Thursday, 30 April 2009

Works Band

In the light of our Unmitigated friend's failed attempt to join the Foden works band I thought I ought to share this with you. As it happens the band were transported to their engagements in the company bus. Sadly the actual machine has long since died but in the late '50s this ex brewer's dray from 1923 was converted into a replica of the band's transport. I haven't seen it for years but it did do the rounds of steam events in East Anglia and is still around. I feel sure homeward journeys were fuelled with a case or two of beer and much noise. MORE BRASS !

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Testing Times

Off to the ministry. The joys of special building are often hidden in the detail. I now have a registered bike to be tested, along with a V5 which has the correct engine number, wrong engine capacity, correct colour, wrong frame number. A lengthy letter attached to the offending log book is making its way to Swansea in the hope that things will come good. This should give me time to put right a few minor problems which we let pass at initial re-build. We knew at the time that new swing arm bushes would be needed and I've got a chain c/w sprockets on the way. Extensive reading of the MOT test rules tells us we can get away without the indicators, front mudguard and front brake switch. New fork seals are just keeping the oil in despite some hefty pitting on the stanchions, a new set of gaiters should hide the worst. We really ought to stretch to a new pair of shocks. MORE PASSING !

Friday, 17 April 2009

The Loose Stuff

Had this picture of Georges Sizaire for years and thought I ought to share it with you. Sizaire & Naudin is one of those great independent French car makers that grew out of the mad-cap back yard experimental engineering of the late nineteenth century. Georges was born in 1880 and had the fortune of having an older brother called Maurice Hippolyte Sizaire - fantastic name. Louis Naudin was hauled in while Georges was in the army and by 1900 the three were working together on their first car. Voiturette racing of this kind was an obvious marketing weapon and the company had much success over the years, notably winning the 1908 Coupe de l'Auto in the latest development of their long stroke single cylinder "light" cars. The picture above is of Georges at the wheel of a later four cylinder racer accompanied by his trusty mechanic during the 1912 Coupes des Voiture Legere at Dieppe. The race at Dieppe was usually run at a distance of 956 miles, and in that light the reliability of these motors is staggering. I've another picture somewhere in the archive of Naudin at full throttle, dust flying, mechanic hanging on for dear life with a cigarette gripped firmly between his teeth. Shots of Edwardian motor racing always trigger that yearning for unsurfaced roads. We have it far too easy with all this tarmac and concrete to speed about on. It's a shame that nearly all public roads in this country have gone easy, we need to travel to North America (particularly the fire roads in Canada), or the outback of Australia to get any real feel for the loose stuff. I was heartened by news today that some local authority was proposing to leave pot-holes un-mended as a traffic calming measure - bravo. It seems to me that the more we pander to the motorist with fine, smooth, straight roads, not only do we completely trash the countryside but we encourage more Toady driving. Talking of news - when did littering and dog fouling become "minor" offences ? No reference to loose stuff needed here, but frankly any body who can't deal with their own dog's pooh should be rushed straight to the front of the queue ahead of car thieves, muggers and even bad tempered policemen. MORE DUST !

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Getting It Right

Aside from the really fine detail and high tolerance work, I've always reckoned a good rule of thumb in engineering would be - if it looks right it probably is. Our friend Mr Lutyens had a real understanding of engineering and wasn't afraid to let its principals speak for themselves. No need here to try and hide the clever stuff behind some fancy decorative embellishments. Drogo was built for Lutyens' client Mr Julius Drewe on that spectacular promontory at Drewsteignton in Devon using the two great tools of mass and gravity to great effect. Started in 1910 it wasn't truly completed until 1931. A halt to work forced by the Great War hasn't detracted from the result and the job wasn't watered down by lack of enthusiasm as could so easily have happened at that time. Detail of outstanding quality can be found all over this place, from the massive cantilevered granite fish sink in the subterranean gun room (what planning) to the thoughtfully designed bronze casement windows. On the subject of fenestration, I took this shot about twenty five years ago lying on my back on the grass. Typical bit of Lutyens drama is in the fact that the walls are built at a slight batter, increasing the visual impact and giving the masons a good head-ache. I am also particularly pleased with the bare granite interior, beautifully dressed and softened moderately with the fine tapestries and furniture shipped in from Drewe's previous home at Wadhurst in Sussex. Marvelous. MORE DESIGN !

Not Well Rockwell

The old safe pilot definition -"same number of take-offs as landings" has been visited on this blog before. I'm not quite sure how POT, or prang on take-off qualifies - maybe the duration of actual flight (in this case about 4 seconds) is a consideration. Compared to the awful Beach Musketeer featured last time, the Rockwell Commander 112A is a fine slippery cruiser, 200ish horse flat 6 Lycoming, VP prop and retractable undercarriage make long commutes a pleasure. The resulting mess of this failed take-off looked very unsightly and might have distracted other pilots coping with our 600 hundred metres of ex WW2 perimeter track which serves as a runway. Quickest solution to tidy things up was to track the PC180 a few yards off the strip into the sugar beet and put a sling through the doors for a short lift to the graveyard behind Hangar 1. I mentioned earlier the satisfying sound of a metal prop ploughing its own furrow - on this occasion the change from full rev floundering in a half-stalled take off to "engine stop" was startlingly sudden as the poor thing found a pile of broken concrete stacked up awaiting clearance. "Damaged Beyond Economical Repair" in assessor's lingo. MORE FLIGHT !

How Green ?

I've quite a collection of burnt out agricultural kit in the archive. I could pretty much repeat the sentiments expressed HERE. As I pulled out of Diplo HQ a couple of weeks ago I glanced to the Southern sky and was pleased by the sight of a very shapely and tall cloud of black smoke on the horizon, local topographical knowledge placed the source some 9 miles as the crow flies, practically due South - Diploville. A pronounced meteorological temperature inversion had caused the column to flatten out very sharply at about 1500 feet producing a perfectly horizontal bar of the black stuff stretching 10 or so miles to the west of the source. No camera, or I would have snapped that for the archive. Anxious not to miss out on any fun I made my way home and over to the adjacent field to more fully take in the spectacle of destruction, to wonder at the power of fire and enjoy the display laid on by a variety of components giving up their elements as different coloured smoke and flame. I'm always struck by the graceful billowing of really thick smoke, shapes being generated and transformed in front of your eyes like a huge silk pillow case being teased by a powerful fan. The crop here was Miscanthus (elephant grass) for use as a bio-fuel. It is not uncommon for the first year's growth to be insufficient to warrant harvesting and transporting so it is flailed off to encourage the rhizome to go bonkers next time around - I think that was what was happening here. Yields are supposed to be around 10 tonnes/hectare !!!!!!! Don't think so. Mind you, establishment costs of £1000.00/hectare are taken care of by a grant of nearly 100%, thereafter costs are down to harvesting and transport. I am certainly no expert in the environmental pros and cons of this bio-fuel production, I'm sure if all goes according to plan somebody could justify it. I've a feeling that if we throw the tractor burning emissions into the equation things might look a little different - better luck next time. MORE FIRE !