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Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: November 11, 2018 05:28AM

The clack valve tops on Billy are now completed and all easily adjustable. I am hoping to notice that the flowmotor starts working at lower speeds with the clack valves slightly more efficient. Billy is geared 2 to 1 instead of 3 to 1 on the rear axle so, with no bottom gear, it takes a faster speed to bring in such things as the pumps and flowmotor. Hence pottering around a show ring at 5 mph is not really an option!
I am considering doing the same update on the 1902 White. That car could often do with slightly more water as it only has a single acting water pump so more efficient clack valves would be a good thing. I always notice improvement when it has had its new clack balls fitted.

Next I am going back to the 1908 White to see if I can stop it overheating on long hills. The thermostat seems to be working fine but I am going to recheck the fuel needle which could just be a "Billy Special" in it. i.e., Slightly opened out to nearer the 30 hp size. That would give too much fuel which could be exaggerated by using the kerosene. Unfortunately I do not have my home made fuel needles marked for easy recognition. That is a job for tiny punches which I do not have as the maximum width is 0.093 inch. The 1908 White is going well at times until I get the overheating or not enough heat. This steam temperature control is vital to be correct in a White.

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: November 17, 2018 05:26AM

Yes, I had the wrong needle in the flowmotor for the 1908 White. On checking it with my electronic micrometer, it was about 4 thou too small over the bottom flat –hence too much fuel could pass for the 20 hp car. This is the correct needle for the 30 hp cars and Billy –but the latter also can get in overheat mode holding full throttle on for a long period. Billy has of course a mixture of 20 and 30 hp systems and being used not in a touring car manor also changes the equations. I am trying to keep that car with always enough steam available but avoiding the overheating problem. Unfortunately I do not have an easily available test circuit around here so the roads have to do but I cannot stand too long being bounced in potholes!
The last run in the 1908 White I was using 90% kerosene and started with some blow-backs and then pilot-light-out problems but I was carrying two spares and changed the pilot light. From then on the car went much better with the temperature only just creeping over 800 Deg F on one occasion, perhaps because I did not have enough water in the coil at the time. What it now requires is a couple of good long runs to see where we are but the weather has changed for the worse at present.
In the meantime I will be remaking the rear vent door with new galvanized mesh after 110 years with the old one which is steadily rusting out largely along the top where it gets hottest.
I also need to take the rear axle off and sort out the dog-clutch type gears which are causing it to jump out of gear in top. The damage was largely caused on our last tour with this car four years ago when the shaft in the front of the gearbox broke climbing several miles of very steep hills. Knowing something was wrong, we got back home but at a cost of wearing out this gear. I think that I can repair it with welding and grinding as it does not rotate with the cogs against each other but the gears fit one into the other.
My brother John has now returned from abroad picking up my blocks for Billy on the way back. They went up country for an estimate for machining but it was twice as much as others would charge here so I will get it done locally and probably machine much myself. I am also hoping to soon pick up the new cast bodies for my kerosene vaporizers as made by Whites originally. I have all 360 parts/fittings for them already made but they will need drilling true through their 6 inch length six times in each one and then tapping the threads. There is a lot of work in these parts!

Attachments: 1902 White with Hon. F.Ross-de Moleyns on back.jpg (215kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Mike L Clark (
Date: November 23, 2018 03:06PM

Steamcarbob Wrote:
"a touring
car manor"

I live in one of those!!

I see the 1902 White is like yourself Bob - tireless! Keep up the good work - it's getting out in the shed which keeps us going.

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: December 1, 2018 05:12AM

Well done Mike,
Is that good manners?
My English and especially my spelling never was that good! Add now the typing problems where I get several mistakes per line with a poor keyboard and I am surprised that you can understand what I am waffling on about! I missed that error without my proof reader who has moved from my area!
I have not been in the workshop much this week where the east wind blows in cold but am planning now to have another go at drilling my vaporizers true through the full 6 inch length. I am having more problems with these than the longer 8 inch ones! I have ruined one already but will use it to perfect my drilling technique. Luckily they cast an extra one but I am not sure if they did not cool them too fast leaving hard spots. I used my milling machine for the job and am going to recheck that it is set true.

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: December 15, 2018 07:12AM

I see that we have gone just over 70,000 hits, so someone must be interested in my ramblings! Perhaps more should be telling us what they are doing in the workshop although I have had a month of near idleness there, only surfacing the ends of some of my vaporizer castings with a few to go. Even my hands no longer look as if they live in the workshop!
George Hounslow turned up a little prize for me last week. He found a short video of a White being driven around in about 1960. He thought that he recognized the car. Yes, it was my 1908 White Model “L” English bodied tourer in its original paint with the lining shown and the small Garton crest on the left door which I had heard about but never seen. I had imagined it to take up most of the door! The car came to me in 1988 in white undercoat with some red on it. There was evidence of fire underneath it but the thermostat was a 1902 one trying to control the water bypass instead of the fuel. Clearly it had done little road work. That thermostat now is on my 1902 White. I will add some pictures of Lucy as she arrived here.
Looking at the 1960 video, the driver and restorer Alec Hodsdon has done quite a good job. He was a harpsichord maker living in Lavenham in Sussex and he worked on other cars including the 1900 Serpollet later owned by Bob Dale and often seen on the Brighton Run. Here, the White was not fit for the roads with the front number plate hanging off and it is giving off steam just pottering around, so the steam was not hot enough.
Do note the similarity of this car to "The Cricket" in the book "Through the Alps to the Apennines" now being serialized in our magazine. I think that my car is the sole survivor of this group of 1907/08 Whites. The difference is that mine is the 20 hp version and The Cricket was 30 hp and larger. The water tank is seen on my car in front of the wind-screen but with the larger engine, it was placed under the front passenger's feet.
Alec had problems with the steam generator which he had remade with no real structure. Also he had recast a new burner which was slotted at about 12 thou instead of nearer 30 thou width of slot. This caused me many problems when I was getting the car going as it could not take the full fire but let flames poor from under the car. Neither Alec nor I had other Whites to compare problems with when we restored the car and computer communication only really came in for the public in the 1990’s. Dick Hempel in the USA then helped me a lot before his death in 1993.
This is not the original registration number and it had no number plate when I got it. I managed to get the original number back on the car after I took a bunch of flowers up to the Swansea Registration offices for the lovely lady who was dealing with my case! I had an interesting couple of hours but the car certainly deserved to have its old plates back as I even had a picture of it probably taken by the original owner William Garton of Southampton in 1908. This is in the Montague and Bird book “Steam Cars” 1770 to 1970. I had also the local records with its chassis and engine numbers with the details of its taxation each year from 1908 until it was sent for War Service in 1915.
Austin Farrar told us that it initially had a truck body fitted but then had problems and was too complicated to repair so was laid up to go into a local scrap yard in the World War 2 scrap drive. The scrap yard was eventually cleared for the Southampton to Portsmouth motorway. The body was slung up in a shed and the scrap man retrieved it to sell it to Austin Farrar in probably late 1943 for £25. Austin did no work on the car but stored it in the dry and sold it to Alec Hodsdon in 1958.
There were about 10,000 Whites made between 1900 and 1910. Not many more than one hundred remain around the world but more recently some have been rebuilt from rather scanty remains. I think that this is probably a good thing. My Whistling Billy is in this group! That is not many more that one in a hundred original survivors. My car was a lucky one!
It is good to keep some cars as near original as possible but with a White, the car cannot be run successfully gently at low temperature, as some have tried. They need to be at full temperature and pressure, so need a certain amount of regular work with the corrosion problems that come at these temperatures.
Stainless steel sounds like a great invention but it was around in the early days of the cars as “rust-less steel”. It has a few problems if used in the White system. The conductivity is about a third of the rate of our “cold drawn steel” used in the steam generators. If one uses pretty stainless steel nuts on the steam-line, they will probably be welded on when one tries to remove them, so you may break your castings. Most of us let our steam-line nuts rust and then change them as Whites did. The black stove paint may slow up corrosion a little especially through the winter but it still burns off. Most of the steam-line coil in my 1902 White is original at a only 116 years old!
The modern insulation that I now use from Demon Tweeks is much thinner and less hydroscopic than the old asbestos and causes less pipe corrosion. When one comes back into the garage from a winter night run with light from the acetylene headlights and oil sidelights, such as we used to do with turning on the Christmas lights in the local town, opening the bonnet showed the steam-line pipes to be glowing red hot in the dark!
This is where to find the video on You Tube [].

Attachments: Lucy in 1908.JPG (134kB)   Lucy just arrived new to me.jpg (233kB)   1908 White.JPG (190kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: December 16, 2018 04:43AM

I am sorry to say that Youtube seem to have blocked you seeing the film and I am unable to get back into my article to edit it! It seems to leave me nowhere to go!

I did intend to mention the toolboxes underneath the running boards both on my car and "The Cricket". They were fairly simply but strongly made of wood planks with iron brackets around them. The doors hinged down and outwards. They must have been made by the coach builders Cann and Company when the cars were new.
I did not realize that these tool boxes were original parts of the car when I got it. I really had very little information on the car at all at this time and no history of where it had been. That has taken about thirty years to accumulate!
I found that I was unable to get under the car to sort out the mechanical problems, being a rugby player in my youth with large chest, so I took them off and my son's school friend Anthony Stevens made me a new toolbox exactly to the White design with lots of dovetail joints. This sits on the left running board and hinges from the car outwards. It holds the tools required in two layers and has a leather holder in the top for the finer cleaning gear for the vaporizer and pilot light. I think that the old boxes are in one of my sheds still but they really are not very practical for an owner/driver/mechanic.
I do have drawings of the White toolboxes if anyone requires them.They were the same on the later Whites.
I will add a picture of the car's rescuer from the scrap yard Austin Farrar, taken when I gave him a trip around Norfolk for about 100 miles in the late 1990's. Also I am adding a couple more of Austin's pictures that he took of the car in the scrapyard when they were clearing the rubbish off it for the rescue.

Edited 1 times. Last edit at 12/16/18 05:05AM by Steamcarbob.

Attachments: Austin Farrar in his 90's.jpg (84kB)   Lucy in the scrapyard 1943.jpg (88kB)   Lucy rescued 1943.jpg (80kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: March 29, 2019 07:06AM

I have been idle in my workshop this winter but now the weather is warming up a bit I have been venturing out again. Some work has been alright but the short White vaporizers have turned out slightly too small and are proving hard to drill as there is very little room for the channels and pipe end caps. The drill wandered off two degrees in one and the drill came through the side. I think that this is my fault in not giving any spare metal when making the patterns. One has to be able to drill them the full six inches without the drill running off and that is surprisingly difficult. The eight inch vaporizers that I did before were much less trouble! I suspect now that White used a cored casting box for the job. I will have another go at machining them when I have the other work done and Billy and my 1908 White running again.

I have removed the rear axle off the 1908 White as it has been jumping out of top gear. This is a sure sign that there is a bearing problem in the rear axle.
On taking it apart, the pinion gear teeth are worn to knife edges and the modern plastic bearing with which we lined the bronze bearing inside (which is said to wear about one third of the amount of a bronze one) has partly broken up. I am suspicious that the outer half shaft bearing on the right is too tight and not allowing proper adjustment on assembly. We will rectify this before reassembly. This bronze bearing at the rear of the shaft coming off the front of the axle is 3 inches long and has a thrusting bronze surface at the front. The whole central casing and contents were redesigned by White as being inadequate for 1909. I have had it seize and ruin the shaft four times, usually breaking it off after driving about two miles in bottom gear on steep difficult ground.
This is where much of the damage has happened in the past to the pinion gear but we judged it alright for a while the last time apart. There is no strain on it in top gear as the shaft then turns at the same speed as the bronze bearing. The oil supply is from a well which is fed by the rolling over of the crown-wheel. Like the vacuum windscreen wipers, this goes the slowest and is least affective when it is most needed, in this case when the car is straining up a hill in bottom gear. We have tried several oils and it seems to make little difference; perhaps using very thin oil would be best but I have yet to try that.
I have taken the axle up to Bristol where Llewellyn Gears are going to make a new pinion and see what they can do. They machined my Whistling Billy rear axle casing and steering box for me and the results have been very good.

I have now moved on to rebuilding Whistling Billy’s main engine. I have the first new block machined for it and I am just rebuilding the engine. Once tried and tested these blocks which look lovely will be available either as castings or machined. I need numbers soon for these!
I had to remake the rear (high pressure ) cross-head for this engine as I had put a liner on it a few years back because of excess wear and this liner had split. This time I remade the complete cross-head which is like a piston with the piston rod coming out of the top. It runs in a long bronze tube inserted into the aluminium crank-case. It was originally a casting so mine is slightly heavier as it is impossible to get all the excess metal out without altering the design.
I wondered about making the cross-heads and the pistons out of aluminium or one of its alloys instead of cast iron but I am not clever enough to work out if they would be strong enough on the half inch thread. I prefer to stick with the old design anyway.

I have had four runs out in the 1902 White usually with my eldest son William driving. It has been lovely weather for it and a great spot to potter about the lanes here in West Cornwall coming out at places with splendid sea views.

I am attaching a couple of pictures of Billy's engine with the new block sat on it as i am about to sort out the fittings such as the simpling valves and the new blow-off valves. The latter's castings on the block can easily be removed as they would not usually be on there. The other picture is a bit sad as it is the 1908 White sitting on its Morris Minor axle pro temp while its axle is being sorted.

Attachments: Left side of engine.jpg (239kB)   Right side of engine with new block.jpg (199kB)   1908 White on temporary axle.jpg (158kB)  
Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Mike L Clark (
Date: April 3, 2019 02:44PM

Bob, is there enough diameter in the casing to replace the bronze pinion bearing with a pair of taper roller bearings? They would probably take a lot more load and combine the thrust function as well.

I think you are right to keep off aluminium for pistons. I seem to recall that Jeff and Mike Mutters tried aluminium pistons in a Stanley and that they seized almost immediately. I suspect the range of temperature expansion means that clearance to the cylinder is too variable. Poor lubrication is probably better coped with by cast iron.

Good to hear that you've been out in the shed!


Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: April 4, 2019 01:04PM

Hello Mike,
We did consider fitting rollers on this but they would have had to have been very small diameter. This now might be possible as the pinion gear is being remade. The bronze bearing is very much a long thin tube with a flat thrust bearing on the end. Mike Horlick at Lewellin Gears is making a new hard steel shaft using S 97 steel and an oilite bush. I made the last shaft from En 24 T with a ground bearing and it seemed undamaged so it will be a spare if it happens again! We shall see--.

The problem only occurs on very long very steep hills. The Gap of Dunloe on the Dingle Peninsular did it in Ireland and this time it was a road up and down along a steeply banked creek near Gweek in Cornwall. These are severely steep hills for about 2 miles while only using bottom gear.

I have just managed to purchase a spare rear axle for the car as I think that sorting its proper axle will take some time and spares tend to be almost as rare as hens teeth. I heard of this one a while ago and it seems in good order.
Regards Bob

Re: Whistling Billy Replica
Posted by: Steamcarbob (
Date: May 9, 2019 04:44AM

Last month I took out the 1902 White for about the fifth time for this year, with my grandson Joe, around the lanes here in West Cornwall. I had not intended such a run but there was a nasty accident just above our house which took the police all day to clear and I had to go on a roundabout way up some steep little hills, one of which we struggled to get up but we did make it. I think that the engine needs a service on this car which tends to get ignored and just used when needed!
We arrived at Geevor Mine, now a holiday attraction, where I occasionally put a steam car on show for a few hours usually while I do some maintenance work. As I stepped off the car, I saw to my horror that the right reach pole had snapped off at the junction to the front axle. Enquiries at the site workshop produced only four plastic ties so I went to the kitchen and found an empty tin and a couple of pasties. The tin was soon cut up. I wrapped it around the reach pole and its insertion point with the steering damper removed. The latter is off a modern Mercedes and fitted to prevent wheel wobble because the tyres have too much grip on the modern road surface and one can get sudden wheel shudder with the very light steering mechanism after hitting a pot-hole or bump. With the damper the steering is fine. I think that the lightness of the steering gear is related to the fact that Whites had made a million bicycles by 1900 and this is not much heavier made. The pasties which are home made in this kitchen were consumed and very good! Later we crept home slowly to avoid wheel shudder.
This car is now on my ramps with the old reach poles removed and two spare ones made by our Penzance “Regent Joinery” ready for final machining of the ends and then fitting. The left hand reach pole also turned out to have a crack in it so replacing both was the answer. These poles (1.5 ins diameter) are made in two halves glued together before machining round so that they cannot crack right across the grain. The main strain point seems to be where they go into the tube fitted on the front axle which is about 5 inches long. The poles removed managed 17 years of work and many tours. Today I will be machining the new pole ends and fitting them.

I managed to purchase a spare axle for my 1908 White Model “L” so that I can use it while the gears are being sorted. I was told that it was probably a 1906 Model “F” axle. When it arrived it turned out to be a White Model “G” axle. This is the 30 hp model from 1907 (it could even be off “The Cricket” in the “Through the Alps to the Apennines” book for those who read our magazine!). The axle is a bit beefier but some of the gears are the same. The tell–tale is that it has a contracting brake on the outside of the drum as well as the expanding ones. I think that the axle will bolt in place on my car but I will have to remake the half shafts as the wheel fitting is not quite the same. These fittings may have been altered when this axle was on a Serpollet. I will not alter my wheels as the original axle will be back in place eventually. Billy could certainly benefit from the extra contracting brake drum on the rear wheels although the brakes are not bad. Billy does have the fitting on the axle end castings for the brake band. In fact the car was fitted with the 30 hp axle in its later racing career from about 1910 to 1912.

In the meantime I have got Whistling Billy out. I did a run up to Geevor last month and have attended Trevithick Day in Camborne where it seemed very popular. It is going reasonably well unstressed on my spare engine while I rebuild the other with the new blocks. The latter is taking longer than expected as I am waiting for piston rings and other small parts. I will also have to make some blow-off taps, possibly automatic, to release at about 1000 psi, possibly less on the LP side.
The fuel was too rich but I am moving over to Kerosene and smaller jets were required. I have to do this by experiment as this is neither the 20 hp nor the 30 hp system but a mixture of the two. The use is somewhat different as it is either all go or all stop rather than cruising. The car is working alright on the 3 X 46 thou jets at present which were correct for the 20 hp car but I am not using Billy at all in earnest at present. They might not be big enough for the circuits.
I am not sure now that the flowmotor was the ideal way of firing it, rather than the earlier fuel on and off by the thermostat so that below 750 deg F the fuel would come on and then above it would be off. The flowmotor demands the engine to be running at a reasonable speed and this means that on starting on a hill, the fire only comes on after some hesitation, as long as there is enough steam to get up a fair speed having been held on the start line.
The alternative older system may give more serious problems of not enough water in the coil when it is really needed and then losing the fire. I do not want to go down the path of fitting electric water pumps etc. At present we have no electrics at all on the car. A hand–operated fuel valve to start hill-climbing events would help but I might then be short of water and have overheated steam. I am also wandering about a small spring loaded fuel boost valve for starting hills, possibly placed next to the simpling pedal. The latter of course takes a lot of steam and water out of the mono-tube, so would not be ideal but might just be the answer.
I will keep experimenting which is half the fun of getting a race car sorted!

Attachments: Billy steaming at Trevithick Day.jpg (152kB)   Trevithick Day.jpg (165kB)   new reach-poles being fitted.jpg (208kB)  
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