Tag Archives: fairbanks-morse

2010 Week 4 in Review

Valve-grinding: a team effort

This week, I finished cleaning all the valves for the Thea Foss. Engineer Ron ground the valves and observed that “the first one is fun and the rest of the 24 are boring,” which I definitely agree with. Then Vince came out of retirement and over the mountains to grind the seats, and we had a nice team to get the job done efficiently.

A visit to the Cape Cross

Later this week, I visited the crew of the Enterprise-powered fish tender Cape Cross. The engine’s running well and best of all, the boat is gainfully employed.

Dry-suit repairs

After last week‘s brush with carotid sinus reflux, diver Duane helped me replace the neck seal in my dry suit. Apparently adding a latex neck seal to a neoprene suit is pretty common, and it’s an easy process. First, I coated the sealing area with AquaSeal and let it cure, then I put another coat on to adhere the latex. Then I trimmed it and put one more bead of AquaSeal on edges, and the suit was ready to go.

Giving the CWB a lift

On Saturday, I worked with Sterling Marine Services Llc to level out some of the floating docks at the Center for Wooden Boats by installing some new barrels. Once we got we got a system down, it went really fast. Sterling Marine Services Llc has posted more about it in their brand-new blog here.

Repairs and updates on the Island Champion

I visited the Island Champion this week to isolate the overboard through-hull fixture from the engine. This is an area of excessive stray voltage, which induces electrolysis in the surrounding planks and makes them rot out a lot faster – according to our resources, it’s like nail sickness from increased alkalinity.

I installed piece of hose to separate the engine from the through-hull fitting, which disrupts (in theory) the electrical current running between them:

This should hopefully stop the electrolysis and save the hull timber a little longer.

Also, boat buyers take note: the Island Champion is not for sale anymore.

To bond or not to bond

This brings up the age old-argument: “to bond or not to bond.”

To bond, or not to bond: that is the question:
Whether less noble metals should suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous corrosion,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And insulate them. To dielectric: to isolate;
No more; and by isolate to say we end
The corrosion and the thousand natural shocks
That hulls are heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To dielectric, to isolate;

On the subject of galvanic corrosion: the way I read it, impressed current is best but anodes are easier and more common. If using anodes, quantity and placement are very important to get right and bonding or isolating is addressed on a case-by-case basis.

Some fittings below the waterline, if isolated, can take a long time to degrade, while others will need to be wired to the anode using a resistance-free electrical circuit with heavy-gauge wire, good connections, and keeping it out of the bilge water. When working with mili-volts, a loose connection is no connection: the mili-volt will not jump a gap. I think it is this sloppy wiring that causes bias in our maritime tradesmen.

More important than the bonding and anoding, boats and equipment should be inspected and repaired regularly – and repairs should be made before small problems are catastrophic. It pains me to hear folks argue about bonding while the boat is sinking. While limiting galvanic activity is important – keep it in perspective!

Update on the Maris Pearl

Meanwhile on the Maris Pearl, we’re down to just looking for the shaft that attaches to the piston in the reversing mechanism and the camshaft gear.

Who’s got one? Any drawings? Anything? Help?

Work begins on the Arthur Foss

The Northwest Seaport started their “Stop the Leaks” project on the Arthur Foss; it sounds like the first step was to take off the big rubber fender on the bow. They took a lot of pictures of it – and better yet, wrote a blog about it! Check it out here!


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2010 Week 3 in Review

More work on the Maris Pearl

I’m still working on the Maris Pearl‘s reversing mechanism, trying to track down parts for it. I’ve been working with suppliers and calling collectors and engine owners I know who have spares. The Westinghouse controls rarely need attention, so there’s not a lot of information available on these units. It’s taken some extra time to search it out.

Winter Work on the Thea Foss

The Thea Foss‘s twin Atlas-Imperials are getting some attention this winter. The boat’s engineer worked with Dan to remove all the valves, start valves, and injectors out of both engines, then I spent a lot of time this week disassembling and cleaning everything.

As you remember, this process involves disassembling them each, putting them in a solvent bath, flushing the water jackets, sand blasting and another solvent bath, flapper the guide, and wire-wheel the stems.

2010 M4 Party

The big annual art and music event that OTM helps sponsor now has a not-for-profit fiscal sponsor, so make your donations out to Shunpike, with M4 mentioned as the program.

This year’s show will be the 10th annual, on May 1st. The steering committee is planning furiously, and it’ll be even bigger and better than last year (always our goal).

Working on the bow thruster

We got the new parts and tools to fix my good customer’s bow thruster, but still got caught inadequately prepared. I had to run out in the middle of the job to get more parts.

I also had a problem with my dry suit: the neck seal was too tight. Apparently, this can cause Carotid Sinus Reflex, when your neck seal presses against the carotid artery and makes your brain think your blood pressure is too high and lower your pulse rate to compensate.

The symptoms can include nervousness and a shortness of breath, which at the time I attributed to being out of practice from not diving enough. While it is true I am a little out of practice, the nervousness and shortness of breath were actually due to the neck seal. I’ll replace this before next week, in time to dive next Saturday at the CWB.

Despite all this, we still got the bow thruster fixed right up.

Boats for sale

The Pacific Sunrise is for sale. It’s a sweet boat with an Atlas-Imperial 6HM1125 diesel, and is going for $75,000.

The Island Champion is also for sale. She’s a great boat with a Fairbanks-Morse 35F14 diesel.

Bonus! Mention this ad and get a free OTM Inc T-shirt with your purchase!

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2009 Week 43 In Review

Half the OTM staff got the pig flu this week and discovered an equally disturbing and infectious show called Dexter.

Tornado Reveals Engine!

A tornado rolled through Missouri this week, and in its wake, all that’s left of the cotton gin in Braggadocio is its 1949 Fairbanks Morse diesel engine, a six-cylinder 31A8-1/2. I imagine the engine was running when they converted the cotton gin to run on electricity, so it’s been sitting idle since then – and now it’s sitting out in the open. The tornado picked up the whole building and all the other stuff around it, leaving just the heavy-duty.

Marty is the proud new owner (his cousin owned it before, and traded it for Marty’s barbeque grill after the tornado) and plans to move it to his house, about 500 miles away. He needs help figuring how to lift and move an engine like this. Readers, any ideas? Please post them here.

News from the Barbra H

The sternwheeler Barbara H is neat old boat.

It was originally built as a gasoline-powered boat named the Standard for the Standard Oil Company of Ohio in 1922. In 1925, the gasoline engine was replaced with a Fairbanks-Morse 35B8-1/2 diesel engine, which powered the tug until 1940. Under new owners, the tug was renamed the Donald B and repowered with a Fairbanks-Morse 35F10 diesel engine. It was an active tugboat moving barges on the Ohio River until 2000, when it was retired as the longest working towboat. It was then renamed the Barbara H and is now owned by the Historic Sternwheeler Preservation Society and used as a floating museum.

They’ve had a couple small issues recently, though.

First, a little water showed up in the oil and if there are no cracked heads or cylinders, there aren’t many more places on a Fairbanks that hold water. If water is leaking from the head, it’s very easy for water to get under the cylinder or in-between the base and a door, because there is a slight vacuum in the crankpit when the engine runs. It sounds like this might be the case; they’re going to start looking at it really close.

Second, a couple of crankpit bays were filling with oil. The Fairbanks-Morse diesels have a sealed crankpit and this chamber is used for scavenging air. When the piston comes down, the air is pushed up to the ports and when the piston goes up fresh air is drawn through reed valves on the base door cover. There are a few small holes or sometimes just one small hole for the oil to drain back to the sump pump, and it is critical to keep these clear. If oil were to build up, the engine could begin to run on its own oil. This would lead to a runaway engine, and remember, that’s bad.

It turns out that a few small pieces of fuzz plugged the hole and were easy to clear out, but where did it come from?

We traced it back to the cold starting method – some people call it “cigarette starting”.

You know that bolt in the top of each cylinder head for compression testing? When the engine is cold, they take a one-inch piece of cotton sash cord, soak it in diesel, stick it in the end of that bolt, light it, screw it back into the cylinder head, then turn the engine over. It’s like a low-tech glow plug. Well, when the engine finally starts, these pieces of sash cord usually get blown out the manifold, but a few of them were found down in the crank case, plugging the oil drains for the crankpit bays under cylinders #1 and #3. Mystery solved.

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2009 Week 40 in Review

Field Trip to Friday Harbor and Lopez Island

This week, I drove and ferried up to Friday Harbor to pull the valves and injectors from the Catalyst to bring back to The Shop for servicing. Bill and I pulled them all in about three hours, and the next morning I headed for home – with a few stops.

Ferrying between islands is free, so I stopped off at Lopez Island to visit Keith and Stewart, who are busy rebuilding steam engines. They have an impressive foundry setup, and are working on some neat projects for boss Alex in Louisiana.

They’ve got a Type-G used in a 33-foot Navy boat, a Type E-2 from 1901 with a new crankshaft, and a Type-N that replaced the E-2 in 1907. It makes 48hp at 320 rpm.

The most amazing project, though, was the Ward three-cylinder radial engine:

I really like the interesting, compact design, the neat shifting mechanism, and the floating bronze shims in the thrust bearing. West Virginia University has lots of Ward Stuff, including many boiler designs and the first water tube boiler design.

Arcturus didn’t make it

The Atlas yacht Arcturus made it only 15 miles before the fuel filters plugged and their trip to San Francisco Bay was canceled. Instead, the crew was treated to a ride back to Eureka via Coast Guard tow.

Discovery for sale

The most beautifully modernized yacht out there, the Discovery is for sale. While the owners love the boat, they have another one and since they can’t ride on both at the same time, one must go.

Newt stuck!

Our friends on the tug Newt spent a scary tide exchange on the bottom of the Duwamish River. Everything turned out okay, but it was very scary at the time. See, it’s easy to get caught by the tide — be careful!

Looking for a G Enterprise head

Our friend Sean is looking for a cylinder head for the G Enterprise on the tug Mighty. Drop me a line if you have one, and I’ll forward it along to Sean.

Another Washington!

We found out the Timber Heritage Association in Eureka, California has a Washington-Estep!! Stay tuned for some pictures, and we hope to visit soon.

Another two bite the dust

The guys at the Fabius River Drainage Pumphouse are breaking up their two great 32E14 Fairbanks-Morse engines that we saw back in May:

Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines, formerly at the Fabius River Drainage Pumphouse

They got a government grant that was intended to reduce global warming, but instead of overhauling the old fuel-efficient heavy-duties, they’re pulling them out and replacing them with big gas-guzzling Caterpillars.

If you need spare Fairbanks parts, contact B & W Truck & Auto Specialists in West Quincy, Missouri. Their phone number is 1-800-338-9797; ask for AJ.

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2009 Week 39 in review

We spent this week puttering in the shop, reviewing Lightship notes, and gossiping under the roll-up door – an important process for transferring important information – and playing the antique player pianos coming into the shop these days.  Here’s Dan playing one of the many lined up by the office:

An update from Indian Grave Pumphouse

I got from the Indian Grave Pumphouse, saying if they leave engine #3 shut down for a few days, then they have to go and bleed all the fuel lines to make it go again. From here, it seems like the things that could be causing it are: leaky injectors, leaky pumps, or leaky fuel lines. More on that when we hear more from Illinois.

A visit to Forks

On Friday, Brian the shipwright and Shannon the VP of Northwest Seaport and I drove out to Forks to inspect the lumber cut for the Lightship #83’s new deck. We arrived at McClanahan Lumber just before noon and checked out the two beautiful piles of milled fir cut to order for the Seaport:

The ends were waxed to keep them from drying too fast and cracking, the few knots are on the lower side so the caulking won’t touch it, and the planks were cut to leave minimum sap wood – the outside few inches of the tree that gets included on a few planks; it looks lighter when viewed on the end:

We got some good news, too: the sawyer said that there’s no need to rotate the planks as they’re drying. Shipwrights, stay tuned for more about the Lightship deck project in the coming months. Finally, thanks to the McClanahans for lunch and amazing blackberry pie.

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2009 Week 28 in Review

Early Sunday morning, I picked up all the remaining tools from the Arthur Foss, put the yacht back in the driveway, cleaned up my desk, and got back on a plane to Quincy, Illinois.

Back to Quincy

I went back to the Indian Grave Pumpouse despite the bad news that only two sets of piston rings had arrived, so I spent the week setting up the remaining rod bearings as close as I could without the pistons. I used a spare rod dangled from above to allow me to tighten the rod bearing bolts and get a more accurate bearing running clearance. Then, I used an old technique Dan told me from a while back: how to set bearing clearances without using dials.

I adjust the shims until they’re really close, then continue to adjust them one thousandth by one thousandth until the bearing just starts to drag on the journal when I move it side to side. When it starts to drag, that means it’s basically at 0, so I add shims one by one until I get about .004 worth of clearance.

I really needed this method because without the piston to center the bearing, it was too squirrelly to bump without a dial. Once the pistons are installed all the clearances will be set precisely, but I did this initial setup to make the final bump faster.

I also made some special tools to fit in place of rod bearing shims, allowing the piston height to be easily set, since I accidentally destroyed some valuable shims using a big stack of them to set piston height earlier. I only got to use the tool two times this trip, but I also got to show it off to the Fabius River Drainage District commissioners and the operator.

custom-built tool for setting the piston height

All the roustabouts and pump guys have been working four ten-hour days, so they all get Friday off. I chose this day to invite the Fabius guys to the Indian Graves Pumphouse to discuss maintaining their Fairbanks-Morse (6)32E14s. The meeting went great! I had all the tools and Nathan’s help to show how easy it is to repair and maintain big heavy-duties like Fairbanks. As a demonstration, we pulled a rod bearing, looked at it, and then put it back and checked the piston height. All of them were impressed and Nathan and I felt like we may have saved two amazing engines from the scrapper.

Road Trippin’

Right after the meeting, I wrapped everything at Indian Graves up to go back to the airport, so that I could get to Seattle and immediately turn around and fly to Alaska to ship out on Catalyst.

Well, things just got ridiculous. I got a flat tire on the rented Prius. Damn. Oh, well. I put on the spare tire, then made one more trip down to the levy to drop off an engine manual, and then I’ll be damned – I got another flat and picked up a nail in a different tire.

With the flight leaving in 3 ½ hours, I was able to look up the closest tire repair shop on my phone. “Ron’s Tire Shop” sent a truck right away. I reported the incident to the rental company over the phone, and arranged to have someone drop me off immediately once I got to the rental office in the off chance that I got there in time. Then, I arranged new flights in case I missed this one, and reserved a hotel room across the highway from the airport, and began re-scheduling the flight to Alaska (currently set for 10:30 AM pacific time).

While on the phone, the tire repair guy was carrying on with the mechanic. He had to drive back to the shop and get two new tires. I’ll take the time to file a claim later. Finally, the tires were installed and the one with the nail patched, then I hit the road. The drive from Quincy to St. Louis (which I’m getting really familiar with) usually takes two hours; this time, I made it in one and a half and made the flight with seconds to spare. Wow! Once I got my boarding pass and went through the security check-in, I heard the elevator music movie scene from the Blues Brothers where they are in the elevator after the best car chase ever.

The Ready hauled-out

We heard that the tug Ready was hauled out and looks great. Sounds like the new owners are making progress – I hope they get the engine running again soon!

A new Portolan is out!

I just got a newsletter from Nortwest Seaport with all the non-engine news from the organization. They included a feature article on the YMTA Engineer for a Day field trip that I ran for them last February. They’ve put up a .pdf version on their website if you haven’t gotten yours by mail, so go check it out.

It looks like they’re doing really good things these days. I might even renew my membership.

Hand-fitting versus precision parts

Whenever I’m scraping bearings in, I get a lot of grief from spectators who see all my fuss over each engine part and how I seem “overly concerned” about fit and how the method is slow. Fitting bearings does take a long time, but it’s not a process that you can take shortcuts on. I rarely use power tools on parts that must fit precisely, because the margin for error is just too great. Scraping in a bearing is a time-consuming process that requires patience and seems to be seen as a dying art.

New engines use all precision parts that you can just bolt on and go. This is desirable because labor rates are higher than the cost of parts and parts can now be machined with fairly close tolerances. The same holds true for a lot of things these days: engines, furniture, trains, buildings, jewelry, or martinis. Houses can be assembled without using a saw, trains are delivered in a box, and I even drank a mixed drink from a can while I was on the airplane. However, I know I’m not alone in my belief that finding a mechanic who can hand-fit bearings is like finding a bartender who can make that perfect cocktail the old-fashioned way: it may take longer and it may be more expensive, but it’s totally worth it at the end of the day.

I do regret that the fitting take so much time and believe me when I say there is progress – though it may be hard to see behind the ever-mounding pile of emery bits. Most of all, be patient!

Off to Alaska

On Saturday, OTM Inc’s lead mechanic took off to Alaska again to work on the Catalyst until September 1.

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2009 Week 25 in Review

This June is a very busy month for Old Tacoma Marine Inc. Right after last week’s great Diesel Engine Theory class, I got back on an airplane for Illinois.

Back to Quincy

I got back in to Quincy and the Indian Grave Pumphouse to pick up where I left off two weeks ago: setting up the rod bearings on engine three. As always, I spent some time at the beginning cleaning and finding a workspace in all the piles of parts and tools. Once we actually started putting pistons in, though, we got into a good rhythm. I cleaned the bearing, fit the felt and felt springs, and put it onto the journal. Then Keith and Nathan put the piston in on the piston holder tools, then bolted down the head. Then I set the piston height by stacking about ¾ of an inch of shims between the bearing halves and pistons, using a jack to push the piston into the bottom of the head while measuring its travel with a dial indicator. The Fairbanks-Morse manual calls for .125 to .188 of an inch piston-to-head clearance. Using the above method, I could easily set them all at exactly .125.

After that, I set the rod bearing clearance. I pulled out the big stack of shims and guessed at the required shim pack, then I bumped the bearings and adjusted them. The manual calls for zero clearance and good fore-and-aft motion. This is much tighter than on pressure-lubricated bearings like those on Washingtons. The bearings on these Fairbanks only receive a few drips per minute while running, so the bearing needs to be much tighter to create the hydraulic wedge action necessary for it to work.

Now, with this in mind, I did set up the bearings much tighter than the pressure-lubricated rule-of-thumb, but I was afraid to set it all the way to zero. I know that when the book states “zero clearance” they mean “zero with a good film of oil” and probably not with a heavy-duty hydraulic jack pushing up on the bearing and maybe not using a dial indicator measuring to within ten thousandths of an inch.

So, I set everything at .004 of an inch. I see this as fair and might go to .003 if I could be there for the first 100 hours of running.

Once all the rod bearings were finished, we set up the turning tool again to see how smoothly the crank turns. It turns great! Then, we started shooting soda bottles out of the injector holes.

Also, on Wednesday, I had a nice dinner with Indian Graves Drainage District Commissioner Duke and his family. Duke really likes these old engines; he’s telling the folks at Fabius River Drainage District to keep their two 32E14 (6)s. I’m going to keep badgering them as well, and I hope to get a grant to go down and refurbish them, rather than replacing them with new high-speed diesels.

I’m scheduling another trip for July 5th to finish the next two engines.

Diesel Engine Theory Session Three

On Friday night, I flew back to Seattle just in time for the third session of Diesel Engine Theory aboard the Arthur Foss. The next morning, I got up even before the chickens – which is really impressive because Saturday was the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year.

I stopped by the shop to get it ready for the class, then got coffee, then went to the Arthur to start up the diesel stove for Chef Kim. Then, I went back to the shop just in time. Everyone but Sterling and the three TAP guys (who canceled) were there waiting. We spent the morning cleaning more parts, testing and setting the spring pressure in the injector, and lapping the intake and exhaust valves to their seats.

lapping valves

Just as we were getting ready to head out, 200 naked bicycle riders went screaming by the Shop down Leary. For those of you not from Seattle, the naked bicyclists are a nationally-known tradition that opens the Fremont Solstice Parade (you should Google it). Of course, Diana the museologist and class photographer was in back photographing engine parts or something at the time, so we didn’t get any OTM Inc photos of the bicyclists. Maybe next year.

Just before lunch, we took the air intake manifold to the car wash. I’ve found this is an efficient way to clean large engine parts – it gets all the big chunks of stuff out of the parts, and car washes are all set up to handle diesel gunk, anyway.

Cleaning the intake manifold at the car wash

With that done, we got to the boat where Kim had the galley baking hot and French onion soup, salad, fruit, and fresh bread, all made on the Arthur‘s diesel oven waiting for us.

lunch cooked on the Arthur Foss's diesel stove

It was great – maybe the best lunch ever because of the bread:

bread baked on the Arthur Foss's diesel stove

We spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the piston ring grooves and measuring them, then measuring the piston ring gap. I think that many of the students would say that measuring the ring gap was a favorite part of the class because to do so one must get completely inside the crankpit. Wow. Standing in the crankpit, leaning on the crankshaft, and reaching overhead to place a ring in the liner to check the gap is an amazing task for those who do not regularly get into engines.

measuring the ring gap on the Arthur Foss

Then we lowered the piston into the cylinder and set it on the crank to get it ready for installing the rings. That job will need to wait for next week, though.

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