Davey Paxman & Co manufactured its portable steam engines in large numbers from the 1870s until the mid-1920s. The ravages of time, assisted by our frequently cold damp British climate, have left very few survivors in this country. One surviving example in the UK, is No 21693. This 3 NHP portable was ordered by the Neuchatel Asphalte Co, under Paxman order number 15663, on 19th February 1925 and despatched from the factory shortly after, on 11th March.
The engine was purchased in January 2003 by Peter Love of East Sussex who kindly provided the information and photographs for this page. With the help of fellow preservationists, Peter did a good deal of work on the engine in early 2003 and had hoped to get his new acquisition back into steam in the summer of that year. Other heavy work commitments then intervened and completion of the project has been substantially delayed.
All photographs on this page are © Peter Love 2003 and may not be reproduced without permission.
The first six pictures below were taken by Peter on 10th January 2003, the day he bought the engine, after it had been unsheeted and the homemade chimney fitted for the occasion.
|Steam portables were used to power a wide range of belt driven machinery. At the latter end of its working life this engine was used to power a guillotine in Hills scrapyard at Stock, near Billericay, Essex. The portable itself would have ended up as scrap had it not been purchased in 1959 by the late Mr R D Smith of Inworth, near Colchester.
An interesting feature shown in the photograph here is the unusually wide pulley wheel on the crankshaft.
|In 1964 the engine was purchased by Derek Reeder of Cranbrook, Kent.
For many years it was stationed at Jess Swatland's house near Goudhurst, Kent. Sadly, Jess passed away in 2002 and the engine was brought back to Cranbrook where it is pictured here.
|Certainly a very complete engine, the boiler was retubed in 1976 by the Kent & East Sussex Railway. It was steamed only once after being retubed. Despite this the boiler was found to be full of scale when Peter washed it out on 16th January 2003.
The boiler was inspected on 28th January 2003. The inspector found it had done little work and was in good condition even though the plate was only 5/16" thick when new. The water gauge frame had to be removed as the inspector wanted to see all the fittings. Peter intended to purchase a new set for the engine, the old ones having been brazed up. He also took off the pet cocks which were an odd pair, planning to replace them with a matching pair.
The original lagging is still with the engine and shows traces of maroon. It is interesting to note this is the colour on the oldest surviving portable we know of, No 11692, shown on the Surviving Portables page. On Peter's engine the cylinder lagging is the only part which can be used again.
|Jess Swatland completely rebuilt the motion including the horizontal governors. He replaced the valve and piston rods in addition to sorting out the bore and renewing the broken piston rings. New rings were supplied by the Bradford Piston Ring Company. Visible in the centre of the photograph is the displacement lubricator wheel. The cast lettering on this is still in very good condition.
Alex Walford, the authority on Paxman engine governing, says a horizontal governor is very rare on Paxman portables.
|Although not fitted the pressure gauge is in excellent order but the pet cocks (water level taps) were an odd pair. Peter thought he would face a possibly difficult search for a matching pair to replace them. In the event, by early February 2003, an excellent new pair had been made and donated by a friend, John Bailey of Borough Green, Kent.|
|A view through the fully open straw burning door, revealing the firebox and the excellent condition of the firebars.
In common with all Davey Paxman portables known to Peter, no foundation ring or 'Z' ring is fitted.
Naturally Peter was delighted and excited by his new acquisition. It is better not to enquire whether the joy was shared to the same degree by his wife! A colleague commented: 'well you have got enough now to keep you going until you are 65'.
Many of the details in the following log are illustrated and further discussed in a later section of this page.
The plan is to pressure test the boiler for a working pressure of 120 psi. Before this can happen new joints must be purchased and fitted. Items now on order include the four mud-hole door joints (3" x 2.1/8" x 3/8" x ¼"), one for the rebuilt boiler bottom mud-hole door (3½" x 2½" x 3/8" x ¼"), and the large boiler joint (9" x 7" x 1" x ¼"). Asbestos joints are now banned, so Peter plans to try wire reinforced Kevlar cloth joints instead.
Unfortunately at this stage heavy work commitments intervened and work on the restoration had to be put on hold.
|Getting the engine back to the depths of East Sussex was the first task. On Saturday 11th January Simon Tingley and his father, Arthur, came to collect the engine at 1-45pm with a 7.5 ton rigid flatbed lorry. Arthur is seen here making sure the front wheels are in the right position while Simon (just off the photograph) operates the electric winch. The picture provides a good view of the boiler saddle and front axle swivel.
Arthur is no stranger to preservation, being well known in the tractor world as the "Oliver King". Some fifty years ago he assisted farmer Frank Knight of Burgess Hill, Sussex in taking a couple of steam portables to Edwin Hole's scrapyard. One came from Willets of Linfield, the other from a sawmill at Cooksbridge. It is said both were exported to Russia.
|'What goes up, must come down'. The lorry having safely transported its precious cargo to East Sussex, Peter's neighbour, Mike Hallewell, is roped in to assist with unloading. Pictured left to right are Mike, Arthur and Simon just before starting to unload the engine.|
|On Thursday 16th January the tubeplate washout plug was finally removed after warming the hollow brass plug with propane and oxygen. As the plug cooled water was added, which shrunk the offending item, enabling the plug to be unscrewed with the threads still intact. However a new tapered solid brass plug is to be made by professional steam engineer Brian Hope, of Yalding, Kent, a personal friend of Peter's for some 25 years. The pressure washer was assembled, all the mud holes were removed, and two hours later the boiler assembly was washed clean.|
|Shown here is clean water pouring through the boiler washout hole after the worst of the debris has been flushed out. Sadly, after removal of the asbestos gasket, the mudhole flange was found to have crystallized into little pieces.
A substantial quantity of rubbish came out of the 23" diameter boiler barrel and inner firebox water space. Some of this can be seen on the floor towards the bottom left of the picture. Peter discovered the engine was not that easy to wash out properly compared to his 3 NHP Marshall which has a manhole on each side of the firebox outer wrapper.
|In this picture of a small section of the flywheel, one can see remains of the old maroon paintwork. The paintwork was revealed after the flywheel had been pressure washed. The colour is similar to that found on the crankshaft horn brackets and on portable No 11692 shown on our Surviving Portables page.|
|Four hours hard work went into restoring the mudhole on the evening of Saturday 25th January. After building up the flanges using low halogen 3.2mm welding rods, it was cleaned up with a 5" grinder. A coat of red oxide paint and the boiler mudhole is like new again, ready to be put back in service.|
|On Tuesday 28th January, well-respected West Sussex boiler inspector Tony Reen visited to carry out a full dry boiler inspection. This included a thorough ultrasonic test of the boiler assembly plates, inside and out. Shown here is Tony using his test equipment to measure the thickness of the boiler throatplate by the nearside mudhole.
The ashpan and firebars, both in excellent order, were removed so that the inside firebox throatplate could be tested. Not an easy task for Tony, lying on the floor under the firebox, as he had to work round the rear axle which runs across the firebox space.
The final part of Tony's inspection was an ultrasonic test on the boiler tubeplate. He declared at this stage all was well with the boiler assembly. Tony feels the engine has done little work during its life and has been kept inside as the boiler outer shell shows no pitting whatsoever. This is excellent news for all who are interested in preservation.
|Shown here are the new pet cocks which were made at very short notice by John Bailey of Borough Green, Kent. They have taper threads and will certainly enhance the engine.
John Bailey is a keen steam enthusiast and owns an immaculately restored 1906 Burrell 7 NHP single-crank compound engine, No 2819.
|Although the engine has been in preservation for 44 years, its number was unknown until this year. Peter had examined the engine closely several times and found numbers which he thought might provide the answer. Richard Carr was asked to check them against the old Paxman order book but none matched any 3 NHP portable. Peter was almost despairing until at last he uncovered, on February 8th, the numbers shown here.
Richard Carr confirmed that it by no means unusual to experience difficulties in finding the number on a Paxman portable. Frequently it is on the end of the crankshaft but in this case was found on the flywheel boss. It was made with a small ¼" punch set. The number 21693 has been checked against the Paxman order book, which confirms this 3 NHP engine was ordered by the Neuchatel Asphalte Co on 19th February 1925 and despatched three weeks later on 11th March. The last letter may look like a 5 in the picture but is definitely a 3.
|On 9th February Peter repaired the broken firedoor hinge. Pictured here is the door held upside down in a vice while the centre hinge pin housing is heated with an oxy-acetylene torch. At this stage most of the pin has been driven out. The damaged area of the housing is clearly visible just below the torch head.|
|The reconstructed hinge bracket, complete with a coat of red oxide paint, and the fire-door are back in place. A little more work remains to be done on the new stainless steel pivot pin.|
|As previously mentioned, there is not a foundation ring (sometimes called an ogee or 'Z' ring) in the bottom of the firebox.
Shown here is the inside of the firebox where the outer wrapper meets the back tube plate.
|To the left is the regulator valve and the new regulator rod made at the Maidstone & District Bus Company's works. Before the hydraulic pressure test, rubber will be placed between the valve and the seat to act as a seal. This will be held down by a small block of wood and a plate bolted down over the area where the safety valves normally sit.|
|Water was found in the slide-valve chest. Fortunately the surfaces have not been affected as they had been coated with grease.
The late Jess Swatland ground the valve into the face; he also fitted the new valve rod.
Peter Love is a founder member of the Sussex Steam Engine Club and was its Chairman for ten years. Editor of Tractor & Machinery, the leading magazine on vintage and classic tractors, he is also a contributor to such well-known engine enthusiast magazines as Old Glory, Stationary Engine, NTET Steaming and the Road Locomotive Society Journal. He first stood on a traction engine at the age of two and now owns a number of steam engines which he has restored to concours standard. Over the past 25 years he has commentated at steam rallies in the UK and as far afield as South Africa, Australia, Germany, the USA and Canada.
Page updated: 08 APR 2008