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SS Xantho, Western Australia's First Steamship - Scratchbuild - 1:72


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Maquette  ‘A sculptor’s small preliminary model'

 

I have several books on art and art methods in my small personal library but of them all this is my favorite; James Gurney’s ‘Imaginative Realism – How to Paint what does not Exist’.

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This is a ripper of a read; jam-packed with all manner of highly practical ways to enhance the process and outcome of any form of imaginative visual artwork.  In the project below he’s taken just 30 minutes to build a maquette of a flying dinosaur.  James emphasizes how important maquettes can be in assisting with visualizing concepts, composing images and communicating with interested parties.

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I’m going to take his advice now and build a maquette of Xantho in the hope that I can present it to any interested parties – including museum staff - and let them see for themselves what I’m planning to build.  I think it will stimulate critical thought and discussion about the configuration and some of the details.  It might even convince any sceptics that I can – probably – achieve what I am setting out to do.

 

So here it is – the fastest bit of model building I’ve ever attempted! Three week’s of work in the evenings from start to where you see it at the end of this post.   It’s 1/144 scale, whereas the final model will be 1/72.  This is the first time ever I’ve used balsa as the main construction wood for any model,  the hull is balsa and it was OK to work with except that it is very susceptible to damage during handling.

 

Not much commentary. It's all fairly self explanatory and if you have followed any of my past projects it'll all be quite familiar.

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See - working in balsa!

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About 10 seconds work with a bandsaw achieved this much.

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Attaching a plywood deck as per @shipmodeller recommendation.

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That’s enough for now. No masts or paint at this point, that will all come sometime in the next few posts.  Hopefully this will give you a feel for the current interpretation. Feel free to comment, suggest, critique to your heart’s content.

 

Bandsaw Steve.

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That was quick, and it looks great too. I'd leave it at that! Time for a tinny! 🤣

 

Ian

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Great to see that wood worrying is underway!

 

Martian 👽

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Great job with the balsa, Steve!  😉 Not easy to work with type of wood.

 

About your drawing, I think the rudder is not big enough and therefore not functional. You should increase the surface area upwards to make it credible. 

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I'm thinking more of something like that, for the vault and the rudder, well, it's your project, not mine... 😜

 

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I agree that the rudder looks far too small but it was part of the ship that survived and I did scale it off an image to get it onto the drawings.
 

I’ll check my work - maybe I scaled it incorrectly. 🤔
 
It does raise an interesting point though, would this have been the original rudder fitted to the paddle-steamer or would it have been a new one fitted when changed to screw propulsion. If  it’s the latter then maybe the rudder was another example of Mr Robert Stewart  ‘metal merchant     extraordinaire’ just fitting whatever came to hand. Perhaps it’s also ex navy!

 

I like your suggestion for re-aligning the line of the counter stern. 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, ArnoldAmbrose said:

Is that car body filler you've used as putty? And what's it like to work with?  

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Hi Jeff

 

Something went wrong with that post above. It’s letting me quote you but not add a comment.

 

Yes, that’s two part car-body filler from Repco. Brilliant stuff. You get a tin of white/beige filler and a small tube of oxide-red hardner (the whole lot is packaged together so there’s no seperate purchase needed.)

 

Scoop out the amount of filler you need, add 1/50 red hardener (just a dab usually) and mix thoroughly until a nice even shade of pink. This gives about 15minutes working time before it hardens too much to work any more.
 

it’s great stuff for bridging large gaps, is very strong and sands beautifully. It works well with wood and metal and (I presume) plastic.

 

I highly recommend this stuff, it’s readily available and inexpensive. The only drawback is it stinks to high heaven.

 

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48 minutes ago, Bandsaw Steve said:

The only drawback is it stinks to high heaven.

Gidday Steve, and thanks. It's probably still better than my aftershave or deodorant. 😀 Regards, Jeff.

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7 hours ago, Bandsaw Steve said:

I agree that the rudder looks far too small but it was part of the ship that survived and I did scale it off an image to get it onto the drawings.
 

I’ll check my work - maybe I scaled it incorrectly. 🤔
 
It does raise an interesting point though, would this have been the original rudder fitted to the paddle-steamer or would it have been a new one fitted when changed to screw propulsion. If  it’s the latter then maybe the rudder was another example of Mr Robert Stewart  ‘metal merchant     extraordinaire’ just fitting whatever came to hand. Perhaps it’s also ex navy!

 

I like your suggestion for re-aligning the line of the counter stern. 

 

 

 

 


Indeed, the rudders were small at the time. I reread your message with these drawings and photos that I had missed, you are in the right. 
 

BB1-EB75-D-266-A-4-B96-AA2-F-629-DFD2796

 

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17 minutes ago, Iceman 29 said:

Indeed, the rudders were small at the time. I reread your message with these drawings and photos that I had missed, you are in the right. 

I'd agree that rudders tend to be smaller than most people woud think, but that picture of the remains is potentially misleading, as well as the perspective view which will reproduce the rudder chord as less than actual, the rudder is also shown offset to starboard, which will create a distortion and reduce the illustrated  chord further. 

The bottom of the sternframe is offset about 15 degrees from the viewer plane, the rudder hinge brackets are offset about 50 degrees from the viewer plane, this would equate to the rudder being hard to starboard at 35 degrees off the centreline. A bit of basic trig will show that the actual rudder chord is about 155% that of the chord illustrated above.

The illustration suggests that the whole sternframe assembly was recovered, the museum may still have it, if not there should hopefully be some dimensioned drawings of it and the propeller still extant which Steve could possibly get access to?

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Ian MacLeod and Alex Kilpa - Legends...

 

Last weekend - in an idle moment - I decided to spend some time looking at some of the scientific literature regarding Xantho.  This seemed like a good idea since when I return to the museum, as I plan to do once my maquette is complete, I want to be at least loosely conversant with the research that has been conducted on the wreck. 
 

When I first discussed this project with the museum staff they 'gave me everything they had on Xantho' and did not suggest to me to read any of these papers,  which is why I left it so long before finally getting to them. I was really just reading them out of interest, but I'm very pleased I finally did get to them because there is an absolute wealth of useful information in these!

 

Before I start though I wish to make a word or two on copyright:

  • All of the papers cited here are freely available for anyone to download from ResearchGate.com.
  • None of the previously published work is my own and I make no claim that it is and at all times I have identified and acknowledged the author.
  • I have presented the information in the way I have so as to make it absolutely clear which text is mine and which is the text associated with the various scientific papers.
  • My intent of showing the images and text is to assist in discussing the available evidence so as to further this project which - ultimately is intended to provide a model to the same museum that supported the research
  • I will not make a financial profit from this work.

Finally, if anyone - especially a 'mod'- requests me to take down any of this material I will do so without delay or protest.  Sorry about all that - but I’m about to copy and paste quite a bit of stuff so I think all that’s  worth saying up front.

 

 

Now let's have a look at some of this work starting with...

Ian McLeod; Corrosion of Iron Steamships; 2015

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Check this out... This diagram shows not just our familiar isometric drawing but also the material from which each component was made. 

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 In post number 110 of this thread @Dave Swindell asks what the large objects are outside the hull and below the engine and the boiler.  Well - here's the answer to at least the larger one...

 

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It's a 'Water feed boiler heater' made from copper.   Having reviewed some of the earlier literature I can say that this was originally misidentified as a condenser. I'm guessing that this was a copper coil that used waste heat (possibly passing up the funnel?) to pre-heat water about to be passed into the boiler.  Having read further into some of McCarthy's published work it seems that due to the lack of fresh water on this coastline salt water was frequently used in the boiler despite its drawbacks of creating scale and presumably accelerating corrosion. Just writing this now makes me think - where in such a ship would fresh water for the boiler have been stored? would there have been a water tank behind the engine or on one side of the boiler? If there was a water tank how was it refilled and would the refilling point be externally visible and hence needed on this model?

 

McCleod goes on to discuss the dimensions of the boiler.  Note that the height must exclude the height of the dome because this - as we will see later - was absent when the archeology was completed; probably knocked off by a collision with a passing ship.

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What this paper also makes very clear, is that my belief that the boiler was recovered at the same time as the engine was mistaken.  Having read into this further it seems that there were originally plans to recover the boiler, drive-shaft, stern and rudder, but as the Museum only had a budget of $7200 to recover items from the Xantho, the limited funds were directed toward recovering and reconditioning only the engine. All of the other major components were left behind and their remnants are still in the ocean today. The boiler in the Xantho gallery  is either from a different vessel or is a replica / dummy. At this point I'm not sure which.

 

So that's a very useful and greatly appreciated input from Ian MacLeod, but if that's good... wait till you see this!

 

Alex Kilpa's MA thesis from 2012...

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Now the heading is not exactly suggesting that this is going to be a page-turner, but look at what you get if you make it to page 64! GOLD! 

 

 

 

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Finally a true orthographic drawing of the wreck. This is exactly what I've been looking for. It has a linear scale, interpreted 'stern line', labelled parts, a map of the distribution of the galena on the sea-floor and even interpreted hull lines... 👍  This is a game-changing document!

 

It is also - clearly - the base map on which the isometric drawing is based; the two are in perfect agreement on all counts.

 

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I'm not going to discuss all of the implications right now but I will point out the surprising position of the forward mast - in a position obscured from view in the isometric drawing by the deck winch! I will also point out that @Dave Swindell was right again about the rudder being offset to starboard (stop being right all the time man!) :penguin: and that the  'mystery object' beside the water heater is identified as a 'valve' ( it's the safety valve off the top of the boiler).

 

Speaking of the boiler - here's what Alex has to say about the boiler...

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Good man! he gives us the exact dimensions! Furthermore he carries on to present, what he interprets to be a contemporary manufacturer's drawing of a very similar boiler from which we can infer the additional height of the steam dome. 

 

 

 

 

 

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we have to infer the height of the steam dome because it is missing on the wreck; almost certainly knocked off by a passing ship accidentally ramming it.

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Very excitingly (for me at least) Alex is even prepared to make a - highly - educated guess at the diameter of the funnel.  This is a dimension that I really thought I would be not be able to obtain a serious estimate for. My previous best concept was to assume that the funnel was the same shape and size as that on the Royal Navy gunships that the engine was designed for - but that's a big assumption.

 

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In case you are interested here's a picture of the SS Kurnalpi at Port Gregory in 1918.  This was the year that the captain of this ship reported that Xantho was a hazard to navigation and requested that the wreck be destroyed.  The suspicion is that it was this ship that hit the steam dome and that was what motivated the captain to request the demolition. Fortunately for us, the destruction of the wreck never happened.

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So there you have it; MacLeod and Kilpa, a couple of legends! I think that that's more than enough to be going on with for now.  👍 

 

Bedtime for me.

 

Bandsaw Steve

 

 

 

 

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@Bandsaw Steve, your tenacity with this project is admirable Sir! Between you and your collaborators (on BM and elsewhere), I am sure you will produce something very close indeed to how Xantho looked. Your research has been very interesting, and it is amazing how you manage to find things out. It is a sign...

 

All the best with your research,

 

Ray

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1 hour ago, Ray S said:

@Bandsaw Steve, your tenacity with this project is admirable Sir! Between you and your collaborators (on BM and elsewhere), I am sure you will produce something very close indeed to how Xantho looked. Your research has been very interesting, and it is amazing how you manage to find things out. It is a sign...

 

All the best with your research,

 

Ray

Hear, hear!

Steve - I loved those pics of that wood shape coming together, just makes fell a little unworthy:closedeyes:

Grand progress

Rob

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Morning Steve

Hope you slept well after the excitement of finding that lot! 

6 hours ago, Bandsaw Steve said:

I was really just reading them out of interest, but I'm very pleased I finally did get to them because there is an absolute wealth of useful information in these!

I did drop some hints....

6 hours ago, Bandsaw Steve said:

In post number 110 of this thread

Check the last sentence - I wan't expecting to find it all online though, that's a great resource you've found!

5 hours ago, Bandsaw Steve said:

Alex Kilpa's MBA thesis from 2012...

Do you have a link for this one, tried various search terms on the site but couldn't turn it up. Tried google with researchgate in the search (as you do if you want to want to find britmodeller articles), didn't find it, but did find this which has a fair bit on the Xanthos (and a bit on AE2!) - don't know if you've already found it, but here's a link anyway:-

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283282782_M_McCarthy_K_Hosty_C_Philippou_Eds_C_2009_Iron_Steel_and_Steamship_Archaeology_Papers_from_the_2nd_Australian_Seminar_held_in_Perth_Melbourne_and_Sydney_2006_Australian_National_Centre_of_Excellence_f

There's also a paper on building a model of the stern section of the Xanthos, which I suspect you'll find most interesting  partly for the research and deduction that was used to determine the model shape, but also because I bet a bandsaw was used to create it!

Another titbit I found this afternoon is the propeller had a diameter of 6ft and was of made of iron, not the more usual bronze, and the propshaft was inclined down towards the stern at about 1 in 20.

6 hours ago, Bandsaw Steve said:

even interpreted hull lines

The lines shown are at around or below waterline level, the drawing therefore shows the length between perpendiculars, which looks pretty close to 33m /110 feet

6 hours ago, Bandsaw Steve said:

It's a 'Water feed boiler heater' made from copper.   Having reviewed some of the earlier literature I can say that this was originally misidentified as a condenser. I'm guessing that this was a copper coil that used waste heat (possibly passing up the funnel?) to pre-heat water about to be passed into the boiler.  Having read further into some of McCarthy's published work it seems that due to the lack of fresh water on this coastline salt water was frequently used in the boiler despite its drawbacks of creating scale and presumably accelerating corrosion. Just writing this now makes me think - where in such a ship would fresh water for the boiler have been stored? would there have been a water tank behind the engine or on one side of the boiler? If there was a water tank how was it refilled and would the refilling point be externally visible and hence needed on this model?

I'm going to engage in a bit of speculation here and suggest both ideas as to the function of the object are correct. There's a lot of detail known about the engine, one detail being it's a non condensing engine, ie it exhausted to atmosphere. We also know that fresh water was in very short  supply where the vessel operated, so blasting the waste steam up the funnel (like in a steam locomotive, it helps draw the fire) would be a big loss of water. Heating the feed water before putting it in the boiler is desirable as it increases boiler efficiency. Condensing at least some of the waste steam would be desirable as it could be re-used in the boiler. The object we're talking about is quite large, much larger than I'd expect from a plain feed heater, I suspect that the feed heater is using the waste steam as the source of the heat, and the feed is condensing at least some of the steam for collection and re-use. I't not a true condenser which would normally operate at vacuum pressure and increase engine efficiency, rather an atmospheric condenser, excess steam would vent up a pipe  alongside the funnel. The condensate would most likely collect in the bottom and drain to a double bottom working feed tank (normal position for this) There may have been a reserve feed tank elsewhere, I'd suggest higher up where it could be topped up directly from a pipe on deck, and gravity could be used to replenish the working feed tank below as and when needed. 

Regarding salt water use in the boiler, yes it's corrosive, but that's generally a longterm problem, it's the scale formation that's the big problem.  The boiler fires heat the boiler water by the transfer of heat through the  fire and smoke tubes from the furnace to the water. The water in turn keeps the steel of the tubes (relatively) cool. The scale will form where the heat is transferring - just like your kettle furrs up round the heating element ie round the outside of the fire tubes, and the trouble with the scale is it is a good insulator. As the scale builds up it reduces the transfer of heat through the tube, which means the fire side of the tube gets too hot and weakens. This can lead to rapid and catastrophic tube failure, with the possibility of a boiler explosion. 

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Correction,

 

For anyone out there who may be searching for Alex Kilpa’s paper on Researchgate please note I have made an error. It’s actually found on the WA museum’s own search engine. 
 

I will correct the relevant text and post links to the document tonight after work. I am sorry for any inconvenience.

 

Steve

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11 hours ago, Bandsaw Steve said:

Correction,

 

For anyone out there who may be searching for Alex Kilpa’s paper on Researchgate please note I have made an error. It’s actually found on the WA museum’s own search engine. 
 

I will correct the relevant text and post links to the document tonight after work. I am sorry for any inconvenience.

 

Steve

No worries, found it Steve, it's here http://museum.wa.gov.au/maritime-archaeology-db/sites/default/files/no._312_the_analysis_of_a_boiler_safety_valve_recovered_from_ss_xantho.pdf

Very interesting reading, there's a few points in it that prove I'm not always right, in my last post I was speculating on the large item in front of the wreck, it appear that Alex Kilpa has positively identified it as a distiller for producing fresh water which I'd surmised, but the method of operation and use of the water I'd got wrong. The remains of a blast pipe had been identified in the bottom of where the smokebox was, so the engine exhaust steam did indeed go straight up the chimney. The refernce to it being a feed water heater also threw me, I'd tried to combine this function as well, but it would appear that the feed went straight into the boiler, presumably pumped from a storage tank somewhere.. The device is actually a Chaplin patent distilling apparatus and is advertised for producing drinking water from steam from the boiler. This device doesn't boil the seawater to produce the required steam, it relies on an external device to do that, so it was either used as advertised, and produced drinking water on longer voyages from seawater used in the main boiler, or I suspect more likely, there was a smaller donkey boiler of a much simpler low pressure design which could be easily descaled, the steam from this could then be used to feed the distiller and provide both drinking water and feedwater for the main boiler. In either case due to the large demand of both fuel and fresh water for the main engine and the scarcity of both in WA at the time, I suspect that any longer voyages would have been completed predominantly under sail, and the steam engine would be used mainly for entering and leaving port.

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Hi Steve et al

 

Just found this thread and have read it (almost) non stop up to here.   What a wonderful bit of sleuthing going on here and a book detailing your progress would make an interesting read.   You got me hooked on it right on page 1 when I read about it's origins on the Firth of Forth ... right where I grew up (Dunfermline) and Aberdour was our family go-to beach and where I'd cycle to do train-spotting.    

 

Truly impressed with your dedication Steve!   The story is fascinating and we haven't even got to the good bit where you'll actually build the model ... erm, you will build it won't you?

 

I smiled too when I saw you had a book by James Gurney as I follow his quickie, on-site painting expeditions on YouTube.   Trivia ... in case you racing fans wondered ... he is a cousin of the great Dan Gurney!

 

Cheers

 

Frank

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21 hours ago, albergman said:

 

Just found this thread and have read it (almost) non stop up to here.   What a wonderful bit of sleuthing going on here and a book detailing your progress would make an interesting read.   You got me hooked on it right on page 1 when I read about it's origins on the Firth of Forth ... right where I grew up (Dunfermline) and Aberdour was our family go-to beach and where I'd cycle to do train-spotting.    

 

Was hoping you were going to add that you had a great, great, grand-father who did ship spotting for a hobby and took loads and loads and loads of photos and sketches of 1840’s, 50’s and 60’s Firth of Forth ferrys.

 

21 hours ago, albergman said:

 

  

Truly impressed with your dedication Steve!   The story is fascinating and we haven't even got to the good bit where you'll actually build the model ... erm, you will build it won't you?

 

Yes!

 I will build this. Promise! 🤞 

 

What’s more, my miscreant daughter is going to finish that #%^$$”())/@@# steam locomotive as well! 😡

 

Very pleased you have you along for the ride @albergman 👍

 

Steve

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12 hours ago, Bandsaw Steve said:

Was hoping you were going to add that you had a great, great, grand-father who did ship spotting for a hobby

Gidday Steve, I thought it was seagulls that did ship spotting. 😲  And it's good to hear that BBS is becoming active again. 👍 Regards, Jeff.

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9 hours ago, ArnoldAmbrose said:

it's good to hear that BBS is becoming active again. 👍 Regards, Jeff.

No - sorry to say she’s not ‘becoming active’ just  yet. But I am going to make 😡”#%}*** sure she finishes that thing! 🚂

 

 

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