle it after sorting Billy’s blocks and having all my White steamers running again.
I am attaching pictures of the new blocks. If anyone is interested in having one please contact me, you are unlikely to find them cheaper and an original block of this time is likely to be damaged internally as mine have all been on X-ray.

Attachments: 51892 White Cyl Block(s).jpg (173kB)   51892 White Cylinder Block(s).jpg (205kB)   51892 White Cylinders(s).jpg (189kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Rolly (216.255.244.---)
Date: August 10, 2017 10:38AM

Absolutely beautiful work.

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Rolly (216.255.244.---)
Date: August 12, 2017 02:53PM

Bob the casting look great but you cast them in cast iron no beater then the original ones.
Why did you not use Ductile iron 80-55-06, they would never crack again. The British invented the stuff.
All the castings I make I use 80-55-06
One of my castings new burner grate Ductile iron 80-55-06


Edited 1 times. Last edit at 08/12/17 03:04PM by Rolly.

Attachments: new casting.JPG (153kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: August 13, 2017 05:16AM

Good Morning Rolly,
The metal to use was discussed for some time and the conclusion was what we used in the end. It may not be ideal. The complexity of the castings and getting the flow into all corners was one of the problems. Also the rapid heating and cooling that the parts will get. This apparently is what is used on the large compressors and their cylinders do get hot.
I have only had two cast at present and the intention is to make sure that they machine well and to try them.
I will have a chat with my chap who did the drawings and most of the negotiating over the casting but he is away at present. I do not know enough about metallurgy!
Regards Bob

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Rolly (216.255.244.---)
Date: August 14, 2017 10:36AM

Good morning Bob
You would not believe all the stuff Ductile iron is used for. There are two foundry In RI I use and both do very nice work. When David Nergaard wanted to make his piston valve blocks we discussed this very topic. They were all cast in Ductile iron 80-55-06 also beautiful castings. We also agreed on four hubs for the cylinder blow off as they were piston valves, we made the hub’s all the same length and long enough so as to be used for aliment in the machining process. Some can bore then on a lathe and thread the cylinder covers in the same setup. In a lot of home shops a vertical mill does not have the stroke to bore the cylinders.
Ductile iron is all I use for my iron castings. It’s something to look into.

I was going to attach a photo of David’s cylinder blocks but it won’t let me.

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Ray White (
Date: August 15, 2017 06:10PM

Rolly Wrote:
> Bob the casting look great but you cast them in
> cast iron no beater then the original ones.
> Why did you not use Ductile iron 80-55-06, they
> would never crack again. The British invented the
> stuff.
> All the castings I make I use 80-55-06
> One of my castings new burner grate Ductile iron
> 80-55-06
> Rolly
> Edited 1 times. Last edit at 08/12/17 03:04PM by
> Rolly.

Not wishing to gain say anything here, but I think it is generally accepted that ductile iron was invented by an American; Keith D Millis in 1943.

I too would have thought that ductile iron might have been the optimum choice for these. It will never crack and has the benefit of better corrosion resistance than cast iron..but it's your call.


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