Saturday, 14 January 2017

It lives!

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Retrospective post for 2nd December 2016)

In the course of  the re-installation work for "Flamingo's" rebuilt Lister HA2 engine, Dave Ross sent us a couple of phone videos of work in progress with the engine fired up.

All looked very promising, as it ticked away gently, with very little sign of any significant smoke at the chimney.

(It had, of course, already been test run in Dave's workshop, though at the moment I can't trace any videos that record that.)

"Flamingo's" Lister HA2 Engine Is Returned to the Boat.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Retrospective post for 18th November 2016)

The repainted boat bottom can be seen in these photos.
Finally we were at the stage where Dave Ross was satisfied with the engine and gearbox, all now nicely painted up, and it was ready to put back in the boat.

Few pictures, and no videos this time, as it proved to be quite a delicate operation to get it lifted over and past various obstructions, and lowered down onto the bolt heads in the engine bed In fact it proved to be such a tight fit over these bolts that we became quite impressed it had ever come out in the first place!

We were strongly warned not to do anything that damaged Dave's paintwork!
There was now some considerable way to go before it would be up and running.  Everything needed connecting up again, and most things were being changed, including fuel pipe work, oil pressure gauge, speed wheel controls, and we had asked for completely revised gear rodding, yet to be constructed.

The previous arrangements for the speed wheel had retained the original Lister hand operated speed lever on the engine, which was highly unsatisfactory, being lumpy in operation, and refusing to hold on to the selected speed without winding off again.  We had decided to ditch this, as well as having any of the engine controls or dials or indicator lights on an engine mounted control panel.

Finally the boat was currently afloat, but with no propeller on it.  Even when this lot was all connected up, we weren't going anywhere yet!

Friday, 13 January 2017

We Might As Well Make It Look Smart Too.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Retrospective post for 5th November 2016)

By the end of October Dave Ross had largely finished the rebuild of Flamingo's Lister HA2 engine.

We had agreed with him that as we had had so much done to it, it would be a great shame not to give it a proper coat of paint to smarten it up a bit.

Apparently the "Lister Green" that so many of these engines sport was not the usual original cover for those delivered as marine engines.  Even the broadly silver colour it had been was not strictly correct, although the engine is believed to have always been a marine one.

However we decided we like green, and that so many now are, we weren't going to get fanatical about what is correct.

Here are some pictures taken by Dave on his phone that show the transformation from the previous multi-coloured mess.



Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The "Flamingo" Propeller Story.........

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Retrospective post for 14th November 2016)

Ever since "Flamingo" was purchased, (and notwithstanding any engine issues), her performance has been decidedly lack-luster.  She took a very long while to get going, and although would achieve good canal speeds eventually, still seemed to need to have the engine driven at higher RPM than you might have hoped were required for the speed achieved.

However far more serious an issue was stopping, which "Flamingo" was really very bad at.  Even thrown hard into reverse, with the engine running very fast, she would only "scrub off" speed very slowly.and the final stop seemed forever in coming.  The very first lock we ever took her though I went in at what I thought was a ridiculously cautious low speed just in case.  I soon found myself with the engine flat out, masses of black exhaust, but not a lot happening under the counter, and I thumped the cill quite hard, being able to lose all the speed in the length available.

Locks we could deal with - just tackle them even more cautiously, but where you met boats at blind bridge holes on bends things could be "interesting" to say the least.  We certainly had our moments, though, fortunately, no serious collisions.

Also if you were trying to power round a bend, often the power to get the required steering was not adequate.  You were then faced either with trying to wind on more power, knowing if it went wrong a collision with the side would be harder, or throwing it into reverse to abort the move.  If you did the latter you lost most control, and often it would not stop in time then without at least some touching of the side.  I learned much about what "Flamingo" would not do going round, (or not going around!), the well known ninety degree bends in Cassiobury Park - something I have had no trouble with in another ex "Grand Union" boat.

OK, I know it is a big heavy boat, the cabin conversion effectively making it "part loaded", but things clearly were not right, so the propeller had to be suspect.  We already knew that the ends of two of the blades were somewhat bent over, which could not be helping, but we thought more was wrong than this.  Our visit to Brinklow Boat Services included our own first ever docking of the boat, so also the first chance to investigate the propeller.

The propeller fitted proved to measure up as 25 1/4" diameter - that bit is fine.  What didn't seem right was its "pitch" - basically a measure of how flat or angled the blades are to the boss.  The propeller was not marked with size, by Brinklow estimated it as less than 17" pitch, whereas most indicators would suggest over 20" pitch was needed with this engine gearbox and boat.

All agreed that a propeller with a larger pitch was required.  It should be possible for specialists to "re-pitch" a propeller, and we contacted a well known name in the business who thought they probably could.  The challenge was to get this achieved whilst "Flamingo" could stay in the dry dock, so Cath and I did a whistle-stop tour from Hertfordshire to collect the prop from Brinklow and deliver it to Isleworth, before returning home.  Sadly we had not been home long before they rang and said they could not do it - we would need to collect it next day, and were back to the drawing board!  They also said they thought the current pitch was less even than Brinklow's estimate, and hence it was even further from the kind of number we needed than we at first thought.

Another of the well known names for narrow boat propeller work was contacted.  They simply said that if the firm we had taken it to could not do it, they were not going to be able to either.  So we had no modified prop, and enquiries about replacements initially talked of months of lead time for delivery.

Then Dave at Brinklow drew our attention to FAL Scottish Propeller Services in Banffshire.  They might be able to supply us a replacement to arrive to go on before the boat had to come out of dock, and we started to go down that route, until Brinklow discovered the boat could not stay on dock as long as they thought.  Unfortunately our options to sort it out in a single docking were now exhausted.

However FAL reckoned they would be able to re-pitch our existing prop, even though another specialist firm had said they could not.  On this basis I dispatched it to them.  (Incidentally, the whole story of trying to hand over in excess of 20Kg of wrapped bronze propeller to the counter staff in your local post office could make an entire blog post in its own right!).

FAL reckoned the current pitch on the prop to be little more than 15", whereas general consensus was it needed to be at least 20" and probably as much as 22".  In the end I decided that 15" to 22" was a massive change, and I wasn't quite brave enough that that would not overload the engine.  We asked for 21" - still a fairly massive increase from 15".

Surprisingly quickly a shiny and very different looking propeller was back with us.  However by now "Flamingo" was re-floated without one, and the dock was not now available for a few more weeks.  No urgency then to deliver the prop to Brinklow - it could go with us on our next routine visit.  Everybody wanted to know if it would fix the problem, but that we would not know for some weeks!

I would strongly recommend FAL Scottish Propeller Services - not a name you might immediately associate with narrow boats, but very efficient - they did what they said, remarkably quickly, and at a reasonable cost.

Monday, 9 January 2017

"Flamingo" - A Boat Temporarily With No Engine.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Retrospective Post For Tuesday October 18th 2016)

We didn't know what lay below this useless tray.
I don't believe that any photographic record got made of the full clean up task that we faced once "Flamingo's" engine was removed, which is a shame because we are now unable to prove just how bad it was!

Large amounts of effort had already been made by this stage.
The shot above taken at engine removal time simply shows a large and cumbersome steel tray that had been placed below the engine many years ago, but this was just about totally masking all access to the bilge areas underneath it.  Our best working assumption is that the engine is the same reconditioned Lister HA2 that Willow Wren fitted to "Flamingo" in 1968, and it seems likely it has never until now been removed since.  Hence the oil tray has been masking the bottom of the boat for maybe nearly 50 years.

The bottom at this point is original, we believe - 80 years old.
At some point somebody obviously decided the engine leaked enough oil that they could not be bothered to mop up from the tray, so one corner of it has been attacked by drills and saws, in a bid to cause the collected oil to drop out of it, (only partially successfully!).

Still not looking that clean, unfortunately.
I wish we had taken a picture of the horrors that lay beneath that tray, but it seems we did not.  Initially it was a digging out job, rather than a mopping out job, there being several inches of silt, totally impregnated with spilled oil and grease, topped off with water that we hoped was rain water, rather than canal water.

Detail of pipework and valves that link the two fuel tanks.
By the time these pictures were taken we had already spent many days trying to clean and de-grease the bits we could get to, and upon advice about suitable solvents had consumed large amounts of Jizer, Gunk (including Gunk Ultra) and White Spirit.  Every time you thought you were making some progress, and tried to wipe it down, it became apparent that every square inch of steel, and every rivet head, still had a lot more grime to give up.

Blanked off former water inlets for original National engine.
A truly horrible job that regularly caused me to question our own sanity -  was it ever going to be clean enough to try painting, or were we just wasting our time?  Because the engine was out, we had no capability to make electricity, and were only able to contemplate this work in the freezing cold, because most of the time we could plug into a land-line at Brinklow Boat Services, (we have solid fuel heating, but unfortunately still have a hungry 240 volt central heating pump that needs to be kept running).

Interesting construction with one plate shaped to pass over the next.
An added complication is that more than half of the bottom of the boat was still obscured by the large underfloor fuel tanks.  We had no opportunity to get these out, so undoubtedly a similar mess still lies over most of the area beneath those.  This of course, continually resulted in a black mess flowing out from those areas and further recontaminating the areas we could work on.

The fuel tanks still prevented cleaning other bits of the bottom plates.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Further Progress On "Flamingo's" Engine

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Retrospective Post For Monday October 10th 2016)

Dave had made a lot more progress on our engine by the time of this visit, only a week and a half after that covered in my previous post.

Sue at Marine Engine Services (West Midlands) had managed to obtain new genuine Lister pistons - having heard elsewhere about problems with Indian made copy parts I was keen to avoid that route as much as we could.  The pistons were oversized ones, but Sue had also managed to secure some re-bored barrels to suit.  The crankshaft had also been reground via Marine Engine Services (WM), and suitable bearing shells acquired that were also not Indian made parts.  It is now getting harder to source genuine parts for these engines, and I consider we have done fairly well in the circumstances

Dave was now making good progress with building up the engine.

Looking much cleaner than in previous posting

From the other end

Pistons and bores still to fit

Just about everything has been dismantled & rebuilt

From above

I'll not pretend I know what each bit is.

New oversized piston and bore

There are two of them, of course.

Cylinder heads - valves, guides and tapprts deemed to all be OK

Alongside the above Brinklow Boat Services had also been patching up the damage resulting from taking the roof off.  There was still more to do than shown in this photo, but it already has had one badly wasted edge cut away, and replaced in brand new steel.

We also had a rather spurious mushroom vent removed, and the hole welded up.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Progress On "Flamingo's" Engine

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Retrospective Post For Friday September 30th 2016)

Just on from a fortnight after the Lister HA2 was craned out at Brinklow Boat Services, we were back there to start to consider the issue of the absolutely foul mess of oil, grease, water and "silt".  Currently most was under an ineffective oil catchment tray, (which someone had actually wrecked the end of, so most oil was flowing out of it and under it - some odd decisions have been made by previous owners of "Flamingo"!)).

We were pleased to find Dave had made good progress on dismantling just about the whole engine, and was already trying to source the best new parts we could acquire, (which is now harder with the Lister HA series engines than it used to be).

On the whole I will not make too many detailed comments on the photos, because I'm fairly confident that if I try to, I will get plenty wrong!

The engine had already had a new front oil seal, but was not working well now

Good progress on clearing out sludge that should not have been there.

We were expecting the pistons and bores to be very worn - they were!

As were the main bearings - the crank-shaft would need regrinding.

Big end bearings were also bad, but not as bad.

Some of the more complex bits!

Not a lot more prep to do before some of it can start to be reassembled.