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Refrigeration Engineers

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  #1  
Old 16th January 2009, 08:14
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spongebob spongebob is offline  
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Refrigeration Engineers

Refrigeration engineers

After a year on this site I have never come across a post by a refrigeration engineer mariner. There are posts from Captains, Mates, Radio officers, Medical staff, Engineers, Electricians, Boy, Ordinary and Able seamen, Bosuns, Greasers, motormen, Firemen, Trimmers, Cooks and Stewards to name a few but apart from myself no one has posted a thread about frozen cargo stories.
Where are all the J & E Hall men that came from Darby and Dartford plus other sources to serve on the hundreds of ships that carried the frozen meat, dairy and fruit cargoes from Australia, NZ, SA/Argentine and the West Indies all the way back to Britain?
Surely there must have been a few tales worth telling, lost or rotting cargoes or what ever
I did a round trip NZ/UK/NZ as a third freezer and it was the cushiest job I ever had. I must write about it some time.

Bob
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Old 16th January 2009, 14:03
cubpilot cubpilot is offline  
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on my last trip as an apprentice eng. i was seconded to the fridge dept for the duration of loading, trip from nz to uk and discharge. in port on nights and 12-4 at sea. something approaching 4 months without a day off. the old co2 machinery ran like clockwork. easy but rather dull job. eventually when paid off the man in leadenhall st congratulated me on reaching the end of the apprenticeship and in the next breath said i had a weeks leave before the next ship. i was polite in the way i told him to stuff it as i had planned a 21st birthday party in three weeks time. what a waste of all the money spent training me.
the refer knowledge stood me in good stead on other ships where the cargo was looked after by the engineroom gang.
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Old 16th January 2009, 15:04
gordy gordy is offline  
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In my time with Blue Flue on the Ixion we carried an extra 2nd who did the fridges, two holds, used on the return trip from Oz. I think it was usually a motorship man getting in some steam time. As a 1st trip junior I was put with him on my field days on the outward trip to overhaul the compressors, a really good job for me as my apprenticeship had been building Sulzers and fitting out HMS Fife. The guy I worked with was a top man, with none of the Bluey Bull you sometimes got.
While loading cargo in Brisbane I gave him a break on the quayside temperature checking, and was quite happily stabbing a spiked Rototherm into the butter, but had to use a 3/16" drill on the frozen solid meat to get it in. You've probably guessed the next bit!
The drill snapped and left 1-2" in the meat and I've often wondered how many teeth it broke.

If taking the fridge temps (going from an E.R. at 120℉ to vap room at 10℉) is the equivalent of saunas and icy dips then I should live to 100!
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Old 16th January 2009, 15:46
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Funny you should mention that

Your correct - No reefers. You may think this is a joke but it's not. I sailed on Edinburgh Castle and Clan Ranald and the Refrig. Eng. was a guy named Jack Frost. I bet his parents didn't imagine that when they gave him his name.

Regards

G. Lewis

Last edited by Glyndwr : 16th January 2009 at 15:49.
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  #5  
Old 16th January 2009, 16:12
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I sailed with one freezer whos party trick after a few rums was to get over the rail and walk along the ships side ladder (which was folded against the ships side) and look in the port holes and that was when we were going at 18 knots. He lived to resign the company after the asst purser told him his temperatures were not right, a discussion took place and a thump followed by a resignation. He told me he was looking for a way to leave and the purser gave it to him, the reason not the thump that went the other way.
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Old 18th January 2009, 10:48
Philthechill Philthechill is offline  
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'Fridge engineers.

In Brock's we never carried massive amounts of 'fridge cargo so never needed a dedicated 'fridge bloke per se. The J3/E usually looking after the fridge plant. Brock's favoured Sterne's machinery. The refrigerant of choice, on most ships, was NH3 with some of the newer tonnage ("Mangla", "Mathura" and all the motor-ships) having R.22.

I sailed as J3/E on several of their ships gaining more than just a working knowledge of the mechanics, and physics, of refrigeration as I really loved the job. I had one or two "experiences" with leaks etc. but nothing too traumatic.

At one time I was seriously considering approaching the Personnel (Whoops! In modern speak that's, "Human Resources"---------stupid name!) Department and asking if I could be posted to Port Line as a 'fridge engineer but before I could make this (some would say "downward step", a view I don't share!!!) move I was asked if I would transfer to the new-building ACL ships, which I did.

Eventually, for family reasons, I came ashore and after working at Drax power-station for a year (I couldn't get on with the militant union set-up there!!!) worked in Botswana for a couple of years as a Senior Inspector of Works (Diesel Engines). Finished the contract, came home and got a job (on the strength of my NH3 'fridge experience, courtesy of "The Merch") as Assistant Engineer in a vegetable freezing factory.

Two weeks after starting, and just as the "pea season" (hugely important part of any veg. freezing firm from Birds Eye down!!) was beginning, and because of a bad weld, an 8" suction-pipe, header cap-end blew off during a hot-gas defrost! The suction-pipe was about 8' above a vibrating inspection-table with around eight young girls working on it, sitting down. As soon as the cap-end blew off they were swamped with NH3 (gas, "fortunately"). Being young and agile they vacated their work-place very rapidly with the exception of one girl who was quite a well-built young lady who couldn't extricate her legs from under the framework of the inspection-table. Unfortunately and despite the efforts of the Floor Manager [Neville Galloway----a true hero in the genuine meaning of the word] (who was badly gassed in his attempted rescue bid as he didn't have any sort of breathing apparatus on) me and another bloke she died. The other bloke and myself had put BA sets on which delayed our rescue attempt. I wondered for many moons afterwards, if we had not bothered putting the BA sets on, which delayed our attempt at rescue, could we have dragged her out before she was asphyxiated and thus saved her life?

The Fire Brigade arrived soon after our failed rescue attempt and the Fire Chief ordered us out of the building. He knew there was absolutely no chance anyone could survive in the levels of ammonia wafting around inside the factory. The cloud of ammonia inside looked for all the world as if a steam-pipe had carried-away.

The sight of that poor girls face, even viewed through the BA set's small "window", as we were trying to drag her outside stayed with me for a long, long time. I won't describe it as it was really too horrendous, plus I don't want to stir-up old memories.

(We heard much later, and after the Inquest, that the barrister appointed by the freezer company's Insurance to argue about the amount of compensation awarded the family of the girl (she was 19), managed to have the amount capped at £1000 "because she was obese and, as such, her life expectancy would be quite short anyway". Sick or what?).

Because there had been a fatality HM Accident Inspectorate ordered that 25 random welds on various bits of pipework (High-side, Low-side, pumped-liquid) be "bombed". There was a 100% failure rate!!!! (It turned-out that the install firm employed anyone who could strike an arc successfully. Perhaps not quite as bad as that but not far off). He ordered that ALL welds on pipes inside the factory to be cut-out and redone!!! The plant-room welds were all done later. This at the height of pea season too!!!

Fortunately Babcock's had a permanent crowd, based at Drax, and they came and did the lot in just under 10 days!!

Because of this accident all welders involved in refrigeration work, since then, must be ticketed and testing of pipework is very stringent.

The above is just one of many stories I can recount about working as a 'fridge engineer but, with them not being of marine basis, probably don't qualify for inclusion in this Thread!!!! Salaams, Phil

Last edited by Philthechill : 18th January 2009 at 11:01.
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  #7  
Old 18th January 2009, 12:24
Jim Brady Jim Brady is offline  
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I sailed on L&H's Millais,it was general cargo out and picked up the beef in B.A
return voyage.From what I recall the beef went into the lower hold and the tween deck was sealed with heavy blocks then corked with tar.The fridge
engineer then connected bottles of ammonia from the deck to refridgerate
the hold.I was galley boy and I was sitting on deck pealing the spuds when I
heard what I thought was a baby crying I went to investigate and found the
fridge engineer lying on the deck alongside an ammonia bottle,he had become
gassed by the ammonia.All hands were alerted and he was carried into the
hostpital.What I find most amusing about this story is that nowhere on the
ship could a thermometer be found.I was sent down to the fridge flat to get
the thermometer from the veg locker,how they took his temperature with a
foot long thermometer covered in wood I'l never know.
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Old 18th January 2009, 17:25
gordy gordy is offline  
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Phil,
A very moving and tragic story. How some of the legal profession can sleep at night beats me.
Gordy
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Old 18th January 2009, 21:27
raybnz raybnz is offline  
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I did two trips working in the Freezer Department. First as a Junior Engineer on Shaw Savill's Corinthic and then as 2nd Freezer on the Cretic. I found it a bit boring and went back into the Engine Room.

However on the coast the 16 on 32 off watches were good for the socializing part of my sea going career.
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Old 18th January 2009, 22:23
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I worked on several ships as the Reefer Third. Most of the time the job was uneventful. The awards were great for the Engine Department. We use to load Prawns and Lobster Tails in South Africa. The Shipper would fill up the cage area of the cargo hold where the reefer equipment was located so we would not touch the cargo in the main area of the holds. We usually had enough food for twice weekly barbecue's and still have cases of Prawns and Lobster Tails to carry home.

I moved up after doing time caring for reefer containers. We did not get the cargo manifest before leaving most of the time so we maintained the temperatures that were listed on the carts. A few times we plugged in empty containers once we maintained a container at - 15 degrees for the trip back to the States. The container had a Bentley and a Rolls in the container. I was told the quick thaw did a number on the wood work. After that we always got the reefer cargo manifest before leaving and a chance to refuse cargo if the container wasn't working correctly.
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Old 18th January 2009, 23:16
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Not really a freezer story, it happened on an ED boat in Liverpool.
We were told we were to have a new bar fridge (although there was nothing wrong with the existing one). This duly turned up and was found to be considerably smaller than the old one. This caused some dissent among the bar regulars, but the superintendent, in his infinite wisdom, insisted that this was what we were getting. Next snag - the old fridge was too big to go out through the door - (Superintendent), "Pass it over the bar". (Us), "No good the smoke room door's too small as well."
By this time we really thought we might get away with keeping the old one but underestimated the tenacity of those who cannot bear the thought of being proved wrong.
The solution, by the guy who considered himself our leader, was-, "Get a couple of greasers with Monday hammers and flatten it." All the engineers drifted out onto no.4 hatch to watch the fun as the super and his minions rapidly filled the accommodation with ammonia.
WHY DO THEY NEVER LISTEN?
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Old 19th January 2009, 09:30
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Joined the "Otaio" in London July 1965 as Jnr in the fridge flat homeward bound and left the "Hertford" in Falmouth August 1971 as 1st Refrig. Later shore side Sydney with Hall Thermotank.
Great years with great experence and carried me through to this day, still in refrigeration mucking about with containers and box boats.
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Old 19th January 2009, 10:50
Pilot mac Pilot mac is offline  
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Tom,
you will probably know an ex reefer that lives close to me, Brian Wadbrook.
Brian has been retired now for some years ending his time on OCL ships.
I sailed with him on Cumberland when we had the unusual cargo of oranges (well unusual for an H boat!)from Capetown, Port Elizabeth and Durban to Iran. circa 1975.

regards
Dave MacVicker
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Old 23rd January 2009, 12:22
Philthechill Philthechill is offline  
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Angry Wouldn't fancy the job now!!

Even though I'm retired I still like to keep up-to-speed on "things refrigeration" so have kept my Membership of The Institute of Refrigeration valid (albeit on a reduced annual rate for "Owld Buggers") and get a monthly news-letter delivered, strangely enough, every month!!!

The legislation covering refrigeration is absolutely crippling now and I doubt very much if I'd like to be part of an Industry which appears to be controlled by the EU!

Very stringent controls are in place to ensure that refrigerant leakage (HCFC's etc.) is kept to an absolute minimum (no bad thing of course!!) but, e.g. if you attend a plant which is suffering some loss of performance and find there has been quite a reduction in the refrigerant-charge which, obviously, is behind the down-turn in performance you have to find ALL leaks (no good finding one and saying, "Right, that's that sorted! Now to recharge!"), fix them, detail in your report where they were, then you have to record EXACTLY how much refrigerant you've added. If you get a call-back because of more loss you will be in serious trouble owing to your having to add more refrigerant. A careful check is kept on supply of refrigerant from the likes of ICI etc so you can't just order-up more gas to cover your tracks!

That sort of Big Brother approach would be a distinct "No! No!" for me!

However there's a big swing-back to NH3, as a refrigerant, so any leakage is soon noticed (!!) and as it's a naturally occurring gas it causes no harm to the atmosphere!

The fact that it can be fatal if too much is breathed in doesn't come into the equation!!! Salaams, Phil "Refrigeration lessons "R" Us" Roe
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Old 25th January 2009, 07:29
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First trip freezer

I joined Rangitane in Auckland in 1957 as junior engineer (13th actually but it was bad luck to call him that). It was main Engine room watches on the Doxfords down to Lyttelton to load frozen cargo then I went as third freezer on the midnight to eight watch as cargo was placed on board. A baptism of fire at first due to nil experience in that field and I had to have those hold temperatures just right for the start of cargo work at 7 am. Too cold and the cargo workers would not go down the hold, too warm and the Ministry of Agriculture Inspectors would not allow the cargo to be loaded.
The good job in the small hours was the random core sampling the cheeses then putting the samples on toast under the pantry griller. Some of those Cheddars must have arrived in the UK with more holes than a Swiss one.
The ship was by then ten years old but the refrigeration engine room was immaculate with tons of space for the three well maintained J & E Hall compressors and teak decking in between. Once the cargos of frozen lamb, chilled beef, cheese and apples was settled down to their optimum temperatures there was little to do during the voyage apart from log the temperatures, the occasional defrost and the speeding up the compressors while passing through the tropics.
I knew little about big CO2 systems but the last 4 months of my apprentiship at the Dockyard had been spent in the refrigeration maintenance workshop servicing naval shipís on board Freon gassed domestic fridges so when the Coca Cola cooling machine along side the swimming pool broke down I was the repair man, a job that took as long as I could make it. This led to me eventually get the job of tickling up several shipboard domestic units including the one in the Captainís cabin. (That sentence could lead to a query)
Boredom was a factor but there were plenty of books on board to fill in the dull spots on the night watch and my Irish greaser who hailed from Donegal was a trained baritone who used some of the watch to exercise his vocals in a not unpleasant way. My most important function was to use the brine room to make sure that the 4 am after watch beer was very cold and to go to the bakery to collect the fresh bread rolls for our little gathering in the engineers smoke room attended the engineers, electrician, third mate, and a Radio operator. A very social occasion.
The trip back to NZ with full freezer watches when the only cool cargo was a couple of tween deck lockers of table grapes really was a bit farcical but I survived the voyage with overalls as white as the day I first sailed.
Within a couple of weeks I was back at sea with the Union Co on a dirty old collier with worn out wheezing British Polar main engines, the sort the bigger ships used for generators, and was at last to grips with the reality of most main engine rooms.

Bob
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Old 25th January 2009, 13:35
gordy gordy is offline  
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A smashing post Bob, really encapsulates some of the best of times that could be had in the MN.
Gordy
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Old 30th January 2009, 16:13
Beartracks Beartracks is offline  
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Originally Posted by surfaceblow View Post
I worked on several ships as the Reefer Third. Most of the time the job was uneventful. The awards were great for the Engine Department. We use to load Prawns and Lobster Tails in South Africa. The Shipper would fill up the cage area of the cargo hold where the reefer equipment was located so we would not touch the cargo in the main area of the holds. We usually had enough food for twice weekly barbecue's and still have cases of Prawns and Lobster Tails to carry home.

I moved up after doing time caring for reefer containers. We did not get the cargo manifest before leaving most of the time so we maintained the temperatures that were listed on the carts. A few times we plugged in empty containers once we maintained a container at - 15 degrees for the trip back to the States. The container had a Bentley and a Rolls in the container. I was told the quick thaw did a number on the wood work. After that we always got the reefer cargo manifest before leaving and a chance to refuse cargo if the container wasn't working correctly.
When I first started sailing as relieving Chief with Farrell Lines I always used to be employed during "Grape Season". The red grapes from Natal were almost as large as plums and were always in high demand at prestigious grocer's in the big US Eastern cities. Because of a fruit fly that would deposit it's larvae on the grape bunches it was required by the US Department of Agriculture that the grape cargo be sterilized by refrigeration. This sterilization program required that the grapes be subjected to temperatures below 35 F for a period of fifteen days. A tamper proof recording device was placed in all the refrigeration tween deck spaces and just one recording of over 35 F would negate all successful time recorded before it and the entire fifteen day process would have to commence again, There was room for just one "screw up" during the two and a half week passage to New York from Capetown. If fifteen days of sterilization couldn't be successfully completed the grape cargo would have to be removed in bond and sterilized ashore under bond in a warehouse thereby negating all the cargo revenue earned for the passage. Our esteemed Engineering Superintendent Bill Dignes would as a result of the loss of cargo revenue bestow upon the unfortunate Chief Engineer of the offending vessel "the effervescence of his wild Norwegian soul". This was the reson all the regular Chief Engineer's would take their vacations during Grape Season.

We carried a Reefer Third on all the African Comet class Cargo Liners in the South and East African Trade but I would never delegate the authority of watching over the grape cargo to any of my Reefers. I left orders with the watch engineers to call me if there was a deviation of over 0.5 degrees Farenhiegt in either direction on the engine room reefer temp recorders for the grape cargo. The temperature control solenoid switch settings weren't sensitive enough to adjust such minor variations in temp readings but I did find that I could control such small variation by "tweeking" the EPR regulators. I never got a nights unbroken sleep on the passages home from Durban and Capetown but I never made raisins of a grape cargo or invoke the wrath of "Water Tight Door". The Engineering Superintendent used to sign his directives with his initials WTD and the engineers had nicknamed him "Water Tight Door". My diligence had me transferred as Permanent Chief Engineer to the Austral Ensign a new container ship in the Austrailian Trades that used to stem over 6000 tons of Australian Beef as cargo consigned to Mc Donald on every home bound passage but that my friends is another sea story.

Respectfully submitted Hugh D Curran former Chief Engineer of SS African Comet.SS African Sun , SS African Neptune. SS African Meteor, SS African Mercury , SS African Dawn , SS Austral Ensign and SS Austral Patriot.
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Old 4th February 2009, 09:08
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I remember with the Hall's CO2 systems that it was a matter of pride when returning to the UK and you were asked how many CO2 bottles were used to charge the system during the voyage. Anything less than 10 always brought a nod from the Engineer Superintendent.
I remember after several years on CO2 systems I was transferred to the Piako which was a Freon 12 system (and with air-con too) and what an experence with a first voyage 2nd.
A very sharp learning curve with plenty of reading of the Hall's manual but we got the hang of it after an extended Manz run. I still remember making all these little jigs and clamps to hold the circular valve rings and unloading bits in place during assembly after survey
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Old 16th February 2009, 19:57
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As Phil said it was usually down to the Jun. 3rd to look after fridge cargo. I recall my initiation on SS Manipur as among the more temperate fridge cargo of apples we had chemical stores, what ever they were, and had to be kept at very low temp. We had three Sterne compressors using ammonia, good to clear your head, but a devil with leaky joints. One of the compressors went on the bum, believe or not the con rod broke!
And with many leaks we were down to minimum supply of ammonia in the gas storage bottles. In effort to take the last drop out of a bottle, they were in a rack in the quartermaster's alleyway, I upended one and coupled up the lead charging pipe. With my face a couple of inches away opening the valve the pipe burst and I got a charge in my face. I staggered out on deck and luckily QM Hector McNiel was out on the deck and he lifted me bodily out over the side with my face in the wind until I could get my wind back. Oddly enough only lasting damage was burns on my chest and some goo from my eyes for a day or so, you will be OK said CE Johhny McCallum and ready for next watch at 2000 hrs!
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Old 16th February 2009, 20:03
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Re refrig cargo. My first trip in MN was 8th eng. on Bullard King Umgeni. She had one of these enormous Hall steam recip.compressors, and it was the duty of the junior to go around and take readings on the night watch. This entailed unscrewing deck plugs and lowering a thermometer down into the chamber. As these were mostly in the passenger accom. alleyways the chore was eagerly sought by all, leading to many nocturnal trysts which were otherwise unobtainable!
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Old 18th February 2009, 15:47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beartracks View Post
When I first started sailing as relieving Chief with Farrell Lines I always used to be employed during "Grape Season". The red grapes from Natal were almost as large as plums and were always in high demand ..........
I think they were called Barlinka - they were much in demand in the UK as well, maybe the US importers paid more for them than the UK ones, 'cos they always seemed to be in very short supply !

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Originally Posted by Glyndwr View Post
Your correct - No reefers. You may think this is a joke but it's not. I sailed on Edinburgh Castle and Clan Ranald and the Refrig. Eng. was a guy named Jack Frost. I bet his parents didn't imagine that when they gave him his name.

Regards

G. Lewis
I can corroborate this, I sailed with Jack on EC and later on the Clan R's - an excellent shipmate.

I will also not forget Alan Palmer, the Freezer on Rothesay Castle. The end of my first trip as J/R/O, in Southampton, coincided with my 21st birthday (which is another story !), and he very kindly gave me a box of Barlinka grapes, surely amongst the best red grapes in the world.
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Old 20th February 2009, 09:23
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Originally Posted by japottinger View Post
Re refrig cargo. My first trip in MN was 8th eng. on Bullard King Umgeni. She had one of these enormous Hall steam recip.compressors, and it was the duty of the junior to go around and take readings on the night watch. This entailed unscrewing deck plugs and lowering a thermometer down into the chamber. As these were mostly in the passenger accom. alleyways the chore was eagerly sought by all, leading to many nocturnal trysts which were otherwise unobtainable!
Yes I remember well the deck plugs, these were to record the actual cargo space temperatures. The NZSCo's Dorset had some of these in the dinning saloon and the Chief Stewards store rooms and the 1st Refrig had a set of keys. Great cook-ups in the refrig flat on the early morning watch.
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Old 27th February 2009, 03:25
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Hi, JAPOTINGER, I sailed on the x-Umgeni after she was bought by Elder Dempster and renamed Winnebar, She still had that monster of a Halls steam recip compressor, and if memory serves me right it sat on the starbd middles, and by golly it sure got hot there when working on the dam thing off the African coast.
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Old 27th April 2013, 16:02
Howard Grieve Howard Grieve is offline
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I remember Jack Frost he came from Dartford and had served his time at J&E Halls, ClanRs
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Old 28th April 2013, 17:36
steamer659 steamer659 is offline  
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Hmm, I sailed on three ships that had Refrigeration Engineers and one that even had a "Reefer Oiler". These rates, along with "Evaporator Oiler" (which I sailed as) are probably all but forgotten.

The SS Mariposa & SS Independence had: Chief Reefer, 2nd Reefer and 3rd Reefer. (This is where I sailed "Evap Oiler").

The USNS Rigel (Reefer Stores Ship- MSCLANT) had Chief Reefer, 2nd Reefer, 3rd Reefer and three Reefer Oilers- The Oilers made local box rounds and defrosted coils- had brine reefer systems for chill and freeze, and five out of seven reefer holds..
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