Copyright © 2015-16 Stan Bell. All rights reserved.   stan.bell@systemsoft.co.uk

NVR 40t Steam Crane

6th September 2015

The Boiler Saga continues


Steel bars for the grate have been delivered to Top Farm and cut to size before moving them to Wansford.  Stan has drilled holes (3 holes in each of 32 bars) so that they can be assembled into 8 4-bar sections using threaded rod to tie them together with cast iron spacers to provide the air-gap. The cast-iron rod from which the spacers will be made has been delivered but no work has yet been done on it.  This is still work-in-progress but  there should be a picture of the grate in the next post.


The boiler itself has been heatproof painted by Clifford and, with more help from Clifford, and from Ken, we’ve wrapped it in lagging and Richard and Stan have started to fix on the cladding.


Stan has top-coated the inside of the cab and it’s now ready to accept the boiler.

Clifford’s handiwork, the boiler is all shiny and new-looking

Clifford’s work covered in lagging and cladding.  Must remember to cut out the lagging so that we can get at the firehole door.

9th September 2015

Components for the grate were collected together on the shaping bed, which was used as a workbench for assembly.

















Bars on the left, spacers on the right.











Graham was deputed to cut some 12mm threaded rod into 6.5” sections.


























As the rod sections came off the production line, Perry used them to join 4 bars and 12 spacers to create a grate segment.



When all 8 segments were assembled, they were moved to the welding area and DOC started permanently fixing the components of each segment.



































Special high-nickel welding rods were used to ensure a solid weld between the steels bars and cast-iron spacers.

Making a grate.

Finishing touches on the boiler

Richard and Stan completed the side cladding and then fixed the top panel.


Richard and Dave adjusted the angle brackets that fix the boiler to the crane. These replacement items were slightly too wide to fit inside the chassis, so Dave trimmed them down to size and Richard fixed them to their final locations at the base of the boiler.


It’s hard to see this in the photos but Clifford has cleaned up all the fitting flanges, including freeing nuts that had become attached to their studs more firmly than the stud was attached to the flange.  He’s also checked that all gaskets are prepared, ready for attachment once the boiler’s in the crane.


Once the boiler is back in the cab, it’s not possible to get into these areas.  


Post Office Red paint was used, which contrasts with the rest of the crane (it’s in “Poppy Red”).  With any luck, nobody will see this again for 10 years.

We think that’s almost it before installing the boiler.  We’ll probably fit the grate into the boiler first because we can use the overhead crane to help manipulate the weight (estimated at about 150-200 kilos)


The boiler brass fittings will be attached after the installation - to reduce chances of damage during the lift.

DOC spent all Tuesday drilling a half-inch hole through the centre of a cast iron bar and slicing it into 86 spacers .

13th September 2015

We’re all ready to reinstall the boiler - the condenser has been replaced in the cab corner where it lives, and the inputs (from exhaust steam and drain cocks) connected up.  The condenser outputs (drain and chimney) still need attaching but the chimney goes on after the boilers is installed, the drain is waiting for a painted pipe to dry, then will take 5 minutes to fix.


The grate is complete and installed.  In the end we didn’t need to use the crane - A temporary support was installed inside the firebox and the grate sections were slid over it and into position.


Fantastic work by David O’Connell and Richard Busby.  It looks far too good to set a fire in it.

The most beautiful grate in the world.  As almost everyone has commented, it’s been a great team effort.

Condenser tucked neatly in the corner.  Steel tube support to be replaced with hardwood.

16th September 2015

The boiler’s back in the crane.


We took off the cab side panels to allow access at reduced height from the yard.


Careful driving by Alan Whenman and skilful guidance by Richard Busby saw the boiler slip snag-free into the cab.  It’s a very close fit - not much more than 1cm on each side.


Safely bolted down onto the fixing studs, we’ve now started to attach the boiler fittings and connections..

23rd September 2015

Steam Up!


As expected, a few of the fittings needed tightening as the boiler warmed up and expanded.  Gauge glasses were a bit problematical - they’re not quite the right length and so need careful location to ensure the seals close completely.  Richard’s expert touch achieved this after a few minutes. We’re looking for some longer ones.


At around 60psi we saw a small blow from one of the mudhole door seals.  Fortunately, both injectors (recently overhauled) worked perfectly and the rate at which water was lost was easily matched (and beaten).  So we continued for a while and got to 80psi before allowing the fire to die and the boiler to cool slowly.


A very brief run of the engine served two purposes - check the tightness of the repaired steampipe, and consume some of the steam.


A few things still to attend to - blower connector is not steamtight, one injector is dribbling and, of course, the blow in the mudhole door.  


On the whole a very satisfactory session - grate works perfectly, firebox appears to be dry.  Insurance inspection next week.

Richard adjusts the location of one of the gauge glasses.  A good reference shot of the knitting pipework leading to the injectors and clacks.

Pressure gauge shows just under 80psi.  Next week it’ll be 120.

30th September 2015

A fantastic day.  Doubly special with a successful  formal steam test and a visit from ex-Holbeck BD supervisor Barry Redfearn.


Steam Test first.   The blowing mudhole door had a new gasket fitted and checked OK at the weekend, the other niggles also fixed.  As we’d seen last week Boiler performed extremely well - this time up to the full 120 psi (actually just below, the safety valves being set at about 117).


Barry’s visit.  He’d got in touch with the NVR and had arranged with Hannah and Brian White that he, his daughter and granddaughter could visit and have a close look at the crane.  We all chatted around the crane for some time, then Barry and girls disappeared to get some lunch while the inspection took place.  Then when they came back, we got the crane operational and showed him our expertise in raising the jib, slewing around and dropping the rope.  As well as being a nice demonstration it was a useful exercise for us - it’s been nearly 9 months since the crane was in action and we needed to know all parts could be operated without problem.

Friends re-united. Barry meets Gladys, separated for nearly 40 years.

Video camera in action as the jib goes up for the first time since February.