Britannia Steam Engine Is a World Traveler
(Page 4 of 5)
The Britannia is unique in several ways. “It’s a duplex cylinder machine and several experts have said it’s probably the only one of its type,” Shane says. “I don’t know of any others. It’s unusual too because there wasn’t a lot of interest in the engine when it was on the market in 2001.” At least, not the kind of interest that transcends a flawed email address.
Another unusual aspect of the Britannia is the way the engine transfers heat. After the fire has been lit for an hour and a half, the bottom of the boiler remains cold to the touch. But halfway up the boiler, at a temperature exceeding 200 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too hot to touch. “It has to do with the circulation of the water,” Shane explains. “As soon as the boiling point is reached, the heat suddenly races to the bottom of the boiler within seconds.”
The engine runs on almost zero pounds of steam per square inch. “The cylinders are so large (a couple hundred square inches total) that at literally zero pounds per square inch registering on the gauge, it will turn over,” Shane says. “It is deathly silent, and all you can hear is ‘click click click’ from the automatic oiler and the soft but rapid exhaust.”
The machine is oiled automatically with a Manzel automatic oiler; all other bearing surfaces use worsted wick oilers. “It’s a very effective oiling system,” Shane notes.
Built for the long haul
Shane says people in the U.S. are interested in English engines. “When we arrived on the scene with this English stuff, I suppose there was a lot of curiosity and awe, especially in respect to how heavy the English engine designs are,” he says. “The philosophy is that they are built to last forever, rather than wear out and be replaced like many American engines, which are built a little lighter.”
The Britannia, for instance, has 3/4-inch thick boilerplate and an outer wrapper of 1-inch thick horn plate (an extension of the firebox end of the side of the boiler, used to carry the bearings of the crankshaft. Previously, crank bearings had been bolted to the boiler barrel, so that stress on the connection is negated with the horn plate extension.). “It’s overkill really, designed not to break, because English engines were shipped to all four quarters of the world: Africa, New Zealand, Australia, South America and a few to Canada and the U.S.,” Shane explains. “If you broke a crank you couldn’t go to Sears, Roebuck & Co. and order a new one, so the engines were designed to be robust and take all manner of abuse from unskilled drivers.”
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