Test Equipment on Merchant Ships

Shipbuilder
25th June 2008, 20:31
Wondering how it was in other companies. When I was in AEI, from early 1961 to late 1964, all we seemed to have was an AVO & a bronze screwdriver! This was normally OK for the radio equipment, but a bit lacking for radar (although that was the 2nd mate's responsibility - if I helped out - it was voluntary!) Then joined B & C & oscilloscopes appeared for the first time in the early 1970s, but nothing else. Next came Silver Line - back to the AVO & bronze screwdriver, but to be perfectly honest, they would supply anything I asked for in the way of spares without question & seemed to me to be very good with R/Os in general. Finally, 13 years in the two ST. HELENAs, & we (my opposite number & I - one on one off) could have whatever we wanted in all respects, so finished up with 'scope, capacitance meter, frequency counter, several small digital multimeters, extensive spares etc etc & were also consulted 100% on what new equipment to purchase. Whichever of us was on leave usually organised this & it was a very satisfactory arrangement. (Another great advantage was that they didn't seem even remotely interested in sending either of us back to college to further our electronic "education!") How was it in other companies?
Bob

Shipbuilder
25th June 2008, 20:43
Here I am fiddling about with the main AEI radar aboard WINDSOR CASTLE in about 1972. Although it was used as a publicity photograph, it was not really "posed", I was working on a real fault where the centre was displaced by about two inches when photographer drifted in. Turned out to be a capacitor gone down.
Radar was the 2nds job on WINDSOR CASTLE (in off watch hours of course), chief would have nothing to do with it ("Don't be late for watch at 1600, 2nd!")
That blue plastic mat I was kneeling on was very painful, imprinting small diamonds on my knees. Although Commodore Wright didn't mind me wearing long trousers for radar maintenance, Staff Commander tended to "kick up" about it!
Bob

K urgess
25th June 2008, 21:03
All we ever got was an Avo Minor.
Unless there was a Marconi radar on board in which case you might get an Avo 8.
There was a standard scale for tools like hammers, screwdrivers, pliers etc. Plus the usual one for every valve in use and another for every three more or whatever it was.
I've still got a splicing knife and some shackles and thimbles knocking about somewhere.
Only saw decent test gear on the VLCCs but then it was usually duff or misused and had to be sorted out before you could fix anything.
Plus the usual "used but good" spares. [=P]

Kris

ChasD
25th June 2008, 23:20
Shell Boats were usually pretty well equipped test gear wise, but then we had to look after pretty well everything, if it had wires on, it was yours ! Couple of 'scopes (as GUYF attached) was fairly normal, biggun and a walkabout one. One of the things we did during MED was manufacture various test probes and a transistor tester which were used on the course and carried around later. But if you couldn't fix it with the "magic screwdriver" and a sharp word, you weren't really trying !

andysk
25th June 2008, 23:55
................ Plus the usual "used but good" spares. [=P]

Kris

This comment brings back memories; when I joined one ship, going through the spares cupboard, almost every valve box was marked "Used But OK" . A call to the Electronics Superintendent at HQ resulted in several packages being delivered before sailing with full complement of new valves !

Tony Selman
26th June 2008, 00:04
The two companies I worked for were fantastic with spares but they expected a very high standard of maintenance from you. I was with Brocklebanks from 1964 to 1970 and P&O from 1970 until 1975. Both treated their R/O's very well and we had a very full set of spares. I have attached an albeit poor quality photo of the tools as supplied on Trident Tankers gas carrier Gambada in 1973. The original was too dark and I have had to lighten it up to make it visible but you can see plenty of tools were supplied and other electronic equipment like oscilloscopes etc were stored underneath.

King Ratt
26th June 2008, 08:59
RFA were fortunate that they were supplied with CRETE (Common Range of Electronic Test Equipment) same same as the RN. This package included an AVO CT160 valve tester which came in quite hand when coming across the "Used but OK" variety of valves.

mikeg
26th June 2008, 11:43
Shell Boats were usually pretty well equipped test gear wise, but then we had to look after pretty well everything, if it had wires on, it was yours ! Couple of 'scopes (as GUYF attached) was fairly normal, biggun and a walkabout one. One of the things we did during MED was manufacture various test probes and a transistor tester which were used on the course and carried around later. But if you couldn't fix it with the "magic screwdriver" and a sharp word, you weren't really trying !

I remember manufacturing a VHF SWR meter and an RF probe amongst other things during the MED. You're right of course, most faults could be located with a 'magic screwdriver' with the assistance from a mini avo at times.
Even though there were 'scopes on board it was rare I needed them to locate a fault but I did use them to note waveforms in key circuit areas just in case. I've still got notebooks full of measurements waveforms and useful info - one for the 14/16P is in front of me now - ahhh nostalgia.
Chas, do you by any chance have a list of Shell UK callsigns - I used to have the Shell mail notice listing them all but I've lost it and there doesn't appear to be a listing in SN or the web that I can find.
Cheers,

Mike

Shipbuilder
26th June 2008, 12:47
I got my own little Telequipment Serviscope Minor in the late 60s for 30. It was very basic, but I altered the slowest range (where you could see spot creeping across the screen) for higher speeds. Never bothered taking waveforms, but I did use it a fair amount & simply stuck the probe on the point to be tested & if it was a load of scrambled hash, I knew I was in the right area. Normal waveforms tended to look normal without wasting time drawing them all out. Found it in attic couple of years ago, still working, so sold it on Ebay for 35 - good deal. I now have splendid little GOS-310 from Maplins that does everything I need.
Bob

trotterdotpom
26th June 2008, 13:34
Who remembers connecting the X and Y probes of the 'scope to the mains and doing some sort of jiggery pokery that I can't remember to get diagonal lines, circles, and other squiggles.

The one where you get a three humped figure is the symbol of ABC TV in Australia.

I copied and pasted the following off the internet, I understood it once:

"This shows the sine wave 90 degrees out-of-phase with the frequency of the horizontal sine wave three times the frequency of the vertical sine wave."

Recently the ABC were going to rid themselves of the logo in favour of something else. When it was mentioned on the TV news one evening, I piped up excitedly: "That's a Lissajous Figure!" The other members of the household stopped talking about "Home and Away" long enough to give me three disdainful looks, then resumed their chatter. "Sorry," I muttered quietly.

All this knowledge, for what I ask myself.

Fortunately there was an outcry from a public, unaware of Lissajous figures, but reluctant to change, and the logo remains.

John T.

mikeg
26th June 2008, 13:42
Lissajous figures seemed to appear in every movie where there was a laboratory and a white coated mad scientist ready to take over the world!!
(==D)

M29
26th June 2008, 14:24
Lissajous figures seemed to appear in every movie where there was a laboratory and a white coated mad scientist ready to take over the world!!
(==D)

Yep, and if you can also apply a signal to the "Z" moduation (not all CRO's have this) you can get "dotted" Lissajous figures.

With regard to "Used but Good", joined my first ship as solo R/O in the middle of a radio survey in Tilbury Docks. Surveyer was not impressed by the "Metre-Amps" figure for the "Ocean Span" although she just passed the test.
He advised I look at the 807's to see if any had gone soft (burning blue).

After he left, I opened the Tx up and all the 807's were burning blue! never fear, the spares cupboard was groaning under the weight of 807's.

You guessed it, nearly every spare was useless. Over the years, R/O's concered about keeping costs down for the company, had put the old one's back in the cupboard, based on the fact they were still working. I ended up with one decent set in the TX and one set of spares. The other 30 or so got a "float test" once we were at sea.

Likewise, found most other valves including a couple of magnetrons and a radar CRT also dud. From then on, my priority on joining any older ship was to tackle the spares cupboard as a priority so as to avoid being "caught out" during a repair. In those days, relays also seem to have been "hoarded" against a rainy day.

Alan

Tai Pan
26th June 2008, 14:28
Holts supplied a screwdriver with a neon in the handle. plus full set of valves. I have to say that in ten years I only changed one capacitor ( oceanspan Mk1 antenna decoupler) otherwise never had a fault, honest.

mikeg
26th June 2008, 15:47
Yep, and if you can also apply a signal to the "Z" moduation (not all CRO's have this) you can get "dotted" Lissajous figures.

With regard to "Used but Good", joined my first ship as solo R/O in the middle of a radio survey in Tilbury Docks. Surveyer was not impressed by the "Metre-Amps" figure for the "Ocean Span" although she just passed the test.
He advised I look at the 807's to see if any had gone soft (burning blue).

After he left, I opened the Tx up and all the 807's were burning blue! never fear, the spares cupboard was groaning under the weight of 807's.

You guessed it, nearly every spare was useless. Over the years, R/O's concered about keeping costs down for the company, had put the old one's back in the cupboard, based on the fact they were still working. I ended up with one decent set in the TX and one set of spares. The other 30 or so got a "float test" once we were at sea.

Likewise, found most other valves including a couple of magnetrons and a radar CRT also dud. From then on, my priority on joining any older ship was to tackle the spares cupboard as a priority so as to avoid being "caught out" during a repair. In those days, relays also seem to have been "hoarded" against a rainy day.

Alan

A valve tester back then would have saved some time (I own an ancient AVO Mk1 valve characteristic meter (Thumb) as my hifi has 18 valves).

UBG spares were usually often 'on their last legs' and it was truly a waste of time trying one spare after another to get a real UBG component.
It was joy to see a sealed box with a new magnetron in it (K)

R651400
26th June 2008, 17:43
Holts supplied a screwdriver with a neon in the handle. plus full set of valves. I have to say that in ten years I only changed one capacitor ( oceanspan Mk1 antenna decoupler) otherwise never had a fault, honest.I never saw an Avometer until I joined Niarchos. Blue Funnel supplied essential spares which seemed to be lots of valves and aerial insulators.
There must have been some form of contract between GTZB and Redifon because on the Singapore/Australia run the Redifon rep/tech always appeared like something out of the woodwork, examined the station and left pissed.

charles henry
26th June 2008, 17:44
This comment brings back memories; when I joined one ship, going through the spares cupboard, almost every valve box was marked "Used But OK" . A call to the Electronics Superintendent at HQ resulted in several packages being delivered before sailing with full complement of new valves !

Forget the ship but was on a tanker where I had over two hundred, Dim but good valves. Sold them in Piereus (Spelling) and got a full briefcase of drachma. Hot time in the old town tonight,

Relative to seagoing test equipment in my days, "Test equipment, wots that"

ah memories de chas (Pint)

R651400
26th June 2008, 18:02
After he left, I opened the Tx up and all the 807's were burning blue! never fear, the spares cupboard was groaning under the weight of 807's.

807'S did and still do burn blue under normal operation.
Mimco's Reliance emergency transmitter was valved completely by 807's from MO, plus modulator to PA and looked like Piccadilly Circus when you opened the cabinet.
Remember the practical test?
Negative grid current reading when a 807, 813 or any other beam powered tetrode had gone completely soft?

ChasD
26th June 2008, 21:36
Chas, do you by any chance have a list of Shell UK callsigns - I used to have the Shell mail notice listing them all but I've lost it and there doesn't appear to be a listing in SN or the web that I can find.
Cheers,

Mike


Hi Mike, Best I can suggest is www.helderline.nl, most of his entries include the callsign, there are errors in some of the entries but its the most complete I have come across. If you come across anything better let me know.

Chas.

gwzm
26th June 2008, 22:09
As Tony said, Brocklebank was very good. There was a very full set of spares and tools, usually in excess of what the regulations required, and these were inventoried every trip. The most useful piece of equipment was the BC221 frequency meter that we used to calibrate the logging scale settings for all the HF stations that we intended to work. It also made a very useful signal generator if you had to re-align a receiver, as we had to do on one occasion after repairing an open circuit oscillator coil. It was also used as a signal generator to test the then state of the art Redifon VHF sets.
The other useful item was the Radar log book. The readings for each of the valves in the radar set were recorded each week, along with details of any faults, and the top copy was returned to head office each month along with the abstracts and other paperwork. That way you see if a valve was starting to go u/s or if there was a recurring fault.
Oscilloscopes weren't common and usually American WW2 surplus with a tube about 1.5" in diameter and only the most basic functionality.
The only time I couldn't fix a fault was after a fire (!) in the I/F strip of a Marconi Radiolocator IV true motion radar on Cunard's Alaunia or Andania - I don't remember which after all these years.

Happy days,

John/gwzm

K urgess
27th June 2008, 00:16
Some Lissajous figures here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbWULu5_nXI)
Along with some "blast from the past"
(Thanks to Tonga for the pointer)

R651400
27th June 2008, 07:12
As Tony said, Brocklebank was very good.

Any truth in the rumour that some Brocklebank ships carried home-made emergency receivers?

trotterdotpom
27th June 2008, 12:26
Forget the ship but was on a tanker where I had over two hundred, Dim but good valves. Sold them in Piereus (Spelling) and got a full briefcase of drachma. Hot time in the old town tonight,
.....(Pint)

I take it that wasn't on a Sunday, Chas!

A shoreside radio tech visited me in Colombo looking for a valve. I found it in my spares and he was mightily pleased. Me too, I saw an opportunity to join the ranks of the rope and dunnage and scrap metal sellers. "How much?" I asked. The tech looked crestfallen: "I can get you some tea," he offered.

"Goodnight," I said.

John T.

gwzm
27th June 2008, 15:04
Hi R651400,

Yup. Some of the oder ships did indeed have home made emergency receivers. I sailed with one on the Mahronda/GDNB. We had two Redifon R50M receivers so it was very rarely switched on. the only time I used it was when an R50M broke down in the middle of a TR to Northforeland GNF and needed it to finish communication.
I believe that some of these were referred to as H-P receivers because they were built in one of the old-fashioned 7lb biscuit tins used by Huntley & Palmers.

All the best,

John/gwzm

K urgess
27th June 2008, 15:23
That's fascinating.
How would a receiver built into a biscuit tin meet type testing and GPO specifications? (?HUH)

R651400
27th June 2008, 16:10
That's fascinating.
How would a receiver built into a biscuit tin meet type testing and GPO specifications? (?HUH)Beggar's belief but as GWZM puts it, a digestive better than the R50M!

K urgess
27th June 2008, 16:16
From what I can make out anything was better than the R50M.
Closest I got was the R408.

The things I hated most -
finding that blown fuses had been put back into the packet.
Pliers rusted solid
Bent screwdrivers
Meter with dead batteries or no probes

I'm sure I could think of more horror stories if I stirred the grey matter a bit more.
Got my own back as a surveyor. (Thumb)
But not enough to enjoy a shoreside tech's life of doing all the jobs the sparkie couldn't be bothered to do.

Tony Selman
27th June 2008, 17:41
That's fascinating.
How would a receiver built into a biscuit tin meet type testing and GPO specifications? (?HUH)

Because we were smart enough to take the biscuits out first. (Thumb)

andysk
27th June 2008, 18:21
Because we were smart enough to take the biscuits out first. (Thumb)

Hmmmm ... I need a bit of time to digest this one ....

K urgess
27th June 2008, 18:27
Because we were smart enough to take the biscuits out first. (Thumb)

Aaah! I see.
No Garibaldi oscillators or McVities valves then.
TRF (Tuned raisin frequency) ? [=P]

ChasD
27th June 2008, 20:22
One piece of kit I always wanted but could never get hold of was a Round Tooit. I've always been told "I'll do that when I get a Round Tooit" - anybody got the plans ? There may be a marketing opportunity here !(==D)

K urgess
27th June 2008, 20:47
Here you go Chas. [=P]

charles henry
27th June 2008, 21:30
can get you some tea," he offered.

"Goodnight," I said.

John T.[/QUOTE]

Seen to remember in such a situation one quoted the varieties of Tea
but not on this thread. de chas(Pint)

ChasD
27th June 2008, 22:50
Thats the sparky department !!! We have the technology - We can Rebuild !!!

gwzm
28th June 2008, 14:26
Hi Folks,

I don't know about type approval but the home-built Brocklebank receiver never received comment at survey time. Just in case my grey cells were succumbing to altzheimer's disease, I contacted one of my ex-GWZM colleagues about the H-P receivers and he replied today as follows:

"hi John........re HP recvrs, yes the case was Huntley Palmer biscuit tins, and they performed well, and especially after my first survey with them, I was doubtful of their performance, but the radio surveyor was very impressed and after that I was confident of having them onboard... I believe the HP radios were constructed in the horse box office *** maintenence, store facility in the shed at Vittoria quay, and George Kellam and Ben Lonsdale were the culprits I would imagine... the phone, a direct line to the office was located there, and remember being summoned from there to attend my first interview with W H Bailey."

Ben Lonsdale was the Chief Radio Superintendent in my time with Brocklebank.

All the best,

gwzm/John

K urgess
28th June 2008, 14:48
This receiver sounds fascinating.
Is it something that's well known outside the company and timeframe or is it one of those little quirks that will get lost in the mists of time?
The history of it and a description must be recorded somewhere. If not one of you guys should add it to the radio room equipment thread.

Back to test equipment and I find that I have sailed with all the gear once on Big Geordie (Esso Northumbria). I appear to have had at least one oscilloscope, two signal generators (AF & RF) and just about anything else you can think of. I've still got my fault/work record for my last trip and it makes interesting reading as a typical electronics officer's work-up on a clapped out supertanker. I think I'll start a thread to show the reason I decided to swallow the anchor.
It also shows what happens when mad bad sparkies get their hands on kit they know nothing about. [=P]

Kris

Tony Selman
28th June 2008, 19:09
Further to John/GWZM's comments on the H-P receiver I can confirm that they definitely existed as they were quite well known in the fleet. At first I didn't think I had sailed with one and I am sure I never took one through a survey but on further reflection I think there may have been one on Mahanada/GOFM. She was of the same mid 40's vintage as Mahronda and might perhaps have had one. I only coasted Mahanada for 10 days and at this distance I can't be sure. Perhaps another Brock's R/O can remember.

John Leary
28th June 2008, 20:00
There was a Brocklebank constucted HP monitor receiver on the Magdapur/GBJX when I joined her as a newly promoted 1st R/O late 1964. From recollection it was a 3 or 4 valve TRF. It never gave any problems and worked quite happily until it was replaced when Magdapur went into drydock for an upgrade mid 1965. The upgrade included replacement of the radio room wiring, replacement of the monitor receiver with Marconi's Alert and replacement of a wartime Canadian Marconi DF with a Lodestone.
As far as I can recollect the old HP receiver was taken off the ship by Arthur Oram, no doubt to be stored in case it came in handy at a later date!
Regards
John

Harry Nicholson
28th June 2008, 23:22
Further to John/GWZM's comments on the H-P receiver I can confirm that they definitely existed as they were quite well known in the fleet. At first I didn't think I had sailed with one and I am sure I never took one through a survey but on further reflection I think there may have been one on Mahanada/GOFM. She was of the same mid 40's vintage as Mahronda and might perhaps have had one. I only coasted Mahanada for 10 days and at this distance I can't be sure. Perhaps another Brock's R/O can remember.

I was 2nd with Tommy Williams (1st) on Mahanada for most of 1957. I'm fairly certain we had as emergency rx a grey wooden box, a TRF I think (perhaps it was on the Marwarri... memory is shot) . This was called by Tommy the 'Brocklebank 1940' and listed as such on the inventory. Apparently it was built in a shed by the dock in Liverpool (or Birkenhead) during the war by R/Os, torpedoed and otherwise waiting for a ship.
I recall that it used huge capacitors between stages on the theory that the book said that the more microfarads you had, the better the signal transfer. Arthur Orum told me he could work Panama from the Red Sea with it...I must have been grumbling about all the squeals and squawks it made when I tried to use it. ('but there was not much going on at the time -radio silence- so why not?' I replied)
Arthur enjoyed these exchanges. When I complained about the rain coming into the Marwarri's wireless room and flooding the motor cupboard, instead of having the bulkhead crack welded up, he sent me a stirrup pump. It did'nt work, the washer was buggered.

Ron Stringer
29th June 2008, 00:35
There was a Brocklebank constucted HP monitor receiver on the Magdapur/GBJX when I joined her as a newly promoted 1st R/O late 1964. From recollection it was a 3 or 4 valve TRF. It never gave any problems and worked quite happily until it was replaced when Magdapur went into drydock for an upgrade mid 1965. The upgrade included replacement of the radio room wiring, replacement of the monitor receiver with Marconi's Alert and replacement of a wartime Canadian Marconi DF with a Lodestone.
As far as I can recollect the old HP receiver was taken off the ship by Arthur Oram, no doubt to be stored in case it came in handy at a later date!
Regards
John

The 'Lodestone' must have been similarly stored away 'in case it came in handy'. The last 'Lodestone' DFs must have been produced several years before your 'upgrade'; its successor, the 'Lodestar' automatic DF was introduced in 1962.

R651400
29th June 2008, 08:18
Looking at the timescale of the Brocklebanks HP homebrew stand-by receivers, could it be they pre-empted ITU requirements of the 50's when standby receivers like the useless Mimco Alert appeared on the scene. Considering an immediate post war installation of Oceanspan, CR300 and AA there obviously wasn't a mandatory requirement to cover 500 kcs when working HF.
Sometime earlier I erroneously mentioned the CR300 had a built in 500 kc/s crystal receiver. On double checking, it was a 500 kc/s xtal calibrator and one for 690 kc/s to give marks in the marine calling bands. Apols if this misled anyone.

Roger Bentley
29th June 2008, 10:34
There were two of the home made receivers the AC1940 and the AC1944. I thought the reason they were built was to avoid radiation and they were better screened than the commercial ones in use. Regards, Roger

Tony Selman
29th June 2008, 10:52
It seems reasonable to assume that the AC1940 and AC1944 were designed and built in those years and this would piece together with Harry's comments about the Brocklebank's 1940.

They must have been well designed if Arthur Orum's claim of working Panama from the Red Sea is true. You certainly would need radio silence to achieve that.

R651400
29th June 2008, 11:13
The idea of a wartime TRF receiver being completely sealed in a biscuit tin to avoid radiation makes sense.
Having said that there was no oscillator to cause radiation unless AC1940/44 were fitted with reaction for selectivity. Moving the reaction control to the positive feedback point (A1 reception) would certainly cause the receiver to radiate and could be picked up by submarine detection.
More to the point, these receivers were definitely innovative and certainly passed 20 years of IoWT inspectorate as part of the Brocklebank radio room installation.