As outlined already in these pages, the steam
steering engine was transported to the workshops of TTE, Ellesmere Port on
Saturday 11th December, in readiness for overhaul by the staff and
apprentices of that organisation.
Prior to that date arrangements were put in
hand to remove the engine from the wheelhouse, where it had been located since
the vessel’s transformation from ‘Ralph Brocklebank’ to become ‘Daniel Adamson’
in 1936. At this time as well as the installation of the now familiar art deco
saloons, the bridge was raised to its current position and along with it the
Reference to the ship’s specification list
showed that the engine was made by Messrs. Alley & McLellan of Glasgow, but
gave no indication of its age. In the course of preparing to lift the engine
the opportunity to examine it more closely was taken, this included freeing up
the engine itself as well as examining the mechanism by which the engine could
be engaged/disengaged to allow hand steering in the event of an emergency.
After the application of some TLC and a good application of oil we managed to
get everything moving as it should, a great relief after over twenty years
inactivity, much of it exposed to the elements. The holding down bolts were
then released and the steam pipes disconnected. All was ready, we just needed
to remove part of the wheelhouse roof and obtain the services of a crane.
Accordingly on Thursday 2nd
December all was ready, our supporters North West Ship repairers had come to
our aid once more and had arranged to provide their crane for the lift, we set
to in removing sufficient panels from the wheelhouse roof and attaching the
wire strops ready for the lift.
we see John Huxley fitting the strops, while John Deakin looks on, no doubt
wondering just how much this thing weighs!
crane was set in position, the hook attached and we held our breath, had we
definitely removed all those bolts?
Yes we had!! Our precious steering engine
became airborne, the indicator on the crane showed that our engine weighed ¾
A few tense minutes later it was landed
safely on a waiting pallet and many faces resumed a much happier appearance!
Sentinel has landed’ the engine arrives safely back on terra firma, probably
for the first time in 68 years.
Our next task was to clean the engine as best
we could and of course to replace the wheelhouse roof, hopefully making it a
little more rainproof at the same time, but first time for a well earned ‘group
Volunteers, John Huxley, Dan Cross, John
Deakin, Phil Janion, yours truly, Gordon Weston and Walter Graham pose after
another job ‘well done’ [right]
So what do we know of this engine? Well
amazingly it still had the builder’s plate attached, the brass was badly
tarnished, which probably saved it from ‘souvenir hunters’ but after careful
cleaning it was clear that at one time it had been regularly polished, to such
an extent that much of the detail has been erased. What was visible was the
unmistakeable Trademark of the ‘Sentinel’ company, the armoured figure and
motto ‘Ever Watchful and On the Alert’ The words ‘Sentinel’ ‘Alley & McLellan’
and ‘Glasgow’ once embossed on the plate were just legible as was the serial
Accordingly I got in touch with the ‘Sentinel
Driver’s Club’ (www.sentinel-waggons.co.uk)
to establish if possible more detail on the engine. Thanks to Mr Tony Thomas of
the ‘SDC’, I learned that Alley & McLellan had begun manufacturing marine steam
engines, steering gear, winches, auxiliaries and boilers at their Polmadie
Works, in Glasgow from 1875. By 1900 they were the biggest UK manufacturer of
such equipment under the trade name ‘Sentinel’ The company began building their
famous steam ‘waggons’ in 1905, before moving this branch of the business to
their Shrewsbury works in 1915 and became a separate company in 1918. A&M began
to specialise in compressors and valves, becoming part of Messrs. Glenfield &
Kennedy in 1945 and later in 1959 part of G & J Weir. The Polmadie works was
closed in 1960 when production moved to Cathcart. A&M was finally wound up in
1971 and the ‘Sentinel’ name disappeared.
engines of the type aboard ‘Daniel Adamson’ were manufactured between about
1887 and 1910. The illustration from ‘Sentinel’s’ 1902 catalogue shows examples
of their steering engines;
The engine on the right (the combined
steam/hand type) closely resembling that installed on the ‘DA’ albeit with the
steering wheel located as in the left hand picture of the steam only version.
Thomas suggests that the engine aboard ‘Daniel Adamson’ would appear to date
from around 1900, thus indicating that the engine is original to the building
of the vessel. A second catalogue dating from 1905 shows that over 1500 engines
of this type had been installed in ships worldwide by this time, it also shows
an illustration showing that the later engines has been modified so that the
valve gear was on the outsides of the cylinders, rather than inboard as is the
case with our example, further indicating the date of origin as pre 1905. It
would be interesting to know how many other examples of this once commonplace
engine survive into the 21st Century!
Later type engine, illustrated (top) The
second picture shows the heavier, horizontal type steering engines used aboard
larger, ocean going vessels.
To discover the true age of this engine
beyond any doubt we would need to trace archive records of the build number
2174. It appears records before 1939 no longer exist, unless someone out there
knows differently. In the meantime all the evidence suggests that like ‘Daniel
Adamson’ our ‘Sentinel’ is over 100 years old and capable of full operation
once more. Proof if ever it was needed that our forefathers built things to
Photos 1-4 - Colin Leonard
Sentinel Catalogue illustrations and
details of Alley & McLellan engines – Tony
Thomas (Sentinel Driver’s Club)
Photo 5 - Neil Marsden