H.A. McEwen Boiler Repairs Ltd is currently celebrating 40 years of service to industry and the heritage movement – and under the new management of Alasdair McEwen, the company continues to produce fine examples of the boilermakers craft, both at its workshop in North Yorkshire and around the UK.

Crofton Pumping Station's Historic Lancashire BoilerCrofton Pumping Station, nr Malborough, Wiltshire came to McEwen’s in 2007 when their society’s insurance surveyor uncovered some severe waste to rivet heads in the combustion chamber of their Lancashire boiler.

The rivets which secured the furnace to the endplate juncture had become life-expired and required renewal in order for the boiler to be granted certification to steam.

Alasdair and his works foreman, Michael White carried out a thorough inspection of the boiler and carefully explained the procedure they would employ to undertake the repair to society chairman Harry Willis and other members and volunteers.

Upon returning to Yorkshire a casting was provided which was successful and the team returned to Wiltshire to start operations.

Due to much hard work on the part of the Crofton volunteers, a number of large flagstones, which encased the combustion chamber, had been lifted to allow easier access to the rear of the boiler. This meant that work could begin almost immediately on removing approximately 60 rivets, which were mostly positioned between the ‘quarter to and quarter past’ positions on each furnace.

A large two-tool compressor was fired into action and Paul Tucker, the senior member of the squad, began needle gunning both the fire and watersides of the boiler in the areas surrounding the condemned rivets.

Carrying out repairs on the Lancashire BoilerMeanwhile Alasdair McEwen and Michael White set up two sets of oxy-propane cutting torches and donned the necessary safety equipment before cutting out half the total rivets to be removed. This was done in staggered sequence to ensure that the caulked seams of the furnace ends did not spring. The holes were reamed out 13/16in in readiness for the new 3/4in rivets. Securing bolts were tightened into these holes and then the other 50% of rivets were burnt out.

Day two and it was soon time to set up the riveting equipment. Paul Tucker became ‘rivet warmer’ with McEwen jamming and White gunning down. The peaceful Wiltshire countryside was soon awash with the sound of pneumatic riveting hammers securing the 60 or so rivets into place. Work was hot and noisy in the chamber but the continued supply of tea from staff ensured spirits were high and by the end of day three all riveting was finished with each rivet caulked internally and externally.

The squad of boilermakers returned to Yorkshire while the boiler was filled and prepared in readiness for a hydraulic test, which was successful and certification granted.

Alasdair told Old Glory: It was a pleasure working alongside the team at Crofton in repairing their boiler: they were extremely helpful to us during our stay. The site at Crofton is stunning and well worth a visit.”