Thursday 31 October 2019

Memories of a Royal Ordinance Factory apprentice . Part three

Memories of a Royal Ordinance Factory apprentice
Part three
By John Day

After the gauge shop I went to the Electrical Section. in a way it was fortuitous that I went off sick for a fortnight over the change, since during that time my father was promoted from foreman of the Electrical Shop (where I would’ve been under him) to manage the Mechanical Engineering Department-  this included everything mechanical except production.  I had three, three month, sessions in the Electrical Section; one in the Power Station; one in the DC and one on AC work
During my stint at the Power Station my main job consisted in spending the morning doing the rounds of all the meters - recording pressures, temperature flows and consumptions, changing the charts and working out how the Power Station was performing. Call usage was gauged by going down into the hoppers and estimating the average levels. For this I had to be accompanied by a mate in case I stood on a hidden void.  The rest of the day was more or less my own. Sometimes I would wander into the Boiler house and learn the art of throwing a shovelful of more or less pea size coal into the hopper of a chain stoker in a nice neat jet.

I mended a CO2 recorder but I suddenly found myself busy when it was suggested I could scrape in one of the slide valves of the Vickers Howden.  Otherwise I could sit quietly in the engineers office at the end of the switchboard and get on with Polytechnic homework.  Life in a power station is either boring or when something goes wrong – panic.   Such a life left turbine drivers to cosset their machines and heaven help anyone who dares to put a sweaty hands on a highly polished handrail without insulating it with a lump of cotton waste first.  During my time there somebody started one of the three throw high-pressure pumps without checking that the stop valve was open.  The result Barimar did a fine job in welding the two parts of the 4 inch crankshaft together again

My DC spell was under Bill Heywood although I spent a couple of weeks on armature winding. Woolwich never sent anything out for repair.  Bill was also responsible for the electrical test bed where motors could be tested the power up take etc. Power was measured with a fan brake made up of a pair of steel channels clamped round the motor shaft and carrying steel fan plates at their ends. There were several pairs of plates of different areas and calibration charts for them. If a motor had a short shaft this was no problem we just cut the corner of the plate to clear the most carcass I did not bother to adjust the calibration. The motor was bolted to the rails of the floor and the fan spun freely in an adjacent pit. There was no thought of putting a guard over the fan -we just kept out of the way. Mind you, the noise was a good reminder of what was happening

Another thing we tested was a generator for a plating plant- ‘all amps and no volts one might say. The load was supplied by bolting a couple of pieces of checker plate to a lump of wood about 9 inches thick and lowering into an old cast iron tank that happened to be outside the shop window. The plates were about a couple of feet square and they certainly made the water boil

This piece originally appeared in GIHS Newsletter for December 1998

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