Soot in the flues

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As we shift gears and start to think 'Spring' instead of 'Winter' (even though we're at this moment experiencing what we hope is our last ice and snow storm of the season), it seems that we have heard from a lot of people who have taken time this year to write a story or two. We are very pleased to say that we have more stories in this issue, and that we're hearing from newer subscribers often for the first time! This is a trend we'd like to have continue!

Since we have so much good material these days, those of you awaiting the next 'installment' of Zwicker's Practical Instructor will be disappointed this month, but can look forward to this piece in an up coming issue.

Yes, spring it's trite to bring up the old 'time of renewal' thing, I know, but dog gone it, it is good for the spirit to see new life coming on at this time of year. I think you folks in Engine land, many of whom have especially close ties to Mother Earth, can understand this best. I myself, while a town dweller whose grandfather sold the farm six months before I was born, am feeling renewed just seeing my flower seeds sprouting to life in their flats on the dining room floor (you should see my lupines such sturdy little seedlings!).

I hope all of you out there have a moment of joy this season as you emerge from your winter dens and gulp your first big breath of fresh spring air! Now, on to your letters!

FRANCIS A. ORR, 1617 32nd Street, Anacortes, Washington 98221 really has a story for us: 'In September, I took my family to England for a week of travel on the English canal systems. We had done this three years ago and had a great time.

'This year, we traveled what is called the 'Warwickshire Ring.' Our boat was 52 feet long, 6 feet 10 inches wide, and drawing about two inches of water. Full headroom for four guys 6 feet 1 inch tall and complete kitchen and bathroom facilities for my wife Rose Marie who does not have to worry about headroom (5 feet, 2 inch). The boat was a 'U-Drive' from Kate Boats at Warwick, site of one of England's better known restored castles.

'Our first day out of Warwick, going clockwise around the 'Ring', we went through 23 locks of the 'Hatton Flight'. If you are new to working locks, by the time you get to the top of the Hatton Flight you will be well checked out.

'That was Saturday. On Sunday we went through Birmingham in a torrential downpour, the only bad day of the trip. I would have liked to have stopped to see a few sights in Birmingham but it was not on our schedule. Monday saw us stop in Fazely for a walk around the area visiting castles and scenery. On both sides of the canal, where we stopped, were old mills dating back over 200 years and still in use. One had originally been water powered while the other had the last of its steam gear removed just six months before we arrived.

'Now to the main point of this letter. Going south on the Coventry Canal, we came to Hawkesbury Junction where the Oxford and the Coventry Canals come together. On our right was a very old engine house and chimney. I knew that it had to be an engine house as it was too small to be a factory. Looking into the building, I could see the foundations for the engine and boiler but everything had been removed. I was told that the engine was an atmospheric engine and that it had been removed into preservation some time back. I felt very good that it had not been scrapped.

'From Hawkesbury Junction we continued down the Oxford Canal with a stop at the city of Rugby. Number Two son Matthew was president of his Rugby Club at Washington State University. Rugby is also the site of a company that manufactures large steam turbines.

'At Napton Junction we transferred over to the Grand Union Canal for the return to Warwick having covered 97 miles in seven days. The last day on the canals I got to see two steam canal boats. One was of recent conversion having a homemade water tube boiler and a Sisson's high speed, enclosed, single cylinder engine. Reverse was handled through a gear box. The other boat was quite old. It had been a horse drawn ice breaker and was of riveted construction. I was unable to determine anything about its power plant.

Approaching Hawkesbury Junction where Oxford and Coventry Canals meet. Pumping station on the right lifted water from a well for the canal and was powered by an atmospheric engine now removed and preserved the building is empty.

'Well, we returned home from our trip and I find the November/December issue of The Iron-Men Album waiting for me. Upon opening it I find that in my trip to England I was following in the footprints of Gerald S. Lestz, who had preceded me by a few months. I really enjoyed your article on the 'Origins of Steam-power' and wish you would continue this effort in the magazine. However, the best part was the drawing of the Hawkesbury engine. From the tone of your article, you were farther south, so thought you might like to see where the engine worked. I did hear some talk about selling the cast iron bridge which would be a shame.

'Three years ago on our first canaling trip, my wife said to me: 'We are here to have fun. We are not here to look at steam engines!' Well, I thought that the two went hand in glove, but I guess I was wrong. She did let me look at the engine house of the Tower Bridge. This year I got smarter and took two of my three sons to England three days early. One went to Scotland to look up his roots. The other visited the armor museums and the Christopher Wren buildings. Me, I spent two glorious days in the Science Museum and the Kew Bridge Museum. I hope you made it to Kew Bridge. Not every day you can see an engine with 100 inch bore and 11 foot stroke.

Hawkesbury Junction facing southwest. Oxford Canal left turn under 1837 cast iron bridge made by Britannia Foundry in Derby, Coventry straight ahead.

Hawkesbury Junction, Francis Orr moves 52x610' A my Clare into the Oxford Canal from the Coventry Canal 180 degree turn. Old pump station in background.

'Hope that you enjoy the pictures. I really enjoy the magazine.'

From W. D. WHITMIRE, 11 East Lenhardt Road, Greenville, South Carolina 29605 we received the old photo above.

'This is only half of the picture. It was torn in half. It was found in an old trunk. The lady who owned the picture is in a nursing home and does not know anything about it. She's 90 years old and was a neighbor of mine.'