RCS Motor Club

Pugh to the Rescue (Rural Life Living Museum Fire Engines on Show Part 2)

Sunday brought the promised rain, albeit in intermittent showers that lasted throughout the day. Between waking up and the exhibitor’s briefing, we had a little exploration of the Museum and the neighbouring Old Kiln Light Railway, to see what sorts of facilities and equipment they had that we could borrow. We were mainly looking for a thread file or an appropriate die to re-condition the threads on the worm shaft, a suitable heat source and metal shaping capabilities to re-shape the box joint knuckle, and welding equipment to hold it all together. Andy had manufactured a new retaining nut of his ‘special design’, per measurements taken the previous day on the roadside, and was bringing it in later in the day. 

Alas, apart from some oxyacetylene, our hunt was not the most fruitful. With a bit of time to kill after the briefing and before Andy’s arrival, we pestered Paula from the Museum café for some breakfast, and milled around the grounds while waiting for a dry spell to take down tents and continue work on Jez. 

 

Andy soon arrived in good time before lunch, and whipped us into action. We found Museum volunteers Pete and Stephen who shared good conversation and fine whiskey with us the night before, and they showed us what’s what inside the chaos of the Museum workshop. In no time at all, Andy had commandeered it – within an hour he had the knuckle wrangled back into submission with the generous application of oxyacetylene and the help of a vice. 

With this major part of the repair out of the way – having gone surprisingly smoothly without anything else breaking – we all breathed a sigh of relief. Suddenly, going home that day under Jez’s own power seemed kind of doable. We might actually make it! 

Maintaining the momentum, Andy prepared and welded the knuckle in rapid succession, all in time for lunch before the kitchen closed. Fuelled, we turned our attention back to Jez – Eric took a file very carefully to her worm shaft threads, while Andy similarly started cleaning up the weld and re-conditioning the knuckle. The students mostly stood by and ‘supervised’ in between packing up our campsite. 

The mangled key, thankfully recovered from Bagshot the day before, also got a little lick from a file, and soon enough all that was left to do before reassembly could commence was to machine Andy’s new retaining nut to make it sit flush with the knuckle. That was easily enough done on the Museum’s Colchester Bantam, and by 4pm we had all the parts ready to go back in Jez. 

 

Kris crawled under yet again as the one with the most recent experience in taking it all apart – Ed Fagan had given us a deadline of 5:30pm and we wanted to move quickly. So naturally we had to enlist the help of one of the Museum’s big forklifts in the process, and it was in fact around 6:30pm before we were ready to attempt starting her engine. Unlike Friday and Saturday she took quite a lot of encouragement to oblige. Perhaps it was performance anxiety, what with all the people standing around with their cameras out, waiting to see her go. Or perhaps she was simply feeling mischievous, and wanted to keep us on edge. 

After many turnovers, Kris took the wheel and the lady finally deigned to start – perhaps as a reward for all his hard work putting her back together! Her mighty roar was joined by great cheers from the crowd, but she wasn’t out of the woods yet. After all, her engine was never the trouble; it was her drivetrain that failed. The crowd watched with bated breath as she warmed up, while the Motor Club crew made the final preparations to leave. It had been decided that most of the people and things would go with Andy in his Ford, to keep the bulk of the weight off Jez and make it as easy on her as possible, just in case. 

With the expectant crowd in mind, it wasn’t long before Eric got in the driver’s seat and stepped on the pedals. It was the moment of truth. To the crowd’s immense delight, she inched forward, and drove away from her patch of grass with no problem at all. Jez continued down through the Museum grounds to the exit, as smoothly as she ever did, to the sound of hurrahs and great celebration from the onlookers. We had done it! The rest of us said our hasty thank-yous and good-byes, piled into Andy’s car, and gave chase. 

 

Jez made steady but speedy progress towards home. At one point we stopped at Jack’s of Bagshot to check her oil pipes, because she didn’t seem to be showing any oil pressure. Satisfied that everything was fine after all and spurred on by the sight of dark clouds in the East, we sped off again, this time with more confidence in our one-day repair holding up, and a fuller continent aboard Jez. 

Miles later, it was a significantly damper – but no less spirited – crew that opened the doors to the Motor Club garage back on campus, and drove Jez back into her home. 

 

As I write this now, Jez has been disassembled again and work is under way to do a proper job of the repair. Much needs to be done – the worm shaft needs building up and a new taper and thread machined, the spare knuckle needs to be finished to fit or a new one made, and perhaps a new method of securing the two together needs to be devised. The last time the rear box joint failed, in much the same manner, was in 2015 when Jez was en route to Odiham. With any luck (and plenty of thinking and tinkering and elbow grease), our efforts this time will last us many more years into the future, and bring Jez to a great number of events such as the Rural Life Living Museum’s fire engine show. In the meantime, it’s the garage for us and for Jez. 

Contact Us!


Email: jez@imperial.ac.uk
Write: RCS Motor Club c/o Student Activities Centre, Imperial College Union, Beit Quad, Prince Consort Road, South Kensington, London, SW7 2BB
Tel: +44 (0)20 759 48085 Not always attended
Facebook: www.facebook.com/jezebel.dennis

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