Titanic in Miniature’ – The Wonderful ss Shieldhall

March 2021

Dr Sam Willis speaks with Graham Mackenzie, chief engineer of SS Shieldhall, one of the most fascinating ships in the UK’s historic fleet. The Shieldhall is unique as a time capsule providing a working example of steamship machinery that operated ships in the oceans of the world from the 1870s for a century. In particular her triple-expansion steam engines, scotch boilers and steam-assisted steering gear is almost identical to that which was used in the Titanic – only in miniature. The episode is designed to give important (and entertaining) historical context to an animation we have created showing exactly how the boilers and steam engine of the Shieldhall work.

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    Sam Willis

    From the Society for Nautical Research, in partnership with Lloyd’s Register Foundation, I’m Sam Willis, and this is the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast, the world’s number one podcast dedicated to all of maritime history. It’s the third week of March, as always, we begin by catching up with those poor sailors of the whaleship Swan, stuck in the ice off the west coast of Greenland in the spring of 1837 – 184 years ago. The readings come from the ship’s logbook held in the collections of the Caird Library of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and was especially transcribed for us for the podcast.

    The sailors are still in the utmost peril, sometimes beset, sometimes aground, sometimes adrift. They have been trapped now for six months; the crew are in increasingly dire conditions, not only might their ship be crushed by the ice, but they’re also susceptible to frostbite, and as time goes on, and their food runs out to scurvy, and then, of course, starvation. So, it’s a race against time. Will the ship be able to escape before the crew all die? There was no chance of any help from London; there had been impassioned pleas from Hull, Dundee, and Aberdeen, but the government refused to mount a rescue attempt. Little did they know it, but the trapped whalers had become a political cause celebi.

    Whaler Swan

    Friday 10th March. Forepart of the day commences with strong winds, but the ship remains stationary, the gear being hung up by the reef. Latitude by observation 69 degrees by 55 north. Average of the thermometer this day 16 below zero. Monday the 13th of March. Strong breezes and fine weather, the ship drifting along the island of Disko about 30 miles off. No water to be seen in any direction, it being a solid sheet of ice as far as the eye can reach. Replenished the old cask as before. Thermometer 20 degrees below zero. Latitude by observation 69 degrees by 50 north. Friday 17th of March. Light winds invariable the fore part of this day with warmer weather. The ship has drifted eight miles to the north during the last breeze of wind and we are once more among the reef of burghs off the north end of Disko. A 285-gallon shake, number 53, cut up for fuel this day.

    Sam Willis

    Today, we’re exploring the history and the machinery of one of the UK’s most interesting vessels in the entire British historic fleet, the SS Shieldhall. As you will find out she’s interesting for all sorts of reasons, some of them smelly, but one we have seized upon for all of you maritime engineers out there is the fact that her engine and boilers are an almost exact replica of those that equipped the Titanic, but just in miniature. And to demonstrate how they work we’ve made a wonderful animation. You can find this on the Mariner’s Mirror Podcast YouTube channel, it’ll also be on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, wherever you get your social media. So do please check it out. I think it’s fabulous. And also, of course, when the time is right, go and check out the Shieldhall and her engines in person. They really are quite wonderful. They evoke a lost age of maritime history powered by steam. Today, I shall be talking to the Shieldhall’s chief engineer, Graham Mackenzie. Here he is.

    Graham, thanks so much for talking with me today.

    Graham Mackenzie

    Sam, it’s a great pleasure.

    Sam Willis

    So, tell me about the Shieldhall. I mean, she’s a wonderful, wonderful ship with such a great history. Tell me a little bit about her.

    Graham Mackenzie

    Well, a little bit is going to be difficult! But I can tell you a lot.

    Sam Willis

    Tell me lots, tell me lots!

    Graham Mackenzie

    Okay, well, let’s start at the beginning. The ship was built in 1955, laid down in October 1954, but launched in July 1955. And she was the fourth of the line of the sewage sludge ships built for Glasgow Corporation, and in fact, the last of the steamships for the corporation. There did follow two further motor ships, but that’s probably outside of this.

    Shieldhall was originally conceived back in 1950. When the previous ship of the same name, the Shieldhall I, as it became, was deemed to be life expired. And so, they started putting together a specification, and eventually went out to tender, as was the normal way, mostly to Scottish shipyards, but one or two English ones as well on the Tyne and I think Barrow in Furness was the other place. And not surprisingly, it was one of the Clyde yards that won the contract; it was Lobnitz of Glasgow (or Renfrew, I should say, because the people in Renfrew often don’t think they’re in Glasgow). And Lobnitz was, (the name’s not a good old Scottish name, it’s a Danish name, but it’s about a second or third generation, so as far as they were concerned, they were Scot’s) Lobnitz was a family company, and it eventually became part of the Weirs Group around about the sort of time that Shieldhall was conceived and built. So, 1954, as I said, she was laid down; 1955, July 1955, she was launched, and then went into service in October 1955. So, you could say from laying down into service, was approximately a year. She went into service on the Monday, the Shieldhall I, which her predecessor, actually came out of service on the Saturday and also went to scrap on the Monday. So that’s the way things happened in those days. She was built very traditional lines with triple-expansion steam engines, and scotch boilers; the boilers were oil-fired, and this is one of the criteria that they put down right at the beginning, that the ship had to be oil-fired open triple-expansion steam engines, and then the dimensions of ship were preordained. And that was more because of the constraints of the berth that she was working from.

    Sam Willis

    I think, Graham before we go into the details of the engine, let’s go back a bit and just think about why she was built. So, it was the Lobnitz company, you talk about the shipyard, that doesn’t sound like a very Scottish name. Do we know anything about that?

    Graham Mackenzie

    Yes, as I said they were third-generation Danes. So, the original Lobnitz was a Danish. He came, obviously, he came over to the Clyde side to work and eventually took over the shipyard. And then as I say, I think the Lobnitz that was owning the yard when the ship was built was actually third generation. But H. Pearson Lobniotz; he was known as Pearson, although that was his second name (I can’t remember what his first name was). And that was certainly the yard stayed as Lobnitz right up until the time that the upper and lower Clyde shipbuilding groups were formed in the, must-have in the 1970s. But there was sort of mergers that happened; so Lobnitz merged with the yard next door, Simons, and became known as Simons-Lobnitz. And in the sort of 50s and 60s, various transitions took place with the whole industry, not just on the Clyde, but in the whole of Great Britain.

    Sam Willis

    And what do we know about the Glasgow sludge fleet? I mean, we kind of skimmed over a bit there, but it’s a ship that’s designed and built for carrying sewage?

    Graham Mackenzie

    Yes. Now the Glasgow sludge fleet, like many – so London, Southampton, Exeter, Manchester, you can go around the country – most of the big cities and towns had their own sludge ships, which basically took the sewage sludge away from the sewage works, took it out to sea and dumped it. And that happened for a good part of the 20th century in fact. And it was a convenient way of getting rid of the sludge, which I’m told is only about less than 5% of what goes down into the sewage itself, most of it is liquid. Anyway, the Glasgow sludge fleet was unique in as much as their ships carried passengers, and

    Sam Willis

    Right, that must have been quite stinky for the passengers. But they do it at the same time as carrying the sludge?

    Graham Mackenzie

    It was! But you see, this is where Glasgow was probably streets ahead of any of the other big cities because it was using a public asset for the public good. And the social history here is that the, and it started off before the First World War, occasionally where they would invite the poorest people of Glasgow who couldn’t afford days out of any sort to come on board the ship, and this was typically done by the local Councillor and they would be invited onboard the ship and basically taken for a trip down the river. “Duwn the wa-er”, as they used to say.

    Sam Willis

    Was that while the ship was working? Did they come on

    Graham Mackenzie

    Oh yes!

    Sam Willis

    Okay. Right, so they go down the Clyde, they go out to sea, they drop the sewage, and then they get to go back again?

    Graham Mackenzie

    Yes. And typically, they would come on board after the loading had completed because I was told that that’s actually quite a smelly process. And then they’d have a day on the ship because it was about a four-hour trip down the river, and obviously, the same going back. I think it might have been after the First World War, they did actually provide lunch,

    Sam Willis

    Right? If anyone could stomach it.

    Graham Mackenzie

    Yes, certainly on the second Shieldhall they did, and they take them inside whilst the cargo was being dropped.

    Sam Willis

    Okay. So, there’s actual human sewage and then there’s a cargo of impoverished disadvantaged families. I also read that there was some space for wounded or disabled servicemen as well.

    Graham Mackenzie

    Yes. And that’s really where – I think that’s where the tradition took off if you like. During the First World War, then Glasgow used to take on the, as you say, the wounded and the returning soldiers, but particularly the wounded soldiers from the First World War. They were made, I wouldn’t say they’re made a fuss of, but they were looked after in a way, as I say, that Glasgow did that none of the other towns or cities even considered as far as we know. Yeah.

    Sam Willis

    That’s a bit of a back – I was going to say, it’s a bit of a backhanded gift, isn’t it? You know, you get to go out on the ship, but it’s going to reek. Or do you reckon people didn’t think about it like that, and they were just delighted for a day out?

    Graham Mackenzie

    No, no, because once you were on board, and everything was closed down. So you basically left the smell behind. And as I say it was a great day by all occurrences. As I say, it’s the city of Glasgow using its public asset for the public good.

    Sam Willis

    Are there any good letters and accounts of people on their day out?

    Graham Mackenzie

    No. There’s one thing that I heard on Radio Clyde, some years ago, it’s a little anecdote. I can’t repeat the Glasgow accent, basically you need a Glaswegian to tell you this. But one of the crew, and it’s a fine sunny day. Now you got to understand that your lunch if you took your lunch as a sandwich, it was known as ‘your piece’, right? And so, there’s this crewman, we’ll call him Jimmy (because a lot of them are called Jimmy), and he came home from his work one day and it had been a lovely hot, sunny day (which may be quite unusual), and he goes back into his flat and his wife says, “Jimmy, you stink. What is earth’s going on?”, “Acch!”, he said, “me jacket, I dropped it in the water.” And she said, “Well why does it smell?”, he says, “Well i dropped it in the water while they were dropping the cargo”, she said, “Well, you should have left it where it is”, “Acch, no, no” he said “it had my piece in it.”

    Sam Willis

    Oh, wow!

    Graham Mackenzie

    So that’s one little anecdote. As I say, it was on Radio Clyde and whether it’s true or not, we don’t know. It’s one of these things that the ship really had a trouble-free life. She had a minor collision with a ship on the Clyde, which is not surprising. And I think that was in the 1960s – a Blue Star ship. But apart from that, nothing really to speak of. As I say it’s typical of the majority of the merchant fleet of the world, that nothing really exciting happened. They just did their daily toil; picking up cargo, taking it from point A to point B and dropping it off.

    Sam Willis

    She then left Glasgow and then came down to Southampton, and did a similar job?

    Graham Mackenzie

    That’s right. Yes, so she took about 20 odd years in Glasgow, and then the cost of fuel and really, also the cost of crew because she took a crew of 11 people, which for a ship of just 260 odd feet long, is actually quite a large crew. So, they laid her up and one of the diesel ships, the Garrick Head actually took over from her. And so Southern Water bought the ship and brought her south, laid her up actually for three years because there is an existing contract underway. And it’s quite interesting that Southern water obviously saw a great opportunity, because when the ship was built at cost, all told about £280,000, and when Southern water brought it 20 years later, they paid I think it was £25-30, no sorry, £50,000. And then they’d laid it up for three years because the ship was – there was another ship that was actually doing the run which was under contract. So, the Water took it over; ran it for about five years, and again, the cost of crewing and fuelling took its toll, and in 1985, she was laid up again.

    Sam Willis

    We should say now, I mean, this is the fairly unremarkable history of the ship. I mean, she’s a fairly standard merchant ship; she’s carrying sewage around; there’s a nice social history of her taking out these impoverished and working-class people up in Glasgow. But the key thing about her is that even though she was built in the 20th century is that she has the most remarkable – she’s like a time capsule, she’s got all of the machinery on board is from a completely different era.

    Graham Mackenzie

    Yes, so you can trace the design of the machinery, that’s the boilers and the triple expansion, right, the way back to the late 1800s. And it really, if you look at your industrial heritage history, then it all sort of came – the technical advance came about because of the changes of the way that materials were becoming more, what should I say, more successful? So iron was being replaced with steel, the stell quality was becoming more – something you could trust more. So, you could actually roll steel, where perhaps you couldn’t roll iron; you could put higher pressures in the boilers, and so on and so forth. And so, what started off as a single cylinder or a single cycle steam engine, like railway locomotives, for instance, they then introduced compounding, which was to use the, what would be the waste steam or the exhaust steam, which still had pressure in it, to use it in the second stage. And then of course, as the pressures went up, then you could use it in a third stage, and hence what we call triple expansion.

    Sam Willis

    But the effective – what’s fascinating here is that the machinery (we’re going to talk about that in a minute), but it’s essentially obsolete, isn’t it, at the time that it was launched? So, do we know why that happened; why did they build this ship with machinery which was so out of date and old?

    Graham Mackenzie

    I think there were two factors. As I say, she was originally conceived back in 1950. An open crankcase triple expansion steam engine is one of the three factors that they wish to have on board. We think, or we can speculate, that that was because the previous ships, the Shieldhall I, and what would be its running mate the Dalmarnock, were also triple expansion. And so, the idea was, you could take the engineering staff, the technical people, straight off one ship, put her on the second ship, and away you go without any retraining or anything like that. That was one aspect. The other aspect of this – diesels were a lot more expensive. And also, you had a lot of restrictions just after the Second World War about how you could spend money. So, unless you had the technology in the country, and if you had to import it, for instance, there was a lot of restrictions on where you could spend money. So, all of that, I think – we think, led them to say, right, well, we’ll just go with what we’ve got and just basically update it a bit.

    Sam Willis

    The joy of this vessel is that she was built in the 1950s, but actually, the gear on board, the machinery, is typical of cargo and passenger ships going back to the 1870s.

    Graham Mackenzie

    Absolutely right. And in fact, she wasn’t the last because right up until about the 1960s there were still one or two colliers being built for what would be the coal boards. They still had triple-expansion steam engines. And there was a group of ferries built for the Bosphorus, by Denny’s, around about that sort of 1960s time as well. So, you can understand it was cheap technology, sort of cheap to build, probably fairly cheap to operate, but probably not the most efficient. So, when fuel was cheap – that was the ideal.

    Sam Willis

    We are going to talk about the engine in a minute. But I also read here that there are 20 steam engines driving all of the original machinery – that’s mind-blowing!

    Graham Mackenzie

    Oh Yes. Well, a lot of them, except for the two main engines, are what we call auxiliaries, Sam. So, you’ve got various pumps all to do with the life support system as you might call it. So, there’s pumps for cooling water, there’s pumps for feedwater for the boiler, there’s fuel pumps and so on and so forth.

    Sam Willis

    Also, there’s the stuff on deck. Her decks made of teak, aren’t they? Which does seem quite extraordinary, because it’s so expensive surely to actually have the teak being imported did it come from India; Do we know where it came from?

    Graham Mackenzie

    We don’t know where it came from. But you see back then that’s what Dexter ships were, they were teak. And yes, it probably came from, I’ll use the expression, colonies because it would either come from, I guess, India, Burma, somewhere like that, probably the Middle East – Far East. And it would have been probably held in store because that sort of stuff if you go down the Clyde, there used to be huge, great timber ponds between, like the Erskine area and Port Glasgow, where there were huge timber ponds, where timber like that would just be left to weather. And then they take it up and cut it into size.

    Sam Willis

    And then it’s almost impervious to rot when they actually kind of put it on. It’s a magnificent material, isn’t it?

    Graham Mackenzie

    It is, it is and the focsle and the boat deck and what we call the bridge deck back aft, the docking bridge deck, are all teak. And as you say, this is really one of the remarkable things about the ship – that how typical it is of the 1950s. And the other aspect, of course, is the fact the ship is part riveted and part welded construction; and really shows the transition in the British shipbuilding industry, from one old technology to the new technology.

    Sam Willis

    So, it’s almost like it happened in the middle of them building it, or they couldn’t decide which one to do – whether the old technology or the new technology. So, there’s a bit of both, isn’t there?

    Graham Mackenzie

    Yeah, and again, there might be some social history here. We don’t really know but suspect that the people that are doing the riveting, were probably part of the Boilermakers Union, I suspect – boilermakers and platers. So, they would have quite a large say in how much work effectively came their way. Because back then welders – I always say if I’m giving a talk – welders by then were not considered to be a profession, or whatever, they were more of a disease! And they would be looked upon as second class semi-skilled workers, whereas nowadays, they are a real skilled worker. And it’s strange how you look at the social aspects of this. And you got this interface warfare between the unions. The funnel, for instance, that’s riveted, it could have been welded. Why? It could have been at the boilermakers were looking for work, we don’t know.

    Sam Willis

    It would be lovely to find that out. Now, let’s talk about the wonderful engines and the boilers. Because when I first spoke to you about that, you said, “not many people know this, but it’s just like Titanic, but in miniature”, which I love. And because of that, we’ve made a little animation of the really wonderful engines of the Shieldhall, you can find them on our YouTube channel – that’s the Mariner’s Mirror Pod YouTube. And do please check those out. We’ll put them up on social media as well, on Facebook, on Instagram and on Twitter for you to have a look at, but it’s a wonderful animation. And if you get lost at all, in this little discussion of boilers, then please just go and check that out. So, boilers – Wahoo! You might think this is a potentially dull subject but let me reassure you it is not; I have become an expert in how boilers work over the last few weeks making this animation work. Well, take me through the boilers.

    Graham Mackenzie

    Right, there is what they call scotch type boilers. And that’s, again, that’s a scotch with a small s not a capital S. So it’s not because it’s come from Scotland. It’s the type of boiler; it’s what they call a two-pass boiler. And it’s a fire tube, so the water is on the outside of the tubes. And in our boilers, each boiler contains approximately 22 tons of water. And that’s freshwater – it is treated to reduce the various solids and so on and so forth. So, what you have is a furnace at the bottom and the furnace is a corrugated tube. The corrugation is there for strength and also to increase the heating area that is available. Now, in our case, it’s oil-fired but it could just as easily been coal-fired so you could have a big grate that ran the length of the furnish tube. So, you put your fuel in set fire to it, and it goes up to the back of the boiler and then does like a complete U-turn and comes back through literally hundreds of smaller tubes.

    Sam Willis

    There are 320 I saw. There are 320 fire tubes. So, these are tubes which are inside the boiler, so the waters sort of all around those tubes.

    Graham Mackenzie

    And again, what you’re trying to do, Sam is to increase the amount of surface area of heat transfer. So, the more tubes you have, obviously, the greater the surface area to transfer the heat from the gas into the liquid into the fluid – water is in this case – and then boil off and collect the steam at the top of the boiler.

    Sam Willis

    How big are these boilers; give people a sense of size.

    Graham Mackenzie

    They’re almost known as a square boiler. So, they are about 11 feet long and a similar sort of diameter. So that relates to, just trying to think, just less than three meters, I guess two and a half meters.

    Sam Willis

    It’s like a small car, perhaps or a small van. Is that about, right? Something like that. And how much water did they hold?

    Graham Mackenzie

    So about 20 to 25 tons is typical. Now, just to give you some idea of the size of the tube, the fire tube, the furnace tube, it’s one of the things that I have to get in every year and inspect. So, I can crawl in there, across the shoulders – so I’m about what I don’t know, I’ll guess a meter across the shoulders – there’s room for me to wriggle in quite nicely and go out the back end and stand up at the back of the boiler.

    Sam Willis

    Wow!

    Graham Mackenzie

    The tubes, typically, each so let’s say 30 odd millimetres diameter. And various thicknesses of wall thickness, depending on the tube is what they call a stay tube, which is supporting each of the tube plates at each end. Or whether it’s just purely for heat transfer.

    Sam Willis

    So, the water is boiled by the heat in the fire tubes?

    Graham Mackenzie

    Yes.

    Sam Willis

    And then what happens?

    Graham Mackenzie

    Right, so then what happens is the gas then goes through a 90 degrees upwards through some more tubes, which is actually heating the air that’s coming in for combustion. So, you’re trying to extract the maximum amount of waste heat to reduce the amount of thermal shock (if I could use that expression) of the air going in. So, you preheat the air before it’s used in the furnace for firing purposes. And then once it’s gone through those tubes, the exhaust goes up the funnel and out to the atmosphere. So, you’re actually heating the water to – or sorry, preheating the air – to a temperature of (we did measure it once and I can’t remember what it is offhand now) so you’re preheating the air before it goes into the furnace.

    Sam Willis

    And then you have the triple expansion bit.

    Graham Mackenzie

    Yes.

    Sam Willis

    Let’s explain that.

    Graham Mackenzie

    So, what’s the best way? So, once you’ve captured the steam at the top of the boiler, then it goes through a collector in the boiler onto the main steam valve. That then goes to the throttle valve on each engine (so each engine has its own throttle valve), and it is as the name implies, an open-closed, and it’s not – you can graduate it so you can make the engine go faster or slower. You introduced the steam into the high-pressure cylinder. And that’s a relative term. And the maximum that – if the steam valve is fully open throttle valve is fully open – you can get full boiler pressure acting on what we call the high-pressure steam valve, steam cylinder. Once the work is done in that cylinder it is then exhausted through the valves into the next stage because in doing work, you’ve actually dropped the pressure from, let’s say 100 psi down to approximately 25. And I’m just using some psi terms here at the moment.

    Sam Willis

    But the key point is there’s still enough pressure for that steam to be useful.

    Graham Mackenzie

    Absolutely. And that’s the – this is where the Victorians I think were great engineers because they spotted that this was energy that would otherwise be wasted. So, it goes into the second stage and the second stage cylinder is larger than the first stage. Because what you’re trying to do is to work the same amount of force. And this is where you have to go back to some basic physics, that the pressure over the area will give you a downward force. And what you’re trying to do is to make sure that each cylinder has a similar amount of force. So, what then? It goes into the second stage, and from the second stage, there’s still a little bit of energy left. So, what might have been 25 pounds per square inch going in, might only be sort of 5 or 6 pounds per square inch coming out. That then gets exhausted into the low-pressure cylinder. And the low-pressure cylinder is the largest one of the lot. So again, reduced pressure, large area, but hopefully the same force. And the whole idea is that by the time it’s finished in that part of the engine, there is no wasted energy. And then we have what we call an air extraction pump, which creates a vacuum, which draws that waste steam away into the condenser. The steam is then condensed back to water and then fed back into the boiler. That’s very simplistically how it works. So, that’s the triple expansion engine; it is, as the name implies, three stages, by expansion.

    Sam Willis

    It’s beautifully described as well! But they’re essentially recycling the steam, aren’t they? Or they’re using it for one purpose then they realize there’s still enough energy in it, and they’re using it again, and then using it again, until there’s nothing left.

    Graham Mackenzie

    That’s right. And a lot of people can relate to railway locomotives where they do what they call linking up. So, they use expansive capacity of the steam within a simple cylinder arrangement, whereas we use expansion of the steam through the engine to get the maximum work out of it.

    Sam Willis

    Clever stuff. And then how much speed does that generated? This whole engine – how fast can the ship go?

    Graham Mackenzie

    On trial, she managed just over 13 knots. And we believe that was probably the first and only time unless a captain was in a hurry to go home for his dinner. But typically, service speed would be 10 or 11 knots. We run it around about 8 or 9 knots, and that’s really for fuel efficiency from our point of view, because it costs around, if we’re doing 8 or 9 knots, we’re burning something like 0.6 tonnes an hour. And fuel today is around about 350 pounds a ton. So, you can start to work out how expensive that is. And on a diesel ship, it would be a lot less than that. So, you would, whereas we’d be using .6, they’d probably be using .15 .2 tons an hour for a similar size engine. The engines, by the way, are 800 horsepower. Each!

    Sam Willis

    Wow! Extraordinary stuff. What about the steering engine? Because that’s – is that steam as well?

    Graham Mackenzie

    Yes, that’s one of our 20 steam engines. And that’s a little two-cylinder engine, what we call fix lap and lead because as they turn the wheel on the bridge, it sends a hydraulic signal, right the way back aft. And again, this is another connection with the Titanic because she had a very similar steering gear (we are told) again, it’s just a matter of scale. The hydraulic signal goes back aft; the hydraulic medium is a mixture of glycol and water, and it goes to a hydraulic cylinder, which opens or closes a valve, which determines whether the engine goes one way or the other. And whichever way it is, it then drives the rudder quadrant, over to port or to starboard, and obviously turns a rudder as well. So, it’s a very, very straightforward system again, that’s a system that was in service probably for, I would say, getting on for 80 or 90 years. And it’s like anything in the marine industry things were done by evolution rather than revolution. Very, very simple engine, as I say, a little two-cylinder engine.

    Sam Willis

    And what about the technique of passing messages to the engine room, how did that happen?

    Graham Mackenzie

    That was by telegraph. And this is where you see the classic films – the “ding ding ding, ding. Go ahead, Captain. May I have steam MacPhail if you’re on the if you’re para handy”, but this is a very simple system. And it’s all done by chains, rods and springs. So, it’s a mechanical system that goes from the bridge, right the way down to the engine room. And when at the engine room side, when the bridge rings, one way or the other, every time it passes one of the orders, it goes “ding, ding, ding, ding”, and we reply with our handle, which is a reply handle, which gives them a ring back up on the bridge to let them know that we’ve received the order.

    Sam Willis

    And that is basically how – that’s what the British Empire worked on a bit of digging and a bit of telegraph systems. That’s how it all got put together.

    Graham Mackenzie

    Yes, and it’s very simple, very straightforward. It was replaced by electric systems and all sorts of stuff. Nowadays, of course, you have bridge controls. So that would all be bypassed completely.

    Sam Willis

    Well, how would people find out more? Can they come and have a trip?

    Graham Mackenzie

    Yes. Our website, which is www.ss-shieldhall.co.uk has the details. You can book online. And we’ve got a program ready to go. We are taking bookings at the moment we’re looking at starting this summer. That’s because we had a complete summer out last year through COVID-19. But we are really hoping that people will have an energy and a desire to come aboard this year. So that we can actually recover some of the loss finances that we had last year. But when you’re on board, the engine room and the bridge are open – by invitation. So, you will hear a public address saying the engine room of bridge are open for visitors. And we welcome you, we will explain what’s going on, we will actually get people into the boiler room as well if they want to. So, it’s a wee bit warmer in there, it’s 40 degrees plus centigrade. So, no need to go cold on a steamship, as we say! And similarly, on the bridge, you can go up and see the master in control of the ship, with traditional charts, as well as modern-day radar systems as well. All the things that you would have had on a traditional ship, but also all the things that we need these days to carry passengers safely as well.

    Sam Willis

    I think the keyword here is it’s a time capsule; it’s amazing. Seeing all the traditional instruments, the gleaming brasswork everything you’d expect for a steamship. I’d urge you all to go and have a look. And while you’re waiting, do please go and check out the little animation of the boilers and the engine. And remember, it’s like Titanic, but in miniature, it’s a wonderful thing. And thank you all very much for listening. And Graham, thank you for talking to us today.

    Graham Mackenzie

    It’s a pleasure, Sam. Thank you.

    Sam Willis

    That’s it for this week. I very much hope that you’ve enjoyed yourselves. Please do follow us on social media. You can follow the Society for Nautical Research at @nauticalhistory on Twitter, you can find us on Facebook. The Mariner’s Mirror has got its own Instagram page and YouTube channel and there’s going to be some fascinating material being posted on both in the coming weeks. What else can you do? Well, please do join the Society for Nautical Research you can find us @snr.org.uk and your subscription fee will go towards publishing the most important naval and maritime history and to preserving the world’s maritime heritage. Thank you very much indeed for listening.

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