Sara Lupe

Comments from the forum - 2

I am not an Engineer but one bit of Doxford reversing gear still gives me sleepless nights! I refer to the BRODIE VALVE? (I may not have spelt that right!)
During my tenure of the "Sara Lupe" in 1976, we had considerable problems getting the engine to go astern. Poor od George Cuthbertson had hellish difficulty with it. This component of the air starting system was situated up in the middles, port side fore end and it became necessary to station an Engineer alongside it with a heavy hammer. This as a precaution when manoeuvering.As soon as an astern movement was given,it seems this valve would jam but could be freed with a hefty clout with the hammer.
On the bridge,we would all hold our breath and make a dive for the tachometer to check what was going on down below!!
I really aged prematurely on that voyage and I still have visions of us hurtling around the world with an engine that only liked to go one way!! John Cann. Posted on Forum 18th November 2010.

Yes John, the Brodie Valve (this was the main air inlet valve) was a cause for concern for Doxford engineers. There were different ideas of guarateeing it would work when required, hitting it with a hammer was one. Trevor Graham-Russell. Posted on Forum 18th November 2010.

The infamous valve was fitted in the starting air system of both the Cardiff and Houston City. He recalls the times when he would watch the bridge tachometer and pray that the Broadie valve would not stick shut and the engine would start as normal. Apart from being surprised that problems were still alive and kicking in 1976 let me tell him and anyone else about my experiences with the valve. I was on the Houston in late 1965 when the gremlins invaded the system. I must have been onboard for more than twelve months when out of the blue Mr.Broadie's valve decided to stick shut. Now when you are on the 'sticks' and all is going fine and then for no apparent reason instead of a nice shot of compressed air you get a 'clunk' when the starting air lever goes metal to metal with the guide, and the engine doesn't budge it is quite acceptable for your back end to tighten up a notch. You immediately look round for someone to blame, preferably an apprentice, and by then your brain has unscrambled and you suss the problem out. At that time we were doing bit of coasting on the west coast of Central America and we had the Panama Canal to contend with on our way to Europe. The valve was opened up in the next three or four ports and even though there was a slight deposit of 'gunk' the internals were free enough. Then at the last port before the canal the gremlins woke up. The internals didn't just tighten up they had to be knocked out of the body with a block of wood and a hammer. John Wheaton was C/E and he was a cool customer and also a smooth talker. The OM was naturally 'touchy' about the canal transit and John had to promise that the valve would work without fail, which he did. He then came down and also promised that he would sack the lot of us if it failed and we ended up in the middle of Panama City. We transitted without any problems and headed for Leixoes in Portugal. I seem to recall that it was a 'lulu' of a place to get into but again no problems. Next stop Le Havre and a nice lock gate. Sorry, no prizes for guessing what happened next. As we headed for the gate the bridge rang down for a few sternway RPMs. No sweat. Air on, 'Clunk'. Absolute mayhem. So John, hanging on with white knuckles and saying a few prayers was just another 'day at the ranch' on those 'P'types. Just think of the excitment we had.
The tale I heard later was that the makers, in Hull, looked at the valve and said "We didn't make that" and Doxfords had a look and said the same thing. I went home from Rotterdam for a few days leave and when I rejoined in Avonmouth the valve had been replaced. I did a twelve and a half months trip after that and we did Panama and Suez Canals both twice and a trip up the Great Lakes as far as Duluth, where we had several hundred starts and the gremlins had cleared off. It must have been the sacrificial lamb that lay next to the engine room door. Colin Gateshill. Posted on Forum 9th November 2012.

Colin, I have to hand it to you- it was a joy to read your experiences with the offending piece of Doxford reversing gear!! I sometimes feel it did'nt happen and that it was all a horrible dream but poor old George Cuthbertson really earned his money that trip. The number of times it was dismantled and checked- even I got to see its innards frequently! But you saying you got a bit "steamy" round the nether regions- imagine what it was like, up on the bridge, being polite to pilots who were oblivious to the fact we were sitting on a time bomb!! I am amazed this situation existed for so long and that TWM had'nt sorted it out. Mind you, one could always identify Masters who had been on that ship- had a certain "twitch" about them!! Having said all that- the "Maria" functioned faultlesly for me. John Cann. Posted on Forum 9th November 2012.

As John Cann mentions never had problems with this infamous valve on the Maria Elisa thankfully. Recall from previous experiences with Prince Line that much polishing of the internals with Brasso and a slight smear of Copperslip helped. Otherwise ballpein adjustment in emergencies.
Broadie valves on 3 leg Doxfords, which had a tendency to go the wrong way on starting, gave many pilots etc grey hairs on the way upriver to West India Dock!! David Litson. Posted on Forum 9th November 2012.

As 2/E on the trip with "poor old George Cuthbertson", I became expert at stripping down the Brodie Valve, polishing it with loving care and applying liberal helpings of Copaslip, or not so liberal helpings of some other lubricant,reassembling it in haste, and applying a good thump with a mallet. The same level of expertise was given by all the other engineers, and all we were rewarded with was "abuse" because we nearly caused the demolition of Vera Cruz Fort or the quay in Montevideo or some notable landmark in any other port that voyage.
You can imagine my horror when I left the sea and started working in the water industry to find that Brodie Valves were in common use - trouble free thankfully. They are still in use today. Apart from that little bit of bother on the Sara Lupe, it was once again a great trip to some great places. It was almost a secret brotherhood of engineers who had survived the starting of Doxford Engines - not only on the Sara Lupe. John Cullen. Posted on Forum 10th November 2012.

On Houston City the Brodie Valve was situated at the Port Forward corner of the middle platform at head height. While I was there we used to disconnect the pilot ait inlet connection and stick up a bit brass rod to ensure that the valve moved up and down before we arrived at a port. Trevor Graham-Russell. Posted on Forum 11th November 2012.

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