|Posted by Allan Hickson (Mod) on October 5, 2016 at 4:25 PM|
I will start this months report by referring back to August 2014. Having had our Heritage Lottery application accepted and ringing ‘Finished with Engines’ for the final time before strip-down commenced, we looked inevitably forward to the day we would be back in operational condition. We were under no illusions that there was a hard road ahead of us that involved the removal of the boiler and all other pipes, fittings and contents of the Boiler Room to facilitate the hull repairs. One thing that wouldn’t be affected in the work was the Main Engine; so, with great care we smothered the cylinder casing and motion parts liberally with grease before sheeting up the engine to prevent the inevitable dust and grime penetrating the moving parts. There the engine lay static and silent for 2 years until Saturday 24th September when, sheets removed, she emerged from her cocoon and turned once again to the utter delight of the crew and volunteers.
The month started with a long ‘to-do’ list in order to get Kerne into fully operational condition and to a level of appearance that the team of volunteers could be justly proud of. The jobs included the installation of a walkway down the starboard side of the boiler, the replacement of flooring behind the engine-driven pumps, reinstatement of the rope grating at the stern, refitting of wheelhouse equipment on conclusion of the internal repaint job, and the repainting of all remaining areas of the external superstructure, Engine Room and Boiler Room that hadn’t been painted thus far. Additionally, our auxiliary generator was craned back onto the vessel and installed onto a modified stand on the Forward Deck and whilst all this was ongoing, the troublesome valves referred to in the August News Report were removed, the valve faces and flanges cleaned scraped and ground in before being returned to their rightful positions on the boiler.
In the midst of this work frenzy, we received a contact on this Website from Russell Williams, a resident of Australia, who in his younger days was a neighbour (but no relation) of Bert Williams Kerne’s former Chief Engineer. He had numerous trips on Kerne with Bert and on learning that Russell was on holiday in the UK an immediate invitation was issued for him to visit the vessel. He duly came aboard and was able to provide us with numerous wonderful photos of those trips in the 1950’s. Follow the links on this site to our Facebook page to view the pictures of the last of the breed of steam lighterage men.
Fires were lit once again on Tuesday 20th September, as the final touches of paint were applied, and the boiler temperature slowly raised over the next 3 days, for the visit of the Boiler Inspector on Friday 23rd September for the final ‘In Steam’ check and to witness the lifting of the safety valves at the maximum working pressure of 180psi. All was in order and the boiler signed off for service to the obvious delight of the crew and the Chief in particular. The following day presented the next big test – Engine Trials. Firstly, appropriate lubricants were applied to the engine and then slowly and methodically, the Main Boiler and Engine Stop Valves were cracked open to allow steam to enter the main engine, and with the drain cocks open steam was allowed to enter and exit the valve chests and cylinders to start the process of warming through. The valves were opened further and the drain cocks started to blow through the condensate that accumulates on the cold engine surfaces. As the cylinders started to warm the Worthington General Service pump was started in order to circulate cooling water through the condenser as the engine begins to turn. After checked that all mooring ropes were secure, with the engine valve gear set for ‘Ahead’ the Engine Stop Valve was slowly opened further and the engine began to move one quarter of a revolution. The valve gear was then moved to ‘Astern’ and the engine swung back. This action was repeated a number of times with the degree of engine movement increasing each time until a full revolution was achieved. The engine was run at approximately 20 revs per minute until all the drain cocks were free of condensate and the engine-driven pumps circulated and cooled the condenser adequately to create the correct level of vacuum so that the GS pump can be stopped. Given the amount of time that had elapsed since the engine was last run and under constant surveillance by the engineers, the engines were run for 3 hours with no problems encountered. There then followed a check of all operational deck and navigational equipment, and finally on the command from the Captain of ‘Let go Forward!’ ‘Let go Aft!’ our mooring ropes were slipped, and with a ring of the telegraph to ‘Slow Ahead’ after over 2 years Kerne finally moved under her own steam for successful manoeuvres around the dock area to the delight and great relief of the crew and volunteers.
So it was that on Wednesday 28th September, Kerne again slipped her moorings and sailed out of the Liverpool Dock system to embark on a faultless trip up the Mersey to Eastham where we entered the lock into the Manchester Ship Canal. As we sailed past Ellesmere Port we passed the moored Daniel Adamson, another recent maritime success story of the Heritage Lottery Fund, before entering the Weaver Navigation at Weston Point. Dredging is underway on the Weaver and assistance was needed from a C&RT tug to get us over a silt bank not yet reached by the dredger before sailing up through Dutton Locks to Acton Bridge for our first post-repair public opening at the Leigh Arms Steam Party, where we were joined on Friday 30th September by the Daniel Adamson. I wonder when was the last time that two steamships were on the Weaver at the same time?
More about the Steam Party and our return voyage in next months report.