Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Steam at Beale

The Steam Boat Association of Great Britain always puts on a great show at Beale, showing off their superb engineering skills in some great-looking boats.
This year they threw down an irresistible challenge for steam men: to build a steam powered outboard. The entries were eccentric to the point of absurdity and almost as unreliable as infernal combustion, but were absolutely awesome. All the machines were fastened to the back of SL Chimera II, which also provided the steam from its kerosene-fired boiler. In the pictures (above and left) Mike Robinson's truly imposing machine provides some forward motion. It must be the first beam engine outboard in the world. Not only that, it uses the Newcomen cycle developed for pumping out Cornish tin mines in the 18th century.
John Barnard adopted a much more practical approach by converting a lawn mower engine to steam and connecting it to a paddle wheel made of old bookshelves. It powered the boat nicely across the lake but showered all behind with a copious deluge. Total cost of construction: £17.
Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of the winner. Ian McAlpine designed and built a four-cylinder cruciform engine, drive leg, gearbox and prop entirely in his workshop, a frankly amazing achievement as far as I am concerned. And it worked impressively well. An alarmingly frank and very funny official Society report is here.

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