Antiquations

Nice range, eh? My father got it out of an old house in Shantallagh about thirty years ago, when it was being replaced with a (then) modern heating system. We know it was made in Scotland and imported by Hynes of Galway just before the war. The First World War. By its design though it could easily be even older. It’s Victorian through and through, both in aspect and in its cast-iron ingenuity.

It’s brown now with rust, but when scrubbed and polished with black lead (graphite) it’ll be like an undertaker’s silk top hat. Dad intended it to be the centrepiece of our house, but first he had to build that. So it lay about in pieces for maybe twenty years. He was in the process of getting it reassembled and installed when he died, so some time after, to find how much remained to be done, I tried lighting it. The room filled immediately with smoke, pouring out of every joint and crack. I sighed at the thought of having to somehow finish this one day.

But at the moment my mother has a couple of lads in to do work on another room, and we got to talking about the range and what it would take to fix it. Could it be the chimney that was at fault? I hadn’t thought so, because it was new, wide, and had never been used. But we investigated anyway.

And extracted not one, nor even two, but three very dead crows. Don’t ask me how they got down there, but once they were out we lit the fire immediately.

It still smoked. There’s no avoiding that it has a vast number of unsealed joints. But at least now it could be controlled. The thing is incredibly adjustable. Even the grate can be raised and lowered with a strange ratcheted mechanism, and by starting high and dropping it as the fire grew you could keep the flow of gases just right. Also adjusting that hood device above the firebox – it folds open and closed like a bizarre iron tent – seemed to help.

The fire was soon (almost) smokeless and roaring and, once the right valves had been turned in Dad’s baroque plumbing system, sent scalding water thrumming through the pipes. It struck me then: This is Victorian steam technology. With its dampers and levers, all it needs more is a chain for the whistle. And rails.

One thought on “Antiquations

  1. A benefit of the time when they had trouble calculating stuff like tolerances and lacked the material science to plan for durability of the material: they simply over-engineered like hell.

    And that’s why so much stuff from that era still works. It was built to last forever, simply because building for any shorter scale was quite often close to impossible.

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