Reciprocating Steam Engines in Lake Paddlers

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SCameron
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Reciprocating Steam Engines in Lake Paddlers

Post by SCameron » Sat Oct 23, 2010 8:56 pm

A few videos illustrating the variety of reciprocating engines still operational in various European lake and river steamers. Most of these engines are of the two cylinder compound expansion type (as per Maid of the Loch). Although there is one three cylinder / three crank engine it is an unusual simple expansion machine, not a triple expansion engine like Rankin & Blackmore's Engine No 520 in Waverley. As the vast majority of Swiss steamers were paddle driven most of the engines are mounted into the hull in the so-called 'diagonal' orientation rather than the vertical orientation found in screw steamers and the very tall 'walking-beam' engines that were commonplace in the North American side wheel paddlers.

The first video shows the compound engine built by Escher Wyss of Zurich in 1913 for the Vierwaldstattersee (Lake Lucerne) paddle steamer Gallia. It is typical of most, but not all, of the Swiss paddle steamers in that the engine is located forward of the crankshaft / paddle shaft unlike the standard practise in the UK Ie.g. Waverley, Maid of the Loch) in which the engine is aft of the paddleshaft. Therefore, the direction of rotation is opposite to that which one might expect - I've heard it described as the engine pulls the vessel forward and pushes it astern.

Unlike the latter UK paddlers which had seperate engines for auxilliary equipment such as pumps, on the Swiss boats these are usually driven by levers attached to crankshaft or the piston rod slides. In this video you get a good view of the operation of the air pump by a vertical rod connected to two small crank webs mounted on the port side of the main engine. This arrangement is fairly typical of the still existing Escher Wyss engines (in Unterwalden, Lotschberg and Blumlisalp) It can be seen clearly between 1:20 and 1:40 on the following film. The Sulzer-built engines do it differently.

You may note that the bright metal components of these engines are brighter and 'shinier' than those of the Rankin & Blackmore engines. I have been told that this is due to the use of a different lubricating fluid i.e. a fairly low viscosity lubricating oil is used on the Swiss boats compared to a more viscous greaze on Waverley (presumably due to the larger and heavier moving parts in the latter case. Also the paddleshafts of the Swiss steamers are invariably below the level of the main deck so there are no steps over the shafts in the engineroom alleyways - in fact, as the whole engine is effictively below the main deck there are no discernable engineroom alleyways - I believe this is all to do with the lighter construction of these lake boats, something you appreciate when they are being steered into a strong wind, which sometimes whistle through the valleys and passes between the Alpine peaks.

The Swiss boats all have feathering paddle floats but they are of the curved steel type unlike Waverley's flat wooden floats.




The second video shows the compound engine of the paddle Steamer Schiller, which was built by Sulzer Brothers in Winterthur (north of Zurich) in 1906. In this engine the air pump drive is achieved by a system of two, three part levers connected to the LP piston rod slide - unfortunately this video doesn't show the link motion well - you can just the the joint of the first and second levers appear intermittent to the left of the nearest rotating crank webs




Next up is another, but much bigger, Sulzer engine which is 100 years old this year. It belong's to the Lake Leman (Lake of Geneva) paddle steamer La Suisse which is the flagship of the CGN fleet and completed a £12m life extesion rebuild last year. This video, which shows the engine from the engineers perspective on the lower deck, dates from 2007, before the rebuild




Next is yet another Sulzer engine, that of the Lake Leman paddle steamer Savoie. She is running ahead in this short film, so unlike the Schiller and La Suisse engines the cylinders are aft of the crankshaft, more akin to the typical UK paddler




The next flim shows the most unusual engine in a Swiss steamer, that of the Vierwaldstattersee flagship PS Stadt Luzern. Most of the ships running on the Swiss lakes were built in Switzerland but, in the mid 1920s, the contract for Stadt Luzern was let to a German company, much to the chagrin of the Swiss builders. Incredibly, the original German-built steam engine in the vessel litterally fell apart after the ship had only been in service for 2 days. Massive cracks in the forged parts of the engine meant it was only fit for scrap. The replacement engine was supplied by Sulzer (who had been deprived of the original order by the cheaper German bid) One might think, given the initial experience with this vessel, that Sulzer would have gone for a well established type of steam engine to replace the failed German engine. In fact they adopted a very novel design for Stadt Luzern's new machine - a three cylinder / three crank, simple expansion Uniflow engine in which the conventional valve control gear (typically a variation of locomotive builder Robert Stevenson's mechanical link motion) is replaced by a system of hydraulically actuated mechanisms. Additionally, lubrication of this engine is achieved by lubricating oil sprays rather than reservoir pots abd, because of that, the cranks have to be enclosed. Originally the were out of sight beneath thin metal enclosures but in the 1980s the metal covers were replace by perspex covers as seen in the film. Stadt Luzern is a large paddler (licenced to carry up to 1200 passengers) and a simple expansion engine cannot be the most efficient, cost effective prime mover. However, as steam at boiler pressure is applied to the engine she accelarates in an impressive manner. Some have predicted that the Uniflow steam engime would have become the established engine in lake / river vessels were in not for the rapid development of marine versions of Dr Rudolf Diesel's internal combustion engine around the same time.




Next, the engine of paddle Steamer Uri, Switzerland's oldest operational steamer, built by Sulzer Brothers in 1901. Like the Eshcer Wyss engines the air pump is driven from the crankshaft, under which it lies. However, instead of small crank webs the pump drive is connect to the shaft by eccentrics, not unlike those in driving valve gear. Iy can just be seen at the far end of the crankshaft




In 1904 a new paddle steamer named Montreux was added to the Lake Leman fleet. She was supplied by Sulzer and fitted with a conventioal steam engine which served her well for the next half century. In the 1950s, when paddle steamers on the Clyde and elsewhere in the UK were being replaced by new diesel engined screw driven vessels the operator of the Lake Leman steamers adopyed a different approach, firtting diesel electic machinery to four of their paddle steamers, Montreux, Vevey, Italie and the large Helvetie (which recieved second hand machines). These were not the first diesel engined paddlers on the lake - the older PS Geneve had been fitted with such machinery about the same time the the Clyde was building its first and only diesel electric paddler, the Talisman of 1935. With the exception of Helvetie the diesel electric machinery served the paddlers well for over 40 years. However, it was becoming uneconomic to maintain by the start of the 21st Century and operators CGN took the surprising and bold decidion to reconvert their diesel paddlers to steam. However, the new steam engines were not to be repeats of the original. The economics of the reconversion to steam depended on the new steam engines being bridge controlled with attendant reduction in engineroom manning. Montreux was selected to be the first of the paddlers to be returned to steam. After much discussion the project went ahead as part of a multi-million pound rebuild of the Steamer. Montreux re-appeared as a steamer in 2000 looking absolutely magnificent. Some teething troubles were experienced with the new engine (not unreasonable in such a first of class project given that experienced designers of reciprocating steam machinery are not that easy to come by nowadays). The problems were resolved and Montreux now operates satisfactorily. However, the economics and other practicalities have led to the abandonment of the plans to reconvert the other paddlers to steam and they now lie redundant at the CGN shipyard in Lausanne with a very uncertain future. The following videos show the operation of the Montreux's new steam engine, the first one showing the engine being tested in the builder's premises before it was installed in the vessel.
















It is now almost 30 years since we saw the reciprocating engine of Scotland's only remaining 'lake' paddle steamer - Maid of the Loch on Loch Lomond. The following computer simulation of the Maid's compound engine may be of interest




By comparison here is a view of Waverley's triple expasion engine running slow with the distinctive 'whooping' sound of the Weir's duplex feed pump prominant in the background




and a 'bit' faster - at 57 rpm




Finally there are now just a few operational examples of an older type of steam engine, once fairly commonplace , but not seen on Clydeside for about 80 years. In the oscillating engine the piston rod is directly connected to the engine crankshaft and, therefore, to allow for the transverse movement of the rod the engine cylinders have to rock back and forth on trunnions. The last video shows such an engine, which is fitted in the paddle steamer Krippen of the Dresden fleet



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Dennis Maccoy
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Re: Reciprocating Steam Engines in Lake Paddlers

Post by Dennis Maccoy » Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:03 pm

Brilliant - that certainly brightened up a dismal Sunday afternoon! On 10 June this year I took a lake cruise on Vevey and had the oportunity to visit the engine room. The 40-odd year old DE plant was in excellent condition, with some interesting touches that would no doubt cause great angst today (timber 'floor plates' and a carpeted engineer's position). The engineer advised that increasing maintenance costs and difficulty in obtaining spares means that Vevey is being (has been?) withdrawn at the end of the season for a two-year rebuild & re-engining. (I didn't ask whether another DE plant, or steam). As we returned to Lausanne, Montreux apppeared from the dockyard ready to begin the season's steam sailings the following day.
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Regards,

Dennis

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SCameron
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Re: Reciprocating Steam Engines in Lake Paddlers

Post by SCameron » Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:46 pm

Dennis

Nice pictures - Vevey was taken out of service on 30th September 2010 hopefully she'll come back some day







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Dennis Maccoy
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Re: Reciprocating Steam Engines in Lake Paddlers

Post by Dennis Maccoy » Sun Jan 01, 2017 5:39 pm

Back in service - Vevey arriving at and departing from Vevey on 11 August 2015.
Vevey arriving at Vevey, 11 August 2015 (8)_1.JPG
Vevey leaving Vevey, 11 August 2015 (6)_1.JPG
Regards,

Dennis

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