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Boiler testing info wanted

New to steam and need help re finishing a model

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Steve Carpenter15/07/2020 10:43:23
5 forum posts

Hi, I'm hoping someone can help me , I have a 4 inch Ruston Proctor traction engine kit built from a Winson kit in 2000/2001, sadly the builder was unable to finish it having built about 95% of it. I've boxes of unfitted parts and the build sheets except the one dealing with the boiler. The boiler has a certificate dated 2000 and I've a lot of material certificates that go with it, the engine has never been steamed although I believe it was run on compressed air at one point... my question is this in simple terms please... what is needed to get a boiler certificate now bearing in mind it's 20 years old? I need to decide if I should try to build it as a working engine or keep it as a static before I start. I'll have to strip it down to carry out a cosmetic refurbishment anyway as 20 years in a garage has left some minor surface rust on some areas, nothing serious though.

You help/comments appreciated as this is a new hobby for me having always been into cars.


David George 115/07/2020 13:09:01
1572 forum posts
482 photos

Hi Steve welcome to the forum. The best that I can suggest is to join your local club or society as most have specialists who can look over the boiler and paperwork and give you better advice. Where are you based as it helps to give you local information or even local members may help.


Steve Carpenter15/07/2020 13:45:39
5 forum posts

Thanks for the reply, I'm in Chichester and we do have a thriving model engineers in the city, at the moment I'm waiting to hear back from them as we're reluctant to go out at the present. Assume the boiler is unused but 20 years old what I'd appreciate is a quick comment on the complexity of the testing and what's involved, ie does the boiler have to be stipped out of the model or is it tested in the completed engine? I'm can't decide if it can be a working model or an a static until I can get an rough idea as to what needs to be done to get it in steam. As a 'steam newbie' all advice is welcome.


Brian Baker 115/07/2020 14:46:28
158 forum posts
34 photos

Hi Steve, the best person to help you is the local club boiler inspector, and you need to invite him to view the boiler.

Details of the current regulations are in the orange book obtainable from the Southern Federation of Model Engineers, or the Northern Association of M E. It will cheer up your boiler inspector no end that (a) you have the booklets, and (b) you have read them, even if you are still not sure about all of the contents.


Brian (A Boiler Inspector)

Nick Clarke 315/07/2020 15:09:08
1212 forum posts
49 photos

If you want to make your engine a working boiler it would need to have a test.

You have a couple of options:

Pay for an independent professional test and their inspector will tell you what they want to see and what should be stripped off.


Join a club in which case their boiler inspectors can inspect the boiler and again they will tell you what they expect, but club inspectors can normally only inspect boilers from members of their own club and so not only would you need to join first, but quite rightly many clubs do not wish to have someone join and resign after a year having got a free certificate so they can be a bit wary at first.

The other issue is that not all boiler inspectors are happy to deal with an unknown boiler if, as I suspect, it is made from steel - If yours is you may need to check up on this first.

Although only run on compressed air, perhaps 20 years ago, there might have been condensation in the boiler all that time.

Edited By Nick Clarke 3 on 15/07/2020 15:17:45

Paul Kemp15/07/2020 20:01:18
641 forum posts
18 photos


As long as you have the paperwork supplied with the boiler (material and welder certs) and a copy of the shell test certificate you should have no problems irrespective of its age. As you have provenance confirming it was commercially built before 2002 the CE marking regs do not apply so no issues there either.

I also have a Winson R&P that came to me in a similar way to yours! Mine had been previously built by at least two other previous owners niether of which achieved getting a fire in the boiler and a third owner who didn't do much to it. I knew the reputation of the marque when I took it on and consequently stripped it down completely and started from scratch throwing quite a few original bits in the scrap and making new. Mine goes quite well and I have done quite a few miles with it on the road and at rallies.

I think from memory the number of mine is 38.

As said above if your local club are happy to test steel boilers (and not all are) then you shouldn't have any problem getting it tested. With mine as it was stripped I had a new 2 X WP shell test done by my club as a bare boiler, followed by a 1.5 WP once built up with fittings etc and then the steam test. If I remember the original shell test it came with bore no real relation to 2 X WP (120psi), it was closer to 2.5 so getting a new one at a lower pressure was no issue. The only comment a club (or indeed commercial) inspector may make is the fact Winson decided to weld the tubes rather than roll them but that doesn't contravene any regs so shouldn't be an obstacle.

Somewhere I have a complete set of the Winson documentation including some invoices, a publicity leaflet the various kit contents lists and the build instructions but to be honest it's all to a pretty basic and in some cases lacking any real detail so not having it shouldn't be a real block to building up a decent engine. Couple of tips, they supplied 2 different slide valves (one was the wrong length) so make sure you have the right one! The safety valves are pretty rubbish as supplied and exit horizontally - your boiler inspector probably won't be impressed by those so best to make new ones. The hand pump is better located inside the tender tank rather than on the side as supplied and it's too small to provide anything other than a real last ditch method of putting water in. The kit supplied water gauge frames are useles and the single cock design, make yourself a set of 3 cock gauges. The plumbing for the crank pump is wrong on the Winson Drg and won't work, redesign yourself. The crank pump needs a gland on the ram, it's tight for space but there is room for a screwed castellated ring, you will be disappointed if you don't. Boiler clack valves that came with mine went in the bin and I made some better ones. Saddle radius of the cylinder block as supplied didn't match the boiler, needs addressing. Front steering pivot going into the smokebox sieze up with ash, needs a redesign (a friend also had one and suffered this so I didn't bother fitting mine as supplied but modified it before steaming). Probably a whole host of other small details that need addressing to get a good running engine that I have forgotton! If you search Traction Talk you will find a build thread I posted of most of the issues I came across.

Dont be discouraged! It's a lively little engine when put together right and in high gear you can keep up with bigger engines without thrashing it. Have fun.


Steve Carpenter16/07/2020 10:55:24
5 forum posts

Hi All, thanks for replying to my thread all most helpful, it sounds feasible to get a boiler certificate in due course, so my plan is is to commence a careful strip down to deal with the cosmetic issues learning about any mechanical problems with a view to getting them sorted and at the same time make contact with a local boiler inspector.

I will track down Paul's build thread as that sounds like a good starting point as well, I'll get hold of the orange boiler booklet for reference.

My engine is a Ruston 4 inch Tractor, the Winson Boiler certificate gives it boiler no. 43 hydraulically tested to 350 psi minimum for a working pressure of 120 psi.

Thanks again for your help and taking the time to reply.


Bazyle16/07/2020 12:43:45
5896 forum posts
218 photos

A boiler test is in two parts. An hydraulic test with it full of water so there is no danger if anythng gives way then a steam test to check the safety valves, pump and pressure gauge and steam finds smaller holes in the joints. For the first you will need to make plugs to replace some of the fittings and to provide a test pump connection which the inspector will advise about. Traction engines are a bit more convenient than locos as you can see all those stays and there is less cladding on the boiler.
It is likely that the inpectors will be older guys also not wanting to go out so a phone call will start thigs off and give you an idea of what preparation you need to do.

Paul Kemp16/07/2020 12:59:24
641 forum posts
18 photos


Dont overlook the fact that the majority of miniature TE designs use bolt on horn plates so the firebox outer and side stays are completely obscured when assembled. Hence better to convince who-ever you choose to use that everything is sound before assembly especially if they are going to insist on a new "initial shell test".

involve whoever is going to do your tests at the bare boiler stage and there will be no disappointments or dispute.


Steve Carpenter17/07/2020 10:04:03
5 forum posts

Thanks again for the responses...last boiler test question...hopefully! How long does a certificate remain valid on a scale traction engine even if you don't fire the engine up? How often therefore does it have to be renewed. Sorry if I'm asking the obvious. Regards. Steve.

Paul Kemp17/07/2020 20:06:14
641 forum posts
18 photos


Theoretically the initial 2xWP shell test remains valid for the life of the boiler but with the proviso it has not undergone any major structural alteration or repair - in which case it needs to be repeated.

The 1.5 WP test for a new boiler is carried out when it is installed usually and combined with all its fittings, cylinder block etc. For the first test on a new steel boiler this remains valid for 4 years and thereafter repeated every 2 years irrespective of use.

The final part of the puzzle is the annual cold exam and steam test. This must be done in combination with a valid 1.5 WP test to achieve insurance. Certificate for this can be issued for up to a maximum of 14 months but most inspectors will limit it to 12 to keep everything in "sync" as a steam test cannot be issued for longer than the validity of the 1.5 WP pressure test. Thus if you had a pressure test and steam test on the same day and the pressure is for 2 years, your second steam test can only be issued for 10 months to coincide with expiry of pressure test. Again the steam test is irrespective of use.

The annual cold exam and steam accumulation test is often abbreviated to steam test but in reality it should be a thorough visual examination of all parts of the boiler and its fittings and then the boiler being put into steam and an inspection of fittings and verification of pressure gauge and water gauge and then with the blower wide open and a good fire to ensure that the safety valves do not allow a rise in pressure of more than 10% of the safety lifting pressure. You will have no issues on this with your Ruston as there are 2 large valves so plenty of capacity to vent and with mine with both valves blowing the rise in pressure is hardly detectable.

The above is for the "club" scheme, the only major difference with the commercial approach is your 1.5 WP hydraulic is valid for 10 years, annual exams / steam test remain the same at a max 14 months.  Club test is usually free as part of your membership subscription, commercial tests vary but budget around the £200 per year mark!  As has previously been noted though clubs do not look favourably on members joining just to get a "free" test and rightly they expect some participation in club activities!

Hope that helps,


Edited By Paul Kemp on 17/07/2020 20:10:43

Steve Carpenter18/07/2020 19:12:31
5 forum posts

Thanks Paul, that's most helpful, sets it all out clearly, I've learnt a lot, it's not quite as scary as I expected!

PS I've sent you a PM, did you get it?



Paul Kemp18/07/2020 19:56:56
641 forum posts
18 photos


Fot it and replied. Can't remember if I included my email so I will send you one then you will have it.


Howard Lewis18/07/2020 21:05:11
4859 forum posts
12 photos

+1 for what Paul says about joining your local club., and joining in the activities.

Not only will you get a free boiler test, but you will be able to socialise and learn a great deal from other members.


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