Following a very frustrating time the previous Sunday, when the boiler would not start, Tom spent 6 hours working on the problem on Saturday 22nd, and a similar time with Keith and Jock on Sunday 23rd. It was all to no avail, despite almost completely dismantling the burner. However, today (25th) I called in to find two men from RCR Ltd, who seemed pretty knowledgeable, and who felt the problem was in the pump, which they say they can replace. It has all come at an inconvenient time, with the Powerhouse Festival scheduled for the coming weekend. Looks very likely that the Festival will go ahead without the engines running.
Tom has opened up the crankcase of the Reader steam engine, in the quest for a knocking noise. Seems the oil pump had not been working properly, but getting at it is a difficult task. The may be work needed on the bearings too. At least we get a rare look inside, and hopefully it will be running again soon.
Apologies for a break in the blogs: I was away overseas for a while, and then had a computer glitch, but hopefully all is going well again.
In the interval, there was a real drama at the Gas Works Museum, and the story is worth re-telling.
Waste oil for the boiler has always been a bit of a problem, but Tom thought it was solved when he was offered a large quantity (about 18,000 litres) from a fishing boat. This was duly delivered, over two days, in two sucker trucks, supervised by John and Tom. The oil storage tank was filled to capacity. The following Sunday Tom was in early as usual, and I arrived a little later. Tom had started the burner, and all seemed as usual, but after about 5 minutes the burner cut out. While puzzling what the cause of this might be, I heard a sound like water squirting from a hose, and ran to the back of the boiler, to find oil squirting everywhere. Tom ran to the Anderson room, where he discovered the oil pump had literally exploded, and once again oil everywhere! After some swapping of pumps, and quite mystified as to what had caused the problem, Tom found that the oil would actually not burn. It looked rather brown and soup-like, rather than the usual black colour. By this time, it was getting towards noon, and in the expectation of visitors arriving soon, we decided to try to pump oil from the small grey storage tank at the bottom of the chimney. After clearing the pipes of non-flammable oil, the burner started normally, and ran happily for the remainder of the day.
A couple of days later, the sucker truck came and removed 10,000litres of the bad oil, but we are still left with half a tankful. And even after several days of allowing it to settle, there is no evidence of water settling out, nor do we have any clue as to how the oil was contaminated in the first place. Was it that way in the fishing boat, or was the sucker truck not empty to start with? And if it is water contamination, why does it not separate out? (Any suggestions would be most welcome!)
PS The calliope is out of action again; the vacuum cleaner motor burnt out, as the previous one had done. However, never fear, Glynn has acquired a new blower, which looks very promising – watch this space.
The Calliope (the word is from the Greek muse of epic prose, and means “beautiful voice”) is pronounced, I believe as “kelly-hope”. (I must admit I always thought it was “kell-eye-o-pee”). It has been out of action for some time, when its motor (ex vacuum-cleaner) burnt out. Many ideas were tried without success, but the other day, thanks to an old Electrolux from Peter, we have managed to get it playing again. Long may it last! But I suspect that it could be liable to suffer the same fate as the original one. May I suggest that it be played only for short intervals, in the hope of avoiding over-heating.
Today the Gas Works Museum became the repository for a very useful accessory – a forklift truck, complete with cage. This is the Property of The Dunedin Training Centre, but will live at the Gas Works Museum, where it will be used for training, but more importantly form our point of view, it will be available for us to use, subject to anyone wishing to do so being trained and certified. It is a TCM diesel-powered machine, and fairly easy to operate, I’m told. Training and certification of volunteers will be available.
Our thanks go to the Dunedin Training Centre, and Joe Hayde (Seen in the photo) for this mutually convenient arrangement.
Today we had seven delightful first-year students from Arana Hall. They spent a very busy afternoon on a variety of tasks, including cleaning all the windows of the engine house and the fitting shop, pumping oil, sweeping and vacuuming, and removing a large quantity of dead weeds from near the front fence. (Peter kindly took these to the tip.) The two male students also cleaned the boiler tubes after instruction. Thanks also to Ann for supervising, and providing afternoon tea, and to Bob H. for taking away a load of rubbish. All in all a great job done!
It is now a bit easier to access various valves and controls on the left-hand side of the boiler with the construction of a working platform. This has done away with the need for step-ladders and the like, and makes opening the main steam cock much easier. The platform was constructed of spare materials lying about.
The Calliope is non-operational at the moment, due to the motor burning out. It was powered by a rather old and noisy vacuum-cleaner motor, which probably suffered from overheating. Did you know that you can’t buy new vacuum-cleaners that blow as well as suck these days? Thinking laterally, we have an old air compressor which could be made serviceable again at minimal expense. This would be useful in its own right around the workshop, but with a suitable reducing valve (the calliope needs only 1psi) could provide the power for the organ.