Taken from the series Cars and How To Drive Them- No. XVI. The White by Colonel R.E. Crompton, R.E, January 14, 1903.
In learning to drive the car the following are the chief points to be noted. To get up steam it is, of course, first necessary to fill the petrol tank, the usual precautions being taken to prevent the possibility of the petrol being set alight by fire at or near the car. The air pressure above the oil in the oil (petrol) tank must then be pumped up to about 35 lb. on the gauge. The sub-burner is then ready to be lighted. This is done by allowing a little petrol to drop into the drip cup at the bottom of the sub-burner, by opening a valve which is fitted at the back of the sub-burner for a second or two. Care must be taken not to let any petrol drop on the ground, as it may take fire. To light the sub-burner apply a lighted match to the drip cup. One minute later the side cock of the sub-burner can be opened. There is a third cock fitted to the sub-burner which regulates the size of its flame. The best position for it is generally about one-quarter of a turn open, and this position can be judged by the noise made by the flame. The sub-burner flame should make a slight blowing noise, but if this noise is at all loud the sub-burner is wasting petrol, and this can be regulated by closing the regulator cock slowly until the noise nearly ceases. The side or starting cock of the sub-burner may be turned several times so as to be wide open.
In about a minute and a half after starting the sub-burner it will have heated the main vapouriser sufficiently to enable the main burner to be turned on either from the handle at the driver's seat or by a second handle, which for convenience is fitted low down at the side of the car. This turning on of the main burner can easily be done in a minute and a half after the sub-burner is fairly alight. If it is attempted to turn it on sooner there is a risk of unvapourised petrol dripping at the induction jet, which is to be avoided. A minute after the main burner is turned on, if the boiler is full of water the steam pressure will rise to 150lb., and at this point the water blow-off cock should be opened and water blown off until steam begins to appear at it. If the engine has been previously oiled and greased, the car is now ready to start.
As a rule it will be found that after the car has once been used the boiler will fill itself quite full from the water tank as it cools down, but it is advisable to try whether this is the case by pumping a few strokes with the hand pump until pressure shows in the steam gauge.
There are two drain cocks under the condenser, and it is generally advisable to allow these to remain open whilst the car is in the motor house, so that any oil which collects in the exhaust pipe may be drained off, but it is not absolutely necessary that this should be done. These cocks should be closed before the car moves off.
The engine should be started very gradually in order to enable the water to get out of the cylinders without cutting the packing. After driving very slowly for the first few yards, the pace may be gradually put on up to eight or ten miles an hour, and the car should be driven at this pace for half a mile or so, so that the whole of the boiler coils and the asbestos casing surrounding the boiler may both get warmed up. Until this is the case the boiler will not make steam freely, but once it is warmed up it will remain sufficiently warm so long as the sub-burner is kept alight. This first half mile of driving at a slow pace is usually occupied in bringing the car round from the car house to the owner's dwelling, and advantage should be taken to pump a little extra oil into the cylinders through the oil pump at the driver's right hand, at this time keeping the exhaust open to the air instead of passing through the condenser. After about a mile of running the exhaust bypass can be closed, and the whole of the steam passed through the condenser during the rest of the run. Afterwards it is only necessary to give one stroke of the oil pump every five miles or so. The driver will find that the boiler begins to make steam freely and the car to develop its full rate of speed of about twenty minutes after first starting.
The writer believes the best results can be obtained from these cars by driving them at an average steam pressure approximating to 220lb. The pointer of the steam gauge will then travel between 180lb. and 250lb., the boiler will take water whenever the steam drops to 220lb. In this way the maximum economy in the use of water and petrol can be obtained. It is not found necessary to work at a pressure higher than 250lb. unless for exceptional hill climbing.
Whenever the car is running for long distances on down grade, it is advisable to turn off the main burner so that the steam pressure does not accumulate. If this is not done so that the pressure falls below 220lb., no water will be pumped into the boiler during this part of the run, which is desirable if, as is generally the case, a rising gradient has to be dealt with immediately afterwards.
When, again, the car is stopped in traffic or at a stopping place always turn off the main burner, for although this will be done automatically by the thermostat, the pressure will rise sufficiently to cause the safety valve to blow, which is always objectionable in traffic on account of the noise it makes, and with reasonable care this need never be necessary.
The handle of the throttle valve is removable, and should be always taken off after the throttle is shut tight and before the driver leaves the car. He should carry the handle in his pocket.
In order to get the best results, the writer finds that is is of importance that the vapouriser should be occasionally examined, as it is liable to get partly-choked with carbon deposit in the course of a few months running. It is an easy matter to remove the vapouriser and to clean out the carbon deposit, by drilling out the passages with drills provided for the special purpose.
Another point worthy of attention is to see that the water regulator does not leak. This can be easily seen by uncoupling the union which connects the by-pass valve to the water tank. There should be no water escaping from the by-pass so long as the pressure is below 220lb. Directions are given with the car explaining how the water regulator should be set to ensure this. After several months of running, this water regulator valve is liable to require regrinding, but this is a very easy matter.
As regards lubrication, the writer has found that in the form of car that he has been using, which is not enclosed from dust and mud, it is advisable to use the graphite grease supplied by the Dixon Crucible Company. This is forced into all the revolving bearings of the crankshafts, eccentrics, etc. It will be found to work well in dust and mud, and the bearings will run thousands of miles without any attention. For lubricating the slides, link motion, and the upper pin joints, it is convenient to use the same oil that is used in the cylinders, which, in the writer's case, has been "Extra Hecla" supplied by the Vacuum Oil Company. The cylinder oiling arrangements are very simple. They consist of a small pump fitted inside a lubricating tank close to the driver's right hand. This tank holds enough oil for 150 miles run, but the writer has tried, with very satisfactory results, a positive pump worked by the motion of the engine itself. This was supplied by Captain A.D. Furze, and is called the Pony lubricator, and has given excellent results.
Once the driver is accustomed to the manipulation of the White car, and to the best methods of manipulating the burner and water feed, a speed of twenty-five miles an hour may be easily maintained on roads having a fair surface; and it will be noticed that at this rate of speed the car raises less dust than any car that the writer has yet seen, running at the same speed and using tyres of the same size. This is possibly due to the considerable clearance for the passage of air underneath the car. As in this car the main axle is 15 in. from the ground and there is considerable air space above it, there is perhaps 10 sq. ft. of area inside the wheels through which the dust current can pass, and the speed of this is probably not in excess of that of the car itself. Whereas, as is often the case in low hung voiturettes having tool boxes or silencing chambers coming near to the ground, this area is often reduced to 4 sq. ft., the speed of the current through this space is proportionately increased, and, according to the writer's observations, the tendency to dust raising is increased in much the same proportion.
There is an oil filter containing several sponges interposed at the point where the condensed water enters the water enters the water tank. The oil in the condensed water collects on these sponges, and they ought to be rinsed in petrol as soon as they are thoroughly coated with oil. If this is done the water in the tank keeps quite free from oil, but if neglected so that oil finds its way into the water tank, this should be occasionally scoured out and any oil wiped off. It is convenient to do this with a rag dipped in petrol, but in this case no light must be allowed near the tank.
Steam Car Network functions as a resource for all steam car and steam bike enthusiasts. The website is constantly updated with articles, events, and informative posts to keep the community alive and growing. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns at the email address below and we will promptly reply.