Life at the end of the road

September 17, 2011

Bringing in the creels

Filed under: daily doings, hydro, life off grid, listers, shed/house — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:46 pm

What on earth possessed me to arise at 5:00am today I don’t know, but I’m glad I did because the forecast was miles off and the day was far warmer than most of July. It was, once the sun had climbed above the Creag Bhan, or at least its rays beautiful, a far cry from the cloud and showers of  UKWind’s prediction.

I love the quiet of the early morning, its pot of fresh coffee and no TV blaring in the living room. It’s when I’m at my annoying best and quite often get things done on the computer that I should be doing whilst blogging 🙂 This morning however the tranquillity lasted only one and a half hours before I heard rumblings upstairs. Not my son, for he’s knackered these days and certainly not the swineherd as she is not ‘a morning person’ 🙂 It was in fact his best pal, who, like me was ready for action and not long in putting on his overalls. OK, he’d not had a wash, brushed his teeth and was probably wearing the same underpants, but boys will be boys 🙂

Servicing the quads

Both my Honda Foutrax 350 and my mates Yamaha 350 Bruin were due a service, so after feeding the pigs and putting out the ‘spotties’ onto the hill we went to Tarbert on them. That will be the quads and not the piglets that is 🙂 This would get them nice and warm as we went down to the hydro turbine site to see if the water was still flowing.

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Leaving the quads near the decrepit cattle grid there we traversed the rest of the way on foot, I’d had enough excitement on two wheels yesterday and my nerves aren’t what the used to be.

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With the moon still high and the valley in shade I got my ‘helper’ to slowly shut off the gushing water, slow being the important bit, as sudden closing can cause ‘water hammer’ and burst joints.

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The pressure came up to just over 6bar very quickly indicating that there was not much air in the system, it had however only been flowing for twelve hours. I had left the valve wide open all night in an effort to clear out any air pockets and it seemed to have worked.

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This end of the system is a little ‘Heath Robinson’ or ‘Rube Goldberg’ if you’re in the US 🙂 Ideally the pressure gauge should be upstream of that gate valve on the left but shortage of fittings made me stick an old ball valve on the end so I could read the ‘dynamic head’ and ‘static head’. It’s not totally accurate for static head but gives a good reading of the more important reading when water is running at the design flow. This I set using the incredibly accurate bucket and one elephant, two elephant,  three elephant method 🙂

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That done and with 3lt/sec running down the penstock we headed up towards the Creag Bhan, Rainey’s wall and home to work on the warm quads.

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Oil and filter for the pair of them and a spark plug for the Yamaha.

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This old Honda may not look like much but it runs as sweet as a nut and has hauled more loads than some commercial vehicles. I would in a word be totally stuffed (OK that’s two) without it, and all my helpers 🙂

After rustling up a fine breakfast and then demolishing it we all set about cutting fresh bedding and cleaning out the pigs.

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Sorry, we all went out in the boat to bring in the creels for the winter,


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then we cut the bedding, my memory is rubbish 😦

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Then it was off to check the 800m of penstock for air pockets,


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this being the easy bit and the boys favourite before the long walk 😦


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This was the only one we found, right at the start as it rises out of the loch but I have thought of a cunning plan to remove it 🙂 As it is part of the siphon the air in the top is under negative pressure so a simple bleed valve won’t work and normal practice would be to suck it out with some kind of vacuum pump. However if I pressurise the pipe by turning off the outlet at Tarbert and running the water pump at ‘full chat’ I’m hoping that a valve at the high point will then blow the air out. Well that’s the theory anyway 🙂

Working on Cyril the Lister SR2

A trip to the Schoolhouse at Torran to check the hydro turbine and batteries there, some more bedding cutting and then a plate full of Eddy’s spare ribs took us up to the evening feed nicely. After which young ‘Lightning MacLennan enquired “what are we doing next” 😦 Well I was pure wrecked but though of a nice job for him that I could sit down and supervise.

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Removing the Brush alternator from my newly acquired Lister SR2 6Kw generator Cyril. Cyril came from Winchester police station many moons ago and is ‘as new’ despite his 39 years of age. There is absolutely nothing wrong with him but I’m removing the alternator for several reasons. Firstly to check the alternator bearings, which after being stood for ten years may have hardened grease inside them, secondly to make him easier to move and mount and thirdly to fit a ring gear to the flywheel. Cyril is electric start as it is, but it’s the DC windings in the alternator that spin him over, consequently the decompression levers must be operated at the same time. Not quite so easy to do remotely via an inverter, it is possible and I had seriously considered it, but its quite complicated for one who is electrically challenged like myself.

This diagram supplied by a friend for ‘auto starting’ my Lister SR2 uses one of these to do all the switching, and one of these to sense the frequency and thus RPM to engage a decompression solenoid.


But after weighing up the cost and complexity I decided to go for a simple starter motor on the flywheel, hence the need for a ring gear which I got from Doug at for £30. Depending on what type of inverter I use I may still need the DSE3110 but my current Trace SW4548e already has the function.

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Apart from the weight it’s an easy enough job, two screws on the safety shroud, eight 9/16 nuts around the alternator housing, two 1/2 bolts on the flexi coupling and it can just be slid back after inserting a couple of screwdrivers between the two units.

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Three more 9/16 locknuts hold the flexi coupling to the flywheel, but there we had to stop, the flywheel is held onto the crankshaft by a 2,1/4” bolt and my socket set only goes up to 2” 😦 Still it was getting dark and now it’s time for bed.


  1. 2’1/4″ Paul, hmmm,didnt I see you with a chain-wrench?
    These have been adapted by welding an old socket in an apropriate place and used for all those awkward/thrawn/cuccsed places/sizes that crop up!
    Hope this helps!

    Comment by Mike Cunningham — September 18, 2011 @ 12:49 pm

    • HI Mike,

      that is a good tool right enough, used to have one myself with a socket brazed on instead of welded as I had no welder at the time. It did much work before dying 😦 However managed to borrow a socket. Must make up another some time.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 20, 2011 @ 5:47 am

  2. Hi Paul,a recent problem with the vacuum system on our car led me to consider if you could use the vacuum within your siphon to automatically vacuum air from that high spot.At engine idle the engine mounts are vacuum purged of air for improved vibration levels in the cabin.A valve cuts the vacuum at 1200 rpm and normal air pressure fills the mounts for higher rpm.Would enough vacuum pressure be generated by your main pipe to purge an air riser/column pipe at the high point using a smaller dia pipe?This would be a little like the way inlet manifold vacuum pressure on petrol engined cars is used to run the brake servo.On the downside you could end up with several airlocks instead of one 🙂

    Comment by Andy — September 18, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

    • Morning Andy,

      I’ve been trying to design something similar in my head but just can’t seem to get to grips with it. Things like how far down the next down hill leg to tap in to get the right amount of venturi effect and if it would actually work at all 😦 Going to try bleed valves at the high spots first that I can purge under pressure first. Then if this does not work I’ll give it a go using 6mm nylon tube from the valve to a point lower down and see what happens, if that fails it’s onto plan E 😦

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 20, 2011 @ 6:00 am

      • Maybe, say, a 20mm bypass line routed with a gravity fall from the loch to lower down the main line, with a T off to vacuum purge the air riser.The theory being, that, having no high spot, the 20mm line could be kept running(intake blockages aside).Hillside,though,would look like an old telephone exchange with all those pipes 🙂

        Comment by Andy — September 20, 2011 @ 8:31 am

      • Morning Andy,
        if I ever do this kind of thing again I’m having you on the team 🙂 though only if you bring your surveying gizzmo 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 22, 2011 @ 4:58 am

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