Hi, one and all!, Paul has asked that I do a small profile on me and my mechanical marvels and I am happy to oblige. I am 52, married to Marie for 27 years (into injury time surely) and have three daughters aged 21, 18 and 16 none of whom is particularly interested in mechanical things although they can acquit themselves reasonably at the helm or throttle. I am a dentist with three practices and 20 staff and am quite busy. The last three years have been hectic. I am vice president of the Auckland Steam Engine Society Inc.
I have been interested in steam since age four when, in England, I stood in awe of the local garage man who had a couple of traction engines and a blower Bentley -what an archetypal enthusiast and well ahead of his time.
Having a passion for boats, engines and vintage sports cars, I have pursued all three at varying times since my teens. I have had numerous old MGs (mainly prewar) and rebuilt a 3 litre Bentley - now in Australia. About 10 years ago, I bought a Stuart 6 compound and had a hull and boiler made to suit. My dear friend Graeme Wilkinson urged me on and designed the boiler -a quite successful unit comprising 76 vertical fire tubes dry fire box all in a very strong shell coal fired of course. A very good steamer and many have been made since.
June 1988, there was meeting of traditional small craft one rainy blowy weekend and since "Gypsy" was complete apart from paint, I took her along. We had steamed her on dry land but I did want to see where the waterline was so we launched her. She went very well, and three hours later we retrieved her. For all the time I had her, she did not miss a beat, all the original engineering was good and required minor detail attention but we had no problems. I finally sold her to Mark Balemi another member of the Auckland Steam Society and she is often used. It always gives me a great feeling to see her under way.
Some time in the early 90s, we were steaming on a tidal estuary just north of here and made the acquaintance of Alec Baxter builder of very traditional boats in Whangarei. We obviously all made an impression on him, because Alex designed and laid the keel of "Romany" the following week.
Tragically, Alec died before his dream was launched and I bought her from the estate. She is similar size to "Gypsy" but very much more burdensome and traditional with heavy timbers. I have a 3 x 4 Bolton engine and a Stuart designed vertical fire tube boiler with a wet fire box. It should go well and I am hoping to finish her in the next few months.
On to infernal combustion. I have two ancient engines. The first is a 5hp Frisco Standard. This was a local engine and was taken out of a boat in the 50s and used to power a saw bench. Having fresh water through it saved it from the usual corrosion that kills pensioned off marine engines. I noticed a similar engine on the mud flats. Because of the open crankcase, I thought it might be steam and waded over to investigate but saw that it was beyond help. I located the owner of the house and she eventually sold me its mate. Graeme did the final fitting and it was started this time last year by running the wheel of a Range Rover on the flywheel to turn it over. It runs well and I have a video of the great event which I will crop and send to you sometime.
The other engine is a NZ made Zelandia. This is 9 hp from its name plate but it seems small. It is probably about 1910, has a low tension ignition and automatic inlet valve. It has forward and reverse gear. I bought it in very good condition last year and it runs well -very easy to start unlike the Standard.. It is inaccessible in the garage and I cannot take a photo of it.
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