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HMS Vulcan

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c.1847 HMS Vulcan, an early Iron warship, was the first vessel launched from C. J. Mare and Co's yard on the east side of Bow Creek

1889 Another HMS Vulcan was launched from Portsmouth Dockyard; she was a twin-screw torpedo depot ship, designed to accompany a torpedo flotilla to sea, carrying on her deck a number of torpedo boats and their equipment, together with a full complement of stores for mining and countermining, and extensive workshop equipment. She was the second of the Hecla class.

A foundry at sea had not been heard of before the cruise of the Vulcan. Whatever other kinds of naval repair work had been executed heretofore on board ship (says Engineering), that of making large brass and iron castings had not been attempted. In her facilities for this new type of work Vulcan stands pre-eminent and alone. That the unique equipment for foundry work was successful is more than shown by the fact that thousands of pounds of iron and brass castings were made and finished for the ships of the fleet. The brass furnaces were kept in almost constant service, sometimes running off two heats a day, and making it necessary to carry the work far into the night, much to the discomfort of the men, who were trying to get some sleep and rest before another day's work. In iron casting not more than one heat was run off a day and that usually about three o'clock in the afternoon. For after filling the moulds and dropping bottom, it was practically impossible to do much more in that part the ship till the next morning. Kipling has sung for the Scotch engineer and stoker, but there was no heaven-born genius on board the Vulcan to treasure up the memories and scenes incident to dropping bottom. The usual luxuries of such work ashore were entirely missing. Like the fiery furnace of old, the heat seemed seven times more intense than it was wont to be ashore. The furnace of several of the boilers in at least two of the ships of Admiral Sampson's fleet were very badly bulged, or, as it is called, down in the flat (cylindrical) portions and in the corrugations. This appeared a natural result of the necessity of using salt water on blockade duty off Santiago. A ship with several boilers often might spare one to be connected up as an evaporator, and by thence running a large pipe to the main surface condenser, form a satisfactory, though temporary, distilling system. This alone was not sufficient in most cases. The daily loss of fresh water on such blockade duty was greater than the supply. Off Santiago no anchorage was possible, the ships being more or less under steam all of the time, and such outlined above proved insufficient. Salt water had to be used in the boilers of the vessels to make up this loss to a great extent. In time this resulted in over heating and bagging the furnace crowns. To jack the furnace crowns back into their original positions, cast-iron formers were moulded and finished on the Vulcan and fitted to the shape of the crown or corrugation, as the case might be. That portion of the furnace crown requiring to be jacked up was then heated to cherry red by an improvised charcoal furnace placed underneath and supplied by hand or electric blower air blast. While at this heat it was readily jacked into the former natural shape and allowed slowly to cool. The excellent quality of the mild steel boiler plates used in these naval vessels made work entirely feasible without seriously or permanently impairing the strength of the furnaces.’[1]

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Sources of Information

  1. Chepstow Weekly Advertiser - Saturday 17 June 1899