Tag Archives: throw-out bearing

2009 Week 12 in Review

This week, OTM stopped by the old ferry Skansonia to photograph its Fairbanks-Morse diesels. Maintenance guy John was happy to show us the engine room and let us poke around two great old mains:

Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines on the retired ferry Skansonia

Steven at the Evergreen Fleet has a nice history of the Skansonia that he’s posted here. Here’s a summary:

The Skansonia was built in 1929 by the Skansie Brother shipyard for the Washington Navigation Company. She and sister ship Defiance transported passengers and automobiles on the Tacoma to Gig Harbor route. In 1940, when the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened, the Skansonia took over a Tacoma to Vashon Island Route – until “Galloping Gertie” crashed into Puget Sound a few months later!

The Skansonia went back to work on the Tacoma to Gig Harbor Route until 1950, when the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened. The new Washington State Ferry system bought her in 1951 and put her on the Vashon Island to Point Defiance run until 1967, when the Hiyu took over the route. The ferry system used her as an overflow boat in the summer of 1969, then tied her up in Eagle Harbor. They sold her in 1971, and in the mid-1980s she was turned in to a banquet facility and moored at the north end of Lake Union for years.

John led us down into the engine room and just like on the Olympic (back in 2008 Week 48), I felt like I went back in time, with the last engineer’s coffee cup still sitting by the dangling remains of the telegraph. Except for being used for storage, the belowdecks space had been hardly touched since the boat was retired. Someone had removed most of the access panels from the two main Fairbanks-Morse diesels, but other than that they looked completely untouched — right down to spare parts on the shelf:

Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine in the ferry Skansonia

We took a lot more pictures of the boat that are uploaded to the Flickr site here. They’re definitely worth browsing through.

Now normally, I am a hopeful engine restorer. I see running potential in any engine that is mostly complete, and the Skansonia‘s engines are great examples of “mostly complete.” With a lot of work, they could run again, but I don’t advocate for it in this particular situation. The banquet-ferry business works and the boat won’t run again, so parting out the mains would be okay. The boat is beautiful and I have actually attended a few weddings there. It works really well as a venue, and the owners have showcased a lot of the boat’s history in the main galleries. Plus, the Skansonia has the one most important thing for anything in the world to survive: it provides a service that is valued enough to support itself. It’s a shame that this service doesn’t include running the engines, but having a business that supports it is a wonderful thing for the old gal.

Thanks for the tour, John!

The Arthur Foss turns again!

I finished putting Arthur Foss‘s clutch together. After I reinstalled the linkages on the throw-out bearing, I spend some time adjusting the clutch to get the right snap. This is the final motion that the clutch makes as the linkages go over center with some tension and the crowder collar runs into the clutch housing. If it’s well-adjusted, the linkages retain the tension and keep the clutch “in.” I spent a few hours adjusting it, then turned the engine over on compressed air to test it.

Here’s a video of it:

After it looked really good, we tightened up the dock lines and ran the propeller for the first time in about eight years. It was great! I can’t wait until we get under way again, but there’s still some work that needs doing before then.

World premier of the Westward movie

Right after running the Arthur, I went around the corner the see the John Sabella documentary about the Westward. Hugh and Teresa brought the boat down and moored it at Lake Union Park for the event, and tons of people came – including three generations of owners.

They showed the movie itself on a big projection screen in the Armory. My favorite part was, of course, the part about Westward‘s Atlas-Imperial. They have a great segment of engineer John oiling in high speed. Check it out:

The boat has had the best career any vessel could ask for and she’s not finished yet. The website has more information on the documentary, including how to order it for yourself.

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2009 Week 9 in Review

OTM Inc did a lot of work with the Northwest Seaport this week – both hammering and teaching. But first:

Control head for the Maris Pearl!

I did a little bit of getting ready for working on the Maris Pearl next week. Jay’s got a laundry list of little things that need to be checked up on in the engine room. He is super-organized and has it all in an online database.

I didn’t start hammering this week, but I did finally purchase the “new” control head for the main. As you may recall, Rick on the Red Cloud had a spare control head that’s perfect for the Maris Pearl. This week I picked it up and brought it to the shop, but I didn’t get a close look at it yet (just close enough to see that it’s missing some parts). I’ll take it apart and clean it and figure out what work it needs, but it isn’t going on the boat this year, anyway.

Reinstalling the Arthur Foss‘s throw-out bearing

I’ve started getting stuff together to reinstall the Arthur Foss‘s throw-out bearing. I would have gotten more done this week, except that I had to get ready for the Engineer for a Day program:

High School Engineer for a Day

Every February, I run a session of Engineer for a Day for the Ballard Maritime Academy. It’s a four-hour field trip that gives the kids a chance to start the Arthur Foss and the Duwamish, and learn about steam on the Virginia V. I wrote about it last year here and here. It’s a really neat class that I look forward to, even though getting ready for it is a lot of work.

I checked in with the instructors at the end of last week. Gary said that he was all ready for the Virginia V steam lecture, but Grant had a potential hot date on Friday and backed out of teaching on the Duwamish. Instead, he volunteered our friend Dave, who Grant and I went to diesel school with a bunch of years ago. Dave has spent decades on the water and has done a fair amount of teaching, but he was hard-pressed to learn the admittedly crusty systems on the Duwamish well enough to teach them to high-schoolers – plus, it was his vacation. He helped me get the boat ready for the class, including the first start-ups since last year’s air-compressor rebuild, but backed out of the actual teaching part.

After some negotiation, we got Grant back and the class went smoothly. We got all the preparation done just on time, with the latest version of the startup checklists finished minutes before the kids arrived. They all seemed like they had a good time and learned a lot.

When the class was over and the kids heading back to Ballard, we all met up with Dave at the Zoo to share a pitcher or two.

Grant writing with the Virginia V

While I was getting the boats ready for the Engineer for a Day class, Doug from the Virginia V saw the lights on and came over to talk. We don’t currently do engine demonstrations on the V-5, since getting up live steam would double the cost of the course, but both Doug and I want to change that. It happened that the V-5 was in the process of applying for a grant to get live steam up, and they asked for OTM Inc’s help. We met up with a couple of the board and staff members and talked about ways to make the grant work, and helped out with the writing. Now, it’s the usual waiting game to find out if they got the grant, but I think they’ve got a good chance.

A rant about safety

While working on the Duwamish with Dave, I found that old crusty boats don’t easily gain people’s confidence. Safety is always a factor, all around us, in everything we do, but one man’s safe is another’s hazard. Some people dismiss the old boats, saying “that’s old and unsafe; we should replace it,” while at the same time other people say “they don’t build them like they used too.” I think that both statements are flawed, since not many of the enforcers bother to understand the systems on old boats and therefore overlook things or crack down on something much lower on the list. Many inspectors have their pet issues, like writing up the hydraulic leak next to a pile of asbestos on the deck. Meanwhile, people don’t think about how they’re a bazillion times more likely to get maimed or die in a car accident than they are to get hurt in an old boat, but that’s another rant.

Where is the line between maintaining safety and preserving a boat more-or-less “as-is”? This is an issue that we must deal with every day on the old boats. It’s a judgment call that owners, insurance inspectors, and local agencies – not to mention the engineers – have a hard time making. Nothing is entirely safe, not even doing the best you can do with the resources you have is enough to ensure some old systems are relatively safe.

What is relatively safe, and who can make that call? Many organizations are out there to help with safety, including OSHA, WISHA, the USCG, Underwriters Laboratory, and your parents – but no one wants to invite them over because of the fines and nagging that accompany their recommendations.

That often leaves it up to the engineers, who do what they can. I can’t help but think that there must be a better way, so I’ve come up with a few recommendations. I can’t guarantee these as ensuring safety on the old boats but it’s a start:

  • keep the boat clean
  • keep as many systems operational as possible, and exercise all functioning systems regularly
  • retain engineers who have many years of experience on that particular boat
  • constantly work to keep communication open between owners, captains, and engineers

If all that is working, then I recommend carefully inviting regulatory agencies to the boat to help find ways to up the safety, but without ending programs or breaking the bank. Then make a timeline to accomplish these tasks, get them done, and invite the agencies back to make more recommendations. I know it’s scary for those on the line, but another set of eyes can really help increase safety on these old boats

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2008 Week Seven in Review

This has been a busy week for Old Tacoma Marine Inc. In addition to our usual winter maintenance load, the museum program schedule is picking up and we’re getting a lot of interest in old diesels following our increased web presence.

First, a variety of engine and vessel news:

Maris Pearl Updates
Jay, Charlie, and I started the week by moving the Maris Pearl from Lake Union Dry Dock back to Shilshole Marina. It was a pretty uneventful trip.

OTM Inc checked in with Alaska Copper and Brass again about the cooler for the tug’s Enterprise diesel. Wayne reported no progress, so I threatened to go down there and roll the tubes myself. Next Monday, I think I’ll show up at their plant with my work boots and hard hat.

I also talked with Rick Hamborg, new owner of the Red Cloud, about the extra control head that I’d like to purchase for the Maris Pearl. I think we might be able to reach a deal soon.

Arthur Foss’s Bearing

OTM Inc picked up the throw-out bearing for the Washington diesel in the Arthur Foss:

tugboat ARTHUR FOSS's throw-out bearing, re-babbitted and ready for installation

Everett Engineering did a great job, although Dan Martin overrode my request for more fore-and-aft thrust clearance so that the tight fit will hold oil better. I’m afraid that it will be much harder to center the bearing every time the propeller shaft is engaged. The clutch on the Arthur Foss uses a set of links that flop over-center in a way that maintains pressure on the clutch without force from the throw-out bearing. When the throw-out bearing is backed off a little, there is no thrust pressure at all. The centering is sometimes hard, as the big wheel that moves the bearing is touchy. We’ll probably want to engineer a clamp or holder of some type to maintain the bearing position while underway. The collar and bearing were installed on Thursday, but the links need to be cleaned. They’ll be installed early next week.

David B Propeller Work
I talked with Jeffrey on the David B, which is hauled-out in preparation for propeller work. They also want to replace the stern bearing due to the 1/4 inch clearance recorded, but the rudder is in the way of the bearing housing. It looks like Jeffrey will need to remove the short intermediate shaft in order to remove the bearing housing, but the tail shaft will be even harder to remove. I’m wondering if they’ll replace the bearing without cleaning the shaft lining. Jeffrey’s frustration makes me think so.

Update on the Catalyst’s Cylinder Heads
The Catalyst’s owners have reached an agreement with Empire Motors to purchase the three new cylinder heads (previously mentioned here) as well as the patterns. I’m really looking forward to seeing them and I hope they work. I’m also really, really excited to see the patterns. I’ll post lots of pictures when they get here.

Fairbanks-Morse Parts
Steve from Striegel Supply is looking for some Fairbanks-Morse parts for a blower on a 16”-bore engine. I don’t know who would have these parts—does anyone reading this have any ideas? Leave a comment – or better yet, post on our discussion board!

A Fairbanks-Morse in Maryland
I talked with John in Maryland this week. He has a Fairbanks-Morse FM–A—6 engine, like the one on the John N Cobb. He’ll be sending us photographs and information soon. He’s also trying to locate spare parts just in case; I recommended Hatch and Kirk overhaul the injectors and pumps for him.

An Atlas-Imperial in Astoria
OTM Inc received an email from the Columbia River Maritime Museum in response to a letter we sent informing the museum of some small problems with their Atlas-Imperial on display. They don’t want to work on the engine right now (especially since it’s on display in the main lobby – though I think that working on it right there would be very interesting for visitors), but they do want a list of what to do and how to do it for future planning. I’ll come up with a detailed list and maybe make a copy of one of our manuals to hand-deliver in March.

An Enterprise in Astoria
I received an email from John Gillon of Portland, Oregon:

I am a volunteer with the amphibious forces memorial museum. Last October we sailed the Sakarissa from San Francisco to Portland Or. She is moored on the Columbia River next to our Landing Craft Infantry 713.

I was looking on your web site and we have a Enterprise engine on the Sakarissa and it is a beautiful engine. You can visit our web site and see more, or contact them for some good pictures of the engine.

I enjoyed your web site,

John

The Amphibious Forces Memorial Museum has hidden the pictures of its Enterprise too well for me to find, so I’ll have to see if I can visit the Sakarissa while I’m Astoria for the Columbia River Maritime Museum errand:

the SAKARISSA at dock

The Ballard Maritime Academy Engineer for a Day Program

Preparing for a course like this is a hectic process, as the boats always require some head-scratching and jury-rigging to get them running after a long idle period. The biggest puzzle we faced this time was getting enough air pressure to start the fireboat Duwamish’s diesel-electric system. The fireboat’s air compressors need a little work; one of them really doesn’t pump air at all, and the other one’s efficiency is suffering. It takes a long time for it to fill the tanks up to the minimum level needed to turn the main over, so for past Engineer for a Day programs we’ve run an air hose from the Arthur Foss to the fireboat to fill up the tanks.

This past autumn, though, we moved the boats on the Historic Ships Wharf around so that the Arthur and the Duwamish are separated by a big old Lightship (number 83). If we use a long enough hose to stretch up and over the lightship and down into the fireboat, it doesn’t effectively fill up the tanks. Grant and I spend most of Thursday running the air compressor on auxiliary generator, wondering if we’d get enough pressure to turn on the main. We thought about renting an air compressor, but couldn’t find a large enough one on short-notice.

Finally, late in the day, the Duwamish’s own air compressor filled up the tanks to the needed psi and Grant was able to start up the number one main generator:

We ran it and the generator for a while after that to ensure that we had enough air built up to start the engine several times, since that’s a key part of the Engineer for a Day program.

While Grant was working on the Duwamish, cleaning and oiling and turning over the three big Bessemer generators, I was doing some work on the Arthur Foss. We’d removed the base doors during the autumn 2007 Diesel Engine Theory course (pictures at Northwest Seaport’s Flickr account), and I needed to re-seal them using my own patented “goo” method. Five of these doors are the original aluminum with “Washington Iron Works” cast into them, but one is a replacement made of plywood. Northwest Seaport’s museum specialist is hoping to replace this replacement door with a piece of thick plexiglass so that we can see into the engine while it’s running, but they weren’t able to get it purchased and cut in time for this class. They’re aiming to get it installed in time for the summer tour season, though. I doubt that they’ll be able to see much through all the oil that’ll get splashed against the door while the engine is operating, but it’s a neat idea and no harm in implementing it (at least until I have a new door cast in aluminum).

The Virginia V at least was ready to go — though this is only because we don’t start up her steam plant during the Engineer for a Day program (it would double the cost of the class). Her power plant is currently disassembled for winter maintenance, but that actually makes it even more interesting to observe.

After all that preparation, the Engineer for a Day program went great. John Foster, the instructor for the Ballard Maritime Academy, brought 16 kids down for one of the program’s annual field trips. He spends several classes before the field trip teaching the kids about marine engineering and engine theory so that they have a good understanding of it in their heads before they step aboard. When we have them actually start up an engine – either the Arthur’s Washington or the Duwamish’s Bessemers – they suddenly understand what the diagrams and explanations mean:

more photos of the Engineer for a Day program on Northwest Seaport's Flickr account

Despite this, I’m always a little nervous thinking about a big group of kids storming the boat. Once they arrive and we break them into three groups to cycle through the Arthur, the Duwamish, and the Virginia V, I usually calm down. They may be high schoolers, but they want to be there and are way smarter than I give them credit for — even if they play games and whisper and text message while they’re supposed to be listening. I had a great time leading them through the Arthur’s start-up and shut-down procedures, and both Grant and Gary say the same thing about their sections. I’m looking forward to doing as many of these as we can, and not just for Ballard Maritime Academy.

Inaugural Tugboat Night!
The week finally ended with OTM Inc helping run a new program with Northwest Seaport and the Center for Wooden Boats. Tugboat Night was designed to serve three different purposes: to provide a regular, low-cost program on the Arthur Foss, to exercise all of the tug’s equipment more often, and to get more people onboard and involved with the boat and the organizations.

On Saturday night, twelve people showed up for the program, all really excited. Several had never been onboard before, though they’d seen the tug at the dock. My original plan for the evening had been to lead all the participants through the boat starting in the engine room, turning on everything and then turning off everything. After running the auxiliary generator and the AC generator, though, we ended up getting distracted by the main engine and not going on to the steering equipment and other systems. Everyone loves watching the Washington Iron Works diesels, since they have so many exposed moving parts and ways to see into the engine. We played with the controls, trying to get the engine to idle as slow as possible before stalling, and I answered a lot of questions from both beginners and the professional electrical engineer who had run hydroelectric generators in Montana:

Tugboat Night at Northwest Seaport

This, however, is the great thing about Tugboat Night. Next time, we’ll do it differently; we could have other instructors up in the fo’c’sle or the wheelhouse while I stay in the engine room and let participants choose where they go, or we could spend less time on the pre-start checklists and just turn things on and off. We could have a “plumbing night” or a “wiring night” or a “steering and telegraph night,” as well as a “deck department” or an “engine department” night.

I’m really excited by the turn-out of this first session, since it shows that people are interested in learning about the gritty details of old boats. I think that it’s a great way to start building a volunteer engine crew for the Arthur, both to help keep up with maintenance and repair, and for in the future when the tug starts cruising again (though that’s barely on the horizon). I hope that see all the same people at the next Tugboat Night, plus more who hear about it from them.

NWS and the CWB have scheduled four more sessions of Tugboat Night, on April 19, June 21, August 16, and December 20. Depending on the popularity of the class, they may hold more this year, and they’re planning to hold one every month of 2009. Call the CWB at (206) 382-2628 to register now.

Finally, Tape versus No Tape: A Viewer Poll

Kirtland (a boat guy living aboard the Arthur Foss these days in a work-exchange arrangement with Northwest Seaport) and I had a “discussion” the other day about paint on boats. It went sort of like the Bud Light “great tastes” versus “less filling” commercials.

It is my philosophy that paint is an impermeable barrier that protects the ship from rot, rust, and other elemental damage. It is Kirtland’s philosophy that paint is a cosmetic that keeps the boat looking sharp and shipshape. Of course, what we actually said was something like “Next time, use tape, [censored]!” “You want tape? Beat me to it, [censored]!” and back and forth several times.

Now, I’m a big proponent of keeping the boats looking sharp so that the maritime groups have good “dock presence,” but before worrying about making them look good we should worry about keeping them protected from the rain and other agents of deterioration. If Kirtland wants to spend a lot of time fussing over masking and detailing and what should be painted green versus white, then that’s fine – as long as the boat is already protected.

Readers, what do you think? Paint as protective barrier or paint as a cosmetic detail? Please comment with your opinion.

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Filed under atlas-imperial, enterprise, museums, programs, washington iron works, week in review

2008 Week Two in Review

Engineer for a Day Program for High Schoolers

Early this week, OTM Inc received a call requesting another Engineer for a Day session for Ballard High School. We put one on in February of last year, which was both successful and mentioned in a Seattle PI article here. John Foster, a teacher in the Maritime Academy program at Ballard High school, asked if OTM and Seattle’s maritime heritage community can host the program on February 15. Coincidentally, this is the day before a big work party and the first session of Tugboat Night on the Arthur Foss. This timing is excellent, as it maximizes the time and money spent preparing for the programs.

The Engineer for a Day programs involve the steamer Virginia V, the fireboat Duwamishand the tugboat Arthur Foss. I’m already signed up to show participants how to start up the Arthur‘s diesel, so next I called Gary Frankel at the Virginia V to get him onboard for his famous steam lecture. Gary is always happy to talk about steam, especially since he’s convinced that this diesel thing is just a passing fad. Then I called Justin Blair, an engineer for the Washington State Ferry system who has helped teach the Engineer for a Day program before. He didn’t answer, which makes me worry since his schedule is hard to change and he is the only person I know who can teach students how to run the Duwamish’s generators.

I’ve been helping run the Engineer for a Day program for three years now. The classes each start by dividing the participants into three groups, which each spend one hour following an engineer through the start-up procedure and then operating the engine. After the hour is up, they shut it down and then switch boats. After every group has been on every boat, we gather again to discuss the similarities and differences of each power plant. The class is very fast-paced and gets people excited about the engine rooms—not just the decks and the bridges. If we’re lucky, we turn out some engineers, too. Northwest Seaport has information about this year’s programs on its website here–including the dates for the open-to-all Engineer for a day program.

The Engineer for a Day program is really amazing for two reasons. First, the students are able to get up close to three very different power plants: a direct-reversing diesel, a diesel electric, and a reciprocating steam engine. I can’t think of anywhere else in the world that a member of the public can see all of these in one day—let alone one where high schoolers can be at the controls of each.

Second, it requires the corporation of many different organizations. A typical Engineer for a Day program involves Northwest Seaport, the Center for Wooden Boats, the Virginia V Foundation, the Puget Sound Fireboat Foundation, the Youth Maritime Training Association, and Old Tacoma Marine Inc—plus other supporters like the Seattle Parks Foundation that owns the Historic Ships Wharf at Lake Union Park where the program is held.

This is really encouraging, since the maritime heritage community that I worked in ten years ago almost never collaborated. Now, people are recognizing that collaboration is essential to preserving the historic ships in Seattle and in other ports. I think that preservation groups and museums need to follow some of the principles of for-profit corporations. Rather than treating some of the groups like a sick friend (high hopes, no demands on performance, and often no action), collaborative programs helps pull them together by holding each accountable and demanding that they pull their own weight. The program also gives the collaboration an attainable goal to drive the weak organizations forward, while the strong organizations receive a new set of resources and a broader audience. I really enjoy watching the Engineer for a Day programs and other collaborative efforts pull the different groups together.

Web Updates

OTM Inc’s new discussion board is awesome, but it doesn’t quite work yet. Early this week, the whole OTM Inc team was very excited by our launch into Web 2.0 with the new discussion board and a presence on many networking sites ( like Flickr and YouTube). We are now web interactive and want to see your posts with questions, answers, pictures, stories, and warnings from the whole heavy-duty diesel community… just as soon as we get the discussion board back online now that the trial session has run out. SO STAY TUNED…

OTM Inc is working very hard to broaden and deepen the heavy-duty diesel engine community and the web is our most important tool. We are committed to keeping these engines running, but unfortunately the world is losing the most valuable information available: that gained from experience. Now is the time for the next generation of heavy duty diesel engine mechanics to make recording the retiring work force’s stories as much a priority as repairing the engines. The web is the best meeting room available for this exchange and OTM Inc wants to be at the table.

And Now a Little “Real” Work

First, OTM Inc put in a call to Bob the foreman at Everest Engineering to check on progress of the throw-out bearing for the Washington Iron Works diesel engine in the Arthur Foss. The bearing failed due to operator error while cruising in 2001. When the clutch needed adjustment and slipped, the engineer on duty leaned on the clutch wheel, thinking this action would engage the propeller shaft. Instead, this maneuver just melted out one side of the babbitted throw-out bearing. While this damage is not necessarily debilitating, the owners want to keep the engine in good condition and sent the bearing to be re-babbitted.

Babbitt is a soft alloy of tin and other metals that serves as a low-friction contact surface when it’s kept properly lubricated and machined. It’s melted and poured into moulds around the bearings, then machined smooth down to the fractions of an inch required by the engine specifications. Here’s a picture of melted babbitt:

and another picture of a mold just after melted babbitt was poured in:

Everett Engineering replied to my call that “we are making progress on it.”

OTM Inc also put in a call to Wayne Dutton at Alaska Copper & Brass to check on progress of the heat exchanger tubing bundle for the Enterprise diesel in the Maris Pearl. Here’s a diagram of heat exchanger tubing like that in the tug:

The company positioned the brass end plates of the tube bundle in the original configuration, slid in about 400 new copper-nickel tubes (a pricey option), and then installed a clamp around the end plates to hold its shape while all the tubes are rolled in using a little tapered mandrill with three rollers. This expands the tube to seal it against the brass end-piece. Here’s a picture of the tube bundle on the factory floor:

Alaska Copper & Brass also replied to my call that “progress is being made.”

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