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A professional boiler - poor service

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Paul Horth13/06/2009 23:43:37
66 forum posts
18 photos

Last summer, I noticed that the boiler of my 2 inch traction engine was leaking. After investigation I decided that I needed a replacement professionally made boiler. I obtained quotes from several firms advertising in the Model Engineer, and gave the order to the firm who offered the best delivery time, which was 4 months.>>

What a fool I was.>>

The order was placed on October 22nd, the boiler has finally been delivered yesterday, a week short of 8 months from order. It had arrived for the first time two weeks ago, but it was not to the drawings in some important respects and had to be returned. 

This delay means that by the time I have reassembled the engine and obtained the club test certificate and insurance, I will have missed most of this seasonís running. >>


I was very angry with the attitude and the performance of the firm that I dealt with. My enquiries about progress in February and March were fobbed off. When I enquired in April about this boiler, I was patronised and told by the manager that he didnít know if the material had been ordered, and he didnít have any control over what his boilermaker was doing. When I questioned whether this was a professional way to conduct business, I was told bluntly, any more insults and I could have my deposit back.>>

Following this response, I made some enquiries, and found that he had outsourced the boiler to another supplier who also advertises in the Model Engineer. Speaking directly to the boilermaker was now possible, but I found (in mid-April, 6 months after my order) that the material had just been ordered, then he was going on holiday. >>

The boiler was delivered on May 29th. The cylinder saddle pad was in the wrong place so I couldnít attach the cylinder. There were only 4 hornplate stays fitted on each side, instead of 5, and they were a smaller size than on the drawing. Back it went, at my expense of course. I had by now paid the full balance.>>

Now I have the boiler at last, but I am about to go on holiday.

Today I found a further error, the turret bush is too small to fit my turret, was not made to the drawing, I will have to make an adaptor.

I have found this whole experience really frustrating. I was paying for a professional service but got something far inferior to that. I didnít even get a receipt until I asked for it.>>


I wonít name the suppliers on this forum, but if anyone is considering
John Wood127/06/2009 12:49:49
116 forum posts
What a disgrace. As a businessman myself I recoil in horror when this type of treatment is meted out to customers, I wonder how they stay in business and do they really think there are so many customers out there that upsetting a few won't matter?  If I treated mine like that I would be soon out of business and there is really no excuse for it.
I think you should certainly name and shame the firm concerned so that others may make an informed choice when looking for a supplier, you certainly owe them no favours. If they advertise in ME and/or MEW then I should think David would be interested, I'm sure he will pick up on your post.
Hope you finally get it all fitted up again soon though
All the best,  John
Conrad Dew05/07/2009 14:13:54
1 forum posts
Posted by John Wood1 on 27/06/2009 12:49:49:
I wonder how they stay in business

 They stay in business because nobody seems willing to name & shame in public.


Peter G. Shaw05/07/2009 17:22:53
1345 forum posts
44 photos
Ok, so neither we, nor the magazines, nor the website can name and shame. But, on the other hand, would it not be possible to name those firms which have provided exemplary service? Perhaps using some sort of recommendations counter. That way, we would find out which firms did not get many recommendations.
Just an idea.
Peter G. Shaw
wahiba06/07/2009 14:50:46
10 forum posts
If all the facts are true and accurately documented then what can they sue about? Someone telling the truth?
The lesson here is the phrase 'time is of the essence'. When no satisfactory progress had been made within the agreed time that is the time to get out, get the deposit back and go elsewhere.
There is a recession on, so I would think anyone quoting more than a month should be challenged and anyone quoting over two months left to go to the wall. The 4 month quote as the best suggests that maybe there is one boiler maker and a lot of other companies subcontracting to them.
JasonB06/07/2009 17:54:36
21652 forum posts
2495 photos
1 articles
Posted by wahiba on 06/07/2009 14:50:46:

There is a recession on, so I would think anyone quoting more than a month should be challenged and anyone quoting over two months left to go to the wall. The 4 month quote as the best suggests that maybe there is one boiler maker and a lot of other companies subcontracting to them.

 This is not the case, there are a small number of highly regarded boiler makers and due to the demand they can have waiting lists of upto 12months. They may only be one or two man (or woman) operations and do not sub out any work but the wait is worth it. I was lucky in that Helen From Western Steam had a spare boiler for my Traction engine otherwise I would happily have waited the quoted 10months.
I know Paul was in a bit of a rush to get a boiler done for the comming season so this may well have been a factor in his choice of maker.
Martin Cottrell06/07/2009 23:38:29
297 forum posts
18 photos
Hi David,
I though Peter Shaws' suggestion of a list of recommended traders was good but  feel that the larger suppliers may unfairly benefit purely through having a much larger customer base.
How about setting up a "recommendations" forum wherby we could solicit members opinions on products or services using the "message member " tab at the bottom of each listing.
If for instance I was looking for a good boilermaker I would make a request for details in the "recommendations" forum. Members could then send me a private message with their recommendations  without them being publicly aired on the forum. This would also have the benefit of highlighting the "not-so-good traders" for me to avoid without involving any public humiliation and ensueing legal wrangles!
Regards, Martin.
David Clark 107/07/2009 09:47:57
3357 forum posts
112 photos
10 articles
Hi There
Anyone buying a custom made boiler should ask for references from recent previous customers. This should help when deciding a boiler maker.
Anyone with a long delivery time may well be a one man band who produces a good product and has a big order book.
You should also ensure you know who who is making the boiler and that it is not being sub contracted.
If anyone would like to post recomendations of good boiler makers they are welcome to do so as long as they have no connection with the firm.
regards David
Steamtechnology07/07/2009 22:18:28
1 forum posts
I'm sorry that this man had a problem in getting his boiler built correctly and delivered, and received bad treatment but not all boiler makers act the same.  We Build Steam Boilers and our clients are happy with our work.

Edited By David Clark 1 on 08/07/2009 09:25:28

Paul Horth19/07/2009 22:20:57
66 forum posts
18 photos
I have just returned from holiday, and i'd like to thank you all for the messages of support.
I would be glad  to pass on the names of the suppliers that I dealt with to anyone who sends me a message. That includes the editor David Clark, so he can use this info as he should judge best. He may know of others who have had similar difficulties wit these suppliers.
Adrian Kruger09/01/2010 04:04:31
6 forum posts
i am building a fowler 2 inch to mj engineering plans and just wondered if there where any professional bioler makers in australia that i could go to, 
JasonB09/01/2010 08:15:39
21652 forum posts
2495 photos
1 articles
Adrian, I'm also doing the Fowler, you may have seen my work in MJ's Gallery. There is another builder in Aus doing a 3" that I am in contact with.
He usually visits Traction Talk Forum, (you can contact him via there as I don't like to just give out peoples personal e-mails) ask in the model section or pm him, his name is Doug Mellor.
You could also ask on This Yahoo group but its not as active as traction talk

Edited By JasonB on 09/01/2010 08:16:21

Laurence B11/01/2010 13:19:53
58 forum posts
An unsatisfactory state of affairs especially as you've found parts are missing or in the wrong place.In full sized practice,any boiler or pressure vessel that deviated from design without permission,would not be passed by the inspecting authority.Makes me wonder what the CE marking of model boilers is supposed to tell us.

Edited By Laurence B on 11/01/2010 13:20:35

Paul Horth11/01/2010 13:40:50
66 forum posts
18 photos
I agree completely with your comment about full size pressure vessels, I have spent my career in the oil and gas industry. and know how full size engineering is done. 
These model boiler makers are self-certifying. I have to take on trust that he has fitted the crownstays correctly (or at all???).  His inability to follow drawings does make my blood run cold, a bit.
I reassembled the engine by end September, and steamed it once in October in my back yard, because I don't yet have a club test or certificate. That will come in March.
This whole story has taken two years out of my steaming.
Lesson - as David Clark says, get references, go to someone recommended, even if they quote a long delivery time.
mgj12/01/2010 03:15:59
1017 forum posts
14 photos
Sorry but I thought the drawings were signed off by an inspector. So if he has deviated from them....
I made a Little Samson, and those drawings are most certainly signed off, and the lad who built the boiler professionally has certified that the boiler is to drawing. And I have been suppiled with copies of his welding certs, and the documentation for the material.Plus documentation of the x2 hydraulic test with the name of a second witness. And the CE doohickey.

Edited By meyrick griffith-jones on 12/01/2010 03:16:21

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