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Help with Tilley Lamps

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Clive Farrar27/01/2021 10:49:49
105 forum posts
36 photos

As Simon W 3 has said use C28 heating oil.

I have used it for years having come across the tip in a sea fishing mag.

No mods required just fill up and go and at 45 - 50p a litre it is very econmical.

You just need to find someone with oil heating to pull off a bit for you. I would offer you some of mine but at the opposite end of the country that does not work.

Good luck

Regards Clive

Bo'sun27/01/2021 10:57:27
358 forum posts

Thank you Clive, I'll see what I can find locally.

Clive Farrar27/01/2021 11:07:01
105 forum posts
36 photos

Look up and try your local heating oil supplier I seem to recall that my local one would sell it , fill up , your own 25 lt container if you took it along.

It had to be steel though ! I took a plastic outboard tank along , which is designed for the job and a more flammable liquid, totally stone walled . No way jose! but the steel jerry can was no problem.

this was before I had found out how to pull some from the bulk heating tank i have.


Nigel Graham 228/01/2021 00:05:02
1076 forum posts
16 photos

I must admit I was surprised to see some use heating-oil in Tilley lamps. I can understand it working in a wick lamp but had no idea it will work in a pressurised-vapour lamp.

As well as the Vapalux, I have two colliery safety-lamps (wick, not pressure).

One is a "souvenir" type, safety in name only. It works as a lamp but not as a safety-lamp as it lacks the internal gauzes and some other fittings.

The other is genuine and had been kept by an uncle who had been a Nottinghamshire miner. Unfortunately its metal label is missing. There is something of a knack to lighting it, as if you put the casing straight on and screw it down the flame dies out. It seems to need a few moments held open a little to warm the "chimney". It does not give much light but I think was a type used primarily as a gas indicator rather than work illuminant.


Hello Duncan.

That memory sent me to my bookshelves and the copies of the guide-books! Great Douk Cave? (On the slopes above the Hill Inn. Big resurgence entrance in large shake-hole, fine, easy stream-way eventually lowering upstream to low crawls pass under two or three entrances in the clints.)

Ah, a student of the indomitable David Heap, eh? I know the name, and have read his Potholing [In? / Below?] the Northern Pennines in the days when men were men even in their school-days, could re-light a 'Premier' acetylene lamp under a waterfall, and ended up with knackered knees from years of frequent crawling on sharp scallops in cold streams before knee-pads were invented! (I recall his book waxes a bit lyrical about the discomforts, but perhaps his knees survived.)

Did you go to Norway with him? Some years ago I was in a team that visited one area he had. It involved a long drive along a gravel road half-way round the country's largest lake, Rossvatnet, to a hamlet near the marble band we explored. I was told - directly by or only second-hand from someone (possibly a former Ermysteds pupil?) who has carried out a lot of original cave-exploring in Norway - that when Mr. Heap and the boys were there, there was no road and they had to wait for two very windy days until the lake waters were calm enough to be crossed in a small boat.

I was also told that on one of his EGS caving expeditions to Norway, the guard was very reluctant to let them off the train at the remote rural station, it being dark and snowing out there!

You weren't on these expeditions, were you?

Oh the memories that arise when I catch a whiff of acetylene...

duncan webster28/01/2021 01:10:32
3069 forum posts
40 photos

Hi Nigel

EGS had at least 2 expeditions to Norway, I went on one in summer, the older lads went back in Xmas holidays. There could have been others after I'd left school. We stayed in some wooden huts in Dunderansdalen, split into 2 parties. DH and the older lads were in one doing more serious stuff, we younger ones were left much to our own devices, and no it didn't turn out like Lord of the Flies. We found a couple of caves by the simple method of knocking on the farmers' doors and asking if they knew of any! One chap had a family expedition with us up the side of the valley to show us what turned out to be quite a decent hole. How on earth we got away with no adult supervision in an area with no Pennine Underground and no cave rescue I do not know. Camping on a snowfield was another new experience. This before the days of thermarests, it was a lot cold to lie on.

All our grub was donated by food companies in Leeds/Bradford I remember loads of stuff from Lloyd Rakuson, and believe it or not tins of Players untipped cigarettes, which were good for keeping the huge blood sucking flies away

Acetylene was very much the in thing when I started, refilling the water container when you were in a dry bit was a tad disgusting, pee in it then put it back on your helmet, and hope the lid doesn't come off the tin of carbide when you're crawling though a wet bit or you'll gas yourself and have no light for the rest of the trip. Investing in a CEAG was a good move even if they were a bit heavy. The last cave I went down was Great Dowk with a party of scouts. The chap who was leading got a bit lost towards the top end and was trying to get us up a passage in which I simply didn't fit, so I turned back and came back out the bottom. He admitted afterwards that they only got about another 20 ft before giving up and finding the right way, but I really enjoyed coming out on my own, there is nothing so peaceful as the sound of running water in the pitch black when you turn your light off. Probably 20 years ago now.

Bo'sun28/01/2021 09:32:55
358 forum posts
Posted by Nigel Graham 2 on 28/01/2021 00:05:02:


The other is genuine and had been kept by an uncle who had been a Nottinghamshire miner. Unfortunately its metal label is missing. There is something of a knack to lighting it, as if you put the casing straight on and screw it down the flame dies out. It seems to need a few moments held open a little to warm the "chimney". It does not give much light but I think was a type used primarily as a gas indicator rather than work illuminant.

Good morning Nigel,

Might there be something missing from your safety lamp? My Eccles "Protector" safety lamp has an enclosed flint ignitor that doesn't require the lamp to be taken apart before lighting. It can therefor bet fueled-up, and the padlock applied before going down the mine (or whatever). I believe these lamps, as you say, were for gas detection, rather than illumination. The relatively small flame would ensure minimum fuel consumption.


Nigel Graham 228/01/2021 23:11:33
1076 forum posts
16 photos

Bo'sun -

Ah, mine must be a different model, possibly different make, from yours then. Examining it I see two labels are missing. One I assume was a colliery badge; the other, the maker's name-plate. There are some initials stamped in the top of the reservoir, visible when the lamp is opened, but conveying little.

Its lock, which has been removed or broken, was internal; evidently a special screw needing its particular driver and deep inside a counter-bore, and which engaged machined ratchet-like teeth hidden within the assembled lamp.

It does not have a flint igniter but an electrical one. It consists of a short, stiff wire electrode now bent out of true shape, but which I assume produced a sparking-plug effect with the steel wick-tube. The electrode passed within a ceramic insulator, down through the reservoir to a contact in a 'Tufnol' bush in the underside of the lamp's base.

It has another control, a stiff wire passing also from below the base to end in an 'L'-shape close to a slot in the wick tube. Though this no longer works properly it seems to be for adjusting the wick protrusion.

I overhauled an old, ordinary hurricane lantern and have sometimes used if on dark Winter nights to illuminate my way from workshop back to house. A torch is easier! Over Christmas I hung it above my front-door (only a few feet from the pavement) each night, but the effect was rather lost by a street-lamp nearby.


Duncan -

I still have my Premier lamps - but no carbide!

I've been on a series of perhaps a dozen caving expeditions to the South Nordland area (about 200 miles N from Trondheim). They were actually all the field trips for, and one or two follow-up trips to, their organiser's PhD thesis as a retirement hobby, into the area's caves' geology.

A good deal of our finds were by asking the locals, and we befriended one who made a bit of money by leading visitors on walking and easy caving trips near his home in Svenningsdalen.

The main railway passed his back garden, and the nearby camp-site we sometimes used. The late-night combination of the deep tuba-like engine-note and frequent horn-blowing from one of the large diesel locos hauling the Bodo - Trondheim passenger service up-valley, the rail-ringing and the river, was remarkably atmospheric. In later years these were replaced by DMUs. (The railways are electrified only as far West as Bergen, and North to Trondheim, from Oslo.)

Quite a few non-cavers have told me they'd visited Norway, and we both praise its beauty; but it's soon clear they'd been on coastal cruises with the odd coach-trip a short way inland, maybe a trip on the Flam Railway, so have seen little if anything beyond the coastal mountains. Caving let us see both fjords and interior!

The caver I mentioned previously was David St. Pierre, who visited Norway many times over many years with his wife Shirley (who passed away quite some years ago now). Does the name ring a block-telegraph or two, at all?

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