By Mr. A.E. SEATON.
My attention was first called to the modern triple compound engine by the published reports of the trial trip of the yacht Isa, and in it I plainly discerned the germs of a successful new type of engine; but it was not until I had seen the engines of the screw steamer Aberdeen erected in the workshops of Messrs. Robert Napier & Sons that I became convinced that it was the engine of the immediate future. It is, however, due to the farsightedness and enterprise of Mr. C.H. Wilson, M.P., that I was enabled to try the merits of the new system and compare it with the old. Mr. Wilson had already viewed the triple compound engine with more than ordinary interest, and it required little persuasion on my part to allow the company to which I have the honor to belong to construct a triple expansion engine in lieu of the ordinary compound for one of four sister ships which it then had in hand for Messrs. Thomas Wilson, Sons & Co., the latter only stipulating that it was to be of the same power as the engine already contracted for. As I was quite convinced that economy was due to the system rather than to the higher pressure, it was decided not to increase the boiler pressure more than was necessary to suit the triple system.
The other three ships already alluded to were being fitted with engines having cylinders 25 inches and 50 inches diameter by 45 inches stroke, and supplied with steam of 90 lb. pressure from a double ended boiler 13 feet 9 inches diameter by 15 feet long, having a total heating surface of 2,310 feet, so that these engines have every qualification for being economical so far as general proportions go, the stroke being an abnormally long one and the boiler of ample size. Experience has since shown that these engines are economical in coal, and the wear and tear exceptionally small.
The new engines for the fourth boat were made with considerably shorter stroke, and the cylinders proportioned so as to give equal power; they are 21 inches, 32 inches, and 56 inches diameter by 36 inches stroke, the high pressure cylinder being supported on columns immediately over the medium cylinder, and in other respects these engines were made as near as possible like the other ones above named. Steam at 110 lb. pressure is supplied from a double ended boiler 12 feet 9 inches diameter and fifteen feet long, having a total heating surface of 2,270 square feet, and identical in design with the boiler supplied for the other engines. The propellers were made exactly alike in all respects, and the ships being likewise precisely alike, a comparison of the performances of the one fitted with the triple engines could be made with as little grounds for differences of opinion as is possible. One of the ships fitted with the ordinary compound engines was named the Kovno, that with the triple compound engines the Draco. Their dimensions are as follows:
Feet. Inches. Length between perpendiculars. 270 0 Breadth. 34 0 Depth of hold. 18 3
And of 1,700 tons gross register. They are ordinary cargo boats, built of steel, having a raised quarter deck and long bridge amidships, but nothing about them otherwise requires comment.
After making a voyage or two to the Baltic, and finding that everything was working satisfactorily, the Kovno was loaded with 2,400 tons dead weight, and sailed in January, 1883, for Buenos Ayres; the Draco was loaded with 2,425 tons dead weight, and sailed March, 1883, for Bombay, the distance in both cases being about 6,400 miles. It was thought advisable, for purposes of comparison, that the ships should steam at as near as possible the same speed; and to attain this object, we considered the safest plan was to instruct the engineers as to the average amount of coal they were to burn per day, and experience with these ships on their Baltic voyages had fixed this at 12 tons in the case of the Kovno and 10 tons in the case of the Draco. During the voyage each ship seems to have had fair average weather, and equal care was taken in getting the best results possible. The average speed of the Draco was, however, 8.625 knots, or 207 miles per day, the engines making on the average 57.5 revolutions per minute, while the Kovno did only 8.1 knots, or 194 miles per day, the engines making 55.5 revolutions. The coal used was ordinary South Yorkshire, just as it comes from the pits for bunker purposes.
The indicated horse power in each case would average about 600. The total coal consumed was 326 tons in the Draco and 405 tons in the Kovno, or a saving of 19.5 per cent. over the ordinary compounds, with an increase of speed of 6.5 per cent.
In December, 1883, one of the others, the Grodno, sailed from Bombay, and attained an average speed of 8.5 knots, or 204 miles per day, the engines making 57 revolutions, with a coal consumption of 12.8 tons per day, or 469 tons on the voyage. The Draco's consumption is therefore 30.5 per cent. less than that of the Grodno on the round voyage, and 20.3 percent per day.
The success of the triple compound engine was in these instances more than had been anticipated, and induced Mr. Wilson to go a step further. The S.S. Yeddo had been refitted with boilers made for a working pressure of 90 lb. per square inch, but owing to the size of the shafting the working pressure was limited to 70 lb.; the average consumption of coal under these circumstances on two voyages was 17 tons per day. These boilers had a margin of safety beyond what was required by the rules when made, and as the Board of Trade rules had been modified in the mean while, it was found that they could with safety be worked at 100 lb. per square inch. A third cylinder was now fitted on the top of the original low pressure, and the safety valves loaded to the 100 lb., and the ship was dispatched to Cronstadt. After making two voyages under similar circumstances to the two previous ones, the average consumption was 13.5 tons per day only. In this case it was the same ship, same boilers, same engines, same propeller, and same men, the only difference being the addition of a third cylinder and the increase of pressure.