St.Albans and District Model Engineering Society

August 2023 Club Night Report

August 2023 Club evening.

There was much to do during our club evening.  There was a need for names against jobs to make the 2023 exhibition a success.  There had been several donations and these were shown to members on the tables at the back of the hall. The large No. 9 Meccano set has gone to a new owner and the yacht is shortly to follow to a new member.  All monies going to club funds.  I brought in a fishing boat in need of setting up, it was agreed with the donor that we would get her working for the September exhibition, but it looks like the task has fallen to me.  Any offers are welcome!


Our Chairman emphasized the need for help with the exhibition which is our main income for the year, with all members benefitting from it.  The club is to have a stand at the Clarence Park show on 20th of August and a team is needed, it was doubtful if we had enough members to run the track as well.  We also had an update about the on-going situation at the Puffing Field planning permission process.

After the club business was completed, I took over the microphone and detailed the format of the evening for the membership.  Brian is our speaker and will demonstrate the safe way to fire up a G1. loco.

Brian was no stranger to us and started his talk on safety and lighting up his G1 steam loco.  Brian likes spirit burners and uses biofuel, this has a high calorific content but it is clear, like water, and so he adds a little drop of meths for colour.  Safety and success go hand in hand and having all he needs in a box makes it easier.

For the less educated amongst us, me included, Brian showed a nearly open chassis and detailed where the fuel came through to the burner and the path of the water on arrival at the boiler.  It was quite a complex and compact set up but it had to be within the space constraints of 45mm gauge.

The method of fitting the wick into the burner with the liquid fuel was very precise and an essential start to getting things right.  To aid the demonstration our film director Rob was on-hand to film all close up and show it live on the screen above.

Brian also showed that the level of the fuel in the tender had to be at a precise level with that in the burner container, or as he called it, ‘the sump’.  Either flooding or insufficient flow would happen if this was not observed.  The slow feed of fuel was also necessary, as that could flood the system as well leading to a fire of rather more heat than expected.

Now we all went outside, it was a very pleasant evening and no hardship.  Using the table out there and putting down some aluminium sheet as protection with Brian's loco support holder we gathered round.

A quick review of the safety items, a water spray and litre of water marked 'water' was pointed to and then the fuel container was partly filled as had been described.  A light was applied and a blower resting on the funnel was switched on.  Although called a blower it sucks air across the burner to speed up the raising of steam.  The steam safety valve was lifted to check for steam pressure and this was raised in only a few minutes.  The speed was regulated and controlled easily.

I think I can say we all enjoy a bit of hands on as there is always the possibility of something going wrong with a live demo.  But Brian had put his safety procedures into operationto good effect, anticipating problems, and all went very well.

For me the amusing part was the use of a 10-inch piece of hose pipe, which was directed down the funnel and a quick blow put the flame out.  Brian also suggested it was not a good idea to breathe in with the tube in place!

Blowing the flame out, rather than letting it burn out, stopped the wick itself from burning and going black.  The wick can then be used many times.

After the demonstration which was greeted by spontaneous applause, we retired indoors for tea and coffee.   There were separate interests around the room as there were a few members models on show.  We decided to keep Brian for the rest of the evening and delay the talk prepared by Rob for another evening, this had already been taken into consideration beforehand.

A few more questions led onto a longer discussion, but at about 10 we called a halt to the evening.  Brian was thanked in the usual way and the clearing up began, as always many hands make light work and it was soon done.  Jack and Neil must be thanked for their refreshment service and clearing up.  We are back with china mugs now, so quite posh, and these need to be put into the dishwasher at the end of the evening.

Roy Verden