WW1 era Coal-fired ships - mechanical failures - Ships Nostalgia
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WW1 era Coal-fired ships - mechanical failures

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  #1  
Old 8th March 2017, 06:27
Billabong Billabong is offline  
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WW1 era Coal-fired ships - mechanical failures

I am writing a historical novel, which concerns a fictional hospital/troop-ship in the Adriatic at the beginning of 1916. For my narrative to work, my fictitional coal-fired ship needs to develop a fault which will partially disable it but still allow it to make headway, even if at reduced speed.
I'm looking for a plausible 'non-combat' reason why a coal-fired ship of this period might have a mechanical failure which would still leave it capable of limping to its destination. A couple of things I've considered, but don't have the technical knowledge to know if they are plausible are:
1) a coal dust explosion, but I suspect that this is too extreme, and would sink the ship!
2) a boiler explosion, but would a ship of this period have other boilers which would enable it to still make headway?
3) some kind of mechanical fault (best if this is a common failure of coal-fired ships at the time) even better if it brings the ship to a halt, can be repaired at sea, but then allows it to continue as normal, or at reduced speed.
I'm new to this, so if it would be better to post in the Engineers' forum please let me know.
Hope someone can help.
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  #2  
Old 8th March 2017, 07:17
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A.D.FROST A.D.FROST is offline  
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Ships had more than one boiler along with ancillary machinery eg.feed pumps etc.to run them,ie.contaminated water(SW leaking into the boiler water)leaking safty valves or any thing that can reduce steam pressure including ruining out of fuel.
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  #3  
Old 8th March 2017, 07:28
Billabong Billabong is offline  
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Thank for the quick response.
SW = Salt water? So would the ship have to stop for repairs to the affected boiler, or could it continue at reduced speed? Also, could a problem with trimming the coal cause a brief stoppage?
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  #4  
Old 8th March 2017, 08:08
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If you want to slow the ship down and cause a bit of drama you could arrange a bunker fire or problems with the boilers.
The boilers would most likely be fire tube units to the Scotch marine wet back design and these could be hampered with water treatment problems, salt water contamination of the feed water or even the need to steam the units at reduced capacity using 100% sea water .
Leaking boiler tubes is another likely defect, many a story has been told to me by older marine engineers about the drama and ordeal of having to plug a leaking tube by physically crawling up the furnace tube to place a stopper on a tube sealing tie rod.
Condenser troubles provide other avenues and no doubt other older hands can give you so hairy, scary licence.

Bob
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Old 8th March 2017, 08:18
Billabong Billabong is offline  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spongebob View Post
If you want to slow the ship down and cause a bit of drama you could arrange a bunker fire or problems with the boilers.
The boilers would most likely be fire tube units to the Scotch marine wet back design and these could be hampered with water treatment problems, salt water contamination of the feed water or even the need to steam the units at reduced capacity using 100% sea water .

Bob
Thanks Bob - Crawling up a furnace tube sounds horrific! - Could a change to 100% sea water be effected mid-voyage?
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Old 8th March 2017, 22:57
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Sounds extreme to me.
Apart from feedwater problems rather than focus on the boilers, of which there are several, have you considered engine failure of some sort. A coal fired ship of the era would probably (?) have two reciprocating engines where mechanical failure of some sort would be a possibility. Perhaps a hot bearing on one engine?
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  #7  
Old 8th March 2017, 23:25
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A well used plot, the circumstances are well described in Nicholas Monsarrat's 'The Cruel Sea'.
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Old 9th March 2017, 01:05
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Perhaps a hot bearing on one engine?
Thanks YM-Mundrabilla - Would the ship continue at reduced speed without stopping or would it have to stop for repairs?
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  #9  
Old 9th March 2017, 01:15
Billabong Billabong is offline  
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Originally Posted by alaric View Post
A well used plot, the circumstances are well described in Nicholas Monsarrat's 'The Cruel Sea'.
Thanks Alaric - I recently bought the ebook of The Cruel Sea but haven't got around to reading it yet, so I just searched under 'bearing' and found it. Cheers! However, I'm still interested in other suggestions, as 'The Cruel Sea' is such a well known book, and using the same strategy might seem a bit 'worn' (?)

Last edited by Billabong; 9th March 2017 at 01:26..
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  #10  
Old 9th March 2017, 03:50
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You could have a major steering problem,with say the steam driven steering engine, develops a bearing problem, or the breakage of the chain or rods to the quadrant.
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  #11  
Old 9th March 2017, 04:02
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You could have a major steering problem,with say the steam driven steering engine, develops a bearing problem, or the breakage of the chain or rods to the quadrant.
Thanks Freo - Could that cause a delay that could be fixed at sea, and then allow resumption of normal progress? What would be the symptoms? - Complete loss of steering?
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Old 9th March 2017, 04:34
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If you had a wiped bearing, it would have to be replaced. They are made of White Metal,(Tin,antimony and copper). If by chance you had some w/m ingots they can be melted down, and poured into a jig. Once hardened, they have to be machined on a lathe to the correct internal dia. This could take a fair bit of time. Provided of course that the engineers have all the suitable equipment. But you could make them have it, if you wish.
As to chain breakage, it would be possible to rig up a suitable system of block and tackle, running up to the stern steam winch drums. It would be a slow and laborious way of steering, and certainly slow you down.
Just a few ideas, so good luck with your book
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Old 9th March 2017, 04:54
Billabong Billabong is offline  
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Originally Posted by Freo View Post
If you had a wiped bearing, it would have to be replaced. They are made of White Metal,(Tin,antimony and copper). If by chance you had some w/m ingots they can be melted down, and poured into a jig. Once hardened, they have to be machined on a lathe to the correct internal dia. This could take a fair bit of time. Provided of course that the engineers have all the suitable equipment. But you could make them have it, if you wish.
As to chain breakage, it would be possible to rig up a suitable system of block and tackle, running up to the stern steam winch drums. It would be a slow and laborious way of steering, and certainly slow you down.
Just a few ideas, so good luck with your book
Ok - I'm starting to get a feel for this. My readers won't be experts on shipping, so I won't need to put in a heap of technical detail, but at least now I have an idea of what is possible and what is not.
PS - Thanks for the 'heads up' on prune juice - It lightened my day!
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Old 9th March 2017, 05:32
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Billabong, don't describe anything too implausible , there are thousands of older people in this world that are itching to blow holes in any drama that lacks a reasonable amount of authenticity. Most of them are on this site!

Bob
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Last edited by spongebob; 9th March 2017 at 22:08..
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  #15  
Old 9th March 2017, 05:44
Billabong Billabong is offline  
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Billabong, don't describe anything too unplausible, there are thousands of older people in this world that are itching to blow holes in any drama that lacks a reasonable amount of authenticity. Most of them are on this site!

Bob
Thanks again Bob - I'm 71 myself so I know exactly what you mean! I'm a retired illustrator and designer and non-technical person, but I like stories to be believable. I hate watching an eight-part TV drama that is great entertainment until, in part six, the writer introduces something that just doesn't make sense! Aaaaaargh! I'm likely to get out of my bathchair and throw my carpet slippers and pipe at the TV.

Last edited by Billabong; 9th March 2017 at 05:47..
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Old 9th March 2017, 06:56
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I had been at sea in my career about one full day and as was on the 4 to 8 watch with 2/E. Just as we rounded North Cape of North Is New Zealand a fire tube burst in one boiler. Fresh from Marine School I was full of what to do, manipulate the Manganeseite compund to become pliable, cut wire gauze to suit blanking off caps, fill the blanking off groove with gauze and Manganeseite, isolate boiler, shut off fuel oil, reduce water level until leak stopped. Furnace front was opened, a plank slid in over furnace corrugations, smoke box door opened, long screwed rod fed into leaking tube. Then I was handed the plug, a rope tied around my waist and told to go into the back end of furnace and place the plug over the leaking tube put on the nut and wait until all movement stopped, then I could come out. The procedure was very successful but I learnt not to volunteer what I had learned about breakdowns at Marine School.
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Old 9th March 2017, 10:47
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Billabong, don't describe anything too unplausible, there are thousands of older people in this world that are itching to blow holes in any drama that lacks a reasonable amount of authenticity. Most of them are on this site!

Bob
Spongebob,

You are quite right in saying 'keep it plausable'.!

I have just watched a bit over half a National Geographic doco on the Panama Canal, by which time I had had enough.

I will use this doco as an example of what I am trying to say.

We all know that our good friends the Americans cannot measure things the same way as the rest of the world (feet, inches, pounds, short tons and US gallons etc) but most of us can do a rough conversion in our head into metric if we want to. This doco, however, measured a lot of things in football pitches, semi trailers, jumbo jets and semi trailers before I turned it off.

It also contained the usual contrived imminent disasters from a complete capsize to collision with the lock walls and head ons with other vessels.

I am no seaman but they clearly treat all viewers as idiots. Everyone here in Victoria (Oz) know that measurements are made in Olympic swimming pools, MCGs (Melbourne Cricket Grounds) and Jumbo Jets. Trams here are, of course, weighed in Rhinoceroses.

AAAGGHHHH$$%^^&**

End of rant..........

I don't know much about anything but it is becoming increasingly obvious that many know a bloody sight less.

Not suggesting Billabong that you are or would be guilty of any of the above but keep it realistic as Spongebob suggests and don't assume that your readers will be easily fooled.

Good luck with the book.

Regards
Geoff (YM)

Last edited by YM-Mundrabilla; 9th March 2017 at 10:52.. Reason: Typos and clarity (I hope)
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Old 9th March 2017, 14:19
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I was loading a ship with cotton bales in Thessaloniki when the ship in the berth for'wd of us had a cotton dust explosion, sadly claiming the lives of 3 stevedores. The blast was a flash blast and won't sink a vessel however the water pumped in to put out the fire can heal her 20+ degrees, but the fire should be contained to that hold (or bunker) unless the bulkhead heats to such a degree s to ignite cargo in the next hold. The blast was caused by a fork lift truck knocking a light bulb.. you could adapt all above to suite your story.
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  #19  
Old 10th March 2017, 00:01
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Billabong, don't describe anything too implausible , there are thousands of older people in this world that are itching to blow holes in any drama that lacks a reasonable amount of authenticity. Most of them are on this site!Bob
Not many notice that.
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Old 10th March 2017, 00:35
Billabong Billabong is offline  
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I was loading a ship with cotton bales in Thessaloniki when the ship in the berth for'wd of us had a cotton dust explosion, sadly claiming the lives of 3 stevedores. The blast was a flash blast and won't sink a vessel however the water pumped in to put out the fire can heal her 20+ degrees, but the fire should be contained to that hold (or bunker) unless the bulkhead heats to such a degree s to ignite cargo in the next hold. The blast was caused by a fork lift truck knocking a light bulb.. you could adapt all above to suite your story.
Thanks RHP - I'm guessing that the same sort of thing could easily happen with coaldust.
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  #21  
Old 10th March 2017, 00:38
Billabong Billabong is offline  
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I learnt not to volunteer what I had learned about breakdowns at Marine School.
Rather you than me Fergie. I too learned that lesson about volunteering - took a while but I got it in the end!
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  #22  
Old 10th March 2017, 01:00
Billabong Billabong is offline  
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Thumbs up Thanks for Help

A Thankyou to everyone for help with this.
Now that I know for sure that it is possible that a coal fired ship could be briefly delayed by an accident or mechanical problem and then continue at reduced efficiency, I can write that chapter without detailed explanation, confident in the knowledge that it is good historical fiction and not FANTASY !!!
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Old 10th March 2017, 02:03
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Best of luck Billabong, let us know when the novel goes into print.

Bob
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Old 10th March 2017, 03:35
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Rather you than me Fergie. I too learned that lesson about volunteering - took a while but I got it in the end!
Never volunteer for/with anything.
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Old 19th September 2017, 01:37
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A little late...
In WWII my father was on a liberty that an engineer allowed a boiler to get too hot, too much pressure and a large number of tubes expanded causing leaks and the ship had to drop behind. He called it a pregnant boiler. I think refers more to old scotch boilers.
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