A site for the news and history of the RCSMC and their pride and joy Jezebel

Month: July 2021

Pugh to the Rescue (Rural Life Living Museum Fire Engines on Show Part 2)

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. 

Look Who’s Back (Rural Life Living Museum Fire Engines on Show Part 1)

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.)