Members of the Royal College of Science and Imperial College (past and present) are invited to the RCSMC & RCSA Dinner on the 23rd of March 2024 at the London Museum of Water and Steam. The event promises to be a fantastic evening; With after-hours museum access, steaming engines, a wonderful dinner, plenty of speeches, and excellent company, its an event not to be missed. Tickets are on sale now! For more information and to purchase your tickets, use the link below:
All the way back in early November last year (sorry for the delay) we took on our usual role supporting Bo’ and all the other very old vehicles, with our slightly newer ones, at the VCC London to Brighton Run.
With a cloudy forecast ahead of us, the day promised to be an enjoyable outing (or at least more dry than last year). Jez had spent the night camping outside the garage due to a faulty door, and so having untarped her, done the usual checks, and ensured everyone was present we set off early to see Bo’ across the line. Some last minute checking ensued while Hyde Park corner was enveloped in various exhaust gases from the old vehicles. And with that the run began.
It was fortunately fairly uneventful for us. The weather stayed mostly clear and we managed to stay on route with no (major) detours. Our only challenge, upon hearing our usual food and drink spot ‘The Jolly Tanners’ was closed for refurbishment, was to locate an adequate pub in good time; Fortunately Team Bo’ were on hand to recommend one to us. With food and drink sorted we were left to enjoy the run.
We took our time this year, sticking fairly close to Bo’ for the whole run. Whether this was due to overly-long refreshment stops, a reluctantly admitted admiration for Bo’s effort, or a certain driver stalling on a hill while showing off Fourth gear (*cough* Knifey letting Bo overtake us on a hill *cough*) is still up for debate. No matter the reason, it was a great opportunity to watch Bo’ on his triumphant drive to Brighton. The run finished with Bo’ passing over the finish line just in time, with a crowd of support on Madeira Drive. Unfortunately, we soon remembered that Jez and Clem did not have the luxury of being trailered home by a Volvo like Bo’ did, and we quickly realised we ought to set off back to London.
The drive home was mostly just cold and dark – so nothing extraordinary. Clem took a “known detour” which ended up being more adequately described as a slightly terrifying run down a horribly uneven country road with very low branches. After this Clem was able to speed back to London with those needing to catch trains home, while Jez was left to fend for radiator water from whatever tap she could find.
The evening was finished with Jez being put away in the garage, to be shut in there until estates decided to repair our door.
With some of our older student members deciding to do something responsible and go and get jobs, the garages were short of a few people to administer Brasso in large quantities. It was time to begin recruitment for this academic year. The RCSU banner was hung, floorboards Jeizered, brass polished, and the Risk assessment which was submitted weeks in advance finally got last minute approval. We first attended welcome fair where we saw a great amount of engagement from students. All four vehicles made it there (50% under their own power) and lined up for an excellent display on campus.
That same evening Jez was taken round to Eastside to give incoming students rides around the local area. Clem, Bo and Derrick were all also in attendance but were unfortunately not in a suitable condition to give students lifts. After a couple introductory garage sessions involving plenty of grease cap filling and a brief ride to the pub Jez had a bit of respite before we went to Hyde Park for our first pumping trip. It was the usual regurgitating-of-high-velocity-water related fun everyone can enjoy and saw a fresher turnout outnumbering pre-existing members. One pedalboat was successfully (but I must say accidentally) sprayed and Jez did not sink into the floor as Hyde Park seemed to think she might.
After this Jez spent an entire day outside the Royal Albert Hall for commemoration day but it was remarkably wet and remarkably uneventful so I’ll move on. Jez rounded up her eventful start to the year with the RCSU pub crawl. The students where given their pub crawl related merch, the Kangela was unenthusiastically chanted, and with that Jez made her way off to begin the pub crawl. The weather was again dreadful but many students enjoyed a drive around South Kensington all the same.
With all the events finally over we were able to complete some much needed maintenance. We completed a yearly inspection (which hadn’t been done since 2019) of the rear wheels and brakes. It was a long day but a good chance for students new and old to learn how to do an important job. With that Jez was practically ready for Brighton Run a couple of weeks later.
A year for the RCSMC would not be complete without our annual summer trip to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway to attend their Steam Festival. The event always promises to deliver plenty of interesting old vehicles, palatable ales and questionable meals made by alumni, and this year was no different.
Like basically all of our events, we started by actually driving there. It was an early start (for students at least) as all the vehicles made their way south before a quick stop for breakfast. You would think that after so many years of travelling to the Island, at least one person on each vehicle would be familiar with the route and you’d of course be wrong, everyone got lost. While Clem struggled up a hill that was far too steep for her recently rebuilt engine, Jez decided to avoid the terrifying A3 by taking a poorly thought through detour around a quaint vineyard and golf club. She crawled her way along a track the DVLA promised wasn’t a through road and tackled oversized speed bumps before finally being thwarted by a delivery van that refused to move for 10 minutes.
After a main road was finally found again everyone regrouped at Midhurst where much bread, cheese and pastries were purchased for the ferry ride. It was around this time the weather took a turn for the worst and absolutely everyone regretted picking the vehicles without a roof. We managed to make the ferry crossing on time in order to enjoy putting our tents up which was promptly finished upon finding out the beer tent was open.
Having established our camp (and more importantly where the beer was purchased) the fair could begin. As usual Jez and Clem stole the show in the various showcases while Bo and Derek were broken. Jez also got to participate in her first and final “Man and Machine” of this year before she was unfortunately grounded by poor weather. One welcome addition at this year’s fair was Jez’s newly acquired reservoir allowing her to pump into the nearby trees without any need for a large body of water. Now all we needed was a ludicrously long hose and continuous water supply! Irrespective of the questionable setup we used, the pumping was a spectacle for many to enjoy.
All the vehicles also enjoyed a Road-Run out to freshwater bay where a previous Bo Driver kindly offered to show us around Fort Redoubt, his converted Palmerston Fort, which had plenty for us to explore. After learning much about its history we retired to the nearest beer vendor for an unfortunately short amount of time before we had to rush back for mystery stoo. This year’s additions included, but were by no means limited to, big chunks of lemon and fig rolls. No matter what it contained, it was undoubtedly better than the homogenous rice served only two days prior.
The final night was spent in a local pub where everyone enjoyed great food and company. Jez just about made it after stealing some fuel from another vehicle in order to dart to the nearest petrol station. We were up early for the ferry the next day. Fortunately, breakfast had already been sorted for that morning, however, it did consist entirely of hard-boiled eggs. After eating a frankly alarming number of them, we set off back home on what was a helpfully uneventful drive. All vehicles arrived back at the garages mostly in one piece as Clem now appeared to have a slightly wonky wheel. At least it’s something to keep people busy before fresher’s start turning up!
Jezebel was invited to join her kin at a show just for Dennis vehicles old and new at the Rural Life Living museum. The plan was to make it a day trip, leave nice and early, minimal stops on the way and spend as much time as possible interrogating other Dennis owners on who they get to repair their radiators. But that plan would be partially foiled by the po-po on the A3. Just as we left the A3 at Surbiton for a water stop the police officers asked us to pull over – no sirens, just a polite request from down within the open window of a police car.
They were not best pleased – they were scared for the passengers and like most officers they found it hard to wrap their heads around people sitting on Jez’s back. In fairness they did see a HGV make a particularly bad and close over take on the A3… but that’s a reason to pull them over, not us, right?
So there we were, driver waiting to see if they’d have a licence by the end of this interaction, and unsure if they’d force us on public transport while Jez is ‘recovered’ back to Imperial. Luckily the officers were able to admit their inability to properly assess the safety and legality of the situation, unfortunately this meant waiting for a specialist officer to arrive instead. This delayed us somewhat…. Once this specialist had arrived they soon resigned themselves to the fact that a 1916 fire engine is still legal, and given those are the seats, people can sit on them. But a compromise was made in the interest of everyone getting along – we would stick off the big duel carriage ways (a relief really, I don’t think we we’re gonna like the A3 getting any bigger than it was when we pulled off).
The rest of the driving was joyfully uneventful, so we made it to the show, fashionably late as always.
We saw many vehicles from LP8370 to DU179, to Mr Dennis’s VCC Dennis, and Dennis’ latest electric and hydrogen powered coaches. There were even an array of new and old Dennis lawn-mowers.
After much time basking in the sun, getting recommendations for various suppliers and peering into all manor of vehicle the time came for us to hurry home before it was too dark and gloomy. The trip back entailed far fewer police officers and Jez was back in the garage ready for a day of Great Exhibition Road Festival Alumni Tours the next day.
As the good weather and availability of students post-exams finally aligned it was time to engage in one of the club’s yearly pumping sessions. This involved the somewhat pointless task of pumping up water from the nearest body of water before almost immediately depositing it back in again, but now with some added velocity. Irrespective of how little we may have achieved the event was great fun for new students and experienced ones alike while also giving the public something to look at, and the paddleboarders something to evade.
We started at around midday with the usual servicing and pre-flight checks before heading of to our choice of waterfronts, in this case The White Cross pub in Richmond. The drive was fortunately uneventful until Google maps decided to take us down a street barely wide enough for Jez requiring some rather careful driving. Upon arrival the hoses were laid out, branches unloaded and (probably out of date) sun cream lathered on. After the usual safety briefing the Anaconda was lowered and the pumping began.
While many paddleboards and rowing boats were targeted by our jet streams, I must unfortunately report none were forced to scuttle. The general public gathered around Jez and asked the usual handful of questions just as “Big Bertha,” the affectionately named largest branch held on Jez, was brought out for a final show of the pump’s power.
Despite her affinity to water, we were not keen to see Jez attempt to float in the Thames so swiftly moved her before the tide did it for us. The ride home was filled with the exciting politics of an online AGM for the RCC, at which Jez’s impromptu dash cam stole the show before being rudely kicked off the screen in favour of a boring PowerPoint. It was then back to the garage for some much-needed rest.
In 2023 the HCVS couldn’t get their act together to host a Brighton Run that worked around some old bloke receiving a fancy hat. But no worries, because we made our own run!
On the 29th of April 2023 we hosted the inaugural ‘Run From Imperial’. The idea was simple: we invite all the alumni and anyone else with a tenuous link to the club to bring their own old piles of rust, and some less old piles of whatever material modern cars are made of, I’ll assume plastic. The Rural life living museum was kind enough to be our destination, and Imperial College Sports ground was our start (got to avoid that ULEZ).
We has hoped Clem would make it but her engine was not assembled yet, and for Bo, well it was a nice idea but with exams coming up students didn’t have the time to do what would effectively be a full Brighton-Run preparation for Bo.
At the start line I presented everyone with the most useless directions possible while still being technically correct. As an example the first section was written in badly drawn tulip maps (hand edited at Harlington that morning to account for unforeseen road closures).
The 12 cars (and union minibus) then took to the roads, and I think I can fairly say more than half of them got lost at some point or another. Perfect! That was all a cunning plan to slow them down since Jez was clearly going to be the slowest vehicle of the bunch. It worked so well until the navigator and driver failed to turn right into the first planned stop and had to loop back round.
The drive went without any major problems – just the usual leaks, but by the time we arrived at the museum everyone had an opinion on how to interpret passing on the ‘Rose and Thistle’s port side’. Most were wrong, and as much as that is an opinion, I wrote the route so by definition my opinion is the correct one.
We enjoyed our time at the museum where yet more alumni came to say hi. The narrow gauge railway was ridden and DU179 (a recent acquisition at the museum from Dennis Apprentices) was closely inspected.
As the museum closed fancy brass plaques were handed out – it’s not a proper run without some proper brass! The entrant vehicles were judged inside and out based on the most important of categories such as ‘Most visible rust’ and ‘least comfortable seating’. The overall winner was Tom Poskitt’s ‘The Vehicle Formerly Mistakenly Known as Penny-Marsh’, now sometimes know as Anne.
The next stop was dinner, and yet another alumnus arrived. It’s amazing how difficult it is too book for 30 guests 2 days before an event. But the Kings Head pulled though and much food was had.
From there it was back to the garage – it was cold and Kris got his photo taken. We haven’t heard anything about that since though, so that’s good.
The Union have said they are no longer going to host clubs and societies websites, this decision in our opinion is dumb, but alas the RCSA to the rescue. They have graciously agreed to host our website so we can continue to maintain a functioning web presence and publicly accessible information about the club, Jezebel, and Dennis fire engine in general.
Now in better news, how about a new old photo, or an ‘old’ new photo?
This was taken with Eric’s new-old toy, after repairing the tripod, cutting new frame glass, fixing several other problems and then spending upwards of 30 minutes just trying to get Jezebel in focus, here we are – and I think it came out quote well too. Jez is mid 500 mile service – there’s no slowing down progress for photography (well there was a little, the exposure time was 45 seconds!).
Sunday brought the promised rain, albeit in intermittent showers that lasted throughout the day. Between waking up and the exhibitor’s briefing, we had a little exploration of the Museum and the neighbouring Old Kiln Light Railway, to see what sorts of facilities and equipment they had that we could borrow. We were mainly looking for a thread file or an appropriate die to re-condition the threads on the worm shaft, a suitable heat source and metal shaping capabilities to re-shape the box joint knuckle, and welding equipment to hold it all together. Andy had manufactured a new retaining nut of his ‘special design’, per measurements taken the previous day on the roadside, and was bringing it in later in the day.
Alas, apart from some oxyacetylene, our hunt was not the most fruitful. With a bit of time to kill after the briefing and before Andy’s arrival, we pestered Paula from the Museum café for some breakfast, and milled around the grounds while waiting for a dry spell to take down tents and continue work on Jez.
Andy soon arrived in good time before lunch, and whipped us into action. We found Museum volunteers Pete and Stephen who shared good conversation and fine whiskey with us the night before, and they showed us what’s what inside the chaos of the Museum workshop. In no time at all, Andy had commandeered it – within an hour he had the knuckle wrangled back into submission with the generous application of oxyacetylene and the help of a vice.
With this major part of the repair out of the way – having gone surprisingly smoothly without anything else breaking – we all breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly, going home that day under Jez’s own power seemed kind of doable. We might actually make it!
Maintaining the momentum, Andy prepared and welded the knuckle in rapid succession, all in time for lunch before the kitchen closed. Fuelled, we turned our attention back to Jez – Eric took a file very carefully to her worm shaft threads, while Andy similarly started cleaning up the weld and re-conditioning the knuckle. The students mostly stood by and ‘supervised’ in between packing up our campsite.
The mangled key, thankfully recovered from Bagshot the day before, also got a little lick from a file, and soon enough all that was left to do before reassembly could commence was to machine Andy’s new retaining nut to make it sit flush with the knuckle. That was easily enough done on the Museum’s Colchester Bantam, and by 4pm we had all the parts ready to go back in Jez.
Kris crawled under yet again as the one with the most recent experience in taking it all apart – Ed Fagan had given us a deadline of 5:30pm and we wanted to move quickly. So naturally we had to enlist the help of one of the Museum’s big forklifts in the process, and it was in fact around 6:30pm before we were ready to attempt starting her engine. Unlike Friday and Saturday she took quite a lot of encouragement to oblige. Perhaps it was performance anxiety, what with all the people standing around with their cameras out, waiting to see her go. Or perhaps she was simply feeling mischievous, and wanted to keep us on edge.
After many turnovers, Kris took the wheel and the lady finally deigned to start – perhaps as a reward for all his hard work putting her back together! Her mighty roar was joined by great cheers from the crowd, but she wasn’t out of the woods yet. After all, her engine was never the trouble; it was her drivetrain that failed. The crowd watched with bated breath as she warmed up, while the Motor Club crew made the final preparations to leave. It had been decided that most of the people and things would go with Andy in his Ford, to keep the bulk of the weight off Jez and make it as easy on her as possible, just in case.
With the expectant crowd in mind, it wasn’t long before Eric got in the driver’s seat and stepped on the pedals. It was the moment of truth. To the crowd’s immense delight, she inched forward, and drove away from her patch of grass with no problem at all. Jez continued down through the Museum grounds to the exit, as smoothly as she ever did, to the sound of hurrahs and great celebration from the onlookers. We had done it! The rest of us said our hasty thank-yous and good-byes, piled into Andy’s car, and gave chase.
Jez made steady but speedy progress towards home. At one point we stopped at Jack’s of Bagshot to check her oil pipes, because she didn’t seem to be showing any oil pressure. Satisfied that everything was fine after all and spurred on by the sight of dark clouds in the East, we sped off again, this time with more confidence in our one-day repair holding up, and a fuller continent aboard Jez.
Miles later, it was a significantly damper – but no less spirited – crew that opened the doors to the Motor Club garage back on campus, and drove Jez back into her home.
As I write this now, Jez has been disassembled again and work is under way to do a proper job of the repair. Much needs to be done – the worm shaft needs building up and a new taper and thread machined, the spare knuckle needs to be finished to fit or a new one made, and perhaps a new method of securing the two together needs to be devised. The last time the rear box joint failed, in much the same manner, was in 2015 when Jez was en route to Odiham. With any luck (and plenty of thinking and tinkering and elbow grease), our efforts this time will last us many more years into the future, and bring Jez to a great number of events such as the Rural Life Living Museum’s fire engine show. In the meantime, it’s the garage for us and for Jez.
It has been a long time since Jez and her crew were able to attend events. It has been an even longer time since this ‘blog’ has been updated – but now that Jez has finally attended her first official event last weekend, I figured it was time to dust off this old thing as well. (We’ll see if it lasts!)
It can hardly be said that the event had auspicious beginnings. At the end of May 2021, Jez (and the rest of the vehicles) was kindly invited to the Rural Life Living Museum’s fire engine show in early July by Ed Fagan, long-time friend and avid supporter of the RCS Motor Club. At that time, her carburettor water jacket fitting was still cracked open, and the majority of students were away from London – including the entire committee! Garage sessions had barely resumed after a long stint of inactivity. We had a month to fix the part, ensure that she is in good mechanical condition, and obtain permission from the Union to actually attend the event.
As it turns out, a month passes by rather quickly when it’s exam season, and even quicker still during these strange times. One month on, most of the regular servicing has been completed, and the water fitting had been silver soldered, but not very well. Work continued. Nothing had been arranged with the Union yet, and with four days left to go, paperwork was filled out and submitted. Thankfully, preliminary permission was granted the next day – and on the same day, Jez’s engine ran for the first time since November 2020! Unfortunately, she didn’t run for long at all – the water fitting repair proved to be a failure, and she leaked water all over the carburettor.
Just as we were about to give up on Jez attending the fire engine show that weekend, Andy Pugh piped up and offered to make the new part for Jez (while tutting the students for not upholding the old motor club tradition of ‘midnight welding’), and to help us install it.
Friday rolled around, and things seemed optimistic. Andy showed up at the garage with a very shiny piece of brass and made short work of the fitting. Before long, Jez was ready to go – she even started on the very first try! The drivers were soon reminded of how bad Jez’s brakes were while doing rounds through the campus, but otherwise all seemed fine with the old lady.
Alas, we should have known that things were going too smoothly.
Saturday dawned slightly gloomy, but soon the sun shone despite the thunderstorm forecast. It was a cheery crew of 9 that set off towards Farnham on Jez. She cruised along quite happily on the A30, and we eventually arrived at Bagshot, where we stopped for a late breakfast (the second breakfast, for some). With less than 20 miles left to go, we had expected to arrive at the Rural Life Living Museum in good time, so Ed Stow took over as apprentice driver under Eric’s guidance. Jez pulled away with a little jolt, and made it up a gentle slope before stopping for a T-junction. We tried to pull away once, twice, thrice – she didn’t seem to want to go. Eric took over the wheel, but Jez still refused to move. It was then we realised something might be wrong.
Her engine sounded fine, her clutch spun, as did the under-floor box joints. Was it the universal joint? The rear box joint? The diff? To our dread, for a moment it looked like the entire visible drivetrain was fully functional, which would have meant there was something wrong in the differential! Thankfully, we were just about able to see that the worm shaft wasn’t spinning – meaning the rear box joint was at fault instead.
After rolling her back safely into a roadside parking spot, Kris volunteered to get greasy and proceeded under Jez to disassemble the box joint. Soon enough the point of failure was unveiled – the rear box joint knuckle had cracked open.
Calls were made and people messaged. Ed Fagan expressed his condolences at the news, and attempted to entice us to bring Jez to the Museum anyways by offering the full use of the Museum’s facilities as well as the expertise of the people there. Discussion back and forth concluded that a reasonable attempt at repairs could be made on site, and so we were swayed. Transport was arranged for Jez and crew to bring us onwards to the Museum, to see what we could do there – if all fails, then Jez would be allowed to ‘sleep over’ in one of the Museum buildings until we could get her back to London.
Making good use of the time while we waited for our respective rides, we started coming up with a preliminary repair plan, and took measurements (with the provision of a vernier caliper from a bike shop mechanic) of the parts to help facilitate that. Assessment of the knuckle and worm shaft showed that the thread between the shaft and the knuckle retaining nut was severely worn, and likely caused the entire assembly to loosen and rattle in place until the knuckle eventually tore itself apart along the keyway. More plans were made, and people contacted.
Ed Fagan’s friends Pete and Pat showed up eventually with their Land Rovers to pick up the majority the crew, and a low loader soon followed suit for Jez. We arrived at the Museum with much fanfare, and with some help got her heaved into position. It was a somewhat tired crew that settled down for a few drinks with great relief before the excellent evening exhibitor’s meal, where we had more than our fair share of hearty casseroles, shepherd’s pies, and the like. We washed it all down with a fantastic selection of desserts, two bottles of home-brewed cider made from apples grown right there on Museum grounds, and a healthy side of company and conversation.
(Continued in Part 2.)