Intended to stimulate debate:-
"CHARLES HAMILTON" said... . On
reflection, I think I preferred "as found" engines which ran well, compared
to "overdone" ones that didn't! Opinions anyone?
I'm with you on this, Charles. I would never paint anything which had a
reasonable amount of original finish left. I have to admit that as well as
wanting the engine to look antique and reflect its working life, I hate
Sadly, several of the engines I have were "got-at" by people who had more
enthusiasm than sense and were painted in colours best reserved for use by
graffiti artists, so they will have to be painted :-(.
Where possible I'd go for conservation rather than restoration every time.
Why not start a new thread on this topic Charles?
It is possible and I have done it using wire wool and paint stripper but
usually the previous 'restorer' has scrupulously removed all the original
before applying, with a worn out bog-brush, numerous thick coats of
mucous-green or vomitous-vermilion or even in one case phlegm-yellow :-)
I once rescued an old radio which had for some unaccountable reason been
treated to a good coat of battleship grey paint. I gave it an experimental
wipe with thinners and sure enough the paint started to come off. An hour or
so later and it was all off revealing a quite acceptable polished walnut
veneer finish underneath!
BTW. A radio cabinet which has been 'restored' with several coats of lumpy
varnish slapped on with a tar brush is often referred to as a "toffee
apple", don't know what the equivalent engine term would be.
Whenever possible, conserve. Even if only because anything
else by definition destroys for ever the patina of age,
wear, crud & general decay brought about by real use of the
engine. This an irreversible decision not to be taken lightly.
However, once originality is destroyed then decide how to
refinish. If it's an early engine that orginally had splendid
lining, polished rims & wonderful transfers, restore it so.
If the maker had even better quality exhibition engines that
are well documented & you want to pay homage to them, do so.
Fill all the imperections, polish to your hearts content, &
be proud that you have faithfully emulated the very best
done by Hornsby/ Blackstone/ Petter et al at the big shows.
If it is a little kit engine such as early Gardners or open
crank Stuarts, then do as happened then, & paint it how you
prefer. Open season really, but no shocking pinks please --
let's at least be contemporary in what we do.
If it is a common engine with plenty of original versions
around as reference, then if you want to vary the colour
style it is up to you -- I may not like it, but it is your
Article posted from Internal Fire Newsreader
Share your knowledge in... uk.rec.engines.stationary
So far, we are all in agreement - if it's a rusty lump of tat from the back
of a hedge, repaint and refinish.
If it purchased in sound cosmetic - although worn - order, fix the
mechanicals and clean the exterior, adding new bits where required.
How about a once fixed engine that is now to be exhibited? Should the new
tanks for water and fuel be made from old stuff? be distressed? made from
scratch and painted up as new products? What about the trolley?
I'm in two minds, what do others think?
Original if poss if not then more or less to finish and style and time. My
pet hate is grossly overfinished hardwood trolleys covered in modern
varnish. AFAIK most manufacturers used a decent Pine (Oregon probably)
finished in either brushed paint or heavy gas tar. I find Douglas Fir gormed
with 50/50 sump-oil/creosote creates a passable facsimile and saves a lot of
timewasting wiping too.
In two minds is just the way I feel.
For what its worth I like to see an engine in good original (or original
looking) condition or, second best, restored with a good paint job and with
polished flywheels if appropriate (basically looking as if it were new from
the factory at the time of its making). While I can see the attraction of
gleaming brass, I feel sometimes restorers go over the top on this.
Polyurethaned mahogany trolleys which have had the obvious attention of a
router (a very recent tool) going round corners do rather put me off. I
don't know how many trolley builders make their softwood SO orange, but I
have difficulty in seeing the beauty of it. The original trolleys I have
are pitch pine (does anyone know what species this is?) and oak, these are
Bamford and Lister respectively. Creosote, like many other useful but
environmentally questionable substances is no longer available in the shops,
but I agree it does do a good ageing job on trolley wood.
I think new parts, if the restorer is clever enough, should be distressed to
match the look of the distressed engine. If there a lot of new parts, then
the refinishing route is the one I would take.
I think that a lot of thought should be given to refinishing before doing
it. There are fewer and fewer of our these relics of the early 20th century
in their original clothes and it would seem a tragedy if we just had the
colour references in SEM to go on, without ever seeing an engine in the
remains of its first finish.
In antiques of other sorts, particularly furniture, a lot of value is lost
if the original finish is gone. Few people would now attack an 18th century
table with skirting board stain, so why assault an old engineering artifact
unnecessarily with plastic paint?
The problem with conservation is that as soon as you wipe off a layer of
filth you destroy something. Should we not change the oil in an engine
because we loose originality?
I shall now put my head on the block and disagree with you all.
I think that engines should be restored to the highest standard possible
This is what the manufacturers would have made if they could afford to.
That's why their show engines were finished to such a high standard. I like
to see engines presented in the best way possible. They were painted when
they were new so lets paint them now. Finding a bit of dirty, old, faded
paint and crying out about originality is a sham. The paint was probably not
that colour when it was applied and would not now pass QC by the original
When it comes to trolleys etc. my mind is similarly set. If I make a
trolley, then it is mine to make and make as I please. If I want to show off
my woodworking skills then so be it. Should I make a wonderfully crafted
wooden structure then I feel proud of it. The engine manufacturers would
have liked to have supplied better trolleys if they could afford them.
Perhaps, more to the point, if the customer would have paid for them.
Yes I like polished brass. I also like clean, shiny, well presented engines
that you can put away without getting filthy. The pinnacle of "show" engines
were the steam showman's engines. These were built to work but the customer
was prepared to pay for something above a mere machine. The result is a
beautiful engine that gleams and works. I feel that stationary engines would
be far more attractive if presented in a better way than many of them are
Well done John, at last a difference of opinion!
Curiously though, my wife, who is far from being an engine enthusiast but
usually humours me with a walk down the line together, shows far more
interest in grimy old lumps wearing the scars of their working life with
pride than she does in the bulled up examples.
Personally I tend to favour the well maintained original look, but it is
also nice to see how an engine looked when it was new (either just out
of it's shipping crate or tarted up for trade show purposes). What
really incenses me is some scruffy non running piece of junk used as a
ticket for a free camping weekend.
To conserve means to stop something from being changed and leave as
To restore means to return to use or bring back to former condition.
(Concise Oxford Dictionary)
To completely rebuild back to factory finish is neither especially if many
new parts are used.
My feeling is that we are only looking after these lumps of iron until we
get fed up with them - "Look, it runs - bored now.", sell them because we
cannot manage them anymore with the onset of old age or are forced to
reluctantly let go of them when we die!
If we take a perfectly sound mechanical device that has, by some miracle,
just got older with the passing years, strip it to the metal and then
present it as the manufacturer might have done if price was not a
consideration, then we have reset it's clock. All the years of living in the
real world are wiped away and what the onlooker sees is not a little bit of
history but an idealised construction, a might have been, rather than an
authentic glimpse of something our fathers knew.
Just my opinion, you understand, it's a big world and there is room for us
all. I like to look at the occasional restored pinnacle of engineering
perfection too - no-one said I had to be consistent ;o))
Well I'm glad to have opened up the topic a bit.
I can see the reasoning behind the conservation arguement. However, the
history of every engine is different so if they are all frozen in time, no
one will see what they looked like when they were new. It also brings up the
rather interesting question of whether we should reverse someone's actions?
If an engine has been painted an interesting shade of sick green, that
colour has become part of it's history and character. Should it be left like
I approach my engines from a slightly different angle than most of you. My
engines are there to perform a job of work as well as to show. The fact that
they are old(ish) and have some history is an added attraction. As well as
working, I also like them to look good so I clean and paint them. I do try
to match the original colour as closely as possible and try not to make them
too garishly bright, but painted they are. The nice clean finish means that
I can spot any oil leaks early and they don't mess up my car when they
travel in the boot to shows and on holiday.
If we do get together as Peter was suggesting, it will be interesting to see
all these lumps of metal.
Some thought provoking opinions up to now, and lets not forget that they are
only opinions and as such are all valid, nobody is either "right or wrong"
on the topic and up to now it seems that everyone is appreciating that, but
so far it seems to me that "Unrestored" is slightly in the lead!!