An Oldie, But a Goodie

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This week we’ve been very fortunate to spend some quality time with one of our oldest and dearest friends: USS Monitor‘s vibrating side lever steam engine. Much like our favorite ironclad, this salty lady is over 150 years old but keeps looking better every year.

We took the following pictures on Monday. Please remember that the engine currently sits upside down in the treatment tank.

Engine Forward
Monitor’s main steam engine is perched on its treatment rig within the 35,000-gallon treatment tank. The valve chests are visible on the lower left and lower right, reversing gear eccentrics are positioned dead center and top, and the engine’s cast iron support bed spans the entire top portion of this picture.

 

This view is taken aft, looking forward. Again, the engine is upside down. Note the massive nine-inch diameter wrought iron propeller shaft extending from the rear of the engine. Believe it or not, another 20-feet of propulsion shaft and packing seal extended from this nub before connection to the cast iron propeller.
This view is taken aft, looking forward. Again, the engine is upside down. Note the massive nine-inch diameter wrought iron propeller shaft extending from the rear of the engine. Believe it or not, another 20-feet of propulsion shaft and packing seal extended from this nub before connection to the cast iron propeller.
Here's a view of the port side of Monitor's engine. Simply massive.
Here’s a view of the port side of Monitor’s engine. Simply massive. Note the heavily corroded and almost wood-grain appearance of the wrought iron components. And that odd looking appendage extending on the upper left side of the picture was connected to the ship’s steam condenser.
Here she is from the starboard vantage. Dealing with the huge yet fragile main cylinder will be one of our most challenging aspects of this particular multi-decade conservation process.
Here she is from the starboard vantage. Dealing with the huge yet fragile main cylinder will be one of our most challenging aspects of this particular multi-decade conservation process.
This picture shows the original bottom of USS <em>Monitor</em>'s engine support bed. This massive casting supported the engine and rested above a series of wrought iron cross-braces or supports. Note the two similar round holes in the engine bed. Navy divers created these in order to effectively secure the engine to its custom-built recovery rig prior to removal from the ocean in 2001.
This picture shows the original bottom of USS Monitor’s engine support bed. This massive casting supported the engine and rested above a series of wrought iron cross-braces or supports. Note the two similar round holes in the engine bed. Navy divers created these in order to effectively secure the engine to its custom-built recovery rig prior to removal from the ocean in 2001.

USS Monitor‘s main steam engine treatment tank will be drained through approximately mid-day Friday, June 19. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see the heart of the famed Union ironclad once again. She may be old, but we’re breathing new life into her at The Mariners’ Museum.

9 thoughts on “An Oldie, But a Goodie”

  1. Hello to David and all the great people at The mariner’s Museum.
    Are there any plans to disassemble the engine or turn it right side up? Could righting it cause any problems?

    Paul Kellogg, Museum Member

    1. Paul, thanks for chiming in! We have already partially disassembled many components of the main steam engine, with a particular focus on separating copper alloy components from iron components. We also find disassembly to especially important to facilitate more thorough chloride removal during desalination. We also have every intention of ultimately returning the engine and its components to their original upright orientation within the museum gallery after conservation is complete in the lab. Hope you are well.

  2. when is the estimated completion date of the restoration? I’m looking forward to visiting it again, and viewing the engine out of the tank.

    1. Tom, good afternoon. We’ve got about another 18 years of work to finish conserving the engine before it goes on permanent display. A long time, but not so long considering it was submerged in the ocean for approximately 140 years.

    1. Paul, we anticipate the Dahlgrens to be completed in 3-4 years. The turret will likely be about another 18 years. That being said, those large artifacts may not necessarily see “open-air” again. Yes, the treatment tanks and solutions will be drained during the final phases of drying and treatment, but there is a strong likelihood that they will require special micro-climate considerations (controlled temp and LOW relative humidity). In essence, they may be displayed in large, custom-built glass cases within the USS Monitor Center. Marine-recovered archaeological metals are extremely sensitive to fluctuations in climate and the average museum climate (in any museum) is not necessarily sufficient enough to maintain stability of archaeological materials without creating micro-climate displays to address the individual needs of each artifact or similar artifacts.

  3. Tom, we’re looking at a 20-year window to have everything completed assuming we can stabilize our funding and increase staffing to sufficient levels. We have made great progress addressing those needs in the last year and I’m optimistic that another two decades should do it. Sounds like a long time, right? Well think about it this way. Monitor was sitting at the bottom of the ocean for 140 years before recovery. Total conservation time looks like it will be appx. 34 years. Essentially we can mitigate the effects of 140 years of decay in less than one-quarter of that time. Not too bad!

  4. How wonderful to see her pictures again, and I must say she is looking better all the time. Glad funding has improved and I look forward to my next visit, which may be in October.
    Thanks Dave for your great work along with Will’s efforts and that of the staff in the Lab !

  5. Rich, thanks for the kind words. This entire conservation project, and particularly the engine, has been a true team effort. You have played a very important role in forming our greater understanding of Ericsson’s engine and its operation. And let’s not forget that amazing scale model (www.stationarysteam.com) you built with such attention to detail! Looking forward to seeing you this fall.

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