Things To Do In Drammen When It Snows.

In the rush to get to Oslo’s attractions the last time (but one) I was here, I didn’t notice that there was a museum and gallery in the town of Drammen, not 15 minutes walk from the hotel.

Another few inches of snow had fallen overnight…

… so it was a bit of a lark getting there on foot. I lost the path at one point and ended up in the middle of a roundabout. Happily, the Norwegians are very good about pedestrians and the traffic stopped to watch me struggle through a 3ft high snow drift to get back onto the footpath.

They like their wooden jugs…

.. and their mangles. These work by putting the freshly laundered item on a flat table, wrapping a moist cloth round a cane and with one hand on the horse shaped handle, the cane is rolled up and down under the board until the laundry is smooth before being hung up to dry. I think I’d be much engaged elsewhere if one of those came out of the cupboard – it must have been incredibly hard work.

A small room was devoted to Hans Heyerdahl, a realist painter whose early years were spent in Drammen.

I’d come across and admired his work in the National Gallery in Oslo so it was good to see him again.

Eduard Fischer was a contemporary of Heyerdahl. He seems to have specialised in water and boats but I can’t find much more about him.

Frederik Collett was doing his stuff mostly up the road in Lillehammer.

And finally, Gustav Wentzel with a very typical Scandinavian interior. The gallery followed much the same form as the Bornholme and Haugesund galleries I’ve visited in that it represented only artists that were ‘local’. I like that idea and for that reason I’m looking forward to visiting the Ateneum gallery in Helsinki whose collection comprises mainly Finnish artists. I’ve spotted also, on the way to Helsinki airport, an aviation museum that looks like it’s worth a visit.

With wood in abundance, interiors were lined with boards and then painted, as was almost every other bit of furniture and household utensil. A house without colour would have been a dull place indeed.

The museum occupied two buildings. One building, a modern glass and steel affair, housed the permanent collection. The other, the big house pictured above, had an exhibition of Scandinavian art and design from 1900 to the present. There were two exhibits which caught my eye; the chair above…

… and this small plate. Of the two I would have been happy to take home the plate which was perfect. The chair was nearly there but somehow, not quite.

Back in the hotel, the outlook from my window wasn’t encouraging as more snow fell throughout the day….

…. and with the temperature forecast to drop back to -11°, in the coming week, spending the day holed up in the tent with a box of cup-a-soups, was beginning to look less than appealing.

I’m not sure my building a snowman would be approved of, but it would be something to do.


An Impressive Amount Of Snow.

I was weighing up which might be the best way to create the false drums that’ll cover the discs and calipers on the Hillman when my fellow Magneteer and I were called back to Norway.

We got the front seats, the sun was out and it wasn’t a silly-o’clock departure – perfect. The outlook was less encouraging as we crept into Oslo through the clag, breaking through the cloud base at what must have been close to decision altitude.

A squadron of 17 snow ploughs was busy keeping things clear…

…. and it wasn’t long before we were back in Drammen….

….though a very heavy snow fall over the weekend promised to hold up the proceedings for 24 hours. Happily, that gave us time to get in supplies for the days and nights ahead. But, back to the aluminium brake drums; I had several options. Aluminium tube, 340mm id, 20mm wall, would give me enough material to machine the finning and weld in a 4mm face plate. Sandcasting was the second option.

Building up the drum and fins from different sized aluminium rings was the third, and lastly, rolling a 20mm x 100mm wide plate to form the drum and again, welding in the face plate. The first three options are all quite expensive so I’m going to go with the fourth. There’s a big engineering works down the road from me and I know they’ve got a set of power rollers – I’ll visit when I’m back from Norway.

I’ve also got to pop up to a company in Redditch to have the discs and bells made. I’ve made up the pattern from rings and everything fits in very nicely. The false drum face plates will have to have a slight dish in them as the caliper is just proud of the disc bell by 8mm. I’ll make up a couple of press tools and do that myself. I don’t yet know if, in order to create some visual balance, I’ll put false drums over the existing rear brake drums, it might look a bit over done.

Learned Counsel found time to get the hood started on the Jowett Jingle Bell – luckily, the original hood was in one piece so a careful unstitching of everything gave him a set of patterns to work with.

Mikhail Guermacheff was a painter born in the Ukraine in the late 19thC and, being back in Norway and not having seen so much snow for a long time, it brought to mind this painting belonging to the other Wright brother. Guermacheff’s treatment of the combination of snow, water and light – especially evening light – has always made his paintings instantly recognisable, so when a friend of mine walked into my local pub and asked if I knew anything about some paintings that belonged to his family, pictures of which he had on his phone, I was able to say in a very knowledgeable way, ‘Ah yes, Guermacheff,’ and blather on for a few minutes about the artist’s history.

Even I was impressed.





We Called An Attempt.

In the Olden Days, when model aircraft radio control systems were in their infancy,

Pa was Secretary of the Royal Air Force Germany Model Aircraft Association (RAFGMAA).

Under Pa’s tutelage, my brother and I were keen competitors in the Single Channel Spot Landing Competitions. Filling the fuel tank with an amount of fuel that you guessed would place you up-wind and high enough for a couple of positioning circuits, you started up and launched your model into the air. When the engine stopped, deft use of the rudder control (1 push of the button on the transmitter for left and 2 for right) you guided the model in to land as near as possible to the pre-designated ‘spot’. The rules accommodated for the best of three launches and, if you touched down a bit wide of the mark and felt you could do better, you called an ‘attempt’, and that launch would be discounted. My brother got rather good at this and would regularly beat all comers at the ‘Champs’ to carry home the prizes that Pa, in his capacity as Secretary, had selected from Herr Jansen’s Modellbaugeschäft in Mönchengladbach.

We never had a spark ignition engine – I’m not sure why – E.D.’s and Mills engines powered all our models until the Japanese O.S. engines became available (I think one of the very small ones was a prize once). The E.D. pictured here was used and abused for many years before being sectioned in the Station Workshops at R.A.F. Bruggen in Germany.

My brother has a box of now vintage engines, he being more of an aeromodeller than me, though I seem to have ended up with the paperwork.

We had over the years several radio systems, some of which were better than others. Starting out with the ‘Galloping Ghost’ escapements, we quickly progressed to the much more advanced Graupner sets that had proper servos – Bellamatic, Variomatic (I think) are names I recall. Simprop was our first ‘proportional’ system – how much you moved the joystick on the transmitter corresponded to the deflection of the control surface on the model – and was rightly considered a huge advance. Pa though, was always a ‘rudder and throttle’ man. He reluctantly added elevators in the late 70’s but I don’t remember him ever experimenting with ailerons. ‘Keep it simple’ (and light) was a sound philosophy and, against all odds, he managed to get a scale 56″ wingspan Sopwith Camel flying perfectly reliably on rudder and throttle alone.

A call to Norway for a quick magnetising job involved a 3:30am start (groan). My fellow magneteer and I arrived in Drammen to find snow piled 2ft high and temperatures promised to plummet overnight to about -16°. This cold snap wasn’t expected by the cable manufacturer (or anyone else) so after a night in my favourite hotel in Drammen, The Clarion, where the food is first-rate and the beds very comfortable, we were sent back home, to touch down at a sunny Gatwick (+5°) by 2:00pm the following day.

That’s what we call an attempt.

Getting To Grips.

Counsel and I spent the day at The Great Collector’s workshop, reinstalling the 1905 Darracq cone clutch. Charles Johnson in Norwich had done an excellent job relining the cone with the same material they used to reline the brake shoes on my Hillman. As the original material was leather, it would be interesting to see how this might work.

The trial fit of the cone in the flywheel didn’t see any improvement in the depth of engagement – the cone still stuck out of the housing by at least 3/8″ so I popped it in the lathe and formed a small radius on the front edge.

On the inside of the cone are 4 equally spaced spring-loaded plungers. They press on the inner face of the lining to create 4 high spots, the purpose of which is to provide a smooth take up on the drive. As the clutch is let out, the springs compress and the lining flattens against the cone. We thought that these might have been preventing the cone from engaging fully with the flywheel as the new material didn’t have the same flexibility as the old leather, so out they came.

There was some improvement so we decided to reassemble and give it a go. With everything back in place – it’s not a terribly difficult job, just a bit awkward as we’re not as flexible as we used to be – all the signs were that we had a perfectly serviceable clutch again and off we went down the road. It was quickly apparent that we were back to square one and the clutch slip that had prompted the new lining, had not gone away. Back in the workshop we noticed that the cone was now fully home in the flywheel, with no overhang at all. Hmmm. There’s a very big nut and coil spring on the end of the gearbox input shaft and the Darracq Owner’s Manual instructs the would-be mechanic to adjust this nut in order to alleviate the symptoms of slip. However, it doesn’t say which way to screw the nut and when you do it doesn’t seem to make the slightest difference to anything but the amount of pressure you need to apply to the pedal – though without a schematic of what’s going on in the gearbox, I could be wrong.

With everything in pieces again – we were becoming quite expert at this – we noticed a ridge of what looked like paint in the inner edge of the flywheel. It corresponded with the now very black and greasy lining on the cone. A Stanley blade scrapped away a 1/4″ thick line of 100-year-old whatever-it-was-they-used-in-the-olden-days to keep the leather in trim. Back in the lathe, a liberal dose of brake cleaner and a scrub up with a soft wire brush, soon had things looking normal again.

As a belt-and-braces fix, we decided to insert a 2mm aluminium spacer between the gearbox input flange and the cone. This, in theory, would help to push the cone home under a greater load. We also put the spring-loaded twinks back in their respective housings, popped everything back together again and whizzed off on a second test run.

Success! Not a hint of slip and, Mr Toad seemed pleased with the outcome.



More Rush ‘n’ Tear.

I got back the other day to find Learned Counsel and The Racing Driver manoeuvring the MX-5 engine into the Locost chassis.

It appeared to be quite tight and at one point it looked as though one of the cooling castings was going to arrive bang opposite a frame member – it couldn’t have been placed more perfectly. Fortunately, the casting in question can probably be made redundant; that’s lucky. The remote control extension from the gearbox was also a bit of a squeeze to get into the tunnel but some judicious cutting here and there, sorted that out.

The Coffee Run to Leon and Awkward’s workshop found both of them contemplating the A7 Special’s diff and drive shafts. With the wheels up in the air and turning them by hand, there was a slight grinding heard coming from the diff and, as is their custom, in less than an hour everything was out and ready for inspection. All seemed to be fine and there was no positive ID on the problem before I left to make a start on taking apart the Cushman Husky engine.

With the fuel tank out of the way, I could get the gearbox and clutch cover off.  The clutch is an enclosed multiplate system located behind the smaller twin gear wheel. The horizontal bar is the clutch actuating fork – that disengages the twin wheel from the drive and the large wheel (also a twin gear – there’s another smaller gear behind which isn’t visible) is moved in and out by the lever sticking out of the case at top left. I didn’t go any further as Awkward was coming by the next day to give me a hand and to see if we could get the engine running.

There are two speeds and a neutral – confirmed by the indents on the splined shaft which accept the spring-loaded ball bearings; that’ll be fun reassembling those! The problem was that nothing seemed to work properly. Only one of the gears could be engaged and the clutch didn’t seem to want to compress as much as you might expect. As soon as the bigger gear came off, all was revealed. There was a piece of aluminium floating about – the shiny bit in the tray – and a ball bearing in the bottom of the casing. Removing the clutch shaft was a bit of a Chinese puzzle – both arms were keyed so the shaft had to be knocked outwards to get the first key out and then back in to get at the second.

Removing the clutch showed that disc alignment was the problem. Three of the discs were able to run on the splines but the other three had got their tabs out of line and prevented full disengagement. So, with all that stuff out of the way, it was time to see if it still had The Vital Spark!

As you can see, it did. I apologise for not being able to rotate the video but thanks to the clever people at Microsoft who no longer support Media Player, I don’t know how to do it. However, what we didn’t know about the Husky, (though by the state of the crankshaft taper, we should have known) was that someone had been at it in the distant past and we didn’t notice a crack in the flywheel.

That’s going to slow us up.

The Brakes Progress II

Whilst I was off having fun in Kent over the Christmas break, Chumley had his nose to the grindstone and has done a splendid job on the caliper mounting blocks.

I didn’t realise it would be quite so difficult to get hold of M10 x 1mm cap head Allen screws; I’ve located them now, but it took a bit of trawling on the net to find them. In the meantime, a Jodel prop bolt and what I think is an NSU Quickly engine mounting bolt, are doing service for the jury-rig.

I specified 1mm thread thinking that the vibration set up by the application of the brakes would probably be a very high frequency and the greater surface area of thread and the steeper the pitch, the less susceptible the whole malarkey would be to working loose and falling off. A good thread locking fluid will be applied on final assembly.

One of the things that I got wrong in the design of the block was the allowance for the hub carrier to block, mounting bolts. I’ll counter-bore the three holes to accept cap screws which won’t foul the disc. I had hopes that replacing the drum brakes with discs, might be a relatively simple job where I would remove the drum, shoes and the operating mechanism and just bolt on the new arrangements – not surprisingly, not so. The flange on the hub carriers where the caliper mounting blocks will be attached, are not machined surfaces. The mounting blocks need to be accurately placed, parallel to the hub flanges and perpendicular to the stub axle. I’ll have to build up the carrier’s flange with MIG weld (as near as needs be to cast steel rods) and then get Chumley to machine it true. That’s a lot of sausages.

Awkward’s Christmas project was to get his Cyclemaster running. Successive attempts over the year had failed to see more than a cough and a splutter – just enough to keep him interested. He had laboriously rewound the coil, temporarily replaced the old condenser with a modern equivalent, checked this, measured that and all to no avail, until this week. A reworking of the centre of the coil where the high voltage line is linked and replacement of the HT lead, has done the trick.

When I first came to Suffolk and began flying the old L4 Cub, the 1:500,000 aeronautical chart which covered most of my sphere of operations, fitted on my knee pad and looked pretty innocuous; I think this one was an edition from the early 80’s. For trips further afield, floating about in the club house there was always a bigger, more up-to-date map that I could borrow.

I was looking at the other Wright brother’s chart a few days ago and noticed that things had become a bit more complicated in my absence from the aviation world. Now it’s a serious international airport, there’s a whole big deal around Norwich sprung up, and Stansted’s airspace has got very flabby as well. Apparently, Stansted is one of the busiest airports in Europe so, yes, it’s a good idea to keep Bloggs from blundering into the picture unannounced. As far as the flying bit goes, there’s further complication in a requirement to understand how to fly VOR radials.

I’ve never used a VOR; I thought they’d put the brakes on those back in the 90’s.

Happy New Year!



Christmas Quiz.

As I was filling the bath, I couldn’t help noticing an interesting inconsistency in the direction of travel of the bubbles.

There’s plenty of material on the subject of which way water flows going down the plug hole, but not a lot on how water behaves as a vessel is filled. Photo ‘A’, dated 9/12/2017, shows the water circling clockwise.

Photo ‘B’, dated 22/12/2017 (one day after the Winter Solstice) shows the water flowing anti-clockwise. Answers and conspiracy theories on a postcard to the usual address.

Learned Counsel has dropped off the Locost chassis ready to shoe-horn in the MX-5 engine and gearbox; it’s likely that the longer diagonal braces on each side of the top rail may have to be adjusted, or one of them made removable.

I’m about to start the restoration of a three-wheeler built by some Canadian servicemen for a local boy who had polio. You may recall that the body is a drop-tank (from either a Mustang or a Thunderbolt) and the steering wheel is the yoke from a B-17. I’ll begin by sorting out the Cushman Husky engine. It turns over and there’s a satisfying burble from the exhaust, so all seems well inside. I haven’t had time to do anything but put it on the bench so far but, I think the flat bar behind the home-made exhaust might be the gear lever.

Awkward has the engine out of the Avon Special for rebuild….

… Leon is doing some winter jobs….

…. Mr Summers is getting his Morris Minor ready for, er, the Summer…

… and this year I’ve remembered to put in some anti-freeze. It took a few tries to get the engine running because, as usual, when I haven’t driven the car for a while, I forget to turn the fuel on. The penny drops after a couple of minutes. There are a couple of interesting projects to consider in the New Year; I’ve got the plans for a Chris-Craft SRB 19 ( are to blame for this diversion) and there may be another bespoke process machine to design and build. The racing car body will need my attention as will the completion of the 1908 Rover control quadrant.

The disc brakes for the Hillman are work in progress and stainless steel fabrications will keep my hand in with TIG welding. In the evenings, I have a Russian children’s book to translate (from a translation into readable English) for a Chinese publisher. I haven’t yet got my schedule for the rest of January but I’m sure there’ll be something turn up!

For all this, I’ll need plenty of energy so I’m making a start with Big Sister’s Christmas pies!

Once again, a massive thank you to everyone who’s kept up with this blog; your comments and encouragement are hugely motivating. I know I’ve been side-tracked every now and again and the motoring content has suffered, but there’s lots of interesting stuff out there and I’m always very happily distracted!

A very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2018.