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Traction Engines: The Importance of washing out your Boiler…

This blog post is a revisit to a topic we have discussed over the years and made a feature of in the Vintage Spirit several years ago. Working at Berrybrook Steam & Classics, we see a relatively large number of miniature traction engines every year. Whilst we spend lots of our time tinkering with injectors, adjusting incorrectly set pressure release valves and unsticking clack valves, the one problem which we see time and time again are steel boilers in desperate need of a good wash out!

The photos here highlight the issue with allowing scale and debris to build up, unwashed, around the foundation ring of a steel traction engine boiler. Although this build-up starts off loose and cleanable, it doesn’t take long for it to cake in and become almost impossible to remove. Photographed below is a section taken from a half size engine we saw (and removed from service) a few years ago. This particular boiler was condemned for two reasons; firstly, it had a severe, irreversible build-up of solid scale around the foundation ring and secondly, the crown had worn too thin. Thinning of material in an older engine can be slowed with appropriate boiler treatment procedures and careful maintenance but is largely unavoidable. On the contrary, the build-up of scale is totally avoidable with a thorough, regular wash out schedule.

Image 1 – Scale build-up around the foundation ring which is as solid as concrete.
Image 2 – Another view of the same section of boiler. Although breaking down after being on show for a few years in our showroom, this scale build-up extended right up the sides of the firebox preventing water from cooling it and masking failing stays.

The message regarding the importance of washing out your boiler is not a new one. I found the following extract in a reprint of a Marshall, Sons & Co. Ltd publication titled ‘Instructions for the Working and General Management of Traction Engines & Steam Road Rollers’ and we have taken care to retain the bold font in the same place Marshall did…

‘It is desirable that clean soft water should be used. Dirty and hard water will deposit sediment and scale on the inside of the boiler, cause leaky joints and tubes, and give extra trouble in cleaning. It is necessary to clean out frequently, say every ten days, if using good water; and every five days if dirty and hard water. On no account should this be neglected. The boiler will then last longer and repairs will be insignificant.’

(Marshall, Sons & Co. Ltd., TEE Publishing, 1984)

Take notice if your inspector recommends a descale this winter and always avoid leaving water sitting in the boiler for any real length of time. It goes without saying that for every engine we see with a severe build-up, we see plenty which have been maintained diligently and are crystal clean inside so, if in doubt, ask around and see how everyone else combatting build-up in their miniature!

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EXPERIENCE DAYS

Do you want to get involved in the world of steam? Are you considering buying a miniature steam engine? Are you stuck for a gift idea or are you simply looking for a good day out?

If so, we offer two different style days, tailored to suit your needs…

We offer a ‘Traction Engine Experience Day’, perfect as a gift and a fun day out learning a bit about what running a steam engine involves. We also offer a ‘Miniature Driving Lesson’ which is a half day course in the practical use of a scale traction engine.

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LOOKING TO SELL?

We specialise in the sale of steam engines and historic vehicles of all shapes and sizes! 

If you are looking to sell your steam engine or historic vehicle, we make both cash offers and sell on commission and would be more than happy to discuss the sale of your vehicle with you.

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THE BERRYBROOK STEAM & CLASSICS SHOP

Visit the official Berrybrook Steam & Classics online shop where we sell a range of steam-related products including gifts, parts and accessories for your miniature steam engine, gift vouchers for steam experience days and branded clothing!

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Milbury Model Company

We are delighted to announce the launch of our brand new partner website, the Milbury Model Company!

Our newest department is dedicated to supplying high-quality, brand new model and toy-sized steam engines, spares, accessories, gifts and more…

We are an official stockist for the complete range of Wilesco products which is sold from our Devon-based shop and is available to buy online.

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The Berrybrook Blog

Looking to find out more about the preservation movement, traction engines, historic vehicles or our heritage?

The Berrybrook Blog visits a range of topics to interest all readers!

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We can help you sell…

We specialise in selling steam engines and historic vehicles of all shapes and sizes.

If you are looking to sell your steam engine or historic vehicle, we make both cash offers and sell on commission.

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Our showrooms are open to anyone and you are more than welcome to pop in to say hello, regardless of whether a purchase is on your mind or not!

*We are occasionally open on some Saturdays by prior agreement only – please ring 01392 833301 on a normal working day to arrange a visit.

We are typically closed on Bank Holidays.

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