Still Working in the Bilges

Supporting the preservation and operation of paddle steamers Waverley and Kingswear Castle

From Paddle Wheels No. 63

The Wheelhouse has had further coats of varnish, following the re-canvasing of the roof, although the base beading strips have been left off pending some repair to the wheelhouse floor plating. Below the Wheelhouse, burning-out and gas-welding in of a new section of engine room casing plate is in progress.

Sketch by June Bushell.

Bilges are taking a long time but are progressing well and are being tackled in a thorough manner. This involves scraping and cleaning, priming leaded primer in rusty areas, and coating all over with Storry Smithson Transhydro bitumen. All the bilge work and priming of the shell plating in the after saloon has been done, to date, and the workshop will be moved to this end of the ship very soon to some advantage. A good job has been done on the entrance stairway support and where the original timber had suffered after 51 years! Bilge work throughout the engine and auxiliaries space is now of urgent priority as we must complete in order to concentrate on the boiler and machinery steaming operations.

In the bilges.|Margaret Scroggs

The logbooks tell the story of continued efforts below deck. With the colder weather and lack of daylight work slowed a bit, but encouragement was received when help was offered by Woolwich College.

From Paddle Wheels No. 63

  • Boiler: An intensive programme of cleaning and fittings overhaul etc., is under way.
  • Main engine work: Still moving ahead with operations on the HP slide valve, spindle, and port faces, also some final cleaning of the rod- end of the HP cylinder.
  • Paddle shaft journals: Show some slight pitting in some areas and arrangements will be made to skim these and refit or remake bearings. The lubrication system is probably worthy of improvement in those critical and rather spray-exposed positions. At long last the re-machined rods and new steam gland bushes are ready for the circulating pump so this should soon be boxed up. The General Service Pump was removed to Woolwich College for overhaul and a careful and a methodical job is being carried out on this important machine.
  • Welding Generator: The Murex welding set is undergoing a thorough overhaul of the engine and electrics. New valves have been fitted and a few other parts will require replacement, but mainly external to the engine, which basically is in good condition with little wear. As the set is about twenty-five years old however, we have fallen foul of the effects of the BOC takeover of Murex. When this happened, all spares and data over seven years old was scrapped. We soldier on though and not too many problems are expected, but if anyone knows a source of spares and technical information on the Murex 250A, 10 HP petrol driven DC welder would they please contact me.
  • Outside help: We are very pleased to have the assistance of Woolwich College in our project following a visit by Mr. CJ Cutler, Vice Principal and Head of Engineering Department. Mr. Cutler is preparing to accept most transportable parts, whether simple or complex, for repair or remake by the College. A visit to Woolwich revealed that the engineering department is superbly equipped with machine tools, blacksmithing and welding and fitting shop facilities. Help from such a direction will do much to bring our project completion date forward and our grateful thanks go to Mr. Cutler and his staff for involving the College in the restoration. We feel slightly proud that “doing-up” bits of a fifty one-year-old paddle steamer is going to be useful training for the engineering students.

In retrospect it is clear we became side-tracked by working on this welding generator. It absorbed much more effort than envisaged over the following weeks and months, with Pete Trigg spending much of his valuable time in coaxing it to life. Later in the project when welding was outsourced, the welders brought all their own equipment.