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For anyone interested in old marine refrigeration

J&E Hall Marine CO2 Refrigeration Compressors. The crème de la crème of refrigeration machines

Vessels of the 1931/32 era such as the Strathaird, Strathnaver, Carthage and Corfu had vertical two cylinder type compressors and were direct coupled to their driving motor. I did my first voyage on the Carthage and crossing the Bay of Biscay the 1st Ref Engr made me drop the four con rod caps and take clearance leads. If I’d have known what the clearances should have been I’d have rolled them out with a beer bottle. With these machines if you listed too much while taking on water or oil you could lose oil pressure as the oil pump suction was exposed.

Vessels of the post 1935 era such as the Strathmore, Stratheden, Strathallan, Canton, Himalaya, and Chusan had horizontal two cylinder type compressors and again were direct coupled to their driving motor.

Most of the cargo ships had two cylinder horizontal type compressors direct coupled to their driving motor, however the MV Coromandel and MV Cannanore had a horizontal two cylinder type compressor directly piston rod linked to a two cylinder horizontal reciprocating steam engine. On my first day with P&O I was sent to the the Cannanore as dock staff to relieve Albert Smith. I really thought I was on the Titanic. In my old notes I still have the starting procedure for the steam engine. Appears a bigger boiler was cheaper than bigger generators.

Due to the high pressures encountered with CO2 these machines did not have enclosed crankcases and the cylinders were machined from a solid block of steel and this was bored out to accept the suction and discharge ports and valve assemblies and the piston rod gland assembly. The piston rod was connected to the crankshaft via a crosshead similar to a steam engine. Lubrication of the crankshaft, big ends, small ends and cross head were by mechanical pump driven off the crankshaft via a water-cooled oil cooler. Oil pressure was 20 psig.

Lubrication of the piston rod gland (stuffing box) was by a refrigerant pressure/hydraulic system fed from a reservoir which was kept topped up by a watch keeping paniwallah or agwallah. The piston seals on the hand pump and hydraulic pistons were made of leather laces (no neoprene “o” rings then). The packing material of the gland consisted of white metal rings interspaced with steel bevelled rings and a lantern bush at the gland centre for oil distribution.

The flywheel on each compressor was notched so that barring gear could be engaged to revolve the crankshaft during maintenance or before start up to reduce starting load.

The expansion valves on these systems were manual and were adjusted to give a compressor discharge superheat temperature of 120 + sea water temperature in degrees F. If piston rod temperatures ran high it was possible by opening the expansion valve slightly to reduce the discharge temperature to cool the rods down. During normal operation the piston rod temperatures were usually below ambient which allowed moisture to condense on the rods which eventually drained into the crankcase. With the compressor stopped a view of the crankcase oil sight glass would reveal the water in the crankcase. This could then be safely drained off. Not on my ship but sadly one of my prodigies did this on a running machine and he spent a Mediterranean cruise scraping in a new main bearing rather than wheeling in..

Systems were also fitted with both suction and discharge oil separators. The latter were drained manually twice a day but suction separators were only usually drained when the evaporator was defrosted.

Strange to think that on the Himalaya, the reciprocating compressors were operating at 260 psig suction pressure and 1000 psig discharge pressure on CO2 (R-744) at 200 RPM and down aft the centrifugal compressors were operating at 10"hg suction pressure and 5 psig discharge pressure on R-11 at 4000 RPM.

Later ashore while working on some Temcon air-conditioners at a bomb proof major London telephone exchange on the then new STD telephone system the site electrician asked me if I’d be interested in looking at the old plant room that cooled the area during WW2. There before my eyes stood two twin cylinder J&E Hall horizontal CO2 compressors direct coupled to their driving motors. If they had been painted white instead of black then it could have been any beloved Fridge Flat.

Roger Monk

Carthage, Surat, Perim, Strathmore, Himalaya, Somali

Where are you from: Dartford .Kent

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Re: For anyone interested in old marine refrigeration

Hi Roger, if you wrote that all from memory then I am impressed, my memory is not that good. As first trip cadet I worked as 3rd "Freezer" on the Patonga on the homeward run from Australia, always loved the horizontal CO2 machines almost silent apart from the ticking of the discharge valves. Do you know if the Oronsay had these compressors?
In a completely different class were the W block steam turbine driven A/C compressors retro fitted to the Oronsay they could be things of nightmares.
Just to be different I sailed on one tanker that had steam ejector driven air conditioning, I thought that only existed in books. Worked quite well when the condenser was clean but very steam hungry.
IanB

Where are you from: South Australia

Re: For anyone interested in old marine refrigeration

Roger, thanks for a very interesting article.
I joined Cannanore in 1968 as my first ship and did two trips as electrician/freezer as they only carried one or the other but never both.
The horizontal steam driven compressor was a joy to look at and to run, it was only a pity that it couldn't have been used for air conditioning which would have been welcome on the Red Sea, Pakistan, India and Ceylon run but a very good way of losing weight and generating a thirst.

Where are you from: Southampton

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Re: For anyone interested in old marine refrigeration

Hi Ian

I would have thought that Oronsay built in 1951 would have had vertical twin cylinder 8" x 8" J&E Hall Monobloc compressors similar to Arcadia and Iberia in the original fridge flat.
In the last two years of my apprenticeship (56/58) we built both the V and W bloc compressors in the heavy fitting shop and I later saw when at sea the steam turbine a/c set up.

My 1st Freezer on the Strathmore had sailed on the Patonga as 1st Freezer and related many tales about her. I remember the Fridge Flat with the three CO2 compressors as I spent a few days on her in Victoria Dock while on Dock Staff.

Hi Terry

My Supy 1st Freezer Glen Camm on the Himalaya had been on the Coromandel and I can remember him telling me the delights of Calcutta and the extreme heat. We all enjoyed the delights of full air-conditioning when we left Rotterdam after the a/c refit. It’s marvellous what you can stuff in the bottom of No 4 Hold.

I can remember while visiting one of the Orient line ships having a steam jet system somewhere.

All the best to you both

Roger

Where are you from: Dartford .Kent

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Re: For anyone interested in old marine refrigeration

We were once tasked with renewing the joint on the crescent shaped plate on the main steam inlet on one of those compressors, on Oronsay.
Of course, with it being freezer equipment, no Copaslip had been applied to any studs, nut or joints.
And the freezers could not handle the task themselves.
After much towing and riving, and no cooperation from the senior engineers, we had to burn the nuts off.
This caused damage to the studs, of which a lot had to be drilled out and refitted before we could complete the job.
This caused a job, that with proper pre assembly, would have taken about 4 hours, to develop into a job lasting nearly 24 hours, all of it hot, hard and unrewarding.

Where are you from: Yorkshire

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Re: For anyone interested in old marine refrigeration

Hi Geoff

I assume you meant the crescent shaped plate on the steam inlet to the steam turbine and not the compressor. I would also assume that this steam connection was originally made when the equipment was installed when the vessel was fully air- conditioned by some well known shipyard that didn’t use Copaslip. Most refrigeration jointing was Klingerite type CAF jointing which was easily scraped off.
It surprises me why the Freezers couldn’t handle the job. I would have been too proud to have let the mains boys do it.
Anyway I hope you were well rewarded with Carlsberg or Allsopps and a bottle of Crew Rum by the 1st Refridge.

Kind regards

Roger

Where are you from: Dartford .Kent

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Re: For anyone interested in old marine refrigeration

Yes, Roger, it was the main steam inlet.
It was so configured that we could not get a flogging ring on the nuts.
There was only one freezer, apart from the senior bloke, and he was on watch, so could not help.
We got no help, as it was a certain J2 well known to us all, and certainly no reward.
Only insults and derision.
But never mind.

Where are you from: Yorkshire

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Re: For anyone interested in old marine refrigeration

Just another question Rodger, why would the Patonga have been fitted with CO2 compressors which surely was considered old technology in 1953 when Freon Monoblocs had been on the market for some years?
IanB

Where are you from: South Australia

Re: For anyone interested in old marine refrigeration

Hi Ian,

During the last two years of my apprenticeship in J&E Hall’s heavy fitting shop 57/58 I saw horizontal twin cylinder CO2 compressors being built so somebody liked the old technology. One of the fitters involved in them was an ex-NZSC 1st Refridge Engr.

SS “Patonga” was ordered in 1951and was to be similar to Federal Steam Navigation Company’s SS “Dorset” which was launched in 1949 so it may have been for cheapness. Your guess is as good as mine.

SS “Orcades” 1948 and SS “Himalaya” 1949 had the same hull and main machinery but I think the former had R-12 twin 8" x 8" Monobloc compressors and the latter horizontal CO2s. If there are any Orient men around perhaps they can correct me if I am wrong.

Strangely all the horizontal CO2 compressors I’ve seen have had steel cylinder blocks mounted on cast iron crankcases, except the Himalaya’s, which were steel fabricated crankcases. Again your guess is as good as mine, why? It was said that in rough weather (with stabilizer fins in), due to flexing they ran hot piston rods but I never experienced it.

Kind regards

Roger Monk

Where are you from: Dartford .Kent

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