HOWL get up a head of Steam

One of the two identical triple expansion Steam engines at Kempton

HOWL get up a head of Steam 

On Sunday 19th November, at Kempton in Steam, eleven Howlers enjoyed a rather unusual outing. We saw the world's largest working steam engine - a triple expansion - a veritable behemoth 'In Steam'. 

Although some had travelled over 40 miles to get to our start/meeting point it was our shortest ever distance run out - just 2.8 miles! This was one of those venues which is on your doorstep, that you ride past literally thousands of times but have never been to before. We welcomed Mike Grimshaw on his first outing with us. Brian joined us on his brilliant Vespa and Mike Scotten gave his 1957 Royal Enfield an outing 

Amazingly, in those labour-intensive, pre-digital days, only 2 operatives were needed to keep this massive machine running

The fence denotes the edge of the infamous ULEZ zone

 ...we always live life on the edge!

Those who delight in engineering and mechanics marvelled at the intricacies and feats of design and the Mercury Arc Rectifiers. The plant was operational 24/7 from 1929-1980, later being backed up by two huge steam turbines.  

 The power used to work these engines needs to be the original DC not the AC which is used by the latterly created National Grid.                                                                                        The mercury-arc rectifier is used to convert (or rectify) alternating current into direct current. The basic form is a glass bulb valve featuring one or more arms with steel or carbon anodes, and a cathode consisting of a self-restoring pool of liquid mercury. As electric current can only pass through the mercury vapour in one direction, it causes the negative electrons at the base of the bulb to be attracted to the positively charged anodes at the top of the bulb providing a DC output. 

...but then you probably knew that anyway 😉

 From here The Metropolitan Water Board used to pump water 14 miles uphill to Cricklewood in North London via pipework which incidentally runs under The Ace Cafe. 

This explains why developers are a tad apprehensive about redeveloping The Ace Cafe Site!

Mark Wilsmore (Ace Cafe proprietor) chats wih Mike Bonner at out Honda Day at The Ace in July 2023

 The plant was operational 24/7 from 1929-1980, later being backed up by two huge steam turbines, one of which you can see here in the foreground

Lubrication...lubrication...lubrication...was essential to keep this massive pump ticking over at 260 rpm, 24 hours a day for over 50 years!

These valves are from the second pump which is undergoing a 5-year restoration programme. Thames water just locked the doors and walked away from the plant in 1980 when electric pumps took over

 Sometimes size is everything - just look at the size of that spanner Dan is about to wield

 When I first suggested this as a winter run out I wasn't sure what level of interest this slightly quirky venture would be met with but ''British engineering at its best back in the 20s and 30s.'' and ''Wow, what a fantastic place'' were amongst the many enthusiastic comments on the day.       

Jon Stone