Poetry Corner

Today marks the opening of the Queensferry Crossing across the Firth of Forth, so I have chosen a poem from 1902 celebrating another of Scotland’s great engineering accomplishments: Shipbuilding.



Twin-Screw Set- 1902

Week after week I watched the darlings growing
Like two strange children in an orphan home,
Aft from the thrust block to the stop-valve throw-in,
Up from the bedplate to the L.P. dome.
One afternoon we swept the pit-logs cleanly,
Set down a line of wedges, steel on wood,
Then laid the bedplate as you would a pin lay,
And saw the thing was good.

We squared it up and lined the eight great bearings;
Bedded the crankshaft down, and set up well
The eight box columns, and with plumbline fairings
Brought crosshead slides dead true and parallel.
We dropped connecting rods into their places
And bedded down the great big bottom ends;
Chipped oil grooves in the smooth whitemetal faces,
And felt they were our friends.

We faired the cylinders central and level,
Marked in the fitted bolts and screwed them tight;
Set the condenser, faced-up by “The Devil”,
One inch cast iron, and considered light.
We lined the pumps behind the L.P. columns,
And steam reverser, a new patent stunt;
Set starting gear and other what-d’ye-call-‘ems
Upon the engine front.

The piston rods to pistons were adjusted,
The thrust shoes on their collars brought to bear;
Fixed lubricators with their dripper worsted,
Put balanced valves on the eccentric gear;
Connected pumps and tubed the big condenser,
Packed well its ferrules; and later the exhaust
Pipe pattern tried to place, so that its ends were
Cast true and nothing lost.

We set the valves; the bearing leads were taken,
The cleading fixed, and platforms laid in place;
Handrails and footplates put, and not a shake in
The whole arrangement from the top to base.
Survey them there, each one of them a beauty,
Five thousand H.P. on point six cut-off;
Designed for honest cross-Atlantic duty,
And each one looks a toff.

Take note of them; the crankshaft fourteen inches,
The L.P. cylinders are sixty seven;
Stroke forty eight; high-bred like all the princes,
And inspiration from the hosts of heaven.
The thrust is seven, all valve travels ditto,
The crosshead pin’s diameter’s the same;
Connecting rods at middle are a bit o’
That figure’s sacred name.

The great propellers, shining like a sovereign,
Are seventeen feet diameter, three blades;
Seventy square feet of bronze on each shaft hovering
To push her through the currents and the trades.
They take their steam full bore about two-twenty,
The furnaces one hundred feet below
The funnel tops; and, fed with coal aplenty,
What care they if it blow!

by William Hutcheson 1902.

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