1896 Roper Steam Bike
14: Fine Tuning
Only problem was that steam leaked out from everywhere it seemed! Pete and I had tested the engine
on 50 psi of air, and it worked very well indeed. On 65 psi of steam, which is all the boiler could
get due to leaks, the engine wouldn't even turn the back wheel once. This seemed odd at first, but
steam is air with added heat AND moisture, so it really is a LOT different. The engine was taken out
and sent off to Bob Davis for modifications.
Dicks' steam knowledge was expanding, and now he wanted a pre-heater for the water to be pumped into
the boiler. The two circular coils on the left are to be positioned inside the smoke stack. In theory
this is a great idea, because you really don't want cold water cooling the boiler down; it's not good
for performance. Bending copper tubing requires MANY stages of heating, annealing, and bending.
In reality, the coils hindered the up-draft, and the fire wouldn't burn as hot. It all came apart
one more time, and one coil was removed.
Here's Pete Gagan, riding Dicks' 1894 Roper steam bike. Now that's a good friend; remember, Dick
has only seen pictures of his bike at this point. This is part of the video, "Pete's Garage"...
thank you, Lester, for this great shot. Notice how the steam hugs Pete's back as he cruises by.
Pete and Lester had that steamer up and down my street, and the firebox got re-filled several
times. I was working in the shop, and no one noticed just how much heat got generated. It really
was a little excessive... Dick wasn't impressed when he saw the pictures, and all he could say
was "ka-ching... ka-ching!"
The right side of the bike is so busy, that the (new) brass plate really helps to balance the
proportions. Notice also, the "header wrap" used to insulate the mouth of the firebox.
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