machines which I have made, am making, or intend to make, and some other stuff. If you find this site interesting, please leave a comment.

Scale Traction Engine – installing a steam powered boiler injector.

My 3″ Fowler R3 Traction Engine boiler can be filled with a hand pump from the tender tank, by a crankshaft powered pump from the tender tank, or by a battery powered electric pump from the driver’s trailer.   The full size original R3 (see previous post for photos) has a steam powered injector, which uses boiler steam to suck up water from the tender tank using a venturi effect, then using black magic passing the steam+ water through some cones, increases the pressure which forces the mixture back into the  boiler.

Here is a link to a YouTube site which sort of explains how the black magic works.

And this is the steam injector on the full size R3 Fowler.


And this is the injector which I bought for the 3″ scale Fowler.

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It is a vertical injector, with connections for 1/4″ (6.35mm) pipes.  But I did not use it because it protruded too far underneath the tender.  So I have used an identically sized horizontal injector, which is shown below, during installation.  The full size original also appears to be horizontal.   The black fitting connected is the water inlet valve.  The control handle will extend above the rim of the cockpit.



The red thing is the winch, and its driving disk.  Winch engaging pins have never been completed, another job for later.  The rear wheel has been removed.  The injector pipework passes between the winch drum and the hornplate, with just enough clearance.  Running the pipe around the brake axle seemed like a good idea at the time, but I am not so sure now.  When painted black it will not look so odd.   The water connection with the tender tank is yet to be made, as is the steam supply connection.  A few more hours.

How to time a Model Triple Expansion Steam Engine

The daunting aspect of timing the triple delayed the completion of mine by at least 6 months.  In the event, it was not difficult.

If timing a steam engine is not a particular concern of yours, I suggest that you turn off now.   Otherwise this will be particularly boring.  This post is in response to a request by a reader.

The engine needs to be pretty much completed and assembled.   Everything fitting.  Crankshaft rotating.  Valve rods tightened.  Stephenson’s reversing mechanism assembled and working. Cylinder drains installed.

Next I suggest that you make or buy a 360 degree protractor, and attach it to the crankshaft at the high pressure end.  Like this.


Note that top dead centre (TDC) of each piston is marked (H,I,L), there is a pointer, big marks at 120 degree intervals, and identifiable marks at 10 and 5 degree intervals.  I added a rotation arrow later, because it is easy to mistake clockwise and anticlockwise directions when making adjustments.

Next, decide where in the cycle you want steam to be admitted.  On expert advice from a marine engineer who is also a model engineer, I decided to admit steam at 10 degrees after TDC. (thanks Rudi!).  I also decided to cut off admission of steam at about 70% of the  power stroke. (pretty standard).

The easiest valve to time is the low pressure valve.  It is on the end of the engine.  It is the biggest, and there is not much engine stuff getting physically in the way.  Despite that, I decided to start with the high pressure valve.  It also is on the outside end of the engine.  The reason is that I wanted to follow the passage of the steam flow, in order to understand what was happening.  Each cylinder is timed separately, independently.  So the order is, high pressure, intermediate pressure, low pressure.  Forward direction first, then reverse, for high, then F & R for IP, then F&R for LP.

The timing is adjusted by 1. changing the distance between the crankshaft and the valve, usually by adjusting the length of the valve rod and 2. by changing the position of the eccentric on the crankshaft.

Firstly, the valve must move equally over the steam inlet slots. (the top and bottom ports). The point at which the inlet slot starts to open is noted on the protractor for both steam inlet ports.  The number of degrees before or after TDC is noted for the top port, and the procedure is repeated for the bottom port.   For the bottom port Bottom Dead Centre (BDC) is the reference point on the protractor.  The angle should be identical for TDC and BDC.  If it not identical the length of the valve rod needs to be adjusted.  On my machine, that was done by adjusting the nuts holding the valve rod to the valve bracket, but it could be the valve rod to the eccentric strap.

Determining the point at which the steam inlet port starts to open is easy.  Remove the valve chest cover, bolt the valve chest to the cylinder block, and rotate the crankshaft by hand until the port is obviously visually open.  Cut a sliver of paper 5-10mm wide, (I used copy paper), measure the thickness of the paper (0.1mm in my case), insert the paper into the open port, rotate the crankshaft to close the port until the paper is jammed, then while applying tension to the paper, slowly rotate the crankshaft to open the port, until the paper just starts to move.  At that point the port will be open by the thickness of the paper.


The valve cover is off, a sliver of paper is pushed a centimeter or so into the port, the crankshaft is rotated to jam the paper then the crankshaft is rotated in the direction that is being adjusted until the paper is just released.   At that point the port is open by the thickness of the paper.  I calculated that 0.1mm was equivalent approximately to 3 degrees of crankshaft rotation.  So whatever was displayed on the protractor, I subtracted 3 degrees to get to the exact point of port opening.

when the valve moves exactly equally up and down over the steam entry ports, the point of opening is noted on the protractor relative to TDC of BDC, depending on which is being measured.

The eccentric grubscrew needs to be loosened, and  rotated on the crankshaft to bring the point of port opening to 10 degrees past TDC.  Then the grubscew is tightened.  BDC will automatically be correct if the centering process has been done accurately.

I had bored a hole in the eccentric strap to allow access to the grubscrew from underneath the engine.  That meant that the crankshaft had to be in a certain position to allow access to the grubscrew, not necessarily TDC or BDC or whatever.  That does not matter.  What matters is that the eccentric is rotated a certain number of degrees on the crankshaft.  I did this by using the Allen key to loosen the grubscrew, then using the Allen key to hold the eccentric fast, while rotating the crankshaft.  Then tighten the grubscrew, being careful to not move the eccentric.   The measurements need to be rechecked of course.   With practice, it is not difficult, and can be accomplished first go in most cases.

If this all sounds complicated and difficult, it really is not.  But I did need to make a record of every step and measurement and direction.

For the intermediate cylinder, the HP cylinder block needs to be removed.  The HP valve chest can be retained, just swung out of the way, retaining the previous settings..  You have to be careful, but this method does save a heap of bother.


One thing I would suggest.  When the opening points of both IP inlet ports are determined and set, I suggest that before the HP cylinder block is reassembled, that the IP valve rod is measured above the IP valve chest.  And that the measurements are recorded and placed in a secure vault.  Those measurements can be used for any future adjustments of the IP valve, without the time consuming and very fiddly necessity of removing the HP cylinder block.


I have determined the opening points for the intermediate cylinder using the paper method.  With the depth micometer on the valve rod above the valve chest, I am measuring and recording those positions, for possible future use.

And I have a confession.  The next photo shows the HP upper cylinder drain, and the same view at top dead centre.  As you can see, at TDC the piston blocks the drain.)!*!)  Read on.



IMG_6204 2.JPG

There is another method for determining the opening point of the valves.


Plastic tubes are pushed on suitable points for the cylinder to be set, in this case the HP. The valve is pushed against the valve face, in this case with rubber bands.  One blows into the appropriate tube while rotating the crankshaft.  When the port starts to open, you can hear your exhaled breath coming through (if your hearing is OK, which mine is not).  The protractor reading is recorded, and used as before.   Note:  the drain cock passages MUST NOT be occluded by the piston at TDC or BDC.  In my case, this proved to be a problem, hence the use of the strip of paper method.

So, I hope that this is of some use.  If my description is jaberwocky, please send a message and I will try to help.    John.

First taste of steam for the MODEL TRIPLE EXPANSION ENGINE

I made a video of this first run, but I am experiencing great frustration uploading it, due to our totally pathetic Internet speeds here in Australia.  I will include it later in this post, but the resolution is way down.  I will upload a higher res version next weekend.

1 setup.JPG

Stuart Tankard’s superb gas fired vertical boiler, was also getting its first run powering a steam engine.

2 setup.JPG

We did not connect the condenser until later.

OK, so here is the video.  Again, apologies for the low res quality.

Model Triple Expansion Steam Engine. First taste of steam tomorrow!

I was very excited to see my triple running reasonably well on air recently.  But it was tight, and required a decent gutful of air pressure to turn it over.  But it did go!

Then it seized.

The cause was the intermediate cylinder valve rod seizing in its guide.  Probably a bit tight,and not getting any oil.

So I have loosened the gland, installed a displacement oiler, and made and installed a flywheel.  I also finished the pipework around the condenser.


Displacement oiler top left, brass flywheel, and pipework.  The condenser on a marine engine would have been cooled with seawater, pumped with a separate pump, but I have used the 2 pumps on either side of the Edwards air pump.  In future I might install another pump.  The book “Marine Steam Engines and Turbines” has been been very useful.  


I just like all of the brass and copper and components in this picture.


The flywheel is too big for the scale, but my model does not have the weight and momentum of a propeller shaft and propeller, so a sizeable flywheel seemed appropriate.  Later I will add some gear teeth on the flywheel and a cranking handle on a removeable pinion, which some medium size engines had to assist with cranking to a starting position.  

So, tomorrow I will hook my triple up to Stuart Tankard’s vertical boiler, and see what happens.  I am sure that steam leaks will be revealed.  Hopefully there will be a video worth posting!


This is a short video of the first run of the Bolton9 Model Triple Expansion Steam Engine, which I have been building on and off over the past 3 years.

The video is a bit shakey, because it is taken on my hand held phone while I am using he other hand to operate the controls.  I really did not expect the engine to work!

It runs a bit roughly, and is still quite tight, but settles down in the final few seconds.

It is not running very smoothly, because it is on air rather than steam, and because it is probably only powered on the high pressure cylinder, and maybe a bit on the intermediate, and not at all on the low pressure cylinder.

The next day it would not run.  Very frustrating.  I suspect that one of the eccentrics slipped on the crankshaft, and threw the timing out.  Not the easily accessible low or high pressure valve, but the intermediate one, which needs another teardown to get to it.

But Hey!  It will work.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

One of my readers has requested a description of the triple engine timing procedure, so that will appear on this blog soon.  Unless you have a particular need for the timing info I suggest that you give that post a miss.

Geelong Vintage Machinery and Classic Truck Show – day 2

The oiler on my traction engine failed today, so I did not run the teaction engine, and I had some time to look around the other displays.  The oiler failed due to some grit in the non return valve, easily fixed when I got it back to the workshop.

As always at this annual show, the trucks and classic cars are fabulous.

Ford truck & traxcavator.JPG

Ford truck, with Caterpillar Traxcavator as load.

mercedes truck.JPG

Mercedes truck with a startling colour scheme.

truck lineup.JPG

Must have been more than  50 magnificent trucks in the lineup.

Liberator engine.JPG

This is an original engine from a WW2 Liberator bomber.  It was run for a few minutes twice daily.  Must have been heard by the entire city.  Absolutely awesome sound.  I cannot imagine what 4 engines on a plane would sound like.   1300HP!   An entire Liberator airplane is currently being restored nearby.


All weekend, tractors were competing in a tractor pull test.  The load gradually increases, with the tractor pulling with all it its might, until it runs out of either power or traction.

The smell of diesel fumes, and the noise,  was magnificent.


And my favourite, of course, was the mighty R3 Fowler.  In this instance effortlessly powering a large pump.

Geelong Classic Truck and Vintage Machinery Show. Day 1.

I was busy minding the 1:4 scale Fowler traction engine today, at the show, but these were a few items which were of particular interest to me, of the hundreds on display.  Not to mention the tractor pull, the Liberator WW2 engine demo, and the magnificent vintage trucks and cars.

Peugeot 403.JPG

Peugeot 403.  My first car was one of these.  For its day it was reliable, rugged and advanced.  Won the first Redex rally across central Australia in 1956.

Marshall on low loader.JPG

Marshall Compound traction engine on low loader.  The traction engine is completely original, unrestored.  Needs a lot of work.

Marshall smoke door.JPG

Marshall smoke door

Marshall engine .JPG

Marshall engine

Marshall pressure gauge.JPG

Marshall pressure gauge

marshall throttle control.JPG

Marshall, from the driver’s position.

Fowler & son3.JPG

Fowler R3 and baby R3

Back to the Triple Expansion Steam Engine


I installed these cylinder drains on the triple, but was not satisfied with their appearance because they looked too big.   So I bought some of a different pattern from Reeves UK.


The new cylinder drains are smaller, and have a handle which is suitable for joining all 6 drains to one control handle.


The new cylinder drains are a more realistic scale.  I suppose that I should have made them myself.  


From above.  Getting them to line up was a fiddle.



The crankshaft protractor now has a (temporary) pointer.  When the timing is finally adjusted, the protractor and pointer will be removed.  I am planning to make and install a crank positioning gear and pinion and lever.


The crank positioning gear and pinion shaft on the full size, ship’s triple expansion steam engine at The Geelong Showgrounds.  It is on the low pressure end of the engine.  I will make something like this to act as a flywheel on my model triple.

More Wierd Stuff

Since my “Strange Lights over Geelong” experience I have been looking at all sorts of weird posts on YouTube.  UFO’s, crop circles, megalith structures, evidence of buildings on the moon and on Mars.  There is a mountain of information out there, and while a lot of it is lies and rubbish, some is harder to dismiss.   It is not inconceiveable that Governments have information which they are witholding from the general populace, about aliens, UFO’s, ancient civilisations and so on.  Indeed, there are YouTube interviews with ex astronauts about UFO’s on the moon, and ex government ministers and officials about UFO’s and aliens, and Rothwell.  It may well be that the current increased talkativeness is due to a recognition by governments that they can no longer keep a lid on the previously secret information, so they are gradually allowing people to talk.

One line of posts which I have followed is evidence that something is going on in Antarctica.

And one source of information is Google Earth.  One post related to a strange set of giant “steps”.  I checked on the post information by checking the coordinates in Google Earth.


Look at the middle of the photo.  That series of “steps” does look unusual.  You can check on this yourself by entering the coordinates on the photo into Google Earth.   The “staircase is about 2.5km long, with each step about 250 meters.

Anyway, to continue with my story, as I was zooming out from this point, I noticed a bright shape about 138km towards the south.

Antarctica #4.jpg

The object which caught my eye was the white rectangle above the word “Coast”.  This section of Antarctica is directly south of Western Australia.  The rectangle is about 380 km from the coast.

And this is what shows up on Google Earth as I zoomed in.

Antarctica 6 Jan 2018 #2.jpg

The image is from 1999.  The black rectangle is 21 x 7km…  Quite a size!   I am unsure what the bright white is.  Possibly sunlight reflecting off a shiny surface.  Or a rough attempt at concealing the rectangular area?    This is at latitude 70.2 S, longitude  87.2 E.

Antarctica 6 Jan 2018.jpg

Also, there is a faint streak from the rectangle heading about 100km to the east.  It is also 7km wide.     The staircase area is also visible to the north.

So that is it.  I can find no reference to this structure, but if anyone knows anything about it, please enlighten me.   If you have any interest in this weird stuff, you might the posts on YouTube by SecureTeam10 worth watching.

I am heading back into the workshop tomorrow.  Installing a steam powered boiler water injector on the Fowler traction engine, and bit by bit, finishing the triple expansion engine.

I have installed the new AC Servo motor to replace the spindle motor on the Boxford 125TCL CNC lathe, my expert friend Stuart Tankard has wired it up and reconfigured Mach3.  I am delighted to report that it has vastly improved the CNC lathe.  Will post some pics in a day or two.

A New Spindle Motor for Boxford 125TCL CNC lathe.

The spindle motor on my 33 year old Boxford CNC lathe has struggled to machine steel, although it copes with brass OK.  My expert friend has recently upgraded his machine (identical to mine) with a new spindle motor, and I will do likewise.

The new motor is a 750 watt Servo, bought on Ebay from China.


It is more powerful than the original DC motor, small enough to fit the limited space in the 125TCL, and my friend reports that it is performing very well indeed.

Some modifications to the mounting system and drive pulleys and electronic controls will be required.

For reader Tom, who is upgrading a 125TCL as a school project, I include the following photo.


On-off switch of the 125TCL.

Triple Expansion Steam Engine Cylinder Cocks

Some further progress on the triple.

I bought cylinder cocks from Reeves UK, and the picture shows them fitted.  In case I eventually install a mechanism to open all of the cocks simultaneously, they are in straight line, which necessitated making extension peices for the high pressure cylinder cocks.

The handles required bending to clear the pipework.

The cocks look a bit strange to me.  Too big, and the handles are wrong.   I am thinking about making a set from scratch.  But that can wait.


Drain pipes from the cocks will be installed at some stage.  Still deciding where to run them. And whether to join them into a common trunk.

FullSizeRender 7.jpg

The engine turns over by hand, but it is still a bit stiff.  There was a tight spot which took many hours to locate.  It turned out to be a valve rod thread which was about 0.5mm too long, touching the inside of the high pressure valve chest.   Fixed in a jiffy.

I hooked up the engine to a small compressor at 30psi, but general stiffness prevented the engine from rotating.  So I gave it an hour being rotated in the lathe at 200 rpm.  It is noticeably more free, and getting very close to working.  The valve timing is approximately correct (checked by my expert friends Thomas L, and Rudi V), but will need fine tuning at some stage.

Steam Trains in Colour

4 months ago I made 2 wooden trains for my identical twin grandsons.  I handed the trains to SWMBO for painting, and despite frequent proddings of the verbal type, she got around to painting them only a few days ago, just in time for the twins second birthday.


The fuel in the coal tenders is chocolate.


The twins are really into “diggers”.  Check out the birthday cake!  Chocolate icing and chocolate Smarties.   I want to be a kid again.


The “coal” was a hit.  SWMBO knows the way to the male heart.


New Mechanical Oiler for Fowler Traction Engine

The oiler on my 3″ Fowler compound traction engine was working only intermittently.  I bought a new Foster Lincoln oiler, and today installed it.

The old oiler flange which attaches to the engine, was flexing, so I made a new one from 3mm stainless steel plate.  That will not flex.

The oiler is powered off the high pressure cylinder valve rod.  Different geometry was required.  I could have modified the original valve rod clamp and arm, but just in case I wanted to revert to the old configuration I made a new clamp and arm.

It all fitted nicely and the ratchet wheel clicked over as required when the engine was turned over.  So I completed the installation by silver soldering an oil delivery pipe to the valve chest.

Fowler pistons oiler safety valves.JPG

The original oiler


The new oiler


Hmm…  that delivery pipe needs to be straightened.  Sacks of coal in the background.

Recycling Leather

I am a fan of Stefan Gotteswinter’s You Tube blog, amongst others. (the others include This Old Tony, Abom79, ClickSpring,  Joe Pieczynski, AVE, NYC CNC, mrpete, ……   you should know all of these if you are interested in metalworking).

But back to Stefan.   One of his hints some time back, was to use a piece of leather to protect his lathe bed under the chuck.   I adopted his idea, and I found that it was very effective.  It does protect the bed from dropped chuck keys, parted chunks of metal etc.  It is also handy for preventing small parted work pieces from disappearing into the swarf which hangs around under the bed.

Only problem was that the best piece of leather which I could find was from an old overnight bag, and it really was old, and thick, and stiff.

Some time ago, SWMBO gave me the job of dealing with a couch which had seen better days.  We were quite fond of the couch, as it had been used by our family for at least 3 decades.  But our beagle was also fond of it.  Sleeping on it,  digging holes in it, and it had become pretty disgusting, despite repairs.  So it became my workshop couch for midday naps.  But that change of environment did not improve its condition either.   In fact I decided to take it to the tip (landfill).

But here we pay for landfill by volume, so I decided to break up the couch to reduce the volume, and maybe use the frame to fuel my workshop heater.


Me.  Removing the leather upholstery.  


Where the beagle liked to sleep.   Yuk.

So I now have quite a lot of supple leather.  Some will end up covering my lathe ways, held in place with magnets.

Any suggestions for using the remaining leather?

Traction Engine Oiler

The oiler which had been made for the 3″ Fowler compound steam engine looked OK, with a nice rounded brass cap, but despite various adjustments I could not induce it to work reliably.  The pawls were very thin brass, not hardened steel, and the supporting bracket was very thin sheet steel which had little resistance to flexing.

I decided to replace the oiler.   I could have made one from the engine plans, but when I saw some photos of these Foster Lincoln oilers on scale model traction engines, I decided to purchase.


The one which I purchased was designed for a 4″ scale traction engine, bigger than my 3″ Fowler, but the external dimensions were similar to those specified on the Fowler plans, and the Fowler is a 2 cylinder engine.  So I decided to go “too big” than risk “too small”.

It arrived by mail today, from the U.K.   Cost £116 + £10 p&p from “Live Steam Models”.  Not cheap, but the quality appears to be excellent.   Heavy brass body, hardened steel pawls and ratchet wheel, stainless steel water drain, and a powerful spring operated pump.  The lid closes with good tight fit.  Some filing will be required on a cut edge of the lid, but no big deal.


The pump in the oil cavity.


Running in the Triple Expansion Engine

The Bolton 9 engine is assembled, almost completely.  The valves are approximately correctly timed.  I can turn it over by hand, just.  There are a few tight spots.

So today I mounted the entire engine in a lathe, oiled all bearings and slides, and tentatively ran it for a few minutes.   The lathe was set at 60rpm, in back gear.

All seemed OK, so I ran it for about 30 minutes.   Then increased the rpm to 90 for another 30 minutes.  After that the tight spots still exist, but much less pronounced.



I kept a check on bearing temperatures with a laser thermometer, and none were running more than a degree or two different from any others.

The test did show that a low pressure cylinder drag link is touching the condenser, and will need some relief.  Also the high pressure cylinder eccentrics need to be repositioned a little on the crankshaft.  But nothing major.  And it was very nice to see everything moving in quite an impressive manner.

I will upload a video when the upload speeds are reasonable.



My brother and I visited a well known local machinery enthusiast.  Some of my readers might be interested in the photos.


An excavator from the 1940’s, due for restoration.


Said to be incredibly noisy and heavy for the operator.


Excavator diesel engine works.


My miniature Fowler traction engine does not have a steam injector and I am considering installing one.  So here are photos from a full size Fowler, and another from a  Ransomes traction engine.


Fowler R3 steam injector, located near the bottom of the rear water tank.


Ransomes injector located similarly.


A pin, for a pin, for a pin, for a winch. (Fowler traction engine)


Why do the boiler stays have holes bored into them?  When a stay breaks it usually occurs on the inside of the boiler.  The break can be undetected.  If there are blind holes bored like this, steam will escape through the hole if there is a fracture, revealing the problem.


The countersink on the stay holes here is decorative only, serves no useful purpose, and probably weakens the stay.   The differential gear on the left is very worn, but still useable.



Ransomes traction engine on the left, and Fowler R3 heavy haulage engine on the right.  2 tonne rear wheel removed and chained to the post, while transmission gears are being remachined.


The ash pan from the Fowler R3, after 4 days of continuous steaming at the Geelong Show.  Of interest to me, because on my 3″ scale (1:4) Fowler the ash pan has been almost exactly scaled and I suspect that it would benefit from a redesign.


Kelly single cylinder traction engine.  Working condition.


Kelly engine.  Everything visible.  Note the very useful steam dome.


Fowler R3 nameplate.  I can see something similar appearing on my 3″ Fowler.


Front wheel on the Ransomes traction engine.  Both front wheels were torn off in an accident in 1920.  Going down a long steep grade at Shelford, Victoria, there was insufficient steam pressure to brake the traction engine towing a heavy load, so the driver deliverately crashed the engine into the road cutting, at considerable speed.  It was succesfully repaired by a blacksmith.  The driver survived.



The Ransomes engine.  The “Rolls Royce” of traction engines, according to the owner. (But I suspect that he prefers his Fowler).

So, I hope that you found these pics interesting.  John.

Traction Engine Safety Valves

Some videos of showing the safety valves functioning, boiler pressures my Fowler 3″ scale R3 traction engine.

new safeties

Warrick Sandberg safety valves.  Substantially bigger holes.  “pop” action.

And one of the Fowler being driven by my brother.


Stay with me.  This is about a machine.

For years, maybe decades, SWMBO has been complaining about my snoring, and demanding action.  From her description of the events in our bed, I was experiencing apnoeas (stopping breathing altogether) which lasted up to 20 -30 seconds each time. Sometimes SWMBO wondered if I would actually start breathing again.  Sometimes, she admitted, she wanted to hold a pillow over my head to quieten the snoring.

I have tried nose drops, plastic gadjets to widen my nostrils, elastic straps to support my lower jaw.  I even paid my dentist to make a prosthesis to stop my lower jaw from sagging backwards.  That prosthesis was expensive, and worked a bit.  But it became totally useless after I had some unrelated dental work which changed the fit.

I had heard about CPAP machines being used to treat snoring.  From my work as an obstetrician, I knew about these machines being used to help premature babies with their breathing.  CPAP is an acronym for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.  It reduces the amount of effort required for each breath of the baby, and has saved many babies’ lives.    At some stage someone found out that CPAP is effective treatment for snoring.

Normally, to obtain a CPAP machine, one has to have sleep studies by spending a night in hospital hooked up to monitors, and be assessed by a medical specialist.

From my wife’s description I had no doubt about my diagnosis, and I decided to self diagnose and treat my condition.   “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client”  also applies to doctors who treat themselves.  And normally I agree with that description.  But in this case I did not relish the thought of a night in hospital, which I was sure, would be pointless because it would be sleepless.

So I discussed my situation with my GP.  And I was pleasantly surprised when he said go ahead with my plan to buy a CPAP machine from overseas, and give it a try.

The CPAP machine cost me $AUD600.  If I had bought it locally it would have cost $AUD 1500-1600.  It arrived about 6 weeks after the order onEbay.  I had no idea what size face mask was required, so I ordered the “medium” size.  Turned out it was  a nose mask, and medium seemed to fit nicely.  The machine itself seemed well made.  All of the plastic bits fitted well.  The electronic screen was clear and lit up quickly on power up.  There was a CD for installation of the software on a Windows computer.  It installed and opened, but would not function.  An enquiry to the seller revealed that the computer time-date setting needed to be in YYYY-MM-DD format, and it all worked well after that.  The program asked for age, height, weight etc.  I was a bit insulted when my BMI of 27 was described as “FAT”.


The CPAP machine and nose mask.   The tubing is much longer than shown.  The perspex tank contains water to humidify the inspired air.


The CPAP machine


I could find no instructions, so I left the machine on the default settings.  Some weeks later I found an instruction booklet in a side pocket of the storage case, but it did not offer any information about settings.  I guess that normally there would be a doctor doing the settings, based on tests.   Fortunately I have a friend who is using a CPAP machine for sleep apnoea, and the default settings of my machine were very close to the ones which were prescribed for him, so I continued with the default settings.

First night.   I was warned by my friend that it takes about a month to become used to the CPAP, so I was not too perterbed by the mask and tubing waking me up every time I moved.  My wife had the best night’s sleep which she has had in years, because I did not snore AT ALL.  The machine makes a low whirring noise, which is barely noticeable.  Being forced to nose breath, because the positive pressure almost totally stops mouth inspiration, is a very odd sensation, but I was very aware that the 10cm of water pressure was profoundly affecting my breathing.  I was totally unable to deliberately snore while awake, and when asleep I was not snoring at all even when flat on my back.

First week.  I fiddled a bit with the pressures, but the default 10cm water pressure (0.14psi) seemed best.  I used the air humidifier.  The air is filtered.  Several times I woke and ripped the mask off, but after a month of use, that happens rarely.

First month.  I got the software working eventually, and I was delighted to see that I have had no snoring events or apnoea events at all.  My duration of sleep has gradually increased from an hour or two each night, to 5-6 hours per night.    My wife is absolutely rapt.   Her only complaint is that I sometimes remove the CPAP in the morning, then go back to sleep for another hour or two, during which time I revert to snoring.

I like to read in bed for an hour or more before I drop off to sleep.  I cannot wear my reading glasses with the CPAP in place.  So I read until I become sleepy, then pull on the mask and turn on the CPAP.  Usually I am asleep within minutes, which is a big improvement on pre-CPAP.

Either that, or I listen to podcasts with earplugs.  But the CPAP tubing and earplug cables do tend to get a bit tangled, so I usually read.  It helps to pin the CPAP tube to the pillow, with a lot of slack to allow for turning in bed.

So, after a month I have noticed that I never nap during the day, compared with most days pre-CPAP.  My tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is much less pronounced now.  I do not feel sleepy when driving.  I would like to say that my energy levels have improved, but that does not seem different.  I am hoping that my borderline high blood pressure will have settled, when next checked.

Overall, this has been a major improvement in my life. IFLT.  (technology, not Trump).



Traction Engine. New Parts.

Another quickie.

The new safety valves arrived today.  Warrick Sandberg valves.  I will install them later this week, and fire up the Fowler R3.


The old safety valves.  Not up to the job.

new safeties.JPG

The new safety valves.  about the same dimensions but the exit holes are bigger and the spring tension is adjustable and lockable.  

And another thing.  I noticed this label near the pressure gauge of the full size Fowler R3.


So I made this one today.  Slightly modified the information to suit my 3″ scale Fowler.

working pressure new.JPG

My enamelling technique could improve, but it will do.