oil and water

Alan Rawlinson
5th January 2009, 17:01
One of the regrets I have had long after leaving Bankline is the total lack of curiosity or interest about the engine side of the ships that I had at the time. What fantastic bits of kit, that can keep going ( sometimes!) for weeks on end. We had to know the rudiments for tickets and not to seem totally ignorant when sharing a few beers with engineer mates. However, the ingenious designs of cylinders and pistons, valves and gears largely escaped me, and I suspect most of my deck colleagues. I think it was the Eastbank class of ships that had '' opposed pistons '' for example, and they gave out a particular kind of clatter, and a sight that ws wondrous to behold.

Anyone else feel they could have marvelled at the engines a bit more?

AL

Alistair Macnab
5th January 2009, 17:35
Doxford's opposed pistons as well as H & W. B & W opposed piston engines. Bank Line had them all! What I would like to hear, as well as Alan's enquiry, is something about the old "Blast" Diesels built at Harland's works in Glasgow in the 20s. And what about the Sulzers? There were some around as well.

I remember the engineers on the twin screw "blast" jobs had oil engrained in their skin. The officers had the same complexion as the Bengali crew! Looking across the piston tops when the engines were running was like trying to see in the best of London smogs!

One story I heard was of a twin screw Bank boat coming up the Houston Ship Channel and the pilot using the air whistle to attract the tugs at Morgans Point. A message on the voice pipe from the engine room to the bridge conveyed the message: "Tell the f...... pilot that he has one more blast on the whistle or one more stop and start on an engine. He can take his pick!"
I do know that the old "Inverbank" class (1924 onwards) had the Houston Pilots trembling at their lack of power and their supposed limits of engine manoeuvres.
Whenever one of the "blasts" was sold on, the new owners could rarely get the engines started and often bribed the second engineer to sail as "instructor" to the new engine staff. This happened with one of the ships that was sold in Capetown. The new owners managed to reach Durban after a lengthy and hairy passage up the coast. They thereupon sent out an SOS for someone who could help them to run the engines and take the ship onwards to its scheduled destination! Italian owners, I seem to remember.
Yes. There's a wealth of yarns waiting to be told.
Alistair.

K urgess
5th January 2009, 18:55
Couldn't sleep when I got home on leave after sailing on a Doxford Bankboat.
Lulled to sleep by the puff, puff, puff, puff, pause of a Doxford non-stop across the Pacific or, memorably all the way from Singapore to Liverpool via the Cape without missing a beat.
Sitting at the engine room skylight or standing at the engine room door watching the tops. Bliss.
Engineers scurrying around working their magic to keep the lullaby playing.
Mates making sure we were pointing in the right direction all the time.
Plus sparkie making sure they got their football results on time.

Alan Rawlinson
5th January 2009, 21:04
Alistair - thanks for that. On the old twin screw Irisbank ( Sultzers?) with blast air starting, where I spent 2 years and paid off in Bathurst to fly home ( a 2 day trip, with an overnight stay in the Rock Hotel, in Gibraltar) the start air bottle gave us approx 10 starts, and then came the whistle from the engine room with the dreaded message '' no air ''. Many a time I heard the old man ( David Palmer) plead with the pilot to keep the engines turning, rather than ring a stop. This was always a nightmare in the Hooghly river, entering or leaving Kiddapore or King George docks, when on one occasion we had to let go the anchor.

Another quite common scenario was having one engine out, and continuing on the other, with the helm almost hard over to steer a straight line. I seem to remember the reluctant engineers having to pull the odd piston at sea, also.

At Cristobal when approaching for the Panama transit, some of the pilots were very wary of this class of ship and I remember them asking for assurances about having a full tank of air, and both engines in good working condition.

It's a bit late to say the least, but I would like to pay tribute to the engineers on that 1955/56 voyage. the names Forsyth, Fallon,Mc Laclan, Smith come to mind. ( G4 Forsyth saluted the sun every morning when emerging from the E.R.) Gerry Fallon had a great singing voice.

Cheers//Alan

Ian6
5th January 2009, 21:55
I guess it generally went for all of us that other peoples' jobs were a bit of a dark art. I sailed on one P&O tanker (Malwa) where the Captain arranged some job sharing on a long open-sea passage. As 3/O I did a few watches down below whilst my counterpart saw some sunshine. We were both supervised by relevant seniors. It gave some slight understanding, although it was one of those decadent (mostly) trouble-free steam turbines. I can confirm that the boiler room was hot in the tropics.
Normally, though, the engineers no more saw or understood dawn star sights than we fully appreciated life in the ER and all of us marvelled at the R/O's ability to type directly from incoming morse. I guess we all thought we could have sold stamps or ordered flour but the Pursers would say otherwise!
Now it is not only a common workforce but GPS on the bridge and an unmanned ER. One suspects some of the magic went when the skills required also disappeared.
Ian

kenyoung
5th January 2009, 22:15
The houston ship canal was not a great place to be with a doxford, nor panama either. meadowbank in 1980 had the habit of storing fuel in the scavenge space. not a good idea when "stop engines" was rung . Engine took on a life of it's own . nearly took out locks at panama & a gas carrier in houston

Charlie Stitt
10th January 2009, 20:35
We often read about breakdowns on these pages, well what about this. Ernebank built 1937, B & W engine passage from Balboa to Bunbury W/A, SIX WEEKS NON STOP. Not sure but I think that was the trip we had a cargo of railway sleepers. I remember on the old Myrtlebank (B & W blast job) starting first in the suez convoy and completing the transit the following day after the other ships. As first trip apprentice I did'nt really understand what was happening or if all the bangs and black smoke was normal routine, and the series of perfect smoke rings which come from her funnel was something else. I remember the engineers had a favourate song that went. No more grinding in exhaust valves. No more pumping up the blast. We will tell the Merchant Navy, to stick the blast jobs up their axx. That same old ship, on our way to Japan,:sweat: took us through the edge of a typhoon without as much as loosing a beat, thanks to C/E Mclaren and his team of professionals.

ccurtis1
10th January 2009, 23:16
The Irisbank, built 1964 at Harland & Wolf, Belfast, with a H&W opposed piston engine, never to my knowledge had a breakdown at sea for nearly two years from leaving the yard, thanks in the main to the 2nd Engineer Kevin Habben, an Australian, who was on her that whole time. Strictly speaking, the H&W, B&W was not an opposed piston engine, as Doxford held the patent and rights to that term. The upper piston on the H&W B&W was an exhaust piston, as it had only one third of the stroke of the lower piston, or so the story goes'

ccurtis1
10th January 2009, 23:19
The Irisbank, built 1964 at Harland & Wolf, Belfast, with a H&W opposed piston engine, never to my knowledge had a breakdown at sea for nearly two years from leaving the yard, thanks in the main to the 2nd Engineer Kevin Habben, an Australian, who was on her that whole time. Strictly speaking, the H&W, B&W was not an opposed piston engine, as Doxford held the patent and rights to that term. The upper piston on the H&W B&W was an exhaust piston, as it had only one third of the stroke of the lower piston, or so the story goes'

Correction, that should read four years from leaving the yard. She was pretty fast too, almost 17 knots

Alan Rawlinson
11th January 2009, 08:58
Hallo Marconi Sahib, and greetings from Cornwall (Falmouth, waiting for orders!)

Rereading this thread I know exactly what you mean about that blissful feeling watching the engine room tops. Years later, when working in Hong Kong, I confess to crossing regularly on the star ferries, and if I wasn't up at the sharp end watching the busy crossing traffic, you would find me leaning through the engine room door, inhaling the potent mix of warm oil and the unique smell, and listening to the clatter below. Pure magic!

Cheers//Alan

John Campbell
11th January 2009, 11:14
Reading these posts makes me recal my second trip as an apprentice on the old "Clydebank" a H&W Blast injection job. We left Hull after discharging a full cargo of grain for Houston and Port Sulphur in 1954.
I remember the carry-on leaving Hull and getting out of the Humber as I was on the bell-book on the bridge atthe time- the port engine would not start and we just carried on - the Humber Pilot was not the best pleased but the old man Capt Howe did not bat an eyelid.
We sailed on through the channel and it was half way across the Atlantic before we had two Engines. I will never forget the heroic efforts of the seven engineers and especially the Buckie 2nd Eng, Les McBain who worked long hours down below. When we finally had both engines going it was quite a sight gto look down the engine room skylight and see and hear the action. The exhaust fumes on the top platform were horrific and how those two agwallahs stood there day after day grinding valves I will never know.
Nostalgia -JC

Carl Wadkin
11th January 2009, 18:55
I have had a fascination with all things mechanical from an early age, so it wasn't long before I ventured into the engine room and was amazed by those huge opposed piston engines.

I was a big fan of the small Honda Grand Prix bikes of the 60's, some of which ran to 22,000rpm, so to see an engine flat out at just over 100rpm was quite a contrast. I seem to remember they also made a peculiar wheezing noise when running dead slow.
On one trip I managed to persuade the 2nd engineer that he needed some help, and so spent many a happy hour lapping generator injectors on the lathe. I even came away with a worn out Ruston Hornsby inlet valve as a souvenir, sad or what!
Particularly remember an occasion we broke down mid Pacific, and I watched the engineers replacing an upper piston in a heavy swell, still don't know how they did it without anyone getting injured. How did you guys cope with the heat and noise, Health and Safety would have a field day now.

Some years after coming ashore I had something of a major career change and became a mechanical engineer, my next personal project is to make some titanium inlet valves for my daughter's racing bike; bit smaller than the old Ruston Hornsby one!

David E
12th January 2009, 00:40
We often read about breakdowns on these pages, well what about this. Ernebank built 1937, B & W engine passage from Balboa to Bunbury W/A, SIX WEEKS NON STOP. Not sure but I think that was the trip we had a cargo of railway sleepers. I remember on the old Myrtlebank (B & W blast job) starting first in the suez convoy and completing the transit the following day after the other ships. As first trip apprentice I did'nt really understand what was happening or if all the bangs and black smoke was normal routine, and the series of perfect smoke rings which come from her funnel was something else. I remember the engineers had a favourate song that went. No more grinding in exhaust valves. No more pumping up the blast. We will tell the Merchant Navy, to stick the blast jobs up their axx. That same old ship, on our way to Japan,:sweat: took us through the edge of a typhoon without as much as loosing a beat, thanks to C/E Mclaren and his team of professionals.

Charlie

I'd agree with that assessment.Once they settled down the old B&W blast engines seem to run and run without breakdowns-mainly due to the skill of the
ER team.
Crossing the North Atlantic in the "Myrtlebank" in January 1950,first trip,so too green to be scared,we had six days of the worst weather I ever experienced. A huge following sea,breaking along the length of the after deck that smashed one port-side lifeboat and damaged the other-both engines racing in the heavy pitching,the old girl just soldiered on. She had her moments when manoeuvering in port, as did the "Forresbank" in later years-I remember moving remorslessly across Kiddepore Docks as the engines failed to go astern, Pilots insisting on attending tugs through the Panama Canal
and many more.
The economic bonus was that class of ship carried around 9,000 tons of cargo at around 9-10 knots using 8-9 tons of fuel a day.Hard to beat

Regards
David E

Lattikia
12th January 2009, 10:42
red to the mast, blue to the sea, and a 2 yr trip in between, at least up till the seamens strike in 66, great memories of the Lossiebank and Nessbank and of H&W engines

j.d.robinson
12th January 2009, 11:26
I joined KAVO YOSSANOS (ex MAPLEBANK) in Piraeus April 1985. She had been bought by Mr. M. Bamford of the JCB family and was being operated by West Hartlepool S.N.Co. after selling their last vessel. There was no problem with the main engine, but the generators were terrible. After spending thousands on her, she only did one trip, Le Havre to Pakistan with bagged sugar, then ran up on Gadani Beach for scrapping. While anchored at Karachi we received a message that the owner wanted all brassware off the ship, one piece was a huge plaque from the engine saying "The Harland and Wolf Engine; Harland and Wolf Sole Licencees in the the British Commonwealth and Empire"

Duncan112
12th January 2009, 20:14
Reading these posts makes me recal my second trip as an apprentice on the old "Clydebank" a H&W Blast injection job. We left Hull after discharging a full cargo of grain for Houston and Port Sulphur in 1954.
I remember the carry-on leaving Hull and getting out of the Humber as I was on the bell-book on the bridge atthe time- the port engine would not start and we just carried on - the Humber Pilot was not the best pleased but the old man Capt Howe did not bat an eyelid.
We sailed on through the channel and it was half way across the Atlantic before we had two Engines. I will never forget the heroic efforts of the seven engineers and especially the Buckie 2nd Eng, Les McBain who worked long hours down below. When we finally had both engines going it was quite a sight gto look down the engine room skylight and see and hear the action. The exhaust fumes on the top platform were horrific and how those two agwallahs stood there day after day grinding valves I will never know.
Nostalgia -JC

Would that be the Les McBain that was Engineer Superintendent with Roddie McCleod?

Charlie Stitt
10th March 2009, 00:23
The Inverbank maiden voyage 1962 Doxford "P" type engine with turbo blower,new to Bankboats I believe. Early into the trip the liners started to crack ( a design fault I believe) and one by one all had to be drawn and replaced, sometimes this was done while the ship was rolling some, I remember looking down the skylight to see the engineers risking life and limb trying to steady a swinging liner suspended on the end of a chain, but did that bother these guys? not a bit, job done and engine running again they would emerge out on deck laughing and joking, backsides up onto the hatch and a call out for a few cans. C/E Hanover, 2/E Cairns were first class leaders and certainly knew their stuff and after that twenty month trip even the juniors were ready to tackle any job thrown at them. That was such a happy ship with Capt Kemp in command that when we got the orders in Fremantle to load grain for the UK,none of us really wanted to go Home, that is until we cleared the Meddy and headed North, then the Channels kicked in.

Alan Rawlinson
15th March 2009, 09:46
Hallo All

Being a bit disappointed at the lack of juicy stories about the goings on in the Bankline engine rooms, I took to browsing the other threads in SN. and Wow! Seems we were extremely lucky despite the fun with some of the earlier twin screw blast engines. Either we had very good decisions re the engines deployed, were lucky, or had very resourceful engineers at all levels. Someone deserves the credit, even at this late stage!

Anyone interested - please look under the thread '' ships and the breakers '' and the sub forum '' Ruston AO diesels '' What a nightmare - Almost unbelievable that ship owners still specified them.

Did the Bankline ever have Rustons, maybe as generators?

Cheers/Alan rawlinson

Duncan112
15th March 2009, 16:24
Corabank class had 3 Ruston Alternator Engines and just in case we got bored maintaining these a Paxman as the harbour set. All the bolts on the Rustons were hydraulically tensioned by measuring the stretch on them using a device that must have been designed by Uncle Walt himself .... "This Disn'y work, that Disn'y work".

Duncan

Colin419
16th April 2009, 13:59
Ah yes...that'll have been the Paxman that you couldn't do the mains on because there was no headroom to flip the block and if you tried to do the big ends, the b*****d would eat your knuckles because the clearance inside the crankcase was so tight.

I also remember doing overhauls on two of the three Rustons while tootling up the Red Sea, (Can't remember if it was the Ivybank or the Forthbank) ME Spill Valves Gagged cause they leaked and the ship going black at 0300hrs. I knew something unusual was happening, but it took me a moment to figure out that the Main Engine hadn't stopped. No lube pumps, no cooling pumps, but cos the spill valves couldn't spill, the main engine was still clattering away. My goodness did we have to do some quick thinking!

The worst part we found out later was that the 2/O had been in the act of changing course when we blacked and we ended up on a collision course with a P&O Gas carrier with no ability to take avoiding action. Talking to the 2/O in the bar afterwards, he was still in shock....not from the near collision, but from the language from the VHF. :-))

Strath101
16th April 2009, 15:31
The Shirrabank had 3 Ruston 6 cyl alternator engines

Ian Coupe
25th April 2009, 11:07
The various thoughts memories of Bank Line enginerooms amused me.
I Joined Irisbank in 1974 as third engineer and within 4 weeks was the second engineer. Let us not go into the circumstances.
I spent nearly 14 happy years with the Bank Line and yes I still remember the "aroma" of the engine room plus the various joys of working on H & W's,
Doxfords etc.