Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Festive Ice in The Sun - Chairman's Blog No 6

(click on a pic to enlarge)

For the second year in a row, our Scottish Branch Festive Cruise was held in the finest weather for this time of year. Flat Calm, Cold, Crisp, Sunny, and Bright. Our river looked like the best ever tourist brochure photographs for Scotland!

With ticket sales for this year topping out most respectably in the mid seventies, the open deck was well populated in the minutes leading up to departure, with those of us gathered on the aft end of Cruiser getting a good whiff of main engine exhaust due to the windless morning!

Leaving the Victoria Harbour promptly at eleven to the sound of our safety announcement, we set off into the river. This was soon followed by an enticement to head below decks for Tea, Coffee and Mince Pies. No sooner than we had all found a spot to have our mid morning snack than we were cornered by our Branch Raffle ticket sellers, a captive audience indeed! A fine collection of prizes including a model of the Duchess of Hamilton, Bottles of Whisky, DVD’s, Calendars had been donated again this year and this combined with the enthusiasm of ticket sellers and buyers alike resulted in a grand total of about £270 being raised. As far as my dodgy arithmetic can work out, that equates to an average of £3.60 for every passenger aboard. Well done one and all!

Although our first port of call was Blairmore, we had time to head across and stick our nose in the Holy Loch before turning to Blairmore where further treats awaited.

Negotiating the pier, still slightly frosty in places where the morning winter sun had yet to penetrate, we were greeted at the pier house by Agnes and her “catering team” who were dispensing mulled wine and mince pies to the masses. We had but 40 minutes ashore but that was plenty of time for the mulled wine, a good natter and some photo opportunities.

First prize for dedication to getting “The Picture” must go to Peter Reid for scaling the frosty slopes behind the pier, and even more impressively getting back down the frost covered slopes with out resorting to any impromptu “tobogganing”.

All too soon it was time to get back aboard where the main deck had been furnished with tables for lunch, each with the name of a Clyde Steamer on them. This is part of a cunning ploy by our cruise organiser, Deryk Docherty, where the names of the steamers are drawn out of a bag to determine which table goes in turn to the buffet. It works very well as it saves a scrum (albeit a polite one!) at the buffet table. Someone has to be last however, and this year it was the turn of that stalwart of the Caledonian Steam Packet Co Ltd (and Soc Anon di Navagazione of Genoa, apparently), PS Galatea, occupied by our very own David and Maura Edwards.

Our cruise up Loch Long and Loch Goil continued as we ate, turning just North of Carrick Castle, destination of many previous Christmas Cruises by PSPS. As we sailed north and then South again we had the slightly strange experience of observing a number of sunsets and sunrises……all of them in the West, as the sun grazed the tops of the hills on the West side of the lochs. After a quick and unscheduled call at Blairmore on the return leg to drop off Agnes who joined us this year for the cruise, we again entered the more open waters of the tail of the bank and the “real” sunset.

Having been kept occupied on the downward leg by the raffle draw and the odd nip from the collective hip flasks to stave off the evening cold, it was all too soon that we tied up at Greenock.

During the prize draw, Deryk had commented on the various committee members and regulars who had drawn the Paddle Steamer names from the bag for the buffet scheduling, mentioning the various activities we had been involved in over the last year. One person he forgot to mention….was himself! Our heartfelt thanks Deryk, for another sterling effort resulting in a great day out for all concerned.

Stuart Mears
Scottish Branch Chairman

Thursday, 25 December 2008


A very Merry Christmas to paddle people everywhere from the PSPS Scottish Branch!!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Medway Queen - Rebuild of a Dunkirk Veteran Part 1

Part 1 - Machinery arrives in Bristol
(words by G Stewart, Photos by Dave Elms)

Back in September it was announced by the Medway Queen Preservation Society that a contract had been placed with David Abels (Boatbuilders) in Bristol to manufacture a new rivetted hull for the 1924 Clydebuilt paddler Medway Queen.

Machinery has now started to arrive at the Albion Dockyard in Bristol and thanks to good friend and Abels engineer Dave Elms the moment on Sat 6th December was captured on camera.

The following shots show the main engine cylinder block arriving and being offloaded. Medway Queen has a compound diagonal steam engine which was manufactured by her builders Ailsa.

In this shot of the Main Engine the Andrews Cameron low pressure (LP) slide valve can be seen. This valve facilitated the transfer of exhaust steam from the LP cylinder to the condenser and also admitted steam to the LP cylinder from the high pressure (HP) cylinder.

This valve would be driven via rods and linkages from the Main Engine Crankshaft.

Another view shows the engine control levers on top of the engine block. There are 5 levers in all - the throttle which regulates the admission of high pressure steam from the boiler to the HP cylinder, ahead /astern direction control lever, 2 x cylinder drain control levers which open the cylinder drains to allow any condensate which may have collected in the cylinders whilst the engine was stopped to be evacuated by the live steam entering the cylinder and finally the impulse valve lever. This lever permits the
entry of HP steam into the LP cylinder

which, due to the vastly greater surface area of the LP piston, gives the engine a "kick" of HP steam. This was used to start the engine if it stopped in a position which did not permit steam to be admitted to the HP cylinder or if a short burst of speed was suddenly required.

On the right of the photo the LP psiton rod can be seen which still has its crosshead complete with "slippers" attached. The crosshead permitted connection of the piston rod to the crankshaft connecting rod. The slippers would normally be making contact with slides which ensured that the piston rod remained supported and also was allowed to slide in and out of the engine block - the slippers are usually lubricated via grease or oil. The crosshead permitted connection of the piston rod to the crankshaft connecting rod. This connection pivots which allows the crankshaft connecting rod to rotate the crankshaft.

A shot of the Main Engine Crankshaft complete valve gear eccentrics attached. These operate the HP & LP valves which control the admission and exhaust of steam from each cylinder. In the case of the Medway Queen the rotating motion of these eccentrics was converted to a sliding motion via a rocking link. Another smaller crosshead connection is used to attach the valve rod which slides in and out of the engine block. This type of valve actuation is called Stephenson Valve Motion and was widely used in steam locomotives as well as reciprocating steam engines. Waverley's Rankin and Blackmore main engine also utilises Stephenson Valve Motion. Another method of actuating the valvegear on paddlesteamers was called Brock Valve Motion and was invented by the Chief Engine Designer at Denny Bros of Dumbarton. This type of valve motion was used for the engines of the famous Clyde paddler Caledonia and her sister Mercury.

In this final shot we can see what looks like a steam operated boiler feed pump in the foreground - perhaps built by the famous company Weirs of Cathcart. The red coloured equipment behind this could possibly be the air pump - which permits the transfer of condensate from the condenser back to the hotwell to be pre-heated prior to transfer back to the boiler via the forementioned boiler feed pump - but I am open to suggestions via the comments facility below!!

I am hopeful that Dave will continue to provide us with fascinating photos such as these as it is not every day a new paddler hull is commissioned!

Thanks Dave!

Gavin Stewart