Back on the Slipway, Focus on Steelwork

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

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The original paddle boxes can only be dealt with by replacing with new.

The first part of January was mainly spent cleaning the slipway, bringing back the blocks and fixing them. No photographer this time, but the process can be viewed on the 1977, 2nd Quarter instalment, or search ‘blocks’. In between times (when tides not favourable) work aboard continued with engine room frost precautions being put in place, and various routine maintenance tasks. Finally on Monday 29th January 1979 the vessel was again manoeuvred on to the slipway and secured. Three “regulars”, Colin Harrison, John Foat and Roger Toft together with a member of the Wildernesse School team came down to assist Nick Knight and the tug crew position the vessel at the top of the tide.

From Paddle Wheels No. 76

“Mechanically sound but bodywork requires attention” might be an appropriate description tor KC at present. The hull and structural steelwork repairs to be carried out this summer probably represent the most challenging task yet undertaken, but we are in a fortunate position on two counts. We have a strong nucleus as competent volunteers and we have an offer of assistance from Babcock and Wilcox. Four new bottom plates and two bilge plates will need to be welded into position when the tides are suitable. It is envisaged that six to eight weekends will be required to complete the task. To undertake the welding operation itself professional labour will be employed, and this will need a back-up team of at least half a dozen volunteers. The new plates will be welded on top of those which are wasted. This type of strengthening repair is called “doubling” and is preferable to replacement in our case because cutting out plates in the hull may release stresses and cause movement. Also, on a tidal slipway it would be all too easy to fill the ship with water — to say nothing of mud — if the replacement was not effected within a few hours.

In order to “get our hand in” so to speak, bow and bulwark replating is now under way and at weekends (Bank Holidays included) the industrial sound of the engine-driven welding generator and angle grinder can be heard. We will be taking advantage of assistance from Babcock and Wilcox with tasks such as rolling plates fur bilge plate doubling and platework tor the paddle boxes. Also help has been promised for the tricky job of welding new sections into the corroded after saloon beams end rebuilding the steering tiller. This is dismantled ready for sending away. New sponson brackets to be cut out, again by Babcock and Wilcox to the templates which are now being made.

Additional steelwork jobs include the paddle box frames and the paddle shaft bearing brackets. These brackets which support the outboard shaft hearings are badly corroded and will probably require renewal.

So that we can make use of mains power whilst on the slip, a welding transformer has been made available on very generous terms by ESAB. A Weir Pump has been made available to us by the Kew Bridge Engines Trust. It is a 3 inch bore direct acting boiler feed pump with a 4½ inch steam bore.

With access to the hull now available again efforts to get to grips with the necessary steelwork replacements and repairs began in earnest. There was an element of getting work done at the expense of housekeeping, as the following log made by a Wildernesse School visit shows. Colin was back the following weekend to continue putting things straight.

Restoration log book entry for 11th February 1979.

Meanwhile an approach had been made to Babcock. Babcock made a major contribution to the raising of the Mary Rose, and were obviously supportive of marine heritage. The outcome of this was a visit to KC by Malcolm Cockell, an executive from Babcock who was also involved in the Mary Rose project. This visit took place on 17th March 1979, and it was agreed that Babcock would fabricate sponson brackets, steering quadrant and saloon beams, and some other necessary components. A call for welders was put out and in this way a number of visiting welders joined the volunteers at weekends. Babcock suggested that some of their welders living locally may be able to help. Notable was Tudor Francis whose name appears in the log book on many occasions in 1979/80.