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Diary of a Steamboater - January

01 Feb 2015 17:51 | Deleted user

During 2015 Philip Webster will be giving us a monthly update on his adventures in Banjo:

Happy New Year and good steaming in 2015. Banjo will be 118 and I seem to be catching her up!  We always steam up on New Year's Day, usually on the water but, but this time a test run on the  work shop 'patio'. This was actually the third test run, and all went well. The feed pump welcomed the return to double engine speed, the vacuum pump relishing the four to one reduction. The smooth slow running of Beryl 2b prompted a unanimous vote to stop tinkering and install it! To day I completed the installation of the mounting frame, engineer's floor and the ash pan. A few licks of paint and we shall be ready for the big lifts when the 'gang' arrives on Friday.

Beryl and Betsy on their trolleys
Wait for lifting, Friday's follies,
Onto frame secure and solid
Pumps and pipes to link between
Sharing water when we steam .
On Saturday the gang are noshing
At the Artichoke, no 'troshin'.
Later on no doubt they'll hanker
For a super Banjo banger.

All is safely lifted in. Only snag was Mr. Mate's arrival, in an MX5, boys will be boys! Coffee break got a bit extended so the pipes will have to wait 'till Monday.

Fifteen steaming associates gathered at the Artichoke for lunch on Saturday. I shouldn't really worry about engine noise, their noisy chatter would drown a big end!

Most of the pipes and bits are fitted, and passed the 'should have cleaned the paint out of the threads before fitting' stage, but the 'clamping the glove under the collar' seems to linger a bit.

Perfect weather for varnishing is as rare as a Venus hand shake, so said Antonio Stradivari (1644- 1737), or something similar. The main problem is the humidity, dust being a rare commodity in the car port this time of year. On Wednesday, 14th. It was cold, but as dry as a steamers throat. The boat had been rubbed down ready for some weeks, so a quick dust off and the job done by coffee break, and I needed it, if only to warm my hands.
First to arrive on Friday was Mr. Mate, he operated the vacuum cleaner hose as I cleaned the tubes with the counter balanced electric drill. This ancient machine, bought for a pound at a jumble sale has a thee quarter stainless steel wire brush attached . The 103 copper tubes were soon cleaned, the six stay tubes being steel are blanked off. I hope the latter will at least out live the former!

The other two 'boys' arrived in time to lift on board the 'bay window'. This assembly consists of the starboard bow quarter windows, 3 fixed, 2 opening, enabling access to engine room and galley for refit.

When I fired up my trusty steed early this morning I was informed that the temperature was minus four Celsius, O-dear. I had meant to wrap the engine and boiler in blankets, some pipes were frozen. A gentle fire of sticks warmed them through with no harm done. A few more sticks and all ran well, and now wrapped up nice and cosy.

I dropped a clanger yesterday (Friday 23rd.). The best way to find faults, I recon, is to get someone else to run the plant. Accordingly, the crew were detailed to simulate a steam up river to Norwich (on the drive). Steam was raised with sticks by George, Mike kept an eye on the water and John put the galley in order. I passed up all the odd bits of 'essential' equipment that had been secreted in the workshop. I soon had a small list of desirable tweeks, then a loud chorus of 'where's the clanger'? The ship's bell had lost it's dangly bit en route, but soon found, five bells rang and coffee served.

Yesterday (Friday 30th) we had the third, post refit steam test on the drive, without problems. She is now wrapped up against the frost, awaiting relaunch as soon as the temperature rises above worry.

Today, our No. two, George, is 80. A valued crew member, we had a surprise party for him. It may come as a surprise to some of you, that George is a SNOTY! I shall explain. When I first met George, as a young paper boy, and an ex RAF typist, I new he would make a good crew member and signed him on as Shore Staff/movable ballast. He soon proved his dedication to the job by pluging into the mud whilst quanting Banjo into moorings. He lost his favorite cap, and a bit of dignity but gained a lot of brownie points, and was promoted to Assistant Helmsman. Having had a boat of his own, he knew which way to turn the wheel and how gently. One day, around Polky's Mill, we slid gently on to the mud and no body noticed. We had a two hour lunch 'till the tide turned. His next station was stoker, a steam boat goes nowhere without a good fire. As one might expect, a Geordie knows a thing or two about steam coal. Judging the size of fire for the job in hand is not a simple task. George's specialty here is to steam us into dock just as the last ember goes out!

In addition to his dedicated crewing, he has regularly contributed rice pudding, peaches and beer to our steamy lunches.

In recognition of his devoted service, he is promoted to SNOTY 2015. That is, STEAM NUT OF THE YEAR.

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