The Yank's Return Part 2
|Sunday June 17th - London for Tower Bridge & Kew Bridge
Weekends are the perfect time to take in the sights of London. We drove to the outskirts of the city to catch the tube to Tower Bridge. Jim pointed to a bloke on a moped with a big map in a frame attached to his windscreen. Jim said he was "doing the knowledge." If you want to drive a black London taxi, you've first got to "do the knowledge." The Knowledge of London is the course of study that any prospective Licensed London Taxi Driver has to undertake to qualify for his/her coveted London Taxi driver's license and badge. This can take anything from two years upwards depending on the candidate, and some say the amount of information that a candidate's brain has to absorb is the equivalent of taking a degree course. When accepted the candidate will then be asked to attend an acceptance interview where they will be presented with the infamous "Blue Book" which is a book listing 400 routes through London which the candidate must learn, including all places of interest, museums, hospitals, police stations, cinemas, statues, monuments, restaurants, government buildings and any place that a fare paying passenger might require to go along these routes. (I wonder if Boom-Boom LaTush's Massage Parlour is included in "The Knowledge"?) After learning these routes the candidate can then inform the Public Carriage Office that they are ready to sit the written exam which if passed will allow them to continue onto appearances (appointments at the PCO for oral exams on routes). WHEW! Impressive!! AND I'll bet that most of these taxi drivers speak English!!
Tower Bridge is one of London's most familiar landmarks. The image of the two classic Victorian towers connected with the high level pedestrian walkway and the main opening span has graced everything from postcards to T-shirts and knickers to boxes of safety matches and packets of lemonade crystals.
The politics that led to the design of Tower Bridge are as interesting as the engineering of the bridge itself, and it is this which is the basis for the first part of the tour going up through one of the towers. Like Pittsburgh, London's history is intimately connected with it's bridges. The Romans built the first timber bridge across the Thames in 55 BC near where London Bridge is today. Over the years a series of wooden bridges were built here. Finally, in 1169 construction was begun on a stone London Bridge; what would be England's pride and joy (and the city's only crossing over the Thames) for the next 600 years. As London grew, more bridges were added, but these were all to the west of London Bridge, since the area east of London Bridge had become a busy port. In the 19th century, the east end of London became so densely populated that public pressure mounted for a bridge to the east of London Bridge, as journeys for pedestrians and vehicles were being delayed literally by hours. Finally in 1876, the Corporation of London, who were responsible for that part of the Thames, decided that the problem could be put off no longer. The big problem for the Corporation of London was how to build a bridge downstream from London Bridge without disrupting river traffic activities. And since the most powerful people in London at that time were the merchants who derived their wealth from the shipping traversing the Pool of London to their warehouses, there was a lot of "interest" in how any proposed bridge design would affect shipping; both while it was in operation and while it was being constructed. A successful bridge design needed to meet several different criteria. On the one hand the bridge must offer up to 140 feet of clearance for tall-masted ships making their way to the Upper Pool, as any restriction of access would lead to a huge loss of trade. On the other, it should provide for the continuous flow of road and foot traffic, on whose behalf it was being constructed in the first place. Approach roads should also be low enough not to bother horses pulling heavy cartloads. Expense was, naturally, also a consideration. The political wrangling went on for longer than it eventually took to build Tower Bridge! Finally, in 1884, Sir Horace Jones was given the go ahead to construct a bascule-operated bridge. It took eight years to build Tower Bridge.
The first part of the tour ends with a walk along the glass-walled corridor between the tops of the two towers, with spectacular views across London.
When it was built, Tower Bridge was the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge ever built ("bascule" comes from the French for "see-saw"). It was a hydraulically operated bridge, using steam to power the enormous pumping engines. The energy created was then stored in six massive accumulators so that, as soon as power was required to lift the bridge, it was readily available. The accumulators fed the driving engines, which drove the bascules up and down. Despite the complexity of the system, the bascules only took about a minute to raise to their maximum 86 degrees. The mechanics of the bridge are covered as the tour proceeds down the second tower.
The final part of our tour, the engine room at Tower Bridge, is about to begin. I like these French's; any time I'm with them, food is involved! 8-)) There were four Lancashire boilers providing steam to two pumping engines. They in turn, stored energy in four accumulators. On demand from the control room to open the bridge, the stored water powered eight hydraulic driving engines, that lifted the bascules. Chris checks out a "boy sized" wrench in the engine room. And as you can imagine, any piece of Victorian engineering is as beautiful as it's functional.
As we're walking from the tube station to Kew Bridge, what do we see but an old engine, a tractor, and other some other cool stuff tucked into a tiny garden right in the heart of London. Go figger…
"A steam engine you can walk through while it's working, in a building like a cathedral. That's just ONE of our engines!" That quote leads one into the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. James Watt is often credited with the invention of the steam engine, but in reality he was a relative latecomer. Like many, he was looking at ways to improve the efficiency of Newcomen's engine. Watt came up with several refinements including lagging the cylinder (a subject near and dear to the hearts of the lads at French Brothers Insulation) to prevent heat loss, putting a top cover on the cylinder to allow the introduction of steam to push the cylinder down (instead of air), and using a condenser separate from the cylinder. In 1769 to protect his work from being copied, he took out a patent on this more efficient and powerful engine design.
The museum is the site of the former Grand Junction Water Works Company at Kew Bridge. The collection of engines gathered together here is unique; the largest such collection of engines in the world. But more interesting is the fact that they're in steam every weekend!! As the name suggests, the mission of these engines was pumping water, lots of it, to the city of London.
The showpiece engines at Kew Bridge are the Cornish Beam Engines. The main characteristics of Cornish engines is that work is done by a falling load which is lifted by the engine, there being no rotating parts. After the lifting stroke an equilibrium valve opens to allow steam to pass from above to below the piston. On the lifting stroke power is obtained both by injecting steam above the piston and by creating a vacuum below the piston by condensing the steam there. The 90-inch Engine is the largest working beam engine in the world. It was built in 1846 by Sandys, Carne & Vivian of Copperhouse Foundry, Hayle, Cornwall and was the first engine built in Cornwall specially for waterworks duty. The cylinder diameter is 90 inches, 132 inch stroke, beam weight 35 tons, 472 gallons per stroke. The pump plunger is 38 inches in diameter and gives a rating of the engine 6.5 million gallons a day working at 9 1/2 strokes per minute. It was really something to watch the engineer starting the 90-inch Engine; poetry in motion as he operated the various levers in sequence to bring the engine slowly up to speed at about four strokes per minute.
The other Cornish engines at Kew Bridge are the 100-inch Engine, the Boulton and Watt Engine, the 90-inch Beam Engine, the Maudslay Engine, and the Bull Engine. Due to the huge size [see Arnie and Tom at the bottom!] of these engines it's just impossible to get everything into a single pic!
The Waddon was the last reciprocating steam engine in use in a waterworks in the UK. It was built by James Simpson & Company of Pimlico in 1910. The engine used steam at up to 120 psi and at 20rpm it would deliver 1.3 million gallons per day against a head of 190 feet. The cylinders are 21 and 42 inch bore with a stroke of 36 inches.
The Triple Expansion Engine is a relatively modern engine being built in 1910 by Hathorn Davey of Leeds. The compact design of three cylinders above a crankshaft is very similar to engines used in marine applications. The cylinders are of 12, 20 and 31 inch bore with a 30 inch stroke. Speed is controlled by a governor which cuts off steam to the high pressure cylinder. The engine was originally installed at Southfields Pumping Station, Newmarket and pumped 1,000 gallons per minute against a head of 350ft.
The Dancers End Engine is a twin beam engine that was built in 1867 by James Kay for a pumping station at Dancers End, near Tring. It supplied Lord Rothschild's property in the Chilterns and was later used to provide a public supply in the area. This engine stood over a well operating pumps at the bottom via rods connected direct to the beam and extensions to the piston rods passing through glands in the bottom of the cylinders. Note the gorgeous wood lagging!
There are loads of smaller steam engines and pumps on exhibit at Kew Bridge.
If you enjoy steam engines you should make it a point to join the International Stationary Steam Engine Society (ISSES).
Kew Bridge was a water pumping station so it's "Water for Life" exhibition is a natural. It's also an interesting counterpoint to the Abbey Pumping Station that also houses magnificent steam engines and pumped the "water (and other stuff) FROM life." 8-))
The museum closed for the day before we could check out the diesel and gas engine house. It includes examples of National, Mirrlees, Ruston & Hornsby, Allen, and Tangye engines. Gotta leave something for another day I guess…
And the perfect end to a perfect day? Dolly's incomparable goulash.
Monday June 18th - Shopping in Leicester
This was an opportunity to do a little shopping for the folks at home. I was keenly interested in getting a couple of "basic" books on cricket. Tonnes of books giving all the gory details of every memorable test match ever played, but NOTHING on the basics of how to play the game. Englishmen must be born with this knowledge cos they sure as Hell don't get it from books! Leicester is a pretty interesting city for the shopper. Lots of neat little here-today gone-tomorrow hole-in-the-wall shoppes. One featured china door knobs and another gargoyles and leather. All in all it was an amazing day out. Dolly knows her shopping. After we got back Dolly had to deal with the pile of quotes and invoices that Jim had left on her desk. Sadly, the work doesn't stop for the CFO and Office Manager of FBI just cos a visiting Yank is in town. Since it was a nice, warm sunny day, I decided to drag Sophia out for a bit of a run. Lovely way to spend an afternoon… Sitting reading in a sunny English garden, listening to an engine running sweetly, and enjoying a nice cool bottle of ale. Life is good! Temptation got the better of me and I started a bit of degreasing. WOW! Lots of red paint and original pinstriping under all that grease. Dinner was one of Dolly's specialties; rude-y pork, new potatoes, peas, and cabbage. Delish!
Tuesday June 19th - Boston and Keith's Ruston AP
Keith Munter had emailed Jim & Dolly to ask about a 10 hp Ruston-Hornsby AP sideshaft that he'd located on the Internet. He wondered if there was any way we could check it out for him. What a great excuse for a road trip! 8-)) The plan was set; up to Boston to check out the engine, find a nice pub for a pint and some lunch, and then check out the only taxiable Lancaster bomber in England and (hopefully) watch a taxi run.
The area around Boston is flat! Which naturally has lead to a popular game to keep kids (of all ages) busy at something other than asking "Are we there yet?". The game? First one to spot the Boston Stump gets the points. Naturally, Dolly spots it first. Hmmmm, her game, her rules, she wins… What's wrong with this picture? 8-))
The bloke that was selling the engine was located right across the road from the Maud Foster Mill.
This is an incredibly cool windmill driven gristmill (with a very unusual tailpiece) that's still used regularly for flour production. But, unfortunately, closed on Tuesdays. 8-(( I'd love to go back and see it in operation! The neighbors have creatively recycled used mill stones.
Keith's Ruston (S/N 119545) was a fantastically done restoration. It was just too big an engine for the current owner to handle. Due to storage space and trailer limitations, most of the English engine men prefer smaller engines. Other than a small leak in the paraffin tank (later fixed with some of Joe Kelly's Kwik-Poly) the engine was complete and in great running condition. After we reported back and emailed pics to Keith he closed the deal. The Ruston was later shipped across the pond to Pittsburgh with Sophia and a Petter Appletop for Gwen Monk. Keith and his dad picked up the Ruston just before the Findlay Ohio show where I delivered the Petter to Gwen & Rick.
We located a neat thatched roof pub for lunch (called surprisingly the Thatched Cottage) with a warm and rustic interior. Dolly recommended the Lincolnshire sausages with chips as they were a local delicacy. DAMN tasty!! Dolly learned that the owner is serious about having the bill paid.
After lunch we "found" the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre which is home to the only taxiable Avro Lancaster bomber in England. Additional information may be found here and here. Tom impressed me with his encyclopedic knowledge of the Lancaster bomber. The Lancaster is a four engine heavy bomber powered by Rolls Royce Merlin engines (later made by Packard). In addition to having flown some 156,000 sorties, and dropped about 609,000 tons of bombs, the Lancs gained fame through a unique dam busting mission. The idea was for bouncing rapidly backspinning cylinder bombs across the water until they hit the dam and crawled down its concrete face, where a hydrostatic trigger would set them off at the right depth. The crews had to deliver 10,000-pound bombs at a precise distance from a dam while flying at a precise, slow speed at an altitude of exactly 60 feet. The altitude was determined using a pair of spotlights adjusted so the beams converged on a single spot on the water at a height of 60 feet. Not exactly a "low-risk" mission (eight of 19 planes and crews were lost). The dams holding back three rivers -- the Eder, the Moehne and the Sorpe -- emptying into the Ruhr, a Rhine tributary, were obvious enough military targets, because destroying them could do serious harm to the arms factories in Germany's industrial heartland. On May 17 and 18, 1943, the 617 Squadron was highly successful; breaching two of the dams and sending almost half a billion tons of water cascading down river channels in walls 50 feet high, smashing bridges, factories and power plants for 100 miles. More info on the Dam Busters may be found here.
On the way home we stopped at Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe to pick up some pork and stilton sausages. Dickinson & Morris have been baking pork pies in Melton Mowbray since 1851. They also have awesome sausages; including Rutland, Somerset, Rutland Smokey, Garlic & Herb, Yorkshire Leek, and more.
Wednesday June 20th - Degrease Sophia
With Astle Park coming up at the weekend it was time to get serious about Sophia. I spent the day degreasing and polishing the rusty machined bits (flywheel faces, pulley, sideshaft, etc.) Jim loaned me a couple of nice long-handled brushes with an angled head. They're used to paint steam radiators, but are perfect for degreasing all those hard-to-reach nooks and crannies on an engine. A final wipe down with a mix of motor oil and kerosene (paraffin) and the old girl was "show ready." Dolly surprised Eric and I with a mid-morning treat of coffee and fruitcake.
Dinner was Dickinson & Morris sausages, burgers on the grill with a ginger-chilli jelly, and a corn-cucumbers-onions mix in sour cream to set things off.
Dolly got some bad news; the French's new hot tub wouldn't be delivered till Monday. She was seriously bummed.
Thursday June 21st - Duxford & Midsummer Night at Abbey Pumping Station
It was the Summer Solstice; Wychcraft was in the air! Today was going to be a "guy's day out" to the Imperial War Museum - Duxford (Poor Dolly was chained to the desk at FBI.) Jim and I took Tom and his mate Sam and we knew we'd be seeing a lot of Chris during the day as his school class was going to Duxford too. As we headed out from Sam's place, Jim slammed on the brakes and shouted "There's a stoat!" We all piled out and Jim snatched up the baby stoat for a closer look. The man has great eyesight!!
Duxford is probably best known for the collection of 180 historic aircraft. But the museum also has numerous active restoration projects underway in the public spaces as well as a large collection of tanks, trucks and artillery and special exhibits like those on Normandy and the Battle of Britain.
Chris' class had a massive worksheet to complete for their visit to Duxford. Luckily, Chris had some help. 8-))
Personal favorites of mine seemed to be anything that bristled with guns. Starting with a well equipped WWI biplane and a B-17 Flying Fortress that had a lovely quad-.50 equipped spot for the tail gunner (note the shell casing chutes). My modern favorites are the A10 Warthog designed for close combat support busting up tanks with depleted uranium munitions fired from a seven barrel 30mm General Dynamics GAU-8 rotary cannon in the nose capable of firing 3500 rounds/minute. (Jim and I hope they don't remove the cannon before flight!!) Of course anything (even a C130) equipped with GE M61 Vulcan 20mm six-barreled rotary cannons capable of firing 6000 rounds per minute is pretty cool too. 8-))
My first time in a Concorde produced two surprises. First how small it was inside, and second the radiation detectors required due to the high cruising altitude. You don't want to get surprised by a solar flare that high up.
Probably the most famous fighter of all time, the Supermarine Spitfire will forever be a symbol of British defiance during the Battle of Britain in 1940. I think the highlight of the Duxford visit was when a flight of three Spitfires did a low level flyby as we were eating lunch. The sound of those Spitfires at full throttle maybe 30 feet above the ground was AWESOME! 8-))
Naturally no air museum would be complete without a few pieces of antiaircraft artillery. Sam, Tom, and Jim check out the WWII vintage 3.7-inch AA gun, while I have a look at the WW1 vintage British Thornycroft J-Type Lorry with a 13-pounder AA gun on the back.
And for the Fat Assed Tractor Guys (FATG) there was this really cool Fordson Roadless Tractor used in limited numbers by the RAF during WWII.
One of Dolly's signature dishes; asparagus stuffed chicken breasts, greeted us for dinner. Thus fortified, we were ready to head off to the Abbey Pumping Station for the Midsummer Night steam-up celebration. It was just incredible to see those huge, gorgeous Victorian-era engines under steam. Since this was a special night, we were treated to a tour into the depths where the shit got pumped. Jim was cool about it until the guide mentioned that due to the low level, rats weren't a problem, but that numerous frogs might be encountered. Some nameless members of the tour group took delight in sneaking up behind Jim to utter a wet and slimy-sounding R-I-B-B-B-I-T-T … (heh-heh-heh). Needless to say, Jim HATES frogs!
The next outing is down to Portsmouth on the south coast of England to visit HMS Victory. And for the weekend we're off north to Astle Park and the 1000 Engine Rally!
|Stamford, Phil Laight's Engine Show|
|London, Boston, Duxford|
|Portsmouth, 1000 Engine Rally|
|Hot tub, guns, Kibworth, Ironbridge|
|Abbey Pumping Station|
A TRANSATLANTIC PRODUCTION
Text by Arnie
Pictures by Arnie and Dolly
Web Design by Dolly