Sunday, 30 December 2012

C90 winter maintenance!

I decided that as I hadn't yet checked the oil filters in the C90 I acquired earlier this year and have ridden a lot since, it was time that was done. At my age my knees are past crawling around on the floor, so I bought a 'bike lift' which hydraulically raises the bike to a comfortable working height, and set up the C90 on it in the garage, though it can be used for any of my bikes..

This little bike has two oil filters, and to access them you have to remove the right hand engine cover. So I removed the leg shields, the kick start lever, the exhaust pipe, the battery, the footrests, and that engine cover. The main filter is a simple wire gauze one which is pulled out and cleaned in petrol to remove any debris (mine had a few tiny traces of swarf on it, probably from the gears as the engine shares its oil with the gearbox on this bike).

The second filter is a centrifugal one mounted on the end of the clutch basket. The spinning of the clutch forces heavier elements suspended in the engine oil to the extremities of the filter where they lodge. We had to use an impact screwdriver to remove the four screws that secure the filter plate to the clutch basket, but I'm glad we persisted because after about 26,000 miles there was quite a deposition of hard black sludge in the filter, which I cleaned out.

As ever, please click on any image to enlarge it.

The C90 on the new bike lift and stripped down. The leg shields are off, as is the right hand engine cover. The clutch basket is the drum shaped object just to the left of the brake pedal, and the centrifugal engine oil filter has been removed from the face of it and the crud scraped out.

When we removed the spark plug it could be seen that the previous owner had not fully tightened it as it wasn't fully screwed in and showed signs of 'blow by' of exhaust gasses. The bottom threads were sooted up so we ran a greased tap down the hole to clean it but unfortunately the tap contacted the inlet valve and bent it very slightly preventing it seating properly and resulting in lost engine compression. So the cylinder head had to come off, which was perhaps as well as some swarf from the tap would have gone into the cylinder anyway and it'd be good to get that out before running the engine.

In fact, I decided to do a top end overhaul, checking and replacing the valves if necessary, and also taking the opportunity to have a look at the cylinder bore itself.

A general view of the C90 on the bike lift, removed parts, tools, and the Haynes manual 
much in evidence

The carburettor and air filter were removed as were several other parts to gain clear access to the cylinder head. The cam sprocket cover and other peripheral head parts were removed, the head nuts etc, and the three bolts holding the cam sprocket to the cam shaft (this little engine is overhead cam). Luckily this is an electric start bike so there is an inspection hole on the left hand engine cover through which the valve timing marks can be viewed, obviating the removal of that engine cover. The cam chain tensioner was removed and the head carefully slid up the hold-down studs and off the engine, taking care that the cam sprocket remained engaged with its chain as it came clear of the head.

 The top of the cylinder barrel with the four hold-down studs, the cam sprocket, and its drive chain clearly visible, as is the blackened piston crown

Very slight scoring on the camshaft journals, but the cam lobes look good!

The headless engine viewed from the other side, with the carburettor assembly tied up out of the way.

The removed cylinder head. Note the heavy black carbon deposition which will have to be removed, and the cleanliness of the exhaust valve compared to the bigger inlet valve, indicating that the former runs much much hotter than the latter.

The vital parts removed from the bike, including clutch actuator mechanism, various covers, bolts, bearings, camshaft, and valve gear

 'Exmo' (XMO!) showing the limited working space in the garage

 The cylinder bore is free from any scoring or ridges so shows no sign of wear; that's a relief! I've yet to remove the valves from the head (I have a valve spring compressor on order to do that), order new gaskets and at least an inlet valve, then clean up the head and piston crown and various gasket faces. After that, reassembly can commence!

I know the main stand is corroded to its swivel pin (so the pin moves in the frame rather than the stand revolving around the pin) due to awful Honda design (there's nothing to prevent the pin rotating in the frame, so it does!). But I have a modification in hand to sort that out which will start with angle-grinding the old pin out. Then there's the final drive chain to check. But before all that, I'll re-assemble Exmo and get her running again. 

When all this is done I'll know I have a very sound little bike for further Stepper trips on nice days! 

Update, January 2013

The inlet valve was replaced and the valves lapped in after I'd obtained a valve spring compressor to facilitate the job, and Malcolm and I soon had the head back on, timing up the camshaft for the valve timing very carefully. 

The old inlet valve, not bent as at first thought, but clearly showing damage where the tap had contacted the valve head it as it was fed down the spark plug hole. This prevented the valve from seating, and so there was no compression in the engine. 

I suggested putting the spark plug in to check the compression... and then we discovered that our tapping of the threads hadn't done the job. The plug didn't actually go far enough into the head to pick up the 'good' threads, and was spinning uselessly on the worn upper threads. So the spark plug hole would have to be repaired, which meant the cylinder head had to come off again. This was disappointing, but there was no alternative.

Checking with the gurus on the Honda C90 Internet Forum it seemed what was needed was not a Helicoil repair to the thread (where a wire coil is inserted into the old threads to form new ones) but a better system known as TimeSert. This involves tapping out the old thread slightly oversize, and screwing in a metal insert which has the correct thread for the spark plug. I found a small motorcycle repair business underneath the railway arches near Deansgate in Manchester who could do this (Kickstart Motorcycles), and one snowy Friday I took the head there had the job done.

The cleaned-up head, with a new inlet valve fitted and the 
copper-coloured TimeSert visible in the spark plug hole

The TimeSert is visible in this outside view of the cylinder head

At this point I decided to renew the clutch plates as I'd noticed a slight tendency for the clutch to slip when kick-starting the bike. I had to order a special tool to remove the clutch nut, but otherwise the job was quite straightforward. 
Clutch drum removed from the engine, with the friction and driven plates taken out to show the bob weights for the centrifugal mechanism which automatically engages the clutch as the engine revs rise

 A comparison of the old (left) and replacement (right) clutch friction plates

 The C90, like many motorcycle clutches, runs in oil. Here are the three replacement friction plates being soaked in engine oil before fitting.

With the new friction plates fitted the clutch drum is fitted back onto the engine. The clutch nut that holds it on is behind the metal centrifugal oil filter cover, itself held on by the four Allen socket screws. These were changed from the original cross-head screws as the latter very difficult to remove (we had to use an impact driver for the job). Just the clutch release mechanism to fit, then the right hand engine cover with its gasket can go back on.

Engine cover in place, clutch adjusted using the set screw in the centre of the dome, footrests and kick start lever back in place, all ready to try to remove the main stand....

See the entry for 31st January in this blog to follow how we tackled the main stand renovation.



Saturday, 1 December 2012

Agecroft No.1 in winter sun!

Our Robert Stephenson & Hawthorne 0-4-0 saddle tank 'Agecroft No.1' has recently been repainted by MoSI (Manchester Museum of Science & Industry) volunteers, and I went to MoSI today, braving the Manchester Christmas Market crowds, to photograph her in bright December sunshine.

As ever, click on the pictures for larger images.

Atmospheric shot of MoSI wreathed in loco smoke this morning

I blagged a lift on the train's brake van, and took this picture looking back from its rear platform towards the MoSI site. Stuart, the Operating Officer authorised me to leave the train at the Ordsall points in order to take some pictures in one of the few places on our line where the low December sun can illuminate Agecroft. In most other lineside locations, buildings and structures put the line in shadow.

I donned an orange hi-viz waistcoat and climbed down from the brake van to take some shots of the train. This was from the Ordsall ground frame platform.

The train approaches the Salford end of the site

It passes me, cylinder steam cocks open

The guard leans out from the brake van to give the 'right away' to the driver.....

.....As Agecroft, resplendent in her new colours, propels her train back down the Pineapple Line

'Mulliner's Curve' in the foreground has a check rail (the inner rail on the left). It's the sharpest radius curve on site and Stuart once had the misfortune to derail the train here while propelling back down the Pineapple Line. A nearby team of British Rail track workers soon had it back on the rails, and the PW expert opined that the derailment had occurred because the curve was sharp enough to require a check rail - so one was fitted!

After reaching the end of the Pineapple Line, Agecroft returns to the Orsall points

A view from inside the cosy Brake Van with its welcome pot-bellied stove on this freezing day, where I'd rejoined Stuart and our guard as we return to the station, propelled by Agecroft

Agecroft between runs, in the Liverpool Road station platform

She isn't the easiest engine to fire because of the cramped cab. Note the tea billies keeping warm on the shelf above the firehole door; thirsty work on the footplate!

Back at Ordsall ground frame, it's the fireman's job to change the points so we can reverse down the Pineapple Line having run up from the station. The blue lever releases and engages the facing point lock, the black lever changes the point itself. Facing points have to be locked for passenger train operations so the point cannot change while a train is passing over it, derailing the train. Before either lever can be moved, the frame has to be unlocked with the staff (sometimes called the 'Token', the device which authorises the train to run on the line). The staff cannot be removed from the frame until it has been locked again.

A view from the brake van's rear platform as we reverse down the Pineapple Line

From the same vantage point, reversing back down to the station at Liverpool Road. The original Liverpool & Manchester station of 1830 (the oldest railway station in the world) is on the right, with the 1830 warehouse on the left. The 21st century Beetham Tower in the background of this essentially 19th century view provides a nice juxtaposition.

Approaching the Liverpool Road platform. The Power Hall (originally the goods transit shed) is to the right, the Great Western Warehouse to the left.

The train in the station, viewed from the opposite side to where the platform is

As I leave MoSI, Agecroft's smoke is still adding to the atmosphere in Lower Byrom Street


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

MoSI Railway's electric loco gets a boost!

The battery electric locomotive at MoSI today
I visited the Manchester Museum of Science & Industry (MoSI) today to attend a meeting regarding the proposed Ordsall Chord, a Network Rail proposal which is part of the 'Northern Hub' scheme to improve rail in the North West (the chord's alignment might spell the end of the MoSI railway). I noticed the railway's battery electric locomotive, bonnets up, being ministered to by a couple of blokes from the Exide battery company. As ever.please click on any picture for a larger image.
One of the original batteries after being removed from the locomotive
 This 4-wheel loco is very useful at MoSI for shunting our steam locomotives and train in and out of the power hall at the beginning and the end of the day when the steam loco is not in steam. It also has many uses around the site moving rail vehicles. But her batteries are now 25 years old, 50% longer than their published useful life. Some cells have failed and have been shorted out, while the others only retain a small part of the charge they should, and that doesn't last long. Now £12,000 has been spent on a new set of cells, and today they were being installed in place of the old ones by the men from Exide.
 One man extracts the old cell, while his mate brings a new one to replace it
 A long pair of 'pliars' is used to extract the old cell, then it is replaced by a new one
 The loco was in the Liverpool Road platform for its battery change despite the rainy weather, so the heavy cells would not need to be lifted too high by the guys doing the installation
A view under one of the two bonnets shows 90 individual lead acid cells connected in series. The other bonnet contains another 90. These 180 cells have the electrolyte in already, and are about 70% charged, so once installation is complete a short charging session should see our battery loco ready for another 25 years of life!

The battery electric locomotive photographed on an earlier occasion, hauling 'Planet' prior to getting the latter into steam 


Sunday, 18 November 2012

'Stepping out' to Mouldsworth Motor Museum

Today was a brilliant cold but clear-blue-sky sunny late autumn day, so some form of motorcycling had to be done!

Malc and I decided to visit the Motor Museum at Mouldsworth, near Chester. It's a trip we'd had 'on the back burner' for a while, waiting for the right day. The museum is only open on Sundays until the end of November so today was ideal. We rode there on the 'Steppers' (low power step-through motorbikes). I went on my Honda C90 so Malc (who has a few 'Steppers' and 'Chicken Chasers' [sub 50cc machines] to choose from) took his C90 as well.

As ever, click (and click again!) on any picture for a better, more detailed, clearer, and larger image.

The C90 photographed on another day, with my MX5 in the background. I bought the bike earlier this year (it's in the blog - go look!), and added the rear rack and rare white top box myself, care of eBay.

The back roads (steppers are more fun on these than on 'A' roads) were still a bit frosty this morning so we had to be careful on the first bit of the run, out through Warford, Ollerton and Peover to visit Graham at Northwich for a warming cup of coffee. Graham took a picture of us on our Steppers on arrival,seen below.

Malc and I on our 'steppers' in Graham's yard this morning

After being shown around Graham's latest 'home improvements' (including a central heating boiler he recently installed, complete with its own gas meter!) we hit the road out through Northwich to Hartford, Gorstage, Cuddington, Norely and through Delamere Forest to Mouldsworth. From Hartford onwards the route was along country lanes, delightful in the low late autumn sunshine.

Not a handsome building! The museum is housed in this concrete ex-water treatment plant. Our 'steppers' are by the fence on the right.

This Vincent HRD is worth a bob or two.... There were a few more motorcycles in the museum, including a Sunbeam, Frances Barnett, and Royal Enfield.

 We were told that this little Morris tourer was extremely rare, one of only three in existence

Trojan bubble car, a licence built Heinkel

This general view down the museum shows its industrial origins. There is a bore hole in an adjacent building but the water from it is very hard, so it was 'softened' in the treatment plant which is now the museum. The Mid Cheshire Railway runs by the rear of the site, and Northwich rock salt was brought by rail to the plant's own sidings for use in water softening. These days the bore hole is only used in case of drought, the usual water supply for the Chester area (including Mouldsworth) coming from Lake Vyrnwy in Wales.

Malc inspects a Rover chassis. The dun-coloured car is Crossley, built in Manchester.

Not just cars on display here, either....

This original Heinkel left hand drive bubble car had only one owner all its life and was purchased in its present dilapidated condition by the museum owner. When the purchaser heard that the garage the little car had been stored in was going to be demolished, he offered to take it away. It was re-assembled in the museum, once again providing a home for its long-disused occupant!

I've always thought a mid-60s 3.8 Jaguar E-Type convertible in red to be probably the sexiest car ever. This one is a 1969 4.2, and lacks chrome wire wheels, so doesn't quite cut the mustard. But it's very nice anyway!

It looks as good today as it did in the '60s!

Not sure why the RAC man is typing a letter on the bonnet of this 1930 Morris Minor....

Interesting little sports car powered by an earlier 500cc version of the 750cc parallel twin engine that powers my Triumph Bonneville motorcycle

At this time of year it soon starts to get dark, so we headed homeward about mid afternoon a quicker way back (even on Steppers!) using the A54 and A556 as far as Davenham, then the country lanes home via Lach Dennis, Peover, Ollerton and Warford.

My C90 was quite mucky by the time I got home, streaked in mud and probably a bit salty too from the semi-icy roads of this morning, so it got a thorough hose-down, clean, and drying-off before retiring to the garage and the company of the 'big bikes' (Triumph Bonneville and Suzuki Freewind) in there. These little 'steppers' are as much fun as those big bikes in their own way!

Another great day out for the old gits! 

Postscript, 20th January 2013

Sad news this week. It seems we saw the museum at perhaps the last possible time we could have, as it closed for the winter soon after our visit, and will not re-open. Here is a message from the proprietor:

14 January 2013

A personal message from James Peacop

After 40 years the Museum at Mouldsworth has been forced to close.
I would like to offer my thanks to all those who have visited and supported this popular collection during the past 40 years.

I have tried to keep this unique collection of cars and auto memorabilia together in Cheshire, but this has proved impossible.
I have therefore instructed BRIGHTWELLS, the auctioneers at Leominster, near Hereford, to arrange suitable sales.