Having a free Saturday, I decided to go down to Kingsbury Aerodrome, where they were having a work day. I figured I'd spend the day being involved in the restorations down there, rather than just taking pictures. So off I went.
The first things that greeted me - apart from the other volunteers of course - were this pair of shop cats! They're only about a year old. I'm not even sure they have names, apart from 'Kitty', but they are super cute! Here's the two of them:
This one was later curled up on my lap. She seems to enjoy attention more than the other one, who just likes to be nearby the activity. She has an asymmetric marking on her forehead, unlike the other one (closest in the picture above). I guess that's how you tell them apart. Readers of my other blog will not be surprised to see cats finding their way in here ;-)
So, to work. I elected to help Tom and Steve work on the Thomas-Morse biplanes. We started off on Tommy 1, putting nuts onto all the bolts holding the bottom of the fuselage together. This is a look from the tail towards the nose, but the fuselage is upside-down here.
Next, they had me painting the ends of the turnbuckle assemblies, to be black like the rest of the metalwork. Some were done already but many were still unfinished.
See all the wires inside the fuselage here? The ends of them are where you find the turnbuckles. They tension the wires correctly.
It doesn't sound like a lot of work, but these tasks take time, and soon it was lunchtime. Everyone gathered outside, and this was to be my chariot for lunch - Cameron's Model T Ford!
Here is Kingsbury's Model T truck parked outside Edna's Country Cafe, in Kingsbury town. It is one of those tiny towns that exists mainly due to the railroad, that passes by on the other side of the highway.
After lunch it was back to work - with the wind in our hair from those open top cars - and my next task was to fasten some anti-chafing leather discs in between the bracing wires on Tommy 2. These get secured with a twist of wire.
Finally, we installed the flight control stick and rudder pedals. You should be able to make out the black stick angled slightly back, and the loops to put your feet into, here. We tried to install the horizontal black engine mount bracket towards the front here, but a lack of thin enough washers made that a task for next time.
However, my day was not yet done - I wandered outside and got into conversation with several folks, and when it transpired that I did not know how to drive a Model T, gasps of astonishment were uttered and they soon fixed that! Cameron set about giving me a driving lesson in the Model T Truck :-)
Here is the truck, seen at the last Air Fair:
So, here is how you drive one. It does not have a layout like a modern car. It has a wheel, under which are two levers. These are your spark retarder (I left this alone) on your left, and the throttle on your right. You have three pedals; left = first gear/drive, middle=reverse and right=brake. If you want to use reverse, you'd better have small feet, since the pedals are really close together. There are two levers rising up from the floor, one on each side of you. The left one is for both handbrake and gearing. The right one is also for gearing.
Model Ts have two speeds at any one time, but the right lever can choose whether to use low speed or high speed gearing. There are also controls for mixture and choke but we won't worry about those here.
To make it go, you put the ignition switch on, press the starter button on the floor with your heel (in this one; others have a hand crank start). The leftmost floor lever should be in the middle position which is neutral. Press the left pedal - and keep it held down - and that's you in first gear, and moving. If you now push the left lever forward, it adds the opportunity of second gear. But to engage it, you lift your foot off the pedal and it will then go into second.
The ride is pretty smooth - suprisingly. I expected to be bouncing around all over the place in an old car like this but it's not like that at all. It actually feels like you have big balloon tyres, except you don't, they're quite thin and hard. We ran around the airfield for a bit, the first lap in the low gearing and then into the faster speeds for the second go round. Although the controls sound complicated, they're really not that hard to get your head around, it's easy enough. You do have to make sure you're prepared for a wide turning circle and the heavy steering. But as Cameron pointed out to me, these cars were built to run on unprepared roads, wagon tracks and fields, so they do handle it pretty well.
To stop the car, you have to press the left pedal half way until it goes into its own neutral, between first and second, then press the brake. And pray that you have done this early enough to not hit obstacles ahead of you, since it takes a little time to come to a halt.
Finally, here is a short video of the Model Ts on the road - real roads, with modern vehicles around! And some gratuitous train action, which happened to come along at the perfect time :-)