Coal Fired Days

spongebob
16th December 2007, 04:42
An extract from my family history that has a nautical flavour-

The Deep Duffryn Pit was opened in 1850 and by 1896 a total of 1285 men were employed there.
By 1918, following the huge demands of British Navy for high grade Welsh steaming coal through-out the First World War, the work force was almost 3000 men. Many a Naval battle was claimed to of been won due to the superior heating value and steaming qualities of Welsh coal which allowed the British ships to raise steam more rapidly to out manoeuvre and out run the German fleets. Then came the downturn in demand for coal bought on by the peace, the post war recession and by the advent of oil as an alternative fuel. For both Naval and Mercantile shipping oil was a huge break-
through as its high heat value to volume ratio compared with coal provided greater steaming ranges, higher payloads of cargo and a huge saving in the amount of labour required to bunker the ships (load the coal) and to feed the fires under the ship’s steam boilers.
The task of a coal fuelled ship’s fireman or stoker was one of the world’s worst jobs and British Shipping Companies often resorted to employing Lascar labour from Goa and other Asiatic regions as coal shovelling firemen in the tropical climates due to their tolerance of the boiler room temperatures but oil changed the continual shovelling in 40 to 50 degree heat to a task of regulating the oil flow with a tap.
To illustrate the change in demand from coal to oil, consider the SS Titanic which sunk in 1912. She was bunkered with up to eight thousand of tons of Welsh coal to feed the fires of the 29 triple furnace, double ended Scotch Marine steam boilers during the voyage across the Atlantic, 174 furnaces in all. More than 200 firemen and trimmers were employed to barrow the coal from the bunkers or storage holds to the firing platforms and to shovel it into the insatiable fires. With three watches every 12 hours there would have been about 70 men in the boiler rooms at any one time but a similar size and equipped ship fired by oil fuel would have only needed a total ship’s fireman crew of about 30 men, proportionally less accommodation and feeding costs and huge space savings in the way of coal storage.
This change in fuel preference saw many mines closed as the deep mined Welsh coal, although the best quality, was one of the most expensive to recover and the mine owners responded to this by asking the miners to accept wage cuts and to work longer hours in order to keep operating. The miners refused as they considered that even the existing conditions approached slavery so initially the Government intervened by paying the owners a subsidy to balance their losses but in the end wages were cut and the 1926 strike began. On the 30th of April The British Trade Union Council called for all trade unionists to strike and for a while Britain was paralysed as most of the British work force came out on strike to support the miners. The general strike only lasted for a couple of weeks and the other unions returned to work but the coal miners carried on their strike until the end of the year when starvation sent them back to work in an industry that continued its decline and thousands of miners left the Welsh valleys for whatever employment they could find elsewhere. It was estimated that more than 50,000 plus their families emigrated to the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Today, almost 100 years on, the Welsh coal mines are virtually non existent and a great deal of Britain’s coal requirements are imported from Eastern Europe’s open cast mines where cost of extraction are far below that of deep pit seam mining.


Bob Jenkins

JoK
16th December 2007, 13:27
Very interesting reading. Thank you for posting it.
My Grandfather used to work in the boiler room in the early 1900's on the coal fired boilers. He just about had a bird when he found out I was going to sea in '79.
In his day they used to deliver coal to the lighthouses by ship. This consisted of waiting for the tide to change and dropping the sacks in the water. They then went ashore and gathered the sacks up off the beach as the incoming tide brought them in and carried them to the lighthouse.
I can't even imagine the backbreaking cold work that would be, as they worked their way up the Bay of Funday coast to each lighthouse.
In comparison, we would fly drums of fuel ashore by chopper or steam in by barge in the 80's.
Then electric cables were installed to the lighthouses in the mid-80's and the lighthouse keepers removed. The 600V cables were sheathed in cladding to protect them from anchor or dragger damage. Nowadays solar power is being looked at.

tacho
16th December 2007, 15:42
I found this in "From Cape to Cape" the history of Lyle Shipping.

Lyle Shipping Co. owned only one diesel ship until 1939 in addition to its half interest in the Cape of Good Hope II and it’s management of the Lycia and the Cape Horn II. This was not a disadvantage. Operating conventional steamers often of considerable age, the company made larger than average profits in most years. Nor did their experience of diesel propulsion induce them to turn away from steam. The Cape York II consistently broke down, and in 1936, she was re-engined by the Rotterdam Dry Dock Co. at a cost of £6,800.

Differing bunker consumption of coal burners and motorships combined with different coal and diesel oil prices around the world called for different options in voyage estimating and planning. This is graphically illustrated by the voyage estimates for cargoes of rice shipped in the early 1930s from Thailand to Cuba. ‘For the first cargo that came to the market……Lyles had a coal burning steamer in position…..Bangkok/Havana via Suez being 12,024 miles and via Panama 11,768 gave a difference of 256 (miles) in favour of going trans-Pacific. A further item in favour of the Panama route was that the canal transit costs would have been substantially lower than Suez. Everything pointed to trans-Pacific until it came to the bunkering program and resultant deadweight for cargo. The voyage via Suez was then figured based on the numerous available bunkering ports on that route, and she was fixed via Suez as clearly much more profitable. Within a few weeks another similar cargo came on the market, but this time it was a motorship that was in position. The first estimate on her was done via Suez following the pattern of the coal burner, but sure enough with the motorship’s greater range and with Diesel fuel at Miri at $7 the second estimate showed without question she should go trans-Pacific; so with the same cargoes, the same loading and discharge ports, the coal burner went one way half way round the World and the motorship the other.

tacho
16th December 2007, 15:45
Nor did their experience of diesel propulsion induce them to turn away from steam. The Cape York II consistently broke down, and in 1936, she was re-engined by the Rotterdam Dry Dock Co. at a cost of £6,800.

They didn't learn that lesson did they?

Bearsie
16th December 2007, 16:23
They didn't learn that lesson did they?

Sounds like a bad choice of equipment/make.
Those bad choices are still being made today by purchasing managers that think they can buy gold for the price of lead....

Bearsie
16th December 2007, 16:25
A most enlightening post !
Changes in technology and their sometimes unintended consequences!
From paddle to sail to coal to oil, what will the next change be?
Will we get to see it?

benjidog
16th December 2007, 18:27
A very interesting thread indeed.

Another point to consider about coal-fired shipping is the need to create depots of coal for bunkering along routes where there was no local coal. I don't know any details but there must have been a significant fleet of coalers required to maintain stocks at key points for liners, warships etc.

Many someone with more knowledge of this topic could add some further information.

Regards,

Brian

Hugh Ferguson
16th December 2007, 19:17
A very interesting thread indeed.

Another point to consider about coal-fired shipping is the need to create depots of coal for bunkering along routes where there was no local coal. I don't know any details but there must have been a significant fleet of coalers required to maintain stocks at key points for liners, warships etc.

Many someone with more knowledge of this topic could add some further information.

Regards,

Brian

I was at sea for several years in 4 different coal burning ships and remember taking bunkers in the following ports. Every one operated a different system.
Newport, Mon., where they had a hoisting system that lifted an entire railway wagon of best Welsh steam coal (nothing, anywhere in the world could compare in thermal quality to it), tilted the wagon on end, when about
20 tons of coal poured down in a cloud of dust into the cross (saddleback) bunker. Six hours for a 1,000 tons if I recall correctly.
New York, taken whilst the ship was at anchor off Battery Point, by some kind of mechanical contraption alongside.
Gibraltar, mechanised again.
Port Said, all done by manpower, (and a lot of noise), each carrying a basket on his shoulder containing, say, 50 pounds of coal, usually Welsh Steam. (See my gallery for a photograph).
Aden, stages up ship's side, 2 coolies on each stage humping similar baskets of coal up to the next two men on the next stage. Possibly on both sides of the ship but I'm not sure of that. Poor quality coal from S.Africa.
Colombo, Calcutta, I have no clear recollection of the methods employed there.
Singapore and Hong Kong also had coaling berths. I can recall taking coal in Hong Kong of such poor quality that we took 5 days to reach Singapore. In Japan women were employed coaling ship.
Durban was another great coaling port which was highly mechanised, and on one occasion the coal came aboard so fast that the ship's engineers couldn't trim the ballast tanks fast enough, which caused us to take a serious list and having to stop the job until things got sorted out.
The only coaling I recall in Australia was in Newcastle N.S.W.. Open cast again and consequently heart breaking work for the Chinese firemen having to rake clinker out at the beginning of every 4 hour watch. I can still hear the ash shute going and the shouts of the trimmers.
I was glad to, eventually, get into motor ships. Coaling in Aden, in particular, during the hot season was a nightmare.

Hugh Ferguson
16th December 2007, 20:57
www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/45963/ppuser/8509
Coaling in Port Said 1946. Hugh Ferguson.

spongebob
16th December 2007, 22:56
Thanks Hugh and everyone for your comments, a bit of research and word of mouth proves that underground mining and a coal fired ship's stoker were the worst jobs in the world in their day. My uncle Bill went down the pit at twelve years of age and quit to join the british army at 17 to go to fight in the Somme. Years later when I questioned him about his early life he said that he would of sooner gone back to the trenches that go back down the mine. He emmigrated to NZ after WW1 and became a prosperous dairy farmer.
Today's generation, my kids and grandchildren think that the worst job in the world is plucking a Christmas turkey and having to drink warm beer in the summer heat.

Chouan
16th December 2007, 23:05
The City of Auckland and City of Wellington both had coal fired galleys in the 1970's, so coal was being used on ships even then. I saw coal fired steam cranes being used in Newark, New Jersey in the mid 1980's.

Hamish Mackintosh
16th December 2007, 23:18
I was always under the impression that "Yorkshire Hard" was the finest steam coal ,having high heat with very little residue (clinker and cinder)leaving only fly ash to be dumped overboard

Chouan
16th December 2007, 23:27
When I was a lad we had coal fired central heating, and my father, a Superintendant Engineer always bought Welsh anthracite as the best "steam coal".

tom e kelso
17th December 2007, 00:25
Brian,

Re the supply of coal bunkers, in the case of the BI, a number of their cargo vessels, principally of the "G" class, built 1918/20 were more or less employed in carrying coal from Calcutta to ports like Karachi, Bombay, Colombo and ports further afield,for this purpose. The BI's managing agents in India, Mackinnon Mackenzie (along withBI and the P & O, all part of the Inchcape empire) owned a number of coal mines in Bihar. Although this coal was of relatively poor quality, its low cost and availability was such that the BI was still having coal burning ships delivered up to 1947 (ORMARA); conversion of a number of coal-burning vessels to oil fuel took place in the early 1950's, I believe also, that the associated company, Asiatic Steam Navigation Co was employed to a considerable extent carrying coal from Calcutta for ships' bunkers to ports such as Aden , Singapore and Hong Kong.

Mention has been made by another correspondent regarding coaling at Port Said. I certainly remember as late as the early 'fifties, boat-wallah's rowing backwards and forwards at 4Red and other berths, "dredging" for lumps of coal!

Several years after they were built, some, if not all BI "C"-class had their oil-fired main galley stoves converted to Esse stoves, using anthracite, with a bunker of about 10 tons capacity constructed in No.4 shelter deck . Within a year or two, the supply of anthracite abroad dried up!

Tom

Binnacle
17th December 2007, 11:02
In the late forties, loaded a cargo of coal in Lourenco Marques, now Maputo, for Adelaide. Several railway waggons tipped their load into a large round cylinder which was then hoisted over the hold by a mammoth crane, about a hundred tons ??? were then released on board. Understood that the French inventor of the device had to leave town in a hurry to avoid the wrath of the port authorities when the inefficiency of the device was realised. Anybody know any more details >

stan mayes
17th December 2007, 14:54
Hi Binnacle,
DALLINGTON COURT - in August 1946 we loaded coal at Lourenco Marques for Trieste and Venice.. a huge cylinder was on the quay and staging was rigged around it. About 100 men and women ascended the staging with a basket of coal on their heads and tipped it into the cylinder of 20 tons capacity - as they came down they were given a tin talley which they later handed in for payment.
The cylinder was lifted by a crane and suspended over a hold and the bottom opened up,much of it spilling onto the deck..it took ten days to load us.
I have a photo of it which is on loan to a SN member,maybe he will post it in Gallery?
Regards -Stan.

stan mayes
17th December 2007, 15:04
In August 1947 in TEESPOOL we arrived at Newport Mon. with 9000 tons of locomotive coal from Newport News Va.
The BBC News cameras filmed us as it was the first time coal had been imported at an exporting port in the UK.- -Stan.

benjidog
18th December 2007, 00:47
Thanks for the input on this everyone.

When the thread has gone its course I will be pulling all the information into a SN Directory entry for future reference. I know there are some photos of coaling in the Gallery too but if anyone has any more perhaps they would be so kind as to post them.

Regards,

Brian

Hugh Ferguson
18th December 2007, 22:00
www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/46021/ppuser/8509
Same voyage in the coal burning Glenfinlas in 1946, showing the system in Aden using stages. I would assume ships taking coal bunkers in Port Said were mostly down to their marks which made the plank system adequate.
Presumeably, in Aden, more bung light ships arriving for bunkers would make a plank system unsuitable, so staging, which suited ships at any state of lading, was adopted.
The Glenfinlas had 4, side pocket bunker hatches (two a side, in addition to the saddleback cross bunker). On the port-side we middies had our half deck betwixt the two. I leave it to your imagination to envisage what that was like in July!

Hugh Ferguson
18th December 2007, 23:09
http://www.shipsnostalgia.com/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/92881

These 2 photos were taken during a voyage, made in the Blue Funnel ship, Polyphemus in 1907. The photographer was the ship's doctor, James Johnston Abraham and he used an old plate camera. He kept a journal throughout the voyage and the book resulting became a mini travel classic.
In the book the identity of the name of the ship and all personnel were concealed and it was not until a letter appeared in Sea Breezes magazine in 1995 that I was persuaded to investigate. The writer was a retired Glasgow G.P. who was wishing to know if anyone could enlighten him about the author of the book, The Surgeon's Log.
I succeeded well beyond my expectations and after much research, identified the real name of the ship, tracked down a crew list, met and befriended the son of the then 2nd mate of the ship, met and befriended the author's daughter who, when she visited me here in Cornwall, gave me a complete photo-copy of her father's journal which still makes the most fascinating reading about a voyage to Japan 100 years ago.
Note, that all of the people on the deck of the ship are women; one with a baby on her back. The Chief Engineer can be seen supervising the job.
I'm sad to say that all of the people I mentioned have since died.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
31st January 2012, 17:05
I don't know whether Swires as Agents for Holts provided a better grade of Japanese coal to Blue Funnel than they did to their own ships but the Japanese coal burned by CNCo's steamers was detested and nicknamed "Mickey dust" (after the Miike coal mines, owned by Mitsui & Co, whence it came). CNCo saw the merits of Doxfords quite early on...

Split
31st January 2012, 17:43
In August 1947 in TEESPOOL we arrived at Newport Mon. with 9000 tons of locomotive coal from Newport News Va.
The BBC News cameras filmed us as it was the first time coal had been imported at an exporting port in the UK.- -Stan.

We did that, too, but in 1951, and went to Glasgow. I was apprentice on the Notting Hill, ex Fort Capot River. She was a coal burner on my first voyage but was converted to oil in Genoa, in 1949.

John Rogers
31st January 2012, 19:06
Happy days, Not! swinging that banjo was hard work and was very happy to see oil burners and Doxfords appear.

John.

lakercapt
31st January 2012, 22:00
I don't know whether Swires as Agents for Holts provided a better grade of Japanese coal to Blue Funnel than they did to their own ships but the Japanese coal burned by CNCo's steamers was detested and nicknamed "Mickey dust" (after the Miike coal mines, owned by Mitsui & Co, whence it came). CNCo saw the merits of Doxfords quite early on...

Was in that port loading Ammonium nitrate when there was an explosion at that coal mine. I just happened to be on deck with my camera when it occurred and got a shot of the mushroom cloud.
We on the ship had a tarpaulin muster for the fund for the injured and presented it to the mayor.
Were we treated like royalty from then on and the day before we sailed a big picnic was arranged for all the crew. The local ladies were dressed in their kimonos etc.
On sailing day a large group of people came down to the dock to see us off and we were given bouquets of flowers. Going up town we were always greeted with a big smile. Don't know how much we collected but I guess it was the though that counted
I think it was in 1963.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
31st January 2012, 22:23
That is a really nice story. Thanks.

Ian A Rogers
2nd February 2012, 11:47
Here in Australia we still have coal fired steamships hauling bauxite from Weipa to Gladstone. Until recently there were four but this has now reduced to two and soon to nil.

The vessels are and were the River Boyne, River Embley, Carpentaria and Capricornia.

These vessels use mechanical stokers and automated ash collection. They were built for the run during the oil crisis of the late 70s when a tonne of coal was $30 compared to $300 for oil. They burned twice as many tonnes of coal but were still more economic.

Coal transfer and bunkering was by dense phase conveyors and ash removal by vacuum system.

Hugh Ferguson
2nd February 2012, 12:13
See the attachment as to the best way to create a good relationship with stokers R.N., firemen M.N..
(I went to sea in many coal-fired ships and loved going below, especially when the ship was rolling heavily, just to watch the Chinese firemen waltzing across the stokehold with a shovel full of coal and, so very skillfully, depositing the lot right to the back of the furnace. It always amused them to watch us trying to do the same; very difficult not to have your shovel clip the opening and have the contents land on the plates!)

Andrew Craig-Bennett
2nd February 2012, 13:01
My word - what a very good letter!

China hand
3rd February 2012, 19:32
Scott Still engines.

I'm an ex deck wallah, but always interested in engines.
I wonder why there has been no posts over the Blue Funnel Scott Still steam /diesel engines. Pretty unique, I would have thought. I know Dolius was one, forget the name of the other.

Duncan112
3rd February 2012, 19:53
There was an article in Ships in Focus on these and other "eccentric" engines and Dennis Griffiths wrote a paper for the IMarEST on the development of the UK Marine Diesel Engine which mentions these.

The other vessel fitted with a Scott Still engine was "Eurybates" although the design was somewhat different, in "Dolius" the engine was double acting with the upper cylinder being Diesel and the lower cylinder being steam, in "Eurybates" the engine was an 8 cylinder in line design with the after 2 cylinders being steam and the remaining 6 diesel.

jim garnett
4th February 2012, 06:16
My word - what a very good letter!

Couldn't agree more. On my my first seconds job,it was conveyed back to me that one of the old greasers said I was the first second to say please and thank you when giving orders.I was not flattered as it was automatic to me having been taught to me by my parents.I did feel a bit taken aback that my predecessors had apparently treated the greasers
this way.Every man deserves his dignity no matter his station in life.
Jim Garnett

Varley
5th February 2012, 11:29
[QUOTE=Ian A Rogers;572459]Here in Australia we still have coal fired steamships hauling bauxite from Weipa to Gladstone. Until recently there were four but this has now reduced to two and soon to nil.

When I was 'doing' electronics at Saudi Shields in '75 there were a few Aussie engineers upping their tickets and also staying at the 'Merch'. Their coal burning stories were great. I remember that that they would burn down the coal to get more revs on one watch in rivalry with the next who would have 'less steam' as they built the fire back up. Shades of MacAndrew's hymn.

chadburn
5th February 2012, 15:40
There was a bit of a loss of confidence in the early 1920's by the Shipowner's when it came to Steam turbine's and blade failure's with the larger vessel M.E's which led to a "race" to further improve the Diesel Engine, companies like= Armstrong/Sulzer, Cammellaird/Fullagar, Doxford, Neptune, Vickers, and Werkspoor were all contender's with either two-stroke or four stroke engine's. The Scott/ Still engine was certainly unusual with the addition of steam at 150lbs per square inch for both starting and manoeuvering, it was a very efficient engine in it's day at 0.88% compared to the Doxford at 0.82%, however, the Doxford is still around in some form whilst the S.S. no longer exist's.