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-   -   Steam versus the Rest (https://www.shipsnostalgia.com/showthread.php?t=6269)

thunderd 25th May 2006 11:04

Steam versus the Rest
 
I only sailed on 11 ships and they were all steam ships. None of them experienced any breakdowns while I was on them.

I'm aware that steam became uneconomical but my question is, were steam ships more reliable?

Perhaps one of you engineers could answer this for me please.

R58484956 25th May 2006 11:53

In all my years at sea on steamships (thank god) we only ever stopped at sea once
because of a boiler room problem, but under way again in less than 2 hours. My brother a motor man broke down virtually every trip he did and he was on some decent vessels, and he earnt his money. Once on one of the big U/C boats outward bound at Ushant they had to put in 2 cylinder liners, not much fun when the local ship repairers were supposed to have done it.
Never had a field day either.

John Rogers 26th May 2006 02:37

I sailed on and worked on both and would have to say steam was the most reliable and cleaner. A big sledge hammer and a spanner and it was fixed. Of course supplying steam to that little radio and record player you played with was hard to do Derek.
John.

BarryM 26th May 2006 09:37

As I've said before, steamships were Gentlemen's Engineering. Motorships were just Mechanised Plumbing....

Paedrig 26th May 2006 10:22

In my experience steamships kept the smoke and flame bit in the right places and the motorships had a nasty tendency not to do so. Steam stuff basic Pametrada....motor stuff Doxford and B&W.

cynter 26th May 2006 10:29

Steamships (even the old Sam boat) were bliss... so quiet compared to M/Vs.
Also, the "throb" of the engine kept my heart company... around 60 rpm..!!
This changed a little in bad weather when the prop came outa the water and raced a little.... so did my heart..!!!

Derek Roger 26th May 2006 16:47

Having sailed on both and despite being a " motor man " I have to defer to steam turbines . They have only 1 moving part ! They were quieter and watchkeping was somewhat boring . Maipura was described by all as sweet as a sewing machine .
The boilers on steamers were however the curse and did require a lot of work ( thats why most vessels had multiple boilers )

Rolling or plugging bolier tubes down the Red Sea was not considered "Fun ".

Equally each watch had to " Blow Tubes " ; Going on the boiler tops to open the sootblower master and then blow tubes was "not fun " when you consider the E/R temp on the plates under the Fan inlet was around 120 to 140 east of Suez .The boiler tops were so hot if work had to be done ( pack a gland etc ) we would put the tools in a bucket of water so they could be handled !
Average time on the tops was about 5 to 10 mins then a break .
Also when we blew tubes the bridge was informed so they could alter course depending on the wind direction to avoid the deck being covered with soot .
Considering it took about 20 mins to blow the tubes on each boiler ( Maihar had 3 ) it meant we were going in the wrong direction for approx 1 hr / day ???
I wonder if anyone ever worked out how much that cost in Fuel ??

Steam tubines were more reliable but give me diesels anyday ( especially with air conditioned control rooms ).

We had one stoppage at sea on The Maipura and that was during the India /Packistan war when we had to change crews in Rangoon and our original Pakistani crew left us a present by putting sand in the Forced Draft
fan bearings .We were able to proceed slowly on natural draft until we replaced the bearings . ( That was the only time I saw the C/E in the engine room at sea )

fred henderson 26th May 2006 19:13

Steam Plant
 
I would suggest that a steam plant would generally be more reliable than diesel, but if anything did go wrong in a steam set-up it was often a tow-home job.
I remember during the sea trials of the RFA Olna, the manoeuvring valve spindle fractured whilst she was going full astern, fully ballasted down to her marks. Her draught was too great to enter the Tyne, and her cargo pumps were steam powered, so we careered out of control across the North Sea, chased by a posse of tugs, until we could lighten her, turn off the boilers and be towed home.
Olna had a new Pamatrada design that had very small blades in the first row of her HP turbine. A pair broke-off and went through the machinery. Not nice. We removed the first row and it did not seem to make any difference to her performance. So we removed the first row in the machinery in her sisters. John Brown’s built QE2’s turbines to Pamatrada plans and she had the same problem on her shake-down cruise and again on a transatlantic voyage.
QE2 managed to get oil in her feed water and wipe out all of her boilers off Bermuda. Towed into port again. She had further machinery problems in the Med, just before her conversion to diesel-electric propulsion.
Other high profile steam propulsion systems became unreliable. Examples are Northern Star and Pacific Sky. I think the modern multi-engine diesel-electric or gas-turbine systems are the most effective because the spare capacity will allow an engine to be shut down for repairs, but of course relatively few ships can enjoy that luxury.

Fred

bobby388 26th May 2006 23:05

Never sailed with steam main engines but 1 ship prospero had 5 cyl dox with all steam auxullarys,and those things just hissed and sissed 24hrs a day apart from packing glands ive never even seen inside one i think they were amazing or was i just lucky?

Derek Roger 26th May 2006 23:20

Was in Newport News on the Mahsud doing temporaty gear box repairs in Jan or Feb 1971 . We were at an adjacent dock to the USS Entrprise and had occassion to meet the lads when ashore . Although there was supposed to be full security re her " condition " we engineers from both ships freely swopped stories as to what our repairs were and why .
The Enterprise had a similar problem to the QE2. The degree of superheat was not sustainable from the Boilers / Reactors . U believe external supreheaters were added to make sure there was no carry over of wet steam to the turbines which is what was wrecking the 1st Row of blades .
I asked when they would be finished repairs " about 3 to 4 weeks "was the reply ; which the comment " see those 2 subs loading up stores at the next dock " " They are our escort "
USS Enterprise sailed sometime that night as she was gone in the Morning . Subs left a few hours before .

thunderd 27th May 2006 01:52

Interesting answers and I thank you all, seems like you were either a "steam" man or a "diesel" man and very little in between.

Also interesting to a non engineer to get a glimpse of life down below, sounds pretty tough sometimes with a fair amount of pressure.

Derek Roger made an interesting comment "Rolling or plugging bolier tubes", I didn't understand rolling a boiler tube, can anyone explain that to an interested deckie please.

Derek Roger 27th May 2006 15:03

Expanding the tubes is a more correct term than " Rolling " . On Scotch boilers the tubes where they enter the end plate are expanded in ( not welded ) This was done by using an internal tube expander which had 3 tapered rollers which could be adjusted to expand outwards ; the contraption was then turned ( Rolled ) inside the tube ; re expanded and rolled again etc until the tube was tight fitting in the end plate sufficient to hold a working pressure of 250 PSI .

billmaca 27th May 2006 15:17

Rolling or expanding boiler tubes ; just imagine a big spike with a tapered roller bearing the spike stuck through the bearing so that if you push it further up the spike the rollers were pushed out (expanded)this was pushed into the end of the boiler tube given a good whack with the short handled sledge hammer then turned by a handle like you get in socket sets (the straight rod that fits through the hole in the end)this pushed the tube out against the end plate , hopefully sealing the leak ,you did'nt know If you were successful until you had a full head of steam on again, the plugging was like two round end plates with a bar through the tube wich was tightened up to seal the tube , getting near time to leave her if you had to do that to often, mind you I'm talking 1950/60s it was all water tube after that


Slainte Billy

thunderd 28th May 2006 00:15

Great explanations Derek and Billy, I appreciate you taking the trouble to enlighten me.

raybnz 28th May 2006 00:27

Ive been lucky to have sailed on both steam and motor. I enjoyed motor more as there was always something to do or watch while watchkeeping.

On one motorship (Cretic) we did a complete trip around the world without a breakdown and after some six months when a light ship we had to stop after the CW pump sucked a heap of herrings coming up the English Channel to clean the oil and water coolers on both engines..

However on the Waipawa it was a different story but what could be expected after 38 years of hard life which included WW2. It was how many days we could run between breakdowns But in all she was a good ship.

No I would have really been at home there been a ship with Triple Expansion and Scotch boilers simular to those I work on the W C Daldy. Simple and hard working.

turbines48 18th June 2006 15:58

All boiler tubes are rolled and expanded into place...no matter what the pressure. My experience has been that only the superheater tubes are then welded in to place. All the generating tubes and screen tubes are just rolled. Working pressures to 1050 psi and superheater outlet temps to 950 F have been my experience.

turbines48 18th June 2006 16:08

I'll take steam any day. I went to sea as a tourist to see the world...not to be a grease monkey in every port. Sailed mainly WWII built C-2 and T-2 and never experienced a breakdown at sea. A few boiler repairs here and there but nothing we couldn't handle and still make "happy hour" at the localbar. Only twice had a tube failure at sea...slowed down to 60 RPM, waited for the boiler to cool down enough to enter, insert plug and fire her back up.

As port engineer I remember setting up repairs for the firecrackers every trip..if not for the mains then the generators or the coolers or the purifiers or the automation (otherwise they wouldn't start).

My big question is...if diesels are so efficient why do you need boilers to run them?

If diesels are so economical... do Sulzer and MAN give you all those parts for free because you sure seem to need a lot of them!

fred henderson 18th June 2006 22:30

Cunard spent £100 million in 1986 replacing the steam turbine plant in QE2 with a far more reliable multi-engine diesel electric system. If they had not done so it is doubtful if QE2 would be with us today. The change resulted in a saving of 250 tons per day. At present day prices of $365 per ton, that is a saving of $91,000 per day.

Fred

Les Gibson 19th June 2006 00:08

Sailed with Bank Line 1963-1964. In 14 months on DARTBANK, (B&W oil engine) we only stopped once at sea. That was because of a failure of the motor on the fuel valve cooling pump. Unfortunately at the time I had the other motor in the lathe skimming the commutator or we would just have changed over. On the other hand on the AFRIC (Shaw Savill) in 1965 with a 10 cykinder MAN oil engine we stopped every couple of days on the run back to the UK from Oz! Spent almost all trip going 99 clump.

jock paul 22nd June 2006 18:46

steam vs the rest
 
It seems to be gospel that turbines and deisel ousted the old steam reciprocating engine because of the great savings on fuel. But are they really so economical? Think of all those expensive replacements in a deisel engine room-spare pistons, conrods, liners, etc.-and they are used and replaced with new spares. The old steamers I sailed on before I had to change over to motor also carried spares-piston rod, bottom end, coupling bolts and a host of other items. The point is, they had mostly never been used since the vessel was built, sometimes 30/40 years before!
As for maintainance costs, there was practically nothing that couldn't be done by the ship's engineers except for the very occasional machining job which had to be sent shore side.

JamesM 19th April 2008 20:08

Quote:

Originally Posted by turbines48 (Post 62773)
I'll take steam any day. I went to sea as a tourist to see the world...not to be a grease monkey in every port. Sailed mainly WWII built C-2 and T-2 and never experienced a breakdown at sea. A few boiler repairs here and there but nothing we couldn't handle and still make "happy hour" at the localbar. Only twice had a tube failure at sea...slowed down to 60 RPM, waited for the boiler to cool down enough to enter, insert plug and fire her back up.

As port engineer I remember setting up repairs for the firecrackers every trip..if not for the mains then the generators or the coolers or the purifiers or the automation (otherwise they wouldn't start).

My big question is...if diesels are so efficient why do you need boilers to run them?

If diesels are so economical... do Sulzer and MAN give you all those parts for free because you sure seem to need a lot of them!

Sorry turbines48, Don't understand your question " if diesels are so efficient why do you need boilers to run them?

surfaceblow 19th April 2008 21:56

I have also sailed on both steam and motor vessels. My experience is that I had more problems with personnel on steam ships and more problems with machinery on motor ships. IMHO the steam watch standers had way to much time to devise jokes on each other. The one joke I disliked the most was closing the DC heater vent. After three days the feed pump would become air bound the both boilers would trip off due to low water level. It took us three black outs to figure out the cause. Of course the miscreant was no longer on the vessel.

The Marine Super that I had my most dealings with told me that my budget on the Marine Floridian T 2 tanker was 80 per cent over time 20 per cent spares. On the Marine Reliance at the time a 6 year old Sulzer Car Carrier my budget went to 20 per cent over time and 80 per cent spares.

It is just economics that Steam Ships are not build. The Steam Plant cost more to build, take more cargo space, require more fuel storage. When I was at school a long time ago a diesel plant would cost about 1 million dollars per cylinder while the reduction gears if you could get a set would be in the neighborhood of 46 million.

spongebob 20th April 2008 13:34

Billmaca's post mentions plugging a leaking tube on a scotch marine wet back fire tube boiler.
I have never done it at sea but I knew many an older engineer that had done so and described it as the worst job ever .
It was not uncommon for the fire tubes that carry the hot flue gases from the combustion chamber through to the smoke box to develope a pin hole or more due to scale deposits on the water side causing the tube to overheat and if the leak was bad enough it was necessary to blank or plug the tube at sea. To do this the fires were drawn out of the furnace tubes, the front smoke boxes were opened to allow access to the tube outlets then a long steel rod with a large sealing washer and nut was fed through the leaking tube and poking its way into the combustion chamber ready to receive a similar sealing washer and nut on chamber end.
This is when the fun began as although the fires were out all the boiler components were at the steam temperature and it was a brave engineer that swathed himself in ample insulated, padded clothing before rapidly crawling up the furnace tube to reach up into the combustion chamber, find the rod end, slip the washer on and get the nut started by a few threads before beating a hasty retreat. Some old salts claimed that they went in with a leg rope on so that their mates could quickly haul them back if they passed out.

steviej 29th April 2008 13:19

Quote:

Originally Posted by turbines48 (Post 62773)
I'll take steam any day. I went to sea as a tourist to see the world...not to be a grease monkey in every port. Sailed mainly WWII built C-2 and T-2 and never experienced a breakdown at sea. A few boiler repairs here and there but nothing we couldn't handle and still make "happy hour" at the localbar. Only twice had a tube failure at sea...slowed down to 60 RPM, waited for the boiler to cool down enough to enter, insert plug and fire her back up.

As port engineer I remember setting up repairs for the firecrackers every trip..if not for the mains then the generators or the coolers or the purifiers or the automation (otherwise they wouldn't start).

My big question is...if diesels are so efficient why do you need boilers to run them?

If diesels are so economical... do Sulzer and MAN give you all those parts for free because you sure seem to need a lot of them!

Starting a Marine Diesel is not like starting your 4 x 4. Most marine engines have water cooled jackets. These need to be a certain temperature before starting. This is supplied by a dedicated pump and tracing steam is supplied to the cooling water until the correct jacket temperature is reached hence the need for a steam boiler. The heavy oil fuel had steam tracing and there are visco-therms that kept the heavy oil to its optimum temperature. Steam tracing was also needed for any liquids (palm oil that had to be kept at an optimum temperature. However the main boiler did not run whilst at sea a waste heat boiler was employed to use the waste gas to generate steam. Great stuff steam but the diesel proved economical.(Thumb)

GWB 29th April 2008 14:05

I must say lads all I ever heard on the Oz or NZ coast on arrival from Shaw Savill Motor men was we only stop 3+++ times on way out but the steam guys always asked why. Diesels require to much maintenance, compared to turbines,only ever had one stoppage due to split pin being wrongly fitted by shore gang on turbo feed pump. As to personnel never found the steam guys any different from the motor men all enjoyed a good night out.

GWB


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