19th June 2008, 15:21
Now there were two "interesting" ships, engine-room wise!!!
I don't know who the tortured soul was who thought this idea up but he presumably finished his days climbing the walls of some "home for the bewildered".

Two Scotch boilers plus one Foster-Wheeler ESD!

The idea behind this combination was that the FW was used for main propulsion and the two Scotch boilers were there for auxiliary use and also, in the event of the FW boiler going belly-up, the two Scotch boilers could be brought on-line as a get-you-home ploy (a bit like those God-awful emergency tyres car manufacturers put in car-boots now).

Should that eventuality ever arisen I would imagine the ship would be able to maintain steerage on one Scotch boiler until the other had been flashed-up, brought up to full pressure (around 24 hours for a Scotch-boiler, if memory serves me correctly!) coupled-up to its twin and then heigh-ho and away we would have gone! No doubt at much-reduced speed compared to what was achievable with the FW boiler!

Normally at sea one of the Scotch boilers would be used for driving the Ashworth & Parker alternators, evaporator etc. etc. and, when we were alongside, the FW would be shut-down whilst the Scotch-boiler would be used for the A&W plus steam for the winches etc.

The dead Scotch-boiler would be kept full of distilled water which, of course, was normal for a dead boiler to prevent corrosion.

Even though I did 9 trips on Makrana, between August 1962 and October 1965 I was never involved in doing a change-over from FW to Scotch-boilers, (even for a "let's see what happens" try) but there was one occasion when "orders came from on high" (someone said it was a Royal Navy request but I don't think it was) that we had to seal the engine-room up to see what working-conditions would be like under the "A/B/C" (Atomic/Bacteriological/Chemical) designation which, of course, those two ships were supposedly capable of achieving, as they'd been built for such an eventuality.


Dougie Ruddick ("The Duke of Bootle") was Chief and he came down onto the plates in his Empire-building shorts, hose, white, (long), white shoes and his ever-present gauntlets, to supervise these measures.

First the engine-room skylights were battened-down and the funnel-door onto the boat deck was checked it was shut, plus any other doors which gave outside access. The Duke then got Jimmy Robertson (Lecky) to stop the vent-fans. The idea, behind all this nonsense, was that if the ship was in war-time and the nasty-buggers on the other side were using atomic, bacteriological or chemical weapons then the Black Gang would be able to survive as nothing 'orrible would be drawn down by the vent-fans and sprayed all round the engine-room and subsequently kill them!!

We were only in The Med at the time and it wasn't outrageously hot on deck but, as soon as the vent-fans were stopped, the engine-room temperatures shot-up massively and, after ten-minutes of this purgatory, The Duke called the bridge up and said conditions were absolutely appalling and we would have to cease the exercise.

Luckily the Old Man was "Paddy" Jackson and he agreed immediately to abandoning the "seal-up" and Jimmy lost no time in firing-up the fans again.

Quite how the idea, of sealing the engine-room up, in the Tropics, was supposed to have worked was never, ever, explained but it was quite obvious it would not be feasible in any waters away from the North Atlantic in the depths of Winter!!!

That apart the ship was a good steamer and was very near trouble-free and was only eclipsed by (as Pem so accurately described them) "Brock's stately homes", Mangla and Mathura which were probably two of the finest steam-ships ever built! Salaams, Phil(Hippy)

Jim S
19th June 2008, 19:36
I agree with Phil that Mangla and Mathura were arguably two of the finest steam ships ever built. The only thing lacking in their machinery installation was Automatic Combustion Control - but that said a good Tindal and Ag Wallah were probably more reliable and certainly less maintenance.
Phil describes the set up of Makrana and Mawana is how I believed it to be even though I never set foot on the pair. Would be interesting to compare benefits of design with the later Bencruachan. In another thread I was interested to read that the latter suffered a lot of boiler troubles toward the end of her relatively short career. Perhaps Ben Line did not have the benefit of the tame chemist that Brocklebank kept in the bowels of Cunard Building evaluating boiler water treatment chemicals.

19th June 2008, 23:04
Makrana had problems in 1970. Initially generator problems - didn't they have one diesel sourced from the black four to supplement the steam generators? Later it was boiler trouble. Early on the passage from the Red Sea, probably Djibouti, to Colombo one morning the old man John Munro was on the bridge chatting. A couple of times we noticed that there was no wash from the bow, and we stopped for a short while. That evening we altered for Aden and stayed a few days while the boiler was fixed. I know the brickwork was rebuilt, I was taken for a tour - no oil and water on that ship. Whether tubes and or feed pumps were involved I don't know. Four years later we saw Makrana in Mombassa, now the Aegis Eternity, being fixed up so one or both scotch boilers would take her for the last discharge then scrap.

Mawana in '66 ran the thrust bearing on the prop shaft homeward bound from the States and limped into Liverpool four days later. But not a boiler problem. At 10 knots the pilot asked for sea speed. His face was a picture when told he had got it, he would normally have 14 knots or more.