Progress is Slowly Made

Over the past few weeks, the crew has been working tediously to construct the steam ship as precisely as we can. Now that the ribs are curved and attached to the larger vessel, the team had begun shaping the large keel plank.


After these poor souls’ seemingly endless toil, we were left with a keel plank that, when laid out on the boat, fits on very well! A few imperfections here and there, but that’s for another time.





Full Steam Ahead!

With the forms laid out and shaped after many hours of trimming to build a smooth hull, it is finally time to actually start building hull #199!

First step is to get the raw oak lumber needed to build the ribs and keel:


The shorter boards are designated for the ribs. The longer board will be used primarily for the keel and false keel.

The raw wood was first cut to the proper size:


And then run through a planer to achieve proper dimensions:


Meanwhile Eric is working on a full scale template for the false keel:


With the ribs properly sized, it’s time to actually steam the ribs and shape onto the forms!

Here’s the steamer we used:


We used wall paper removal steamers to provide the heat and the ribs were put in for about one hour.

Here’s the first rib being attached:



Steve and Keith are certainly enjoying the first part of the real hull! Either that or someone cracked another stupid joke!

Note the blocks along the edge of the form that are used to keep the rib flush as it cools.

On the second day of forming ribs, we had many hands expediting the process:


I wonder how the piece of wood tastes?

This is certainly a “moment in time” now that we are building hull #199!

Steamboat Building

Work has begun building a section of launch #199. We are building the launch true to HMCo techniques as best we can. The section will be about 2/3 of the length of the 30 foot  launch (frames 7 to 26) – enough to include the engine cooling line underwater.

The first step was to build a lofting table on which the forms for the ribs will be built:


Notice the supreme concentration……

The lofting table was built to allow full size creation of the rib forms.

Using a table of offsets, each rib mold was laid out on the table:


All the forms were then combined upside down to form the basis for actually building the boat:


While the boat hull is being built, the layout of the engine and boiler is under study. The drawing we are working from shows a little detail on the installation:



Unfortunately, some detail is missing on piping and peripherals. So we are reaching out for help from others. One interesting museum near us is the New England Wireless and Steam Museum ( that actually has a much bigger version of an HMCo steam engine on display that actually runs! See our visit earlier in this blog.


We have also enlisted Chris McMullen from New Zealand as a technical advisor. He is building FROM SCRATCH a copy of our engine and the associated Marsh Pump and is also building a replica of the vessel “Vapor” to put it all in! Amazing!


Here is more information on Chris’s boat:

Next up will be more information on our progress!




Checking Out a Running Triple Expansion

The Building 28 gang recently made their way into East Greenwich, R.I. to explore the New England Wireless and Steam Museum, where the Herreshoff triple expansion steam engine is now being shown off.

Their museum visit was given the ultimate treat: the folks at NEWSM ran the engine for the crew!


Advanced Display

So the display of the triple engine and boiler is complete as standalone pieces but wouldn’t it be great if we could show how they would have been installed in a real boat!


Here is a picture of “Vapor” which actually had a similar configuration to ours installed:

Launch “Vapor”

It just so happens that we have plans for a different hull #199 which was a 30 foot launch that fits the bill and was similar to “Vapor”! Also, Herreshoff has on display in T. F. Green airport in Providence, Rhode Island the vessel “Two Forty” that resembles “Vapor”. The primary difference is that the “Two Forty” displayed is set up for a gasoline engine built around 1937:


(Note the industrious workers inspecting “Two Forty”)!

It’s amazing how narrow these boats are:


Here’s another shot showing the bow:


The “Crew” made the trip to view “Two Forty” to get a feeling on how these boats were built. In particular, we wanted to study the way the ribs and planking were done:


Our new task is to build an actual hull section to display the engine and boiler. We plan to build a full sized section of the hull with part of one side cut out to show the installation.


One interesting note about our field trip was that even though this bunch of guys was crawling all over this boat in the baggage arrival section, the only time anyone seemed to care was when a policeman with a dog (assumed to be a bomb sniffer) walked by! If only actually flying was this easy!

Next up we begin to build the hull!


Time To Heat Things Up


With the engine cleaned and lubricated, I turned my attention to the Type “A” boiler that we had on hand. Unfortunately, we don’t have much information about its beginnings but our records indicate that this type of boiler would have been used with our type engine. The following shows how the boiler might have been installed:



Here is a picture of our boiler as we received it:



As you can see, lots of ancillary items are missing but you can get a feeling for how it looked. Water would flow in through the bottom pipes and filled up to the top tube. A coal fire was built under the middle that would boil the water to steam that would then be taken off the top of the upper tube and used to power the engine. The steam coming out would have an oil mist introduced to lubricate the engine. Once the steam was used, it would be condensed then reused in the boiler.

The following shows the stand under construction that was built out of wood but finished to look like metal.


The round rods would hold the coal fire and the area below would act as the ash pit. The boiler sits on top of the rods:


The completed boiler and engine have now been moved to the Herreshoff display:


Next up is exciting news about our display!

Cleaning Things Up – Getting Cranky


With the engine tucked away in Building 28 at the Museum, the cleaning process began. Where to start? We discussed the options and decided that the best route was to work on getting the engine to rotate if possible and do a comprehensive cleaning without disassembling major components.

I decided to start at the bottom primarily because that area (crankshaft, camshaft, connecting rods etc.) was the dirtiest and key to getting it to rotate.


The engine was “wet lubricated” (my term) which means that it had oil in the bottom and the rotation of the engine caused oil to be splashed up into the area of moving parts. If you look at the red arrow in the picture above, you will see a small hole. These are in every rotating piece that needs lubrication and basically allows oil to drop into the bearings. Obviously, the bottom of the engine would have to be enclosed to keep the oil from giving the on-board steam engineer a hot oil bath! Some engines didn’t use the “splash” technique and had oil systems that included a reservoir with a small tube out the bottom that then dripped oil onto the rotating parts (sometimes into holes similar to the above).

In this engine, someone had put little wooden plugs (much like the end of a chopstick) into most of the lubrication holes. What a great idea that was! It helped keep out nastiness! Unfortunately, the engine had sat so long (after all, she was built in late 1890’s) that it wouldn’t turn. So, I pulled out all the plugs and squirted into the holes a little mystery oil over the period of a few weeks. Then I switched to chain saw oil which has a chemical that sticks to metal better. Lo and behold, after a few more weeks I got the engine to spin a little by putting a long bar across the flywheel connector on the crankshaft! The red arrow in the picture below shows where the flywheel attaches.


You can also see the little wooden pegs in the bearings. The white paper towel in the small square area just above the flywheel (at the black arrow) is a larger oil container that lubricated the large bearing under it. With continued lubricating and increasingly more rotating effort, I was finally able to get the engine to turn! Success!

While working to get the engine to rotate, I started the cleaning process. I had to be careful not to introduce any foreign objects like metal into the engine so I relied on liquid agents like carburetor cleaner and WD-40 to help clean. I also used 3M Black and Red pads to help with surface rust and dirt. The cleaning was difficult and time consuming with all the tiny areas of the engine. It would have been nice to steam clean the whole engine but that was not even possible since it would potentially harm the engine. So all cleaning was done by hand. But what a beautiful engine!


The following picture shows the bottom section of the engine after some cleaning. The red arrow shows the “knuckles” (my term) that connect the crankshaft journals to the pistons above (not in the picture). You can see how nicely the brass cleaned up!


Stay tuned for more news!