Gondola on Coniston Water.
|Career (United Kingdom)|
|Owner:||Furness Railway (1859–1922)
London, Midland and Scottish Railway (1923–45)
National Trust (since 1970s)
|Operator:||Furness Railway (1859–1922)
London, Midland and Scottish Railway (1923–36)
National Trust (since 1979)
|Port of registry:||Barrow|
|Builder:||1859 – Jones, Quiggin & Co., Liverpool
1979 – Vickers Shipbuilders, Barrow
|Yard number:||The rebuilt hull is the only ship built at Vickers not to be numbered|
|Out of service:||1936-79|
|Refit:||Every November - March|
|Installed power:||V twin steam engine|
|Speed:||11.7 knots (13.5 mph; 21.7 km/h) maximum speed,
8 knots (9.2 mph; 15 km/h) cruise speed
|Time to activate:||1.5 hours|
The steam yacht Gondola is a Victorian, screw-propelled, steam-powered passenger vessel on Coniston Water, England. Originally launched in 1859, she was built for the steamer service carrying passengers from the Furness Railway. She was in commercial service until 1936, and was then retired as a houseboat. In 1979, by now derelict, she was almost completely rebuilt with a new hull, engine, boiler and most of the superstructure. She is still in service as a passenger boat, still powered by steam, operated by the National Trust.
Gondola was first commissioned by Sir James Ramsden, a director of the Furness Railway. She was launched in 1859 and carried on working until the First World War, when she was laid up. She was returned to service after the war and finally decommissioned in 1936. In 1946 she was converted to a houseboat and stayed in that form for many years, slowly disintegrating. She finally succumbed to nature and in the 1960s she ran aground during a violent storm.
An attempt to restore her in the 1970s met with financial difficulties. However with support from the local community, fund-raising by National Trust staff and donations and sponsorship from large companies, enough funds were raised to complete a hull survey to assess the damage caused by the storm and to establish whether a full restoration, preferably to a working passenger yacht, was feasible. The survey was disappointing: the hull was seen to be down to 30% of its original thickness in places (it being constructed of fine quality steel of just 1/8" of an inch (3mm) thickness.) Even if the hull had been in good condition, the Department of Trade would not have registered her as a working vessel, as her hull plates needed to be a minimum of 1/4" (6mm) thick.
Vickers boat builders in Barrow-in-Furness were approached and asked to make their own survey to ascertain what could be done. They reported that a new hull would be required, the superstructure would have to be replaced in its entirety, and If it were to be steam powered again an engine and boiler would have to be sourced. However the wrought iron gunnel plate (the curved edge of the ship where the deck meets the hull) was in salvageable condition and could be used as part of the new hull. Some of the barley-twist wrought iron handrails and railings were also found to be reusable as well as many of the bronze and brass deck fittings. Vickers were instructed to proceed with work and funds were again raised for Gondola from the same sources as before.
The boatyard had to build a new hull and to do so lofted the lines off the original boat. First the hull had to be reassembled as it had been cut into three sections in order to be transported to Barrow in Furness. Vickers used mild steel which was laid in narrow strakes to mimic the riveted steel plates of the original.
A firm in the North-East of England, Locomotion Enterprises, was given the task of building the new engine whilst W Bertram & Sons of South Shields built a new boiler to the design of the Ffestinniog Railway's locomotive Prince. The hull was made as an engineering exercise for the apprentices at the boatyard. All the parts finally came together, and in 1979 the hull was transported in three parts from Barrow to Coniston, where she was assembled. Over the next few months she was fitted out with boiler, engine, superstructure, first and third class, decking and all the fittings associated with a ship of this size.
On 25 March 1980, she was launched by Sheila Howell, granddaughter of the first master of Gondola, Felix Hamill. The New Gondola floated a little below her intended lines and sailed her inaugural voyage in June 1980.
The vessel is powered by a twin cylinder 90 degree "V" steam engine, which has a slip eccentric reverse system and is a double-acting slide valve arrangement. The steam boiler is of the locomotive type, with 90 one and a quarter inch (35mm) steel tubes passing through the barrel. From her launch in 1859 she has been coal fired. First she used an all-copper design as used by the Furness Railway on their locomotives; this supplied steam to her engines at a maximum of 80psi (pounds per square inch). Around the beginning of the 20th century she was equipped with an all-steel boiler supplying steam at 100 psi. The boiler and the engines were taken out when she was laid up and converted to a houseboat. When she was re-launched in 1980 an all-steel design was again specified, although this time rated at a maximum working pressure of 150 psi. She still uses this boiler today. From 20 March 2008 the firing of Gondola became more green; she is now fired on Blazer Logs, these commercially produced logs being made from compressed sawdust which burns very efficiently, giving off little smoke with negligible sulphur content.
The cylinders exhaust to atmosphere after first passing through a silencer. The draft induced by the steam is used to draw the heat and waste products of combustion through the boiler and up the funnel, and so draw more air into the furnace, a force draft system. However now the ship is using a different fuel to fire the boiler a flue damper has also been fitted to produce a finer tolerance of control in the firebox; using less fuel to produce more steam, and hence greater economy. The engines produce a maximum of approximately 8,000 N·m (5,900 lb·ft) of torque at the prop shaft and this turns the 36" diameter propeller at approximately 150-160 rpm giving a hull cruising speed of about 8 knots (9.2 mph; 15 km/h). The maximum speed of 240 rpm gives a maximum hull speed of 11.7 knots (13.5 mph; 21.7 km/h). However, at this speed, although just four knots faster than cruising speed, the engines use 60% more steam.
It is still possible to Coniston Water on Gondola, which makes regular trips from Coniston pier from Easter to the end of October. The basic tour is an anti-clockwise voyage down the western shore of the lake, turning off Torver Common and steaming northerly up the opposite shore to Brantwood where it is possible to disembark and visit the home of John Ruskin.
Other trips include the Explorer Cruise, which goes to Lake Bank – the extreme south of Coniston Water – the place from where Gondola originally picked up her passengers in 1859. The waiting room is still to be seen, recently restored by the Rawdon Smith Trust to the Furness Railway's livery. Alternatively, the Wildcat Island cruise shows the relevant points around the lake upon which places in the book are based; Peel Island (Wildcat Island in the book), and Bank Ground Farm (Holly Howe in the book) being a couple included in the commentary.
The 'Engineer for the Day Experience' gives members of the public the opportunity to join the crew for the day. Arriving first thing in the morning, partakers will shadow the engineer: lighting the fire to raise steam, polishing the engine and copperwork, oiling round, tending the fire and keeping steam during the day, following the shutting down procedure at the end of the day, interacting with passengers, and even helming (steering) the boat, although this is optional.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: SY Gondola|