by Ian Larsen

I wanted to bring members up to speed with what has been happening on the Foden traction engine over the past months.  Serious work started on it before SteamFest, and the engine has now been basically stripped down to its component parts.

A few items still defy us- in particular the Crankshaft which is proving extremely troublesome to remove and to date we have spent several days in a so far vain attempt to remove it. Until it is out we cannot complete the strip down of the engine to the bare boiler.

However, we have grit blasted the boiler externally and painted it with anti-corrosive paint which has improved its looks dramatically. Yet even this task has been problematic in obtaining a large capacity air compressor, abrasive grit and blast machine. Our site has also meant that often we have been unable to blast because dust is blowing into the back yards of adjacent homes.

Aaron Brimfield and Terry Dooley in particular came to our aid with the blasting and have loaned us this equipment, saving us thousands of dollars in the process. In addition, Aaron purchased and donated 1tonne of abrasive garnet- thanks guys, this grit is almost spent and we still have the wheels to do. But I hope to obtain some funding and more grit soon.

With winter knocking on the doorstep we really need to crack on and get the wheels blasted and painted so they can be refitted to the engine, and we can get it off the boggy ground it is sitting on and into the new shed under cover, this will at least enable work to proceed over the wet and cold winter months, and more importantly stop it sinking out of sight! We have found that the quickest and best method of cleaning it back is to roughly needle gun the thick layers of paint off 1st than go over it with the grit blaster to clean up- once blasted it must be kept dry and painted within a few hours or flash rusting will set in. So if you have some time to spare we would welcome some volunteers to needle gun, blast or paint and get this done. We would also like to return the compressor to Aaron who has been more than patient. Remember we are there every Thursday and I will make every effort to be there at other times if this suits you better.

We have recently attracted a new regular worker to the project- David Lyall. David is retired and comes up every Thursday to help out which is welcome assistance indeed. Shane Tunks is also winding up to be very busy on the project, as he has committed to carry out the required boiler welding repairs, as well as construct a complete new tender for free- thanks Shane it really is appreciated! However, we need to assist these guys, and one of the areas we need some assistance with is to obtain a sizable quantity of charcoal- Why? Probably the most important issue for this project-is to save money. So Shane and I are going to manufacture our own rivets which will be a considerable saving against purchasing them, and as we also can’t really afford to purchase oxy or LPG gas to heat the steel we are using the traditional method of forging them ourselves, by heating in a forge fire. I always knew that misspent youth as a Blacksmiths striker would come in handy. So if you know where there is a burnt windrow that may be able to be picked over to collect charcoal or if you are prepared to help us make some on site that would be awesome and allow Shane & me to concentrate on other tasks. Again it’s easy if time consuming work but vitally important to the project.

Money for the project is always very hard to come by, but by doing things in a slower but cheaper way we can save a lot of money, but we really need your help to achieve this.

Boiler Repair

Once the engine is in the new shed we plan to commence the actual boiler repair which at this stage mainly involves building up wasted areas by pad welding, and applying two flush patches to areas too far gone to reclaim by pad welding. To do this the cylinder block has to be removed- it has been unbolted and as soon as we can remove the two internal nipples, can be lifted off to allow access to the areas to be built up. Whist off, it too can be blast cleaned, painted and generally got ready for replacement, mechanically it appears to be  in good condition with little work expected to be required.

The front tubeplate will also have to be replaced as well as the tubes, our preferred option would be to have a tubeplate pressed as per original but cost and lack of money may force us to utilise a fabricated type that we can produce ourselves. To give yet another example of how we can save substantial amounts of money and keep the old skills alive it would cost well in excess of $5000 to have a tubeplate and rivets made by a contractor- we feel we can produce one “in house” for >$1500.00 and our time and that includes purchasing some expensive tooling.

Plans are afoot to start to remove the tubeplate rivets soon by removing the heads and punching out with my pneumatic rivet buster and back out punch.


Once the cylinder is off (if not before) we can remove the motion. This needs to be blast cleaned then polished. Perhaps someone would like to compile a letter to 3M seeking the donation of a box or two of polishing discs? Once polished it can be lightly oiled to prevent rusting and placed into secure storage. This is the ideal job for someone who wants to get involved but possibly feels they may not know enough for some of the more technical work- trust me it is vitally important work that frees others up to do additional tasks.


The gearing is sad, and barely useable- and I have already put out feelers for its replacement, but we will have to wait for some funding as I expect that this may well cost up to $10000.00. Originally the gears would have been forged or cast, then the gears finish machined, however with modern casting techniques we can get away with it being cast only, with only the bore requiring machining. However it’s still going to be expensive.

Good news!

Finally, some good news just in! Chris Martin obtained an old steel tractor seat; similar to what Foden’s supplied for the steersman- it was destined for scrap. But he also delivered another surprise- a cast steering wheel from the same source. Not an original Foden wheel, but when I compared it to my drawing collection it is near enough a dead ringer for an Aveling steering wheel- a bit of adjustment and it will not look out of place at all.

But wait- there’s more as they say. I was lamenting to Chris about our stocks of blasting grit being almost exhausted, so he undertook to ring Clarkes painting to see if we could obtain any spent grit, and to find out where they get theirs from. Chris rang back a short time later to tell me that Clarke’s had an all but inexhaustible supply of spent grit we can have. After discussion about the project they offered to grit blast and undercoat all the wheels for free.

Still more- as major users of Dulux protective paints they have undertaken to ask the rep to supply all the paints and protective coatings required for the project as a donation- thanks Chris and Clarkes painting- these will really push the project along.

I also contacted the Welding Technology Institute of Australia, and it looks like they are going to supply free welding procedures. So there is a lot of support and assistance out there you only have to ask. (And find the time)  

Of course there is still a whole lot more to be done, other than what I have outlined but I am confident that we can achieve it if we can only get a few more workers. I’ll finish off with a request, does anybody have a Pickering governor they will donate or sell to the project?
Don’t forget for the computer savvy our FaceBook page Foden 2012 restoration which is updated after every visit to Sheffield.
Hope to see you soon, but if you are coming please make contact in case of the unlikely event that we are not there 63134370.

Ian Larcher