Tag Archives: website

2009 Week 37 in review

Business as Usual

This week, we are back in the shop cleaning, reading the Local Agency Guidelines Manual for the Lightship #83 project, and working on the website some more.

We’re working hard to get pages about all the known remaining Washington Iron Works and Atlas-Imperial diesel engines up on the web. Don’t worry diesel fans – we’ll get to the Fairbanks-Morse and Enterprise sections next.

I didn’t make it to the Tugboat Races in Olympia this year, but I heard the Maris Pearl did very well – it looked like first to me, but we’ll have to review the photo. The Donald R was there in style – we love that Washington.

New tugboat book released

I also got news that Jessica DuLong (owner of the Gowanus Bay) has finished her book and it’s being released this week. She’s been writing it for years and I went out and ordered a copy of it from Elliott Bay Books as soon as I heard. It should be here in a few days – I’ll report back after I read it.

My River Chronicles by Jessica DuLong

Heavy-duties for sale

To all you Tugboat Dreamers: don’t forget that the J S Polhemus, Oswell Foss and Quail are still for sale.

Keep up with what’s for sale and what’s been sold at OTM Inc’s For Sale Listings.

Heavy-duty sounds through the ages

Engine collector Jim Walsh sent us a nice quote about heavy-duties: “I don’t really work on the engine, I just start it up and listen to it like a phonograph.” We at OTM Inc agree: the heavy-duties sure do sound nice – though we may not be getting the authentic symphony.

Dan told me that Dave Updike, his boss in the 1970s and the Godfather of heavy-duties, said the diesels don’t sound like they did way back when. Modern diesel fuel has a higher cetane than the old stuff, and you can’t even get number two diesel anymore. According to Dave, the thicker fuel makes a deeper thump and a lower “chuf chuf chuf” from the stack.

If Dave said it then it must be true, but we think that the heavy-duties sound just great regardless of the fuel.

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2009 Week 13 in Review

More work on the Maris Pearl

This week, OTM Inc started work on the Maris Pearl‘s bilge system. Not too much to report there.

Update on the Lightship #83

Northwest Seaport is getting ready to start the big deck replacement project on the Lightship #83, and they asked OTM Inc to research and compile a list of basic essential tools to stock the boat.

Last year’s Preliminary Engineering Assessment budgeted $3K for this step, which will buy a good selection of wrenches, screw-drivers, scrapers, and other essential hand tools to keep aboard for general work. Specialists and contractors working on the boat will bring their own tools along, but it’s important to have a full set to stay aboard.

Updates on the OTM Inc website

Check out the re-networked Old Tacoma Marine Inc website! We consolidated all of our social networking clients at the bottom of the main page, so now you can follow OTM all over the web.

Stay tuned for more exciting changes to the front page!

The Ready Sold!

The tug Ready is a 65 foot ST tug from 1945 powered by a 6HM2124 Atlas-Imperial diesel engine. It’s been sitting for a long time in Long Beach, California, unused (its former owner was aware of the liability involved in running it).

Atlas-Imperial Diesel Engine in the tug Ready, at Old Tacoma Marine Inc

Last year, the boat was given to local wharfrat Steffen, who parted out or scrapped all the electronics and brass, then sold what was left on eBay. Proud new owners Carla’s and Tim are powering their way through the steep learning curve of old tugboat ownership as they prepare the boat for a trip up to San Francisco Bay.

Tim has read through the Atlas-Imperial manual on the OTM website (view it yourself here), and has been working with John, our trusted OTM representative, to make enough repairs to run the engine for a short time.

It is very exciting to add another engine to the list of the living. It sounds like I’ll be heading down there soon, so stay tuned!

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2009 Week 7 in Review

Work continues on the Catalyst

This week at OTM Inc, we double-checked the Catalyst‘s main caps, just to make sure they weren’t too tight. The main caps are the top half of the main bearing, and on Washington Iron Works engines, they sit right on top of the crankshaft. During normal operation, the caps never actually touch the crankshaft, since all the weight is going down. They still need to be cranked down tightly to hold the lubricating oil in; if the main caps are too loose, oil will squirt out. Since low oil pressure was one of the things we were hoping to resolve during this year’s winter maintenance project, we tightened the main caps down to the manufacturer’s specs, which are a lot tighter than they were at the start of the project. I had to add a shim in one and scrape two others, but then they were all perfect.

I also installed the shims I made last week under the foot of the rods, which raise the pistons right to where they’re supposed to be. I used the measurements I got last week from squishing the lead balls, and shimmed each one.

That really completed this year’s winter maintenance. We ran the engine at the dock for a day, then took the Catalyst for a quick sea trial around Portage Bay. Everything worked really well, so I helped deliver it to Friday Harbor. I spent the entire trip in the engine room, checking settings and tinkering. We varied the load on the engine as much as we could while underway, revving it up and slowing it down to help seat the piston rings. They really don’t seat well at an idle or throttled up; you have to vary it to get them seated right.

We’re still working to resolve the low oil pressure, but the engine is running way better overall. It has noticeably more power underway, and the exhaust temperatures were easy to even out. Catalyst is looking good and Bill’s taking great care of her.

A little work on the Velero IV

Irv from the Velero IV stopped by the shop this week. He doesn’t want to do any overhauls on its Atlas this year, but he did want Dan to service the air valves. Going through the air valves is a bare minimum job, but it’s really important to do it yearly for a boat that gets that much usage as the Velero IV.

Why? Well, you’ll learn why real quick if you miss a start and plow right through a dock. You rely a lot on those little valves.

A visit to the Washington State History Archives

This week, we also went down to Tacoma to view portions of the Washington Iron Works collection at the Washington State History Research Center:

researching at the Washington State History Research Center in Tacoma

They hold most of the company’s records, including the original engine cards and several hundred photographs. About half of the photos are of old logging equipment, but there are a lot of pictures of the diesel line, too – in the boats, on the factory floor, in pieces, all sorts of pictures.

We had been hoping to get copies of some of the key photographs in the collection, but they haven’t been sorted or organized since they came into the museum and the archivist couldn’t find them in a reasonable amount of time. So, OTM Inc volunteered its time to the public benefit and agreed to come down and organize the photo collection sometime in March. Stay tuned!

Rebuilding an Atlas-Imperial-Lanova Generator?

While we were in Tacoma, we met with Eric, who recently purchased an old genset powered by a one-cylinder Atlas-Imperial-Lanova engine. It needs some work before it’ll run, but the castings on the head are classically Atlas:

cylinder head from an Atlas-Lanova generator set

Eric bought the genset from someone with a garage full of old generators. He’s hoping to get it into running condition and use it as auxiliary power for his house. I think this is a great goal, but I made sure he knew that it was going to be a lot of work and if he just wanted a generator, he should really just go buy one. He seemed pretty interested in the novelty of using a historic generator, though, and I can’t really argue with that.

I told him that the best way to start working on it would be to disassemble the unit, start cleaning it, and make an inventory of what’s missing. It definitely needs a new piston and rod, and I’ll look through our spare parts inventory to see if we have anything suitable. I don’t know much about the Lanova line, though.

Readers, anyone out there with experience with the Atlas-Imperial-Lanovas? Anyone have parts? Eric’s genset is a five-horsepower engine coupled to a 1LN29 generator that gets 1800 rpm. Its serial number is 100357. Contact me with information, and I’ll pass it along to Eric.

Update on the John N Cobb

The Lake Union Park Working Group got an update on the John N Cobb this week. As you remember, the Cobb broke the crankshaft in its Fairbanks-Morse diesel engine this past June (back in Week 23). NOAA towed the boat back in July (Week 27) and decommissioned her in August, and has been deciding what to do with her since.

The working group had Larry Johnson the surveyor come down and talk about the boat, which just got added to the National Register of Historic Places. They also had her last CO speak to the group about what NOAA’s planning on doing with the boat. According to Lieutenant Chad Cary, they’re giving the Cobb to the Seattle Maritime Academy, my old alma matter.

They’re still deciding how to deal with the broken crank, though. Lt Cary said they were going to look at installing a new crankshaft, and then look into replacement engines. He says they’re seriously considering putting in a high-power engine with a big reduction gear, so that the academy kids can get their 1000 hp+ time in on the boat, but I think that’d be a big mistake.

An old Enterprise, though… well, that’d be a good engine for the Cobb. I’ll get in touch with Dick the SMA instructor and see if he has any other news.

Incidentally, the presentation ended with a video of the Cobb underway and in the engine room… courtesy OTM Inc! The video is here and we’re delighted to see that it’s helping get the word out.

New on the Web

Speaking of Enterprise, we just re-built the Enterprise section of the website to use the sorting tables debuted on the Washington Iron Works section a few weeks ago. View the new page here, and tell us what you think! Next up: Atlas.

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2009 Week 5 in Review

Work continues on the Catalyst

This week at OTM Inc, we cleaned all the cylinder heads and installed them on the Catalyst‘s engine. We used compressed graphite head gaskets, which is what they were running on for the past 10 years. I haven’t seen these used on any other engines, but they sure sealed well, so we made replacements and bolted them down. The good side is that they are easy to make and they seal really well. The bad side is they are not reusable, since they compress a lot. Copper may still be cheaper, since copper head gaskets are reusable.

Once the heads were torqued down, I checked piston height by placing a little lead ball on the highest point of the piston. Then I cranked the engine around to smash it, then mic’d the ball to get the piston-to-head clearance. I did this without any shims under the rod foot, then subtracted the .125 from the results to get the required shim thickness for each.

Then, I installed the valves. Beforehand, I performed the kerplunk test with every valve in every hole and found some needed adjusting to pass. In the end, there was only one that would not pass the test, but in only one hole. All the cages and holes have little variances that are hard to spot, so nothing substitutes the kerplunk test.

Parts for the Pago Pago crane barge

Dan got a call from the folks who run the Atlas-Imperial-powered crane barge in Pago Pago, Samoa. They needed some spare parts, so Dan cleaned up some of our spare injectors and head gaskets and sent them off. I hope we get some pictures of the engine soon.

Scanning away

OTM Inc has been receiving lots of request for digital copies of vintage diesel manuals and catalogs for the Atlases, Washingtons, Enterprises, Fairbanks-Morses, and other old engines. We’re working furiously to fill these requests, and have set Katrina up with our new scanner. We’ll start getting them up to the web soon!

New things on the web!

We’ve launched the first upgrade to the website: a sortable table to browse old engines with! If you’ve visited the Old Tacoma Marine Inc website to look at old engines before, you probably noticed that you could view engines by size & specification, by region, or by use. This system was sort of clunky, and we’re doing away with it and using a fully dynamic sorting table instead.

What does that mean, you ask? That means that when viewing the master engine list, you can have it sort by size, owner, original use, current use, name, model, serial number, location, and more. Check it out here — click on the grey boxes at the top to sort by that column heading.

Right now, it’s only live on the Washington Iron Works index, but stay tuned for sorting tables for all the engine manufacturers. We at Old Tacoma Marine Inc are committed to bringing you the most up-to-date and easily accessible information about the antique diesel engine world.

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2009 Week 4 in Review

Work continues on the Catalyst

This week at OTM Inc, we finished fitting the rod bearings on the Catalyst and cleaned out the crankpit really well.

Then, we installed pistons. On most engines, you put the pistons in through the top, which means you have to have the heads off to get at the piston. On Washington diesels, though, you can put the pistons in through the bottom. This is yet another reason that Washingtons are the best engines ever made.

They actually have a recess in the liner on top – right where the top ring stops – so that there is never a ridge going forming that might break rings. This means that if a piston is loaded from the top, the rings will get caught. In other engines, you might need a fancy ring funnel to get around this, but on a Washington that’s unnecessary since the bottom of the liner is a ring funnel itself. Washingtons are build with the base doors big enough to lower the piston and rod right through and sit the piston on the crank throws at a 90-degree angle. You then rig it to be pulled right up into the cylinder. It’s really easy and can be done with the cylinder head still on. Wow. That Adrian Estep sure knew what he was doing.

An update from the Red Cloud

Rick on the Red Cloud is selling its air compressor and the fire pump, which are both very powerful. Contact me if you’re interested, and I’ll put you through to Rick.

A visit to the Maris Pearl

I helped Jay refuel the Maris Pearl and bring her out to Kirkland this week. It was nice to see the Pearl and talk with Jay again, and we talked about the project I’m starting there next month.

A rectifier for the Olympic?

Nobby from New York pointed out that a rectifier might be a good option for the Olympic (talked about in 2008 Week 49 in Review). A rectifier turns AC power into DC power, which would let the owners use the two DC electric air compressors, rather than waiting to for a replacement AC generator. That’s a good recommendation – I hope that the owners are interested in cranking the engine over soon.

Upcoming Engineer for a Day

I talked with John and confirmed the date of this year’s Engineer for a Day field trip for the Ballard Maritime Academy. We’re on for having 25 kids aboard the Arthur Foss, the fireboat Duwamish, and the steamer Virginia V. It’s scheduled for the end of February. This year is going be great, since the fireboat’s air compressor now works at full capacity. We might even get all three engines going for the first time in years.

Ongoing web updates

Here at Old Tacoma Marine Inc, we’re working hard to bring you more content in 2009. We’re adding more content to the website – more engines, more manuals, more photographs, and more articles. This week, we started making some behind-the-scenes changes to support new content, and in two weeks we’ll be meeting with Ed at the Washington State History Museum Archives to get more information on Washington Iron Works.

A disclaimer from Old Tacoma Marine Inc

I received a call this week from a reader who’s a fellow mechanic. We talked for more than an hour about what I do, and how he doesn’t blog and it’s pretty gutsy that I’m putting it all out there for the world to see. I got the feeling all through the conversation, though, that something was eating him, and I finally asked what was bothering him.

He asked me straight up “Did you really put valve lapping compound on your bearings and jam that on the shaft?” See, if you put valve lapping compound into a babbitted bearing, it’ll embed itself into the bearing and will grind away at the crankshaft while the engine is running. I told him that I was using Timesaver, which is a lapping compound specifically for soft metals, which won’t embed itself into a babbitted bearing.

I view this episode as a failure of me as a blogger: I didn’t provide all the information that made the story complete. If someone was trying to follow along at home, they might well have poured regular valve lapping compound onto their bearings and wrecked them. I’m glad that this reader called me on it – I view this blog and everything I do as a conversation. I’m trying to get as much of what I do up onto the web as I can, but it’s not all up there yet.

Until then, I want to warn everyone reading that all information from Old Tacoma Marine Inc – posted to the web, printed, photographic, and spoken – is for the purpose of discussion, not to be the sole source of information concerning rebuilding engines, managing museums, or succeeding at life.

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2008 Week 52 in review

Work continues on the Catalyst

This week, I finally finished up filing and sanding and polishing the Catalyst‘s crankshaft journals. I also continued fitting the main bearings in using plastigauges. The project is coming along nicely.

Ever expanding the web presence

To better serve you, dear readers, I joined the Media Bloggers Association and took one of their online media blogger law class to further educate myself about this medium.

I also signed up for a Twitter account, under the username oldtacomamarine. Now, you’ll be able to keep up with my on-the-go status reports even easier.

Annual board meeting

Every year on December 25th, Old Tacoma Marine Inc’s board of directors and share holders meet to elect officers, review the past year’s activities, look at the budget, and forecast the next year. The president also buys a round or two of drinks for the shareholders to get into the spirit of things.

Topics on this year’s agenda included:

  • continuing to balance jobs between commercial, pleasure, and museum boats and engines, but in the up-coming year increase customers in the collecting sector up to 10% of the annual gross.
  • hiring Diana the museum specialist as a part-time employee, instead of continuing a contractual arrangement for technical writing, interpretation, and online presentation
  • continue to expand the company’s web presence and weekly blogging

These were all great things to report and reflect on during the yearly meeting. Unfortunately, the final topic was to announce that the president (me) will receive a pay cut – but there will be occasional bonuses.

All in all, it’s been a good year. We’ll release the annual report and 2009 objectives very soon.

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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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