Go Back   Shipping History > Shipping Discussion > Shipping Lines > Shaw Savill

Northern Star. Voyages 2, 3 and 4

Post Reply
 
Thread Tools
  #1  
Old 26th September 2018, 20:34
alaric2 alaric2 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: Rutland
Posts: 8
Images: 3
Northern Star. Voyages 2, 3 and 4

Northern Star’s Early Life. An Engineer’s view. Part 2.

While the concept and overall design of Southern Cross had been revolutionary, the machinery specification and design were conservative, to limit the overall risks being taken. This was a wise strategy, as the ship proved to be very reliable in service and was still going strong when finally scrapped in 2003.
With the overall principal proven to be correct, the company was more adventurous with the specification of Northern Star’s machinery. With hindsight, it can be seen that in some respects they were too adventurous.
One of the innovations was the new, compact design of boiler feed pumps by G&J Weirs of Cathcart. They had a single, central bearing lubricated by water tapped off the high pressure pump discharge.
Traditional turbo feed pumps had three, oil lubricated bearings. These traditional pumps were very reliable, but big and expensive to make in comparison to the new design. I believe that Northern Star was the first ship to rely entirely on the new pumps. With the space available, there was simply no space for traditional pumps, even if it would have been preferred. There were two main pumps, only one of which was required for full power, plus a smaller Harbour Pump, and this would probably have had capacity to steam the ship at 15 knots on its own. The risk of relying totally on the new pumps was probably considered to be small and acceptable. After Clyde trials, Northern Star anchored at Tail of the Bank, and Weirs sent a team on board, and at least one of the pumps was replaced, as mentioned in part1.
The pumps proved to be problematic to start. Once they were up and running they were OK, but if run up to speed too fast, it was liable to seize because the bearing was running too fast before a proper water lubricating film was established. On the other hand, if it was run up to speed too slowly, it was liable to seize because the bearing was running for too long before a proper water lubricating film was established. The window between what was too fast and too slow was very small, and could only be determined by “feel”. Not surprisingly, a number of pump seizures had occurred, some on V1, but these had occurred singularly, so were not critical to the overall operation of the ship. This all changed outward bound on V2 at Cape Town.
At ports where the ship stayed at the berth only 12 hours or less, a main boiler was maintained under steam and the turbo alternators were kept on load for electric power. At Cape Town, a 24hr port, it was usual for the diesel generators to be run for electric power, with the main boilers and steam systems totally shut down. Your writer was still the Junior Engineer on Doc Lovatt’s 4 to 8 watch, so it fell to me to run up and warm through the machinery for the morning departure. All was going well until I attempted to start the Harbour Pump. I think I tried the fast start, but it was too fast and the pump seized up. Doc was not impressed when I told him, so personally took over the job of getting a main pump running. He tried the slow approach, but was too slow, resulting in two of our three pumps now being u/s. Staff Chief Jack Warden was now called from his bed. I can’t now be sure what approach he tried, and he had probably not ever personally started one of these pumps before, so we soon had a hat trick of dud pumps.
Sailing had to be put back 24 hours. All the Engineers worked 6 on 6 off watches to provide the manpower to strip and repair the three pumps. In the limited space available around the pumps we were virtually working on top of each other, and I was mortified when I hit Jack Warden a mighty blow on his hand with my large hammer. I have always held Jack in the highest regard, having first sailed with him as an Apprentice on Alaric on his first trip as Chief. I think he forgave me, but he never let me forget what pain I had inflicted. Every time we subsequently met he reminded me of how dangerous I was with a big hammer! Indeed, it was mentioned at our very last meeting, at the Southampton Reunion about 10 years ago. Sorry, Jack.
I can’t be sure who was brave enough to start the feed pumps after the repairs, it wasn’t me. The problem was overcome, I think at the end of V2 by simply fitting a small electrically powered pump to provide lubricating water during the start up phase. We live and learn.
Weirs also supplied another significant piece, of what at the time was cutting edge technology. This was a 20 stage Flash Evaporator for making fresh water from the sea. In spite of being a prototype, this equipment really did work well, the water it produced was virtually pure and of the highest quality, and it made 500 tons/day of the stuff. It was so pure that it was virtually tasteless.
In 1962 it is was the largest capacity marine evaporator ever produced, and would still be regarded as big today, although I believe large modern fresh water generators are now of the reverse osmosis type rather than evaporators.
The evaporator was not brought into use until we were well clear of the coast, and it took quite some time to start up and produce good water, but when it settled down, there was no stopping it. There was virtually no control over how much water was produced, it was either the full 500tons/day or nothing! This was well in excess of the quantity normally used for ballast and hotel services, and even in the hottest weather it almost kept pace with demand. Usually, during the 4 to 8 morning watch, all the water tanks were filled, so the evaporator output was dumped onto the engine room tank tops and bilges until demand for water picked up again at breakfast time. On virtually every other steam ship of the time, the most precious substance (apart from beer of course) was good quality feed water for the boilers, and Northern Star used the highest quality water to keep the bilges clean. No ship afloat could compete with that!
The Flash Evaporator was one of the success stories of the advanced machinery, and it gave little trouble during the first year of operation, although I do remember on V2 or V3 there was an occasion when due to some malfunction, the shell and tube heater scaled up and had to be cleared out manually.
In fact, had it been known in advance how well the evaporator performed, the boilers would probably have been fitted with steam soot blowers instead of the compressed air units actually installed.
In my experience, partly because of the higher pressures used, steam soot blowers seem to be more effective than air units. The big disadvantage is the quantity of steam, and hence boiler make-up they need.
On Northern Star, the one problem never experienced was a shortage of feed water. It is ironic that the Boiler troubles which I believe were experienced throughout the life of the ship, could perhaps have been prevented or at least reduced if the ship had been equipped with steam soot blowers.
Dick Goodey
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 26th September 2018, 20:40
alaric2 alaric2 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: Rutland
Posts: 8
Images: 3
Northern Star. Voyages 2, 3 and 4 continued.
The publicity given to the Thrust Bearing failures on V1 had the effect of drawing attention away from problems with the Boilers. These started very early on. Shortly after leaving Southampton on V2, a hole developed in one of the superheater tubes. It was probably just an isolated material defect, not linked to subsequent superheater problems. However, it stays in my mind because of the temporary fix carried out at Las Palmas. Doc Lovatt was anxious to get on with the job of plugging off the defective tube in the short time available in port. One of the burners was removed and a couple of timber planks were thrown into the combustion chamber, to give some degree of insulation from the heat still being given off by the furnace floor.
Doc was just in the act of climbing into the furnace when the timbers burst into flames! He made a swift exit and waited a couple of hours before going back in to finish the job. Little consideration was given to personal health and safety in 1962, but this incident illustrates the dedication and effort the Engineering Staff put into their ships. Was this appreciated in Leadenhall Street? I doubt it. “Bloody Engineers made the ship late again.”
The main problem that affected the Boilers, at least during the first 4 voyages, but probably for the ship’s entire life, was the build up of clinker on and around the superheater tubes. The correct engineering term for this condition is “slagging,” and Northern Star had slag in spades!
The main cause was a design fault with the Babcock Boilers. The superheater tubes were pitched too close to each other, allowing the slag to build up on the tubes and then bridge the small gap across to the adjacent tubes. The whole superheater became blocked which resulted in a low superheat temperature, eventually we operated at about 800F instead of the design 900F. This was a high figure for a marine boiler of the time, the design temperature on Southern Cross was only 800F. Ironically, had the design temperature been 800F, the tubes could have been more widely spaced and the bridging and blocking would not have occurred to the extent it did. Had the boilers also been fitted with steam instead of air blowers, the whole installation would probably have operated with a lot less trouble.
Could the ship perhaps have enjoyed as long a life as her illustrious sister? Who can tell, but it is a great shame that Northern Star was scrapped as early as 1975. Essentially a straightforward and well thought out development from Southern Cross, it was indeed unlucky that a few minor design details blighted the operation and reputation of Northern Star. It would be interesting to hear about the machinery problems that persisted after the first four voyages.
It was not just the machinery that caused problems in Northern Star’s first year. Remember, the ship started its seagoing life by leaving the Tyne stern first. But it ended the first year by making a very fast homeward passage on V4. This was because the ship spent an extra 2 days at Wellington having temporary repairs made to a long gash (50ft?) in the side plating just above the water line. The gash was caused while berthing during a gale.
Dick Goodey
9th February 2012
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 26th September 2018, 22:07
Makko Mexico Makko is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: Mexico City, Mexico
Posts: 342
Images: 7
Many thanks for posting this Alaric. Very interesting.Rgds.
Dave
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 1st October 2018, 18:44
Tomvart's Avatar
Tomvart United Kingdom Tomvart is online now
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2018
Location: Merseyside
Posts: 113
Images: 445
Very Interesting Alaric, I am intrigued with the reason for making a sternboard out of the River Tyne?

A little nerve wracking, even in a ship you were fully familiar with, let alone a new ship on Sea Trials! The menacing Black Middens lying submerged off the north shore at high water - waiting to rip the guts out of any unsuspecting ship.......The Middens have claimed many a ship over the years - many old wives tales locally of a satanic influence - either way...not something I would want to get past going astern!

I spent a great deal of my childhood in that area, I recall that those rocks are quite dreadful and always used to spook me as a youngun - maybe it was the scary tales from my North Shields born Granny that did it for me - but I was always 'a bit scared' when entering or leaving the Tyne.
__________________
“Sailors, with their built in sense of order, service and discipline, should really be running the world.”

Nicholas Monsarrat
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 2nd October 2018, 09:22
Lancsman's Avatar
Lancsman England Lancsman is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: Merseyside
Posts: 423
Images: 136
A vessel that had more than her fair share of gremlins. Could she not have been re-engine & converted to a full time cruise ship? Or is that to simplistic a view!
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 22nd November 2018, 10:50
shiploversa South Africa shiploversa is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: South Africa
Posts: 17
Images: 23
northern star model

a very nice cutaway model of the northern star - made by h.d.m. model company - in rosanna victoria - australia - - (national maritime museum greenwich - london credit ) - the model was made for travel agents or shipping line offices for promotional display
Attached Images
File Type: jpg hdm model company.jpg (283.3 KB, 27 views)
__________________
Ships and The Sea
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 22nd November 2018, 12:41
Ron Stringer's Avatar
Ron Stringer England Ron Stringer is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 77
What name is on the bow? Seems to be three short words, which doesn't equate with "Northern Star" (nor even "Southern Cross").
__________________
Ron

__________________________________________________ _________________________
Never regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many. Don't worry about old age - it doesn't last.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 27th November 2018, 05:24
YM-Mundrabilla's Avatar
YM-Mundrabilla Australia YM-Mundrabilla is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: Mundrabilla (haha), Melbourne really but I'd rather be in Narvik
Posts: 354
Images: 1193
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Stringer View Post
What name is on the bow? Seems to be three short words, which doesn't equate with "Northern Star" (nor even "Southern Cross").
Ron,
'Northern Star' appears in pale yellow on the bow.
The three black bits seem to be a hull feature, perhaps assuming that I have not misunderstood your post.
Regards.
Geoff (YM)

Last edited by YM-Mundrabilla; 27th November 2018 at 05:26.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 27th November 2018, 10:02
Ron Stringer's Avatar
Ron Stringer England Ron Stringer is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: Essex, England
Posts: 77
Thank you YM. My eyes are not what they were, I hadn't spotted the yellow and assumed that the black objects were the name. Now I am looking for yellow text, I can also spot the name on the bulwark of the upper accommodation, abaft the bridge wing.
__________________
Ron

__________________________________________________ _________________________
Never regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many. Don't worry about old age - it doesn't last.

Last edited by Ron Stringer; 27th November 2018 at 10:04.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 27th November 2018, 10:56
YM-Mundrabilla's Avatar
YM-Mundrabilla Australia YM-Mundrabilla is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: Mundrabilla (haha), Melbourne really but I'd rather be in Narvik
Posts: 354
Images: 1193
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Stringer View Post
Thank you YM. My eyes are not what they were, I hadn't spotted the yellow and assumed that the black objects were the name. Now I am looking for yellow text, I can also spot the name on the bulwark of the upper accommodation, abaft the bridge wing.
No probs Ron, nor are my eyes what they once were.
We are equal now as I didn't see the name abaft the bridge at all.
Geoff.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 28th November 2018, 22:06
shiploversa South Africa shiploversa is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2018
Location: South Africa
Posts: 17
Images: 23
Ron - its a simple deduction - do a comparison between the profile of the northern star and the southern cross - then you will spot the difference very quickly
__________________
Ships and The Sea
Reply With Quote
Post Reply

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Northern Star. Voyage 1 alaric2 Shaw Savill 3 28th September 2018 10:37
Northern Star Voyage 26 pompeyfan Shaw Savill 13 31st July 2018 02:00


All times are GMT +1. The time now is 10:57.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.