The Steam Tug Kerne Preservation Society Ltd


July 2017

Posted by Allan Hickson (Mod) on August 7, 2017 at 10:30 AM

Another busy month with our Tuesday/Saturday work parties as we strive to complete the various outstanding jobs scheduled for this year before the end of the steaming season. As with any piece of machinery of Kerne’s vintage, there is always something that crops up that throws a spanner in the works, and this time it is the condenser.

Last month I reported on our sailing out into the river – a most enjoyable trip marred only by a mysterious drop in condenser vacuum from our normal 22-24 inches of vacuum down to 17 inches. This not only unbalances and reduces engine efficiency, but also signals that something is amiss. Could it be a leaking condenser tube, failure of the condenser door joints, debris in the air-pump valves, obstruction of the saltwater circulator? Regular readers will know that it costs in excess of £500 in coal to raise steam, so we cannot afford to try each potential remedy in turn – we need to check each possible cause and deal as necessary before we raise steam and try the engines out. So if was off with both condenser doors, pressure check the tubes, strip down the pumps and valves, and generally check the ‘plumbing’. The aft condenser door, cast by Harland and Wolff in 1966 was found to be a potential cause, the flanges being somewhat corroded, so after much heaving and straining, this was hauled out of the Engine Room, on to Roger Dibnah’s pickup and away to have a new deflector plate welded into place and the flange built up with weld and milled flat before being returned to the vessel for a thorough needle-gunning and painting. All that remains is the simple job of making a new joint out of sheet rubber, but Dave seems intent on making a meal of it with snips and drills instead of using a hammer and wad punch like the rest of us do. Stupid boy!

A couple of potentially leaking tubes were tightened, and the pumps and valves inspected, cleaned and serviced so we hope that will be problem solved, but we will not known for sure until steam is raised.

Elsewhere aboard, the anchor has received some long-awaited attention, the needle gun coming into play again together with chipping hammer, rust inhibitor and paint restoring it to good working condition. It was somewhat poignant that we should work on this at the time of release of the excellent film ‘Dunkirk’. Whilst this film deals with the wholesale evacuation of British and Allied troops in May/June 1940, it is believed that our anchor may be an artefact from the movement of troops in the other direction as part of Operation Overlord some 4 years later. The connection being that the anchor came from the Naval tug TID 16 (subsequently acquired by Liverpool Lighterage, re-named ‘Bonita’ and scrapped in 1963), which is thought to have been used to move the Mulberry Harbours used in the invasion.

On the ships hull, the interior surfaces of the new port side deck has been treated and painted, and the aft peak tank has been de-scaled and cement washed, which effectively means that, apart for the forward chain locker, all areas of the hull and decks have now been scaled, rust-treated and painted.

Up forward, good progress has been made in the Forward Cabin, with both side panels having been re-assembled and refitted, and areas of new seating fitted. Still a lot to do, but considering that the whole cabin area had been stripped out to the bare hull shell, we are doing well.

Finally, for those of you who don’t look at our Facebook page, we have a very interesting piece of equipment available for sale for a suitable donation, viz. a 1950’s or 1960’s two-stroke welder. It actually works, and when you start it up, it just sounds like the scooters on Brighton Promenade in the 60’s, but you have to buy your own Parka coat to get the full effect!

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