December 31, 2006

I have created separate blogs to describe the building process of twin engine and boiler, as well as the finishing work on the hull. This present blog remains as a kind of integrating site for the entire project.

In blog format the last post is published top most. Thus, the first one – the beginning of the whole story... – is located further down.

By clicking on pictures and diagrams they are displayed full size.

Links to the appertaining blogs:
Pearl Twin Engine (last update: May 2006)Ofeldt WT Boiler (last update: May 2006)Elliott Bay Fantail Launch (last update: May 2006)

April 30, 2006

The Beginning of the Story...


Early in 2005, already infected by the „steam virus“, the web sites of steam boat enthusiasts all over the world were my only source of information. Only thereafter I had access to the corresponding specialized literature. The individual web sites reflect the personal preferences and possibilities of the builder, being altogether the required reading for everyone concerned with the steam-boat topic. In my case they led my project into the appropriate path, for which I would like to express my thanks.

In order to contribute my pellet to it, I decided to publish my experience of building my own steam boat. I hope to motivate some other people, even retired persons like me, to engage themselves in a similar project. I hope that this blog leads to a lively exchange of ideas with other steam men, because until the completion of the project, I certainly will be confronted with numerous problems which can only be mastered with the help and assistance of the steam boat community.

Actually, I have to a certain extent a "steam record". My father was responsible in Spain for the maintenance and repair of the locomotive park (narrow gauge and full size switching locomotives) of the factory where he was employed. As a small boy, I participated in several test travels. Quite a long time ago...

Early in 2005 I was again on the search for a "meaningful" leisure time activity. Previously I had spent almost 20 years as a passionate model flier and flight model builder, with all consequences (including aircraft engine and turbine construction, acquisition of the Private Pilot Licence in the USA). Thereafter came an intensive phase as a sailor, followed by the discovery of slowness... (paddling, building my own wood and canvas canoe at the Jerry Stelmok workshop in Atkinson, Maine, followed by the restoration of an 100 year old Kingsbury canoe, which I had found in a shed in New Hampshire).

EBay was the source for the first model steam engines. This phase ended with the purchase of an unfinished 1:3 scale steam locomobile which featured a veritable compound engine.

My first "steam toy"

"Playing around" with this steam engine was very informative. Although the boiler made a very professional impression, the engine itself had been tinkered all together beyond repair. I sold the steam locomobile and decided: my next project will be a steam boat.

Development to the Present Day
My project has slowly developed in the right direction. In order to not be beyond my budgetary scope, I planned at first to convert the hull of my sailing boat. I put up with the fact that the shape of this hull was not suitable at all (very flat indeed), but it was available and I had the dedicated trailer. Featuring a water line length of 21' 6" (6.6 m), it had an acceptable size.

Sailing boat "Judith", the hull of which I intended to convert

To suit this boat hull I selected a single cylinder engine. I decided to purchase the Pearl single engine, because of both optical (nice motion) and practical reasons (easy access to all parts requiring maintenance work).

At the same time I became involved with the boiler technology, contacted the steam locomotive modellers, and ... reinvented the wheel. Not knowing it, I had sketched something that looked very much like the Ofeldt water tube boiler. It was not before I became a member of the German Steam Boat Association that I had access to essential sources of information. The design of the steam boiler started taking shape.

After the 2005 annual meeting of the German Steam Boat Association in Potsdam I started questioning the suitability of the hull of my sailing boat. The power of the single engine also gave rise to doubts: I ordered the necessary parts to build the Pearl twin. The search for a more suitable boat ended with the (blind) purchase of a hull last January. Even though a bit too large (7.5 m length over all), the shape of the hull seemed to be quite suitable.

K10 sailing cutter after total removement of equipment

After having removed the entire equipment, the boat (the history of which was unknown to the seller) turned out to be a K10 Navy sailing cutter of the former German Democratic Republic. Serious defects showed up. Furthermore, the vehicle balance still showed a weight of around 800 kg (1800 pounds). Even though I had purchased it at a very low price, investing more work in this hull would not be worth while. I resold the boat without hesitation, and ordered "something right" for my project. I selected the fantail launch of the Elliott Bay Co.

It is my intent to carry out all the necessary work myself. I plan to perform the finishing work on the hull during this summer. The remaining work on the twin engine and boiler could be finished during the next winter. "Sea trials" and the maiden trip in the spring of 2007.