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Nelson dilema
Posted by: foggy (
Date: January 29, 2016 06:46AM

I own the ‘Nelson’ steam car, built on the same principle as a Stanley, by Les Nelson. The car has given a lot of pleasure since being acquired in 2002, however it has been laid up since 2009. I have now embarked on re-commissioning along with some further modifications. All was going well until I had the bright idea of moving boiler feed pump, fuel pump and lubricator from being engine mounted to a position where they could be easily accessed,….under the front passenger floor with a reciprocating rod drive from a crosshead connection via a rocker. In fact I used two smaller feed pumps in place of Les’s single engine mounted one. It all worked nicely under test with the car on chassis stands, but as I was doing a final fitting of the back axles to the springs, I realised I had overlooked the fact that the car has semi-elliptical springs, not full elliptical as Stanley’s do. Movement of the springs produces longitudinal movement of the engine and therefore also the drive rod to the pumps, effectively altering its length by much of the pump stroke!
I can’t see a way out other than fitting full ellipticals or reverting to as designed by Les (who obviously knew what he was doing!) with engine mounted everything. I feel foolish enough already, so don’t be too harsh in any comments! I have in fact begun the task of refitting all back onto the engine….but I am finding it difficult to muster enthusiasm for doing it.

Re: Nelson dilema
Posted by: les nelson (
Date: January 29, 2016 09:43AM

Hi Foggy. good on yer mate , this is how you learn the idiosyncrasies of steamers.
Don't give up yet I have had 25 years of steam cars and the rest with steamers mostly locomotives, or stationary engines. been "at it" since my school days, so you have a bit of catching up to do?
The "Nelson" steamer came into being after I saw a picture in a book of a Stanley "Gentleman's speedy" roadster, and I thought I would like one, she had a few
changes whilst in my care and started life with full elliptics, also a pressure fed atomising burner (I rather liked that ie switch on switch off) I don,t know why I did not keep that. I have built/restored four steamers and my favourite is still the Nelson, she was my baby designed from the ground up, made patterns for casting etc.
the valve gear is pure "Stephenson" and reliable, she has been running for many years now and might be ready for a strip down etc. to be honest I am tired of steam cars and the associated problems but at 77 I suppose a small problem becomes enlarged and I have had enough of rolling in the wet muddy lay by with scalding hot water dripping down my neck, we have a 1929 Ford model "A" and she is FAB. I also still have the MORRISS steamer but she is now retired and waiting for a new owner . remember there are no big problems only a lot of little ones , nibble away atem and they will dissapear regards Les

Re: Nelson dilema
Posted by: foggy (
Date: January 29, 2016 11:50AM

Hello Les,

Thanks for you encouragement.

I too have had many years with steam stuff (most of my 74 years). Steam cars however were a new world to me in '92 when I acquired the car. It is in many ways a separate branch of the 'normal' steam world.

You did a fine job on the car and in particular the engine which is a much more substantial piece of machinery than the Stanley engine. I have replaced most of the pins in the motion as well as die blocks and a few other items, but mostly it was fine. I have fitted liners to the cylinders and reduced the bore in order to reduce steam consumption a bit.

I also tried a pressure jet burner but, apart from the noise, they are a bit heavy on electrical power. I seem to have tamed your vopurising burner by using a shorter vapourising tube in conjunction with a different sort of 'steam automatic'. So now that I have said that it will probably confound me again!

Yes I will continue until I am no longer able to contort myself to reach under, over or wherever in between. It is just a bit disappointing having put a lot of time and effort into my 'great idea' to see it fail through my own lack of forethought....I can put it down to age... can't I?

Thanks Les....Oh, and by the way, thanks for welding the tubes into the boiler at both ends. Great fun getting them out! Nice strong boiler though.


Re: Nelson dilemma
Posted by: kelly (
Date: January 29, 2016 02:09PM

I'm envisioning a compound linkage, which would include a link pinned to the body, detecting the relative positions of body and engine. It would be able to essentially bias the actuating rod's travel range forward or backward.

Unfortunately my vision is not good enough to actually design it... I'm pretty sure it would take more than one additional link. Mechanical motions are intriguing and wondrous things. It would be an interesting mechanical challenge to make it work, but it would add complexity, and my preference would be to add simplicity, especially in mechanical systems with frequent cycles.


Re: Nelson dilema
Posted by: foggy (
Date: January 29, 2016 03:16PM

Kelly, I am not keen on adding even more linkages. Linkages mean more things to wear and more noise.
What I did consider was extending a plate attached to the engine forward to the position I wanted under the front floor. Problem is that it would likely need support at the front end which would entail a sliding fixing to the chassis.

Re: Nelson dilema
Posted by: Mike L Clark (
Date: January 30, 2016 04:51AM

Though it can be frustrating at times I always enjoyed the challenge of thinking up solutions to such problems and for me it was part of the joy of owning a steam car - doesn't help you though Foggy - sorry.

If like Les you have a Model A all the development engineering has already be done which makes life easy but less exciting!


Re: Nelson dilema
Posted by: foggy (
Date: January 31, 2016 05:00PM


I too get pleasure from challenges with problems associated with the machinery of the car, but this one was caused by my own lack of forethought...and that hurts!

I have almost completed mounting everything back onto the engine, but in a semi accessible position and driven from a crosshead instead of Les's '3rd shaft' which I am going to use for an alternator drive.
I have also added an automatic lubricator for the running gear.

Like Les, I too am advancing in age, but I think he has earned his 'easy but less exiting life' (not sure that a ModelA is the epitome of easy).

It has been cathartic posting my problem here, so now I have shaken off my gloom I can get on with completion of overcoming this particular self inflicted incident

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