Steam Mule Progress - Return of the castings!

Steam Mule Progress – Return of the castings!

2nd December 2009

David Young has been working hard in his home workshops on the engine for the steam mule. After taking delivery of a wide range of castings (for which he had made the patterns), he has steadily been machining these to fit to the engine bed. The original engine has revealed itself to be an astonishingly badly made school project, possibly incorporating some original parts (perhaps salvaged from a pump or similar). We are convinced that it must never have worked, certainly with any success or reliability. As a result David has re-designed much of it to well known and understood principles, as recorded in numerous books on stationary engines, both contemporary with the early manufacturers and also published more recently.

Below: A view of the new plummer blocks (or bearing pedestals if you prefer!), complete with oil pots. The original crankshaft is temporarily fitted to show the layout, though a new crankshaft is to be made – a disc crank is seen in this view also.

Below: New pillars for the slide bars have been made, to traditional design. The lower slidebars are loosely placed to show the context.

Below: The original piston and piston rod (left) – interestingly incorporating wood in its construction (!) – complete with the new piston casting on the right. This is oversize to allow for the machining, and over length to enable the piston rings to be taken from this casting also.

Below: The original crosshead (above) complete with replacement (below). The original had been soldered solid and was inadequate for purpose, so David has made a new crosshead and brasses (which are also free to move!). The pin is loosely fitted in this view and will be a tight fit when finally assembled, whence appearing off centre.

Below: My favorite bit! The phosphor bronze cylinder cladding is rolled and cut to shape, the cylinder end cover has been turned to a bright finish (previously painted green) and the new valve chest is in place. We wanted the engine to not just be functional, but exude the principles of quality and finish so evident in Victorian engineering.

Below: A sequence of views showing the steam/valve chest assembly (all new parts)…

1) A view of the assembled unit with cover plate in place – the projecting studs will be threaded for retaining nuts.

2) Cover plate removed…

3) Valve/steam chest itself removed and slide valve placed in situ…

4) The bare cylinder with projecting studs and remachined valve face. You can just discern the ports in this view.

I should place on record here the enormous amount of time David has committed to this project – it is essentialy the construction of a new engine and one which will have a long lasting legacy at Beamish and beyond in terms of training. It is therefore gratifying to be able to record the very sound traditional engineering principles that are evident in David’s work and the sheer quality of such has to be seen to be believed. Hopefully David will be on hand to demonstrate and talk about the project at events at Beamish next year…!!!