Sunday, 26 February 2017

The revised engine plan - The "spare" engine.

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)

This particular story has, I think, not got a mention in the blog until now, but actually dates back quite a few months.  When we were looking for options to get "Flamingo's" engine rebuilt last year, a few things quickly became apparent.
This shot gives only a hint as to how many the seller actually has!
Firstly there are not actually that many engineers specialising in this kind of work who can take it on at anything approaching short notice.  Nobody we initially approached could contemplate doing it before the winter, and one of the people who we were strongly recommended could not even commit to doing it any time in 2017, let alone 2016.  With quite a few of the engineers they do not have canal-side premises, adding complexities about where an engine can be craned out, how you transport it to the engineer and (often the biggest consideration) what is the situation for the engine-less boat for the complete duration of the rebuild,  (the danger is you end up paying for an additional mooring as well as home mooring for many months for a boat you can't even use).

3:1 reduction box yet to be be fitted.
Secondly all agreed that sourcing genuine parts for Lister HA series engines (which were built in the years 1958 to 1970) was not becoming any easier.  It could take quite a bit of time to get all you needed.  In many cases "copy" Indian produced parts are more readily available, but we were shown positive evidence that having "Lister" stamped on the packaging, or even coming from an authorised Lister dealer did not guarantee parts of the quality of the originals.

Engine to be modified to add fuel lift pump.
The engines in both boats were both Lister HAs - the two cylinder HA2 in "Flamingo", and the equivalent three cylinder HA3 in "Sickle".  With identical geometry other than the extra length from the extra cylinder, either should be interchangeable, the engine rooms both being the same size. We started to wonder whether finding a running engine to buy might address a few issues, and particularly it should be possible to do an engine swap on a boat and get it back in service far more quickly than many of the engine rebuilds we were starting to hear details of.

When we arranged to have "Flamingo's" engine rebuilt at Stretton, the actual rebuild work would be a "spare time" activity by Dave, as well as his usual day job, so it was reasonable to expect it might take a while.  A third engine would allow us to put a working engine in a boat that needed its engine rebuilt, and then allow for that engine in turn to be rebuilt without a strict deadline, so it was eventually possible to then put it in the other boat, finally releasing that engine for work to be done at whatever rate was possible.  This anyway was the theory, so in parallel with taking "Flamingo" to Stretton we tried to source a third engine.

Little sign of any significant use.
In practice we saw a number of "H" series Lister engines, not just HAs, but also the up-rated HB model, (visually identical, but faster running with more power) and also the later HR model (again not very different visually, but with bigger pistons and bores, giving yet higher power).  Some we didn't actually see, being sent photos and videos, but most we looked at, which took a fair amount of travel and time.  Several proved unsuitable - one proved to be not quite in the condition the vendor hoped, (which he was very honest about, once he found out), others came without gearbox, and it seemed sensible if we were going to have a spare engine that it also included a spare gearbox.

Hard to assess a reduction box, but looks in good order.
Eventually we located an engine that seemed promising, although don't be surprised it was also significantly the most expensive!  It was a 1961 HA2 originally an industrial unit coupled to a standby generator - these can do very few hours over the decades, if seldom or never needed for emergency power, and only 300 hours was claimed for this engine.  It had been marinised to a variable speed engine, and mated to a Blackstone gearbox that appeared to be  in very good order.  However the engine required some things sorting out that the vendor was aware of, and also it needed to be modified to fit a fuel lift pump, fit a different reduction gear and to add a suitable alternator with appropriate pulleys and belts - this would take 2 or 3 weeks, but should not impact timetable to put it in "Flamingo".  After a day or two's pause for contemplation a deal was struck, which included delivery of the prepared engine to Brinklow.

The plan, of course at that point was that this engine would go into "Flamingo", the boat with by far the most urgent need, thus releasing "Flamingo's" current HA2 for Dave to rebuild at a pace that suited him.  The reality ended up being rather different!

Close up of some gearbox internals.
In practice Dave got on very quickly with the rebuild of "Flamingo's" own HA2, which, given the scale of the work required, happened far faster than we has assumed it might.  In the meantime the vendor of the "spare" engine had some horrendous health problems which, unsurprisingly, stopped him completing the engine.  Eventually Dave had the original engine ready to go back in, but work on the "spare" was halted - so it ended up being the original now reinstalled.

We were certainly not going to hassle the vendor, who we knew had far too much to think about than the "spare" engine, and, of course when we did finally talk to him, the conversation was to whether we still wanted it, and whether he could now complete it and deliver it in a sensible time-frame.  We decided that "Sickle's" engine, although not at this stage anything like as bad as "Flamingo's" had been, could usefully also come out for full overhaul - this "spare" could replace it.  Despite being only two thirds of the power, (because 2 cylinders would replace 3), it should work very well - "Sickle" is currently powered to be a tug, but seldom these days actually carries out tugging duties, and hence is not worked hard.  The decision was aided by the fact "Sickle's" current HA3 only has a 2:1 ratio on its reduction gearbox, whereas this HA2 has 3:1.  This is important, as the same propeller should work with either, thus avoiding the cost of a new propeller, and having to dock the boat to fit it.

So we agreed with Brinklow Boats a likely date for them swapping engines, and told our vendor he still had a deal if he could deliver by then - he was confident he could.