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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm looking to understand some more about the failure of a Scotch boiler.

The basic question is: what could have caused a large amount of water to flood into the stokehold of a 1920s steam coaster as part of the failure of the ship’s Scotch boiler?

Contributions from members of this forum have been very helpful in exploring the problems that the engineers and firemen would have had during the last difficult hours of SS Camlough's unfortunate last trip. The ship was running at a slow speed, attempting to make it back to her home port of Belfast with a partly-repaired engine. It might have achieved the journey, if not for the additional misfortune that an exceptional wind storm (described as 'a hurricane') developed a few hours after they were committed to their route.

From contemporary accounts (especially one which extensively quotes the Camlough’s chief engineer) members of this forum have explained the likelihood that the ship’s engine had suffered a failure of one cylinder, and that temporary repairs had left the engine running slowly on two cylinders. This could have affected the running of the boiler.

• Because it was reported that they had to stop the ship’s engine in order to pump more water to the boiler, it’s likely that inefficient and slow hand-pumping was taking place (possibly because the main boiler feed pumps would have been run from engine cylinder which had failed and was disabled).

• It also seems likely that the water level in the boiler may possibly have dropped to an unsafe low level at one or more times, either because steam in the engine room prevented an accurate reading of the gauges or because of one incident when it was critical to keep the engine running in order to avoid being driven on rocks by the storm. Immediately after this incident (in other words as soon as it was safe to do so) they stopped the engine for a half hour ‘because it was necessary to get water to the boiler‘ after which time the engine was re-started and the ship continued at the same slow speed (4 knots).

The ultimate failure of the boiler with its crowns falling points to there having been serious damage to the boiler, possibly taking place over a period of time before the catastrophic ending.

There are different types of contemporary newspaper accounts of Camlough’s loss of power.

Scottish newspapers had interviewed the exhausted and relieved crew of the ship at Portpatrick, immediately after their rescue from their life-threatening drama. There are few direct quotes – but phrases used by the reporters convey some of the most dramatic and worrying incidents that crew members had experienced as the boiler was failing.

Both Scottish newspapers mention the Camlough's two boiler crowns falling.

1) One of the Scottish accounts says 'The engine room was full of steam and the engineers were unable to see the amount of water in the boilers. The engines were stopped. The stokehold became full of water and the firemen, standing knee-deep in water, were unable to get the engine going.' It's implied that all this was going on some time before the crowns fell in the boiler (the reporter’s wording suggesting that the firemen were responsible for the getting the engine going is one reason I suspect that the reporters had interviewed a fireman).

2) The second Scottish account says, 'The engine gave out, the stokehold was soon flooded, and coals were being washed out of the bunkers.' In this account the next thing mentioned is the crowns of the furnace falling 'rendering the ship useless and the crew helpless.'

By comparison, there is the account of the chief engineer, Harry Thompson, who was interviewed for a Belfast newspaper a few days later. This article is helpfully detailed about other aspects of that difficult and dangerous journey, but it is surprisingly vague about exactly what was going on at the time when the engines finally came to a standstill. Thompson is quoted as saying:

3) [After travelling at a steady slow speed for 11 hours overnight in a raging storm, with the repaired engine operating at reduced efficiency] ‘...about 7 a.m. on Wednesday ... I noticed that the engines were losing their efficiency. Very soon afterwards they came completely to a standstill, and although we did our utmost to get the trouble right, we found it was impossible.’

There is nothing in the chief engineer’s account about the boiler crowns falling or water flooding the stokehold. The only water below decks that Thompson mentioned (earlier in the article) was the amount of steam that was remaining in the engine room after the partial repair to the engine had been completed, ‘The engine room was still full of steam, and we were not able to see, but luckily no water was getting into the vessel.’

So what could have caused so much water to flood the stokehold at this dramatic moment in Camlough’s last hours?

From my limited reading about Scotch boilers, I wonder whether they would have been fitted with a fusible plug. As a safety device, this could have melted due to insufficient water in the boiler (or possibly also due to damage having been started by running the engine with the water level too low as they struggled to keep the ship from being on the rocks, leading to more gradual boiler failure). If so, would this have created a flood like this?

How dangerous would this situation have been for the firemen?

Any help in understanding how that quantity of water could have ended up in Camlough’s stokehold will be greatly appreciated.
 

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I'm looking to understand some more about the failure of a Scotch boiler.

The basic question is: what could have caused a large amount of water to flood into the stokehold of a 1920s steam coaster as part of the failure of the ship’s Scotch boiler?

Contributions from members of this forum have been very helpful in exploring the problems that the engineers and firemen would have had during the last difficult hours of SS Camlough's unfortunate last trip. The ship was running at a slow speed, attempting to make it back to her home port of Belfast with a partly-repaired engine. It might have achieved the journey, if not for the additional misfortune that an exceptional wind storm (described as 'a hurricane') developed a few hours after they were committed to their route.

From contemporary accounts (especially one which extensively quotes the Camlough’s chief engineer) members of this forum have explained the likelihood that the ship’s engine had suffered a failure of one cylinder, and that temporary repairs had left the engine running slowly on two cylinders. This could have affected the running of the boiler.

• Because it was reported that they had to stop the ship’s engine in order to pump more water to the boiler, it’s likely that inefficient and slow hand-pumping was taking place (possibly because the main boiler feed pumps would have been run from engine cylinder which had failed and was disabled).

• It also seems likely that the water level in the boiler may possibly have dropped to an unsafe low level at one or more times, either because steam in the engine room prevented an accurate reading of the gauges or because of one incident when it was critical to keep the engine running in order to avoid being driven on rocks by the storm. Immediately after this incident (in other words as soon as it was safe to do so) they stopped the engine for a half hour ‘because it was necessary to get water to the boiler‘ after which time the engine was re-started and the ship continued at the same slow speed (4 knots).

The ultimate failure of the boiler with its crowns falling points to there having been serious damage to the boiler, possibly taking place over a period of time before the catastrophic ending.

There are different types of contemporary newspaper accounts of Camlough’s loss of power.

Scottish newspapers had interviewed the exhausted and relieved crew of the ship at Portpatrick, immediately after their rescue from their life-threatening drama. There are few direct quotes – but phrases used by the reporters convey some of the most dramatic and worrying incidents that crew members had experienced as the boiler was failing.

Both Scottish newspapers mention the Camlough's two boiler crowns falling.

1) One of the Scottish accounts says 'The engine room was full of steam and the engineers were unable to see the amount of water in the boilers. The engines were stopped. The stokehold became full of water and the firemen, standing knee-deep in water, were unable to get the engine going.' It's implied that all this was going on some time before the crowns fell in the boiler (the reporter’s wording suggesting that the firemen were responsible for the getting the engine going is one reason I suspect that the reporters had interviewed a fireman).

2) The second Scottish account says, 'The engine gave out, the stokehold was soon flooded, and coals were being washed out of the bunkers.' In this account the next thing mentioned is the crowns of the furnace falling 'rendering the ship useless and the crew helpless.'

By comparison, there is the account of the chief engineer, Harry Thompson, who was interviewed for a Belfast newspaper a few days later. This article is helpfully detailed about other aspects of that difficult and dangerous journey, but it is surprisingly vague about exactly what was going on at the time when the engines finally came to a standstill. Thompson is quoted as saying:

3) [After travelling at a steady slow speed for 11 hours overnight in a raging storm, with the repaired engine operating at reduced efficiency] ‘...about 7 a.m. on Wednesday ... I noticed that the engines were losing their efficiency. Very soon afterwards they came completely to a standstill, and although we did our utmost to get the trouble right, we found it was impossible.’

There is nothing in the chief engineer’s account about the boiler crowns falling or water flooding the stokehold. The only water below decks that Thompson mentioned (earlier in the article) was the amount of steam that was remaining in the engine room after the partial repair to the engine had been completed, ‘The engine room was still full of steam, and we were not able to see, but luckily no water was getting into the vessel.’

So what could have caused so much water to flood the stokehold at this dramatic moment in Camlough’s last hours?

From my limited reading about Scotch boilers, I wonder whether they would have been fitted with a fusible plug. As a safety device, this could have melted due to insufficient water in the boiler (or possibly also due to damage having been started by running the engine with the water level too low as they struggled to keep the ship from being on the rocks, leading to more gradual boiler failure). If so, would this have created a flood like this?

How dangerous would this situation have been for the firemen?

Any help in understanding how that quantity of water could have ended up in Camlough’s stokehold will be greatly appreciated.
This whole account is disturbing, and the facts so hard to establish with sense.
point 1/ If the stoke hold/er was so full of water [upto the firemans knees It must have been at a low temperature {i.e. not a boiler failure- this i suggest would have scalded the wading firemen?} The most likely explanation of the water in the stoke hold is sea water, from your alleged story that the coal bunkers were awash with water[in the ensuing rough weather the closing hatches/boards of the bunkers had become displace as the ship possibly rolled violently, pitched and yawed].
point 2/ boiler feed pump engine driven? here if they hung up a leg, and the crank mechanism was driven from that leg- then you have a possibility-But not sound engineering design? You offer an emergency feed pump design by manual means???? OK now where do I go.?
Again what is the tonnage of this vessel, and the designed horse power of this triple expansion steam engine. I would have thought with the valve gear and its linkage, could one leg be hung up out of service, and again was it the weather sea state that caused the boiler to prime and allow water to enter the HP cylinder, and cause the piston to fracture the piston liner [HP] or cause the existing IMP and lp piston rods cause the crankshaft to be ''cranked'' out of line if this was not a forged one piece crankshaft fitted to this engine.
This is a dogs breakfast and a shaggy dog story, ending in what ever fashion you may desire?? Only those on board and the owners know the true story.
 

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There is nothing in the chief engineer’s account about the boiler crowns falling or water flooding the stokehold. The only water below decks that Thompson mentioned (earlier in the article) was the amount of steam that was remaining in the engine room after the partial repair to the engine had been completed, ‘The engine room was still full of steam, and we were not able to see, but luckily no water was getting into the vessel.’


Failure of the main steam line?
 

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If the boiler failed the water contents would have flashed immediately into steam being at a temperature well above 100 C and it would be difficult to imagine the boiler contents even if cold being sufficient to flood the stokehold as has been described? Even more so if the boiler failed due to low water.?
(Scribe)
 

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If the boiler failed the water contents would have flashed immediately into steam being at a temperature well above 100 C and it would be difficult to imagine the boiler contents even if cold being sufficient to flood the stokehold as has been described? Even more so if the boiler failed due to low water.?
(Scribe)

How much water might be in a scotch boiler if filled... on a small vessel as described? One, two tonnes? Even if cold, two tons of water in the bilges would not be that much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Water temperature - and thanks for the reality check!

This whole account is disturbing, and the facts so hard to establish with sense.
point 1/ If the stoke hold/er was so full of water [upto the firemans knees It must have been at a low temperature {i.e. not a boiler failure- this i suggest would have scalded the wading firemen?} The most likely explanation of the water in the stoke hold is sea water, from your alleged story that the coal bunkers were awash with water[in the ensuing rough weather the closing hatches/boards of the bunkers had become displace as the ship possibly rolled violently, pitched and yawed].
As is so often the case, the simplest answer if probably the right one! Thanks for the reality check about the likely water temperature in a boiler failure - I've gone round the details of this story so many times over the past five months, that I was losing my grip on possibilities (but at least I <did> ask about the safety of the fireman during a boiler failure)!

My first thought when I read about the flood in the boiler room was that the boards must have shifted - Camlough ploughed (and wallowed) through at least 10 hours of very nasty weather - first with large waves crashing over the ship fore and aft and later (after a presumed course change once they'd rounded the Calf of Man and headed for Belfast) with waves crashing on the port side. In the lack of further evidence from the firemen, seawater coming through an opening in the hatch seems the most likely explanation.

The chief engineer's viewpoint as given in some detail in the Irish newspaper account doesn't mention this flooding - or the falling of the crowns of the boiler (although this latter event is likely to have happened as a result of decisions he was forced to make on that storm-tossed journey).

I attach the full account from 'The Belfast News Letter' of January 1932, which is told largely in the engineer's words (a fascinating read as well as effectively a character study of a chief engineer and his behaviour under stress). Note that Thompson would have been judging what he said to the reporter in cool reflection a few days after the disastrous trip as he recounted the story - and considering the impact on his 'home' readers - including his employers at Kelly's.

point 2/ boiler feed pump engine driven? here if they hung up a leg, and the crank mechanism was driven from that leg- then you have a possibility-But not sound engineering design? You offer an emergency feed pump design by manual means???? OK now where do I go.?
Again what is the tonnage of this vessel, and the designed horse power of this triple expansion steam engine. I would have thought with the valve gear and its linkage, could one leg be hung up out of service, and again was it the weather sea state that caused the boiler to prime and allow water to enter the HP cylinder, and cause the piston to fracture the piston liner [HP] or cause the existing IMP and lp piston rods cause the crankshaft to be ''cranked'' out of line if this was not a forged one piece crankshaft fitted to this engine.


I was trying just to sweep up a few additional boiler-room-related suggestions in a final query to the forum about the situation in the Camlough's boiler room in this post.

I'm aware that I have previously gone on at length about the Camlough in previous questions to this forum, and so I was trying to keep this post short. But as I read your response, I realise that I had been guilty of over-simplifying - my apologies for cutting things too short!

SS Camlough's details are:

CAMLOUGH 145411 GBR
Year built Date launched Date completed
1920 10/12/1920 12/1920
Vessel type Vessel description
Coaster Steel Screw Steamer
Builder Yard Yard no
William Simons & Co. Ltd., Renfrew London Works 646


Tonnage Length Breadth Depth Draft
540 grt / 205 nrt / 620 dwt 166.9 ft 26.6 ft 9.9 ft
Engine builder William Simons & Co. Ltd., Renfrew
Engine detail
1- Screw T.3-cyl. (14", 24" & 40" x 30 ") 89 hp

First owner First port of register Registration date
John Kelly Ltd., (Samuel Kelly, manager), Belfast.

The suggestions about reasons for the engine failure, the type of possible repairs that were achieved and the issues with pumping water to the boiler are all based on her chief engineer Harry Thompson's account (attached) and were made by various members of this forum in response to my previous queries.

There are several threads of informed hypotheses about what may have been happening in the engine room - based on Thompson's detailed account in the attached article. Search for 'Camlough' in my postings and various responses over the past few months you find some interesting possibilities.

You'll also find that I've posted photos of SS Camlough newly/stranded and wrecked on the beach at Monreith in Scotland and what now remains of the wreck in situ, as exposed by wave action in this past winter's storms. Finding and then do***enting these remains is what got me started on a l-o-n-g project researching the ship and the coastal trade in the 1930s; discovering engineer Thompson's account of that last dramatic voyage is what set me on the task of attempting to visualise what it was like for the captain and crew on the ship in those last desperate hours.

Finally...

This is a dogs breakfast and a shaggy dog story, ending in what ever fashion you may desire?? Only those on board and the owners know the true story.
So true!

I would <so> like to have been able to overhear the 'conversation' between Camlough's owners and Captain Harvey about how their ship ended up stranded and wrecked high on the beach and rocks! Or even to read the official written report in John Kelly's archives.

But when it comes to understanding what it was like below decks on the Camlough, I only have chief engineer Thompson's evocative account plus a few facts in the Scottish newspapers which appear to have come from a different viewpoint (the Camlough's firemen).

Aside from these reports, it's all speculation - but the comments/possible scenarios suggested by members of Ships Nostalgia's forums is much more well-informed speculation than I could have achieved on my own - so many thanks again!
 

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A vessel of 540 grt is unlikely to have a separate boiler room/engineroom .

Water might have come over the skylights of the machinery space and in ten seconds your coal is wet and useless and your steam will be gone in nothing.



2) The second Scottish account says, 'The engine gave out, the stokehold was soon flooded, and coals were being washed out of the bunkers.' In this account the next thing mentioned is the crowns of the furnace falling 'rendering the ship useless and the crew helpless.'
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
TWO useful pieces of information - thank you!

A vessel of 540 grt is unlikely to have a separate boiler room/engineroom .
This is MOST USEFUL information. I'd read in various sources about some coasters having combined engine and boiler rooms, but not been able to come up with much suggesting that this would have been the case on SS Camlough (the information on combined boiler and engine rooms seemed to apply to smaller vessels rather than one of nearly 167 ft in length). Camlough was sailing with two engineers and two firemen.

The suggestion that these spaces might have been combined helps with a conundrum I've been trying to work out for months - trying to reconcile the small space I could see on the emerging wreckage of Camlough's stern with space for separate engine and boiler rooms. It just wasn't long enough! So I'd been wondering about that possibility.

Looking at these photos of the ship's stern, the joint engine/boiler room space <does> make sense of what is now visible of the much-salvaged ship.

The ship was mostly cut up in situ and salvaged on the beach where it was stranded. However for a couple of possible reasons, the very bottom of the stern of the vessel was left in place, slightly tilted to port and sinking into the sands. The salvage crews cut away all of the machinery (though some traces of where this was done are visible), They removed the shaft to the propeller, but left a sliced-open stern tube in place. You can clearly see the curved boiler supports in the remaining rusty floors, forward of where the engine room would have been and also what appears to be the bottom half of a main engine bearing in the engine room area.

All these remains are usually covered (more or less) by sand - but this past winter's storms revealed that there is a great deal still in place.

Picture 1 shows the length of the wreckage - a kind of footprint of the stern of the ship - just over a third of the ship still in situ - when the sands choose to expose it, as they did this last December-March.

Picture 2 (with a bit of a curve added by the panorama feature on my phone's camera) shows a closer view of engine room boiler room area.

Picture 3 from the stern and stub of propeller mast looks down the stern wreckage.

All this wreckage is now once again sitting under feet of sand which has been re-deposited over the past month.

Picture 4 from the stern is a contemporary photo of the Camlough which must have been taken immediately after she was stranded/wrecked (compare with picture 3 to see what's left in the sand).

You then went on to say about such a joint engine/boiler room:

Water might have come over the skylights of the machinery space and in ten seconds your coal is wet and useless and your steam will be gone in nothing.
Hmmm... so why might the crowns of the boiler fall under in these cir***stances? Thermal shock to the boiler?

(The second Scottish account says, 'The engine gave out, the stokehold was soon flooded, and coals were being washed out of the bunkers.' In this account the next thing mentioned is the crowns of the furnace falling 'rendering the ship useless and the crew helpless.')

Thank you for both these observations - very thought-provoking.
 

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the extracts from records [note #6 ] at the time are interesting {1932-newspapers}.
I have read these accounts with more interest, as it describes a vessel [built in 1920 collier/bulk cargoes].
I must turn now to the distress of the vessel, and possibly the marine insurance market.
The ships crew were battling hard to keep the vessel {Lightship?? no cargo on board/investment] seaworthy.
Should the original concept for this vessel be for trading around the UK Ports as a working collier, i would have thought that her sea-keeping duties in any prevailing UK weather conditions. The vessel was built in 1920, and with the loading and discharging of this vessel may have made her uneconomic, or if mechanically discharged not able to resist heavy mechanical damage. At the time of demise the year was 1932, the weather was unfavorable, the uk was in an economic slump, and the ship structurally was at least 12 years old {maybe in a dilapidated conditions, and had conditions of class [which class society?] against the seaworthiness of the vessels hull.
The owners hold the key to information available, we as readers can only speculate!!!!
 

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'Hmmm... so why might the crowns of the boiler fall under in these cir***stances? Thermal shock to the boiler?'

Do we know the type of boiler that we are talking about perhaps?
I don't know the type of boiler, of course, but I would have thought that external thermal shock would have been more likely to affect the barrel plates rather than the crown sheet which would (?) be relatively protected from loose water other than through the firehole door.
Crownsheet failure as I understand it is usually caused by low water level.

Remember that I might be 100% wrong in my assumptions.(?HUH)
 

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# 9

My own knowledge of the operation of a steam engine is about eighty five per-cent of nil; but it seems highly unlikely that the crew of any Belfast coaster in the weather conditions prevailing at the time would have done (as appears now to be suggested) anything which might remotely have put their own lives at risk. There is no doubt in my own mind that they would have strained every nerve and sinew to save their vessel, if only to save their own lives.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
More information about SS Camlough - + Query about 'Marine Insurance' information

the extracts from records [note #6 ] at the time are interesting {1932-newspapers}.
I have read these accounts with more interest, as it describes a vessel [built in 1920 collier/bulk cargoes].
SS Camlough and her sister ship SS Corteen were operating regularly between England and Ireland, carrying coal as two of J. Kelly's fleet of (largely) coal carriers.

However, I have evidence that Camlough also carried other cargoes during her 12 years in service, from a friend who has done extensive historic newspaper based searches on this ship. Records of her voyages from 'Shipping News' columns in various newspapers mostly show her as travelling between Ireland and Scotland and the East coast of England, with her cargo (when mentioned) is often coal.

However near the start of her working life, she seemed to have lots of working trips around the South coast of England, and there are records of her travelling between Belfast and Brest in France ('21) and Plymouth and Brest ('23) and Boulogne and Brixham ('24). The trips to Brest would appear to have been part of a newsworthy annual 'strawberry run' which brought the earliest French strawberries to the South coast of England, where trains were waiting to distribute the cargo across the UK. (see attached Western Morning News clipping). Other short newspaper reports indicate that she sometimes had cargoes of cement and maize.

All this was consistent with her being generally on the coal runs to Ireland which were important to keep Kelly's stable during the uncertainties of the depression, but (consistent with a general coaster) taking other bulk cargoes when the opportunity arose.

However she sometimes travelled in ballast, when en-route to pick up a cargo.

On that fateful last voyage, Camlough was travelling light (in ballast) to Birkenhead, where she was scheduled to take on a load of coal, bound for Cork.

I must turn now to the distress of the vessel, and possibly the marine insurance market.

The ships crew were battling hard to keep the vessel {Lightship?? no cargo on board/investment] seaworthy...this vessel be for trading around the UK Ports as a working collier, i would have thought that her sea-keeping duties in any prevailing UK weather conditions.

This coaster was built in 1920, and with the loading and discharging of this vessel may have made her uneconomic, or if mechanically discharged not able to resist heavy mechanical damage.
Camlough was never a lightship - always a coaster.

Yes, we can certainly speculate about how well-maintained the SS Camlough would have been at the time of this disastrous voyage. However, it's worth remembering that her identical sister ship SS Corteen which was also taken on by Kelly's and in the same kind of service as the Camlough. The Corteen (later re-named Ballyclare) survived a for a good long run as one of Kelly's coasters - finally being sent to the breakers in 1959.

Also, the Camlough's hull appears not to have been taking on water immediately after the engine problems happened (from the chief engineer's statement) although it's possible/likely that after the ship was tossed about on heavy seas for hourse, the boards on a hatch cover may have become loosened and seawater may have entered the stokehold in the final minutes of Camlough's travels under steam power.

As far as any mishaps undergone by the ship which could have affected her hull - my friend has found one newspaper account of Camlough's hull being damaged in January of 1929 when she collided with a breakwater at the entrance to Troon harbour and would subsequently have needed repairs in dry dock. Other than this, she was reported in November of 1931 as having gone agound with a cargo of maize on the Enniscrone Bar off the Northwest coast of N. Ireland - but she reportedly floated free and made it to Ballina harbour the next day (with no damage reported). This story also covers a mishap to one of the cylinder's of another of Kelly's ships (this one having been towed to safety). See attached clippings.

At the time of demise the year was 1932, the weather was unfavorable, the uk was in an economic slump, and the ship structurally was at least 12 years old {maybe in a dilapidated conditions, and had conditions of class [which class society?] against the seaworthiness of the vessels hull.
Yes, given the prevailing economic conditions, I'm sure that Camlough's captain would have been under considerable pressure to save his employers any unnecessary expense.

Finances would have been one of the big considerations in his deciding to try to limp to the home harbour of Belfast. Had weather conditions deteriorated further by the time the captain made this decision, had the chief engineer not been confident that, under normal conditions, his engine repairs would get the ship back to Belfast - or had Camlough been fitted with a crystal ball to predict the exceptional storm that they would encounter, the safe option would have been to head for the port of Douglas on the Isle of Man.

But in the absence of that crystal ball for weather forecasting, the least costly and quickest engine repairs would undoubtedly have happened in Belfast - and that was where the crew lived, too. So Captain Harvey chose to head back for Belfast under reduced speed and engine power, in a vessel whose state of repair he trusted would reach the ship's home port. Sadly, by the time the true ferocity of the storm manifested itself, it would have been to late to run for Douglas harbour.

The owners hold the key to information available, we as readers can only speculate!!!!

'CONDITIONS OF CLASS'?? I don't have any understanding of marine insurance, and don't know of any way to check online what insurance pay-out there may have been for the Camlough after she was stranded and subsequently declared wrecked on the beach at Monreith.

I would love to know!


Oh, yes, indubitably, without 'insider information' this is speculation. But there is <just> enough information emerging for some of the speculation to start looking quite solid.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Unpredictable Weather - the Main Culprit

# 9

...it it seems highly unlikely that the crew of any Belfast coaster in the weather conditions prevailing at the time would have done (as appears now to be suggested) anything which might remotely have put their own lives at risk. There is no doubt in my own mind that they would have strained every nerve and sinew to save their vessel, if only to save their own lives.

There was no way that either captain or crew of the Camlough could have predicted the extreme ferocity of the storm that would develop and into which they were heading.


Quite the contrary, the sea had been exceptionally calm when they left Belfast 12 hours earlier, and continued calm for several hours until the wind 'freshened' about 6 or 7 hours before they experienced the initial engine problem.

They were about 15 miles to the West (and South?) of the Isle of Man when the engine trouble happened and it was repaired to provide reduced power and achieve about 4 knots of speed.

At the time that Captain Harvey took the decision to try to head back to the ship's home harbour of Belfast on reduced power (the engine not having been capable of being completely repaired) he would have had a number of considerations:

* Ease of repairs at their home port (Harlan and Wolfe worked on Kelly's fleet, there would have been 'an arrangement' at their home port). The crew mostly lived in Belfast - so easy access to the ship from their homes and families.

* Cost of repairs in the home port - and elsewhere. In the depths of the depression, there's no doubt that Captain Harvey would have had to account to his employers for any exceptional costs incurred on the voyage. Staying any any other port than Belfast would have incurred substantial extra expenditure, especially if the ship were laid up for any length of time. Heading for Belfast would have led to by far the most economical repair (given that under any cir***stances they would miss taking on board the expected cargo in Birkenhead).

* The chief engineer appears to have been confident that the repairs would get the ship back to Belfast under normal/predictable conditions. The ship was not heavily-laden, traveling under ballast on the outward journey, which would have been a consideration in the engineer's judgement about having sufficient engine power. In his account, the engineer appears to have completely agreed with the captain's decision - and the implication is that Harvey would have relied on the engineer's understanding of the engine's capability.

* The nearest harbour would have been safe for the ship, but not a good place for repairs. Douglas on the West coast of the Isle of Man was much smaller than Belfast, unlikely to have extensive repair facilities, and certain to be costly to the ship's owners and inconvenient to the crew - especially if they were laid up in port away from home for several days. So the only reason for heading there would have been if the storm was already blowing up strongly and there was active fear for the safety of conditions at sea.

*At the time Captain Harvey took the decision to head for Belfast, the wind was not blowing a gale. And there were no advance weather reports, neither was there a radio on board (quite the usual situation with coasters at this time period).

So both Captain an Chief Engineer made their decisions on what they understood about the ship's capabilities in normal conditions - and also what they understood of just how powerful winter storms could be in that part of the world.

But unfortunately, they could not know that they were heading into what was developing into an extrordinary storm (winds described as a hurricane). And by the time the strength of the storm became apparent, they were commited to their onward course, and had already passed the point of an easy run into Douglas harbour (were the other side of the Isle of Man).

You quite correctly stated 'they would have strained every nerve and sinew to save their vessel, if only to save their own lives.' - absolutely!

No Belfast Coaster would have set out with an inefficient engine in the ferocious gale which developed. BUT...

..having made the best decisions they could have done but then found themselves in unexpectedly challenging cir***stances, they did indeed 'strain every nerve and sinew' - that is is exactly what they did.

And still they found themselves floating helpless before the storm.

It's part of what makes the chief engineer's account (in the article I attached in five cuttings to the first post in this thread) such a gripping read - along with the persistence of the crew of the Moyalla, and the heroism and skill of the crew of the Portpatrick lifeboat.
 

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hello fellow corresponder: I am intrigued by your pursuance of this vessel, and Kelly's shipowners. I would suspect you have more than a passing interest in this 'story'', and I wish you well in your research.
As a retired mn seaman, I have with age cynicism for stories that are not simple to understand, and there can be many fingers in the pie?
LIGHTSHIP- a vessel travelling on voyage in ballast to a loading port.
Classification of a vessel A4[??? this may be incorrect] highest seaworthy condition nomination given by Lloyds Register Of shipping-There are a number of Ships classification \socities BV-French: DNV-Norwegian-ABS-USA, and germanicher Lloyd-German.
These classification societies validate ship structural sea worthiness.
YOu should be aware that the Lloyds marine market in Leadenhall street London did and I believe still do publish Lloyds List on a daily basis, which is an intelligence paper for the marine insurance market, and publishes daily reports from Port agents around the world of shipping movements/mishaps and vessels in distress. They are the hidden society for the eyes on fraudulent practices or mishaps to a shipping adventure/voyage.
 

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#13

With the very greatest of respect, might you not be at risk of over-dramatising a story which is already dramatic enough, on its own facts?

This was no flag-of-convenience scam, so beloved of the press - and amply evidenced in the Courts - in post-war years. The Master and crew (to the best of my knowledge and belief) were honest Ulstermen trying their best to save their ship and to save their own lives. It is clear that they did not save their ship but it seems equally clear that they tried to do so; and trying to establish blame (may God help us) ninety years after the event appears remarkably like an attempt to perform the impossible.

(Douglas is on the east side of the Isle of Man, providing excellent shelter from the north and west. "Light ship" is an alternative expression for a ship in ballast and should not be confused with a Lightship - i.e. a navigation mark.)
 

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Spongebob
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I have just woken to this new thread and dewilderment rules.
The stated tonnage of the little ship was not much more than a Devonport steam ferry of yesterday and the circuit of contained boiler water in the Scotch marine boiler drum, the condenser, the hotwell , the pipework etc would not have been enough to fill the bilges and reach the boiler/engine room plates.
Surely seawater must have entered the hull via whatever means.
More thought later perhaps.

Bob
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Helping me keep a proper perspective!

I have just woken to this new thread and bewilderment rules.
The stated tonnage of the little ship was not much more than a Devonport steam ferry of yesterday and the circuit of contained boiler water in the Scotch marine boiler drum, the condenser, the hotwell , the pipework etc would not have been enough to fill the bilges and reach the boiler/engine room plates.
Surely seawater must have entered the hull via whatever means.
More thought later perhaps. Bob
Bewilderment most definitely will NOT rule - thanks to the very helpful comments of the folks on this list - for which many thanks!

I have <no> (repeat NO) personal practical knowledge on this subject.

However having become captivated by the remains of the wreck of the SS Camlough which were so dramatically revealed by shifting sands this past winter, some 5 miles from my home, I found myself haunting the beach and do***enting extensive evidence of the wreck itself and of the surrounding area (two further small salvage vessels were subsequently wrecked near the site in the process of salvaging Camlough - so actually there is quite an extensive debris field).

Having spent this time on the beach and taken hundreds of photos, I <do> have a thorough appreciation of what has been exposed this past winter - and I have also gone some considerable way towards making sense of the jigsaw puzzle mysteries of what I could record of the remaining wreck.

In doing so, through the wonderful mazes of the Internet, I find that my searches have taken me into a completely fascinating bygone world - one which has almost completely disappeared from common knowledge today. And so my search for information has widened out from being specifically about this one ship to understanding the world in which she operated.

Much (almost all) of my understanding has come from the internet and from acquiring some good texts on the subject area ('Steam Coasters and Short Sea Traders', 'The Steam Collier Fleets' and 'Kelly's Navy' being three of my bibles - plus 'Coasters: an Illustrated History' to name four of the most useful).

I started reading the first of these several months back, when I had very little context for the jigsaw puzzle that I was looking at in the remains of the wreck on the beach at Monreith (almost as if designed to capture my interest, the shifting sands revealed the wreck in stages - week-on-week).

My understanding of this ship and its context has progressed in a spiral - with me coming back to re-read sections of these books some weeks (months) later and finding that I then comprehend important things which had escaped me on my first read-through.

However, I have NO practical background for my investigation (zero - nothing at all 'hands-on'). Which is where the input from people who <have> got practical experience has been invaluable, helping me to keep things in perspective.

The whole tantalising mention in newspaper accounts of 'water in the stokehold' is a case in point. My first thought on reading those newspaper stories was that this would most likely been seawater, probably coming in from the hatch overhead, because we are told that waves were breaking over the decks of the ship. But having unpicked much of what would/might have been going on in the Engine Room, I then started double (and triple) thinking about boiler failures. Hence my starting this thread off.

Thankfully, cool heads (with the experience to put things into proportion) have set me right very quickly about the amount (and temperature) of water that would have come from a boiler failure - so I'm back to my first presumption, but with some solid reasoning behind it this time.

The kind of practical understanding which puts 'facts' and 'conjecture' into perspective is what I've been lacking - and what has been so generously provided by folks on Ships Nostalgia (and also on a Belfast forum, and also from an individual connected with the SS John Oxley project in Australia... another Clyde-built steamer that made its way all that distance for its working life).

You have all helped me progress from being an absolute clueless novice, when I first stumbled across the emerging wreck of the Camlough back in mid-December to someone who is developing a growing theoretical understanding of steam coasters and of the environment in which they operated.

My goal is to assemble an archive on The SS Camlough - both for the local library and museum service but especially for the village of Monreith. A friend, now in his 80s, who grew up in Monreith but was born some years after the wreck, reminds me that while her wreck would have been a Big Local Story at the time, it was very quickly overshadowed by larger events - the approach of a World War, family members going off to fight (some not coming back) and even by the necessities of rationing. After most of the ship was cut up on the beach for salvage, the sands also did an exceptionally effective job of making most of the wreck disappear (only occasionally disclosing the remains, as they have done this year).

So while there are fragments of information about Camlough that are known in the village, it has not been all assembled and pulled together in one archive - which has become my self-appointed task.

For which I am most grateful to help from this forum.

Every time I can figure out the right question(s) to ask, I always get a helpful response.
 

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Spongebob
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Further to my post 16 and having read the attached press reports my guess for what it is worth is that a component failure of the triple or compound steam engine and an engine room full of steam could be interpreted as something as small as a leaking piston rod packing through to a major event that led to a loss of steam pressure and drum level .
The need to use the steam operated feed pump to refill the boiler to its normal level would have been complicated by the pump , likely a Weir or Tange VDR type , not having enough pressure to quickly do the job.
Walter sloshing above the plates would have certainly spread the ready use heap of coal on the plates adjacent to the boiler furnace denying the fireman any hope of increasing the firing rate to raise steam pressure.
A boiler failure such as a leaking fire tube expansion would not cause too much trouble but if the boiler water level fell below the crown of the wet back combustion chamber long enough for the crown to overheat and collapse then the stokehold and engine room crew might no have lived to tell their tale.

A likely scenario is that an engine component failure caused a extraordinary waste of steam coincidental with a storm charged flooding of the stokehold by what ever means to create a no win situation.

But then I am relying on experience and knowledge gained sixty plus years ago and diluted and confused over the passing years!

Bob
 

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MS Act 1984

Dear correspondent , I wish to offer you some bedtime reading into your research??
The vessel Collough was built 1920 under what rules, here your task lies for the day?
On the web it is not possible to read an as published actual 1894 MS ACTS do***ent- some 500 pages long, and the 1906 Merchant . For many years the 1894 Act until the 1971shipping act stood as the bible and reference for all british shipping.
The loadline rules did not come out until 1932, and again ships under I believe 500grt i.e up to 499 gross registered tons, the rules did not apply for seaworthiness, and again in the 1894 MS Act there were
Vessels nominated by their trading pattern: Foreign going[passenger vessel-Class one more than 36 passengers]: Passenger ships in home Northern European waters (Ferries etc-Class 2-- then ferries that just traded within the UK CI and Northern Ireland Class2A} then Passenger ships/pleasure steamers from a nominated port along the coast line -Class 3: The you had passenger steamers that traded between dawn and dusk[nominated daylight hours officially controlled] only they were Class 4, and for a nominated port along the coast. : and finally Passenger boats on rivers and canals carrying more than 12 persons and two crew - within Smooth water limits class 5. That's the 1894 Act classification for passenger boats.
Now the cargos ships.
Foreign Going with up to 12 passengers Class 7; Then Northern European trade down to the med-GiB?? class 8[ I believe this did not include Iceland, or the artic or white sea, but did include the Baltic.
Then we have class 8a Home trade UK and near continent [Beast to the elbe]
Then class 9 Fishing vessels Whalers and factory ships, artic antartic waters
Then class 10 fishing vessels Northern hemisphere Green land, Grand banks, Norway, artic, white sea Faeroes and Iceland, and the Baltic.
There was I believe a class11 a smoother rough/ water cargo ship[travelling within strict coastal limits such as dredgers etc.
Finally class 12 Tugs International and home waters?
I could off course be talking out of my backside, but there is a target for your research, and many happy hours of reading.
NOTE WELL with cargo ships I believe 500 grt was or is the start of strict regulations, and so back to your quest; what rules was the Collough built to run and managed, over to you??
By the way I have not forgotten there is or where and are rules for sail training ships. All other rules apply however the vessel is powered by wind or machine.(Pint)(Pint)
Besides the MS Act 1894, there were issued merchant shiping notices on the regulations from time to time, and you may have to wander back in time to the issuing government department, and the name it traded under such as BOT. DOTTI, DOT, MCA , just keeping batting your head against the brickwall, your senses may return?? Good luck.(Whaaa)
Before you go to sleep a suggestion read Lloyds Register Of shipping rules[ and past rules] as to how and when they apply to cargo ships in coastal waters, and to which trade or tonnage these rule may apply. By the way its your birthday Happy birthday, do enjoy????
 

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Dear correspondent , I wish to offer you some bedtime reading into your research??
The vessel Collough was built 1920 under what rules, here your task lies for the day?
On the web it is not possible to read an as published actual 1894 MS ACTS do***ent- some 500 pages long, and the 1906 Merchant . For many years the 1894 Act until the 1971shipping act stood as the bible and reference for all british shipping.
The loadline rules did not come out until 1932, and again ships under I believe 500grt i.e up to 499 gross registered tons, the rules did not apply for seaworthiness, and again in the 1894 MS Act there were
Vessels nominated by their trading pattern: Foreign going[passenger vessel-Class one more than 36 passengers]: Passenger ships in home Northern European waters (Ferries etc-Class 2-- then ferries that just traded within the UK CI and Northern Ireland Class2A} then Passenger ships/pleasure steamers from a nominated port along the coast line -Class 3: The you had passenger steamers that traded between dawn and dusk[nominated daylight hours officially controlled] only they were Class 4, and for a nominated port along the coast. : and finally Passenger boats on rivers and canals carrying more than 12 persons and two crew - within Smooth water limits class 5. That's the 1894 Act classification for passenger boats.
Now the cargos ships.
Foreign Going with up to 12 passengers Class 7; Then Northern European trade down to the med-GiB?? class 8[ I believe this did not include Iceland, or the artic or white sea, but did include the Baltic.
Then we have class 8a Home trade UK and near continent [Beast to the elbe]
Then class 9 Fishing vessels Whalers and factory ships, artic antartic waters
Then class 10 fishing vessels Northern hemisphere Green land, Grand banks, Norway, artic, white sea Faeroes and Iceland, and the Baltic.
There was I believe a class11 a smoother rough/ water cargo ship[travelling within strict coastal limits such as dredgers etc.
Finally class 12 Tugs International and home waters?
I could off course be talking out of my backside, but there is a target for your research, and many happy hours of reading.
NOTE WELL with cargo ships I believe 500 grt was or is the start of strict regulations, and so back to your quest; what rules was the Collough built to run and managed, over to you??
By the way I have not forgotten there is or where and are rules for sail training ships. All other rules apply however the vessel is powered by wind or machine.(Pint)(Pint)
Besides the MS Act 1894, there were issued merchant shiping notices on the regulations from time to time, and you may have to wander back in time to the issuing government department, and the name it traded under such as BOT. DOTTI, DOT, MCA , just keeping batting your head against the brickwall, your senses may return?? Good luck.(Whaaa)
Before you go to sleep a suggestion read Lloyds Register Of shipping rules[ and past rules] as to how and when they apply to cargo ships in coastal waters, and to which trade or tonnage these rule may apply. By the way its your birthday Happy birthday, do enjoy????
 
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